Bill Hendrick

Interviewed by: Zack Holcomb
Date of Interview: November 10, 2006

Zack Holcomb reports:

"I interviewed Mr. Bill Hendrick on November 10, 2006. Mr. Hendrick is a former mayor of the town of Big Stone Gap. My interview addresses Mr. Hendrick's knowledge of early Big Stone Gap. "

Interviewer:  Mr. Hendrick, today I would like to ask you some questions about the history of Big Stone Gap.  Since you are a historian, I am sure that you are very knowledgeable about our small town.  I realize it would take a long time to detail Big Stone Gap's history, but today, I would like to ask some questions about the highlights of our beginning.

Where were you born?

Hendrick: Okay, I was born in Norton.  My father was a foreman on the Norfolk and Western Railroad, and my mother worked for the old C&P Telephone Company in Norton as a telephone operator.  She started working when she was fourteen years old, working twelve hours a day, seven days a week. In the daytime, she was by herself the whole time, the twelve hours, and then the older lady that took the nights was eighteen. [Laughs] She was one of the pioneer telephone operators in the county.

Interviewer: When did you relocate to Big Stone Gap? 

Hendrick: Jean and I moved in this house in 1968 in August.

Interviewer:  What was it like for you as a young boy growing up in Norton?

Hendrick: Life was normal but maybe a little lonely since I was an only child. Life was simple in those days.  We used to spend, in the summertime, almost like six or seven days a week up in the mountains up in High Knob, in that area, and up at Flag Rock. We used to hike up there and camp out.  We would come home on Saturday morning and get more food and go back up.  We just lived by campfires. You know life was simple in those days, and your parents didn't worry too much about you because there was very little crime in those days.  It was kind of a good time to grow up. We used to go up to Flag Rock. You know where Flag Rock is?  [Interviewer:  Yes.]  That was before you could drive, and the only way you could get up through there was through a crack, and fat boys couldn't get through it. [Laughs]  We'd crawl through up there, lay on our stomachs, look out at Norton, and hear the old steam engines.  When the engineers would blow the whistles, you could see the steam come up and count to about four before you could hear it. So, you know, sight travels faster than hearing. That's one thing I remember.  We had a lot of fun in those days.

Interviewer:  What kind of chores did you have to do when you were young?

Hendrick:  The main thing I remember, and I wrote an article on it a couple of weeks ago was the old coal stokers before we had heat pumps and oil.  A stoker was hooked on to the furnace, and you had to keep it full of coal.  They had an auger they call it, and when it turned on by thermostat, the coal would go from the holder, you know, through like back into the furnace.  I used to have to keep that full.  I use to mow the yards.  In the summer, sometimes, I had to clean wallpaper. I was pretty good at that, but that was about the only chore I had around the house.

Interviewer:  Where did you go to school at?

Hendrick:  I went to Norton High School, and the teachers were very strict, and the principal, John I. Burton, was even stricter.  That is who the school is named after now, J. I. Burton High School. Classes were very small in Norton and Big Stone in those days.  We only had 28 in our graduating class.  We were very close, and everybody knew each other. Probably, today, you all have what in sophomores, a hundred and some? [Interviewer: Somewhere close to that.]  Yeah, and you probably don't know them all.  [Interviewer: Right.]  We all knew each other and were close to each other, and we are close to this day.  We graduated in 1947 and that's what . . . 60 some years ago?  Shew! But we are all very close and still stay in contact with each other, the ones that are still living.

Interviewer:  What was your favorite subject?

Hendrick:  English and History. I wound up being a newspaper man, that's where the English came in.  The history, well, that's the reason you are asking me the questions.  I have done a lot of research. Those were my two favorite subjects.

Interviewer:  What was this area like when you were a teenager?

Hendrick:  Norton and Big Stone were great places to grow up and almost crime free. Both towns had swimming pools.  Norton had a pool on Main Street, up there about . . . Do you know where the Mexican Restaurant is up there now and the new Italian Restaurant?  [Interviewer:  Yes.]  The swimming pool was right there and then the football field . . . they called it Tracy Field was right beside it on Main Street before they built the new high school.  So, in my younger days, there were some clay tennis courts across from the swimming pool, and we used to get up early in the morning and play tennis until the pool opened.  Then, we would swim until noon.  There was a lil' ol' restaurant right across from the pool, and we would eat hamburgers and maybe a coke.  Back in those days, I don't know if they still do it or not, but you weren't supposed to swim for an hour after you ate, and so we would play tennis.  After that, we would go back in the pool and swim until it closed.  That provided enough to keep us mostly busy, along with our camping trips up to High Knob, and Flag Rock, and a place on the other side of Norton called Whittaker's Point.  We used to go up there and build cabins, chase each other around, and pick blackberries.  Huckleberries were another one that we used to pick a lot.  I think they call them blueberries now, but back in those days, they called them huckleberries. [Interviewer:  I've never heard of that.] You could pick a gallon of blackberries in thirty minutes, but it would take two days to fill a gallon bucket of huckleberries. They were so small, you know. That's about it.

