Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Ott Bowling, May 24, 1979

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:03 - Interview introduction / history of the Bowling family

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview of Mr. Ott Bowling for the Frontier Nursing Service Oral History Project by Dale Deaton at approximately 3 p.m., May 24th 1979 on Hurricane Creek near Hyden, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Bowling provides some history about the Bowling family. Bowling's ancestors came from England to North Carolina. Their names were John and Jesse, and originally their last names were spelled "Bowlin" without the "g". Later down the line the "g" was added. Bowling speculates that his Bowlin ancestors were quite rich, since there are several landmarks named after that name. Later, Bowling's great grandfather Jack moved from North Carolina to Kentucky with Gilbert Cullins. Jack lived at the mouth of a creek near Hyden, Kentucky that was going towards Manchester, Kentucky. This particular creek was named Lower Jack's Creek, after Bowling's great grandfather Jack. Jack acquired the rights to this land by purchasing a 10 dollar land warrant in Frankfort, Kentucky. Bowling speculates that these older land warrants caused legal issues down the line, and remarks that the present frequency of lawsuits in Kentucky is related to these old land warrants. Jack married soon after moving. He fought in the Civil War but ended up dying afterward as result of yellow fever and small pox. Bowling's father was born on September 1st, 1860 at Newberry Hill, a hill near Red Bird River in Leslie County. Bowling does not know many members of the Bowling family since they are scattered across the country. Bowling himself was born April 10th, 1903. In 1907, when Bowling was 4 years old, he and his family moved into a two-story log house that they rented. Bowling lived there until he was 17. In 1920 Bowling's family purchased a new home, the house Bowling has (for the most part) lived in ever since.

Keywords: American Civil War, 1861-1865; Civil war; Deeds; Kentucky--History--Civil war.; Land grants; Land warrants; Patents; Property.; Rural land; Small pox; Yellow fever

Subjects: Families; Family history.; Hyden (Ky.); Inheritance and succession.; Leslie County (Ky.)

GPS: Newberry Hill, Clay County (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.1683887, -83.601526
00:08:37 - Mary Breckinridge's arrival in Kentucky / Wendover

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Partial Transcript: Uh, do you remember when Mrs. Breckinridge came down here in nineteen--

Segment Synopsis: Bowling recalls when Mrs. Breckinridge first came to the Hyden area in 1925. Bowling also recalls Betty Lester, an English nurse and midwife, who arrived in 1928. Bowling’s uncle Taylor sold Breckinridge 30-40 acres of land. Breckinridge hired a carpenter, Boyd Morgan (another uncle of Bowling’s), to build what would eventually become the Frontier Nursing Service’s Wendover building. Breckinridge and Morgan had a falling out. A carpenter with the last name Bryant ended up finishing the Wendover building. Bowling recalls that many local people helped work on the Wendover building.

Keywords: Bluegrass Coal Company; Building; Community; Construction; Mary Breckinridge; Moving; Nurse midwives

Subjects: Coal miners.; Coal--Kentucky.; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Hyden (Ky.); Midwives; Nurses.

GPS: Wendover (Hyden, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.1275, -83.365278
00:14:51 - Bowling's childhood and upbringing in Hyden, Kentucky / early employment

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Partial Transcript: Could you talk about y, your life a little bit in those days?

Segment Synopsis: Bowling talks about his childhood and upbringing. He talks about his father's professions, such as his time in the logging business, and his time as a Baptist preacher. Bowling talks about how their diet was based in what they raised on the farm (corn bread, bacon, beans, sorghum, corn, potatoes). His mother made their clothing. Bowling also talks about being the youngest in the family and the troublemaker of the family. Bowling talks about his Cherokee heritage (one quarter) and mentions that he was called a racial slur as a child because of his darker skin. Bowling talks about the various professions he has engaged in, too.

Keywords: Children; Clothing; Native American ancestry; Pine tar; Pine trees; Playing; Racial slurs; Rural life; Siblings; Trouble; Youth

Subjects: Cherokee; Childhood.; Families; Family history.; Hyden (Ky.); Leslie County (Ky.); Native Americans; Racially mixed children

00:35:26 - Education / stereotypes about Eastern Kentucky / comparing Hyden, Kentucky with the rest of the United States

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Partial Transcript: When you were a young boy did you go to school when you got six years old?

Segment Synopsis: Bowling talks about his education as a child and growing up. He also talks about his memory and his passion for reading. Bowling shares his observations and opinions about mainstream understandings of, and stereotypes about, Eastern Kentucky.

