Middlesboro founder’s great-great granddaughter visits area

Published 12:13 pm Thursday, February 28, 2019

The great-great-granddaughter of Middlesboro’s founder made a visit to the community Thursday. This marked her second visit to the city.

Catherine Russell and her husband Tom arrived on Wednesday afternoon and toured around the community.

“Yesterday, we came in and we went to the Pinnacle,” said Russell. “We went to the train tunnel that Alexander built, and we traveled around town. Today, we are going to the cemetery to see the graves.”

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Russell explains that she was going through some pictures, and it reminded her of the history.

“I wanted to bring my husband to show him my history,” she said. “We called my cousin, and she met us yesterday and we have just been hanging out ever since. It’s pretty neat to think of it. You see other people get excited, and it’s cool because I grew up hearing stories from my granddad. I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I do as an adult.”

Middlesboro Main Street, Bell County Tourism and Bell County Chamber of Commerce organized a tour of the city that was going to be led by Tom Shattuck and Bell County Historian Ann Matheny.

“We were so excited about the founder’s great-great granddaughter visiting,” Sheila Durham, Executive Director of the Bell County Chamber of Commerce said. “We collaborated and got this get-together organized.”

“It takes us back to being prideful of our area and celebrating our heritage and our vision that our founders had for our area,” Emily Ayers, Director of Middlesboro Main Street said. “Seeing how multiple generations have went by and they still want to come by and see how their family helped develop. That is something that is really exciting to me.”

Russell recalls one of her favorite stories was one that struck her as odd, but she says it is a story that her granddad would tell several times.

“There was a story that my granddad would always say, and I think it was of Nelly putting one of the baby’s in the oven to warm them up,” she said. “It struck me as odd, but it was so far back in the day that I don’t think it was odd to them. I guess it was really cold and they opened up the oven, put some blankets in, cranked it a little bit and put the baby in there to warm it up.”

Russell also had planned a trip to the Bell County Museum, where she wanted to sit down with Matheny. Matheny was already excited about the day ahead and met Russell many others at the Arthur/Middlesboro Museum at 10 a.m. Thursday for brunch.

“Your great-great grandfather helped build the museum,” Matheny explained. “A great story is that her great grandfather was helping to build that building and was on the construction crew, and her great grandmother was teaching high school which was in the Masonic Hall right across the way. She fell in love with him looking out the window. It’s such a nice story.”

Matheny was very excited for Russell to see the Bell County Museum.

“You have to see the building that he built,” Matheny said. “That’s one of the last things Alexander Arthur did for our town was to write letters to Mr. Carnegie to get the library.”

Russell grew up in Wilmington, Delaware after her grandfather moved their family from Knoxville, Tenn. when he got a job up north.