Interviewer: What was your first job, and what was it like?

Hendrick: It's been so long ago that I can't really remember.  I thought about this when I was trying to answer your questions last night.  I've done a little bit of everything; I use to work for a dry cleaners, driving a truck, even before I got my driver's license.  I've worked selling shoes and things like that at Jake Ellen's Department Store in Norton, which was right in the middle of town. I used to clean wallpaper a lot. I was working for myself, but it wasn't a job.  Those two, those are the only ones that I remember, but that was probably my first jobs.  I remember a Christmas, and it had snowed, I got a little Christmas bonus, and we worked all day on Christmas Eve. I remember walking home in the snow with some money in my pocket. [Laughs]  And, it was a great feeling.

Interviewer: Have you personally seen a lot of changes in this area?

Hendrick:  Oh, yeah, I have seen a lot.  Going back to the other question, I use to mow lawns a lot too.  I have seen a lot of changes in Norton and Big Stone Gap.  The old Pleasure Island swimming pool closed, along with the Country Boy Drive-In. Those were great hangouts for the young people, you know, not only school age, but young people in their early 20's. Downtown stores gave way to supermarkets, and eventually a lot of the small businesses in town on Main Street closed up when places like Wal-Mart and the other marts came in. Norton, eventually, gained many more stores than Big Stone Gap.  Big Stone Gap got some blue chip institutions that paid real good salaries, such as Lonesome Pine Hospital, Mountain Empire Community College, the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy, and the prison up here.  So, Norton got more stores, but the people there work for, like, minimum wage.  But around here, those are good paying jobs.  Big Stone has become kind of a medical center.  We have a lot of doctors, and they all have medical assistants. So that brings a lot of money into town too.  Big Stone is very fortunate. If we ever get a few more stores, we're still the biggest town in Southwest Virginia.  Even though, it looks like Norton is bigger, we have more population in Big Stone. We're like, I think it is either 5,800 or 6,800; Norton is about 3,900 or 4,000.  You know, when Westmoreland Coal Company closed, went bankrupt or whatever, everybody said that was the end of Big Stone. The town survived with the hospital, the college, and all these others. We haven't missed a beat. We're still strong, and there are still a lot of small coal companies.  A lot of people who work for them are still living in the Gap, too.  It wasn't as bad as we thought.  Westmoreland was the main industry here for many, many years.  It was almost like a crutch. We depended on them to solve all our problems, but we proved to be a good little ol' town. We solved our own problems without Westmoreland.

Interviewer: You mentioned earlier that history was your favorite subject in high school.  When did you find out that it was something that interested you?

Hendrick: That's a hard question to answer, as old as I am, but maybe in grade school. I don't know if you all still have local history in high school. Well, when I went to school, we had a lot of local history. I thought it was really interesting, especially in Norton, to see things and think back a hundred years.  It made you think, well, this is the reason that it is here. And, later after I got into the newspaper business, it's called research.  A lot of times, if a leading citizen dies or something like that, and you want to know what they have done, you know, in the community, you have to go back to the old issues of The Post newspaper.  When you start looking for things like that, you run across other things. You know really it's like you've seen some things on television and movies about a time machine. That is the way it is to me when you go back into the old newspapers. It's just like going back into time, and you can find out. Big Stone Gap has such a rich, rich heritage of things.  It's just amazing what all has gone on in this town; well, it was incorporated in 1888. You can't believe how many businesses and industries and things like that that's been here.  We had a brick factory, and they made brick and a lot of houses in this town were built from those brick.  They had, of course, the timber. There were a lot of trees back then when sawmills came to town.  At one time, they had three or four sawmills just in Big Stone and East Stone Gap. A lot of the lumber in the older houses, and I am sure this one, a lot of the lumber came from those trees. It's kind of fun going back and looking at newspapers.  It's easy to do this now.  The first issue of The Post came out in August 15, 1890, and they have it on microfilm. Every issue of the paper, to the one that came out this week, is on microfilm.  You can go up to the library here and Mountain Empire College's library to see them.  Of course, The Coalfield Progress didn't get started until 1923.  The Post is close to about 33 years older of The Coalfield, but they have every issue of The Coalfield, too.  So, it's pretty interesting to go back and see what went on and see why things are the way they are today, and see the sacrifices that our forefathers made, and all the hard work that went into making the town what it is.

Interviewer:  Do you know what Indians were in our region before our town was settled?

