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The hope is that the centennial will be a springboard for efforts to keep Lynch from withering away.“The city was built by coal but it can be maintained by something else,” said Rev.Lynch resident Irene Florek, who is 100, arrived in town with her family when she was a few months old. Florek lived near the baseball field and remembers frequent activities including games and parades.
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Many were thrown together with cookie-cutter houses, poor sanitation and few amenities.
A photo from July 1919 shows construction of mining and other facilities at Lynch, in Harlan County. Photo provided Lynch, however, was considered a model town, with better-built houses of varying styles; health care better than that available to most people in the region; recreation opportunities that included lighted tennis courts, the baseball field, a bowling alley and dances at the hotel ballroom; paved streets; a sewage system; and a company commissary that was reputed to be the best department store in Eastern Kentucky, according to historians.
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Lynch resident Mike O’Bradovich talks about the 100th birthday of the historic Harlan County coal town.
“It was a lot of fun here at that time,” Florek said. Steel banned church services and public gatherings to try to limit the spread, and set up a temporary hospital. Photo provided Lynch was a classic melting pot of white people from the region, black people from the South and immigrants of more than 30 nationalities. Steel recruited black workers from Alabama and other Southern states who were looking for better work than sharecropping, including some recruited from older mines in the Birmingham area.
The company history recounts milestones from Lynch’s first 40 years, including a meningitis epidemic that hit the area in early 1936. Six of the 100 Lynch residents who got sick died, but the death rate was 80 percent or more in nearby communities, according to the company history, which attributed the relatively few deaths in town to the good medical care from company doctors. In 1921, nearly 60 percent of the outgoing mail was to Europe, according to one history. The company also had recruiters at Ellis Island who used ship manifests to identify European immigrants with mining experience that they could hire, Goode said.
Italian immigrants used sandstone quarried from the nearby hills to build impressive public buildings. Goode, a retired community college professor who grew up in the neighboring coal town of Benham and has studied the history of Lynch, said of other coal towns.
The thought was that keeping miners content would enhance production and keep down problems. Steel coal town in West Virginia to work at the new Lynch mines.
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