"Good Morning Earlington:
The Germaine-Richards Family"
The most interesting stories of the early days of Earlington was told to me by A.O. Richards (first principal of West Hopkins and son of W.L. Richards) and his cousin Miss Edith Richards (retired elementary teacher). It is the story of a Mrs. Germaine who in 1870 ran Earlington’s first boarding house (which was also its first building). She was also their grandmother. Mr. Richards says the area around St. Bernard’s #11 mine was known as the village of Crabtree. It is to here that his story will lead.
Prior to our Civil War, a group of coal miners left England for a new life in the U.S. Two of these men included an uncle and his 15-year old nephew Zachariah Richards who like many miners from England, Wales, & Ireland migrated to Kentucky. Earlington is where the St. Bernard Coal Company had begun establishing new mines and soon Zachariah became one of the many immigrant miners here.
Ten years later, about 1870, in Europe, Prussia and France began what was known as the Franco-Prussian War. Prussia defeated France, taking over her provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, consolidating the small surrounding German countries and creating a modern day Germany known as the German Empire. Living in Alsace-Lorraine at that time was a French family -- the Germaines -- with their two small children Clara and Mary. The family became caught between two cultures and, unwilling to accept German persecution, they too left their home for a new life in the U.S. Mr. Germaine had heard of the mines in Kentucky and, as did many miners, went ahead to search for work before sending for his family. The Richards and the Germaine families arrived in Hopkins County (at that time known as Henderson County) where both men joined the swelling ranks of immigrant miners. Mrs. Germaine, who spoke no English, obtained the job of running the first boarding house at the entrance of the #11 mines. Sadly, Mr. Germaine lived only two years after their arrival and was buried in the St Charles Christian Privilege Cemetery. Mrs. Germaine was left alone in her new country except for her two daughters.
As it happened, Zack kept rooms at the boarding house, and he and Mrs. Germaine soon became friends. Two years later in March of 1874 they were wed. Zack and Marie Hortense (LaMont) Richards bore a son William Joe (W.J.) some three years hence. Then for some unknown reason some time before 1879, they moved to the Indian Territories of Oklahoma remaining conspicuously absent from Hopkins County’s 1880 census and school records. A second son, George, was born soon after they reached Oklahoma where Zack again worked in the mines and Hortense ran another boarding house. The couple returned to Hopkins County before 1884 when records show they purchased 380 acres in Beulah with a Mrs. Robinson who later sold her half to a Mr. Lester. The land was later evenly divided with 160 acres each going to the Lesters and Richards. Although Zack Richards had finally become a farmer, he had worked so many years in the mines he now suffered from black lung. On March 21, 1926, Zack died at the age of 81. His wife Hortense at this time was 96, crippled with arthritis, and existed only to be with her husband. Thus no one was surprised when at his death, she lost the will to live and sadly remarked that they might "just as well dig another grave." Three days later on March 24 just as she had predicted Hortense passed away, and she and her beloved husband became reunited--this time for all eternity. She was laid to rest beside him in Old Beulah Cemetery.
I found this lovely story most interesting. Some of you may be familiar with the descendants of the younger Richards’ son George--John Richards; Mrs. Ruth (Curtis) Richards Davis of Dalton; Grace Richards, deceased after becoming despondent on learning of the death of her brother Zack (a Marine killed in WW II at Okinawa and named for his grandfather); and, of course, Miss Edith who filled in many of the blanks in the story. The one puzzle we were not able to solve was why Hortense’s last name was listed as "Pebler" in the Hopkins County Marriage Records of 1869-1900. Perhaps it was because she spoke with such a heavy French accent she was not understood by the clerk, or since she was reared by various family members she might have taken their names from time to time. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoyed her story as much as I did researching it.
Ann Gipson 12-13-2001