February 6, 2014

Traces of Laurel: J.T. Hatcher

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — This week’s featured Laurel County historical figure is J.T. Hatcher.  I chose him because the description of his occupation in Charles Kellogg’s “Glimpses of London and Her People” made me think of old western movies with cowboys at the end of a long trail ride looking for the nearest place to wash off the dirt.

J.T. Hatcher was a barber.  Kellogg introduces him this way:  “At the present time London has only one barber shop of any consequence, and that is the one owned by Mr. J.T. Hatcher, and it is certainly the best equipped one in Eastern Kentucky, having the latest improved barber chairs – the “Columbia” – and all his tools, such as are generally used in a barber shop, are up to date.  Mr. Hatcher runs, in connection with his barber shop, two bath tubs, which are always kept bright and shiny, where one can bath with great enjoyment.”

Kellogg says that Hatcher’s barber shop was first located in the Wren property, “one of the oldest business houses in town” and in the beginning had only one chair, “a home-made kitchen chair fastened on a soap box with the back legs of the chair placed lower in the box than the front ones, in order to give the chair the required slant.”  In those days, Hatcher supplemented his barbering business by acting as the village cobbler, mending shoes between shaves.  “One only has to take a glance at Mr. Hatcher’s shop now,” writes Kellogg, “to see what great progress he has made at his trade.”

By researching J.T. Hatcher in the writings of Russell Dyche, Thomas D. Clark, and the old Mountain Echo excerpts, I find that he was born June 27, 1846, on a farm four miles east of London. He enlisted in the Army on August 13, 1862, where he served as a teamster during the Civil War.  On March 2, 1880, Hatcher married Martha Stillings and soon after that opened his barbershop in London.

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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