November 27, 2013

Traces of Laurel: A Few Final Excerpts

By Jan Sparkman

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — This is my last column on the excerpts from the old Mountain Echo newspaper – at least for the time being.  I could go on longer but I’ve heard that the ability to realize when enough is enough is a sign of maturity and I do like to pretend I’m grown up.  The blank spaces in the stories below are where I’ve left out the names of those about whom the item was written.  Not that it would matter after 130 plus years, but it seems the right thing to do.  Almost everything you read in the old Mountain Echo is a mixture of fact, opinion and conjecture, a far cry from what modern newspapers can get away with printing.  Of course, that’s what makes the old papers such interesting reading.

March 13, 1874: “It is thought that Sheriff ___________, of Whitley, took about $4,000 of the revenue of the county, besides some private funds which he had collected.  He wrote from Indianapolis that he had become involved and being unable to pay out, thought he would take care of number one; but that he would finally pay out when the panic was over.  He said he was going to Texas, but the love of money which has developed itself in him will perhaps land him in h__l unless he repents.”

March 20, 1874:  “It took two people to marry a couple in Perry county a short time since, a justice of the peace and his estimable wife.  He performed the ceremony while she held the baby.”

April 7, 1874:  “On last Saturday an election, Under the local option law, was held.  There was a good deal of excitiment, And a full vote was polled.  The election was under the town Charter, And was held at the Election for Trustees.  We not only succeeded in voting whisky out, but also elected an Anti Whisky Board of Trustees.  The vote was against whiskey, 22, for whiskey, 12.”

(The above was written with punctuation and spelling as it appeared in the Mountain Echo. I had to manually change some of the spelling back to the original because my computer wanted to correct it. Ah, technology.)

April 10, 1874:  “There was a shooting scrape, yesterday, between _______, _______ and _________, in which five shots were fired.  They were in the street, near Wren’s grocery, and the crowd was thick as a bee swarm.  Strange to say no one was hit.  This shooting shows a reckless disregard for life, and also furnishes further proof that the carrying of concealed weapons should be made a penitentiary offence.  Judge Randall fined each party $10 for contempt of court, and the grand jury will undoubtedly get an indictment against each, and then the evidence being so plain, into jail they will go.  Let the law be enforced.  When the firing began we thought it was our old friend, __________ for he came out of the crowd with Polly’s mare by the bridle, swearing he could whip anything on the ground.  Just such running, dodging and hiding you never witnessed.  Several of our brave boys mounted their horses and left for their wives and little ones.  From what we learn about the matter, whisky, as usual, was at the bottom of it.”

 All 22 volumes of the “Excerpts from the Mountain Echo” (1873-1907) may be purchased at the Laurel County Historical Society for around $260, or you may buy each volume separately.  No excerpts exist for the year 1906 because there is no microfilm for that year.  These books make excellent Christmas gifts for those interested in Laurel County’s history.


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Interviews with Laurel Countians over the age of 80 have begun. Subjects are only asked to answer a few questions about their childhood and youth and their connection to Laurel County.  If you or someone you know would like to participate, contact the society at 606-864-0607 during library hours, or 606-224-3767 at other times. Email the historical society at or Jan Sparkman at


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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 or Jan Sparkman at