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William H. Berge Oral History Center

Coal Company Towns Project

Interview with N.B Perkins

April 13, 1982 (1982 oh 097)

Conducted By William Berge

Transcribed by Emma Roach-Barrette

BERGE: The following is an unrehearsed tape interview with Mr. N.B. Perkins of Whitley City, Kentucky. The interview was conducted in the McCrery County Library on April 13, 1982 at 9:30am. The interview was conducted by William Burge for the Oral History Center at Eastern Kentucky University.


BERGE: I want to think you [tape malfunction] I want to thank you [tape malfunction] seeing me again Mr. Perkins. It's a pleasure to come see you again. I know last week when we talked you told me a little bit about Mr. Carter and your relationship with him and some of the other people you knew that were close to him uh there's the rain.

PERKINS: Sure is.


BERGE: Uh you uh told me that uh that of course your name was M.B, I mean N.B 1:00Perkins and uh can you remember any of the other people that were close to Mr. Carter that you could remember last time after I left, or not?

PERKINS: Well over in Laurel County I don't believe I mentioned the name of Mistress Opal Lucas to you and her nephew Tom Handy, H-A-N-D-Y. Very close to him and uh I better not leave out Willie Geer either.

BERGE: Okay.

PERKINS: He's district chairman now.

BERGE: Mr. Geer and Mr. Crater, were they pretty close?

PERKINS: Very Close.

BERGE: Okay, uh Mr. Perkins today I would like to talk with you, if you don't mind about uh when you worked for the Sterns Company. Do you remember the year you went to work [Perkins-cough]

PERKINS: July the 1st, 1929.

BERGE: The First of July huh?

PERKINS: Yes sir.

BERGE: 1929. And you worked or them until when?

PERKINS: Until August 19th and 64.


BERGE: 35 years huh?

PERKINS: Yes sir.

BERGE: When uh you went to work for them in 29, what was your first job?

PERKINS: Well I worked under William A. Kinne, K-I-N-N-E. Uh and he was called the land and timber agent he uh and of course surveying the land was under him to. He was a surveyor.

BERGE: And what was your job exactly?

PERKINS: Well I uh my job was really just uh just uh he was getting to be quite 3:00an old man at the time and uh he just started training me for the job. The land surveying and tittle work we had the uh, uh a quarter of land drawn deeds and leases, contracts.

BERGE: All the years you worked for uh Sterns did you do the same kind of work all the time that you were there?

PERKINS: Yes sir. Something new might have come in. We got the crews and quite a bit of timber in those latter years.

BERGE: What does that mean, crews and timber?

PERKINS: Uh well when they want to buy timber they'd send timber cruisers in to-

BERGE: See what was.

PERKINS: Estimate to see if there was enough timber on it to justify the uh buying of it.

BERGE: Did you ever get so that you could walk across around an area and tell about how many acres were in there? Were you pretty good at that?

PERKINS: Well uh I don't know whether I was, whether I would consider myself good or not I think I could tell some acre two acres and ten acres, twenty somewhere along that line. When it gets to bigger areas say uh...

BERGE: The harder it is?

PERKINS: Yeah it would be for me now, I know it.


BERGE: When uh, let's talk a little bit about the Blue Heron era, area. When was the first time you were down there at Mine 18? You remember?

PERKINS: Well I was I was in that area up before Mine 18 was thought about. Just a little after I started working for the company.

BERGE: What was down there then?

PERKINS: Nothing not, you know just a forest.

BERGE: Was there a road down there?

PERKINS: Uh I would say no. Nothing except the Kentucky Tennessee Rail Way and of course that would be I would say something like a mile from Blue Heron.

BERGE: Do you remember that firs time you saw Devil's Jump?

PERKINS: Well I saw it a long about [unclear], I believe I saw it in the fall of 1929.


BERGE: You walked in there I guess?


BERGE: But you knew it was in there? You went there to look at it, that area?

PERKINS: Not really to look at it. There's uh a tenant the company had live, lived pretty close to that.

BERGE: Who was that tenant?

PERKINS: By the name of uh his name Miller, I was trying to think of that first name.

BERGE: What did he do down in there?

PERKINS: I, I believe that he worked in the mines at either Barthlea or Worthy. They would have been the closest to that area.

BERGE: When uh you went in there that first time when that tent, when that 6:00tenant was there. Where was his house?

PERKINS: Willie, Willie was his first name. Willie Miller.

BERGE: Willie Miller, where was his first, where was his house? Say compared to where the tipple is now back up near [unclear].

