I figured one of the best places to start this blog would be to write about what I know and what I am familiar with. Having lived in Smith for the better part of my life I like to think I know a lot about the area and it’s recent history.
But there has always been a part of the Smith and Martins Fork community’s history that I’ve always heard about, but never quite been able to put my finger on. Oh I’ve heard the stories of Smith Elementary. I’ve saw the foundation of where the school once sat and over looked what has been described to me as some of the most beautiful farm land in all of southeastern Kentucky. I’ve heard tale of Creed Smith’s store and the beautiful stone work of the Smith Presbyterian Church that once stood over near the school. If you walk down around the back side of the lake when the water levels are down you can follow the path where Kentucky State Route 987 once winded around the valley. In a few spots you can even still make out the yellow line.
With these remnants of what once was the Smith community, and stories from my parents, other family members and neighbors I can almost piece together and paint a picture in my mind of what it was like here prior to the early 1970s.
This church was destroyed years after the lake was built and it really is a shame that such a beautiful, historic building was destroyed.
This was the Smith Elmentary School. My dad and his siblings attended school here. The school was closed in the early 70s when planning and preparations were being made to construct the lake. However, unlike many of the other structures and homes, it was not razed until years later in the early 90s.
I’m so thankful for these past pictures and these remnants scattered among the lake site of the history of my community. However, I often wonder, what if the picture I am painting in my mind of what the community around the school and the church is completely different from what it actually was? No matter how it was, I am sure it was absolutely beautiful.
Today Martin’s Fork Lake attracts nearly 200,000 visitors a year and provides much needed flood control for communities down river on the Cumberland River. The lake provides a beach, playground equipment, volleyball and basketball courts, hiking and covered and uncovered picnic areas along with fishing opportunities. Today the Smith community continues to thrive. It is home to roughly 300 people scattered along the valley along the Martins Fork of the Cumberland River. There are 4 churches in operation in the community and a country store.
Upon digging in to the facts of the lake, its construction and its current status I found some very interesting details on the US Army Corp of Engineers website. Did you know that Martins Fork Dam is the only Corps’ structure, stateside, to be constructed while “under fire.” The contractors were fired upon from the surrounding hillsides on three occasions. Now there is an interesting fact to chew on.
For more information about Martins Fork Lake you can visit the Army Corp of Engineer’s page at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Media/FactSheets/FactSheetArticleView/tabid/6992/Article/6618/martins-fork-lake-ky.aspx
For more information about the community of Smith, its history and current happenings you can go to the facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/179323525468975/