Kentucky town awarded millions to preserve its coal mining heritage

STEARNS, Ky. — Stearns, Kentucky was and is a coal mining town.


What You Need To Know

  • Stearns, Kentucky was once a coal and lumber boom town 
  • McCreary County Heritage Foundation awarded millions to preserve historic buildings 
  • Stearns is home to Polar Express holiday attraction 
  • Crystal Taylor, granddaughter of a coal miner, runs museum

Like so many communities in eastern Kentucky during the early part of the 20th century, the coal industry was the lifeline.

Eventually, and over decades, the coal mines closed and these once thriving Kentucky towns faced years of decline and hardship.

It’s Crystal Taylor’s job to preserve the history of Stearns and McCreary County. Taylor is the executive director of the McCreary County Heritage Foundation. 

“You can see by looking at them all the different places they worked at and some of the conditions they had to work in,” Taylor said, admiring black and white portraits of coal miners displayed in the museum. The McCreary County Museum is a time capsule, depicting a way of life steeped in coal. 

Museum exhibits include company money or “scripts,” used as advancements for miners. 

“If we come back here, there is actually some script here not only the Stearns Company but also different coal companies as well,” Taylor said during a tour of the museum. 

“You can see we have lots of old artifacts,” Taylor added.

The museum includes a replica company store, with handwritten receipts, and products that would have been stocked in such a store at the early part of the 20th century. Perhaps most engaging are all the photographs of the miners themselves displayed throughout the museum, composites of all the men working in the mines, sitting and standing together, like a team photo. 

“And it shows their hard work and dedication for providing for their families,” Taylor added.

The McCreary Heritage Foundation has been awarded a federal grant worth nearly $5 million. This money will renovate and move the museum into a former coal building known as “Store 1.” (Spectrum News 1/Jonathon Gregg)

Taylor’s grandfather worked in the coal mines and why she will always be connected with a way of life that all but vanished over 50 years ago. 

“He started when he was probably 15 years old, I think, working in the coal mines and done that up until he was no longer able to work. His father worked in the coal mines for Stearns Company,” said Taylor. 

This Stearns native is playing a pivotal role in renovating several historic buildings that once belonged to the mining company. The McCreary Heritage Foundation has been awarded a federal grant worth nearly $5 million. This money will renovate and move the museum into a former coal building known as “Store 1.”

Look no further than the renovated train depot and former coal mining administrative building to have an idea what a rehab might look like. Downtown Stearns and its preserved and renovated buildings is a bonifide tourist attraction. 

A town once reliant on the coal industry is finding a way forward by embracing the memory of it.



This article was originally published by a spectrumnews1.com . Read the Original article here. .