PERKINS: It would have been between, between the tipple and the Barth between, between the tipple and the uh mouth of Ponch Creek.

BERGE: Uh huh.

PERKINS: Where Ponch Creek flows into the Big South Fork River.

BERGE: Up in there near where that little rail road bridge is now?

PERKINS: Yes, Uh huh.

BERGE: Alright. Do you remember when the mine opened down there?


BERGE: When was that?

PERKINS: Well now the year I'm unable to give that to you right now.

BERGE: Well approximately, was it thirties? Late thirties? Before the war wasn't it?

PERKINS: [unclear] I'm, I'm not certain now if it would have been before the war 7:00or after.

BERGE: When you first went down in there after they were mining coal uh who were what did it look like then when they actually built the buildings? Like what was down there? The tipple was down there.

PERKINS: Well you had the tipple and you had a uh [unclear] which uh school building, general store and and it was a pretty good size bulling because they had the post office in it to, post office for Blue Heron and mine number Mine 18 of course.

BERGE: Who ran the store?

PERKINS: Well I remember a fella name of William Pryor. They might have had 8:00different fellers but I believe I believe that Bill Pryor was the uh was the first. He left here several years ago went to Ohio and I understand he came back here to the county I was talking to one of his grandsons.

BERGE: Is he living back here now?

PERKINS: He lives in Pine Nut.

BERGE: How old of a man would he have been?

PERKINS: This grandson told, he, he eighty er uh he's, he's at least 80 from what the grandson told me a few days ago.

BERGE: Who were the uh people, what was his name now? Pryor?

PERKINS: Yeah William, we all called him Bill. William Pryor, P-R-Y-O-R.

BERGE: Who were some of the people who were in charged down there at Blue Heron?

PERKINS: Well uh the uh Mine Superintend was [unclear] Right. Now he's a man uh I wished we could talk with him cause he knows more about Mine 18.

BERGE: Where's he?

PERKINS: Uh he stays with his son-in-law about a mile here. You know Vergil Cecil?

UNKOWN FEMALE: I've heard that name.


PERKINS: Well here out here where we call Dixie, about uh not a mile south of here. He stays with his son-in-law. Now, now maybe he is.

UNKOWN FEMALE: He's supposed to give us an interview.

BERGE: Yeah.

UNKOWN FEMALE: We have to [unclear] first.

BERGE: Well if you want to I'll go with you. Make an appointment and one day I'll go with you.


BERGE: Maybe you can do it next weekend.

UNKOWN FEMALE: Okay, I'll try to get it set up.

BERGE: If you can do it next Tuesday morning I can go down with you.


PERKINS: I would say he's close to 90 years old to.

BERGE: But he's...

PERKINS: But his minds active.

BERGE: Well good [unclear].

PERKINS: Yeah, he can he can he and his brother, John Elrod, was general 10:00superintendent for the Sterns Coal and Lumber Company and other coal mines. They had oh a number of mines. If you want I can name them for you I.

BERGE: Yeah name some of them.

PERKINS: Uh, well I'll just start with [unclear] left Sterns on the [unclear] railroad. You had Barthell was first, Worley second, now bypassing the Mine 18 right now, going back and Yamacraw was third that's down next to the river.

BERGE: Yeah.

PERKINS: Uh, well we ain't going to [unclear]. You can't see but where the camp was where Rock Creek flows into the river and there a concrete bridge there.

BERGE: [Unclear] turn down to Co-Op that way?

PERKINS: Yes mhm, and then on up they had uh.

BERGE: Who had Paint Cliff? Did Sterns ever own that?

PERKINS: Paint Cliff? Na that's the next one. At that time yeah they owned it at 11:00that time, well that would have been another mine. And on up at the uh what they call White Oak Junction that's where White Oak flows into Rock Creek, they had what they called Mine 15. Then when you left Rock Creek and you went up, the Canteen Rail Road had, had what they called a spare track going up to Cooperative Mine and then we [unclear] come back down to Rock Creek and go back up it to the next coalmine would have been Fidelity.

BERGE: That was a big one now, wasn't it?

PERKINS: That was a big mine. Lenny Right was superintendent there I believed till it close and he went from there and took over Mine 18.

BERGE: Who was the superintendent down at Cooperative then when Lenny Right was over?

PERKINS: Uh, let me see they had they had several superintendents there.

BERGE: J.C. Slaven was there one wasn't he?


PERKINS: Yeah, J.C. and this would have been before J.C's time to. I believe, let's see if I remember Eric Logan was a head of J.C. and uh [unclear] Smith.

BERGE: Uh huh.

