Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Teamus Bartley, June 14, 1987

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:01 - Childhood / Family

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, Teamus, tell me about your family, where you were born and your mother and dad and all that.

Segment Synopsis: Bartley describes growing up with 7 other siblings in Ashcamp, in Pike County, Kentucky. Bartley describes several neighbors who used to live in the area and gives a brief description of the region's agricultural practices. Bartley recalls that during his childhood, there was plenty of coal around but there weren't any operating mines in the area. After the railroad expanded in 1904, the mines began to open.

Keywords: Ashcamp (Ky.); Brothers; Cattle; Coal businesses; Deeds; Hillsides; Isaac Sanders; Neighbors; Parents; Patents; Railroads; Siblings; Sisters; Timber; Transportation

Subjects: Agriculture; Buchanan County (Va.); Childbirth; Childhood; Coal; Coal mines and mining; Communities; Elkhorn City (Ky.); Families; Farm life--Appalachian Region; Farms, Small; Industrialization; Midwifery--Appalachian Region; Midwives; Pike County (Ky.)

00:07:46 - Working for Edgewater Coal Company

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I started working for the Edgewater Coal Company in 1910.

Segment Synopsis: Bartley began working in the coal mining industry in 1910, when he was 21. He describes a typical workday and the different types of jobs there are in a coal mine. Bartley then describes the history of ownership of the mine, beginning with the Rogers, then the Goodsons, and then the Edgewater Coal Company. Bartley recalled building coke ovens and working in the coke yard for the first year. Upon realizing that the miners were receiving better pay, Bartley decided to start mining. Edgewater used motorized bank cars to transport the workers in and out of the mines and Bartley described the coal as being four foot tall. Bartley then shares details of how they were paid before and after the United Mine Workers organized the mine. He recalls the different types of workers in the mines and states that the mine provided countless jobs for the people of that region. Bartley shares a story of seeing one of his relatives dead after they had been killed in a slate fall and he still had to go into the mine that day to work.

Keywords: Allegheny; Bank cars; Coal camps; Coal runs; Coal seams; Coke; Draw rock; Edgewater Coal Company; Edgewater Coal Mines; Equipment; Goodson brothers; Henry Clay; Labor unions; Marrowbone; Mountains; Offices; Powder; Shifts; Slate bars; Slate falls; Supports; Timbers; Tipples; Tools; Tracks; Union wages; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Wages

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Economic conditions; Coal; Coal leases; Coal mine accidents; Coal miners' spouses; Coal miners--Kentucky; Coal mines and mining; Communities; Land use, Rural; Pike County (Ky.); Salaries; United Mine Workers

00:31:27 - Operating his own coal mine

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Did it take you very long to learn how to mine, I mean to learn what to do?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley describes operating out of his own mine for seventeen years. His mine was close to his house and he would sell coal to the neighborhood. He was the only one who worked in that mine and he sold some of it to help support his family. Bartley remembers that he averaged fifteen to twenty dollars a week from selling coal from his own mine.

Keywords: Bank cars; Coal seams; Edgewater Coal Company; Elkhorn City (Ky.); Neighborhoods; Neighbors; Phillip Bartley; Tipples; Tracks; Wagons

Subjects: Children; Coal; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining; Communities; Families; Pike County (Ky.); Salaries

00:36:29 - Working under the Goodsons and the Rogers

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So were the Goodsons pretty, pretty nice people to work for?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley shares about his experiences working under the Goodsons and the Rogers brothers. He describes working with different types of people from various regions. Bartley recalls a flood in the coal camp that destroyed an entire side of the camp. Bartley then shares stories of the time before mining began in the region and how big companies came in and purchased acres of timbered land and coal seams. He describes the changes in the landscape that the timber companies made.

Keywords: Ashcamp (Ky.); Boundaries; Camp houses; Coal camps; Coal towns; Companies; Contracts; Creeks; Edgewater Coal Company; Elkhorn City (Ky.); Elkhorn Creek (Ky.); Essie Sikes; Floods; Goodsons; Housing; Logs; Marrowbone (Ky.); Mud slides; Oaks; Poplar; Rain; Rogers; Spring; Stave mills; Staves; Undertakers; Yellow Poplar Lumber Company

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Children; Coal; Coal leases; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining; Communities; Land use, Rural; Pikeville (Ky.); Timber

00:51:02 - Working with timber

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Did you ever talk to your dad about the early settlers, when they come in here and who they were?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley shares stories of what his father has told him of the history of the region. There were so few people living in the area then that their houses were scattered far from each other. Bartley shares that his father was a timber cutter and he worked for the Yellow Poplar Timber Company. Bartley started working in timber with his father when he was twelve years old.