Keywords: "Heathens"; Books; Childhood education; Children; Cities; Daughters; Eastern Kentucky; Memories; Memory; Mountain people; Parenting; Parents; Reading; Rural life; Songs; Stereotypes

Subjects: Crime; Education.; Families.; Hyden (Ky.); Leslie County (Ky.); Mass media.; Murder.

00:43:24 - Politics in Eastern Kentucky / 1977 Leslie County primary and general election fraud / voting in Hyden, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Well--(coughs)--one of the things that Eastern Kentucky has always been criticized for was the elections and the, and the politics.

Segment Synopsis: Bowling discusses the controversy surrounding Eastern Kentucky politics. Bowling talks about the 1977 Leslie Country election fraud incident and the outcome of that fraud. He also talks about elections and political tension in Hyden, Kentucky specifically and about the time he ran in a local election.

Keywords: County elections; County judges; District judges; Districts; Fraud; Judges; Local politics; Politics.; Tax payers

Subjects: Election law.; Elections.; Families.; Hyden (Ky.); Leslie County (Ky.)

01:02:42 - Telephones / 1918 flu pandemic / doctors and nurses in Hyden, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: But you--(coughs)--the time you said the telephone system had changed a lot and you got it about twenty years ago?

Segment Synopsis: Bowling discusses the arrival of a new telephone system in Hyden, Kentucky. He also talks about the 1918 flu pandemic and the pandemic’s impact on Hyden. Bowling discusses the various doctors and nurses, some associated with Mrs. Breckinridge, in Hyden.

Keywords: 1918 flu pandemic; Telephone--Kentucky.; death; drinking; illness; whiskeys

Subjects: Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Hyden (Ky.); Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919; Midwives; Nurses.; Nursing.; Prohibition.; Telephone.

01:17:33 - Dr. Stoddard and Mrs. Breckinridge / Mrs. Breckinridge / impressions and opinions on other FNS nurses and the FNS organization

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Partial Transcript: Well, from some correspondence and other written material that I've read, evidently Dr. Stoddard and Mrs. Breckinridge did not get along very well together.

Segment Synopsis: Bowling discusses the potential source behind the tension between Dr. Stoddard and Mrs. Breckinridge. Bowling details what Mrs. Breckinridge and other FNS nurses contributed to the community, and the lasting positive impact of those contributions. Bowling also discusses Mrs. Breckinridge's death, some stories in her life, and his own positive feelings toward her and the impact she had on Leslie County.

Keywords: "Mountain people"; Babies; Caring; Doctors; Helping; Hospitals; Illness; Infants; Medicine; Mothers; Volunteering

Subjects: Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Hyden (Ky.); Leslie County (Ky.); Medical care.; Nursing.; Poverty.

01:36:15 - Prohibition and alcohol in Hyden / reputation of Hyden / Great Depression / prostitution in Leslie County

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Partial Transcript: Do, uh, now Hyden, uh--do you remember if before Prohibition, was Hyden wet? Was, was there legal alcohol?

Segment Synopsis: Bowling explains what it was like in Hyden during Prohibition, as well as the Great Depression. He describes how he managed to get by financially during the Great Depression and how he went outside of Leslie County for logging work. Bowling also discusses gambling and prostitution in the area.

Keywords: Bullets; Dry counties; Employment; Sheriffs; Shooting; Wages; Wet counties; Working

Subjects: Alcohol.; Depressions--1929--Kentucky; Food stamps; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Gambling.; Great Depression.; Hyden (Ky.); Leslie County (Ky.); Poverty.; Prohibition.; Prostitution

01:54:33 - Bridges and roads in Leslie County / stores / accents and pronunciation in Leslie County and the broader South

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Partial Transcript: Now what, after that--that was the first stretch of road that was completed in Leslie County, wasn't it?

Segment Synopsis: Bowling explains the roads and bridges that were first built in Leslie County and, more specifically, Hyden. Bowling talks about the stores and businesses that were in the area during the 1920s and 1930s. Bowling talks about how accents and pronunciations of particular words have changed significantly since the 1920s and 1930s.

Keywords: Building; Buildings; Buying; Construction; Demolishing buildings; Dry goods; General stores; Selling; Stores

Subjects: Accents and accentuation.; Bridges.; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Hyden (Ky.); Leslie County (Ky.); Manchester (Ky.); Pronunciation; Roads.

02:17:31 - African Americans and race relations in Leslie, County / Hurricane Creek incident

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Partial Transcript: Either--do y, do y--well do either of you remember, uh, some Black--any Black people that lived in Leslie County, down the river?

Segment Synopsis: Bowling discusses the reasons behind the lack of Black families in Leslie County. Bowling describes some local events as well, including an incident at Hurricane Creek.

Keywords: African Americans--Kentucky.; Hurricane Creek; Kentucky--Race relations.

