By Jan Sparkman
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Visitors to the Laurel County Historical Society tell us that some of the most interesting material we have in our library is our in-house series called “Excerpts from the Mountain Echo.”
The late Gerry Sutton spent years going through the microfilm on which these old newspapers are stored, excerpting news items from them. The historical society then published these excerpts in book form. With Gerry’s death, this project was put on hold but we hope to revive it in the future.
The Mountain Echo was a weekly newspaper and the excerpts cover the period from 1873-1907. Of course, there are gaps where papers are missing, but not as many as you would think. Researchers love these books because they often find little unimportant, but illuminating, tidbits about family members they’ve always heard of but never knew. Style, like everything else, evolves, and the style in which the news was written back in 1873 is one of the things that make the excerpts so fascinating. Grammar and punctuation were creative, to say the least, and political correctness was unheard of.
Over the next two or three weeks I’ll be publishing items from those early issues to give readers a taste of what newspapering was like in those days. The first issue covered in the excerpts is the final issue of September, 1873, and only a little of it survives. A letter requesting a subscription to the new paper reads: “Laurel Bridge, KY. September 29, 1873, Editors of the Mountain Echo: Find enclosed $1.50 which pays for my paper. Send Echo to David Williams, Laurel Bridge, KY., and I will remit amount. The Echo is a better paper than we expected. I will try to get a subscription for it. Wishing you success in your undertaking, I remain yours, S.C. Jackson.”
After reading this carefully, it seemed to me that Jackson was taking out a subscription for himself and one for David Weaver. But then he goes on to say he “will try to get a subscription for it.” So, I’m confused. I will say that if the Mountain Echo was selling for $1.50 per year that was a great price. The only other item that survived from that issue was the birth of a daughter to the wife of Frank Baugh on September 25. She weighed 11 pounds. (By the way, don’t you just love how the women never had their own first names - they were always “the wife of…”).
The excerpts then skips to October of 1873. On the 10th of that month we read: “Owing to the financial panic in the world, our City, as well as others, has felt its effect. Business has partially suspended, but resumed again. The building of our County Jail is fast progressing, and will probably be finished next year.”
In his book on Laurel County, Russell Dyche says that this jail burned (was set on fire by the prisoners) on May 1, 1883. It was replaced by the jail many of us remember from the 1940s and 50s which sat on the corner of Broad and 4th Streets near the site of the present Detention Center.
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The historical society is still seeking interviews with Laurel Countians who are over the age of 80 who would be willing to leave a record of their life in the society’s archives. Subjects are only asked to answer a few questions about their childhood and youth and their connection to Laurel County.
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The Laurel County Historical Society is located at 310 W. 3rd St., London, (formerly the Laurel County Health Department). The library is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 12 noon. For further information, contact 606-864-0607 during library hours, or 606-224-3767 at other times. Email the society at email@example.com or Jan Sparkman at firstname.lastname@example.org.