Clay Alford, Sr.
March 1903 KY – 14 March 1998 KY
article was also published in AAFA ACTION, Summer 1993, “Albert Alford
of Knox County, Kentucky.”
Knox Co., KY—11 March 1993
One-Room Schools: Mr. Alford Remembers
By David Cole
has taught in the most one-room schools in Knox County?
reporter doesn’t know for sure but would like to put forth the name of Apple
Grove’s Albert Alford, who turned 90 on March 10, as a candidate. Albert
retired in 1966 after teaching 40 years in the Knox School System, nearly all
of which was in the Artemus-Kay Jay area. He started teaching in 1924.
his one-room school assignments were Lower Coal Port (his first position),
Upper Coal Port, Trosper, Lower Little Brush Creek, Upper Little Brush Creek
and Big Brush Creek, the latter in an annex to the regular classroom, in a
nearby church house.
also taught 20 years at Kay Jay Elementary, three years at Artemus Elementary
and one year at Knox Central.
an interview last week, a reporter asked the longtime teacher the biggest
changes he’s seen in the education world. He answered, “I believe the biggest
trouble today is the discipline problem. Back when I started, the parents would
tell you that if their child needed correcting, you could use the beech limb on
it’s different,” he said. “The parents would help you then,
you didn’t have as much trouble with the children.”
to recall a funny experience, Albert recalls once overhearing two young boys
arguing on the playground at Kay Jay. The boys were playing “jibs” or marbles
and were quarreling. One of the boys was heard to say, ‘If you’re going to
cheat, cheat fair.’”
the years, Albert’s taught under five Knox County Schools superintendents,
including Walter Evans, George Messer, Chester (C.A.) Bargo, Jim Bright and
Jesse D. Lay.
his students was Floyd Sowders, longtime Knox Circuit Court Clerk, who attended
Lower Coal Port. He also remembers Rob Bays, who retired from the mines, among
of his students, Barbourville barber shop owner Homer Merritt, recalled last
week that Albert Alford never drove or owned a car and “walked everywhere.”
why, Albert said, “I don’t know. I just never did.”
also talked at some length about his church work, which involves his teaching
over 60 years in Sunday school. Currently, he’s a deacon and adult Sunday
school teacher at Apple Grove Baptist Church.
have one of the finest churches you’ll find anywhere,” he said. “B.F. Jackson
is our pastor, and we welcome all visitors in our church.”
has been an active member of the Apple Grove church since he and wife Ruth
moved to the community 21 years ago. Before that, he was active at Coal Port
Baptist Church on Brush Creek and, before that, at Liberty Baptist Church on
said it had to be John 3:16: “So God so loved the world that He gave his only
he spent most of his life in the Brush Creek area, Albert was actually born in
Corbin on March 10, 1903. His parents were J.W. Alford and Alice (Williams)
Alford. J.W. worked at the railroad’s “round house” in Corbin.
said last week he is the only one living out of his family, which included
brothers Jason and Green Alford and sisters Lizzie Thomas and Hazel Wilde.
was very young, the Alford family moved to Poplar Creek, and when he was 6,
they moved to Brush Creek to an area then called “Myrick Switch,” located about
three miles above Artemus.
completed the eighth grade in a one room school on Brush Creek and then
attended old Barbourville Baptist Institute. Next he attended Union College to
earn his first teaching certificate.
the certificate,” he said, “I walked from three miles above Artemus to Union
College for nine months. Two other men walked with me, Herk York and Dan Foley.
It was a 12-mile round trip “
Albert Alford had his first teaching assignment at Lower Coal Port. He recalled
last week that school ran seven months at time in those days and that in the
off-season, when he wasn’t renewing his certificate, he worked at local mines,
including the Congletons’ mine at Warren and Bryan Whitfield’s mine at Kay Jay.
From this mining experience, Alford said he “worked out a retirement,” which
derives from “Black Lung” benefits.
important dates for Albert Alford Include his father’s moving to Barbourville
in 1925 to the present Alford Lane at Apple Grove; and Albert’s marriage in
1926 to Ruth Bolton, born in Barbourville on March 23, 1909 to John and Louise
father J.W. is remembered as having been elected Knox County Judge in 1933, in
the prime years of the Depression.
teaching at numerous locations over his 40-year career, Albert Alford retired
from full-time teaching in 1966, although he substitute-taught for two more
worked for one year on the Knox Library’s Bookmobile and one year for the
University of Kentucky as an interviewer following his teaching career.
said he and his wife raised “three fine children,” including their youngest
son, Albert Clay Alford Jr., who died of lung cancer last June at age 61. Their
oldest son, John Williams Alford, lives with his wife Lois in Florida; and
daughter Hazel Christianson lives with her husband Roland in Corbin.
and Ruth have eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and five great-great
what he was going to do on his 90th birthday, Albert said, “I told my children
no gifts. I just want to be with them.”
he is also looking forward to spring and the return of his purple martins, “who
get pretty noisy sometimes” but keep the mosquitoes down.
year all 24 of Albert’s purple martin gourd houses were full, occupied by 48 of
Alford, AAFA #0390, sent this additional background on Albert Alford:
Alford is the uncle of Orville Felton Alford, AAFA #0042, of Lake Station, IN,
through Albert’s brother, Green Berry Alford (30 June 1889 – 16 Dec 1973).
is the son of John W. Alford (25 Dec 1870 – 10 Dec 1949) and Alice K. Williams
(1 July 1881 – 15 Oct 1969). Alice and John m. 22 Apr 1902 in Bell Co., KY, the
second marriage for each. [In Orville’s lineage, published in AAFA ACTION
in March 1992, p. 5, John W. is listed as John William, b. 15 Nov 1870, and
Alice K. Williams is listed as Rachael Williams.]
is the grandson of John Russell Alford, b. _____ May 1839 in Whitley Co., KY,
and d. 15 Dec 1909 in Knox Co., KY. He m. Elizabeth Golden on 13 Oct 1867 in
Campbell Co., TN. She was b. _____ July 1847 in KY and d. Oct 1929 in Knox Co.,
KY. John Russell was a WBTS [?] veteran. [In Orville’s lineage, John’s
birthplace is listed as Knox Co., KY.]
is the great-grandson of John Alford, b. circa 1807 in NC and d. after 1882 in
Knox Co., KY. He m. Dirisa Lunsford in Rutherford Co., NC, on 12 Jan 1826.
Dirisa was the daughter of Daniel Lunsford, b. circa 1807 in NC and d. between
1870 and 1880 in Knox Co. [In Orville’s lineage, John’s date of death is listed
as circa Feb 1841. Dirisa’s name is spelled “Diarissa.”]
Alford is at present the ultimate ancestor. Those seeking the parentage of John
are myself, Kenneth Ray Alford of Colorado Springs, CO, and Orville Felton
Alford. Kenneth and I descend from John Russell Alford’s brother, Daniel L.
Alford, b. circa 1830 in NC and d. 1883 in Knox Co., KY.
Alford holds the distinction of being the eldest living descendant of John
Alford, and the only living great-grandson.