Bon Jellico, Kentucky Homecomings

Bon Jellico Homecoming Attendees at Bon Hollow Park, 1983

Bon Jellico Homecomings

    People who lived in Bon Jellico between 1911 and 1937, those who worked or went to school there, their children, and grandchildren and friends, started an annual homecoming on the Sunday before Labor Day in 1950. The Homecoming was first held along Briar Creek in the creek bottom along Hwy 92. Long before the Bon Hollow Park was created, the gathering moved up Apple Tree Hill to what became the park site. The park was on the site of the commissary and houses of the Bon Jellico community.

    In 1950 Jack Taylor, the former manager of the mines, contacted Nannie and Carrol Green (who owned Green’s Restaurant in Williamsburg) about starting a Homecoming. Carrol and Nannie arranged for a flatbed truck and baked a ham for the reunion. Cold watermelons and mush melons (cantaloupes) were brought and distributed from the truck; there were big tubs with ice and all sorts of sodas (“pop”)…grape, orange, RC’s, coco-colas. Everyone brought covered dishes. There were always tomatoes and peppers fresh from gardens, green beans, corn, fried okra, cornbread, chicken and dumplings, and a variety of cakes and pies. Mattie Brown, oldest daughter of B. F. Brown, often looked up her depression-era recipe for a one-egg cake and made that as well. There were always stack cakes made with molasses and ‘put together’ with dried apples or applesauce.

    There were often speakers and always music at the Homecomings. The Honorable Eugene Siler Sr., eight-term U.S. Congressman from the district, usually attended. The Siler family owned stock in the Bon Jellico mines, and Mr. Siler was a good friend to several of the Bon Jellico families. The Reverend Billy Childress, often spoke and related how his father raised him and his brothers in the Bon Jellico community. Among the musicians that attended the reunion was Johnny Moses, who played the guitar and sang. Everyone always wanted him to sing “Didn’t it Rain”. At later Bon Jellico reunions group singing was lead by Virginia Sharpe Arnett, granddaughter of Mr. M. G. Lovitt, the song leader at the Bon Jellico Church.

    Gail Pemberton wrote in 2007, “Bon Jellico reunions were called ‘homecomings’ because everyone seemed to feel that they were coming home. It did not matter if you were a true resident, a descendent, or just a family friend, you still had the feeling of coming home. Remembering the hugs, gospel singing, the stories, the food, and laughter are some of the great memories I will always cherish.”

    The last Bon Jellico Homecoming was held in 2002. Participants decided to discontinue the Homecoming because of the condition of the site, which made it unsafe for a picnic; many also felt a great deal of sadness about so many deceased Bon Jellico friends and family. The remaining money in the treasury of the Bon Jellico Heritage was donated to the City of Williamsburg city parks department, who (for several years) had cleaned the site prior to each Bon Jellico Homecoming and provided the comfort stations.

Presidents of the Bon Jellico Heritage Committee and approximate tenure dates included Earl Lovitt (1960–1988), Ivan Bunch (1989–1990), Martin Pemberton (1991–1997), and Alene Kirklin Horner (1998–2002).

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