Alexander Arthur was instrumental to the early history and the
development of Middlesboro. Coming to the area to prospect he discovered
iron ore and coal I and made plans for this to be an important
mining and manufacturing city. In the early 1900's Middlesborough,
England was the world leader in iron production. With the discovery of
abundant pig-iron in the Cumberland Gap area there was great
expectation for future production, and funds totaling multi
millions were obtained from English investors to construct the railroad
tunnel through the mountain at Cumberland Gap and build a railroad to
transport the product to Knoxville. There were hopes of making
Middlesborough the "Pittsburgh of the South."
In 1890 this Kentucky
city was incorporated, and as a result of the discovery of the ironstone
deposits, the city was named after its English namesake. Although
the spelling was soon altered to Middlesboro to facilitate postal
delivery, the official city letterhead still retains the spelling
From 1899 to 1814, 35 libraries were built by the Carnegie
Corporation. The library in Middlesboro was one of these. On
November 20, 1908, a grant of $15,000 was made with an additional
10% of that amount to be a contribution from the city.
The beautiful building was completed in 1912.
In order to get the key to open the doors, the city needed to present
its $1500. The city probably could not afford that at the time, in any
event the money was not provided. Middlesboro and investors had counted heavily in newly found
iron-ore production, which turned out to be economically disappointing.
the failure of iron, coal mining was the next enterprise. In 1912 there
were 73 coal camps in Bell County, most lasting only a couple of years,
but others opened up. Coal mining continued to be the dominant
economic importance of the area until timber harvest became a factor.
For whatever reason, the city funding to the library was not made and
the building stood empty for a number of years,
Eventually the Middlesboro library occupied the building, but
previous to that it was a
for an overcrowded school system. for a period of time. The Red Cross rolled
bandages here during WWII. It finally did become the public library
before a new modern facility was built a few blocks away on south 20th Street. Most recently
it housed the city police station. And, decisively and
conclusively, it is now the quarters of the Bell County Historical Society
|The Bell County Historical Society was founded during
an organizational meeting at the Middlesboro, Bell County Library
Community Room on September 17, 1981.
The society decided to hold
regular meetings on the third Thursday of each month, alternating
between the Community rooms of the Middlesboro and Pineville Libraries.
The organizations mission statement contained three main objectives,
to publish local history information, including the establishment of a
Bell County historical magazine; to found a museum centered on Bell
County history; and to locate and identify historic sites within the
The first actual physical property of historic value was the
obtaining the old Carnegie Library Building
The society's first major publication was the Bell County Kentucky:
History and People. This book, comprising approximately 400 pages,
contains the history of over 600 Bell County families who submitted
their family histories.
The 10th anniversary celebration of the Museum's beginning was in 2008
- 1899'sBen Harney, originator of Ragtime music .
- 1939 Lee Majors, America actor. Born Harvey Lee
Yeary, grew up in Middlesboro, KY
comedian and star of the TV show
Susan Kingsley, stage and movie
defensive back for
Julie Parrish, American film, stage and
Van "Piano Man" Walls, American
rhythm and blues piano player.
William McElwee Miller, American
Johnnie Sue Bridges, American author and
Leonard F. Mason, Medal of Honor recipient.
David Grant Colson,
U.S. Representative from.
singer of the
Rising Sun Blues.
music in Middlesboro in the early 1890s, inspired by the
African-American and local music styles heard in the community's
Lee Majors is a member of the Middlesboro High School Sports Hall Of
Fame in Middlesboro, Kentucky. Majors played varsity football for the
Middlesboro Yellow Jackets during the 1950s
||MASON, LEONARD FOSTER
b 2 February, 1920, Middlesboro, KY. Private First Class, U. S. Marine
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity
at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as an
automatic rifleman serving with the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine
Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on the Asan-Adelup
Beachhead, Guam, Marianas Islands on 22 July 1944. Suddenly taken under
fire by 2 enemy machineguns not more than 15 yards away while clearing
out hostile positions holding up the advance of his platoon through
a narrow gully, Pfc. Mason, alone and entirely on his own initiative,
climbed out of the gully and moved parallel to it toward the rear of the
enemy position. Although fired upon immediately by hostile riflemen from
a higher position and wounded repeatedly in the arm and shoulder, Pfc.
Mason grimly pressed forward and had just reached his objective when hit
again by a burst of enemy machinegun fire, causing a critical wound to
which he later succumbed. With valiant disregard for
his own peril, he persevered, clearing out the hostile position, killing
5 Japanese, wounding another and then
rejoining his platoon to report the results of his action before
consenting to be evacuated. His exceptionally heroic act in the face of
almost certain death enabled his platoon to accomplish its mission and
reflects the highest credit upon Pfc. Mason and the U.S. Naval Service.
He gallantly gave his life for his country