William “Big Bill” Hardin was a man of great courage, well skilled in pioneer life. Some historians have mentioned Hardin in the same breath with Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Benjamin Logan and several others but he rests in an unmarked grave, even without a crude boulder for a headstone. Col. Hardin had a major impact on Hardin and Breckenridge counties in Kentucky. Hardin County was named after him.
William “Big Bill” Hardin was a noted pioneer and Indian fighter. The Indians nicknamed him “Big Bill.” He wasn’t that big in today’s sense, six feet tall, but he had a large physique and was a tenacious fighter, just what was needed on the borderland. The Indians fought to dispel the settlers and the settlers fought to remain.
Hardin descended from a family of French Protestants who fled France for Canada to escape religious persecution. The cold Canadian climate wasn’t agreeable to them so the three brothers migrated to Virginia, South Carolina and Kentucky.
Deputy Charlie Cecil of the Bell County, Kentucky Sheriff’s Department, led a posse comprised of Lee Turner, Lew Mayes and Dave Bull in a search for Will and Alex Combs in October of 1898. The brothers were wanted for the murder of “Wild Bill” Turner, owner of the Halfway House, a loosely-run roadhouse. It was frequented by coal miners going to and from the Mingo Hollow Mine, near the Kentucky-Tennessee state line.
The search slowed before the posse found the area where the brothers `doubled back’ in an effort to lose their trackers. After several hours the trail led them to a section near the Bell County and Knox County line.
Times were hard in Middlesborough, Kentucky, and the tri-state area in the late 1890’s. The city had grown from a smattering of three or four dwellings to a population approaching 10,000. There were educated and skilled workers as well as common laborers. Law abiding newcomers came to the fledgling city but there were the untrustworthy too.
A series of bank failures halted the rags-to-riches boom and many of the projects that were started by Alexander Arthur, the American Association and others were abandoned.
Confederate cavalry officer John Haps was totally spent and went to sleep with his horse’s bridle rein in hand.
“I was sleeping soundly on the banks of the Ohio River at a place called Buffington Island; sleeping as soundly as a babe in mama’s arms. I was awakened suddenly by a strange sound. I had heard a groan where a horse and rider had fallen into an old cellar that was overgrown with weeds. Just as quickly my attention was drawn away where I saw men riding their horses as fast as they could…running toward haystacks a few hundred yards away. I looked toward the river (Ohio) and saw a gunboat and it was throwing shells over my head toward the fleeing horsemen.“
Fanny Dickenson Scott escaped from her Indian captors in what is now Ohio and it took her nearly a painstaking month to find her way back to her own people.
She had been captured by Indians after her husband Archibald Scott and their four children were killed during an assault on their fort-house June 29, 1785. After looting the home the Indians traveled northward for eleven days with only few stops for sleep and rest.
The 1700’s was a perilous time on the borderland. The native Americans were incensed by the increasing encroachment on the lands on which their fathers and forefathers had lived and hunted for as long as could be remembered.
Treaties were enacted between Indian and governmental authorities periodically but it was difficult getting the details disseminated to the parties. This resulted in individuals not knowing if they were at peace or at war. In addition individuals would often hold grudges for what they thought was ill-treatment of family or friends. For example, Cherokee Billy, a friendly Indian was shot down and killed while simply watching a horse race.
Archibald Scott erected a log-house in 1776 near the head of Wallen’s Creek, across from Kane’s Gap in what would become Lee County, Virginia. It was known as a strong house as it had extra protective amenities, needed because it was built without a palisade.
Scott’s Fort became a stop-over for pioneers passing through to Kaintuck. They saw several families on June 29, 1785, with Archibald having business dealings with some, acquiring four rifles and lesser items in exchange for foodstuffs.
The campaign for president between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams in 1828 was one of the most bitter in American history. Mudslinging was brought to a low art form.
It was a rematch of the 1824 election when Old Hickory won a majority of both the popular and electoral vote but other candidates got enough votes to send it to the House of Representatives. Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House, pushed the election in favor of John Quincy Adams. When Adams tabbed Clay as the new Secretary of State a few days later Jackson and others cried “foul,” calling it corrupt. Many say this was a watershed moment in the founding of the Democratic party.
When I interviewed Jewell Lewis Ross and Earl Lewis in 1991 it brought back vivid memories to them of the Fourmile Mine disaster that occurred the day after Christmas in 1945. They were the children of W. E. Lewis, the owner of the mine at Fourmile.
The senior Lewis was also the son of a miner, Joe Carl Lewis of Campbell County, Tennessee, who was killed in a gunpowder explosion in 1911 at an earlier mine in Fourmile Hollow.
The mine at Fourmile was sealed and rescue attempts stopped because of deadly fire and gases in the Bell County, KY, mine after explosions on December 26, 1945. Responding to United Mine Workers Association pressure, public indignation and protests, authorities decided to unseal the Fourmile mine in August of 1948.
Teams of rescuers worked around the clock in five hour shifts to save trapped miners after explosions at a Fourmile, Kentucky mine on the day after Christmas in 1945. The initial explosion was heard to those in the area outside the mine as a great THUMP and was followed by a large smoke ring rising into the sky.
The bodies of Hobert Sulfridge, age 44, and mine foreman Nathan Centers, age 62, were found and removed from the mine along with two other unidentified corpses, tremendously mangled. One of the Continue reading Disaster at Fourmile, Part 5→
Eight miners survived the Fourmile mine disaster after explosions rocked the Bell County, KY, mine on December 26, 1945. One died hours later in the Pineville Hospital.
Rescuers bravely traversed the deadly conditions of the mine, the walls blistering hot from the fires. They contended with a series of explosions, flames and carbon monoxide gas. They found four charred bodies two of which evidenced the violent explosion and fires, bringing heartache to any observers. Conditions prevented the rescue crews from continuing. Continue reading The Fourmile Mine Disaster, Part 4→
Underground explosions left 31 miners trapped in a Fourmile, KY coalmine, two miles underground, on December 26, 1945. Fourmile is in the extreme southeastern section of Kentucky, a beautiful, mountainous and historical area.
The conditions were hazardous but mine rescue teams from the local area and from nearby states worked feverishly in special attire and masks to protect them from the harsh gases and smoke. When one team of rescuers ended their 5-hour shift another fresh group entered, making their way to the innards of the mine. This continued Continue reading The Fourmile Mine Disaster Part 3→
Disaster struck the Kentucky Straight Creek Mining Company at Fourmile, KY, on the day after Christmas in 1945. Some nearby residents felt a vibration and thought right away that something might be wrong at the mine.