Hendrick: Yeah, Indians that were here, primarily where our town stands, were the Wyandotte [editor's note: hence the street named Wyandotte Avenue] and Shawnee [editor's note: hence the street named Shawnee Avenue], and another one called the Confederacy of Six Nations. Eventually, the Confederacy of the Six Nations drove all the other ones out, and then they left. They had Big Stone Gap as their hunting ground, and they would come back maybe once a year and hunt deer and whatever in this area. There was about a hundred years when there were not even any Indians here.  There have been some rumors, though, that I have never really been able to track down. A lot of people have heard this too, that there is an Indian burial ground over on Jerome Street. Do you know where Jerome is?  That is where the June Tolliver House is. That's Jerome, and I think it's on this side of Jerome, somewhere, maybe where one of the old buildings, on Wood Avenue, is located.  There have been a lot people trying to search and find out. Of course, the Indians didn't have tombstones like we do today.  So, it makes it hard to find out. Also, I have a picture of, you know, there used to be an airport here, over across the river behind Bullet Park. That's the reason it is called Aviation Road.  In this picture of one of the primitive airplanes, there was a big mound, looked like half of a ball. The rumors were that that was an Indian burial ground, but I have been over there, and I can't find it.  If its there it has already been covered up, excavated, or something. I don't know if it was Wyandotte, Shawnee, or even another Indian group that we have never heard of.  One of these days somebody will discover it. I am sure. I've even heard, you know, the Exxon station beside Powell Valley High School?  [Interviewer:  Yeah.]  Where that Exxon station is now, that was a cemetery. When Exxon bought they had to go through court and do all those things. They moved all the graves. The thing was so old, that there was nothing left but bones. The caskets back in those days were just wooden boxes like you see in movies and cowboy shows. So, the wood had rotted, and so it was just a few bones that they moved. Holding Funeral Home moved most of those to some place out here on the four-lane, about 3 or 4 miles down out of town. I have also heard that some Indians were buried there, but, of course you can't identify them.

Interviewer:  When did the first settlers arrive in this area?

Hendrick: The oldest settler in Big Stone Gap was a guy named John Jameson, and this goes way back.  He attained 300 acres of land, by grant, from the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1786. Can you believe that?  That was almost when George Washington was still alive, or close to it, and even before Abraham Lincoln.  Later, the first three families to be in Big Stone Gap were Elkanah Gilley, H.N. Horton and J. Monroe Flanary. They each had a big farm, one of them is right here where Big Stone is, one of them was out in the Southern, and one of them was a little above the Southern, and they were all on the Powell River.

Interviewer:  When the settlers got here how did they acquire land? Did they just pick out what they wanted or did they have to get grants?

Hendrick:  No, actually, I have never really been able to pin it down.  Garnett Gilliam might know this, I don't know.  Do you know Mr. Gilliam? [Interviewer: No.]  He used to be the driver education man at Powell Valley High School, before he retired.  Before that he was a coach at the old Big Stone Gap High School, but he is into history in a big way, too.  When they began to find, there is all kinds of rumors and things in Big Stone, like I said before, Mr. Jameson got the 300 acres, but I don't know if he ever lived here.  He just owned it, and then maybe one of these three gentlemen that I just mentioned got some of that land later.  They had the three farms.  When it became evident that Big Stone Gap area would be an ideal location for a town, let me explain that.  Most towns, even Appalachia, Norton, even New York City, all of these, they just popped up.  Most of them are along a river of some type. They would just build a house, and somebody came along and built another house, and maybe somebody else another. Big Stone wasn't like that.  Big Stone was laid out completely on paper, on maps, before the first house was ever built, except for the three cabins of these three gentlemen here.  When it became evident that Big Stone Gap area would become an ideal location for a town, Henry Clay McDowell of Lexington, Ky., and N.B. and H. Clinton Wood, both of Gate City, purchased the three farms that I was telling you about for $25 an acre. The town, at first, was called Three Forks, because of the three forks of the Powell River that converge all into one.  Then it was called Mineral City. The Virginia General Assembly passed an act on April 7, 1882, incorporating the town, and changed the town's name to Big Stone Gap.  Most of the early houses were very primitive and of log construction.  Progress came very early and nicer houses were built, when the railroads and sawmills came to town.  A lot of families came in following the railroads.  A lot of people, mostly like the Italians, and we used to call the Hungs, that was short for Hungarians, they came in and laid the track into town.  When they got as far as they could go, then they stayed. That's some of our pioneer people, you know, that came into town, too.  If you'll notice, or do you ever wonder why, all the streets are wider than most towns? You ever notice that? [Interviewer:  No.]  Like this street right out here, it is maybe ten feet wider than most avenues or streets. That's because the town was laid out, and believe or not, one of the guys that laid out this town was John Fox, Jr.'s brother.  You know who John Fox, Jr. is?  [Interviewer: Yes.]  His name was Horace Fox. He was an engineer. He built this house. [Interviewer: Wow!]  At one time, the John Fox house, that was the only one on the whole block, and probably this was the second one, because Fox built this. There's a little bit of history in here, too. I feel fortunate to live here.

