Bon Jellico Families

The Leslie Pemberton Family
By Gail Pemberton, Rockholds, KY. (June, 2007)


    “I actually was not a resident of the coal camp but both my grandparents and parents were. I was imprinted with Bon stories all my life, attended the Bon Jellico School, and attended the Bon Jellico reunions from about the age of five.

    My grandparents James C. (Jim-Pop) and Elizabeth (Lizzie-Mom) Pemberton moved to Bon in 1918 with four of their five children (Willie, Leslie (Red, my father), Dessie, and Martin). Their last daughter, Velma, was born at Bon. Willie died in 1925 from ruptured appendix.

    Jack Taylor hired Jim as barn foreman. Jim was responsible for the care of the horses and mules owned by the mine. Two white horses were used to pull the company wagon that Jim drove to deliver goods throughout the coal camp and to pick up freight from Williamsburg. Jim had the white horses so well trained that he would hook them to the wagon each morning and then he would walk over to the Commissary. The horses (George and Tom) would leave the barn, go up the hill, turn the wagon, back up bumping the Commissary porch, stop and wait for Jim. Jim also did some wood working, shoe repair, forging of metal items, and shoeing of the animals. We still have a kitchen dish cabinet made by Pop, some of his carpenter, cobbler, ferrier tools, and part of his hand forge. One of Wayne, my oldest brother’s, favorite memories of his Bon days was getting to help turn the hand forge at about the age of five. Jim would repair shoes and put them back on the owner’s porch early of a morning, knowing they could not afford to pay him for the repair. Some people were able to pay but it did not matter to Jim if he got paid or not. He said that everyone needed shoes.

    Lizzie Pemberton worked as a housekeeper and cook for Dr. Stonecipher before he was married. Liz continued to help Dr. Stonecipher with delivering babies. They said when a mother was ready to deliver, someone went for the Dr. and someone went for Liz. Liz continued cooking and sending food to people that were ill or in need. Liz was very superstitious. One of my favorite stories of my grandparents was an incident that occurred when Liz was churning butter. A lady came and wanted buttermilk, but Liz told her she had no buttermilk because she was making butter to sell. Liz churned and churned but could not get butter to form. The lady got her buttermilk. Liz insisted to Jim that the lady put a jinx on her churn. Jim took a silver dime, cleaned it, and placed it in the bottom of Liz’s churn and the jinx was over. From then on, Liz had butter to sell.

    Grace Taylor, my mother, was teaching at Bon when she met Leslie (Red) Pemberton, my dad. They had been married 62-years when Mother died in 1997. One of Dad’s favorite stories was that he had the name of being one of Bon’s ‘bad boys’ and should have never been able to date, let along marry, the school marm. They had five children; three (Peggy, Wayne, and Bruce) were born at Bon.

    Dad’s ‘bad boy’ name came from his, John Stout’s, and Paul Brown’s, and other young men’s adventures that included raiding chicken houses, corn patches and watermelon patches and drinking moonshine. The boys knew a couple that lived way up a hollow that would fry the chickens, cook the corn, help eat the melons and drink the moonshine. Dad said they only took what they could eat. Pop (Jim) Pemberton said that when they raided his chickens, he did not dare shoot being afraid of hitting his own son.

    Once when Peggy was two or three years old, she wondered off. The women started hunting and calling for her. After searching for 45 minutes or so, they were sure Peggy was lost. The whistle sounded and all the miners left the mines to help search. Dad said when he got home, Mother, Ma Stout, Betty, and Boots Stout were panicking and in tears. Dad started searching around the side of the house. Knowing Peggy would repeat anything you asked her to, Dad said “Peggy, say ‘What’”. From Mother’s flower garden a little voice immediately said, “What”. Peggy was found. What a caring community to call the miners from the mine to help search for a lost child: That was Bon!

    When Charles Bruce Pemberton was joining the Air Force, he needed his birth certificate. Dr. Stonecipher filed birth certificates for babies born at Bon, and Bruce’s certificate came back with the name, “Glen Ray Pemberton.” We always wondered if a Glen Ray had received a birth certificate in he name of Charles Bruce.

    Bruce, my sister Cheryl, and I (Gail) attended Bon School after Red and Grace moved back to Whitley County from Michigan. We lived on the Mike Richardson farm then owned by Phyllis and Wyatt Wood. We have great memories of the little school on the hill and life on the farm.

    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.”

(By Velma Pemberton Papineau Decker)

    “Red was my idol. He quit school before graduating but he got a great education doing things that he enjoyed. He went to Cincinnati, Ohio and worked in a Kroger grocery store. I’m sure he worked different places but I only remember Kroger’s. He had this beautiful girlfriend, Katherine Brandon. He brought home pictures of her. I think her father was well off and didn’t want her to be so serious about anyone. Anyway, Red lived the life. He hopped freight trains, lived with hobos, but even living that life style, he was still a dude. He was always well dressed and very particular about his hygiene. These were days of prohibition. Red and his buddies, especially John Stout and Paul Brown dressed like they did on the Untouchables.

    Red was away from home a year or two. When he came home, I followed him around like a puppy dog. I thought everything he did was ‘coolie-coolie’ (shortened to ‘cool’ now). I remember on washday he would cook sometimes. He made the best baked beans that I think Bushes stole his recipe. On top of the beans he had slices of side pork.

    Red came home a few times a little tipsy. Mom and Dad would ignore him but I loved it when he was feeling good. He was always happy when he was drinking. I remember one time he wanted me to play the phonograph. My girlfriend, Louise Stout, and I were dancing around and singing along with the music. He started laughing hard and cheering us on. When the music stopped, he gave us each a quarter. There were times after that that I wished Red would come home tipsy.

    Another time he came home” feeling no pain” and had to lie down on the bed. He was worried about a hot date that he had that night. This was in the afternoon. He said, “Velma, I have to shave.” And I said, “I can shave you.” I was probably seven years old at the time. I got a basin of warm water and carried it to his bedroom; then I got his Gillette safety razor, the mug with the lather brush, and, of course, the styptic pencil. I was shaving his face while he was sleeping. I had the blade in but it was loose and I cut a chunk by his Adams apple. The styptic pencil didn’t work. Good thing Mom came along.”

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