Go back in time with me—will you?
It’s the turn of the century—the early 1900s—in Eastern Kentucky and the Appalachian Mountains. Coal mines dot the landscape; logging has stripped the trees from the mountainsides. The once glorious natural beauty of Appalachia is bleak and dreary.
The mountainfolk—mostly descendants of Irish, Scots, and Native Americans—scraped out a living where they could. Corn patches grew on steep hillsides, hogs roamed freely until time for the fall slaughtering, and potatoes grew in almost every back yard—if there was a back yard.
Homes were simple two-room cabins on small plots of land carved out of the hillside. Drinking water was carried from mountain streams or abandoned coal banks. The washing was done at the creek bank by beating the clothes on the rocks. And every house had a path out back.
Few children attended schools—which were few and far between. Teachers were scarce, and parents needed the kids at home—hoeing, weeding, or tending the younger children—“young’ns” in East Kentucky dialect.
Kentucky is rich in minerals and natural resources: timber, coal, gas… but the “rights” to these bounties were sold to rich northern corporations who came into the hills and bought the resources for “next-to-nothing.” The people didn’t even know the value of what lay underground—so many sold their children’s inheritance—for $1 an acre—because they needed to survive.
Then, a miracle happened.
In 1916, a woman from “up north” came to Eastern Kentucky. Alice Lloyd. She was educated—a Boston newspaper woman. But, she wasn’t well and had come here to spend her last six months in a warmer climate.
On Caney Creek—near the head of the hollow—Abisha Johnson lived with his house-full of children. Abisha heard that Mrs. Lloyd was educated, so he called on her and asked her to come over the mountain to Caney Creek to teach his children. In return, he promised to build her a cabin and let her live on his land. Alice—along with her husband and mother—packed up their jolt wagon and made the journey across the mountain.
From this small beginning, a school was formed. First a primary, then a secondary, and, in 1923, a college: Caney Junior College (later renamed Alice Lloyd College in honor of the founder).
Alice Lloyd brought hope. She taught the children—and the parents, too. She saw the potential—“The leaders are here!” was her motto. She wrote to friends up north and asked for books, supplies—and volunteers! And, help came.
Progress was slow and finances were always scarce—but Alice had a vision…of doctors, lawyers, engineers, but mainly teachers. She worked day-in and day-out teaching and later writing to friends for more help.
Students kept coming—from other communities—from other counties. Dormitories had to be built, so students worked to build them. Other work had to be done, as well. So, all students worked: cooking, washing dishes, cleaning, carrying coal for fires and water for drinking… to make sure their school could continue.
Alice Lloyd lived and served forty years after she came to Kentucky. Her college has continued to survive… but only because so many “friends” have helped. It continues to be a private institution—we accept no direct funding from state or federal monies. It’s still a “work” college—all full-time students work at least 10 hours a week to help with the cost of education, which is 100% guaranteed for students in our 108-county service area.
Alice Lloyd College is small… only 600 students… but it has a big mission… providing leaders who can bring about change. And we are doing a great job. About 75% of our graduates are the first in their families to get a 4-year degree… some are the first to finish high school.
The vision that continuously haunted Alice Lloyd is now reality. Many teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other professionals have been provided for this region. But, the mission goes on… and we continue to call on our “friends” for help.
It is encouraging to know that people still believe in helping their fellow man. Most of our students have few funds to contribute toward their education… but they are willing to work hard—both in the classroom and out—for the opportunity… so we continue to ask for help. Many have joined our cause, but educational costs go up every year.
Perhaps you will be the next “friend” of Alice Lloyd College.
Our students work to help pay their own way. They don’t expect a handout, but they do need a helping hand.