Interviewer:  When did the idea of establishing a town here come about?

Hendrick:  The idea of town was born when iron ore was discovered out in the southern.  You know where V&V Mining is out there?  [Interviewer: Yes.]  Well, that's where they used to have an iron ore furnace.  At one time, that whole area was called the "Iron Furnace" out there. They had a little railroad that was connected to the dummy line. It came down, and they used to haul iron ore.  How far out in Powell Valley, I don't know exactly where the iron ore deposits were. And then, along about the time that Mr. Imboden, of course, you know that is one of the coal guys, Mr. Imboden, and up here is Imboden hill.  He's the one that came and bought thousands and thousands of acres for people in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, at sometimes for 15 cents an acre.  Anyway, when he came, a fellow by the name of Ayers that lived up here on the hill where the museum is now, Rufus is his name, Rufus Ayers.  So, while Imboden was in town, his name was General Imboden, Ayers said that, "General while you are here, I would like to take you up and show you something." They got on horseback and rode up to Appalachia.  There was a seam of coal up there, a real rich seam of coal; and, Mr. Imboden took some samples and put them in his saddlebag.  When he came back, he caught the train out, to, I think it was Abingdon back in those days, and from Abingdon on back to Pennsylvania.  They tested the coal, and found out that it was some of the richest coal, real high content, and very little sulfur in it.  At that particular time, too, which we will get into in a minute, about the timber, they had the iron ore, coal, and timber.  They all said that Big Stone was in the right spot, maybe, we ought to build a town there. So they laid out the streets and everything.  Then the speculators came in, and I am going to give you a book to take with you.  You can look through it, and see some of the things that I've told you about. Let you see pictures of it. But, the speculators came in. Do you know what a speculator is?  [Interviewer:  Yes.]  It's like somebody who buys land, or stock, or something like that, and then they hope to turn around and keep it a while and sell it for twice that amount money or a lot more than they paid for it. That's the way they make money. A lot of speculators came in and bought up huge tracts of land in Big Stone. Then, the little man, a lot of them, couldn't afford to buy the lots. When the boom didn't happen, and Big Stone was no longer predicted to be a city the size of Pittsburgh, things settled down and some of the speculators had to turn loose of some of the land. Smaller people bought it, and houses began to pop up and businesses along Wood Avenue. You know, the two men I mentioned a while ago, the two Wood brothers from Gate City?  That's Wood Avenue, and Clinton Avenue, one of the Wood's brothers was named Clinton. That's the reason for some of the names of our streets, besides some of the streets that have the Indian names.  There's one street over here named Cherokee, so we are in between Shawnee and Cherokee right here.

Interviewer:  Were there any elected offices in early Big Stone Gap?

Hendrick:  Yeah. When the town was incorporated, there was a mayor and what they called four trustees was named by the court, until an election was held.  Then, those same men were elected.  Also, they had four trustees, a recorder and a sergeant. I guess the sergeant was in charge of the prison or that part of the law.  The first elected mayor was M.M. Wells, and J.B. Gilley, Jerome Duff, C.W. Evans and Joshua Mullins were the four trustees in the town, and that was in 1888, when the town was incorporated.

Interviewer:  How did Big Stone Gap get its name?

Hendrick:  Because of a huge rock or rocks at the confluence of the tributaries of the Powell River, and you can see those rocks, sometime, if you are coming through Powell Valley looking this way on a clear day, you can see those rocks. If you are right on them you can't see because of the houses and trees and things.  A lot of people used to call it, just for fun, Big Rock, instead of Big Stone Gap.

Interviewer:  What was our first main road in Big Stone Gap and what was it like?

Hendrick:  The first main road into Big Stone Gap was probably the road from Big Stone Gap to Norton, on Route 610 running through Powell Valley. I think that this is a real interesting story.  When they first started building roads here, and the main reason they built that road up through Powell Valley was that the Commonwealth of Virginia named Wise as the county seat, that's still the county seat, you know, up there.  They needed a road up to Wise, so that they could get to court and do business at the courthouse, and things like that, but it was a very primitive road. When they first started building the roads around Big Stone Gap, a kind of a selective service existed. That phrase doesn't strike a bell with you, but it did with me. Because when I was your age, you had the draft to look forward to. That's when all the young men had to register for the draft, when they turned 18, you know.  But, anyway, back in those days, property owners were drafted to work on the roads. So, if you owned a piece of land and everything, you had to work a certain number of days each year on the road, as your contribution, and sometimes, the road would go through your property. Farmers started putting gates on the road to keep their cows and chickens in. When you came, you would have to yell for him to come and open the gate, so you could drive on to Wise. It's a pretty interesting story. If you couldn't work then, you had to pay somebody to work in your place, seventy five cents a day. Seventy five cents was pretty good money back in those days, you know, that far back.  Anyway, that's how our roads got started.