Keywords: Ashcamp (Ky.); Barrels; Boxcars; Chains; Cumberland Mountain; Drift pins; Drifters; Houses; Limbs; Log houses; Mules; Oil companies; Parents; Railroad; Sap; Settlers; Siblings; Stave companies; Stave mills; Staves; Trees; White oak trees; Yellow Poplar Company

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Axes; Bark; Communities; Crosscut saws; Families; Land use, Rural; Occupations; Pike County (Ky.); Timber

01:00:26 - Story from the mines / Children

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Yeah, I went out one morning to the mines and it was a pretty Sunday morning and it was in October.

Segment Synopsis: Bartley describes having to walk home from the mines through the snow wearing thin shoes. When he arrived at home he thought he had frostbite. Bartley then shares details of raising his nine children.

Keywords: Apple trees; Apples; Ashcamp (Ky.); Frostbite; Leaves; Limbs; Lung cancer; Orchards; Shoes; Snow; Weather

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Children; Coal; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining; Families; Occupations; Rural health--Kentucky

01:03:10 - Edgewater Coal Company

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well how long did you work at Edgewater?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley worked for Edgewater Coal Company for twenty years, until they shut the mines down. Edgewater mined coal and used some of it to make coke, which is used in steel production. Bartley recalls details of how operations worked under Edgewater Coal Company. Bartley lived in the coal camps two or three times but shares that he disliked living there. He eventually built a house and moved out of the coal camps.

Keywords: Ashcamp (Ky.); Automobiles; Bills; Boarding houses; Camp houses; Coal camps; Coal chutes; Coal seams; Coke; Coke ovens; Companies; Edgewater Coal Company; Fees; Fireplaces; Garbage; Goodsons; Heating systems; Lumber; Mules; Neighbors; Railroads; Rent; Rogers; Sidewalks; Steel; Steel companies; Tipples

Subjects: Coal; Coal miners; Coal miners' spouses; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Industries; Land use, Rural; Occupations; Pittsburgh (Pa.); Timber

01:14:32 - Attending school in Ashcamp

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Where did you go to school?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley describes attending school in Ashcamp and then in Wise County, Virginia. He would wear long gowns to school, and many other students wore gowns and homemade shoes. Bartley quit attending school after an incident with one of the teachers. One day Bartley could not find any of his books or school supplies and the teacher was angry at him. After that incident, Bartley gathered his books, went back home, and did not return to school.

Keywords: Adam Osborne; Ashcamp (Ky.); Benches; Books; Clothes; Harrison Ratliff; Joel Ratliff; Marrowbone (Ky.); School supplies; Schoolhouses; Shoes; Students; Teachers

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Children; Education--Kentucky; Elementary school teachers; Rural schools; Schools--Furniture, equipment, etc.; Wise County (Va.)

01:19:41 - Moving to Wise County, Virginia / Working with coke ovens

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well now where did you say you moved to when you had Ms. Hughes? Which county?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley recalls his family moving to Wise County so his father could find work. After he quit school in 1905, Bartley joined his father, working on the coke yard at the Virginia Iron, Coal, and Coke Company. By the time he was fifteen, Bartley was a handyman on the coke yard; he could do almost any job they asked him to.

Keywords: Bosses; Brick masons; Coke; Coke ovens; Coke yard; Creeks; Dump carts; Employment; Mules; Railroad; Teachers; Toms Creek; Virginia Iron Coal and Coke Company; Wages; Wagons

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Childhood; Coal; Occupations; Pike County (Ky.); Salaries; Timber; Wise County (Va.)

01:24:13 - Process of turning coal into coke

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well what was that work like? What did you do exactly?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley describes the process of turning coal into coke. It begins with grinding coal into fine meal which is dumped into the coke ovens. The coal is leveled off with a long stick and the door is sealed. They let the fire burn until the blaze dies down and then they'll cover the opening on top of the oven to burn out the smoke. They then use water to cool down the ovens and the coke so they could be handled. The coke would then be shipped off to steel mills.

