In addition to historical material gathered by our Editor, The Kentucky Explorer is a unique magazine in that many of our articles and stories are submitted by readers, just like you. "Budding" authors have had their first stories published here at absolutely no charge, but the good news is that you don't have to be a professional writer to contribute.
There is no guarantee that your submission will be published in the current or any other issue.
(1) The material must be original and non-copyrighted;
(2) It must have a general interest to all Kentuckians;
(3) All stories and articles should be factual. Don't worry about spelling or grammar. We'll take care of that;
(4) Your stories should be accompanied by appropriate photographs and/or illustrations. Since the backlog of material is generally quite large, stories with the best photos and illustrations stand a better chance of being published; and
(5) Stories should be submitted in typewritten form, whenever possible, but may also be handwritten or printed. If submitting typewritten material, please use double-spaced lines and upper/lower case lettering with no fancy fonts.
The Kentucky Explorer prides itself in the quality of articles and stories found in our magazine each month. The pages of the May 2001 issue has 22 of them, all interesting and unique. We invite you to view the "Table of Contents" for this month, if you haven't already done so.
Here is a story (complete with photos) found on page 47 in our May 2001 issue:
This sawboat, designed and built by Kenis F. Hall of Banner, Floyd County, Kentucky, in 1914, measured 100 feet long by 26 feet wide. It rose two stories high and carried a milk cow barn amidships, which housed a milk cow to supply milk, and a four-room house at the stern, where workhands lived. (Photo courtesy of Ben Hall)
Floyd Native Operated Sawboat On The Big Sandy From 1914-19
Editor's Note: An "I Remember" article entitled "The Sawboat Of Long Ago" was published in the November 2000 issue of The Kentucky Explorer. The author of that piece and this one is the same; Ben Hall, the son of the man you're about to read about. With the author's submission of additional information and new photographs, we decided to present the article again, this time in a detailed account.
My father, Kenis F. Hall, lived and worked along the streams of Eastern Kentucky early in the 20th century. In 1913 Kenis decided to build a sawboat. He cut the materials for its construction from white oak trees in the Banner, Floyd County, Kentucky, area. The lumber was dried in a kiln for six months. During that time, Kenis drew up the plans for his boat and started building it in the spring of 1914.
The boat was built bottom-side up along the banks of the Big Sandy River. He painted the hull with several coats of hot pitch to stop any leaks. Upon completing the gunwales (the upper edge of the side of a boat), the craft was flipped upright and work began on the subflooring. This was followed by the installation of paddlewheels and a shaft.
The sawboat measured 100 feet long by 26 feet wide. It rose two stories high and carried a milk cow barn amidships, which housed a milk cow to supply milk, and a four-room house at the stern, where workhands lived.
By the end of August 1914, the boat was finished. Still the boat wasn't ready to launch, for Kenis had to wait for the waters of the Big Sandy River to rise high enough to operate it. This usually occurred in mid-to-late December of each year. Sure enough, the waters rose higher in December and Kenis was in business.
The first job Dad got was about a mile south of Prestonsburg at Ball Alley Rock. There he sawed lumber for a local businessman, Roscoe Howard, who was building a show house (movie theatre). Saw dust was used to cover its floor. After about three weeks on the job, the show house was completed. Mr. Howard gave all the employees a free ticket to see a silent movie, and this was the first silent film I ever saw.
When the railroad came through the area, mine owners would build coal tipples and mining houses along the hills. Dad usually received the contracts and blueprints to build these tipples. Arriving at the construction site, logs had already been cut and were stacked on skids near the river's edge. Dad's men would roll these logs into the river so they could saw them into lumber on the sawboat.
By the end of the 1915 season, Dad sold his first sawboat and immediately built two smaller ones with flat bottoms and winches, measuring 50 feet long and 12 feet wide. One of these boats was powered by a gasoline engine and a paddlewheel at its stern.
By the time the 1916 season began, Dad had a full schedule. Larger mines and more mining houses had been built up and down the river. These mining camps were the ideal targets to drum up new business and Kenis was working longer hours to meet the demand. Once the sawboat reached a new work site, it would be anchored about 50 feet from the shoreline, where cut logs were slid down a chute into the water. These also acted as "anchors" to keep the sawboat in place while lumber was being cut.
One Sunday, Dad and his crew were sailing up the river to Pike County where a large job was waiting. The boat approached the place where a bridge was being built across the river and Dad noticed a large cable in the water. Knowing the boat's paddlewheel would surely become tangled in the cable, he asked the bridge foreman if he could move the cable. The non-too-friendly foreman told him to get his boat on through there, then walked away.
Dad gave the gasoline engine
more power, and a 200- foot section of the cable was snapped
as the sawboat forced its way through. Dad never looked back.
The 1917 season began by moving from site to site working several small jobs. The owners of Pike-Floyd Coal Company, a large coal company based at Betsy Layne, contracted Kenis to move his sawmill off the boat taking it about half a mile up a small creek, where he began sawing their lumber. The job was finished in time to move the sawmill back onto the boat and catch the rising waters of the river.
By the beginning of the 1918 season, the lumber sawing business was slowing down. Kenis bought "sinking logs" from the Colin Crane Hardwood Lumber Company. "Sinking logs" were logs which had floated down stream and sunk in the curves of the river. Kenis used his sawboats and winches to recover these logs, hoisting them up out of the water and chaining them to poles. The poles were then anchored by wire cables at the home base at Banner.
In 1919 Kenis removed his sawmills and sold the boats. He setup the sawmills at a stationary site at Banner, where he sawed up the logs he had previously anchored there. He also accepted work from locals who hauled their own logs to his mill. From the sales of this lumber he purchased and operated an automatic handle machine for the next six years, which turned out about 300 coal pick handles per day. These he sold to the Ben Williamson Hardware Company.
By the mid-1920s materials
were hard to get, so Kenis sold his coal pick handle business
and built a large work shop, which was well-equipped with tools.
He worked here in this shop until he finally retired.
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