Carr Creek School 1919-1974

Carr Creek School 1919-1974

This article was taken from “History and Families Knott County Kentucky” 1995


         Carr Creek School opened in an abandon storehouse in the community of Dirk, Kentucky in 1919. 

         Earlier the community had raised the frame of the school on a hill overlooking Carr Creek Valley.  The land was donated by W. T.  and Simeon Francis, other men gave their labor, and the county had given all the money it could give. Then came bitter disappointment, the funds to finish the school were unavailable.

         About this time, 1920 two educators, Olive Marsh (Minnesota) and Ruth Weston (Boston) were encouraged by Marion Francis to come Dirk and get the community going in the matter of education.

         They came and started school in an abandoned storehouse. Miss Weston taught primary grades, Mr. Hiram Taylor, taught the older children, and Miss Weston acted as secretary.

         Contributing to the success of this endeavor was 90-year-old Miss Lucy. She encouraged, sheltered and fed the ladies until their “Patchwork Cottage” was built.

         With donations of money, labor and lumber the school house was finished in 1922. It contained four rooms downstairs and a loft-room library.

         By 1926, Carr Creek Community Center included about 40 acres of land and eight buildings.

         In March of 1927, Miss Marsh and Miss Weston severed their ties with Carr Creek and move to California.

         The task of carrying on the school was given to Margaret P. Humes, Jersey Shore  Pennsylvania and Mr. W.T. Francis. Miss Humes was a wonderful lady. Her wisdom and intelligence were insurmountable, and she love the mountain children.

         In April 1927, Lona Hale, Cora and Raleigh Johnson, Lawrence and Oscar Hale and Chester Back were the first to graduate from Carr Creek High School.

         Also, in 1927, Berea College held an Extension Opportunity School at the ‘Center’. President Hutchins loaned six of his staff for the experiment.  About 1,193 people attended the ten lectures on Child Care, Agriculture, Industry and Religion. The round table discussions proved most of all the splendid mentality to be found in the community.

         Then came 1928. On the hill the school was now incorporated with a newly elected Board of Trustees: Executives, Margaret P. Humes, Martha A. Beecher and W.T. Francis. A new post office, Carr Creek, had been established.

         Also, in 1928, Carr Creek basketball team won fame throughout the USA. The team had a volunteer coach, Oscar Morgan, the manual training teacher. The boys played on an indoor court one-half the regulation size and with homemade baskets six inches lower than prescribed by rules.  They battle through three mountain tournaments in the state and were awarded the Kentucky YMCA Silver Loving Cup for Sportsmanship. They lost the state championship (11-13) to Ashland in four overtimes.

         Kentuckians raised money and sent the team to the national tournament in Chicago, Illinois. Carr Creek was the 36th of the 40 teams to be eliminated. In the season’s tournaments they played 18 straight games and never use a substitute nor called a timeout. Between 1928 and 1932 Coach Morgan guided Kentucky to three state tournaments.

         In 1936, a new stone high school building was started to further expand and improve classroom conveniences.  The site and stone were gifts of Executive Secretary W.T. Francis, labor was furnished by the US Governments WPA and material assistance was given by the Knott County Board of Education. The launching funds were provided by the D.A.R. of Michigan. The school was completed in 1938.

         Academics came first at Carr Creek but basketball continued to be a part of the school and the community. Being a community that started a school out of need in 1919, basketball wasn’t at that time in anyone's mind. However, because of the interest shown from the boys playing as recreation, the sport of basketball grew from a dirt court in the early 1920’s to a famous well-known tradition in the 1970’s. The tradition came about through the years in which Carr Creek was involved in so many famous tournaments and did so well with the talent it played on the courts.

         In 1928, with tradition got off to a rocket start. The Carr Creek team lost in the finals of the state tournament to Ashland, but both teams were invited to the national tournament in Chicago. This team is as famous today, 65 years later, as it was in those years.

         In 1948, Carr Creek placed third in the state tournament. In 1956, Carr Creek won the state tournament, a trophy it had played for for thirty years and in 1963 Carr Creek won is final big trophy by winning the prestigious Louisville Invitational Tournament. It has been said that these four trophies are the highest trophies to be best owed upon a school in Kentucky.

         A person associated with all those trophies either as a player or as a coach is the most accomplished Carr Creeker of all, Mr. Willard “Sprout” Johnson.

Carr Creek Community Center, later Carr Creek Grade and High School, was located in a community from 1919 until the spring of 1974, it's last graduating class. Children from the waters of Carrs Fork were then moved into a new consolidated school, Knott County Central High School in Hindman, Kentucky.

Carr Creek High School Wins L.I.T.



