Left from Baxter on an improved road to HARLAN, 1 m. (1,197 alt., 4,327 pop.), the coal capital of the State, and seat of Harlan County. First called Mount Pleasant, the town was later renamed to honor Maj. Silas Harlan, who came to Kentucky from Virginia in 1774, and was killed while leading his command at the Battle of Blue Licks ( August 19, 1782). The town, in the valley between Big and Little Black Mountains, at the confluence of the three forks of the upper Cumberland River, was a backwoods village for more than 100 years after its settlement in 1819 by a small company of Virginians under the leadership of Samuel Hoard (Howard). Since the coming of the railroad in 1911, the town has become an important lumber shipping point, as well as the center of an extensive bituminous and cannel coal area.
Up to 1930 the only labor organization represented in the district was the United Mine Workers of America. Attempts at unionization had been bitterly contested by many of the larger operators; great bitterness developed between employers and employees during the first widespread strike in 1916. The strike of 1924 closed the mines of the Black Mountain Coal Corporation, one of the larger operators, resulting in considerable suffering among several hundred families dependent on the mines for a living. In 1931, after the national economic collapse had further reduced the market for coal, the employees of the Evarts Coal Company struck to maintain wage rates that would keep miners from utter destitution. Both sides resorted to violence, and several miners were killed. The situation was investigated by a Congressional Committee, and on May 6, 1938, the National Labor Relations Board began its prosecution of 44 Harlan County coal operators and former deputy sheriffs (see Tour 4). The trial ended on August 1, 1938, with a hung jury, but on September 1, 1938, a contract was signed by the Harlan County Coal Operators' Association with the United Mine Workers.
The mounds and rock shelters of this section have yielded many artifacts and skeletons. The best-known site is a PREHISTORIC BURIAL GROUND on Main St., opposite the hotel. The EVERSOLE COLLECTION OF INDIAN RELICS (open on request), N. Main St., is unusually fine, including pottery, beads, arrowheads, and various other articles. At the Harlan County Fall Festival, held annually for one week in September at the HARLAN ARMORY, prize farm products and examples of handicraft are exhibited. The latter include articles made on neighboring farms, where sheep are raised. The farm wives card the wool and spin, dye, and weave it into fabric.
Between Baxter and Pineville, US 119 is called the Rhododendron Trail because of the profusion of that shrub along the way; it blooms from May or early June to late July.
At 165.9 m. is the junction with US 25E (see Tour 4A), at a point 0.4 miles south of Pineville.
Burnside -- Monticello -- Albany -- Burkesville -- Glasgow; 102.3 m., State 90.
Hard-surfaced roadbed between Burnside and Albany; remainder graveled. Accommodations in larger towns; limited elsewhere.