Interviewer:  Were all the roads around here named after Indian groups and people?

Hendrick: Yeah, like I said Shawnee, Cherokee, and Wyandotte. And of course, Clinton, Wood, and then they took the easy way out by naming a lot of them like first street, second street, third street, and even thirteenth street on out in the Southern.

Interviewer:  Were there any major battles fought in this area or near our town?

Hendrick:  By battles are you referring to like the Civil War? [Interviewer: I was referring to battles between Indians and settlers.]  I don't think so, I think by the time they settled Big Stone Gap, the Indians had pretty much gone from here. At the time I was reading your questions, I thought you were talking about Civil War battles.

Interviewer: Were there any of those in the area?

Hendrick: There was a Civil War battle in Wise. This was back before we got our railroad. The nearest main railroad was in Abingdon. It ran from Bristol up through Abingdon, and, eventually, through the Shenandoah Valley.  There was a battalion of union soldiers in Pikeville, Kentucky. Do you know where Pikeville is? [Interviewer:  Yes.]  Okay. They decided to send a group of soldiers to Abingdon to destroy the railroad. Well, there was a small unit of Confederate soldiers in Wise, and when the Union soldiers got to where the courthouse is now, they met up with the Confederate soldiers. The Union soldiers just about wiped them out, and what they didn't kill, they took prisoner. It was such a furious battle, that the Union soldiers decided it would be better to go back to Pikeville than to go to Abingdon. They thought that if these mountaineers running through Wise County are all such furious fighters', maybe they'd just as soon not go on to Abingdon and fight. They turned around and went home and never did come back. The other one, down in Lee County, there was some battles there. Have you ever been to the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park down there?  [Interviewer: No.]  You know where Cumberland Gap is?  [Interviewer:  Yeah.]  Well, you go down through there, and just as you go into Middlesboro there is a cut off to the left where you go to the park.  They show you a movie, and then you can drive on up. Well, right at the top of the mountain there are some of the foxholes and trenches where the Confederate soldiers use to lay and wait. You can see for miles back through Lee County, back this way. They could see the soldiers coming, maybe three days, before they got there.  There were some furious battles there in Cumberland Gap, but I don't think there were any here in Big Stone.

Interviewer: In the late 1800's, this area was destined to be the "Pittsburgh of the South." Why did everyone have such high expectations for it?

Hendrick:  I think we already covered that.  Let's see the iron ore deposits and the coal deposits, and at this particular time, they were thinking that we were going to be the size of Pittsburgh.  They were thinking that there were going to be twelve railroads coming into Big Stone Gap, if you can imagine that.  They were going to have a tunnel in Black Mountain, and it was going to be a toll tunnel.  There were going to be two tunnels coming this way from Kentucky, and two tunnels going the other way.  When the trains came in, they would have to pay a toll to come through the mountain tunnels. They were expecting a lot more than just the Southern and L&N to come into town.  Also, they were going to run the Dummy Line up to High Knob. I can't imagine that, but that was in their plans.  They were going to build a big sanctuary up there, and a big trout lake, and a big mountain hotel.  That was supposed to draw people all over the United States, like Gatlinburg is now.  They were going to have a game preserve up there, so you would have to pay a fee to go up there.  So, with all that, they began to think that Big Stone Gap was going to be a huge city, and when the money stopped coming in, and most of the money that financed a lot that went on here in Big Stone and also in Middlesboro, Kentucky.  Most of the money, at that particular time was coming from England, and then at this particular time in history things were happening in England, and a lot of the English people withdrew their support.  The money dried up, and a few speculators from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, they pretty well withdrew their support in the area too, with the exception of coal, and that's where Westmoreland came in.  When the boom busted, it busted, and we were destined to be a small town like we are now.

Interviewer:  After everybody found out that this area wasn't rich in minerals and they couldn't make a fortune, why did they stay here?

