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8/21/14

I’m very proud to have recently been reappointed to the Kentucky Humanities Council Speaker’s Bureau. Reading my books and talking about my film to groups across the state make for a very satisfying evening and I appreciate the Council’s confidence in me.
- Jerry Deaton

Upcoming Events:

  • Saturday, August 23, A Gathering of Authors, Paul Sawyier Public Library, Frankfort Ky 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 26, Reading at the Breathitt County Public Library, Jackson Ky 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Friday, August 29 thru August 31, Booth at the Breathitt County Honey Festival, Jackson Ky
  • Thursday, September 18 thru Saturday, September 20th, Hazard, Ky Black Gold Festival Booth
  • Saturday, September 21, Reading for The Sages, Epiphany Church, Louisville Ky 12:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 25th, Cherokee Roundtable, Louisville Ky, Release of new book, Christmas Greetings; An Anthology by the Cherokee Roundtable, Louisville Ky 6:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 4, Monticello, Ky, Reading at the Historic Wayne Theater, 6:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 30, Lindsay Wilson College, 7:00, Reading/Discussion of film.

5/17/2014

To celebrate the release of his new book, Kentucky Boy, My Life in Twenty Words, Jerry will host a book launch/reading at the Paul Sawyier Public Library in Frankfort, Ky on Thursday, June 5th at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited.

 

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Jerry Deaton releases new book.  Kentucky Boy: My Life in Twenty Words.

Five years ago I set out to write this book, but  set it aside to write my book of ghost stories. When that was accomplished, my film on the feuds of Breahtitt County took my attention in another direction. When the dust finally settled, I picked back up from where I left off and completed my book on growing up in 1960′s, 70′s, and 80′s  Breathitt County. I wanted people to know that a great many of us had wonderful experiences growing up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, in spite of the many books, films and news stories that attempt to tell otherwise. In a slight twist on the usual memoir, I decided to choose twenty words that described my experience and then write short essays on each. The result is a nice description of the more important aspects of my young life, surrounded by the small things that most people would have never noticed but nevertheless made life more interesting. I was honored to have Ms. Anne Caudill write a foreword for my book, which appears below.very nicely sums up what life in the mountains was like. Anne is the widow of the writer and social/environmental activist Harry Caudill and very nicely sums up what life in the mountains was like.

 

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Forward:

Twenty words summarize the experiences of young Jerry Deaton growing up in Breathitt County, Kentucky. Twenty words title twenty chapters! Different words, and some of the same, can summarize the overlapping segments of the life of each of us. Those whose early years were spent in rural or small town eastern Kentucky are fortunate indeed. From earliest memories they viewed the lush green mountains of eastern Kentucky, the rich lands of its valleys, the beauty of its streams and rivers, the animals, domestic and wild. Fortunate are they who grew up learning how to work and nourish the land, produce its crops, freely wander its woodlands, know its trees and wildflowers. Fortunate are they to know and work with neighbors, attend church with them, find playmates and school friends among them. Fortunate are they to know and be nourished by parents, grandparents and kin. In essence it is a great gift to be so firmly rooted and sustained.
Jerry Deaton has the power of keen observation and knowing how to relate to people and to listen to them. He recalls a time and a place where family ties and neighborhood connections were close. It was still a time of sharing the stories and ways of earlier generations. In those days before the prevalence of modern techniques of communication, family and neighbors gathered on summer porches, by winter fireplaces or stoves, at kitchen tables, at church or post offices to talk. There was talk of crops, and politics, news of neighbors, laughter, and sometimes sharing of grief. In his clear and concise telling of his own story, Jerry has described for us a way of life, distinctive and good. It is a culture and a people I knew well in the forty years I too lived in rural eastern Kentucky, helping my husband Harry Caudill write about the history and lives of his people.
Jerry, like so many thousands of others, found he must leave those beautiful mountains to find a lucrative and successful life elsewhere. No matter how long away, or how well adjusted to urban living, those who have lived there continue to be enticed by dreams of returning. In his captivating twenty chapters Jerry Deaton tells us why.

Anne F. Caudill

 

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Friends, this is a story I am preparing to go in my next book, a memoir about growing up in Breathitt County. I hope it adds something to your holiday. Merry Christmas!

CHRISTMAS

 The only reminder of my second Christmas is a fading, color photograph of my sister Leah and me under a small, lit tree at our home in Owensboro, Ky. I don’t remember that Christmas, nor do I remember the one where I’m nervously perched in Santa’s lap at a department store in Hazard the following year. But very soon after that, things really started to take shape, and from there on, it didn’t take long for Christmas to become the most special time of the year in the Deaton household.

 Let me begin to put things into perspective. First of all, in the eastern Kentucky Mountains of the 1960s, there was no such thing as cable television. If you even had a tv, it was because your dad had run a strand of wire to the top of the hill behind your house and attached it to an antenna that he’d stuck up in the top of a big tall tree. That was considered high tech, and on a good clear day, all three channels from Lexington came limping into the black and white set in your living room.