PERKINS: He was ahead of uh J.C. to, and I believe there was another one but I can't get it right in my mine right now his mine and then J.C. Slaven, mind it I'll call him Cak.


PERKINS: Cak. Castelo is what that C is for.


PERKINS: And he's generally known to miners as a Cak Slaven.


PERKINS: And he's living over here at Revelo.

BERGE: Uh huh, I've talked with him.

PERKINS: You've talked with him?

BERGE: Uh huh.

PERKINS: Yeah. [Unclear] Smiths been dead several years, but uh he has a brother 13:00that was one of the mine bosses for the company for years he's living here at Marshall Sidden about a mile about a mile from where we are.

BERGE: [unclear] over there?


BERGE: I talked with him one night.

PERKINS: Well that's good than.

BERGE: Uh tell me after uh after Lanly was superintendent at Mine 18 who was the superintendent down there then?

PERKINS: Uh he was first [cough].

BERGE: Who after him?

PERKINS: I believe that uh J.C. Slaven.

BERGE: And he was there until it closed, I guess wasn't he?

PERKINS: I believe he was.

BERGE: Uh now that wasn't a very big camp was it?

PERKINS: Well it was a uh a pretty good sized camp at one time.

BERGE: How many houses do you think were there? Would you say?

PERKINS: I would now this is just a guess. I would guess around twenty-five.


BERGE: They would have probably then miners would have probably gone into work on the rail road than? Would you say you probably had more people working there than that, wouldn't they?

PERKINS: Uh oh yeah now I don't know how many men they did work. Because that was a big mine at one time. Most of these fellas go in with their automobiles.

BERGE: That was a real modern mine to wasn't it?

PERKINS: Yes it was, and the tipple and all they were very proud of the tipple.

BERGE: When you uh first came here were they working a lot of mules in the mine? Or was that pretty well...

PERKINS: I don't I believe I believe they got away from that system.

BERGE: When you started?

PERKINS: Yes sir.

BERGE: What uh, of all the company towns that Sterns had. I'm not talking about 15:00Sterns itself I'm talking about you know where the camps were, which would you think were the nicest ones back when those started?

PERKINS: Now to me I'd say Cooperative.

BERGE: Cooperative?


BERGE: Was it the houses nicer or just bigger or what?

PERKINS: Well they had nice, nice houses. I don't know whether if they were better than any other camp, but the land was really better it seem to me for a coal camp than the others. The others, not Fidelity was a was a nice coal camp they had a high school.

BERGE: Yeah, I knew that.

PERKINS: Yeah. And I believe they had, I'm not to certain I believe they had a high school at Cooperative to.

BERGE: Did uh...

PERKINS: They may have not that.

BERGE: Which camp did they have doctors living in do you remember?

PERKINS: Well they had, back in those days they had a doctor at each uh now I 16:00don't Mine 18 was little getting down to a little more modern I say, they didn't have a doctor up there. They had a doctor at practically at each coal camp, when I started working.

BERGE: Did most of the people live, live in those camps uh have their own garden and that type of thing, do you remember?

PERKINS: Yeah uh [unclear]. I don't know whether most of them, yeah the way I say yeah. Those lived in the camp most; most of them had a little garden.

BERGE: Did you have much reason to go to the camp or in your job or you mostly go into places the [unclear]?

PERKINS: Yeah well no I didn't have too much business around, around the mines. 17:00Maybe, maybe surveying land for some of the miners see uh the company had but in a [unclear] allowed the people here sell them oh half acre I'd say on up 100 acres. The general price was a $10 dollar and acre then.

BERGE: Oh is that right?

PERKINS: Yeah, and a lot of the miners they'd uh build out on top of ridges and get out of coal camps.

BERGE: Yep on top.

PERKINS: Yes sir. Had arches, cattle, and hog back then they didn't have any stock laws. A lot of lot of them were very energetic.

BERGE: Was the company cutting a lot of timber when you were with them?

PERKINS: Yeah they had they had just started; their band mill had been closed for several years. Long before I ever.

BERGE: What was it closed for?

PERKINS: I don't really know, and it uh it reopened in uh I believe in uh 1927, about two years before I started working there. They, they were into timber cutting in a big way at that time.

BERGE: Did uh, where did the company make most of their money from, coal or 18:00timber? Would you say?

PERKINS: Well I would, I would say coal cause they uh.

BERGE: They cut a lot of timber.

