The US Post Office for the community of Partridge, Kentucky is located about a mile and a half from the Letcher / Harlan County line on an old alignment of US 119. Partridge is about 5 miles north of Cumberland on US 119 and about 18 miles south of Whitesburg in Letcher County.
There are conflicting sources of information about this theater and its origins online. I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon trying to figure out which theater this is of the three that have been in the small town of Neon, Kentucky over the course of its existence.
Im leaning towards this being the theater that was built in 1949 to replace The Bentley that was destroyed by fire in 1944. The architectural features of this building tend to lend itself to that era.
There were hopes as recently as 2012 to restore the theater but no action on those hopes have come to reality yet.
The building most recently served as a combination Army Surplus Store / Video Rental
High On The Hill
Fleming-Neon High School is located high upon the hill above the town of Flemming-Neon. Fleming-Neon has a particularly interesting history as until 1977 Fleming and Neon were two separate Municipalities. In all technicalness of the geography of this town, the school actually is located in what was Neon prior to the city consolidation.
The Fleming-Neon High School was originally built by the Elkhorn Coal Corporation in 1925 to provide an educational system for the children of the coal miners. The school’s mascot was a pirate and the school colors were purple and gold. A picture of this structure can be found by clicking HERE
Fire & Reconstruction
On the night of February 11, 1958 the original Fleming-Neon High School was destroyed by a fire. High School classes were then held in the neighboring elementary school while the present high school structure was completed in the same spot, high up on the hill. Enrollment at the time of the fire was 380 students. Finally on May 21, 1960 the new 14 room high school was dedicated.
Consolidation and The End
In 2003 The Letcher County Board of Education moved forward with a plan and began construction on a new centralized consolidated high school that would result in the closure and the end of the three county high schools, Letcher, Whitesburg and Fleming-Neon. At the end of the 2004-2005 school year Fleming-Neon High School closed. It’s final enrollment count was 218 students in grades 9-12.
Dawahares was a (almost) Kentucky exclusive department store that operated stores across the state and one store in Tennessee and 2 in West Virginia.
The first of those stores, which grew to around 30 at its peak in the early 2000s was this store at Neon, Kentucky. This store opened in 1922 and the owner and his family resided above the store. This location on main street in Neon closed in 1987.
In 2006 Dawahares closed several locations, including the one in Harlan at Village Center Mall where Goody’s currently is. In 2008 Dawahares announced they would liquidate and close the remaining 22 stores.
Kingdom Come Elementary School is located in Letcher County along state route 160. This is the school that you can see the roof of off in the valley from the overlooks in Kingdom Come State Park in Cumberland. The school’s roots can be traced back to 1924 when the Kingdom Come Settlement School was founded.
Until the mid 1960s Kingdom Come Settlement School would act as a combined school serving students from Elementary all the way through high school.
In the mid 1960s the Letcher County Board of Education decided to start building newer, modern, larger schools. It was suggested that high school students at Kingdom Come be transferred to Whitesburg High School and Kingdom Come become a K-8 facility.
In this plan neighboring schools of Bear Branch, Coyes Gap and Hurricane Gap would close and students would be absorbed into the new Kingdom Come Elementary.
After several delays, in the fall of 1971 construction began.
A new school was built at Kingdom Come where it remained in operation until 2007 when faced with budget issues the school of 85 students was closed.
From research I have done, this building was part of the original Kingdom Come School and remained in use as the new school was being constructed.
The school now serves as a multi purpose community center.
Since I’ve been roaming the area for old abandoned schools one thing that I havent come across much of is a one room school. The Bear Branch School is probably one of the most intact and newest constructed one room schools in this part of the country.
Located along state highway 510 in a part of Letcher County almost disected from the rest of the county by mountains and rivers is the community of Gilly and Gordon near the Harlan and Letcher County Line. Along the highway when driving through Gordon you will notice a few interesting buildings. The most interesting and probably historic of these buildings is the old Bear Branch School.
I first came across this old school thanks to someone geotagging it on google maps. So when you pull up a map of the area and type in ‘school’ several dozen schools pop up. 90% of those are long gone, but once I cruised in on google earth and streetview I realized that this school was still standing and largely in tact.
I had to sort through some confusion when researching this school in large part thanks to my predetermined bias that one room schools were largely built way before when this one was actually constructed. This was actually the second Bear Branch School. There had been a school at Bear Branch as early as 1915. At that time the school had around 60 students.
This Bear Branch School was constructed around 1948 replacing the older Bear Branch School that was a wooden structure. I had to sort through some confusion when researching this school in large part thanks to my predetermined bias that one room schools were largely built way before when this one was actually constructed. This was actually the second Bear Branch School. There had been a school at Bear Branch as early as 1915. At that time the school had around 60 students ranging in ages from 18 to 6.
While researching for this entry I found several references to this older building, leading me to believe that this building was much older than it actually is. In a 1949 edition of the Mountain Eagle, a newspaper from the county (Letcher) seat of Whitesburg there is an advertisement for bids on the old school. Those interested contact Superintendent Martha J Potter. a pdf image of that newspaper clipping can be viewed here: Mountain Eagle Article
How progressive, strange and admireable it was to find a woman named as a Superintendent as a school system in rural eastern Kentucky in the 1940s. In fact, the early 1940s. Martha Potter was named superintendent of Letcher County Schools in 1943.
In 1963 Letcher County began building new, larger school centers replacing the old one and two room schools like the one at Bear Branch. It was recommended that as soon as roads are fixed and transportation was arranged that the 15 students enrolled at Bear Branch be transfered to Kingdom Come Settlement School about 10 miles away in Linefork.
Seco is an unincorporated community in northern Letcher County between Flemming-Neon and Whitesburg located off US 119 along the north fork of the Kentucky River.
The Seco post office was established on October 2, 1915.
The town of Seco is named after Southeast Coal Company which had a large operation here from 1915 to 1957. Southeast Coal Company also had a large operation in nearby Millstone. The company store for Southeast Coal was restored and turned into a winery in the mid 90s.
Several of the old camp houses in Seco still stand and are used as residence by the people of Seco.
Beckham Bates Elementary School located along state route 7 in the Colson community of Letcher County just north of Whitesburg first opened its doors to students in 1961.
On December 21, 2011 the Letcher County Board of Education voted to close the school as the enrollment had fallen to under 200.
Finally in May of 2012 on the last day of school, Beckham Bates Elementary School closed its doors to students after 51 years of service to the community.
Today the school is home to Appalachian Service Project where volunteers board during their stay in the mountains.
It is also home to the Colson Head Start center. Where pre-K classes are held.
The usage of the building might change, but in the driveway the sign with the name Beckham Bates lives on.
As well as on the right side of the building near the main entrance.