 But then, during that magical season of Christmas, some very special television programs briefly flashed into our quiet, mountain lives. I’m talking about “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Charlie Brown Christmas,” the “Grinch,” and the saddest, most heart wrenching show of them all, the one that made us cry and scared us to death of robbers, “The Little Drummer Boy.” The magical, claymation wonders of “Rudolph and the Abominable Snowman” would dance around on the screen, with the reassuring voice of Burl Ives as a snowman who narrated the show dressed in a plaid vest, strumming a little fake guitar and singing reassuring songs. These shows were very special, and because VCR’s and TiVo had yet to be invented, we only got to see them once.

 The thought of missing out heightened our sense of awareness and kept us in a constant state of excitement. Heaven forbid you forgot the time and ended up in your room at 8:00 p.m. on a mid December evening in 1970, playing with a GI Joe. Or worse, what if Frosty came on the same time as The Lawrence Welk show? These factors had to be considered and somehow put an edge on the Christmas season. The T.V. Guide suddenly became my property, hidden under my pillow with the Christmas show page dog eared and the time underlined in #2 pencil.

 When show time finally arrived, sister and I sat cross legged on the floor, faces just far enough away from the screen to satisfy Mom’s fear of radiation poisoning. Soft flickers of gray light danced across the living room walls for we were several years away from our first color tv, and for one blissful hour we were swept into the land of Charlie Brown and his Peanuts gang, interrupted only by the occasional Dolly Madison cupcake commercial, and maybe a Timex watch ad thrown in for the adults. It was magic.

 If this weren’t enough, there was also the promise of gifts. But like technology, money was pretty hard to come by, and it seemed like none of us, including the rest of the family or hardly any of the people we knew had much of it. Most of us didn’t get toys and clothes throughout the year like our kids do now. No, most of our gettin’ was gotten on Christmas and it did us the rest of next year. That included our underwear, and socks, and school clothes, usually all one size bigger than you were right then so you had room to grow. But that was fine, because we didn’t know any different, and when you don’t know any different you’re generally okay with things.

 Well right after Halloween, the Sears Roebuck and J.C. Penney Christmas catalogues got delivered to our house through the mail. They were about an inch thick with a nice cozy Christmas scene on the front cover. The first half of the book was always taken up with boring things like clothes and dishes, wooden spice racks and bedspreads, and vacuum cleaners and such. You know, things you’d buy your mom and dad if you had a job, but you were just a kid and didn’t waste precious time looking at that stuff. I only ventured into that section one time, and that was when a rumor spread through school that a certain shadow on the upper leg of a man in an underwear ad in the Sears Roebuck catalog was more than just a shadow.

 But the second half of the book, the part behind the order forms and the catalog index was chocked full of dolls and board games and cap guns and things that kept your face glued to the book for hours. There were race car tracks and train sets that were way too big to ever set up in a trailer, and bicycles with funny bars and banana seats, all spread out on page after colorful page for a kid to want. My sister and I would sit on the couch and leaf through that book, dog earring things we wanted, sometimes circling specific items to make sure there was no mistake. Then, on Christmas morning you dashed into the living room, hoping and praying that big box with your name on it wasn’t full of underwear.

 Christmas trees were still real trees for us country folk, at least early on. Most everybody we knew still went up on the hill behind their house and cut ‘em a tree a few weeks before the big day. They were usually Cedars and they smelled great, but looked like puffy green globs and the limbs wouldn’t hold up the heavier ornaments. I didn’t like them, and remember being at an aunt’s home one Christmas when I was about ten, trying real hard not to laugh at the scrub Cedar they had dragged in from a field that was as big at the top as it was at the bottom.

 But somewhere along the way, Mamaw Sophie broke with tradition and bought a fake tree. Early on she’d set it up and decorate it every year, but as she got older she’d leave it put together and get one of us boys to take it downstairs, decorations, lights and all and put a sheet over it until next year. It was a nice tree, and looked almost real. The thing I remember most about it was when Blanch, the Stanley Home products lady lost her balance playing some game at a one of Mamaw’s Stanley parties one Christmas and pitched straight backwards. She and that tree went straight to the floor, where a big pile of presents, probably full of tee shirts and underwear, broke her fall. Mamaw helped Blanch up off the floor, and they were both laughing when she got stood back up. To this day on Christmas Eve, somebody will usually ask, “Do you remember when Blanch fell into the tree?”

 After we moved to town, our Christmas trees came from a truck outside Maloney’s Department Store. We had a few Cedars on our lot in Brewer’s Subdivision, but Maloney’s had Scotch Pines and Blue Spruces and other types of trees that were pretty and actually had a triangular shape.

 To make it fit in our trailer, we’d trim it down to get it through the door, then we’d rearrange the furniture and cram things into the corner so the tree could go in the front window and lights could be seen from the driveway. Once it was up, we’d load it down with icicles and those little glass ball ornaments that spattered into a million pieces when they hit the floor. Christmas tree lights were big, bulky outfits that got too hot to touch, and I know for a fact that you could melt a crayon over one. Mom had us worried to death that those lights were going to catch the tree on fire and burn us up with the trailer. She made Dad check the water in the tree stand every day til the thing came down, then we’d burn it over in the corner of the yard, and sure enough, it would explode in a ball of flames and be gone in about thirty seconds.