Subjects: African Americans.; Hyden (Ky.); Leslie County (Ky.)

02:27:13 - Slot machines, gambling, and alcohol in Hyden, Kentucky / violence and feuds

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Partial Transcript: The, uh, well to, uh, to go back a little bit was there anyone else that you know of in the county besides Carl Melton that got the slot machines that were in the ginny barns and other places around the county?

Segment Synopsis: Bowling discusses the arrival of slot machines in Hyden. He also clarifies when the county voted to go 'dry' after World War II. Bowling also discusses the history of violence in Hyden, Kentucky, and what he sees as the reason behind the numerous shootings, feuds, and murders that took place during the earlier half of the 20th century in Hyden.

Keywords: Alcohol; Bars; Dry counties; Feuds; Fights; Guns; Murders; Sheriffs; Shootings; Shootouts; Slot machines; Wet counties

Subjects: Alcohol.; Christianity.; Gambling.; Hyden (Ky.); Law.; Leslie County (Ky.); Poverty.; Prohibition.; Prostitution.; Violence.; World war II

02:39:06 - Logging methods and equipment / transport of wood and other goods / salt wells

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Partial Transcript: Well you worked in the logging industry, and things we didn't talk about yesterday.

Segment Synopsis: Bowling discusses his time working as a logger. He details the methods they used to chop wood. Bowling talks about the equipment and animals that were a key part of this process. Bowling describes how wood and other goods were transported. Bowling talks about local salt wells, too.

Keywords: Animals; Boards; Chestnut oak; Clearing land; Equipment; Farm houses; Hardwood; Horses; Land; Livestock; Logs; Lumber; Minerals; Mules; Oak; Oxen; Rafts; Rails; Rivers; Salt; Salt water; Salt wells; Shoals; Timber; Training; Water; White oak; Woods; ”Freight boats”

Subjects: Hyden (Ky.); Leslie County (Ky.); Logging; London (Ky.); Manchester (Ky.); Railroads.

03:13:29 - Rivers and water pollution in Hyden, Kentucky / fishing / hunting

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Partial Transcript: Could you talk about this river down here a little bit now, there aren't many fish in it, and it's just polluted, it's dirty. Could you talk about how it, how it was when you were a young boy?

Segment Synopsis: Bowling talks about some of the rivers and other bodies of water in the Hyden area. He discusses the salt content and pollution. Bowling talks about fishing and hunting in Leslie County.

Keywords: Bobcats; Catfish; Cattle; Deer hunting; Dirty water; Fish bait; Fishing reels; Groundhogs; Hogs; Hunting; Lakes; Live bait; Livestock; Paw paw trees; Red eye fishes; Rivers; Silt; Squirrels; Sugar Creek; Wagon roads; Water; Woodchucks; Worms

Subjects: Bass fishing.; Coal.; Fishing.; Hyden (Ky.); Leslie County (Ky.); Water--Pollution.

03:29:20 - Livestock and market / production of handmade goods at home / making furniture and tombstones

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember your father or any, any of your ancestors talk about driving, uh, sheep or cattle or ducks or anything like that to the market in Richmond or Lexington area?

Segment Synopsis: Bowling talks about what livestock was common in Hyden during his childhood. He talks about how people would herd their cattle and sheep to the market. Bowling shares the various products they would sell at the market. He also talks about how they made their own quilts, clothing, furniture, and tombstones.

Keywords: Barns; Beds; Buying; Cattle; Clothing; Graves; Graveyards; Herds; Markets; Muslin; Poplar wood; Selling; Sheep; Summers; Tombstones; Varnish; Wagon roads; Wood; Wool

Subjects: Carpentry.; Hyden (Ky.); Knitting.; Leslie County (Ky.); Livestock.; Quilting.

03:41:35 - Farming and socializing / reverends and preachers / women and smoking

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk about that some? Did people get together have barn dances or--

Segment Synopsis: Bowling talks about how the whole neighborhood used to come together to get all the farming in the neighborhood done. He also discusses how they used to socialize back when he was a child. Bowling reminisces about how peaceful it was. Additionally, Bowling discusses the traveling reverends and preachers who passed through Hyden. Bowling talks about social norms surrounding women and smoking, and whether or not Mrs. Breckinridge and the other FNS nurses smoked.

Keywords: Alcohol; Camaraderie; Cigarettes; Collaboration; Community; Crops; Dances; Drinking; Fields; Guns; Hoeing; Moonshine; Murders; Peaceful; Pipes; Preachers; Shootings; Shootouts; Tobacco; Whiskey

Subjects: Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Hyden (Ky.); Leslie County (Ky.); Midwives; Nurses.; Religion.; Smoking.; Traditional farming--Kentucky