The Day The Airplane Came To Roseburg
Hart County Schoolboy Recalls Seeing An Early Flying Machine

Author's Note: The recent photograph of the Childress family of Roseburg, Kentucky, reminded me of an event which happened to us Roseburg folks in 1940. I have included an old photo and a map I drew of the Roseburg-Cub Run area. At its zenith, this small village in Hart County consisted of a store, blacksmith shop, post office, several dwellings, school, and the Jericho Baptist Church; located a short distance down the Jericho Road. Land in and around the little village lay in an ancient valley and was a fertile plain, probably first to be settled when the area was a part of Hardin County before 1819.

By Garland K. Childress - 2001

Late in November 1938 my parents were sharecroppers living one-quarter mile west of Cub Run, Kentucky, on the former Tom Wilson place. Earlier Dad had verbally contracted with a Mr. Staples to farm, on shares, land he owned at Roseburg, Kentucky, in Hart County.

Everything we owned of a household nature was loaded on the wagon and moved to the old "Nann" Stewart place, across two fields and one hollow from where we first lived and where I was born on August 25, 1932. It was from the Stewart place that I first entered school under Miss Dorothy Beeler, a daughter of Charles and "Tish" Childress Beeler.

Students at Roseburg School ca. 1918 in Hart County, Kentucky. The building is still used once a year for church services and is maintained by the community. None of the students were identified. (Photo by Joseph P. Trulock, courtesy of the author)

The Roseburg schoolhouse consisted of one room where Miss Dorothy taught the first eight grades. The school had no library, no playground equipment, running water, or plumbing. We children took turns carrying water from a spring under the hill, down near the Nolin River. In the wintertime, the building was heated with a large wood stove, situated at the building's approximate center.

My sister, Dana, was born on September 5, 1940, at the Stewart house (a log building). From a window in this house, I observed our neighbors as they passed on the dirt road out front. George and Annie Thompson Trulock, and their two daughters, Lena and Eva, were our closest neighbors. George had served in the Spanish-American War. Throughout his lifetime, he retained many military traits and mannerisms of speaking, much to the amusement of us children.

I remember one late January afternoon in 1940, with snow piled up and cold, gray clouds sulking overhead. From the sky there came a loud roaring, breaking the overbearing silence and frightening the dogs and chickens. The source of the noise turned out to be a low-flying single-engine airplane.

Instantly I sprang to my nimble feet and dashed out the front door (without bothering to close it) in time to observe an old biplane sputtering just yards above our stone chimney. Against explicit commands from my father, emphatically seconded by Mom, I ran behind the ancient airship exclaiming, "It's falling"! It's falling!"

Significant numbers of the Curtiss JN-4D "Flying Jenny" began to appear on flying fields across the United States in January 1918, taking their place alongside the A-model from which they had been developed. (Photo from the United States Air Force Museum website)

As I dove head-first and at full throttle under a wire fence, I saw Mr. Trulock, Annie, and the girls exit their home and run toward the plane that had just landed safely in a small cornfield.

Folks, young, old, and feeble, ran from their houses through drifts of snow to the plane. The small boys among us were disappointed to learn the pilot had not crashed. Both pilot and passenger indicated they were freezing to death and had landed only to warm themselves at the Jesse Childress house, nearest the landing site.

Some folks, in an unparalleled state of excitement, ran outside without their winter coats. Nevertheless, everybody stood about socializing and admiring the mechanical contraption sitting before them.

After a time the two strangers, dressed in their leather coats and caps, made their way through the crowd. One gentleman seated himself in the plane's open cockpit, while the passenger rotated the wooden prop calling out, "Contact!" The little plane sputtered to life, taxied across the snow-covered field, and rose from whence it came.

As the gathering of about 50 souls dispersed toward their homes, I thought to myself in a childish way, "What a wonderful, happy day this has been!"

In all the excitement, Dad must have forgotten to apply the punishment for my disobedience, and I always thought it prudent never to remind him of his oversight. Perhaps in his moments of solitude and old age he thought of the foolishness of his small son on that special day, when the outside world came to visit folks at Roseburg.

A hand-drawn map by the author of the Roseburg, Hart County, area showing the location of the school and church, among other features.

Author's Note: At this present time, few modern maps display the name, Roseburg. Original buildings standing today include the Beeler house, the Stewart log house (now over 160 years old, owned by Lena Trulock Kessinger, the daughter of George and Annie), the Roseburg schoolhouse, and the Jericho Church. Many of the buildings have been torn down and replaced with brick or stone structures. Some have burned, while others were left neglected to ruin and decay. The dirt road running in and out of the village has now been widened and paved.

Each fourth Sunday in May, folks return here to their roots from other states and great distances in Kentucky to celebrate the Roseburg Homecoming and Decoration. On this special date they pause to honor ancestors buried in the schoolyard.

Garland K. Childress, 4105 Riveroaks Lane, Louisville, KY 40241-1736, shares this story, map, and school photo with our readers.