By Debbie Rolen
October 11, 2013
It’s been said “you can never go home again,” but just try to convince the approximately 159 people who attended the 2nd Aflex Reunion that was held October 13, 2012, at the Aflex Baptist Church at Aflex, Ky. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, October 12, 2013, at the Aflex Baptist Church and they are hoping to add to the group who will return home to Aflex, even if only for one day.
Current and former residents and their families, former workers of Leckie Colleries Coal Company and Aflex Company Store came together to share the day — reliving old memories and exchanging stories and pictures of the years each of them lived at Aflex.
Aflex is a small community nestled among the mountains of Eastern Kentucky along the Tug Fork River that borders the state of West Virginia. According to history, Aflex was established to be a self-reliant coal camp community by Scottish-born entrepenuer, Colonel William Leckie. It was named after one of his sons, Andrew F. Leckie, who oversaw the operations of Leckie Colleries.
Even though Aflex was built around 1913, the land had already been settled years before by the William T. Maynard family and sold to Mr. Leckie after coal was discovered on the land around 1912. At least one house already stood on this property prior to the acquisition by Mr Leckie. This spectacular home was built by Mr. Maynard and housed a couple of generations of his family before becoming the property of Leckie Coal Company. It was utilized as the company’s clubhouse for years where such famous known bandleaders as Harry James, Guy Lombardo, and Cab Calloway often performed there at dances hosted by the Leckie family. A second home was also situated on the Maynard land up river and used as a summer home by William T. Maynard’s brother, Alvis Maynard Jr.
There was no road into Aflex when the railroad extension was built around 1912 to export the coal removed from the local seams of Leckie Colleries. Everything had to be brought across Tug River by ferry boat. Around 1920, the landscape of Aflex was changed to accommodate the continuation of a rail line already started on the West Virginia side. The extensive undertaking of moving the river began and the river’s bank was moved about a hundred yards toward the Kentucky side and pushing the tiny community of Aflex closer to the hillside. Two of the small coal camp houses in each row situated next to the river had to be moved and relocated to other places within the camp. In the community’s heyday, about three hundred miners and their families populated this little mountain hamlet. It was also in 1920 that Colonel Leckie passed away while living in Bluefield, W.Va.
In the twenties and thirties, Aflex was known throughout the Mingo and Pike counties for having the best in recreation facilities and sporting events. Basketball games, boxing matches, tennis games, square dances along with the most current and best of movies known during those days were held and shown in Aflex’s own theater all located in a building called the “Y,” a gym used for all the previously mentioned events.
According to former Aflex resident Elaine (Battistello) Davis, “Aflex is no longer bustling, only a skeleton of what it once was, its lifeblood, coal, has been drained from its veins. But to those who still reside here and to those who once lived here, each has many fond memories of friends and neighbors—good times lived at a slower pace.”
And with that said, may we continue to keep those memories alive and pass them forward to many generations. This is our whole purpose in having reunions. The 3rd Aflex Reunion will be held Saturday, October 12, 2013, at the Aflex Baptist Church from 12-7 p.m., for all former residents and their relatives, former employees of Leckie Colleries Coal Company and Aflex company store as well as all current residents.
Everyone is requested to bring a dish of food if possible and any old photographs or memorabilia to share. There may also be games and music. If you need more information, call Denise Reed Chapman at 606-353-4023 or 606-353-7600.