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Kona, Kentucky

A hamlet in Letcher County, southeastern Kentucky: 37°9.5N, 82°44.5W.

[image ALT: A two-lane asphalt highway thru wooded hilly countryside. On either side of the road a wood frame house a pick-up truck parked nearby. It is a view of the road thru Kona, Kentucky (central eastern United States).]

Approaching Kona from the W, on the road from Millstone.

Kona is a very small place, not much more than a few scattered houses along the shaded narrow old road connecting a dozen other small places all now equally bypassed by the big barren highway a mile or so to the south. Just how small is hard to say, since I can find no census figures broken out for it, but probably fewer than a hundred people live here. This doesn't prevent the town from having history; a bit more than we might expect even, and of an interestingly anecdotal kind.

I found out about this history when, during a long hot walk in June 2006 (diary entry) I stopped at the McAuley's Country Cafe and Deli: one thing led to another, and I got not only a good lunch but a history lesson too; Mr. McAuley's mother Leona was the daughter of William Henry Potter who founded the town.


[image ALT: A long low narrow cinderblock building, the long painted side facing us, but on the left we can see an unpainted end. A shingle roof slopes down toward us and is interrupted by the roof forming a wooden porch over the only door, by which stands an ice machine. To our right of the door, the building's only two windows, of the picture window type. It is McAuley's Country Cafe in Kona, Kentucky.]

"Mama Mac's": McAuley's Country Cafe.

More than a casual conversation though, which with my memory I might have forgotten: Jim and Karen McAuley produced, and allowed me to photograph, a 9‑page typescript entitled A Brief History of Kona, Letcher County, Ky. carefully dated May 30th, 1949 but too modestly signed merely "S. A. M.": the McAuleys did not know the author's identity. To my knowledge it has never been published, and thus it's one of a very small group of items on my website to represent a true original contribution to the world of knowledge.

Because it has never before been published, it is not public domain; the copyright is severally held by the McAuley family, who own the typescript, and me: I keyed the online text from my digital photographs of the single-spaced typewritten pages, tacitly correcting a few typographical errors, which can, however, be recovered by the punctilious-minded from the sourcecode of the webpage. The text itself is pretty careful in fact, and covers the first exploration of the area in the late 18c, the founding and naming of Kona (already shrouded in mystery though not a hundred years ago!) and the coal mining and railroad that were part of it — but also an interesting case of a tree that maybe was, maybe wasn't, initialed and dated by Daniel Boone; and a suitably disproportionate account, from further unpublished materials as far as I can tell, of that disproportionate human being Martin Van Buren Bates. All in all, as minor as it is, A Brief History of Kona is a good read, a window into small-town America.


[image ALT: A single-story brick church, probably built in about 1970, with a small but very pointed steeple, in a parking lot against a forested rural backdrop. It is the Little Rock Baptist Church in Kona, Kentucky.]

The Little Rock Baptist Church.


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Page updated: 23 Aug 09