Finding aid prepared by Processed by Archives staff.; machine-readable finding aid created by Beth Eifler
Harkins Family papers
University of Kentucky Special Collections
Organized into the following series: Personal (1876-1953, undated), Business (1860-1954, undated), Topical Files, Legal Cases, and Photographs.
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], Harkins Family papers, 1860-1954, 63M46, Special Collections and Digital Programs, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington
14.0 Cubic feet
Walter S. Harkins, Sr. (1857-1920) was a lawyer and entrepreneur active during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Floyd County, Kentucky. By the 1920s his sons, Walter S. Harkins, Jr. (1898-1936) and Joseph Davidson Harkins were practicing in the Harkins law firm and also participating in the development of coal and gas in eastern Kentucky. Materials primarily include business papers, including a large amount of the correspondence and case files relating to legal cases handled by the Harkins and Harkins law firm.
Walter S. Harkins, Sr. (1857-1920) was a lawyer and entrepreneur from Floyd County, Kentucky. Harkins was married to Josephine Davidson and inherited significant portions of land through the estate of her father, Joseph M. Davidson, an influential member of eastern Kentucky society. Prior to 1889, Harkins' law business was primarily devoted to the recovery of debts on the behalf of wholesalers and collection agencies based out of regional cities such as Cincinnati and Portsmouth, Ohio, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Baltimore, Maryland. Harkins worked to recover these debts from merchants and private citizens in eastern Kentucky and ultimately used the information gained from this business to acquire land and mineral rights in the region and to promote eastern Kentucky as a location for investment to industrialists, real estate agents, and fellow entrepreneurs throughout the United States and Europe. With the extension of railroads into eastern Kentucky during the 1890s and early twentieth century, Harkins' legal practice shifted toward the representation of companies devoted to the development and extraction of eastern Kentucky's natural resources (coal, oil, natural gas, and timber). Harkins did much to facilitate the economic and social transformation in the region by consolidating landholdings for the purpose of attracting investors and by representing outside companies in numerous legal disputes with eastern Kentuckians over who would control development in the region and how it would occur.
By the 1920s his sons, Walter S. Harkins, Jr. (1898-1936) and Joseph Davidson Harkins (1884-1954) were practicing in the Harkins law firm and also participating in the development of coal and gas in eastern Kentucky. Walter Jr. died in 1936 at age 38, but Joseph's sons Walter S. (Scott) III and Joseph D. Jr. were still practicing law at the time of their father's death in 1954.
These are primarily the business papers of the Harkins family of eastern Kentucky, though some personal papers are also included. Much of the correspondence relates to legal cases handled by the Harkins and Harkins law firm, as well as a substantial number of case files containing letters and carbons of transcripts and other court documents. There are also letters dealing with the family's other business interests, including the development of the Big Sandy River Valley. Personal papers include family correspondence, clippings, certificates, and photographs.
Copyright has not been assigned to the University of Kentucky.
The Harkins family personal papers are predominantly composed of receipts and invoices related to W.S. Harkins' purchase of household items, including clothing, jewelry, furniture, groceries, books, and office supplies. The receipts and invoices also give indication of Harkins' extensive law library, his rising financial status and place within eastern Kentucky society, and his reputation as a shrewd, and active, consumer. In addition there are letters from suppliers to Harkins containing advertisements or samples of products which they hope will interest him. There is personal correspondence from family, friends, and fellow professionals, including a few letters addressed to Harkins' wife Josephine and other members of the Harkins family. Also included are payrolls, receipts, and correspondence pertaining to the building of Harkins' new house around the year 1905 in Prestonsburg (Floyd County), Kentucky.
Papers dealing with Harkins' involvement in civic organizations and political matters were removed from this section and placed with material on his business dealings and to illustrate the interconnected nature in which these forces functioned in his life during this period. Papers concerning Harkins' personal banking activity, particularly with Catlettsburg National Bank, were also kept in the "business" category because they are more pertinent to Harkins' paying of others' debts rather than his personal finances.
[These papers outline the financial account and land and mineral ownership of Walter S. Harkins. They show receipts and disbursements of his estate and the accounting of land tracts. Included are papers related to the various oil, gas, and mineral leases that Walter S. Harkins owned, often showing from whom and where they were bought. The papers also outline the history of various land tracts and how they came to be in the Walter S. Harkins estate.]
[including one from the Bank Josephine, founded by the Harkins family, which outlines a short biography of Josephine and the Harkins family.]
Most of the personal correspondence is between family members, but also includes letters to friends and business acquaintances.