 The little brown and white trailer played an important part in my Christmas experience. You see, it was fairly small, and there just weren’t any secret places to hide things. And I was pretty smart, so I figured Mom hid all the presents in her bedroom closet. Now if she’d stuck them under my bed, I’d never have known, because I rarely looked under there. But she didn’t, and they were always in her closet and I usually found them a day or so after she sneaked them in from the car.

 As soon as I got home from school, I’d squeeze into that little closet with Mom and Dad’s clothes hanging down all around me. I’d dig my stuff out from the bottom of sister Chrissy’s big cardboard toybox and sit there with it until Mom got home at 4:30 from working at the nursing home. One year I read half of an NFL statistics book before Christmas morning, and actually took a gas powered airplane outside to see if it would start. Sometimes I played with the things ‘til I was already tired of them when I opened them Christmas morning. Plundering for Christmas presents let me live on the edge. It added the element of fear to this otherwise gentle season, and I knew Mom and Dad would be mad, and maybe even disappointed if they found out. I risked getting spanked, or worse, Mom might cry and make me feel really bad. Still, the rush I got was worth the risk. Some kids snuck into their parent’s liquor or slipped outside with cigarettes. I just needed to know what I was going to get for Christmas. That seemed innocent enough and I figured they should actually be glad.

 I suppose what I loved most about Christmas in the mountains was the family get together on Christmas Eve. For at least twenty five years, our big Deaton clan would gather at Mamaw Sophie’s house on Long’s Creek to celebrate.

 Outside in the cold, night air, cars began to fill up the driveway stretching all the way down to the bridge and sometimes overflowing into the yard. Families would roll in one by one, loaded down with armfuls of presents and suitcases and covered dishes of Macaroni Salad and Striped Delight, and take turns hugging and saying hello as they reached the top of the stairs.

 As soon as we got in the house, all us kids would head to the basement where we played “hide and seek in the dark,” and Wade and I would win because none of the girls would crawl on top of the stoker coal pile to find us. As we grew older, our games became more sophisticated, and one year we used our Uncle Ed’s fancy movie camera to make homemade films. The girls would create theirs and us boys would make ours and we’d let the grownups decide whose was best. Sometimes the films included high tech visual effects like projectile vomiting, where an overstuffed cousin gagged on a leg bone and threw up in the middle of a card table. Other times we toyed with magic and converted an older uncle into a handsome young man. But usually the themes centered around the gross and the vulgar and we would laugh and play, and the adults would grimace and shake their heads and ask us why we were like that, while reminding us that actually neither side had won.

 The evening would be filled with eating and laughing and Rook games and the opening of presents, but mostly with talking. I remember looking around the jam packed living room one Christmas Eve, and noticing that every mouth in the room was moving. Usually talking implies that someone must be listening, but at that very moment, no one in the room seemed to mind that nobody was listening to what they were saying, so I figured it must have been okay.

 And then, along about dinner time, somebody in the crowd would wonder out loud when Eileen and Tommy were coming. It seemed they were always the last to arrive, in spite of living the closest, having the fastest car and with only one kid to get ready. But over the years their family would always be the last to arrive and the lateness of the Prices would go down as a long-standing family joke.

 After dinner was over, and the adults had squeezed in a few Rook games, the whole crowd tried to get into the living room to open presents. Some of my aunts had long since staked claims on certain seats, and we all knew the ones next to Mamaw Sophie were taken. People would pile into the room, four and five to a couch, perching on chair arms, three or four on the hearth rock, children and sometimes adults resting in someone’s lap. The long, wooden floor was absolutely piled full of us and our presents, from the fireplace wall, all the way to the front of the room, with many more still in the kitchen, gathered around the table, waiting for our names to be called.

 Aunt Millie would always announce that we should open presents one at a time so that everybody could see what we got. That drew moans and complaints from us kids, but we’d lose, and then we proceeded to pass out the huge pile of presents one at a time. As we grew older and discovered sarcasm, we would explode with a round of oohs and aahs as each person held up a gift and showed it in a painfully slow manner.

 One year, we started a paper wad fight that spilled over into the kitchen just to see how Aunt Millie would react. She yelled at us to stop, “‘cause you are messing up Christmas,” but even the adults were in on it, and though she finally stopped yelling, her lips were drawn up tight and her eyes were squinted and we could tell she was completely put out.

 At last, as the evening wound to a close, the ones who weren’t staying began the process of rounding up children and presents. They’d bag up left over scraps of food to take home for their dogs, search through the pile of coats on Mamaw’s bed, then make their way out into the cold darkness to find their car hopelessly blocked in by at least three others who were not quite ready to leave.

 Later that night, when it was time for sleep, the lucky ones piled into warm beds layered with thick covers and blankets in the cold rooms up the hallway. The rest found spots on couches or mattresses on the living room floor near the warm glow of the Christmas tree. The less fortunate ended up down in the basement with the dogs, where the rumble of the stoker coal furnace hummed them to sleep and the squeaking of the wooden floor overhead woke them back up as one person after another visited the bathroom during the night.