PERKINS: Generally they talking the general manger that was there, well he 19:00started out with the company John E. Butler uh he was really a coal man. Then the uh assistant manager was Roger Henderson and he had all merchandise and stores under him and he lumber business was under him and he was a he was a lumberman more, wasn't a coal man more. But you get a talking to him [unclear] uh he boost the lumber business up with what that they have done. I know one time over there they had twenty-two million feet of lumber on the yard.

BERGE: Oh my gosh.

PERKINS: That would be very small of course compared to these western states, but here in this country it was a lot.

BERGE: Where would they selling?

PERKINS: Well they had they had a man in Cincinnati I believe that did most of the selling. His name was Edward Garties, G-A-R-T-I-E-S. Edward G. Garties. I remember he had uh that E.G.G. had a egg on his stationary. Wasn't that.

BERGE: Pretty good pretty good advertising.

PERKINS: Advertising, yeah.

BERGE: Then they would ship that out of there by rail to?


BERGE: Just like they did with coal. Where did most of the coal from here go?

PERKINS: Well that's, that's they had uh they had a coal sales man stationed in 20:00Indiana when I started working, and they had one in Atlanta, and they had one in Nashville, Tennessee. Now whether they had more I don't know.

BERGE: Those are the ones you remember best?

PERKINS: Yeah I remember them.

BERGE: They shipped a lot of coal to those places?

PERKINS: Yes they did.

BERGE: When uh back in Mine 18, let's try to remember a little bit. Where was the store down there?

PERKINS: Well the uh store was just down the stream, down the river oh just uh strikes me now, three or four hundred feet below the tipple.

BERGE: When you're talking about below the tipple do you mean?

PERKINS: Downstream from the tipple.

BERGE: Back up towards?


PERKINS: Uh coming down, coming down towards uh well say towards [Waroly?] not.

BERGE: Yeah or Barthlow?

PERKINS: Or Barthlow.

BERGE: Alright, and it was you were going away from Devil's Jump then?

PERKINS: Going away from Devil's Jump yeah.

BERGE: Okay if you were going down the rail road tracks it would be on the right?

PERKINS: Yeah, yeah.

BERGE: Where was the church?

PERKINS: I don't uh.

BERGE: That was on the other side of the tipple wasn't it? Down towards Devil's Jump?

PERKINS: I can't I can't get the church in my mind at Mine 18.

BERGE: Okay. Where was the uh where were houses now?

PERKINS: Well as you as you would go into, into say the store or tipple they had houses in between the railroad and the river, and then they also had them.

BERGE: Up on the hill?

PERKINS: Up on the hill.

BERGE: [crackling sound] Where was the superintendent's house? Do you remember?


PERKINS: No I don't. I don't recall where it was.

BERGE: Do you remember if they had any other buildings down there beside the houses and the store, did they have an office building or anything?

PERKINS: Well they would have had they would have had a time keeper he'd be in the same building where the store and the post office, all that.

BERGE: Now that those stores the store, say at like Blue Heron, would that store wouldn't have as much as store number one over here?

PERKINS: No it wouldn't but uh you have a just a in a way a little bit of everything.

BERGE: And I guess they could get it from store number by the train or something.

PERKINS: They could, yeah.

BERGE: When uh those people do you remember anybody who worked in the store besides that man?

PERKINS: Well a fella by the name of Hulbert Steel worked in that store a while.


BERGE: And where's he?

PERKINS: Uh he he's been dead for number of years.

BERGE: Mhmm. Do you remember anybody else in that store?

PERKINS: It's a little hard, maybe I'll think of it before we separate here. Several young fellas in and out there they not, not as stabilized as Bill Pryer was.

BERGE: The uh, what kind of like when they were working, when Blue Heron was working pretty good did they work more than one shift down there or was that just a one shift mine?

PERKINS: I don't recall and uh business was good I don't know whether they, they ever worked over time or not.

BERGE: Like how many what would be the number of miners that worked down in 24:00there? Do you have any idea?

PERKINS: At Blue Heron or all of them together?

BERGE: Well all of them together and Blue Heron.

PERKINS: Well I well I, this is just a pure guess, of course that were Mr. Lenny right could give you almost an exact figure on that. It would strike me that around 200 miners in Mine 18.

BERGE: 18. So that was quite a few than compared to what lived down there.

PERKINS: Yes, yes it was.

BERGE: There wasn't a hotel down there was there?

PERKINS: No there wasn't.

BERGE: A boarding house rather?

PERKINS: Now they didn't have a boarding house at 18. They had one at Yamacraw and Cooperative and Fidelity.

BERGE: At those boarding houses what would they have? A place for people to sleep, would they have a dinning room?


BERGE: Did you ever stay in any of those boarding houses?