Arranged chronologically, these files include bills, invoices, business agreements, land leases, deeds, and surveys of land in the Kentucky counties of Floyd, Magoffin, Knott, Martin, Letcher, and Pike.
Papers dating from 1860 through March 1889 deal primarily with the Harkins law firm and its representation of wholesalers and collection agencies in their collecting of debts in eastern Kentucky. Letters from these businesses concern the status of claims; inquire about the financial standings of individuals; and respond to settlement offers from Harkins on behalf of debtors.
Papers from 1889 onward display a shift away from Harkins' business in claiming debts to a more intense focus on land dealings and representation of the mining, railway, oil, and natural gas companies beginning to do business in eastern Kentucky.
Much of the correspondence concerns the payment of fees and debts, as well as disputes over amounts owed. There are also letters discussing the prospect of railroads coming into eastern Kentucky and its importance in the development of the mining industry in that area. Moreover, letters also reveal disputes between citizens of eastern Kentucky and the various railroad, timber, oil, and mining companies doing business in the region over such things as destruction of property, failure to deliver merchandise, contested land titles, violation of agreements, and citizens' refusals to sell or leave land coveted by companies.
The business correspondence provides an indication of Harkins's growing influence within the community. The files contain letters from friends or acquaintances asking for assistance in finding employment, requests for him to use his political capital to repair local roads and bridges, and documents which demonstrate his active involvement in the Masonic Lodge and Mutual Benefit Association. In addition, there are numerous letters from politicians seeking his backing.
[Note in May 1933 there is a Veterans Administration, Spanish American War Disability Claim by Samuel Spradlin of Prestonsburg, Kentucky.]
[Folders comprised primarily of correspondence from November 1950 to June 1954 between Joseph D. Harkins and William S. Harmon of Kentucky- West Virginia- Ohio Coal and Coke Company in Columbus Ohio. The correspondence details their actions as they put together a group of coal leases they call the Burchett Branch Tract (Floyd County, Kentucky) and also work to get a company to actually mine the coal. Harkins and other local residents actually own the land and they want Harman to organize it. Also, Merl Kelce of Kansas is their prime target for investment. See especially letter dated August 30, 1951 for detailed plan. The mining method was to be, at least in part, stripping and augering. Apparently Harman and Harkins could not capitalize the mining itself, but hoped to make money by claiming a minimum tonnage royalty on each ton removed.
[Includes renter name, location, lot and also the amounts owed and paid]
[Shows notes/bills paid and renewed, both personal and business]
[Shows notes/bills paid and renewed, both personal and business]
Arranged alphabetically, these files highlight the business and civic interests of the Harkins Family. Of particular interest are the files that illustrate how they approached minerals speculation. Unlike the materials in the preceding "Business" series, these files offer a more complete and focused look at how tracts of land and mineral leases belonging to different owners were acquired, bundled, and then mined or sold to a mining company. See individual scope notes for detailed descriptions.
[Both Walter Harkins, Jr, and Joseph Harkins held stock in this company formed by Lytle S. Adams and incorporated in the State of Delaware. The Harkinses also owned stock in the Spiral Machinery Corporation which worked closely with the Adams Patents Company. Joseph Harkins also appears to be the lawyer for the Adams Patents Company which was responsible for inventing improvements in a lighting system, the hole digger, cable laying machines, and the spiral cultivator. All of these machines were designed to help excavate or plow dirt, minerals and earth. The file includes correspondence relating to the company's incorporation and patents, and also includes diagrams of the inventions. See also photographs in Box 31, Items 15-17.]
[The Association was composed of a board of directors from the Kentucky counties of Boyd, Floyd, Johnson, Lawrence, Pike and Martin; Mingo, Wayne, Mercer and McDowell counties in West Virginia; and Buchanan and Tazewell counties in Virginia. Joseph Harkins represented Floyd County. The Association not only attempted to get a dam and waterway built along the Big Sandy River to help prevent flooding, but also to aid in the transportation of coal. The file includes correspondence, by-laws and meeting memoranda. Also included are student essays submitted in the Big Sandy Valley essay contest judged by Joseph Harkins. The assigned theme for the contest was to defend the positive aspects of the dam. For example, one rationale asserted that the project would provide jobs for veterans coming back from World War II.]
