Welcome To KEY TO THE CITY's Page For
Johnson County, Kentucky
Van Lear, Kentucky, was incorporated in 1912 in Johnson County. Named for Van Lear Black, a director of Consolidation Coal Company, the town owes its existence to the entrepreneurial efforts of John Caldwell Calhoun Mayo, born in Pike County, Kentucky, who taught in a one-room school near the confluence of Miller's Creek and Sorghum Hollow. Mayo bought coal rights to lands along Miller's Creek in Johnson County and along Elkhorn Creek in Letcher County, and later sold those rights to Northern Coal and Coke which was later acquired by Consolidation Coal Company of Maryland. Van Lear Black loaned that Company money to construct five miles of railroad into the Johnson County property, and the town was subsequently named for him. Ultimately, five mines were opened, and the reputation of Miller's Creek block coal as a highly desirable domestic heating coal soon grew. Consolidation operated these mines from 1910 through 1946 when the company divested itself of its Miller's Creek properties. Individuals then residing in the company houses were given first chance to purchase their homes, and many of them did. The town, however, went into decline. Ultimately, most of the major buildings were torn down, the railroad removed. In 1981, a first-ever school reunion was held. The following year, the non-profit Van Lear Historical Society was organized, adopting as its aim the preservation of the town's history for former, present, and future citizens of Van Lear. In 1983, another school reunion was held in concert with a town celebration, and more than eight hundred people attended, most of them former residents and/or descendants of Van Lear miner families. School reunions are now held every even-numbered year, and the town reunions continue as annual events. A quarterly newsletter is avialable for a $ 10 annual contribution to the Van Lear Historical Society, Van Lear, Kentucky 41265
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's grandfather, Warren Delano, was an early director of Consolidation Coal Company
Van Lear Black's yacht, "The Sabalo", transported FDR to Campobello Island in August of 1910, the year that the future president was struck down by polio.
Black's Fidelity Trust loaned Consol money with which to construct five miles of railroad to the company's five mines along Miller's Creek. The town was named for him.
Loretta Lynn's childhood home still stands "up Butcher Holler" at the head of Van Lear and Miller's Creek. Her brother Herman owns and operates the old store near the site of Mine #155, and conducts tours of the home.
Return to Index
The Coal Miners' Museum
The museum is open Monday - Saturday 11:00am - 6:00pm.
Admission price is $ 4.00/adult $ 2.00/seniors over 55
Children 12 and under FREE
Contact the museum for group rates and special programs.
Fax: same, but call ahead
78 Miller's Creek Road
P.O. Box 369
Van Lear, KY 41265
Also included on this page are links to many old photos of Van Lear. A great page for Van Lear history.
Things to see and do in the Van Lear area
A community park and playground owned and operated by the Van Lear Historical Society, Inc.
The facility has a picnic shelter, a retired C&O Railroad caboose, volleyball court, basketball court, swings, and other playground equipment for small children. Restrooms are available for booked events.
The park is open to the general public during daylight hours. Small children are expected to be supervised by an adult and park rules are posted. Drugs and Alcohol are prohibited.
For special events call the Van Lear Historical Society at : (606) 789-8540 or (606) 789 - 9725 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Van Lear Historical Society, Inc. is NOT responsible for items stolen or personal injuries incurred at Rucker Park.
Loretta Lynn - Country Singer - To the northeast of Van Lear is the valley known as Butcher Hollow, the birthplace of musician Loretta Lynn. She mentioned, "my daddy worked all night in the Van Lear coal mines" in her hit song,"Coal Miner's Daughter". Loretta had three siblings to go on to record on major record labels, Jay Lee Webb, Peggy Sue and Crystal Gayle.
A page with information and links about Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, & the Lynns
Loretta Lynn and family are not the only stars who
Have a Van Lear connection. In an early album of
singer/actor, Dwight Yoakum mentioned the "Van Lear
mine" in a song entitled,"The Miner's Prayer". Marty Roe of the country music supergroup, Diamond Rio also has ties to the town. Rowe's grandfather worked the mines at Van Lear.
Return to Index
Some Van Lear students opt to attend the schools operated by the Paintsville Independent School System.
Miscellany Van Lear is located in the eastern time zone and does participate in daylight savings time from March through October.
The population of Van Lear was:
1999 - 1,604
2000 - 2,075