On a mission in a coal mining town

Sheryl Sollars - Welcome To My Kitchen

Today’s article is different from the usual food topic, but one that I think you will enjoy very much.

“Welcome to Lynch” is a history lesson for all of today’s readers. I love the story of this small town as it compares to the DHL pullout in Wilmington.

Two weeks ago, my husband Fred and I, along with two other couples (Carol and Irv Pollack and Debbie and Randy Tong) left Wilmington and headed to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky for our first Christian mission trip.

When we are living in Florida for the winter, all of us attend the First Baptist Church of Umatilla. They had organized a mission trip to Lynch, Kentucky in association with Meridzo Center Ministries and we decided we were being called to make the adventure with them.

Lynch is 5 1/2 hours from Wilmington and lies at the base of the Appalachian Mountains (Harlan County) and is considered one of the poorest areas of the United States.

Lynch is a coal mining town on Looney Creek, at the foot of Kentucky’s tallest peak, Black Mountain. In 1917, the United States Steel Corporation purchased 19,000 acres with the intention of building their own coal mining town.

Company-owned coal mining towns weren’t uncommon during the coal boom. This area of the country was less developed allowing coal companies to build and develop the area to fit their needs. By building their own towns to house their facilities, companies like US Steel not only met the demands of their needs but gave them more control over their employees and the town.

Hence, Lynch, Kentucky was soon on the map as the world’s largest coal camp. Within a few years a railroad was built to connect neighboring towns along with 1,000 company-owned homes to house the many families headed to the “Cadillac” of coal mining towns.

At the height of the coal mining operation, the town had 10,000 residents with 4,000 miners with at least 38 nationalities represented. As business prospered, so did the town — a hospital was built as well as a firehouse, three schools, two churches, a five-story hotel with 108 rooms, a post office and a “Big Store” as citizens came to know it. Because entertainment was in demand for the hard-working miners, US Steel built them a baseball diamond (an amateur team was formed), tennis courts, bowling alley as well as a theater which still stands today.

Lynch was a miracle town, but as coal declined, so did Lynch. The company sold the homes to the tenants. By 1984 US Steel pulled out and sold all its mines.

With most of the mines closed, the little town in the hills of Kentucky continued to get worse and today it consists of one school, a general store with gas station and a coffee shop. The coal mines are mostly empty. There are only 649 residents and few jobs.

The tiny town in Harlan County, Kentucky lives month to month, barely able to afford to pay their five city employees or pay for the maintenance and utility bills each month

Though coal died out in Lynch, it remains one of the most intact company coal towns in Kentucky. As the town turned 100 last year, there were parades and celebrations in the street; the little “miracle town” in the “hills” of Kentucky will never die.

I hope you enjoyed my little history of Lynch and next week I will finish the story and tell you all about the exciting things we did while on our mission trip with The Meridzo Center Ministries.

Here are a couple of salad recipes you might enjoy.

A favorite salad of many is a Spinach salad with a warm bacon dressing. Here is a variation of that salad for those who like a garlic dressing.


1/2 pound bacon

3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Fresh ground pepper

1 pound leaf spinach, tough stems removed

1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over medium high heat until just crisp. Drain on paper towels and when cool enough to handle, crumble. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, garlic and pepper. Chill and beat vigorously before using. (I use a whisk).

Wash the spinach leaves very well and spin dry.* Tear the leaves into small pieces and place in a medium salad bowl.

Add mushrooms and bacon, toss to combine. Pour 2/3 cup of the dressing over the salad reserving the rest for another use. Toss again. Serve immediately. (This salad does not hold well so combine the ingredients just before serving).

*If you do not have a salad spinner, wash and wrap leaves in a dish towel until dry.


1 22-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained and chilled

1 cup slivered or sliced almonds

1/2 cup sugar

1 head iceberg lettuce, rinsed

1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed

1 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, optional

1 teaspoon salt

Dash of pepper

Dash of cayenne pepper

Dash of paprika

3 green onions and tops, thinly sliced

Drain and chill oranges. Mix the almonds with 1/4 cup of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Cover over medium heat, stirring as the sugar melts and the almonds brown. (Watch closely as they brown quickly). Carefully spread the almonds on an ungreased cookie sheet to cool, using a metal spatula; the nuts will be very hot. When cool, carefully break any “clumps” apart.

Tear the iceberg and romaine lettuce into pieces and wash well. Dry greens thoroughly and transfer them to a large plastic bag. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Combine the oil, vinegar, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the parsley and spices in a bowl and stir with a whisk until well blended. Chill covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Combine the lettuce, sliced green onions, candied almonds and orange segments in a large salad bowl. Just before serving, toss the salad with enough dressing to coat the greens. The dressing can be kept in the refrigerator of two weeks.

Looking forward to sharing more on my mission trip next week. — Sheryl

Sheryl Sollars, a Clinton County native, is an accomplished cook and homemaker. She contributes her column “Welcome to My Kitchen” out of her love of homemaking and of sharing her thoughts with her readers. If you have cooking questions or a recipe you want to share, please contact Sheryl at kitchenlady44@yahoo.com.


Sheryl Sollars

Welcome To My Kitchen