Hazard Kentucky and Perry County: A Photo History
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At night the electric porch lights of miners' houses -- not cabins or shacks -- are rows of stars along the bases of mountains where there was only an occasional log cabin before coal digging began.
reprinted from...
The Hazard Herald, October 14, 1920

"Baby" Hazard Is Husky For Age

COAL HUB, BUTT OF CONGRESS' PORK BARREL WAR, SHOWS CRITICS SOMETHING 
by Tom Wallace
(Special Correspondent for Louisville Courier-Journal)
 
Hazard, Ky., Oct. 12. -- The activities of Hazard and the vicinity, resulting from coal mine development, which is as yet in its infancy, must be seen to be fully realized. 

A few years ago Hazard was a village. The census of 1910 gave it a population of 537. The 1920 census gave it 4,348. More than enough persons to raise the population past five thousand have arrived since last fall, when the census was taken.

But to say that Hazard has 5,000 "souls" gives no glimpse of what the development of the Hazard coal field has meant and will mean to the capital of Perry Count.

Lighted Homes Fringe Mountains

Until a few years ago the mountain gorges in Perry were silent by day and dark by night. Nowadays between forty and fifty coal mines are in operation within twenty miles of the county seat.

At night the electric porch lights of miners' houses -- not cabins or shacks -- are rows of stars along the bases of mountains where there was only an occasional log cabin before coal digging began. Usually the cabin was unlighted after dark. Sometimes it was unlighted for reasons of safety to its occupants. 

Seven years ago there were two brick  buildings in Hazard. The county seat was nearly a century old; the town existed since 1836. It had a past which everyone knew as the capital of the county the Frenches and the Eversoles made famous by a clan war which, whatever its actualities, has made romantic in the legends of the Cumberlands and in written versions of its events.

It would be impossible to understand one difficulty which Hazard has encountered in the course of its rapid growth without knowing the bearing of the French - Eversole feud upon its reputation.  

Hazard In National Limelight

When, a couple of years ago, Hazard appeared on the list of Kentucky cities under consideration in Washington as sites of government buildings, editors all over the country, seeking to put down an effort to provide pork for needy politicians, singled out Hazard as the shining example of a tiny village on which an expensive government building was about to be bestowed, for no other reason than to please the constituents of a bacon-saving member of Congress.

The census of 1910 was everywhere available. It showed a village of 527, which a majority of editorial writers knew in connection with a mountain feud of bygone days.

The opportunity to employ "Hazardous Hazard," as it had been called as an illustration while playing the keenest of editorial weapons -- ridicule -- on the buildings bill was irresistible.

Magazine Admitted Error

The result was new fame -- wholly undesirable -- for Hazard.  I am told here that Collier's Weekly finally admitted under the castigation of Mr. John B. Horton, editor of the Hazard Herald, that it had been under a wrong impression as the the size and importance of Hazard, and that the mine field center was entitled to recognition in the buildings bill. New York dailies never made amends. The appropriation was not made. The present post office is a miserable shack. The government will rent a brick building that now is in course of construction. The town will have at least a clean safe, a safe and a presentable post office. I say "safe" because there are holes in the floor of the building now in use. The fight for a Federal appropriation will, of course, be made again.

A Hazard banker illustrates to me the growth of business by saying that in October, 1915, his bank had deposits of $157,000 whereas it now has deposits of more than a million, and "business in this field is in its beginning."

Coal Deposits Merely Scratched

The passenger ticket sales at the Hazard station run to about $10,000 a month, the total business from $259,000 to $400,000 a month. Again, this but the beginning. The pick has but scratched the coal deposits of the field.

There is plenty of coal not yet reached by the railroads. There are mine payrolls of about $400,000 a month. These payrolls will be greatly expanded. Two banks are so busy that a third is soon to be opened.

Business has, in nearly all respects, outgrown the facilities for handling it. Trains enter Hazard from either direction --- from Lexington or from the mining camp toward McRoberts -- with every seat and the aisles filled. Patrons of the hotel stand in line to register. The usual response of the clerk to requests for rooms is "No single rooms left. You will have to double up."

There will be -- there will have to be before long, a hotel suitable to the size of the business that exists for a hotel here -- business much greater than that of the average town of five-thousand inhabitants. Nearly twenty-thousand people, and the number will increase steadily, live within ten miles of the county seat. In many ways Hazard must serve all of them. Three branch lines of railroads run to Hazard from coal mines, and more lines must be built.

The two great hopes of Hazard at present are improved railroad facilities and improved highways through the mountains.

The railroad forming the outlet for coal must be double tracked before it can take care of the business. Service must be supplemented by fast trains with through sleepers to Louisville direct.

All trains now are "accommodations" east of Lexington. Business is so heavy that the actual time made is often not much better than fifteen miles an hour.

A railroad from the McRoberts field to tidewater, through Virginia, is also upon the list of expectations, or demands.

At present the passenger leaves here for Louisville at 6:11 in the evening. He may take a train here a 6:40 in the morning and get to Louisville in the late afternoon, if the trains are on time, but it is a long trip to make by day, with stops at every station.

Usually the steps are of several minutes duration to load and unload baggage and express parcels. Not even a chair car is provided for the through day patrons.

Equally as insistent as the demand for improved railroad service is the demand for early construction of the projected "Kyva" highway known as Project 19 under the new State road law. That highway will traverse, after leaving the Bluegrass, Lee, Estill, Breathitt, Perry and Letcher Counties, reaching to the Virginia line at Big Stone Gap. It will put Hazard in the good roads map of the United States.

Another need and demand is an adequate waterworks system. At present raw river water is pumped directly into delivery pipes, without a reservoir. The result it that when the pumping is suspended there is no water in the pipes. The pumping service is irritatingly intermittent.

Here, as elsewhere in the coal fields, I hear expressed by the far-seeking much regret that at present Kentucky is supplying fuel for many out-of-state projects when there should be more use of this great natural wealth in factories in Kentucky.