Each month, The Kentucky Explorer magazine receives literally scores of letters from our faithful readers. Whenever possible, we try to publish as many of them as possible in the 12 pages we have set aside for “Letters to the Editor.”

Dear Editor:
E. B. “Reb” Allen was the oldest of nine children, and times were hard in rural Rockcastle County, Kentucky. He quit school, not because he didn’t want to learn, but because he went to work in a coal mine to help support his family. He never lost his thirst for knowledge.

Later, while the union at the mines where he worked in Harlan County, was on strike, he went to Southeast Community College, a division of the University of Kentucky, to test for the GED. Against the advice of the counselor there, he took the test without reviewing and passed with an amazingly high score. The college officials were so impressed, that he was offered a scholarship to the University of Kentucky. He turned it down, because the men at the mines had returned to work, and again, he had a family to support.

After he departed the coal mines he hitchhiked to Manchester in Clay County. There he boarded a Black Brothers bus to Somerset, Pulaski County, where he joined the U. S. Marine Corps in search of a better life.

After Marine Corps Boot Camp, Reb was discovered celebrating his good fortune in Tijuana, Mexico, aboard a very colorful donkey at the ripe old age of 17. This event happened the night before shipping out for Korea. About halfway to their destination, the Marines received orders to divide the unit. Half of the Marines were sent to Korea. The other half, which included Reb, was stationed at Mount Fuji, Japan, where they remained in a support status for the Marines who were deployed to Korea.

E. B. “Reb” Allen now lives in Smithfield, Henry County, Kentucky. He is an accomplished poet, historian, and genealogist. A few years ago when Jean Cobb invited Reb to speak at a local DAR meeting, I had the pleasure of accompanying him to the gathering. He impressed everyone with his elaborate knowledge of Eastern Kentucky families, especially the people of Clay County. It was a special time for many of us in attendance.

Reb’s ancestors who came to Clay County from North Carolina include Adoniram Allen; John Renta Baker; John J. Ponder and his wife, Wennie Holcombe; Rev. William Whitamore; Ambrose Cobb and wife, Rachel Black (a Native American); and Samuel Bishop.

His relatives from South Carolina who came to Clay County were Rev. James Anglin and wife, Jane Barrett. Ancestors who came to Clay County from Virginia include William Pigg, Henry Hensley, John May, and Julius “Bob” Baker.

Reb’s wife, Willa Robinson Allen, also had ancestors who came to Clay County including Armstead “Street” Shell and Charles Robinson.

On March 26, 1976, Mr. Allen wrote Ballad of The Shadow Miner, which is a very popular poem among coal miners and families throughout Kentucky. It was written in remembrance of the 26 miners who lost their lives in the Scotia Mine Disaster which occurred in two separate explosions at Oven Fork, Letcher County, Kentucky. (See the poem at www.kentucky explorer.com under the September 2016 monthly preview).

Now retired, Mr. Allen has become an accomplished historian and genealogist and has helped to write books on some of his more prominent family lines. In addition, historical societies throughout Kentucky request him to lecture on various topics concerning the history of their counties.

Mr. Allen has often remarked that under different circumstances, he might have been someone great. But, Elizabeth Ann Allen Davidson believes her father is someone great.

Ted Garrison 382 H. M. Garrison Road Manchester, KY 40962 

The Shadow Miner

How’d the dust blight come upon me?
Then I’ll tell you if I must,
‘bout the blight of the Shadow Miner,
Who walks the midnight dust.

T’was the year ’76, and the middle of March,
At the end of the number one line,
When the Shadow brought fire, and smoke and death
To the boys in the Oven Fork Mine.

The Smoke was so thick, you could cut it.
The heat more than any could bear.
And the sound of top falling on the roadway
To the portal for which we must steer.

It was silent on number three section.
The Shadow had plotted the mood.
There was no sound of life or motion
To break the solitude,

Except the wiling of the gob rats
That squealed in fearful disgust,
And the flapping of the brattice cloth curtain,
Making way for the smoke and the dust.

I said to myself, “ I must keep my nerve.”
Through far the portal be,
Yet my heart would be much lighter,
If I only had company.

And so I sang and shouted,
Keep rhythm, as I sped.
To the screech from the soles of my work shoes,
As they sprang beneath my tread.