  For many years, that was our Christmas. We didn’t sing carols, or read poems, or do other things that were especially meaningful to the season. We did go outside and shoot firecrackers and bottle rockets that we had gotten from a bootlegger on our way over, and for years I felt like something was wrong if I didn’t smell gunpowder on Christmas Eve. I suppose we never felt the need to have a lot of traditions other than the simple act of getting together. It was Jesus’s birthday and we all remembered that in our own private way, usually at church the next day or on Sunday. But that one evening, Christmas Eve was saved just for us.

 The Christmas of old seems long ago and far away. I’m fifty years old now, and no longer search in advance for my presents. I have a DVD player and can watch all the old Christmas shows any time I want. We don’t get together on Long’s Creek any more for Christmas, but we do hold a big celebration each year in Frankfort and the whole family still tries to come. Change may be the one thing we can count on, but in spite of all the changes that have taken place, there is still one thing our family knows will be happening each Christmas, Aunt Eileen will always be the last one to get to get there.

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Upcoming Showings:

I am very honored to announce that I was recently chosen by the Kentucky Humanities Council to be a part of the 2013-14 Kentucky Speakers Bureau.  I will be available to speak on my book, Appalachian Ghost Stories, and my film, The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt.  Looking forward to spreading the word about my mountain heritage.  My first date is September 21, at 6:00 p.m. at the Episcopal Church in Richmond.

I will also be at the Gathering of Authors at the Paul Sawyier Public library in Frankfort on August 24th from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Very much looking forward to having a booth at the Breathitt County Honey Festival on Labor Day weekend, and at the Black Gold Festival in Hazard September 19, 20th and the morning of the 21st.

 

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I will be at the Thomas Clark History Center in Frankfort on May 15th at noon for a screening of my film, The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt.

I will also be at the Filson Historical Society on May 16th at 1:00 for a screening of my film, The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt

And I will be in Jackson, at the Breahtitt County History museum on May 18th at 6:00 for a screening of my film, The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt.

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The Kentucky Educational Television network will be showing the film, The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt: Kentucky’s Untold Story on the following dates and times:
KET1      SDBA     Sat, 01/26/2013                 4:00 a.m.
KETKY    SDBA     Wed, 02/13/2013             10:00 p.m.
KETKY    SDBA     Sat, 01/19/2013                 9:00 p.m.
KETKY    SDBA     Sat, 01/19/2013                 12:00 p.m.
KETKY    SDBA     Fri, 01/18/2013                  6:00 p.m.
KETKY    SDBA     Wed, 01/16/2013             8:00 p.m.
KETKY    SDBA     Wed, 01/16/2013             7:00 a.m.
KETKY    SDBA     Sun, 01/13/2013               6:00 p.m.

KETKY    SDBA     Sun, 01/13/2013               12:00 a.m.

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The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt: Kentucky’s Untold Story will be featured by the Filson Historical Society on Thursday, January 17th at noon. The Filson Club is Kentucky’s oldest and most prestigious historical society.
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The Grand Theatre in Frankfort held a showing of my film, The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt on Friday, November 9th.
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I recently had the pleasure of participating in the 2012 Ky Book Fair in Frankfort.  This was my second year in a row, and I just love the event.  Even got to participate in a panel discussion on the feuds of Kentucky.  Thanks so much to Ellen Hellard for inviting me.

 

 

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From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Documentary explores ‘bloody Breathitt’ feuds more deadly than Hatfield-McCoy

Published: September 3, 2012
By Jack Brammer — jbrammer@herald-leader.com

 

Jerry Deaton became interested in the Breathitt County feuds after reading Breathitt: A Guide to the Feud Country in the Capitol law library in 1986. It contained information about a relative’s death.

The Hatfield-McCoy feud that raged in southeastern Kentucky and West Virginia from 1863 to 1891 is one of the most famous family feuds in American history. With attention to it revived this year by a popular TV miniseries on the History channel, the feud has become a tourism draw for the mountainous region.

But there was a feud in Eastern Kentucky that involved more families, killed more people and attracted more media attention at the time.

 

“The Breathitt County feuds helped give rise to the image of the stereotypical Eastern Kentucky hillbilly and an area of the country known for frontier lawlessness,” Jerry Deaton said.

 

Deaton, 48, of Frankfort, has dedicated more than 25 years to studying the feuds of Breathitt County. With the assistance of Pinnacle Productions in Lexington, he is gearing up to release a 50-minute documentary film about the deadly skirmishes that lasted from 1870 to 1912.

 

The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt: Kentucky’s Untold Story will have its premiere at 6 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort. A trailer for the documentary may be viewed at Jerrydeaton.com.

 

“Probably no one knows more about the Breathitt County feuds than Jerry Deaton,” said state historian James Klotter, who teaches at Georgetown College and was interviewed by Deaton for the film but has not yet seen it.

 

Deaton, an author who is semi-retired after working for the state Legislative Research Commission and the Kentucky League of Cities, takes the stories about the feuds personally. He is a descendant of one of the people involved in the feuds, which usually started over petty grievances.