PERKINS: Yeah I have at Fidelity and Cooperative.


BERGE: Were they uh, do you remember them being a good place to eat or not?

PERKINS: Yeah good.

BERGE: Who ran those? [coughing][unclear].

PERKINS: Well at Yamacraw there use to be a lady with the name of Mistress Fleming, F-L-E-M-I-N-G but I don't know what he first name was and uh at Cooperative there was a uh I believe a lady by the name of Chipawood.

BERGE: Mostly women then huh?

PERKINS: Yeah mostly, Fidelity I don't recall who operated it.

BERGE: When you uh, when you would go out and stay at these places would you stay more than one night or was it just usually one night?

PERKINS: Well uh I say I stayed as many as three nights.

BERGE: When you were working in an area [unclear].


PERKINS: Just depends on how I got along with my surveying.

BERGE: When you went out to survey did you go by yourself or did you take some body with you or?

PERKINS: I generally take some body with me.

BERGE: Some body to cut that brush huh?


BERGE: [laughing]

PERKINS: Generally, generally I have maybe take two fellers with me out of Sterns. I had uh chainmen was what I had to watch more than anything.

BERGE: Chainmen?

PERKINS: Yeah, to get the distances right. It's pretty hard to just pick up anyone that will do that right.

BERGE: Did you have just all kinds of people working for you or did you have one or two.

PERKINS: No I didn't have a regular crew that was uh that was one bad fault now that the company had there that I always thought course I've been partial. Yeah you [unclear] pick up someone who had never had a hold of a chain

BERGE: Uh huh.



BERGE: So you were teaching someone all of the time?

PERKINS: Yes sir.

BERGE: You couldn't uh just go out and do it.

PERKINS: No now in them mines they had a regular crew there and uh they did good work. This made a lot of responsibility on me at the time because I transferred now and had to keep a pretty close eye on kind of work they were doing, chain and all.

BERGE: By in large uh from your point of view did you think the comp-was it easy to work for this company or not?

PERKINS: Easy to? Well uh yeah it was easy I mean uh.

BERGE: I don't mean easy with work, but I mean you know.

PERKINS: A good company to work for if they if you had anything coming to you 28:00would get it. Of course they expected that they expected an honest day's work. On surveying I didn't pay any attention to time, we generally around these boarding houses you got up very early men would go to work in the mines and uh probably a lot of the times depend we maybe work till sun down just in order to get the job done or something like that. Pay no attention to the hours or just on a daily basis.

BERGE: When you started working there in 29, do you know remember what you went to work for? How much money you went to work for?

PERKINS: Uh my recollection is a hundred and twenty-five dollars.

BERGE: A month?

PERKINS: A month.

BERGE: Well that was good then, wasn't it?

PERKINS: Well let's see...

BERGE: You know that was the beginning of bad times wasn't it?

PERKINS: To being the crash began at least in October.

BERGE: You went to work right before then?


PERKINS: Uh, just before it.

BERGE: Well did they reduce your salary at any way and anytime?


BERGE: What was the least you made?

PERKINS: During that time I believe they uh I believe that everybody that worked around the office building I believe we got three cuts. I defiantly know we got two, but I think it was three.

BERGE: Do you remember the least you worked for?

PERKINS: I believe I, I believe that I got cut down to eighty something, strikes me.

BERGE: Twenty dollars at the end of the week?

PERKINS: Something like that, yeah.

BERGE: The uh do you remember when wages started to go back up again?


PERKINS: I'd say uh.

BERGE: [unclear] at that time.

PERKINS: They might of uh.

BERGE: [laughing]

PERKINS: No, no that was right to [laughing-Berge] I'd say there might have been 30:00a raise in the 30s and then uh along World War II.

BERGE: Let me turn this over.

[SIDE 2]

BERGE: Do you think that probably uh about the toward the end of the thirties record salaries started going back up again.


BERGE: Of course during the war. I guess in war time they had to pay a better salary to keep people, didn't they?

PERKINS: Well I remember uh Bob Sterns was going to give me uh a nice raise but the government restrained him some what he could only give me just a apart of what he already did. And uh they had salaries.

BERGE: [unclear] price support.

PERKINS: Yeah mhm.

BERGE: [unclear] celling there. When was a time when you worked for the company, 31:00when was business best? When were they mining themselves the most coal?

PERKINS: [coughing] Their banner year they always said was the year I started working.

BERGE: 29?

PERKINS: 29, they put out a million tones. I often thought about why it happened to be a million, but anyway that's a record one million tones.

BERGE: When did it get, when was it real bad?

