Coal celebration in Harlan County

By: Kendall Downing Email
By: Kendall Downing Email

It's quite the milestone. 100 years ago Thursday, the first load of coal was hauled out of Harlan County by rail.

There was lots of fanfare to mark how Harlan County rose to prominence.

"All of these communities are built along riverbanks that have railroads running next to them," said Larry Lafollette with the Harlan County Historical Network.

Leaders say it's a day to honor those who built the county's economy 100 years ago by working on the railroad and in the mines.

"We are a mixing pot, like a mini Chicago you know, and that's what makes us strong," said Retired Miner Jerry Asher.

Photos, artwork, and newspaper clippings inside the courthouse document that history for all to see.

Organizers say this event took a lot of planning, but it's a labor of love.

"A lot of preparation from a very little group and a very committed group called the Harlan County Historical Network," said Jennifer McDaniels with the Kentucky Coal Academy.

Their planning was able to get the attention of Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.

"Coal is part of the heart and soul of Kentucky. It is part of what makes us unique," Governor Beshear said.

Many say coal is not just a way to make a living, it's a way of life. They say the event is about bringing the community together to look at how far they've come.

"It’s a community event. We are here to celebrate what is best about Harlan County," Lafollette said.

The artwork and photographs will be on display in the courthouse until Friday.

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