Not far into the air course,
Had I stumbled on my way,
When I saw a dusty figure,
In a capuchin of gray.

And bending upon my shoe toes,
With a long and limber stride,
I caught the dusty stranger,
And we traveled side by side.

But no token of communion,
Gave he by word or nod,
And a fear chill upon me,
At the crossing of the gob.

For I saw by my dim lit mine light,
As I followed, lungs a bust,
That the walking of the stranger,
left no footprints in the dust.

Then the fear chill gathered o’er me
Like a shroud around me cast,
As I sank upon the gob pile,
Where the Shadow Miner passed.

And the other miners found me
Just before the break of day,
With my fair skin burned and blackened,
As the dust in which I lay.

But they spoke not, as they raised me,
For they knew that n the night,
I had seen the Shadow Miner,
And had withered in his blight.

In memory of the men who lost their lives in Scotia Mine accident in 1976, in Letcher County, KY.

Written by E.B. “Reb” Allen
March 26 1976
Reprinted with permission


One of the popular features found in The Kentucky Explorer each month is genealogy, often published in the form of letters, queries, photographs, and stories. Several serial features, such as Kentucky Genealogy Help Line, Genealogy From The Long Ago, Strictly Kentucky Genealogy, and Kentucky Kinfolk are dedicated solely to this purpose and continue from month to month.

Laurel County, Kentucky
June 28, 1898

My father was Frederick Lincks. He was born in Germany. Before he reached his majority he ran away from home and joined the Army of Napoleon Bonaparte. He was a wild boy. I have seen his body, and it was all covered with scars, showing that he had many conflicts in his young days. His father was a great friend of Napoleon and through this intimacy he got his son released. He then sent him to Amsterdam to school. After the close of the term $80 was necessary to pay board and tuition. His father sent him the money to pay the bill but he took the money and paid his passage to America. Eighty other students did the same. The ship was anchored about a mile from shore. The boys were taken out in a schooner; several trips being necessary. The ship lost her course and many died of overeating when a friendly ship found them. They lost many by sickness. My father’s time with Napoleon was seven or nine months, the voyage was either seven or nine months.
When they landed in America ….


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Laurel County, Kentucky
June 30, 1898

I was born in Laurel County, Kentucky, in 1833. My father was Evan Jones. He was born and reared near…


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Clay County, Kentucky
June 30, 1898

My grandfather, Col. Richard Nicholason, was born in the North of Ireland. His wife was born in Wales. They were married in Maryland. I have his powder horn which he carried in the Revolutionary War. It has this inscription: …..


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One of the popular features found in The Kentucky Explorer each month is genealogy, often published in the form of letters, queries, photographs, and stories. Several serial features, such as Kentucky Genealogy Help Line, Genealogy From The Long Ago, Strictly Kentucky Genealogy, and Kentucky Kinfolk are dedicated solely to this purpose and continue from month to month.

Seek info. on my grandfather, Moses Elkins, m. Jane Thomas and Mary Wilson, had Deborah, m. Walker Seale: Green, m. Emma Pace, had Orville, Robert, Albert, Alpha, and Moses (my father). All settled in Owsley Co., Ky. Any info. appreciated. Will share info.

Genevieve E. Long 914 Old KY 11 Booneville, KY 41314

Seek info. on the descendants of Sanford Allen (b. 1810) and Susannah Shumate Allen (b. 1814), Sharpsburg, Ky., mid-1800s, children: Mary Jane; Julian, b. 1834; Eliza, b. 1857; Virginia, b. 1842; J. Waller, b. 1847; Frank S., b. 1850; Charles P., b. 1852; Sanford, b. 1854; Henry T., b. 1859; and Thomas J., b. 1861. J. Waller, Sanford, and Thomas J. buried in Sharpsburg Cemetery. Any info. appreciated.

Donald R. Curtis
104 Auburn Way Nicholasville, KY 40356 859/885-6147

Seek info. on Felix Bowling and Rebecca Howard Bowling, children: Lee, Ballard, Hermand, Robert (my dad), Lucy, and Isobell. Any help appreciated.

