Bon Jellico Families

The Earl Lovitt Family
By Earl Lovitt (1980)


    Earl Joseph Lovitt was born in 1905 on Jellico Creek, Kentucky, Whitley County, on the mountain farm near the old Stephens Mill. The family moved to the Dr. Chitwood place near the mouth of Rians Creek in 1907. In the fall of 1910, Melton G. Lovitt and Flora Meadors Lovitt decided they wanted to raise their children near better schools than they attended; so the family moved to the old Synder home on the Mike Richardson farm on Briar Creek, two miles from the county seat town of Williamsburg, Ky.

    Earl started school in the one room Briar Creek School on the lot where Bob Wilder later lived. Ms. Flora Whitehead was the teacher. Earl and Cawood Owens received a book at the end of school for being present every day. In 1912, the county built a two-room school on the Bon Jellico Coal Co. property and it became the Bon Jellico School, which Earl attended from 1912 through 1919. Some of the teachers that he had were Frank Davis, Rhoda Tye, Maude Foley, Harrison Campbell, N.M. Hill, A.A. Ridener, Mary McCullah, and J.B. Johnson. This was a seven-month school and at the end of the seven months he attended the grade school department of Cumberland College in the building now occupied by Roburn Hall. Mrs. N.M. Hill was the ‘best teacher’ he ever had.

    From 1920-1923 he attended high school and teacher training school, which was know as normal school. He walked from Bon Jellico every day, rain or shine, mud or snow two miles each way. Mr. Joe Lawson allowed him to stop in his grocery store each morning and evening to change his muddy shoes for a cleaner pair—leaving a pair behind the store door and doing the reverse each evening. Two of the teachers were Miss Flint and J. Lloyd Creech. Under their teaching he made, by a two-day oral and written examination, a first class certificate good for four years of teaching.

    In July of 1923, school trustee Mr. Isom Cordell recommended him as teacher of the Fair View School with about 39 students with a salary of $66.50 per month for seven months. Eighth grade students were Wadley Cordell, Elsie Cordell, Laurence Kennedy, Marie Lovitt, Reba Lovitt, and Gladys Campell. He boarded with his Uncle Marsh and Aunt Emma Lovitt for $6.00 a month and at the end of the school year had $300 in the bank. Earl recalled, “The thing that bugs me most was how I spent the $123.50 left after paying my tuition and room and board. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do. I do remember going to Jellico, Tennessee and buying my first suit, blue serge one from Gartiers Dept. Store for $27.50. In the spring term of 1924, I attended high school at Cumberland. In the summer of 1924, I bought my first car, a 1922 Model T Ford from Marion Woollum for $180.00. Ernest Freeman bought the Ford new for $475.00. It was the first and worst car I ever had. If you worked on it all week, you could run it a little on Sunday. But the car came in handy since I became principal of the two teachers school at Emlyn, Ky. and drove from Bon Jellico each day. My assistant teacher was Miss Maggie Sullivan. The school year 1924-1925 had about 100 students and my salary was $73.00 per month. The school year 1925-1926 my assistant teacher was Miss Susie Higganbotham. Gas costs 15 cents per gallon.”

    The road from Bon to Emlyn was mud and snow most of the time. If he could not make it, he stayed with Mr. Pleas Walker for free. In the spring term of 1925, he attended the Eastern Ky. Normal School. The spring term of 1926 he attended the Williams High School with teachers Elbert T. Mackey and Arkley Wright. The five-week summer term of 1926 he spent at Eastern. “I remember very well I left with $50.00. Train fare there was $3.10 and return was $3.10. I stayed five weeks and came home with $7.00 remaining.”

    Mr. W. A. Green, trustee, “thought it was time I came home to teach my home school, and it was while I was at Eastern in 1926 that I got the news that Bon Jellico was to be a three teacher school and I was to be the first principal of it.” Assistants were Leonard Inman and Mary Calliway. The salary there was $84.00 per month. Whitley County schools were seven months; so the coal company furnished the money for the two extra months; Bon Jellico was a nine-month school. For the 1927-1928 school year Earl was recommended by Mr. Green as principal of the Bon School but the superintendent Claiborne Wilson “…had other ideas. It seemed that his good friend Miss Flora Sullivan had lost her job at Williamsburg grade school and he told me I did not have enough school work to hold a principal’s place.” Earl became teacher of the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. Glenna Copeland was primary teacher with Miss Flora as principal. “I have great satisfaction in remembering that Supt. Wilson was defeated at the very next election. Of course I had nothing to do with that.”

    “For a few weeks in the summer of 1927 I was carpenter’s helper for Mr. Green Creekmore. The only thing I recall about that was that we put on a roof on Jim and Teenie Stout’s house and the pay was $3.00 per day.”

    “In April, 1928, Mr. Jack Taylor hired me as company store manager, the day after school was out. . .. My helpers in the store were Roger West, clerk, and Jim Pemberton, deliveryman. Our sales ran from $3,000 to $5,000 a month …but during the depression some days would go all the way up to $15.00. …..In the fall of 1932, I was appointed postmaster at the Bon Jellico, Kentucky Post Office. The postmaster was paid in proportion to the number of letters mailed at the office. We counted them each day and the post office commission was divided between Mr. Taylor and me. An average monthly total pay was around $15.00; occasionally a politician would come by and do his mailing at Bon Jellico and we would earn a few dollars extra. Mr. Taylor was the Bon Jellico baseball club manager and I was the field manager. We would close the Commissary every Saturday for the ball games. Mr. Kay Hinkle was the manager part of this time.”

    In 1935 the Early Lovitt family moved to High Splint to work in the High Splint Coal Company Commissary. He was co-owner of Sharpe and Lovitt Chevrolet Company and worked as Sales Manager for Brown’s Motor Company in Corbin for 11.5 years retiring in 1979.

    Verna (nee Copeland) and Earl had two daughters. After the death of Verna in 1977, Earl married Glessie M. Eaton.

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