 

Deaton, who grew up in Breathitt County, was working for the LRC in Frankfort in 1986 when he took a break in the Capitol law library.

 

“I like old stuff. I looked at the old book collection there, and found a book about the feuds of bloody Breathitt,” he said.

 

Deaton found in the book that one of his relatives had killed another relative in 1895.

 

“Nobody in my family had ever talked about that, and I started asking questions,” he said.

 

The late Kentucky historian Thomas Clark, Deaton said, told him that Kentucky was prime for the feuds because it had 120 “little kingdoms,” better known as counties.

 

“There was no state police force at the time,” Deaton said. “Authority had broken down, people in Eastern Kentucky were isolated in the mountains, and they pretty much had to take care of matters themselves. Armed mobs called regulators became the norm.”

 

The lawlessness led to newspaper and magazine articles around the world.

 

The Lexington Herald became so incensed about the feuds that it asked the state legislature to abolish Breathitt County because it was giving the state a bad name, Deaton said.

 

While the Hatfield-McCoy feud claimed more than a dozen members of two families, the Breathitt feuds involved about six families and led to more deaths, probably more than 100, Deaton said.

 

The Hatfield-McCoy feud became more famous than those in Breathitt and several other counties, said historian Klotter, because it involved a U.S. Supreme Court decision, occurred in two states, was popularized by dime novels, and several of the participants were tried in Louisville with its news media.

 

When starting to make his film about the Breathitt County feuds four years ago, Deaton said he encountered some county residents who still were reluctant to talk about the violence of more than 100 years ago.

 

But most people became enthusiastic about it when they realized “I wanted to do it right, but some still never talked about it,” he said.

 

Deaton said his film, “does not point any fingers, does not call anyone a villain.”

 

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Mary C. Noble of Lexington is the film’s narrator.

 

“It’s a great idea for Jerry Deaton to tell this story,” Noble said. “Breathitt is my home county, too, and my grandmother’s brother was one of the victims in the feuds.”

 

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

 

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Here is the trailer for the film I plan to release in September. Hoping to have a screening, possibly in Lexington later that month. Hope you like it.
-Jerry

The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt: Kentucky’s Untold Story Trailer from Jerry Deaton on Vimeo.

New Article: 7/17/2012

Jerry is currently working on a documentary called the Feuds of Bloody Breathitt, scheduled to be released in September, 2012. The following is an article describing that event.

     On May 4, 1912, shots rang out from a hillside in Eastern Kentucky, mortally wounding the owner of a rural mercantile store, as he tended to a customer. One week later the man would die, putting an end to what most historians call the bloodiest and most violent feud Kentucky, or for that matter the United States had ever seen.

No, the victim was not a Hatfield, nor even a McCoy, and this event did not take place in Pike County. The murdered man was Ned Callahan, a former sheriff, and leader of the Callahan/Hargis faction of Breathitt County, Kentucky. His death would end more than 40 years of feuding in the county known as Bloody Breathitt, a place so violent that a Lexington newspaper had once called upon the state legislature for its abolishment.

Ned Callahan, and County Judge James Hargis would face murder charges five times during their prosperous but short lives but would never be convicted. Their troubles were with the Marcums and Cockrills and grew out of charges of a fixed school board election in 1898. Over the next seven years in what James C. Klotter, the State Historian of Kentucky, has termed a “reign of terror,” the Marcum/Hargis feud would claim the lives of most of the prominent members of each family, including doctors, lawyers, judges and police chiefs.

J.B. Marcum, a prominent attorney and perhaps the most high profile victim of the feuds, was gunned down in the doorway of the Breathitt County courthouse by Curtis Jett, a nephew of Judge Hargis. Marcum had predicted his own death and had written of its certainty in an article in the Lexington Morning Herald several months earlier. Hargis and Callahan, County Judge and Sheriff respectively at the time, were both seated in plain view of the murder and did nothing for nearly an hour after the event occurred. Both men were implicated at the trial of Curtis Jett but neither was ever convicted. Marcum’s wife would eventually gain a civil trial victory and Hargis would pay her $8,000 for her husband’s wrongful death. Just five years later, however, Judge Hargis would die at the age of 48, when his son Beach [Beachamp], shot him numerous times in a drunken brawl in the very store where he had made his fortune.

The Marcum/Hargis feud was not Breathitt County’s first. The Strong/Amis feud in the early 1870 grew out of post Civil War violence in Breathitt County. Captain William “Bad Bill” Strong led a large party of “regulators” who raided the homes and killed a number of men he had earlier court martialled in Breathitt County.

John Amis, once a Strong ally, had a falling out with Bad Bill over division of loot, and soon after an armed band led an attack on Strong’s home. Several on each side were killed, and, amazingly, Strong escaped. When later asked by a newspaper reporter if he killed anyone that day, he was quoted as saying, “Of the men who attacked me, several did not escape.” Strong and his band would later ambush and kill John Amis on the front porch of a cabin on Long’s Creek when Amis rushed from the protection of his home to rescue his infant child who had gotten out the door.

