Friday, October 29, 2010

A Visit to Bells Mines

One of my favorite areas of western Kentucky is the Bells Mines neighborhood of northern Crittenden County.  It was settled in the early 1800s and settlers from North Carolina and Virginia and South Carolina took up land and reared their families in these hills.  Then, coal was discovered and miners from England and Germany and other countries came, bringing their customs, beliefs and dreams.

Marker at former site of Bells Mines Church

The hills were dotted with homes, often with family cemeteries located within walking distance.  Many folks attended Bells Mines Cumberland Presbyterian Church or Greens Chapel Methodist Church.  Both churches are gone now - first Greens Chapel and more recently, Bells Mines,  but the adjoining cemeteries remain  in use.  

Bells Mines Cemetery
15 October 2010

Even with the houses and barns gone, it is easy to imagine what this thriving community was like.  In its heyday, there were farms and schools and churches. The mines were active and coal was loaded on boats to be shipped to distant places. Babies were born, young couples married and old people died, surrounded  by their family and friends.

Then, the mines closed and people began to move away.  In the 1950s Alcoa purchased over  11,000 acres of land on both sides of the Crittenden - Union county line, including Bells Mines, with the intention of building an aluminum smelter.  Families relocated, leaving the land to return to a natural state, but the projected plant was never built.

On a recent afternoon, the trees were alive with color. Bells Mines Cemetery seemed almost desolate with some  tombstones fallen and others weathered so they were unreadable. Nothing, though, hides the beauty of the area and it is easy to see what drew those early settlers here.  

Bells Mines Church Road
15 October 2010

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