Saturday, April 9, 2016

Our Old Kentucky Home

                                      Chapter  Twenty-Eight

                                     A Painting by Roger Bansemer

Five years ago, in January of 2011, I began writing about Kinniconick.  This blog and the miracle of the internet put me in touch with many folks who still live there, or have memories of the place, and those contacts have made this project worthwhile.  Their love for that unique valley in Eastern Kentucky matches my own.  Whether we live near the creek or a thousand miles away, Kinney will always be our Kentucky home.

My memories of the place go back more than eighty years (my parents took me along on trips when I was a baby!)  Now I’m concerned that few of us are old enough to remember the early days, the family names, their houses, the beauty of the creek, the big timber.  Hopefully, old and new readers will add their stories about those golden days.

The golden days of my youth were associated with a stretch of Upper Kinney from the farm of Jim Stafford and his wife to the Bathiany cabin at the lower end of Pine Eddy.  Three farms existed back then, Stafford’s, McCarty’s and Bate’s.  No other habitation was to be found in those hundreds of acres, along those five miles of the creek.  Miracuously, the scene was basically the same during all of my years there, before and after I built the cabin.

                                           (click to enlarge the map)

The Staffords were up in years when I arrived on the scene but almost immediately invited me to lunch.  Their farm house was on top of a hill overlooking the valley, and I recall the view from the dining room window as we sat together and became acquainted.  I was asked to say grace and though I was never very good at it, I attempted to prove my credentials as the new neighbor, just over the hill.  They won my heart that day and are unforgettable.

My first encounter with Henry Bate was one day while fishing on Pine Eddy, when he stood on the bank and watched me casting for the elusive musky.  He was not in a good mood.  A few days before, several Wildlife agents had used electrical equipment to stun muskellunge prior to stripping them of roe and milt.  Henry saw that activity as an invasion and I had to agree with him.  Not long after, I drove into his family farm and visited.  I asked for and was given permission to land my canoe on a perfect picnic spot above the eddy, on his property.  We were always friends, from that day, but met infrequently.

I have a story as yet untold about a visit to Kinney in about 1937 or 1938.  There is an element of deja vue in this, because I actually walked on the old logging road that leads to Shabo Mekaw when I was a boy!   It’s also a story about some wonderful people who lived there.  This is a tribute toJoe and Calley McCarty.

In earlier chapters I wrote about my family’s connections with Kinney.  My Dad’s sister, Flora, was married to Dr. Oscar Schuessler, and they loved the valley, too.  They got to know the McCartys, descended from original settlers who came from Ireland during the potato famine.  Joe and Calley owned the farm at the head of Pine Eddy, the one that Herbert Zornes purchased later on, and the one that included the sixty five acres that became Shabo Mekaw.

In the spring of 1937 or ‘38, Aunt Flora and Uncle Oscar and their son, Bob, planned a trip to Kinney and asked me to go along.  We stayed over at the McCarty farm in a small guest cottage near the big house.  Bob was six or seven years older than me, and he was like a brother.  We set out one morning to explore the creek, and we followed an old logging road upstream.  It was the road to the Swirl Hole, a road that was to belong to me twenty years later.  We climbed the hill above the creek and discovered the old cemetery where the original settlers had buried their dead.  Only recently, thanks to Sharmon and Todd, we have photos to share of that ancient place.  Apparently the pioneer families were Kilgallins and  Coopers.  It would be wonderful to hear from anyone who is descended from those Irish immigrants who made their home in our Kentucky hills.

                Photos of the old cemetery taken by Sharmon Davidson
                                                            (click to enlarge)

Joe and Calley were fabulous hosts.  They typified the strong but gentle people who lived up and down the valley, devoted to the land and proud of their heritage.  Their kids were grown and had left the nest and within a few years the couple moved to Portsmouth, Ohio.  Again, I had the privilege of visiting them in their new home, along with Aunt Flora and Uncle Oscar.  I’ll never forget the night I slept there because I sank into the depths of a feather bed!

Somewhere on Upper Kinney is another ancient cemetery where generations of McCartys are interred.   I’m hoping to hear from someone who remembers the location or is descended from the clan.   It would be comforting to know that Joe and Calley are resting in the hills of their original home, their old Kentucky home.

A great Kentuckian died a few weeks ago and I had the privilege of meeting him and talking to him about the Kinniconick valley, many years ago.   Marlow Cook was the U.S. Senator from Kentucky in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  I was invited to a small gathering of  Kentucky State Senator Clyde Middleton’s supporters in Covington back then, and Senator Cook was there.  He was very familiar with Kinniconick and with many folks in and around Vanceburg.  The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act had been enacted the year before and I had the opportunity to describe our stream as a perfect candidate because of its unique geology and marine life.  The Senator was enthused and promised to work for that ambitious goal, but unfortunately the stream was never protected by the Act.   It isn’t too late for the people of Lewis County to save the stream.  We hope and pray that Kinniconick will always run clean and clear, through a valley where forested hills are uncut, where so many distinguished Kentuckians made their homes and were laid to rest. 


  1. I have enjoyed your blog. I grew up in Lewis county, but went away to college. After having children, I convinced my husband to move here to raise our 3 children and I have never regretted it. My children got a good education and have grown up to be successful adults. My oldest son, moved back to also raise his children here after living on the East coast where he went to school. His love for the county caused him to get into politics. He started on the local level and now in Congress working for the area.

    1. Thank you for expressing the sentiment that so many folks feel about our Kentucky home. My personal best wishes to your son as he works to protect it.

  2. It's great to find out about some of the people who lived here so long ago. It makes me wonder if they have descendants who live nearby now. It's a shame that the old cemetery is in such disrepair. I'm sure Todd has probably told you that Larry Mason bought that field from Jay Stafford, and has built a beautiful log home atop the hill right next to the cemetery. I'm sure he will take good care of the land, but it would be nice if someone knew enough to be able to restore the cemetery.

  3. The old cemetery was overgrown and unfenced during my years there, Sharmon. Looks like someone worked to restore it at some point but lost interest.

  4. Hello, my name is Bert Bathiany. I live in No Ky and was amazed when my son sent me this blog. Can yo tell me more about the Bathiany cabin.

  5. Hello Bert,
    Chapter twenty of this blog is entitled "Bathiany's Cabin" and I hope you will Google it. It tells the entire story of the man and includes a picture of him with my relatives.

  6. My mother lived/grew up on Kinney; very close to the swinging bridge. Her mother and father (Thomas)raised a family of nine children on a small farm and moved to Maysville sometime in the 1940s?

    Her mother (my grandmother) played organ at the nearby Walnut Grove Church. Grandfather Thomas had a job as a line man for the gas company which kept the family in good shape thru the depression.

    I loved hearing the stories of my mother's childhood days in "Kinney"........her grandparents were the Chinn's and they had the farm up the hill from the swinging bridge.

  7. Dear Anonymous,
    The name "Chinn" is way, way back in my early memories but I'm unable to recall any details. Wish I could have heard some of your mother's stories. Many thanks for writing.

  8. Russell Zornes was my great grandfather. Leon and Hobart were my great uncles. My grandfather, Evart Zornes owned the farm after his father Russell. I grew up on that farm and made many trips back the old road to the swirl hole. Your cabin was always a welcomed sight after making the long walk. Beautiful place, thank you for sharing.

  9. Whenever I hear from folks who remember their great grandfathers and great uncles, I realize how fortunate I am to be around to remember them, too. Those old, golden days on Kinniconick were, for me, heaven on earth.