Newspapers across the United States would carry full length articles and pictures of these feudists from Breathitt, and would go into great detail on occasions– such aswhen Big John Akemon and Asbury Spicer ambushed and killed Bad Bill as he and his grandson rode a mule to a store in their small community of Whick. The grandchild was spared, but Strong’s body was shot numerous times as he lay pinned in the creek under the weight of his dead mule.
The Strong Amis feud would play out by the mid 1870s, but was soon replaced by the Little/Burnett feud of 1878, an event that would draw the state militia to Breathitt in the first of three visits.

Jason Little, a man reputed to have murdered his wife and buried her under his front porch, because “that was her wish,” was arrested by Judge Burnett. The Littles were a large, prominent family in Breathitt, with the backing of Big John Akemon (a great, great, great uncle of the author) and the Burnetts were backed by Bad Bill Strong. Jason Little was jailed in Jackson and his kin sought to gain his release through a raid. An all-out gunfight took place (one of the few that occurred in the feuds), leaving several dead, including County Judge Burnett. Little was retained in the jail and after a day and a half of fighting, both sides retreated to the hills when the state militia was sent in to secure the peace.

To put the Breathitt feudal violence in perspective, during an eleven-month period in 1902 alone, more than thirty men were killed on the streets of Jackson. In comparison, twelve lives were lost in the Hatfield/McCoy feud, which lasted nearly a dozen years. Newspapers with huge circulations such as the Washington Times and the Chicago Tribune dubbed Jackson, “the city of sudden death.”

Breathitt County feuds would claim perhaps as many as a hundred lives, most in ambush style attacks from hillsides or open windows. Strangely enough they started and ended in the small community of Crockettsville, twenty-five miles from Jackson in southern Breathitt County.

When Ned Callahan died on May 12, 1912, he too was in his late forties. From his deathbed he issued a statement asking his clan not to seek revenge on those who had killed him– and they did not. Callahan’s death ended the Smith/Deaton/Callahan feud and put to rest nearly half a century of feudal warfare. Those feuds played a large part in saddling Kentucky with the “violent hillbilly” image that it in many ways has had to endure until this very day.

Thursday, August 23rd – Jerry will be the keynote speaker at the Kentucky Municipal Clerk’s Summer Conference on August 23rd in Lexington, Ky.

Wednesday, May 23 5:10 p.m. Jerry will be a guest on the Terry Meiners show on 840 WHAS radio in Louisville to talk about his book and his upcoming film on the feuds of Breathitt County Kentucky.

Monday, June 18, Jerry will be doing a writing workshop for the Owsley County summer school program at Owsley County High School from 9:00 to 12:00.

Jerry recently started working on a documentary film that will cover the 40 plus years of feuds that took place in his native Breathitt County Kentucky. This particular scene was shot on May 4th, the 100th year anniversary of the killing of Ed Callihan from the hills outside his rural Breathitt County store on Long’s Creek.

 

 

25th Academic Achievement Awards Ceremony

Jerry recently served as the keynote speaker for the 25th Academic Achievement Awards Ceremony in his hometown of Jackson.  More than 600 people were on hand to help celebrate the children of Breathitt county that have maintained a 3.5 GPA.  Jerry spoke about how determination has helped him to succeed in life.

 

Jerry Deaton’s appearance on WTVQ in Lexington March 5, 2012

Direct link to the video is here: http://www.clipsyndicate.com/video/play/3326952

 

Jerry at the Kentucky Book Fair with friend and author Don “The Writer” Smith.

Jerry Deaton recently participated in the 2011 Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort,  The Frankfort State Journal reported on Sunday, November 13th that he had been the 13th highest selling author at the event, out of 180 authors.  Jerry sold more than 60 books that day.

 

The Kentucky Department of Parks recently purchased Jerry’s book and it will be available in selected Kentucky State Park gift shops across the state. The book is also available at the Kentucky History Museum in Frankfort, Poor Richards Book Store in Frankfort, The Morris Book Shop in Lexington, The Booneville Shopwise (His favorite grocery store anywhere); outlets to be announced in Jackson, and on Amazon.com.

 

Jerry recently signed copies of his book Appalachian Ghost Stories: Tales From Bloody Breathitt, at the 2011 Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort, Ky.

 

Over Halloween weekend, Jerry did a reading in his hometown of Jackson. While telling the crowd about one of his stories, he was photographed in this mysterious picture by museum director Janie Griffith. You be the judge.

 

Jerry was featured on a Cable 10 program in Frankfort on October 25th where he spoke about his ghost story book and his invitation to attend the Book Fair in Frankfort.

 

WJSN in Jackson, Ky featured Jerry on a 30 minute radio program on October 13th, where he discussed Appalachian Ghost Stories: Tales From Bloody Breathitt and read a piece from one of his stories.

 

On October 25, Jerry did a reading/signing in Radford, Va., the hometown of the books illustrator, Kat B. Smith.

 

Jerry is branching out into other creative fields and will appear in his first acting role, where he will portray the Sheriff in the Shelby County Community Theatre’s production of The Homecoming. The play will take place December 2,3,4,9,10, and 11.

Store

KY BOY COVsmlKentucky Boy: My Life in Twenty Words.