Keywords: Blazes; Brick masons; Bricks; Cement; Charges; Coke; Coke production; Coke racks; Edgewater; Fires; Oven doors; Powder; Repairs; Rocks; Smoke; Steel mills; Steel production; Ventilation

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Coal--Carbonization; Coal--Kentucky; Coke-ovens; Natural gas; Occupations; Wheelbarrows

01:31:08 - First time working in a coal mine

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well now, when you went with your dad over to Wise County, was that the first time you were ever around a coal mine?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley describes the first time he was working around a coal mine. He and his father went to the mines in Wise County, Virginia to find work. While Bartley's father was at work in the mines, Bartley went down to the coke yard and met some boys who worked there. They encouraged him to start working there at the coke yard. Bartley spoke to the boss about working at the coke yard, and went to work the following morning. Bartley was making seventy-five cents a day, shoveling coke. After he had been working there a while, they put him to work doing all types of different jobs. Bartley describes an incident with another boy while working at the mines that resulted in him being arrested.

Keywords: Coal banks; Coal companies; Coke; Coke ovens; Coke racks; Coke yards; Companies; Fights; Handymen; Parents; Police; Superintendents; Tools; Wages

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Economic conditions; Childhood; Children; Coal; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining; Communities; Salaries; Wise County (Va.)

01:42:45 - Labor unions in the region

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Was there ever any, uh, talk about the union in those days?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley describes an incident at the mines at Henry Clay, Kentucky where arguments over labor unions led to violence and death. Once the mines were organized, the coal miners enjoyed much higher wages. Bartley describes the day that Edgewater Coal Company closed the mines at Ashcamp permanently. They shut down the mines without notice in 1930. People began tearing down houses and buildings in the coal camps and scrapping the materials for personal use. Edgewater had mines in other locations like West Virginia, and several of the men left Ashcamp and went to those locations.

Keywords: Bosses; Edgewater; Edgewater Coal Company; George Sanders; Henry Clay; Labor unions; Payrolls; Retirement; Union members; Unions; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Violence; Wages

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Economic conditions; Coal miners--Labor unions--Organizing; Coal mines and mining; Coal--Kentucky; Pike County (Ky.); Salaries; United Mine Workers of America; Work environment

01:47:41 - Working after leaving Edgewater / Unionization

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So where did you go to work after Edgewater?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley describes working at Allegheny and Greenough after Edgewater. He worked at Greenough as a coal loader and he made a very small amount of money. He recalls suspecting one of the other workers of stealing the coal that he loaded himself and taking his pay. He also worked at a mine in Virginia and then went to work at Henry Clay, where he stayed for three years. Bartley shares stories that he heard about the organizing of the union in the coal mines. Bartley recalls when the mines finally recognized the labor union and when labor union representatives would come to speak about the union. He shares that the mining company would send around people to speak about the union to try and catch organizers. While he was working at Allegheny, Bartley recalls hearing rumors of Henry Clay organizing and the violence that occurred there.

Keywords: Allegheny Mine; Edgewater; Edgewater Coal Company; Firearms; Greenough Mine; Gun thugs; Henry Clay Mine; High powered rifles; Job history; Labor union meetings; Labor union representatives; Labor unions; Natural gas; Peabody Coal Company; Pensions; Pillars; Slips; Splashdown Coal Corporation; The Old Greenough Mine; Tools; Union members; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Violence; Wages

Subjects: Children; Coal miners--Kentucky; Coal miners--Labor unions--Organizing; Coal--Kentucky; Collective bargaining--Coal mining industry; Dickenson County (Va.); Families; Occupations; Pike County (Ky.); Salary; United Mine Workers of America

02:04:12 - Family history with labor unions / Farming

Play segment

Partial Transcript: If it hadn't been for the United Mine Workers, a doing what they done, and a, and a, and a holding out for good wages and good working conditions, men would have been a working right today for nothing.

Segment Synopsis: Bartley describes the impact of the United Mine Workers of America union on the working conditions and wages of coal miners in Pike County, Kentucky. Bartley's father was not a union man himself, but he did support unions. When they moved back to Ashcamp, his father started farming again. Many of Bartley's brothers were coal miners as well, all but one. Bartley describes this last five years of mining at Allegheny before retiring in 1948.