PERKINS: It got, well it got bad enough they closed in about 1953 I believe, I 32:00believe was the year.

BERGE: It and that was when they stopped mining?

PERKINS: They, they shut down at that time. They uh well in 1935 they had they had a scarp with the UMW and UMW won out they organized.


PERKINS: And they stayed organized then until about I think 53

BERGE: When they shut down?

PERKINS: When they shut down they, I just going [unclear[ Bob Stern and John Wright. I heard a conversation out of them; they said they had just gotten to a point where they couldn't operate. So they stayed down till a few years there and then some local fellas got together and they uh they got enough interests in it that they formed what they called the McCrery County Miners Union. And uh they started back to work from that.

BERGE: Do you remember when that was?

PERKINS: Honestly, honestly that was I say that was in the 50s.

BERGE: So they stayed down a couple years then?

PERKINS: I'd say they did yeah. It looked as though.

BERGE: Yeah because that was a bad time for the county then weren't they?

PERKINS: Yeah it was. Cause the county, the county dependent you might as well 33:00say on the Sterns Coal and Lumber Company.

BERGE: When, not counting that last thing at the Justice Mine, but except for that when was when was there the most trouble in the mines here?

PERKINS: Uh labor trouble.

BERGE: In the 30s?

PERKINS: No, uh I'd say this last strike by far by far.

BERGE: Oh yeah, but not counting that one.

PERKINS: Oh not counting. Well I.

BERGE: In your recollection.

PERKINS: My recollection.

BERGE: This last one was the worse as far as.

PERKINS: Yeah it was worse unless it was, of course I can't remember this, but this is uh. I know this happened on Christmas Day nineteen hundred and eight.

BERGE: When the hotel burned?

PERKINS: Uh they uh some of the UMW men had gotten into the hotel over at 34:00Sterns. They couldn't get them out, and they had I think two or three federal men down, because one federal man got killed in the deal, but they set the hotel on fire. They burned it down to get these fellas out.

BERGE: But that was before your time.

PERKINS: That happened that happened that happened another burning the hotel because that had been in 1908 they had that. I guess this 35 strike it didn't have no body killed in it and uh seems though the miners uh there was a different altitude then what you had in this one. A key man like a electrician or a machinist or something. I need to go back in a check on [unclear] something like that. These fellers in 1935 permitted that.


PERKINS: But it didn't work out like that, this time that way see uh.


BERGE: Why do you think it was so bad this last time?

PERKINS: Well you had destruction of property, you had one miner was killed.

BERGE: Why do you think more like this though last time? Why do you think there was more destruction?

PERKINS: Well I had, in the 35 strike I don't recall buildings being shot into or destroyed like that.

BERGE: What do you think is the difference between 35 and the 70s? What caused the difference I wonder? Do you think different ownership had anything to do with it?

PERKINS: Well I don't I don't believe it did, now that's a hard question cause I wondered about that myself.

BERGE: It seemed like there was less uh seemed like it was more actually more uh 36:00difference of opinion on a part of the miners to whether, about the strike. They weren't together in the same way they were in other ones.

PERKINS: It would seem that way yeah. They dynamited the Can the Kentucky Tennessee one of their engines, and uh they are just very lucky that someone didn't get killed or injured very bad.

BERGE: Generally speaking who were some of the important men around the office that people generally liked and people who worked around the company who were.

PERKINS: Well uh well when I started in there course J.E Butler was a was a uh president and general manager.

BERGE: Was he popular?

PERKINS: Yes he was, very firm-

BERGE: With the workers to?

PERKINS: Yeah, I uh yeah I've heard fellers speak of him you know maybe during 37:00the strike or after it was over with that uh he was uh they always describe him as firm but fair.

BERGE: As a gentleman?

PERKINS: Yes, sir he was.

BERGE: Did he travel much or did he just stay around the office? Did he ever go out to where the mines were?

PERKINS: Yeah now, now uh going back to where when they first started in the coal mining business I had different fellas tell me that he go right in the mine and spend a full day in there. Working and helping out, seeing what was going on, how it was done. I guess really he's a self-educated man in the coal business.

BERGE: What kind of looking man was he?

PERKINS: He was uh fella about my guess is about five feet ten and hundred and eighty pounds I'd say.

BERGE: Pretty big man?

PERKINS: Yeah he was. I believe he was a graduate of the University of Michigan 38:00and I, it strikes me that he was a teacher there before he came here to Sterns and took over here as general manger. But uh they had a good group of officials there in the uh main office. Roger Henderson was next Mr. Butler and he was a fine fella to.

