Interview SummaryJames Childers was born in 1910 on Adams' Branch near Elkhorn City, Kentucky. His parents, Love Childers and Lizzie Sanders Childers, were born on Marrowbone Creek. Lizzie was raised on the land where Peabody Coal opened up the Allegheny mine. Lizzie sold her land to Peabody in 1906. Lizzie and Love farmed and raised their family on Adams' Branch. James provides a vivid description of the richness of the land and the abundance the mountains provided. The family owned several horses, cows, hogs, sheep, turkeys, geese, and ducks. His mother used the sheep's wool to make socks and weaved blankets on her loom. Childers states that farmers did not have to feed their stock because the mountains were full of timber that provided plenty of "mast" for the animals. He recalls that chestnuts were so plentiful that one could pick up a bushel full in half an hour. Mountain farms also had large orchards full of apple, peach, pear, plum, and cherry trees. Adams' Branch also had many paw-paw trees. Farmers dug roots and herbs, such as pennyroyal, mayapple, and wild cherry bark, to sell to the R.T. Greer Company in Pikeville. As a child, Childers also hunted and trapped and recalls that occasionally a man would come by on horseback to buy the pelts. There were also bear and wildcats on Adams' Branch that fed on the farmers' chickens and young sheep. Childers states that his family would take corn to be ground to Aunt Rachel Sloan's water mill, located above the mouth of Water Branch. They bought their flour in 196-lb barrels and he estimates that they would use 25-30 pounds a week. They also bought salt by the barrel. They rarely bought sugar because they used molasses as a sweetener. His family had a well for water and a springhouse for cold storage. He remembers peddling eggs and other farm products at the Edgewater coal camp on Marrowbone Creek. He mentions community bean-stringings and corn-shuckings. At the age of eighteen, Childers began work as a coal miner for Edgewater Coal Company. He walked six miles to work, leaving at five o'clock in the morning and returning at seven or eight o'clock at night. He started out earning fifty cents an hour as a "chalkeye" or "backhand." This meant he was employed by a contractor or miner and not directly by the company. The miners from Elkhorn Creek did not move into the company towns but continued to live on farms. The mines provided the only means of earning cash. When Edgewater shut down in the spring of 1930, Childers began working at the Henry Clay mine. He describes earning four dollars a day when he first started, but by 1933 wages were down to $2.80 a day. During the miners' efforts to unionize the mines in 1933 and 1934, Childers joined other miners in going out on strike and he describes the violence that eventually erupted. He recalls early UMWA field organizer Tom Raney as the "best speaker in Pike County," and talks about the work divisions within the mines. The coal loaders were the paid the least and were often "backhands." The "company men" who ran the motors and laid track received higher wages. When the UMWA tried to organize the miners, a split developed between miners. The coal loaders sided with the union, while the company men were mostly anti-union. Childers also talks about working in McRoberts, Kentucky and having to walk 24 miles one way to come home on weekends. He recalls the first automobiles in the area and one man who made a living pulling cars out of the mud. Electricity was not run up Elkhorn Creek until the late 1940s. Childers suffered permanent hearing loss in a mine fire at the Allegheny mine on Marrowbone Creek in 1946. He retired in 1963 when he was crippled by a slate fall.