Baldridge Tree

My Baldridge family

The Cry of History

by Rick Reed
March 8, 2017

Reed Cemetery

The cemetery where the graves of Teck and Lizzie Reed are located on a hillside in Lackey, Kentucky, as it appeared before it was restored.

This essay by Rick Reed, a cousin of mine from Columbus, Indiana, was originally published in the Floyd County, Kentucky Genealogy Facebook group. Rick and I share family roots in Floyd County of southeast Kentucky and have a number ancestors in common who once lived there and in nearby Virginia.

Rick has demonstrated his deep concern for preserving our heritage through involvement in the restoration of historical landmarks. In recent years, he has devoted much time to organizing and leading efforts aimed at cleaning neglected cemeteries as well as identifying grave locations and supplying new markers for them.

The cry of history keeps coming.

As we age we see the things we grew up with disappearing. Homes that could still be used are abandoned because new is considered better. Stone homes torn down for farm land, barns that have no use any longer rotting away with old growth lumber in them that can still be used, but what if we open our eyes.

Log cabins sitting empty because they are small, hold the heat with low ceilings. They can be reused and rebuilt.

Hobe's gas station

This abandoned building in Lackey was Hobe Slone’s gas station and store, as well as his home.

But what do we know? People in Europe live in homes several hundred years old. They seem to be just fine in those old homes with a history and life still to come.

What do they know that we don’t?

Barn on Rock Fork

This barn on Rock Fork in Floyd County once belonged to Elbert Cox.

In America we toss things away and still want new, thinking it’s a better way to live. Is it?

What do we gain as we lose the history of the old home place, pictures of people we never knew and those we do not know as they stare back at us from the past?

We don’t take the time to write names down on the back of a photo and then forget who it is and then we toss it like it’s nothing. Is that what we are?

We let family grave yards disappear in the weeds and trees without a thought to clean them up once a year. Why? Because we don’t know those people? Did they not teach us anything about respect?

They did and we chose to toss it.

When we are gone we will not care if we aren’t remembered. The living have places to be and things to do. But as they age they will start to remember too. Things long gone that gave them the pleasure of fishing, baking, quilting, building and growing things, a person, a place.

Mine work crew

This photo is labeled “Island Creek Mine work crew on Beaver Creek in Floyd County” but no one is identified by name.


The living will wish they paid attention and kept things from their past. Maybe ask why they didn’t do something for the future generation.

Trees hundreds of years old are mostly gone and the few left are prized for their size or wood. Maybe the space they grow on is ripe for a new home or business.

Only because we want.
Only because that empty lot next door isn’t where this tree or old home stands now.

We destroy the old for new that lasts half the time.


Not only have we lost these type memories we are losing family units as we spread our wings across the world.

We move to new places and create new memories, but nothing replaces the old memories and places we walked long ago. A dirt path, gravel road and up a mountain side to look over to an old homestead.

Bonanza School

Bonanza School in Floyd County.

While other countries continue enjoying their history we continue on to losing what made us great. Our past! Why maybe because it’s out of the way, too far to get to, not close enough to the store.

They don’t make land anymore and the trees take longer to grow, old homes have character and warmth to feel and to look at and touch.

But what do we know? Memories is all we have now.

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Golden: A Love Letter to Appalachia

Anna’s gift is that she somehow writes stories about your life. Even if you don’t know what “government cheese” is, she taps into your memories and you recognize yourself in her tales.
This one is something quite special. If you look deeply, past the beauty of her imagery, you will discover universal meaning that speaks to any place or time — but most especially to your here and your now.

Appalachian Ink ~ Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

Now I was always advised that silence is golden, and I’d be best off in the end to keep my mouth shut and my thoughts to myself and behave like a lady, lest I be thought a wild woman. Well, I’ve been thinking on that good ol’ advice, and I’ve come to my own conclusions.


Winter falls hard here. It comes while we’re sleeping, like a thief in the night, and steals the blues from the heavens and the greens from the cedars, leaving a black and white film of a world that replays for far too long. We’ve seen this flick before, and we know how it ends. It all reminds me of the Mother Mountain in her current gray steel and silent reverie. She’s absolute and raw and real, like that old black and white film. She tells it like it is. She wears that silent gray…

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Of Labor Days Past

Your life isn’t behind you;
your memories are behind you.
Your life is ALWAYS ahead of you.
~ Steve Maraboli

Garrett Elementary School (center) Floyd County, Kentucky

Garrett Elementary School (center) Floyd County, Kentucky

On this Labor Day holiday, it is with somewhat mixed emotions that I contemplate returning to work tomorrow. I recently decided that this school year will be my final one, and I look forward to full retirement next June.

So, it seems today is my last Labor Day holiday. I imagine I’ll be seeing and experiencing any number of “last time” things before leaving school for the final time next June. It has also occurred to me that, as student or teacher, I have returned to school after each Labor Day for the last 65 years.

When researching family history, I’ve often wondered what sort of jobs or work my ancestors were involved in to support their families. Except for some census and employment records, that sort of information was not documented very often. When asked, many of my ancestors simply said they were farmers and their wives were house keepers. In more recent times, coal mining became a common occupation.

John Wesley Baldridge

John Wesley Baldridge

There were some notable exceptions, however. My great grandfather John Wesley Baldridge was a farmer, but I know that he also served as a magistrate in Knott County, Kentucky, for a time. A magistrate, sometimes called a justice of the peace, was an elective office and their main duty involved serving on the county fiscal court, but in Kentucky, all justices of the peace could perform and legalize marriages as well.

Five Cent Scrip, Elk Horn Coal

5 cent scrip, Elk Horn Coal

After John Wes moved his family to Lackey in Floyd County, he owned and ran what was known as a scrip store at that time. Scrip were tokens or paper issued as wages to workers by coal companies which could be used for purchases in scrip stores. Later, they lived in Hueysville and he operated a general store and a corn mill.

Of his nine sons, eight were either farmers or coal miners. Pearl, the eldest, worked as a bookkeeper and attended seminary to become a minister. Two daughters were married and did not work outside the home. Minta, the youngest child, went to college and became a teacher.

Seco, Kentucky, coal mine

Seco, Kentucky, coal mine

My grandfather Fair was a coal miner for over 20 years until he moved to Ohio to find employment. I will tell more about his work life in a future story. His only son Rudolph, my father, also worked in the mines for a time, as did both of my brothers, Eddie and Bobby.

On my mother’s side, my grandfather Henry Workman was a coal miner for many years, and so was his father William, and all three of his sons. I plan to tell more about his work in mining in another story, too.

I began college the fall after graduating from high school in 1965 and finished graduate school six years later in 1971. I began teaching that same year until I retired in 2002. I have continued working each year in one school or another since then.

Apparently, it’s difficult for some people to adjust to retirement, the getting up every morning with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I don’t understand that. I won’t have nearly enough time to do everything I want to do then.
I have enjoyed my work life, but I can’t say I’ll miss it.
It is my past — my memories. My life is still ahead.

Categories: Baldridge Tree, Coal Mining | 2 Comments

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