November 7, 2013

Traces of Laurel: Laurel County loses a friend

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — This has been one of those weeks I would love to rewind and start over. Everyone has them, I know.

Three times since last Monday I’ve had news of the death of someone I loved; first my niece, then my friend, and then my cousin. I’ve really not had my mind on this column for the past few days. But when I thought of my friend, Nellie Taylor, of her connection to Laurel County, her long and productive life, it seemed that this column would be a good place to recognize her outstanding qualities.

Nellie was born on March 26, 1917, in a little log cabin on the sandy bottom along Laurel River in southeastern Laurel County. She was a writer who wrote about “the land and the people who lived in the Laurel River basin long before the lake water came in and swallowed it all up.”

Nellie married at 15, bore four children, and, as it turned out, reared her children alone. She moved the family to Detroit during WWII and made a life for them there, but she returned to Laurel County whenever she could. It was, and would always be, her home.

After her children were grown and Nellie had retired from her job in Detroit, she began to write of her past. As her editor, I became acquainted with her history and of how it fit into the history of Laurel County. In “Dandelions in the Turnip Patch,” she wrote of living just across Laurel River from Whitley County when there was no Laurel Lake, of who her neighbors were, of the rural schools and churches she attended. In “Land Under the Lake,” she tells of when Laurel Lake was built and the changes it brought to her old stomping ground. These books tell lovingly of a time long forgotten by many and totally unknown by many more. They tell a part of Laurel County’s history in the voice of one who lived it.

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