Historical Tidbits



Photo and story supplied by Alma Louise (Kidd) Phillips.

Submitted to this site by: Dee Murphy


1902:  Justus Stearns of Mich. bought ??? acres of land in southern Kentucky. Not long after coal was discovered on the land.  Then the  Stearns Coal & Lumber Co. was born. The company soon built the town of Stearns.  This town  served as the business center of the mining and logging business.  There were over 15 coal camps spread out over the land.  They had their own General Store that served the miners and the loggers.  Justus Stearns owned the first electric sawmill in Ky. and maybe the world.  His company built the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway.  Some of the Coal camps were named Barthell (now a thriving tourist area), Blue Heron (now a swimming ground for the locals), Yamacraw, Comargo, and many others.  In 1907 the large office building was constructed in what is now downtown Stearns.  They used this building until sometime in 1975 and now the Stearns Museum is in the same building.  Sometime in the 1950’s the mines started shutting down.  At this time the camps started becoming abandoned.  By 1975 the Stearns Coal & Lumber Co. had all but gone out of business.  Around this time the Blue Diamond Coal Co.  who had bought up most of Stearn’s holdings was operating.  This company ran coal until the mid to late 1980’s.  The whole town of Stearns comprising of one block is now a historical area and is being slowly but surely restored.

This photo was taken on Christmas day, in the mid to late 30's in Stearns Kentucky.

The building was a theatre and is still standing. Above left was the Mill pond and the Smoke stack which also served as the whistle for the Stearns Coal and Lumber Co.

Each Christmas day, December 25th, Santa came to the theatre and each child standing in line who talked with Santa, was given a one pound box of candy.

If it was warm enough Louise Kidd Phillips was allowed to walk the 1 l/3 miles to the theatre to see Santa Claus

Louise was taken by her sister Grace to see her first movie at this theatre.


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