19 July 2010

Henry Preston Scalf: Day Tripping in Eastern Kentuck

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber

The sun was blazing on our day trip to Ivel, Floyd County, Kentucky. Our outing to Davidson Memorial Cemetery was two fold. We wanted to pay our respects to aunt Mildred Rucker Hall Crisp and Boone Hall. Both Mildred and Boone had taught for many years in the Floyd County school system. Secondly we wanted to see if there was a marker for Confederate Soldier Middleton Garrett.

The office 3x5 cards quickly verified that there was no marker for Middleton Garrett. We parked the car on the hillside and walked among the various sections taking the stairs up and down the hillside. Flowers overwhelmed the cemetery that is teetering, literally on the hill. As I turned to head back to the shade of the car I smiled as I recognized a very familiar name.

Henry Preston Scalf was one of the first people I corresponded with when I began genealogy in the 1970's. [Ok I admit I have been around awhile!] Sadly I was introduced to him near the end of his life. We became acquainted when I subscribed to The East Kentuckian. Scalf was editor and I looked forward to the quarterly bringing me a little flavor of Kentucky while living in New Jersey.

Looking back at the old newsletters that have traveled with me from New Jersey to Ohio and finally back to our beloved Eastern Kentucky, I see the love he put into everything he did. Each of my 1978 editions are hand addressed. By 1979 Scalf's friend and fellow writer, Clayton Cox had taken over as editor of the publication. The front of the March issue shows a wonderful picture of Henry P. Scalf standing beside a Kentucky highway marker commemorating Tandy R. Stratton on Mare's Creek, Floyd County. I had found my way to this wonderful publication because of connections between the McBrayer and Stratton families.

Cox began the issue with information on the founder of The East Kentuckian stating that he was a "distinguished historian and genealogist of Eastern Kentucky." Henry Scalf was also a distinguished teacher in the Floyd County School system but for most of us we will forever remember him for his many publications on history and genealogy and what he has taught us about our Eastern Kentucky ancestors. He was awarded a Kentucky Citation for Outstanding Journalism in 1954.

Among his many publications was Kentucky's Last Frontier with an honored forward by Thomas D. Clark who was named Historian Laureate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The book is still available and gets a five star rating on most sites handling the publication. Another favorite publication of Scalf's was Four Men of the Cumberlands which told of the story Devil John Wright and others and is now out of print.

Henry Preston Scalf married 21 October 1831 in Pike County to Norah James who also loved teaching. When her husband became ill Norah took the reins of the quarterly to keep it going until Clayton and wife Elizabeth Cox stepped in. At that time the publication shifted from Stanville, Kentucky to a Lexington address.

If it were not for teachers and genealogists like Henry Preston Scalf, I may not have taken up pen and paper to follow the path I have taken. It has been a good journey and because of Scalf and his creative publications I have been able to formulate a respect for the pioneers that proceeded me in these wonderful hills that I call home. His research was grass roots and in depth research without aide of the click of a computer. He knew the importance of sharing information with others so that our history would continue to be handed down from generation to generation.

Standing on the side of the hill just outside Allen at Ivel, Floyd County, Kentucky I paid my respects and knew the warm feeling was not just from the sun beating down but the warmth of good feelings for those that came before us so we could continue on the journey.


Henry Preston Scalf
20 February 1902-2 September 1979


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