[The Camp Branch Coal Lands were formed by combining tracts of land in both the Harkins estate and the John C.C. Mayo estate in the post-World War I period. The mineral and coal rights on these tracts were originally bought or leased by Walter Harkins, Sr. and John C.C. Mayo from numerous families in Floyd County. (Family names include: Layne, Justice, Honaker, Jones, Amey [also listed as "Amy"], Akers, Boyd, Kidd, Morse, and Williams.) The estates attempted to lease the Camp Branch Coal Lands' mineral rights to interested coal companies for development and mining. E.E. Parker of Huff Creek Coal was interested, but never finalized a lease. Those securing leases include B.F. Vincent of Vincent Coal Company (later Cliff Coal Company and Wonderland Coal Company), the Central Elkhorn Coal Company, and the Ivanhoe Elkhorn Collieries Company. The lease with the latter appears to fall apart in 1924 when Ivanhoe attempted to join with Akron Coal Company. Also of note is the attempt to convince the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company to allow a siding. These files contain correspondence, leases, abstracts of titles, and descriptions of the land parcels that made up this tract. [See Also S. H. Goodloe, Box 16 Folder 9]
[This company put tracts together for oil and gas mining purposes in Floyd, Knott, Magoffin, Perry and Letcher counties in Kentucky. Joseph D. Harkins was the president of the company and Harkins and Harkins was the company's legal firm. The file describes where, what and how they were to drill and mine the oil and gas.]
[This folder concerns an election fraud in the contest between Sturgill and Martin in Floyd County, Kentucky. It highlights the different voter counts.]
[Possibly a speech or essay for publication about the American Flag, probably by a Harkins]
[S.H. Goodloe of Williamson, West Virginia, was an executive in the Wilhelmina Coal Company, later the Goodell Coal Company and the Goodloe Brothers Company. Goodloe, along with his brother-in-law Senator Goodykoontz, was interested in leasing lands for coal mining operations near Ivel, in Floyd County, Kentucky south of Prestonsburg. These lands were jointly owned by the John C.C. Mayo Estate and the Walter S. Harkins, Sr. Estate. Included in the file is correspondence between the parties about leasing and development, a copy of a contract to accept and execute a lease within thirty days, and copies of the actual leases between the Mayo and Harkins Estates and S.H. Goodloe. Complications arose, however, with the deeds and combining the tracts of land together. Then a proposed railroad connection was halted because of World War I and the lease agreement fell apart. After the war, these same tracts, renamed Camp Branch Coal Lands, proved to be of developmental interest. See also the Camp Branch Coal Lands File, Box 16 Folders 3-5.]
[Walter S. Harkins, Jr. and his brother, Joseph D. Harkins with John C.C. Mayo (and later at his death, his widow Alice Mayo) and Hiram Harris were directors of the Highland Coal and Land Company. This company secured mineral leases and leased land to other companies who mined the coal, such as Cliff Coal Company, the primary correspondent represented in this file. The company mining the coal (Cliff) paid royalties to (Highland) based on number of tons of coal mined.]
[The Hindman Settlement School was established in 1902 by Katherine Petit and May Stone in Knott County, Kentucky. The school became a model center for education and social services and played a vital role in continuing the cultural traditions of southeastern Kentucky. Joseph D. Harkins became involved with the Hindman Settlement School as a presiding officer in the commencement of 1949. Governor Clements spoke at the commencement and Joseph D. Harkins was responsible for inviting other prominent business men and politicians to the commencement. After the commencement, Joseph D. Harkins was named as the chair and organizer of the Hindman Settlement School Board of Overseers. It is unclear what the duties of the Board of Overseers was, but appears to be mostly administrative. The files contain the correspondence relating to the 1949 commencement and the organization of the Board of Overseers including those who both accepted and denied positions on the board.]
[Brochure or description about the company by J.C. Carrera]
[The folder contains copies of coal lease agreements with the Jones Colliery Company. (Some are between the Harkins Family and Jones Colliery Company). It also includes a land lease with Grant Weddington to build mine houses for miners in 1922 and there is also mention of a lawsuit between Josie D. Harkins et al. v. Jones Colliery Company et al. ]
[Biography of William Harvey May presented at a memorial in the Floyd County Courts, probably written by a Harkins]
[This folder is a prototype for Harkins' land and mineral speculation. Though unsure how and why these materials came to be grouped together, it appears that Harkins was putting together a tract of land, buying each property owner's mineral rights with a broad-form deed, probably in order to create contiguous acreage to lease to a coal mining company. Note that Harkins employed a standardized questionnaire and had his own personalized "option contract" (i.e. broad-form deed).]
