Newspaper Index

Clay County, Narrows

This is a clipping of an old newspaper article of which I can’t place the source: apparently was a reprint of one from the Lexington Herald Leader.  We can credit Nevyle Shackleford.  The Narrows are on the South Fork River between Newfound Creek and Crane Creek and center around  Teges Creek.  This was the old stomping ground of Capt. Adoniram Allen and the Allen family grist Mill.  Patty’s rock has an historical marker on State Route 11.
We are indebted to Nevyle Shackleford, Beattyville correspondent of the Lexington Leader in an issue several weeks ago, for an interesting bit of history.     It is an article on the Clay County Narrows of the South Fork of the Kentucky River, a mile or so from•Teges and is revealing of the dangers encountered in raft "running" in Eastern Kentucky.We let Mr. Shackleford tell the story: ~ It is a land of wild water, smallmouth bass, singing birds, abelea, tall wooded hills, and bottoms broad ~ enough for all the facilities necessary. More than that it is rich in pioneer and Indian lore.~
The Clay County Narrows, or as it is more widely known, "The Naars," is a mile-long stretch in the South Fork River which owes most of its notoriety to raftsmen of times long gone. These rapids which are said to fall twelve and a half feet to  the mile, was a nightmare in the lives of old-time ratfsmen who had to pilot rafts through them. And 69-year-old Granville Davidson, who now hangs out around Oneida, recalled that once a logger entered the Narrows on a raft, he virtually took his life in his hands. With the river at high tide and boiling between the cliffs like high seas racing before a storm, one error on the part of the raftsmen usually resulted in their craft being overturned and broken on the hidden rocks.
Irvine Hensley who "ran the river" for nearly 50 years and, as a consequence, navigated the danger
out narrows many times, said, however, that fatalities were miraculously few. Many raftsmen, he said, were injured on the short trip but as far as he knew, only one man lost his life..Hensley recalled many narrow escapes from drowning, one of which involved John (Buffalo) Burns. Like many other persons who have made a living on the water, Burns couldn't swim.
As Hensley recounted, Burns, two or three other men, and himself started to take a raft through this stretch one day when it went out of control, bowed a rock, swung around in the current, and went under the boiling water. Hensley and the other men were swept off the raft, but Burns who had grasped a tiepole used to fasten the logs together, went under. He was gone and gone, Hensley said,. and we knew he was drowned.
But after an elapse of several minutes, Hensley continued, the' portion of the raft on which Burns had been riding, resurfaced. Burns' was still grasping the tie-pole.
"We all swam back to the raft," Hensley said, "and were trying to get it back under control. We still thought him dead but after we had got the raft straightened out, I looked back to see him spouting water I like a hippopotamus. By the time we had navigated the stretch and had  reached quieter water, old Buffalo ' had recovered. He must have been under the water for a full ten minutes.

Aunt May Bishop whose husband Blowey Jim Bishop, was numbered among th eintrepid raftsmen remembers that people used to line the banks of the river at every tide ~ to watch the men fight for their lives going through the "Naars:" .  ".It was," she said,,"sort of a Roman holiday."

At the exit of the Narrows the mouldering remains of an old water mill can still be seen. Years ago this mill, operated by Frank Allen, was the center of social life in the area. Old-timers around nearby Oneida recall that while waiting for their "turns" to be ground, they  would sit around the fireplace in' the mill, parch,corn, and indulge in various ,forms of horseplay which I often wound up in good old-fashioned free-for-all fights. One way of getting a fight started, they said, was to heat grains of corn to parching heat and then drop them down some unsuspecting person's shirt collar. This trick rarely ever failed. ~
A thousand and one tales exist of episodes and incidents occurring at the Narrows and indeed it is romantic country. These stories alone, should a park be established, would certainly attract many people.
Then all up and down the river on both ends of the Narrows, the swift water offers the potential for some of the best smallmouth and muskie fishing in the state. 'There are deep quiet pools and sandy
beaches excellent for bathing; brcad  ...............I've lost the rest.
 My grandpa James D Bishop had a store from about 1910 to 1940 which was prosperous in the Bishop Bend as a favorite landing point for the raftsmen who had made it through the Narrows.
Those days are gone forever.

Submitted by:  Jim Philpot






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Last updated 4.1.2006