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Ho! For West Liberty - A Reporter's Trip

To That Fair City In 1881

Morgan County Seat Was A Hub Of Activity 116 Years Ago

Author Unknown - The Ashland Independent - 1881

Early in the gloomy forenoon of Wednesday of last week, without time for preparation or to bid his friends goodbye, The Independent reporter boarded a coal train of the A.C.&I. Railway for Rush Station, his objective point being the beautiful mountain town of West Liberty, the county seat of Morgan County, a point at which The Independent has many warm friends, and from which for some weeks the paper has not been favored with correspondence. The forager for news had reason to believe that he would be able to make connection with the afternoon train of that day on the E.L.&B.S. Railroad beyond the Means tunnel and reach the comfortable Carey House, at Morehead, in time for a supper of hot muffins, coffee, and incidentals. Little did he then know that there was a slough of despond, of three or four miles in length, lying between the mining village of Geigersville and the foot of the mountain penetrated by the famous Means tunnel, and Mount Savage Furnace. Captain Ed. Murphy, engineer of the coal train, put his iron horse through to Geigersville on time. The owner of the only available horses in the village, young Mr. Tyree, was found in the school-room intent upon the mysteries of addition, multiplication, division, and subtraction, and with him a bargain was soon struck for an immediate conveyance, by horseback, to Mt. Savage, ten miles distant, the nearest point at which the afternoon train for Morehead could be reached. In naming his terms for the service of himself and horses, The Independent man thought the young man had mastered the science of subtraction, but before the ride over the sea of mud and death trap bridges was over he became convinced that the youth was not unreasonable in the amount charged. The readers of this paper are spared a description of that terrible ride, suffice it to say that The Independent man "praised the Lord" when it was ended. The vicinity of Mt. Savage was reached just in time to hear the whistle of the locomotive as the train took its departure for Lexington. There was then no other course open but to lie over at Mount Savage until the train left next day.

A refreshing night's sleep at the well-kept boarding-house of Mr. Porter, found us well prepared to prosecute our journey on Thanksgiving Day. Thursday morning was a wintry one indeed; the snow came whirling down in eddies, besprinkling and whitening the earth. In a short time a construction train offered an opportunity to ride down to the East Kentucky and E., L., & Big Sandy Junction, at which place several hours were spent awaiting the incoming of the morning train from Mount Sterling and its departure in the early afternoon. Notwithstanding the absence of the Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, oysters, etc., the time was pleasantly passed in the company of our friend 'Squire Wiley Prichard, superintendent of the Mary Coal Company, and in making the acquaintance of Mr. Kavanaugh, a prominent coal and lumber merchant of Falmouth, Pendleton County. Here, also, our man met the agreeable and entertaining Mrs. Watson, the proprietress of the Olive Hill Hotel, who fortunately was his traveling companion as far as that picturesque village.

At last Conductor Thompson's "all aboard" was heard, and Engineer Ike Adams gave his iron horse a loose rein, and we whirled away to the westward at a lively pace. When nearing Lawton, the sharp and short toots of the whistle indicated danger ahead, and instantly the car windows were thrown up and the heads of anxious passengers were obtruded. Just before the train was brought to a stand-still, pieces of a saddle wee seen on the track and the mangled body of a man was looked for with dread, but a few yards further on the recent occupant of the torn saddle was seen stumbling along the side of the road in pursuit of his bare-backed and rapidly fleeing horse. The man and horse had both barely escaped being run down and killed. The horse had become wild with fright at the approaching train and had kept in the middle of the track, despite the efforts of the rider to rein him to one side. Fortunately the saddle girth broke, the rider was thrown to one side, out of danger, and the train checked with only a few feet from the horse.

Hon. Geo. W. Herron, representative in the General Assembly from the counties of Carter and Elliot, was on this train on his way to the meeting of the legislature at Frankfort. Mr. Herron had with him a specimen of cannel coal, which, he informed the representative of The Independent, was taken from a large body of land on Sinking Creek, the mineral privileges of which have recently been leased by himself and Mr. B.F. Herron, his brother.

Farther along the road, W.W. Patterson, Esq., of Ashland, was met in the woods, surrounded by a gang of stave and timber workers.

Morehead was reached on schedule time, and all that our man saw, heard and learned there is told in another column.

On Horseback To West Liberty

Having secured an honest looking pony from Dr. White, of Morehead, the traveller, at 9 o'clock Friday morning, set out for West Liberty, in the company of Uncle Cy Perry, a prominent and widely known farmer of Morgan County, and C.C. Hagerman, Esq., an intelligent and pleasant gentleman from Boston Station, on the Kentucky Central Railroad, Pendleton County, the former bearing him company some fifteen, and the latter nine miles.

West Liberty lies about twenty-five miles in a south-easterly direction from Morehead, and is reached by a mountain road, passing over several steep hills and winding along the beds of numerous small streams, the water in the latter being the clearest and purest the writer ever saw. A portion of the route traveled passes through the magnificent timber domains of the Licking River Lumber & Mining Company. The officers of the company are S.C. Blanchard, Esq., of Boston, Mass., president; Geo. W. Bishop, Esq., of Cincinnati, Ohio, vice-president and treasurer; and C.C. Hagermeyer, secretary. The company owns 45,000 acres of land in Menifee, Morgan, and Rowan Counties, lying on Licking River, the North Fork, Elk Fork, and their tributaries. The company has now and has had for several years large saw mills in operation at Boston Station, on the Kentucky Central Railroad, which have a capacity to cut 60,000 feet of lumber per day. A large timbering business has heretofore been done by the company on Licking River, and this branch of its business will be largely increased in the future, and it will at an early period take measures to develop the mineral resources of its princely domain. It has recently purchased a splendid mill site on the Elizabethtown, Lexington and B.S. Railroad, at the mouth of Salt Lick Creek, where there is a most excellent harbor for saw logs, and will erect at that point extensive saw and planing mills. This company is the pioneer in driving loose logs in Licking and its tributaries, which method makes available the vast timber resources on the smaller streams, on the waters of which logs cannot be rafted in the usual way.

