We continued our journey through the beautiful green rolling hills in the horse country around Lexington. Our destination was Natural Bridge Park, near Beattyville. Natural Bridge is a tourist destination for hiking, camping and canoeing. It is a truly gorgeous location with wonderful rock formations one which forms a bridge – hence the name.
We rented cabins near Natural Bridge for our stay. The cabins were nice and in a beautiful, wooded setting that kind of reminded me of the woods here; only with different types of trees. The road to the cabins – and calling it a road is being very generous – was quite an adventure. Only wide enough for one vehicle with switchbacks, sharp dips and hairpin turns. Of course Rick enjoyed driving on this trail that reminded me of a rollercoaster – until some guys (always the guys!) in a pickup came flying around a blind corner way too fast and he had to head for the ditch.
Russell, his sister Lucille and his brother Jimmy were born and attended school in a tiny little hollow or “holler” called Long Shoal, a few miles outside of Beattyville, Kentucky. When we first started planning our trip and trying to locate the places he remembered from his childhood, I couldn’t find Long Shoal on a map (having been there, I understand why.) So I made a few phone calls to the local school district, library, newspaper and all of them directed us to start our quest at the feed store on Route 52 about 4 miles outside Beattyville. Everyone I talked to in Kentucky was very friendly and helpful; those who didn’t have any of the information I needed tried to help me find someone who did.
With all the Indiana and Florida family, in addition to the California, Washington and Texas family, our group numbered twenty-seven people in a caravan of six cars. I’m sure the guy at the feed store was surprised to find his parking lot full of cars and people on a Monday morning. He was very friendly and helpful and directed us to an old gentleman named Tom Fox who had lived in the immediate area all his life and lived right next door to the feed store. Tom turned out to be an old boyhood friend and schoolmate of Russell’s!
How amazing to find a long-lost friend right next door! Tom was happy to see Russell and they were able to spend a little time catching up on old memories. Tom and his wife lived within a few miles of Long Shoal his entire life.
Tom was very familiar with all of the locations that Russell remembered and gave us directions to the old Long Shoal school they both attended, and to Russell’s old home place a little further up the road. The building which was a one room schoolhouse in the 1940’s has been remodeled and is now the Long Shoal community church.
It was wonderful to find the building still standing; I had various reports from the people I talked to and some thought it had been torn down. We had our own song service in the church. Rick’s sister, Becky (who is the pianist at her church) played the old the upright piano.
We called out our favorites from the hymnal and Becky played for us all to enjoy.
With the size of our crowd we exceeded their attendance the previous Sunday.
From the school / church we ventured on a little farther up the “holler” to see if we could find the site of the old house that Russell, Lucille, Jimmy and Rodger lived in as children. Russell’s brother Jimmy and Jimmy’s daughter Missy had been back to the area in 1984 and the house was still standing at that time, though no one was living there and it was being used to hang tobacco.
Unfortunately, sometime in the years since the old house was torn down. Since the road (actually narrow trail) up to the site was not wide enough for a car, we didn’t go all the way to the place where the house once stood. Interestingly, just a little ways from the church is another house that looks almost identical, which is still lived in and well cared for. Were the two houses built by the same person? Perhaps they were kit homes ordered from a catalog ? A mystery we didn’t solve on this trip.
Our next objective was to try to find the old family cemetary. After we turned our caravan of cars around and headed back down the holler, we were met by a very nice man (who turned out to be Tom’s nephew) who was able to give us directions to the old cemetary.
We missed the last turn and went over the hill, which ended up being a good thing as we found some long-lost cousins of Russell’s. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of Bob and Elizabeth, the very kind people who welcomed the strangers who showed up on their doorstep. Bob’s father and Russell’s father were cousins and they had known each other as boys. Elizabeth is a first cousin of Mabel, Russell’s mother. Bob gave us directions to the family cemetary where he and Russell’s mutual Great-Grandparents are buried.
A small family cemetary on a hill overlooking the Long Shoal area; it has only twenty-two graves. The oldest is from 1895 and most recent 1974. Most of the dates are in the early 1900’s. Green Palmer, Russell’s Great Grandfather, was born February 7, 1859 and died June 10, 1910.
He is buried beside his wife Sarah.
Sarah Porter Palmer was born July 10, 1870 and died in June 1939. The headstones are so old and weathered it is hard to read the inscriptions. Green and Sarah’s graves are surrounded by those of four of their sons, who all died within three years of each other at the ages of 19, 21, 22 and 23 years old. One son, Charley was 22 when he died while serving in the army in World War I. There is no indication of the cause of death for the other three. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to lose four children in three years.
After leaving the Long Shoal area we went to Beattyville where we had a wonderful lunch at the Purple Cow, a local landmark. Russell’s sister Lucille remembers eating there as a young girl.
Here are Russell, Krista (who was a real trooper the entire trip though she is expecting her first child in a couple of months) Rodger and Michael. The kind ladies at the Purple Cow fed us all and told us stories about the restaurant and its history. After lunch, we took a short walk down the main street to the site of the old City Hall and Jail.
During his freshman and sophomore years of high school, Russell lived in this building with his uncle Hamp Palmer who was the town sheriff. It was much too far from Russell’s family home in Long Shoal to walk to the high school in Beattyville- especially in the winter – so he boarded in town with his uncle. The building was fairly new when he lived there.
Our next stop was at the cemetary where the Amburgy Grandparents are buried. Daily and Maggie Amburgy are the parents of Russell’s mother Mabel.
Here is the house Daily and Maggie lived in just outside of Booneville.
Russell’s youngest brother Rodger remembers visiting his grandparents at this house and playing in the creek in front of the house as a little boy.
All too soon our adventure was over and it was time head back to our respective homes. I am very glad that Russell got to re-visit the scenes he remembers so fondly from his childhood. It was also really special to be able to share those memories with his children, grandchildren and the rest of the family.