Hendrick: I guess the same reasons why I'm here.  You know, this is just a good place to live, and it's a beautiful part of the country.  The climate is good, the winters aren't too cold, and the summers aren't too hot.  At this particular time, in 1888 to 1895, there were a lot of farmers, as I told you earlier, the people that came in with the railroad stayed, and then you had farming and the people that worked in the coal mines. For a long time, we had iron ore too. They tore down what they called the iron furnace, and they tore one down in St. Louis, Missouri and moved it to Big Stone.  In that book that I am going to let you have, it will tell you they had a little narrow gauged railroad.  They hauled iron ore to the furnace every night.  The iron ore was still hot, and it was loaded into metal cars.  The lights from the hot metal would light up the sky.  If you ever noticed up here in Big Stone Heights, you know it lights light up the sky now. In those days, the lights came from the little railroad from the hot iron ore, when they brought it to the furnace. And, then in the daytime, different crews came in and repaired the railroad. It was a very primitive railroad, because they just cut down trees and things like that to make ties, cross ties. It was a pretty primitive railroad, and there was a lot of damage to it with all that heavy weight.  The crews would work in the daytime to repair it, and they would haul the iron ore again at night. So, that's primarily the reason that I stayed.

Interviewer:  After this town was organized, what was the first law enforcement like?

Hendrick:  The first law enforcement in the town was called "The Police Guard."  They didn't have uniforms or anything like that.  Big Stone Gap was a wild town back in these days. They had a lot of saloons in town and people from Kentucky, on down in Lee County, and over in Scott County, some up in Norton, used to come in here and drink a lot in the saloons.  Then they would go out and fire their guns up in the air and shoot around and just raise cane.  So, some of the leading citizens in town, including lawyers, and doctors, and John Fox, Jr., and Horace Fox, the one that built this house, they all got together and said that's enough.  So, they formed The Police Guard, and they got their own guns, and elected their own officers.  That was our first police department.  That was the first one that came along.  So, let's see, it was a volunteer organization, made up of the leading citizens, and they meant business.  Have you ever seen the drama?  [Interviewer:  Yeah.]  Well, part of that is based on The Police Guard; you know when they hung Bad Rufe.  A lot of that is truer than you think it is.  They soon brought law and order to the town.

Interviewer:  When did doctors and hospitals first come to this area?

Hendrick:  There has been a doctor around Big Stone Gap almost from the beginning. As far back as I can tell, even in 1890, they had a doctor here.  And then when the coal camps got up and established and all, the coal company brought in a doctor. The town had no hospital, until Lonesome Hospital was built.

Interviewer:  Where was the first place around here, like a store, where you could purchase goods?

Hendrick:  Believe it or not, the first place where people could buy goods was from the back of wagons.  When they would come in, people would come up to wagons, probably in the middle of town.  The next thing to come into town after the wagons, remember I told you about the three original land owners that lived here, J. Monroe Flanary, and Elkanah Gilley, before they sold their land to the town, were the first ones to establish stores.  They each had a store on the Powell River.  One of them was right here.   It might have been right where we are sitting. I don't know. I have no idea exactly where it was located.  It's not been too long, Mr. Flanary, his house was the oldest house in Big Stone Gap, and it burned down about ten years ago, I think.  It was over where the Powell River runs up under the bridge there on Fifth Street.  Well, back this way a little bit from that bridge, the original house that was built, I think it was 1790 something, or early 1800 and anyway that house survived.  Later, somebody came in, and you remember when it got popular to put all this asbestos siding on houses.  Well, it was covered up with that and you really couldn't tell how old the house was, but underneath that siding was logs.  I have a picture of that house back  when it was a log cabin, with their children sitting in front of it.

Interviewer:  In our past our major industries were timber and coal.  Here deep in the mountains, why do we not have a major timber industry today?

Hendrick:  That's because these speculators from up north came in and bought up all the timber acreage. They completely took all of the hardwood out. One of the guys, I think I quoted him in that book, said that they would cut down the big cherry trees and the hardwoods and all the oak just to get enough to clear the land. They didn't replace those trees like you do today. But all that timber, they would drag it down by horse down to the river and float it down the Powell River to the railroad. Then on the railroad, it was taken out to Bristol. That lumber was shipped all over the world, especially England, Belgium and cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Our timber went to all these places like that. They didn't replace those trees. So, the trees that grew back were mostly soft wood and not first class lumber that they used to get. If they had ecology back in those days, where they had to replant the trees, we would probably be real rich in the timber industry to this day.  But, they just took it all out. In fact, a lawyer over in Kentucky wrote a book called The Rape of the Cumberlands, and the book was about how these big companies came in for the timber industry and coal industry. They took all the trees and coal out, and they didn't give anything back to the economy or the people. It was sad, but true. I tell you who wrote an interesting article on that too. It was the guy that used to be coach at Powell Valley, when they won their first state championship, Hoss Bolling. He was a teacher out at Powell Valley High School and Assistant Principal.  He also taught history.  He wrote some interesting articles on the timber industry, and how it ruined things for everybody else. I've got a picture, and it might be in the book, of these huge trees. They had on an old railroad car, and the three guys sitting on top of the logs there. Boy, they looked like they were right out of the wilderness there, with their big ole hats like they wore in the drama, and all, you know.  Except, these were real, and they were riding logs. It is real interesting.

