This week in local history

Published 10:10 am Monday, February 4, 2019

The following events occurred during the week of Feb. 10-16 in Bell County:

1891: The congregation of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church began holding worship services in the church building even though it was not completely finished. There were 120 members with 85 communicants.

1894: The murderer of Mrs. Mary Bowden was hanged in Pineville. This was the first documented legal hanging in Bell County and many people went to witness the execution.

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1898: Due to the small pox epidemic, all neighboring towns, including Pineville and Cumberland Gap, quarantined Middlesboro. Armed guards were stationed in Virginia and at the mines to insure no one from Middlesboro entered.

1899: The newspaper noted that Ben Harney, “one of the original boomers” and assistant postmaster in the early days, was gaining a national reputation for his ragtime music.

1900: By resolution, the Middlesboro City Council declared the office of Mayor W. H. Turner to be vacant and elected R.C. Ford to take his place. Turner was not impeached and no reason was publicly given for the action. (Turner went to court and was finally reinstated.)

1902: Infamous “battle” fought at the Quarterhouse, a saloon and house of ill repute on the Tennessee-Kentucky border up Mingo Hollow. It was estimated that 9 men died, though an exact number was never confirmed. The Quarterhouse burned to the ground and was never rebuilt.

1922: Ms. Rosemary Percefull presented the Middlesboro City Council with a request from the League of Women Voters that it investigate the price of water and electricity. She complained, “We are tired of paying $.39 for our water when it costs $.25 in Knoxville.

1944: Pascal Constanza was making “stelletos” from auto springs and sending these lethal knives to Bell County boys serving overseas. He sent one to his son Pascal, Jr. who was serving in New Guinea. The newspaper commented that, “Aside from probing Japs, it can be a useful knife in the jungle for carving food or wood.”

1957: The Cumberland Hotel in Middlesboro (located on Cumberland Avenue and 18th where there is now a strip mall) was sold to the Elks for $86,000. It was built in 1922 at a cost of $325,000 and replaced the original Cumberland Hotel, which was built in 1890 and had been destroyed by fire.

1960: Bell County had the biggest snowstorm since the winter of 1917-18. There was a total of 12½” of snow on the ground and the temperature was 4 below zero.

To learn more about local history, visit the Bell County Museum, located just north of the Middlesboro Post Office, Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.