BERGE: You worked more for him than you did for Mr. Butler, right?

PERKINS: I really uh well when I started working I was just, just pretty under Mr. Kenny's all the time.

BERGE: Mr. Kinneworked more for Henderson than he did Mr. Butler?

PERKINS: Well no his work at that time was more Mr. Butler.


PERKINS: Yeah, but I had to prove the sale of land er the buying of land.

BERGE: Did they buy much land when you were working there?

PERKINS: Both quite a bit.

BERGE: What was the most land they owned at one time? Do you have any idea?

PERKINS: Yeah it was a hundred and forty-seven thousand something thousand. I 39:00believe right around a hundred and forty-seven thousand.

BERGE: Acers?

PERKINS: Acers. That was Kentucky and Tennessee.

BERGE: And then how, how small did it get to at the end?

PERKINS: Well uh I believe, I believe it got down to less than ten thousand acres here in this county. If I understand it right in they in Picket County Tennessee they had about ten thousand acres when I worker there. Now I don't know if they ever bought anymore or not, but this [unclear] didn't affect that and uh I understand that uh Bob [unclear] about the same acreage over there.

BERGE: How many acres do they own here now?

PERKINS: Now that's kind of getting away from me here now, but you know that 40:00last deal they made of course as I understand it they sold out the town side of Sterns and the Kentucky Tennessee rail road to three men over there Dwayne King, Evan Tindel, and William [Salor?]

BERGE: Where are those men from?

PERKINS: I believe that [Sailor?] is out of Frankfort, Kentucky or Lexington. 41:00Evan Tindel came here, Evan is, is really a Mississippi born man. And Dwayne King is a native here, his father Wong King got into the lumber business with the company and Ron [unclear] is kind of a young age compared to his father, and uh he took it over and evidently did a good job. Now I'll tell you Dwayne King's wife is Linda Right's granddaughter.

BERGE: Oh I see.


BERGE: That's a connection there.


BERGE: So really the company owns very little land around the county?

PERKINS: Very little I say here and now in McCrery County.

BERGE: Maybe they own more in Tennessee than they do in Kentucky now.

PERKINS: Oh I'd say they do uh as far as I know they own this acreage in Picket 42:00County. Uh they use to own about twenty thousand in Scout, but I believe I believe [unclear] got most of that.

BERGE: Does Sterns Company Mine any, any coal now at all?

PERKINS: Not that I know of.

BERGE: When was the last that they did that you know of?

PERKINS: I would say that was in the uh in the 70s.

BERGE: And then that wasn't much?

PERKINS: No it was cause you had Fidelity then and Cooperative gone, Yamacraw gone, Wirley gone, and uh they, they had reopened at Paint Cliff.

BERGE: Uh huh..

PERKINS: They had they had a mine up there they got coal and uh and at Mine 18, Blue Heron. I guess that was only, only two places there. Yeah, yeah it was it was down at below what it had been in the past.

BERGE: Do you do you remember any specific events or any experience you had 43:00which would be a little out of the ordinary that when you worked for the company worth telling?

PERKINS: Well I, I don't know of anything everything in my line of work there went along I'd say pretty-

BERGE: Yeah. Let me ask you one more thing before we quite. When you uh started getting involved in politics and working for [unclear] Jean Stiler and people like that did you have much trouble with your job? Did they like that or not?

PERKINS: Well Bob Sterns somewhere or other wasn't much of a salary man he kind of kid me a little on why I would be for him

BERGE: But did they let you off when you need to be off and that sort of stuff?


PERKINS: Yeah, they'd do that.

BERGE: So you didn't have much trouble in that perspective with your job with Mr. Siler I mean he still let you off when you had to go somewhere?

PERKINS: Yeah, uh huh.

BERGE: Of course you were getting a long then you were ready to quite yourself by then at Sterns, weren't you?

PERKINS: Uh, yeah Gene, let's see Tim Carner went in 19 and 65 January the first I'd say. And Gene I surveyed under him then.

BERGE: Four years?

PERKINS: Two years.

BERGE: Two years.

PERKINS: I talked with him here a while back and he thought it was five or six years. I wish I had a record of that civil service.

BERGE: [laughing]

PERKINS: So they just added two, but I was always close to him.

BERGE: What kind of shape was Mr. Salor in now?

PERKINS: Uh physically?


BERGE: Uh huh.

PERKINS: In fine shape.

BERGE: How old was he?

PERKINS: I would, well Gene was a World War I veteran.

BERGE: But, you are aren't you?

PERKINS: He's uh he's older.