Interviewer:  Coal is still a major industry for us today, you talked about a coal seam being discovered in Appalachia, was this first one?

Hendrick:  Yeah. The first coal opening connected with a major industry was the Imboden seam or Mudlick seam on Mudlick Creek, up near Appalachia.  It was on a tributary of Callahan Creek. You know where Callahan is up there don't you, near Appalachia? [Interviewer:  Yes.]  This was near Osaka.

Interviewer:  Who discovered it?

Hendrick:  I don't know.  You know I told you about General Ayers.  [Interviewer: Yes.]  He was the one that put General Imboden on to the coal. I don't know, if they just discovered the coal and hadn't started buying it yet, but within a couple of years one way or the other, that's where coal started.  You know what's interesting, though, coal has always been such a big part of our history, but we don't have any coal here in the Big Stone area. The coal doesn't start to almost Appalachia or further north where the camps are. I guess in a way we're lucky, because we got all the good stuff out of it and none of the bad.

Interviewer:  Did they give that coal seam a name?

Hendrick:  They did, but you know I don't remember what it is. I was supposed to be ready for you. [Laughs] [Interviewer: That's okay.]  It's probably named after Mudlick or the Imboden seam, because Imboden was the one who took the samples back to Pittsburgh to have them checked out in the lab.

Interviewer:  How did the first discovery of coal impact our town?

Hendrick:  Well, mainly, Big Stone Gap became the headquarters for all the coal bodies of Southwest Virginia for Westmoreland Coal Company, and several other coal companies besides them.  At that time, most of the top officials and owners of the mines built their homes here in Big Stone. You ever notice up around the museum, all those big homes up there?  There all way over a hundred years old.  Our town mayor, George Polly, lives in one. Across the road, Roscoe Ball lives in one. The owners and the top mining officials didn't want to live at the coal mine, and so they built all their homes here in Big Stone.  They built the coal camps all around Appalachia.  They were instrumental in a lot of homes in Appalachia, because that is where most of the coal mines were settled, in that particular time. I guess you could say that the officials were kind of snooty, but they hired them and paid them salaries. They just didn't want to live with them. I think that is one reason that Big Stone Gap is one of the nicest towns you'll ever see.  We were sort of all planned beforehand, you know. Part of that question was also about the roller coaster effect on coal.  Big Stone Gap enjoyed what was called the "roller coaster effect." When the coal industry was good, the local economy was good.  When the coal industry was bad, then the economy was bad.  That's been the way in almost all of Southwest Virginia, not just Big Stone Gap. It's just like a roller coaster, you know when it's at the top the economy is good.  When it comes down the economy is bad. Amazingly, the town survived even after Westmoreland Coal Company closed its headquarters in town and shut down all of its Southwest Virginia operations.  Eventually, the town became a medical center with a hospital and lots of doctors.  When Jean and I moved to town, I think there was only one doctor. Now we have a lot of lawyers and several dentists. Then Mountain Empire Community College was established. Believe it or not, the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, which is on the hill above Mountain Empire, they are the headquarters for the whole state of Virginia for salt mines, coal mines, quartz mines, and other mines like that.  It's funny to think that the headquarters is right here in Big Stone Gap. So, along with those, and the Wallen's Ridge State Prison that hires about 450, all of these things have helped the economy of the town.  Now, it's no longer the roller coaster like the coal industry was before. It's more even. A lot of people don't appreciate what we've got here in Big Stone. We have a nice place to live, a nice place to raise a family.

Interviewer:  What was the first railroad that was built in this area?

Hendrick:  I am not exactly sure, but I think it was the South Atlantic and Powell Valley Railroad.  I'm pretty sure, and there is a picture of that in that book. The conductor on that train had a long beard and the bibbed overalls and everything. I mean he's a real strange mountaineer to be a railroad man. Part of that question was why was the town a pioneer in mass transportation?  That was because of the Dummy Line.  You see, mass transportation is like New York City's subway, and other cities a bus is mass transportation. You catch a bus in front of your house and ride it downtown and all. Big Stone Gap was what may have been the first mass transportation in the whole state of Virginia. Kids could ride the Dummy Line from out in the southern, the old school was up there where Hardee's is now and Food City. They could ride to school for a nickel, and ride home for a nickel.  Also, they hauled a lot of freight between the two railroads. Like, if somebody was shipping some freight, maybe to Lexington, Kentucky, or Middlesboro somewhere.  It would come to Big Stone Gap, and then the Dummy Line would haul that freight down to the L&N station out at Cadet. They would reload it on the L&N, and take it on out to Corbin, or Middlesboro, or Lexington, or Louisville, or all those places like that. So, I can remember that when I was in my teens those tracks still ran down Wood Avenue, even though the Dummy Line was gone. They may still be, there just covered up with pavement. I think it is a very interesting story. One of the pictures in that book was a picture of a car when it was parked in front of the Monte Vista Hotel. The Monte Vista is where Miner's Park is now. Some guys were out front talking, and there was an old car, one of the primitive, early cars. It looked like a Buick or maybe a Cadillac, or something, a real old car. So that's the story of mass transportation.