[Appears to be a speech or editorial written by a Harkins]
[This folder contains a record book of surveys and deeds in "Jones Fork of Beaver" which seemed to have served two different though not unrelated functions. The first two pages reflect "orders" and "expenses" while an unnamed individual performed surveys on "Jones Fork of Beaver" (probably Right Beaver Creek in Knott County, Kentucky), for Walter S. Harkins Sr. in 1902. Following are records arranged by landowner's name and primarily composed in July 1901. Each entry notes how many acres were owned, whether a survey exists, where the deed is recorded and a citation for such, and which family members are implicated in the ownership. The contents of this record book, along with a separate and last document in the folder, which highlights the same tracts of land, suggest that Harkins was attempting to put together a large tract of Knott County land for oil and gas exploitation and production by the New Domain Oil Gas Company.]
[The Porter Mining Company was located in Ashland, Kentucky. This file contains a map of the Prestonsburg and Hindman Telegraph Company showing subscriber locations in 1916, meeting minutes from 1923, and financial statements for 1925 and 1928.]
[Joseph D. Harkins was the secretary of the Prestonsburg School Corporation which made contracts with the Prestonsburg Independent School District Board of Education. These contracts were made to deed over property in order to have a new school building constructed with the sale of bonds. The contracts, articles of incorporation, and maps and deeds of these actions are reflected here.]
[Map and appraisal of the land]
[Joseph D. Harkins was the chairman of the organizing committee for the Rotary Club of Prestonsburg, Kentucky and later President of the chapter. The Rotary Club was part of Rotary International and is an organization of business and civic leaders. This file contains correspondence relating to the organizing of the club in Prestonsburg, the organizing of meetings and conventions, various details concerning membership, and also correspondence with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway concerning the establishment of a new passenger station or depot in Prestonsburg. The file also contains notes and lists of members or Rotarians.]
[This correspondence, between Walter S. Harkins, Sr. and William W. Wheaton, financier of Detroit, Michigan, is concerned with developing railroad and coal operations in Floyd, Johnson, and Magoffin counties in Kentucky, under the auspices of Peoples Union Oil Mining and Manufacturing Company. Harkins was hired to "recover" minerals and railroad right of ways, "in and on land belonging to this company." Harkins apparently became suspicious of Wheaton (see letter dated July 12, 1887) but continued to work with him at least through early 1889 when their correspondence ends.]
Three generations of the Harkins family were lawyers in the Harkins and Harkins Law Offices, located in Prestonsburg, Kentucky. The father, Walter S. Harkins, Sr., was succeeded by his sons Joseph D. Harkins and Walter S. Harkins, Jr. who were followed by Joseph's sons Walter S. Harkins III (Scott) and J. D. Harkins. These files represent legal cases and matters in which it appears the Harkins and Harkins Law Offices had some involvement. The cases cover numerous topics including: election fraud, land disputes (especially coal-related ones), railroad right-of- way, mineral rights, murder (see "Jack Johns"), telephone company right-of-way, timber disputes, board of education challenges, adultery and divorce, railroad accidents, ballot recounting, workers compensation, personal property retribution, interest and real estate equity, assault, breech of contracts, debts, liquor/prohibition (see "J.P. Murphy"), and defective chewing tobacco by R.J. Reynolds. The cases are listed by the name that appears on the legal documents and are in alphabetical order by last name. Included are depositions and other official court documents, as well as correspondence relating to the cases.
[adultery and divorce]
[This case was settled prior to the filing of a lawsuit]
[On the first page of index in an unknown hand, is written: "Some good mining history of 1920s here."]
[Jack Johns was charged with murder in Magoffin County, these letters outline the charges and his defense]
[See also topical file on New Domain Oil and Gas Company Box 17, Folder 9]
[It appears that the Harkins family owned shares in the Pike Elkhorn Coal Company. The company was attempting to gather mineral leases in order to get enough mineral to mine. These files include numerous legal cases in which the Pike Elkhorn Coal Company was involved and covers topics such as land, minerals, and estates. ]
[See also Moore, Aaron v. Johnson, A.H. Box 25 Folder 4]
[See also Floyd County Kentucky and Forrest D. Short v. Beaver Valley Hospital Box 21 Folder 13]
[Regarding defective lumber for the construction of Harkins' home]
[See also, Patrick, A.T. v. Mead, G.W. et al., Box 26, Folder 9]
[A "collection docket" is a record book in which the name and address of parties involved in legal cases are listed with adjacent information about how and when "claims" were paid, occasionally including explanatory remarks.]
[These photographs were separated from this legal case which can be found in Box 28, Folder 5. They are images of the scene of the accident.]
[These photos were pulled from the topical file on the Adams Patents Company, found in Box 18, Folder 1.]
Hosted by the University of Kentucky
Contact us: email@example.com