Keywords: Allegheny Mine; Chickens; Coke; Coke ovens; Coke yards; Company coal mines; Cows; Crops; Fathers; Henry Clay Mine; Hogs; Horses; Labor unions; Parents; Siblings; Union men; Union supporters; Unions; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Wages

Subjects: Agriculture; Coal miners--Labor unions--Organizing; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Collective labor agreements--Coal mining industry; Crops; Families; Family farms; Family histories; Farm life--Appalachian Region; Farmers; Land use, Rural; Livestock; Pike County (Ky.); Salaries; United Mine Workers of America; Work environment

02:09:23 - Friends / Health

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Teamus, you know you mentioned that, uh, place down there on the left where they've got the old hearth standing?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley recalls an old log cabin that used to stand down the road and remembers spending a lot of time there. He describes the death of one of his close friends. He then discusses the secret to his own health. Bartley shares that his wife's cooking is the reason that he has lived as long as he has. Before they were married, Bartley was very thin, but her cooking has helped him become healthier.

Keywords: Cooks; Doctors; Fireplaces; Health; Hearths; Log houses; Marriages; Meals; Neighbors; Weight; Wives

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Coal miner's spouses; Communities; Cooking; Death; Rural health--Kentucky

02:12:52 - Changes to the region

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, what do you think about, when you think about the way things are now and the way they were when you were growing up, what, what would you say has been the biggest change around here?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley discusses how the Appalachian Region has been stripped of its timber and coal. All that remains are the limestone deposits in the mountain. Bartley describes the soil as worn out and dead, it is hard to raise any crops on it. Bartley shares the state of unemployment in the region, people are having to leave to find work.

Keywords: Bills; Food; Landscapes; Limestone; Limestone seams; Mountains; Trees; Unemployment

Subjects: Agriculture; Appalachian Region; Appalachian Region--Economic conditions; Childhood; Coal--Kentucky; Crops; Natural resources; Pike County (Ky.); Timber

02:18:15 - Introduction of television

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Do you remember when you first got t--uh, TV?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley shares the story of how he purchased his first television in Elkhorn City. Bartley used to enjoy watching television when he first got it. He does not spend a lot of time now watching the television, mostly just watching the weather and the news.

Keywords: Bills; Electricity; Elkhorn City (Ky.); Entertainment; Mechanics; Monitors; News; Power lines; Shops; Soap operas; Stores; Storms; Technology; Television channels; Television shows; Weather

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Economic conditions; Appalachian Region--Religion; Appalachian Region--Social life and customs; Communities; Recreation; Television--Receivers and reception

02:22:50 - Religion

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You go to church anywhere?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley describes the importance of belonging to and attending a church regularly. Bartley recalls becoming good friends with a minister of the Church of God.

Keywords: Ashcamp; Baptist Churches; Churches; Doctrine; Elkhorn City (Ky.); Funerals; Grandparents; Heaven; Janitors; Members; Ministers; Old Regular Church; Prayers; Reparations; Sins; Stores

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Religion; Church buildings; Communities; Families; Lexington (Ky.); Pike County (Ky.); Religion

02:27:01 - Neighbors / Values

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Do you think people used to be happier than they are now?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley and his wife describe a shift in values of people in their community. Bartley emphasizes that people are always wanting more and are unhappy with what they have. Bartley shares a story of traveling to his uncle's orchard and bringing home bushels of apples.

Keywords: Apples; Fruits; Grandparents; Horses; Marriages; Material goods; Neighbors; Orchards; Parents; Trees; Values

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Religion; Appalachian Region--Social life and customs; Buchanan County (Va.); Childhood; Children; Coal miner's spouses; Communities; Families; Family histories; Pike County (Ky.)

02:31:09 - The flu of 1918

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You can't--but you, you don't--you can't--you ain't old enough to remember the year the flu struck the people so bad in this, in this country, do you?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley recalls the effects of the sickness that swept through the coal camps. He describes four to five people dying in the coal camp every night. Bartley's brother and his family were struck with the sickness and he would go over and help them. The mines had to shut down for six weeks. Bartley recalls seeing a coffin on every porch in the camps. Bartley describes it as worse than pneumonia, and when it struck people it killed them quickly.

Keywords: Brothers; Caskets; Coal camps; Coffins; Cough; Doctors; Epidemics; Fevers; Flu; Graves; Horses; Marriages; Mountains; Pneumonia; Siblings; Sicknesses; Tipples

Subjects: Childhood; Children; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Coal--Kentucky; Death; Families; Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919; Medical care--Appalachian Region; Medicine, Rural; Pike County (Ky.); Rural health--Kentucky

02:35:06 - Changes to the region / Living conditions

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Did you know Miranda?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley shares stories of other families in the region, focusing on the Hawkins family who lived in a log house and farmed on rich land. Bartley describes physical details of the region, sharing that the soil used to be rich and fertile but is now torn up from logging. Teamus recalls companies buying up acres of land in the region for cheap prices.