 Five years ago I set out to write this book, but  set it aside to write my book of ghost stories. When that was accomplished, my film on the feuds of Breahtitt County took my attention in another direction. When the dust finally settled, I picked back up from where I left off and completed my book on growing up in 1960′s, 70′s, and 80′s  Breathitt County. I wanted people to know that a great many of us had wonderful experiences growing up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, in spite of the many books, films and news stories that attempt to tell otherwise. In a slight twist on the usual memoir, I decided to choose twenty words that described my experience and then write short essays on each. The result is a nice description of the more important aspects of my young life, surrounded by the small things that most people would have never noticed but nevertheless made life more interesting. I was honored to have Ms. Anne Caudill write a foreword for my book, which appears below.very nicely sums up what life in the mountains was like. Anne is the widow of the writer and social/environmental activist Harry Caudill and very nicely sums up what life in the mountains was like.




Buy the Hardcover
$23.00



Buy the Paperback
$18.00

 

 

The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt: Kentucky’s Untold Story

For more than 40 years, Breathitt County was home to the most violent and destructive feuds the United States has ever known.  This film looks at that forgotten history as told by filmmaker and feud descendant Jerry Deaton.  Follow Jerry as he travels around Breathitt County interviewing descendants of some of the most notorious feudists and listen to stories that have been passed down for more than 100 years.




Buy the DVD
$20.00



Buy the DVD (International Shipping)
$20.00

 

 

Appalachian Ghost Stories:
Tales From Bloody Breathitt

My years in Breathitt County, Kentucky left a deep impression that is still present in my life.  I always loved hearing stories, any stories, but mostly scary ones that “really happened.”  My family told tales like “The Big Toe,” “Raw Head and Bloody Bones,” and “The Thing at the Sweet Gum Ford.”  They all involved country folks just like us, but they included something scary.  These stories thrilled me and I begged my parents or my grandmother to tell them every night before bedtime.

These are simply ghost stories, just like my people would have told years ago.  I borrow their voice and mannerisms, and I tell these stories like they would have.




Hardcover
$20.00



Paperback
$15.00



Audio CD
$15.00

About

Jerry DeatonJerry Deaton is the author of Appalachian Ghost Stories: Tales From Bloody Breathitt. (2011).  This is Jerry’s first book, and it is a collection of ghost stories set in his home county of Breathitt County, Kentucky.  These stories were inspired by the people he grew up around, along with the traditions, folklore and unique and rugged history of this rural county in South Eastern Kentucky.

Deaton is a retired lobbyist for cities in the state of Kentucky and also served as a committee staffer for the Kentucky General Assembly for eight years.  He currently lives in Frankfort, Kentucky where he writes and runs a small Inn on Main Street in Lexington, Ky.  He is married to Leslie Deaton and has two daughters, Sophie age 15, and Emmie D. age 12.

Upcoming Events

  • Saturday, August 23, A Gathering of Authors, Paul Sawyier Public Library, Frankfort Ky 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 26,  Reading at the Breathitt County Public Library, Jackson Ky 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Friday, August 29 thru August 31, Booth at the Breathitt County Honey Festival, Jackson Ky
  • Thursday, September 18 thru Saturday, September 20th, Hazard, Ky Black Gold Festival Booth
  • Saturday, September 21, Reading for The Sages, Epiphany Church, Louisville Ky  12:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 25th, Cherokee Roundtable, Louisville Ky, Release of new book, Christmas Greetings; An Anthology by the Cherokee Roundtable, Louisville Ky  6:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 4, Monticello, Ky, Reading at the Historic Wayne Theater, 6:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 30, Lindsay Wilson College, 7:00, Reading/Discussion of film.

 

  • 2013-14 Kentucky Speakers Bureau September 21, at 6:00 p.m. at the Episcopal Church in Richmond.
  • Gathering of Authors at the Paul Sawyier Public library in Frankfort on August 24th from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Breathitt County Honey Festival on Labor Day weekend
  • Black Gold Festival in Hazard September 19, 20th and the morning of the 21st.
  • Thomas Clark History Center in Frankfort on May 15th at noon screening of  The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt.
  • Filson Historical Society on May 16th at 1:00 screening of The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt.
  • Jackson, at the Breahtitt County History museum on May 18th at 6:00 screening of  The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt.
  • The Kentucky Educational Television network will be showing the film, The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt: Kentucky’s Untold Story on the following dates and times:
    KET1      SDBA     Sat, 01/26/2013                 4:00 a.m.
    KETKY    SDBA     Wed, 02/13/2013             10:00 p.m.
    KETKY    SDBA     Sat, 01/19/2013                 9:00 p.m.
    KETKY    SDBA     Sat, 01/19/2013                 12:00 p.m.
    KETKY    SDBA     Fri, 01/18/2013                  6:00 p.m.
    KETKY    SDBA     Wed, 01/16/2013             8:00 p.m.
    KETKY    SDBA     Wed, 01/16/2013             7:00 a.m.
    KETKY    SDBA     Sun, 01/13/2013               6:00 p.m.
    KETKY    SDBA     Sun, 01/13/2013               12:00 a.m.
  • Saturday Dec 1, The Jefferson Hotel;  Breathitt County, Downtown Christmas Celebration
  • Thursday, January 17th, The Filson Club in Louisville will be showing The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt at 6:00 p.m.