BERGE: Yeah that's what I thought.

PERKINS: I'd say he, he would have to be 80 strikes me. I think he went to the Navy in World War I when he was very young, and then World War II he dropped he just law practice and volunteered.

BERGE: Why did he quite the House of Representatives?

PERKINS: Well I wondered about that, I think he's always sorry that he did but uh I don't think he liked Washington.

BERGE: He wouldn't have any trouble getting elected.

PERKINS: Not at all no. Once these fellas get in I know that the history of it, 46:00once they get past their second term the history they can stay in as long as they want to.

BERGE: Yeah.

PERKINS: Like Tim Golden he's a good friend of me he served ahead of Jean Siler, but uh he just stayed in six years said he was going to stay in long enough to qualify for pension and get out of it he didn't like it.

BERGE: Mr. Siler, when he uh when he quite what did he do go back into law practice?

PERKINS: Law practice yeah. Have you ever met him?

BERGE: No, I've seen him couple of times.

PERKINS: Well have a talk with him he's.

BERGE: Does he still live over there [unclear].

PERKINS: Yes, yes he does. His office is right down next to the court house anybody can tell you, right upstairs above the bank of Williamsburg.

BERGE: Does he still keep, keep going to his office?

PERKINS: Yes. Yeah he's [unclear] I'd say fine physical condition for a man of 47:00his age.

BERGE: And he still practices law?

PERKINS: Yeas yeah. Now his son.

BERGE: Yeah I was going to say he has a friend in court doesn't he?

[Berge and Perkins laughing]

PERKINS: I thought maybe you might have met him.

BERGE: Yeah I have [unclear].

PERKINS: I've known him ever since he was a child I had quite a bit of dealings with the Baker family to, they represented Sterns Coal Lumber Company of Scout County Tennessee. The senator's father did.

BERGE: Was he a lawyer down there?

PERKINS: Yes, and uh I've done a lot of work in lawsuits, land suits, and stuff like that. I worked with both of them.

BERGE: Did you like, did you know Senator Baker?

PERKINS: Oh I knew him well. I've known him ever since was a just a, I use to go 48:00visit his father's office over there in Huntsville and he check the time and say"it's about time for my son and daughter to get out of school, lets run over and pick them up" I would go to the school with just children. BERGE: How long since you've seen him? PERKINS: How long? BERGE: Since you've seen Senator Baker? PERKINS: Now let's see, last time I saw him was over a Du Pont Lodge at a [unclear] banquet. I believe that was a year ago this February or March one BERGE: Now I want to thank you Mr. Perkins for giving me this interview it's really going to help me particularly with that Mine 18 area. PERKINS: Yeah, well uh I wish I could give you more on that but you be seeing [unclear] you see when you see Lenny Right. 49:00BERGE: Who were some other people you knew down there? PERKINS: Uh miners and. BERGE: Yeah who were some of them miners who lived there? PERKINS: Well I. BERGE: That might still be around? PERKINS: David Therman, well this feller died three or four years ago [unclear], but his widow lives here in town now. BERGE: Did she live down there at Mine 18? PERKINS: Uh he lived at Mine 18. BERGE: And she lived there to then? PERKINS: She lived there to, yeah. She lives here now. BERGE: What's her name? PERKINS: I don't know what her first name is; her husband's name was Jasper, but uh. BERGE: [Unclear] it's probably in the phone book, huh? PERKINS: I'll tell you it's easy. BERGE: I'll write that down. PERKINS: Easy to tell you, well not easy to tell you either, but the lady here uh you go right down here and turn over as though you're going over to the Gradence School, and just as soon as you cross the bridge there the highway bridge that's Mrs. Tapplewire on the left. 50:00UNKOWN FEMALE VOICE: Uh huh yeah I know where. PERKINS: Yeah, yeah and that's where she lives. BERGE: Can you think of anybody else? PERKINS: Hang on [unclear]. I know it will come to me BERGE: Well if you think of any you mind telling Peggy for me and- PERKINS: Alright. BERGE: She can telephone. PERKINS: I'll do that, and that's another thing I'm confident that [unclear] she can go down and get the number of the house, BERGE: yeah, mm hmm. PERKINS: Cause he's just the father of the camp. BERGE: Yeah, yeah uh huh. PERKINS: He's, he's [unclear] in Lexington now. BERGE: Well thank you very much Mr. Perkins I want to thank you for doing this interview. PERKINS: Well I'm glad, I hope it will be a little help I wish I knew more, to tell you. BERGE: Oh you knew plenty. Thank you. END OF RECORDING