The Bon Jellico Site

   In 1937 when the Bon Jellico mines closed, most of the houses, the tipple, and other buildings were torn down and nearly all the residents moved away. A few houses were purchased and remained for several years. The house across Briar Creek from Hwy 92 was owned by the Lovitt family until the 1950’s; it burned in 2002. The Jim Stout family purchased the Smith house across the cut from the Pemberton/Green/Hinkle house; they lived there until the mid-1950’s. The house at the top of Apple Tree Hill where Jim Pemberton and later W.A. Green and Kay Hinkle lived is the only remaining house of the Bon Jellico camp (2007); actually, this house belonged to the Richardson farm.

   The land where Bon Jellico camp and mines stood was purchased by the U.S. Forest Service; the area encompassed about 1500 acres. Many pine trees were planted and in the 1960’s picnic tables and fireplace/grills were added with paths between the picnic sites. The entrance to the mine was closed off. Two shelter houses were constructed in the picnic area. The area was called Bon Hollow Park.

   The City of Williamsburg was deeded the Bon Hollow Park in 1970. For several years Bon Hollow Park was a place for families to gather as well as the venue for the annual Bon Jellico Homecomings. In the 1980-90’s several Bon Jellico families wanted to develop the Bon Jellico site to show the history of the Eastern Kentucky mining camps in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This effort, lead by Ivan Bunch, obtained a grant for the construction of an amphitheater at Bon Jellico and discussion ensued. (See City Agrees to Form Own Bon Jellico Plan.) Many, though not all, of the picnic areas were removed, the topology for an amphitheater was created, a concrete pad for the stage was poured, and two comfort stations were constructed. Although writers attended several of the Bon Jellico Homecomings and interviewed residents, the anticipated play about Bon Jellico was never written. The comfort stations were never completed nor was the stage of the amphitheater ever used. The picnic sites, including the shelter houses, remained and were used by the public but without significant maintenance services. The City of Williamsburg cut the grass, cleaned the site, and provided portable comfort stations for the Bon Jellico Homecoming from 1998-2002. In 1999-2001 the pine trees in the Bon Jellico Park were viciously attacked by the pine bark beetles, quickly died, and the trees were removed.

   In September 2003, there was no Bon Jellico Homecoming. However, members of the B.F. Brown family visited the site Labor Day weekend. While the gravel road to Bon Jellico coming off Hwy 92 was passable, the camp road was “washed” from the heavy spring rains. The shelter houses were collapsing and vandals had absconded with many of the tables. Grasses and weeds were “waist high” in the area of the camp and trees were beginning to come back. In a few years the site of the Bon Jellico camp may return to pre-1912 status.

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