Spirit and Determination Linger
Years After Caney Creek Miracle
Caney Creek Community Center At Knott County's
Pippa Passes Had Its Humble Beginning in 1916
Author's Note: For sometime I have been impressed to write an article about the two Caney Creek miracles, which have had a great influence on my life. I attended Caney Junior College on Caney Creek in Knott County for two years (1935-1937). In 1938 I moved to another Caney Creek in Morgan County after my marriage to Wardie Craft. I have lived at this Caney Creek for 64 years.
On October 12, 2002, my daughter, Angela Craft Jackson, and I attended the Alice Lloyd Appalachian Day. Angela was happy to go with me. She had remarked, "I want to visit the place that you talk so much about." She was certainly impressed. After spending some time walking around the campus and seeing so much progress since I was there as a student, the thought came to me, "You must do your long-planned article on the two Caney Creek miracles."
First, I have written about the miracle on Caney Creek at Pippa Passes in Knott County.
Caney Creek Community Center in 1935. Located in the Knott County community of Pippa Passes, Alice Lloyd College evolved from this center and has provided higher education to generations of Kentucky mountain youth.
By Hazel Craft - 2002
In 1915 to an abandoned church mission across the mountain from Caney Creek, a little wisp of a woman, sickly and virtually penniless, along with her mother, Elda Geddes, arrived from the Back Bay Boston area. The doctors had advised Mrs. Alice Geddes Lloyd to seek a warmer climate where she could rest and recuperate after a dreadful, paralytic stroke. The two women were informed that there was an abandoned Presbyterian church mission building at Ivis on Troublesome Creek in Knott County. How these two women in a horse-drawn buggy made this six-week trip (some say three weeks) to this little speck on the map, called Ivis, is beyond my imagination. Some say Mrs. Lloyd's husband came with them, but soon returned to Boston.
Students performed chores to earn tuition and their room and board. Once they completed their studies, they were encouraged to return to lifelong service in the Kentucky mountains. These Caney boys take a break from their duties in 1936.
For the first winter they resided at this location. In 1916 the miracle began. A barefooted man, Abisha Johnson, from across the mountain at Caney Creek, arrived at Hope Cottage. He fell on his knees and this is what he said, "I have heered a voice telling me to ask you stranger women to come to Caney Creek and teach our young'uns. If you will come to Caney Creek I aim to give you all a right smart strip of my land. I do want you to rise upon this land a building that will bring to my Lizzey and Evey and Sussy and Rosey a chance for learning, if it ain't too late."
The two women did come to Caney Creek, after a plank cottage with a lean-to was erected. This shack is still standing with a shining plaque that reads: "In this shack was founded the Caney Creek Community Center, October 16, 1916, by Alice Geddes Lloyd, a symbol of faith in American democracy and public service." From this humble beginning Caney Creek Community Center had its beginning. On her old Oliver typewriter, with one good finger, she began contacting many friends, telling them if given a chance leaders would emerge. She sought friends from every conceivable source asking for help, but never asked more for herself than the right to serve. Mrs. Lloyd forgot her infirmity. Her whole mind was centered on building the Caney Creek Community Center. She knew leaders were there and they must be found.
Were they breaking one of the rules? There were five rules that had to be obeyed at all times at Alice Lloyd College and one of those was, "no unauthorized meetings with the opposite sex."
Among some of those leaders she found in the early years included Dan Martin, who became a lawyer; Carl Perkins, who became a congressman; Charles Clark, who was superintendent of the Floyd County school system; Townsell Marshall, who was chairman of the board of trustees and an executive with Armco; Dr. Palmer Hall, an educator; D. Hollander Hall, a lawyer, who married June Buchanan around 1934, and were marred for 16 years. Hollander Hall died on his way to New York, with June, to visit June's folks; Adrian Hall was an educator in the Floyd County school system. After his retirement he worked as an administrator of Alice Lloyd College; and there are many others.
In 1919 the miracle continued to expand. June Buchanan, who had attended both Syracuse and Wellesley Universities in New York, heard of Alice Lloyd and her work on Caney Creek. She made a visit to meet Mrs. Lloyd. From that time on she was convinced she had to become a part of the Caney Creek Community Center. She made the statement, "I can't leave. Mrs. Lloyd needs me." She did stay and worked side-by-side with Mrs. Lloyd until her death in 1962. She later became one of the co-founders of the Caney Creek Community Center.
After Mrs. Lloyd's death in 1962, another dream came true. A four-year liberal arts college, devoted to the education of mountain youth and named for Mrs. Lloyd (Alice Lloyd College), and a preparatory school established as a model for learning in this region and named the June Buchanan school were opened. June died June 31, 1988, at the age of 101. In addition to her many duties at the center and at the college June was mayor of the city of Pippa Passes. It is said she was the oldest mayor in the U. S. Her claim was that she had done with her life what she intended.
Now, three women closely connected to the miracle on Caney Creek, Ella Geddes, Alice Lloyd, and June Buchanan, are all buried at the top of Consecration Hill overlooking the campus.
Now, let me add a little more about Mrs. Lloyd and the Alice Lloyd College.
There were five rules that had to be obeyed at all times and at every circumstance: no tobacco, no playing cards, no liquor, no firearms, and no unauthorized meetings with the opposite sex.
She pledged to the Caney men, who were so helpful in building a new school and other buildings, that she would never meddle in their politics, their moonshine, nor their religion. She never broke that pledge.
Because of the great needs she found at Caney Creek, Mrs. Lloyd wrote letters to every friend she could think of seeking money, teachers, clothing, books, etc. One gave $5,000; others gave smaller amounts. One friend replied, "I have no money to send, but I can teach. You have a year of my time on call."
Friends from "Ameriky" sent money to buy the rest of Abisha Johnson's farm. Mrs. Lloyd then bought from Abisha more land adjoining "the land of his fathers" and erected on this land a plank cottage with windows and a puncheon floor for Abisha and his family.
The original buildings had very interesting and unique names; such as Green Fly, Star House, Rock Castle, Planksides, Inspiration, Eagles Nest, If, Sycamore, Firing Line, and Up-Yondah House.
Promising graduates of Caney Junior College were given free scholarships to major colleges. Caney maintained a cottage for honor students at the University of Kentucky. Some continued their studies at Harvard, Yale, University of Louisville, and other colleges of higher learning.
Although Mrs. Lloyd and June have passed on, their presence is still felt on the campus.
The college is justly proud of graduates who became teachers, doctors, dentists, businessmen, school principals, and those in public activities.
With the death of Alice Lloyd and June Buchanan came many changes in the work they created. It seems as though the spirit and determination have been reincarnalet in new leaders so that the work they so carefully nurtured through its infancy might grow to maturity.
According to the U. S. News published in 2001, Alice Lloyd College was the top school in America where graduates have the least debt. The Alice Lloyd College, which was named in Alice Lloyd's honor, is an everlasting tribute to the work she accomplished. The college has an atmosphere very steeped in tradition.
I, for one, am more than thankful that Mrs. Lloyd accepted me as a student and that I was privileged to spend two years at this grand little college. I have never met a more dedicated person than Alice Lloyd. I feel that her influence on me helped to inspire me to follow along with Wardie in the work that has been accomplished in another miracle, and that is the miracle on Caney Creek in Morgan County, now known as The Memory Hill Foundation. The story of this miracle will appear in a future edition of The Kentucky Explorer.
Hazel Craft, 89 Memory Hill Lane, West Liberty, KY 41472, shares this article and photos with our readers.