Old Time Customs -
Published in the Whitley News Journal in the late 1950's or early 1960's

A Young Teacher Begins a Career in Bon Jellico

school drawing

By J.B. Johnson, Sr.

    About the middle of July, 1920 I was one of the teachers in the two-teacher mining camp at Bon Jellico about two miles west of Williamsburg. The school superintendent, Sam Walker, had persuaded the trustee, Sherman West, to give me a try at teaching. The other teacher was Ethel Stines West.
    I was in summer school at Eastern, so I left Richmond on the midnight train arriving in Williamsburg about 1 a.m. on Friday. I walked down to my Aunt Florence Bryant's house, about one mile across from the old water plant. I slept until about 6 and prepared to spend Friday and Saturday visiting the parents and prospective students in their homes.
    I was a believer in the school of thought that a teacher needed to know the parents and the kind of homes that the childred were coming from before he could do a good job teaching. The school district began near the

Becks Creek Road and took in all the territory aroudn Jellico Mountain to the top, and up Briar Creek and included Bon Hollow, about three-and-half by two mile area. The two rooms enrolled 94 students.
    I was warmly welcomed by the parents and students. They told me that my calling was a first by a teacher before school commenced in the community.
    After two days, Friday and Saturday, walking from house to house, I still had not visited every home, but I had met a lot of people I know only one person living in the school district. That was Luther Lovitt with whom I had been in school at Cumberland and he was then in Harlan County.
    Bon Jellico in 1920 was a prosperous community. The mines were going full blast and they had clean homes and some of the best cooks anywhere. Now, I took advantage of every invitation to eat with different families and repeated on several. I'll not designate the best cook, but, at least, it would be truthful to say that the one I preferred was the home where the cook was about my age and single. I ate there often - at every invitation.
    No community could have done more to support their teachers and school than the parents at Bon Jellico. When we need curtains, books or supplies all we had to do was to have a pie supper or a school play skit. They'd fill the house. Now, of course, some of the pies brought extravagant prices when the boys would get together, pool their resources, and make a fellow pay dearly for his girl's pie.
    We took the school to the District School Fair at Alsile and to the County School Fair at Williamsburg, winning first prize at both meetings. We were all elated.
    Another event that attracted a lot of interest was a political debate on the League of Nations in the presidential race between Harding and Cox. All four debaters were Republicans, but by the flip of the coin, J. Love Lawson and I had the affirmative and Dan Prewitt and A.J. Ball had the negative. Each speaker was given 30 minutes. I can't recall what was said, each side had enthusiastic supporters in the room filled audience. I do remember that out side won the decision of the judges.
    That 1920 was the first year women could vote in a presidential race. I recall Mrs. Hess for Savoy making a talk urging women to vote (Republican, of course) and that was at a time when a lot of women, and men, too, thought that a women's place was in the kitchen. Gee things have changed - now they wear breeches.
    Fifty-eight yeasr have now passed. Bon Jellico began to mine and ship coal in the spring of 1912. It continued until the spring of 1937 - 25 years. The camp homes are gone; one can't locate the site of the power house or tipple, nor the homes of friends so often visited. It is now Bon Hollow.
    A few years ago, a park and recreation shelter was opened. It is a beautiful place for picnic purposes and frequently used. Several Bon Jellico residents now live in this area. Often I meet one and we recall some of the events of the long ago. Frequently, former students will stop and talk to me about Bon. So I still am being compensated for the time I spent there.
    "Bon is a borrowed French word meaning good. It is also a Japanese Buddhist's word designating a celebration July 13-16, which is a festival honoring departed spirits and on those days they proclaim that the dead return and visit. 

Back         Next

Census     History     Employees     Families     Schools     Church   
Life in Old Bon Jellico      Memories     Photos      Homecomings
 News Tidbits   Surname Registry     Brick Wall Queries     Links     
Guestbook      What's New      Contact Us  

Remembering Bon Jellico is proud to be a KYGenWeb Special Project site.
Lynn Stenglein - Project Coordinator
Sherri Bradley - Asst. Project Coordinator

Problems? Contact the webmaster.

© 2007-present Remembering Bon Jellico. All files on this website are copyrighted by their submitter and creator. They may be linked to, but may not be reproduced on another website or in any other form, without specific permission of the submitter, owner, publisher and this site moderator. Although public records are as such not copyrightable, the manner in which they are presented, including the notes, comments, etc. are. The information on this site is provided free of charge, by volunteers, for your personal use only.