Interviewer:  Was Big Stone known for any other transportation besides railroads and highways?

Hendrick:  I thought you would never ask! [Laughs] Remember, I told you about the Indian burial ground over here on Aviation Road?  Well, Big Stone Gap, believe it or not, had one of the first airports in Southwest Virginia, and one of the few in the whole state of Virginia.  They used to land and take off where Aviation Road is now. Some of the planes had just a wooden seat for the guy to sit in. There were no sides to the plane, or anything, just sort of struts. They use to take off, and they use to crash a lot. They would have bales of hay all along the airport on both sides, so when the airplane came in or a big puff a wind came or anything, you know.  Today's cars would drive faster than those planes, making about 65 miles per hour. They would come in, and the wind would blow them off course.  Why, they would just go into the hay. One, other interesting story about that too, was that, you have heard of the Ku Klux Klan? [Interviewer:  Yes.]  You're familiar with it. Well, they used to have a Ku Klux Klan Chapter here in Big Stone.  One night, they had a big parade down Wood Avenue; thousands of people were in it. On one of those planes, one of the first to take off at night, they had a cable from the plane. They made a big cross and soaked it with kerosene.  The plane took off, and came down over the crowd with that huge cross that lit up the sky.  It's real interesting; see why I like history so much! Back in those days, the Ku Klux Klan, when it first started, was not racial.  They got into that later, against the blacks and all.  My grandfather used to tell me, that, one time this man started fooling around with another man's wife. The Ku Klux Klan met one night, and at that particular time there were two trains coming in from the L&N, two passenger trains. They went to that man's house, and he came to the door.  It was about fifteen or twenty of them, and they had torches in their hands and all. They said he had eight or nine hours, or whatever time the first train went out. They told him that he'd better be on that train, or they were going to hang him.  They said the next morning that guy got on that train and he left. He never did have anything else to do with that woman! [Laughs] But, that is just an interesting side story.  Are you getting tired? [Interviewer:  No, I'm good.]

Interviewer:  What did our town of Big Stone Gap contribute to other towns throughout the United States and even the world?

Hendrick:  Okay, a lot of this is repetitious, but I told you about the brick factory that was out in the southern.  They not only made brick here, but they shipped brick all over the world, and that's because of the railroads that came in.  Probably, there are homes everywhere in Wise County, down in Lee County, and over in Scott County, and even probably Gate City, and who knows Kingsport and Bristol that all these brick were made and shipped out by rail. And, also, the timber that I was telling you about, they shipped that timber all over the world, especially Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia and New York, England and Belgium, a lot of the wood went there too. There was a story about somebody here in Big Stone Gap that bought a piece of machinery in Ohio. Okay, the iron ore came from the southern, and it was melted in the iron furnace and shipped to Ohio, and the machine was made out of that metal. That particular piece of machinery was shipped back to Big Stone Gap, and some farmer or somebody that used machinery, got that same thing. So, the saying applies, what goes around comes around. It just goes to show you that Big Stone has had an influence far more than other towns, especially for our size.  We had the iron ore, we had the coal, and we had the timber.  And, also some of our, well, we did pretty good about shipping our young people off to make their way in the world.  One of them was secretary to the President of the United States, C. Bascom Slemp, and Governor Linwood Holton, and we have the Jones' boys playing football now. So, we have exported a lot of good things, and a lot of good people.

Interviewer:  Do you think Big Stone has been a great place to live and raise a family?

Hendrick:  Yeah boy! Jean and I moved here in 1968, and we hadn't been here a week, and we knew this was the place where we wanted to live.  I think Big Stone Gap is a marvelous town to live in and raise a family. It is known as the Garden Spot of Southwest Virginia, and it's known for its beauty and its contribution to the arts and to music.  Even back as far as the 1890s, it is known for music.  One little article that I ran across in The Post one time,  said that a group of women was going to catch the passenger car to Bristol and teach people over there a little bit about music. [Laughs] I think Big Stone Gap has a marvelous future, because of all the concrete places we have now like the college, and hospital, Division of Mines, Minerals, and Energy, the prison, and who knows what else is coming.  They have been grooming Big Stone for years as a tourist industry.  We may not see it, but, one of these days, Big Stone may be like Gatlinburg. I think that the town has a great historical past and a wonderful future before it.

Interviewer:  Well, that concludes the interview. Thanks, I have really learned a lot.