A ride of nine miles brought out party to the country store of Mr. David Myers, at which place we saw two beautiful skins of a male and female otter, which had been purchased by Mr. Myers from a young mountaineer, who had killed them in a pool of water in one of the tributaries of the Elk Fork. The fur of these skins is beautiful, and will be made up into handsome sets, which will probably be worn by fashionable belles in some far away city.

After a short rest we mounted our horses, Mr. Hagermeyer leaving us and turning off in a westerly direction, on the road to Bangor, whilst Uncle Cy and The Independent man took the West Liberty road, leading in a south-easterly direction. Soon we came to a very steep hill, which Uncle Cy said was called "Pop Hill," and when the news gatherer asked why it was so called, he replied he did not know, unless it was because the hill was like a timid school-boy's speech, which was more "pop up and pop down," and this was a truly graphic description of "Pop Hill." A short distance beyond this hill we reached the North Fork of Licking, at Phillips' near the mouth of the wonderful Yorkum, a stream which has not its counterpart for wild, picturesque and grand scenery. Up this weird and gloomy stream our road lay from its mouth to its head, a distance of five or six miles, for three miles of which not a house was to be seen. Want of space prevents a description of the wonderful and grand scenery on the Yorkum. At night-fall, I reached the point of my destination.

West Liberty

This is one of the handsomest and certainly the most quiet and orderly towns in Eastern Kentucky, and has a population of polite, intelligent, and hospitable people, of which any town might be proud. I found the following improvements had been recently made or were in process of construction, to wit: Mr. O.W. Burns is building a nice two-story frame business house, nearly completed; W.M. Kendall has also nearly finished a nice two-story frame dwelling of ten rooms, at the corner of Broadway and Prestonsburg Streets; and W.A. Brown has completed a two-story frame addition to his residence on Broadway. There are many other minor improvements recently completed. The extensive saw and flouring mills of Whitcomb, Manker & Co. give constant employment to between forty and fifty men. The town has four practicing physicians, to wit: Drs. B.F. and W.G. Carter, J.M. Waldeck, and Jas. Thornley. The profession of the law is ably represented by the following gentlemen: J.W. Kendall, W.W. McGuire, J.T. Hazelrigg, T.J. Henry, Jno. E. Cooper, Jno. P. Salyer, W.A. Maxey, E.F. Lemaster, and R.C. Day. W.B. Lykins, of Ezell, and Wm. Lykins, of Walnut Grove, also practice law. The town can boast of two of the best hotels in East Kentucky, the Kendall House, kept by Mrs. E.C. Kendall, and the Morgan House, James H. Cole, proprietor. At the former house your correspondent satisfied his craving hunger and rested his wearied body, receiving the kindest attention from the amiable hostess and her assistants. Mrs. Kendall, by the way, is a daughter of John Allison, Sr., for many years the clerk of the courts of Lawrence County.

Mr. Robert Cummings carries on an extensive shoe shop, employing five or six men, among whom is an old veteran, aged eighty-six years, whose work for neatness, and in all respects, is hard to beat.

I learned that a malignant fever of the most dangerous character was prevailing in the vicinity of White Oak post office, there being over twenty persons down with it. Mr. Elijah Risner's young wife died last week at his residence near the Magoffin line.

Mr. Jas. C. Salyer, of Johnson County, has moved his family to and will reside at Ezell, in this county.

Circuit court began on Nov. 5, with 58 commonwealth cases on the docket, of which only four are felony cases, and of these, one came from Menifee County, by change of venue. On the equity docket there are 137 old and 11 new cases. Mr. E.F. Lemaster is the efficient clerk, and Mr. E.C. Orear the sprightly deputy.

Thirteen new houses have been built in West Liberty in the past twelve months, and other indications indicate a prosperous future for the town. There are now 3 blacksmiths, 3 general merchandise stores, 15 carpenters, one drug store, and a furniture factory, conducted by Mr. R. Menifee Turner. The wool carding factory is another useful institution, the proprietors of which are taking measures to engage in the manufacture of jeans, etc.

I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Hon. John T. Hazelrigg, one of the leading lawyers of Eastern Kentucky, and one of the most agreeable gentlemen I ever met. He is editor and proprietor of the Scorcher, a lively paper that is doing much good for the county, and is in a flourishing condition. In the office I found Mr. Barnes, late of Owingsville, who was doing the mechanical part of the work.

To Messrs. E.F. Lemaster and E.C. Orear, of the circuit clerk's office, Mr. J.L. Quicksall, deputy county court clerk, and to Hon. John T. Hazelrigg and Capt. T.J. Henry, the writer is indebted and returns thanks for courtesies extended.

Having secured the services of a talented and ready writer who will furnish an interesting letter each week for this paper, which was the principal object of his trip, the Independent man left Saturday noon, homeward bound, regretting that his limited time did not permit him to see more of West Liberty and her citizens.

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