By Fred Petke/Staff Writer

Seventy years ago, the Bon Jellico mine ceased operations and the site near Williamsburg has slowly returned to nature.

Descendants from those families are working to keep the former coal camp alive in cyberspace. Though the Website went live earlier this week, descendant Gail Pemberton and others are hoping former residents will share their photos and memories.

Those behind the site will be scanning photos and talking with other descendants today from 2-4 p.m. at the Whitley County Senior Citizens Center in downtown Williamsburg.

“We’ll keep updating (the site) until we feel we have it complete,” said Pemberton, whose family worked at the mine. “We don’t want generations later to say ‘What was a mine camp? How did the socialize?’”

Lynn Stenglein has been one of the key people behind building the site, she said, and has her own ties to the former camp. Both have been building on their own families’ history as a starting point for the Website and the community’s history.

During the research, Pemberton found cousins she didn’t know she had and learned about the original “colored camp,” which was closed in 1916 following a gambling incident where two caucasian men were killed by an African-American miner. The shooter was never captured.

The camp, according to the site, was incorporated in 1911 by a pair of Knoxville, Tenn. businessmen with Williamsburg investors. During its 25 year history. approximately 350 families lived in the camp, went to church, attended the two room school and left when the mine closed in 1937. During its, time, 11 deaths were recorded in the mine.

For many years, the former miners and their families reunited every Labor Day weekend at the site on Kentucky 92 west of Williamsburg. Those have ended and the property may fall victim to the state’s highway expansion project, Pemberton said.

The group already has a number of photographs from the camp’s history but not necessarily have the names of those in the photos, she said. There are hopes that the open house can shed some light on those identities and add other elements of the camp’s history, she said.

“We hope a lot of people show up,” she said.



Fred Petke can

be reached at fpetke@thetimestribune.com

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