Icem Bowling 2948 Kingston Avenue Dayton, OH 45420 937/253-3309

Seek info. on relatives of my grand- parents, Joseph Duncan Combs (b. 1888, d. 11/7/1940, son of John W. Combs) and Ella Combs (d. 5/11/1918), had my dad, Shelby Combs, b. 10/29/1916, Knott Co., Ky., d. 2/17/1996, m., 1946, Mary Alice Lumpkins, b. 8/24/1926, d. 3/12/2008. What is the connection between Joseph and William Lorenzo Combs and Jeremiah Combs. Any info. appreciated.

Brenda Combs Costello 13229 W. Darrow Road Vermilion, OH 44989 440/396-9139



Rye Bread
Grape Sherbet
Sunshine Cake
Chinese Chicken Casserole
Peas Patties
Luncheon Rolls
Plain Hot Chocolate
Pork & Mushroom Casserole
Buttered Cauliflower

The Search For Final Resting Place Of Asa Peter McCoy

Every reader of The Kentucky Explorer, no doubt, has a special memory. Why not write it down and share it here in this column? Help preserve the story of our vanishing past for today and tomorrow. We need memories and photographs from every part of Kentucky and beyond.

The early morning sun was making its ascent over the mountains of Bill Hall Branch and Frasure’s Creek, Floyd County, Kentucky, spreading its warmth and glow throughout the McDowell Valley. It was early August in 1963, and I knew the day was going to be a warm one.
Many friends, family, and loved ones were gathering at the home of Ted and Helen Stumbo to pay their final respects to Uncle Fred Stumbo. Dad (Kitt Stumbo), a brother to Fred, had sent some of us boys to help in directing traffic up the hollow where there were more places to park.
As the crowd gathered they were greeted by the constant crowing and cackling of Ted’s gamecocks and hens. The Hall Brothers Funeral Home of Martin, Kentucky, was taking care of the funeral arrangements. They had neatly lined rows of chairs on the back porch and in the back yard for the mourners. After we helped in directing the traffic, I got a chair from the back row and set it where the yard met the garden. I observed ……..

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When I grew up on the farm we, as did about all farm families, raised chickens. I enjoyed watching them because I thought they were comical.
When I was a little lad I would sometimes try to catch a chickens. I would get frustrated because they could run too fast for me to catch. One day I decided I was gonna chase a chicken until one of us couldn’t run any longer. I picked out this hen and took off after her. I must have chased that hen five minutes or more. All of a sudden she stopped…


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In the 1950s there were two kinds of “drive-ins” in Harlan, Harlan County, Kentucky. One was the drive-in theater, and in Harlan there were two of these, the Harlan Drive-In and the Wayne Drive-In. The other type of drive-in was the drive-in restaurant (or some called them “custard stands”). There were five of these: Denny Rays, Jacks, Jays, The Dixie, and Mikes. At that time entertainment for young people centered around these seven drive-ins. The following are some of my recollections of these Harlan Drive-Ins in the 1950s.
The Harlan Drive-In Theatre was located south of downtown Harlan on Highway 421, just prior to getting to the Harlan Regional Hospital, in the Sunny Acres area. I can recall….


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100 Photographs Inside!

Wendell F. Inskeep, 2369 Meadowgreen Drive, Beavercreek, OH 45431, shares this photo that was given to him by his cousin, Fred Kratzer. Maurice Inskeep, Wendellʼs father, is shown third from left, with his arms crossed, beside the man wearing the tie. The photo was taken ca. 1914 or 1915 near a sawmill in Bradford, Bracken County, Kentucky. Wendell writes the following regarding his family: “My father, Maurice Inskeep (1890-1967) married my mother, Etta M. Montgomery (1895-1965) on March 2, 1916, and six children were born into this family, with me being the youngest of five boys. My sister was born 15 months later to complete the family. Four of the five boys were in WWII. We were all overseas at the same time during WWII. One brother received the Purple Heart. The oldest of the five boys is now 90 years old, and I have heart problems. Three of the five boys are deceased.” If anyone can identify others in the photo, feel free to contact us. #kyexplorer #kyhistory #kyphotography #kentucky #kentuckypride #kygenealogy #kentuckylife #kybackroads #kytravel

A photo posted by Kentucky Explorer (@kyexplorer) on

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