Keywords: Acres; Big Sandy Company; Coal rights; Companies; Corn; Elkhorn City (Ky.); Landscape; Lawyers; Log houses; Mobile homes; Mules; Neighbors; Oaks; Poplar; Poverty; Rest homes; Schoolhouses

Subjects: Agriculture; Appalachian Region--Economic conditions; Appalachian Region--Social life and customs; Childhood; Children; Coal leases; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Coal--Kentucky; Communities; Crops; Families; Family farms; Land use, Rural; Pike County (Ky.); Timber

02:43:00 - Communities / History

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, did people used to--were people--did people used to know each other more than they do now?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley and his wife recall how their community has changed over the years. They describe neighbors as more helpful in the past. Bartley also describes the types of animals that used to reside in the region, stating that Indians killed much of the big game when the settlers drove them off of the land. Bartley describes hunts that his father would go on, recalling one hunt where his father brought home twenty-one squirrels. Bartley describes living without refrigeration, salting meat to preserve it and lowering buckets of milk into streams to keep it cold.

Keywords: Bears; Crops; Deer; Gardens; Hospitals; Indians; Mules; Neighbors; Plows; Preservation; Refrigeration; Refrigerators; Rifles; Settlers; Squirrels

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Big game hunting; Children; Communities; Country life; Farms, small; Food--Preservation; Hunters; Land use, Rural; Medicine, Rural; Small game hunting

02:50:19 - Slate fall incident

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I went to my mine one morning, I'll tell you this.

Segment Synopsis: Bartley describes going out to his mine one morning to bring coal back to the house. Slate fell onto him from the roof and his son had to dig him out. Bartley's son dug him out and carried him out of the mine. Bartley's muscles were cramped from being under such a large amount of weight that he had trouble walking initially. Bartley's son helped him back to the house. Bartley shares that his pelvis still hurts on occasion. There was no hospital in the region at that time, just a single doctor that would come through town periodically. Bartley recalls traveling to Elkhorn City where a doctor fixed them up.

Keywords: Babies; Broken bones; Cramps; Doctors; Elkhorn City (Ky.); Horses; Hospitals; Pick axes; Pills; Slate; Slate falls; Tamping boards

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Children; Coal mine accidents--Kentucky; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Coal--Kentucky; Families; Medical care--Appalachian Region; Medicine, Rural; Midwifery--Appalachian Region; Pike County (Ky.); Rural health services

02:55:41 - Stories from Ashcamp, Elkhorn City, and Pikeville

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Okay, yeah, I was gonna ask you how Ashcamp got its name.

Segment Synopsis: Bartley tells the story of how Ashcamp got its name. There used to be a large ash tree that people would stop under and have lunch and camp. Later he shares a story of traveling with his father into Elkhorn City for an election. He recalls selling bread in town while his father voted. Bartley described Elkhorn City as a rough place where people fought and killed each other in the street. Bartley then shares a story of traveling by train to Pikeville.

Keywords: Ashcamp (Ky.); Ben Childers; Camps; Coal camps; Courts; Creeks; Elkhorn City (Ky.); Elkhorn Creek (Ky.); Funerals; Horses; Judges; Parents; Pastures; Picnics; Police judges; Post offices; Railroads; Stores; Stories; Trees; Votes

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social life and customs; Childhood; Church buildings; Elections; Pike County (Ky.); Pikeville (Ky.); School buildings; Voting

03:08:29 - Family histories

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Did you ever travel out away from here?

Segment Synopsis: Bartley shares that he does not enjoy traveling but he describes bringing his wife to the Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington. Bartley tells the story of how his grandmother and father walked for three weeks from Mount Sterling. Bartley describes the types of people who settle in the region.

Keywords: Central Baptist Hospital; Elkhorn City (Ky.); Grandparents; Hospitals; Kentucky River; Log houses; Lumber yards; Parents; Supplies; Towns

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Children; Communities; Families; Family histories; Farm life--Appalachian Region; Land use, Rural; Lexington (Ky.); Medical care--Kentucky; Mount Sterling (Ky.); Rural health--Kentucky