The History of Pine Knot
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Submitted by Peggy Wilson
An Act of creating the county of McCreary
The Pine Knot Investment Company was organized with W. H. Meadors as president. This was done for the purpose of obtaining certain lands to be donated to the newly formed McCreary County Fiscal Court to be used for a county seat. The courthouse square was to be at the Henry Creekmore residence on Main Street. A portion of the H. C. Smith Farm was to be used for a high school and grounds. The town site was to include the George Kidd land, about 59 acres of the Smith property, and the lands of Andrew Hayes.
Flem D. Sampson and his brother, John, both had worked hard to get the legislation passed, and were pleased at the prospect of having the county seat at Pine Knot, considered to be the nicest town in the area chosen as the seat of government. They were looking for investment property. (The Pine Knot group, however, did not like the idea and were cool to outsiders.)
Soon, the Pine Knot leaders learned that there was a movement to have the county seat located in Whitley City. John W. Sampson and A. E. Lambdin, all from Barbourville, filed Articles of Incorporation of “The Whitley City Improvement Company,” who had dreams of acquiring land, building a power plant, water system, and printing press. The entire area was excited. Later, citizens learned that Judge Sampson had bought a large tract of the Geary land, in and around Whitley City and a portion free to the county for a building site for “The New Courthouse”! (Though, other sites were suggested).
In the week before the election was held, it became clear that a race of major proportions was building over the choice of a permanent county seat.
Election for a County Seat
As the election approached, there were public speakings at every schoolhouse, church, and store, wherever the issue was debated. Stearns officials requested their town not be in consideration. Once the election was held, however, it was the Stearns precinct that gave a big majority to Whitley City.
The Whitley City Banner (newspaper) published on Friday, September 13, 1912, the final vote was Pine Knot 982-Whitley 1122. Whitley City became McCreary County’s seat of government by a majority of 140 votes.
Under the act that created the county, there was a provision for the county court and the two magistrates nearest the temporary county seat to canvass the election returns and certify the results. The two magistrates were Avery Williams and T. M. Hayes of Strunk’s Lane and Pine Knot magisterial district, respectively. The appointed Judge was J. C. Goode.
Judge Goode did not immediately certify the result of the election, as it was alleged that Whitley City had received too many votes for the permanent county seat.
On September 11, 1912, a group of irate citizens descended upon Pine Knot, demanding certification of the election results and warned Judge Goode that unless he acted at once, they would seize the ballot boxes! Under pressure, Judge Goode suffered a nervous breakdown and took too his bed, but the group was not to be deterred. They went too his bed and issued an ultimatum! The group had already thrown rotten eggs at Henry Spradlin’s law office and had a major brawl with a group having lunch at the Strunk Hotel.
The Whitley City Banner reported that Pine Knot was terrorized by two hundred armed men (truthfully, probably thirty or forty).
Whitley wins the Seat
On September 15, 1912, by order of the Pulaski County Circuit Court, Judge Goode, T. M. Hayes, and Avery Williams all met in Pine Knot at the county clerks’ office for the purpose of canvassing the election returns for the election held in McCreary County on September 7, 1912.
They declared the votes received for Pine Knot by precincts, but none for most precincts, and a random few for others to indicate the votes received for Whitley. The total number of votes cast for Pine Knot was 980 and for Whitley 1111. “To which results of said election,” they declared, “we hereinto certify the county court clerk of McCreary County Kentucky.” This was signed J. C. Goode, Judge McCreary County:;T. M. Hayes, J. P. and Avery Williams.
Despite this, it seemed that Pine Knot was not giving up the fight, alleging illegal voting practices, voters not legally qualified, and voters not understanding the ballot.
Pine Knot was not idle and a bitter rivalry that began during the election campaign continued. The temporary county seat remained at Pine Knot. In due time, they could make claim of having the first telephone service with lines extended beyond the vicinity of Pine Knot. The Williamsburg line was of one circuit and served the Holly Hill section where Will Ashton, a magistrate, held court in the Junior Hall (Jr. O.U.A. M.) at Holly Hill.
In the meantime, Attorney D. E. McQueary started a newspaper in Pine Knot, The McCreary County News, Judge Goode faded from the scene, and the location of a permanent county seat was left pending.
The McCreary County Court, however, held session on Monday, August 11, 1913, at the courthouse in Pine Knot. Judge Williams presided and ordered that an election be held November 4, 1913. Williams issued instructions that any town, place, deserving to be voted for a permanent county seat shall file a petition thirty days before the election. A ballot for this vote was designed.
On November 4, 1913, an election served to clarify the permanent location of the county seat. Following, on November 7, 1913 it was reported: “It appearing to the satisfaction of this court that Whitley has been selected the permanent county seat of McCreary, Kentucky! It is ordered that each and every county officer move their office to Whitley Immediately”!
The new county’s public officials were to take their posts at the new seat of government beginning in 1914.
The long labor was over, but the bitterness brought on by the fight over the location of the “County seat” was never forgotten by Pine Knot.
Note: In the early days of Pine Knot, the new bank building was also the office of Dr. Jemiah E. Harmon and was used for county court sessions.
The first Circuit Court to convene in the temporary courthouse, convened on Monday, February 1913, with Judge Flem D. Sampson presiding, and J. B. Snyder, the Commonwealth Attorney. Other attorneys attending those early sessions were W. R. Cress, H. C. Cress, J. E. Stephens, H. M. Cline, W.I Hinkle, and H.C. Cress, as well as Wil Caylor, R. L. Pope, and D. E. McCreary. Court lasted twelve (12) days. There were several murder cases on the docket.
(Continued in next week’s Voice)