Contact

Join Jerry Deaton on Facebook.  Jerry Buck Deaton

Jerry always welcomes letters from readers. You may contact him by mailing him at:

2312 Pea Ridge Rd.
Frankfort, Ky 40601

or you can contact him at jdeaton@me.com.

 

Speaking Engagements:

Jerry Deaton is available for readings, workshops, and lectures etc. Jerry enjoys speaking about the writing process, his background, the history of Breathitt County, and the folk lore, traditions and people behind his stories.
To expedite your request, please include the following information in your email or letter:

  1. Date of event and length of time Jerry would speak?
  2. Is this a reading, and if so, what other topics Jerry will need to discuss?
  3. What is the honorarium?
  4. Who will he be speaking to, and how many will be in attendance?

 

Queries should be addressed to:

Jerry Deaton
2312 Pea Ridge Rd.
Frankfort, Ky 40601

or to jdeaton@me.com

Writings

Appalachian Ghost Stories: Tales From Bloody Breathitt

Introduction of book:

I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like a good ghost story.  It seems that all of us–young and old–love to read or hear a good scary tale.  It doesn’t have to be gory and blood soaked, or one that keeps us up at night with graphic descriptions of monsters and evil spirits.  It just needs to be a good story with characters we like or despise, a setting we can relate to, and an event we can’t quite explain or understand.
My years in Breathitt County, Kentucky left a deep impression that is still present in my life.  I always loved hearing stories, any stories, but mostly scary ones that “really happened.”  My family told tales like “The Big Toe,” “Raw Head and Bloody Bones,” and “The Thing at the Sweet Gum Ford.”  They all involved country folks just like us, but they included something scary.  These stories thrilled me and I begged my parents or my grandmother to tell them every night before bedtime.
My stories are about mountain people and their everyday lives.  The settings are lonely deserted hollers, overgrown hillside cemeteries, and even the courthouse steps of downtown Jackson.  I draw heavily upon fading customs like graveyard meetings, “sitting up with the dead,” and “listenin’ in” on party line telephones to set the stage.  Every character comes from somebody I knew, and each situation from something I saw or heard growing up on Long’s Creek or in Jackson.  I’ve always watched people carefully, and I notice the small things that really make them who, and what they are.  I use those “small things” to bring my characters to life; then I step back and let them tell the story.
These are simply ghost stories, just like my people would have told years ago.  I borrow their voice and mannerisms, and I tell these stories like they would have.

Vintage Truck Magazine, September/October 2010.
The Fabulous 1950 Four

Breathitt County Memories, Vol I. (2007)
A Trip to the Old Homeplace.

The Sound of Little Footsteps on the Stairs: NPR  December 4, 2006.

Favorites

Favorite Books:

  • A Tree Grows I Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  • The Thread that Runs So True, Jesse Stuart
  • The Hobbitt, J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Boys of Summer, Roger Kahn
  • A Parchment of Leaves, Silas House
  • A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
  • The Razors Edge, Somerset Maugham
  • The Jack Tales
  • Taps for Private Tussie, Jesse Stuart
  • The Mountain, the Miner, and the Lord, Harry Caudill
  • Walden, Henry David Thoreau
  • The River of Doubt, Candice Millard
  • The Tale of Edgar Allen Poe
  •  The Greatest Game Ever Played, Mark Frost.

 

Favorite Movies:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Lonesome Dove
  • Blazing Saddles
  • October Sky
  • Lillies of the Field
  • Rear Window
  • The Kings Speech
  • Austin Powers
  • The Good the Bad, and the Ugly
  • The Homecoming
  • Psycho
  • The Polar Express
  • Casablanca
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Willie Wonka and the Choclate Factory (1971)
  • Grease
  • A Patch of Blue
  • Shrek
  • Talladaga Nights
  • The Quiet Man
  • The Holy Grail.

 

Favorite Music:

  • The Beatles
  • Bob Seager
  • Nat King Cole
  • ACDC
  • The Everly Brothers
  • Elvis
  • Merle Haggard
  • Patsy Cline
  • Stevie Ray Vaughn
  • The Eagles
  • KISS
  • Garth Brooks
  • Neil Yound
  • Lady GaGa
  • John Cougar
  • Led Zeplin
  • Andy Williams
  • The Moody Blues.

 

The Carriage House Inn

Jerry Deaton is the owner/operator of the Carriage House Inn on Main Street in Lexington.  The Carriage House is a 200 year old, fully furnished home that is available for rent year round.  This two bedroom, bath and a half home is a nice mix of antebellum charm and modern comfort and convenience.  Located just a block and a half from Rupp Arena, it is within walking distance of most of downtown Lexington’s restaurants and attractions.  It is also within ten minutes of the Kentucky Horse Park and Keeneland Race Course.

To express interest in renting this home, please contact Jerry at jdeaton@me.com or by calling him directly at (502) 229-1249.