Carr Creek won the Louisville Invitational Tournament on January 26, 1963.   At the time, Carr Creek was rated among the top five teams for most of the year.  Louisville Seneca was rated number one.  When Carr Creek was invited to the Louisville Invitational Tournament, the team left Knott County on the coldest day in Kentucky history.  It was 16 below zero.  There was ice on the inside of the school bus.  Ernest Sparkman, who broadcast the games on WSGS, followed the bus to Louisville in his 1961 VW bug.  With him was Jay Lasslo, who provided "color" comments on the radio during the tournament.   WSGS provided East Kentucky with exclusive coverage of the tournament.  The LIT was considered the most prestigious in-season tournament in the state.  On many occasions, this tournament field was stronger than the state tournament.  The team that won the LIT usually was rated number one in the state by the Litkenhaus ratings.   To get to the finals, Carr Creek had to beat three strong teams in Louisville Shawnee, Louisville Central, and Elizabethtown Catholic.  Only Louisville Seneca stood in the way of the LIT championship.  Ernie Coyle and Bob White with the Louisville Courier Journal described the tournament:

"So, the Carr Creek Indians came down from the mountains and made believers out of skeptics.  The Creekers of coach Morton Combs upset Seneca 46-45, to claim the title in the 16th annual Louisville Invitational Tournament.  It was Seneca's first loss in 15 games.  The final was played before 7,000 fans at Freedom Hall, climaxing what appeared to be the most successful of all LIT's.  Two free throws by Wallace Calhoun, his only points in the game, were the only points scored by the Indians in the last minute and 46 seconds of the hectic encounter.  Hard driving Lewis Couch, superb throughout the tourney, paced the winners with 22 points in the championship.  After Seneca's victory over the highly regarded Owensboro, the general opinion seemed to be that the Louisville team would make short work of Carr Creek.   Seneca owned a considerable height advantage over the 14th region team.   'I didn't see any way that Carr Creek could beat them," said Ernest Sparkman after watching Louisville Seneca play.  Carr Creek's coach even sent his team to the hotel so they wouldn't see Seneca in the second game of the quarter finals.   He felt the team would have been intimidated if they saw powerful Seneca.  Carr Creek came to play in the championship game.  Showing disdain for the vaunted power of the Redskins, Carr Creek elected to do what no other club got away with during the season - run with Seneca.  The outfits slugged away on even terms in the first period and most of the second.  During that span, the biggest gap between the two teams was three points.  Moving into the final quarter, Carr Creek was still nursing a three-point advantage.  Three more points by Couch, who was making life miserable for Seneca's Mike Redd, pushed the margin to six points late in the game.   With five minutes to go, and Carr Creek leading 44-42, the well drilled Creekers went into a freeze.  With a minute and 47 seconds to go, Couch fouled Seneca's Bruce Dalrymysle.  Couch tumbled to the floor and broke his wrist.  Carr Creek's star player was forced to leave the game.  The score was 46-45 with one minute and 25 seconds to go.  Seneca claimed a rebound and called time out with 56 seconds left.   The Redskins held the ball for 42 seconds and called time again.  Seneca elected to put everything into one last shot as Duggins fired from 25 feet with five seconds left.  The shot missed and the ball came to rest in the hands of Reynolds of Carr Creek who was fouled as time ran out.  Reynolds missed the free throws.   Couch led the Creekers with 22 points, William Fannin had 10 and Glen Combs chipped in 9."

The victory over Seneca proved to be a costly one for Carr Creek.   Lewis Couch, the team's star player who suffered a broken wrist in the championship game, missed the rest of the regular season.  Couch had been averaging twenty-three points a game for the state's number one ranked team. 

The Carr Creek coaches, Morton Combs and his assistant, Sprout Johnson, have a special memory of their LIT win over Seneca.  After the game, Kentucky basketball coach Adolph Rupp came out on the floor to congratulate the team.  He told the coaches and the team that it was the best played game that he had ever witnessed at the high school level.  The loss of Couch probably was the biggest reason Carr Creek did not reach the Sweet Sixteen in 1963.

Up On Singin’ Carr

Being The History Of A Little Schoolhouse That Began To Be Built In The Kentucky Mountains

By Olive V. Marsh

The Farmer’s Wife September 1921 (Page 534)

         Moving picture producers and novel writers have discovered that there is always a drawing interest in stories of the remote places of our great country were isolated communities live their lives and fight their battles for existence.   But fiction or part vision is never quite so full of interest as the real thing and in this story the mountain folk “up on Singin’ Carr,” written for THE FARMERS WIFE by special request of the editors, we have a true story that brims over with what is called technically “the humanities.”  Miss March  an Miss Weston, educated young women from “the outside”-- “foreigners”, in the speech of Singin’ Carrites--may be making great sacrifices in the act of lending a hand to these mountains seekers after education but there is no doubt concerning their honor and privilege in sharing the burdens and helping to make real the dreams of these citizens of the United States than whom there are none of finer original stock or of greater staunch loyalty to the fundamental principles of citizenship.  When the “weary mountaineer”  reigned in his horse after his twelve-mile ride and told Miss March and Miss Weston how he had come for help for his neighbors to “git goin’” in matters of education, he opened the door of Singin’ Carr to the great community urge of the twentieth century as well as a great door of opportunity for everyone who helps by even so much as a good wish, the builders of the school house among the pines “clost to whar Pap’s a-lyin’.--The Editors. 

            One dusty, blistering hot August day in the mountains of Kentucky, a weary mountaineer urged his equally weary horse to the finish of his twelve-mile ride.  He had come from Singin’ Carr, as it is familiarly called, the struggling community at Dirk, Knott County, Kentucky. He had made the long ride to get something for which the heart of him was sore, a teacher. 

            Two of us “foreign” women--meaning women from “outside”, beyond the mountains, where schools were good and teachers to be had, answered the call from “Macedonia,” Ruth E. Weston and I.

            “We ain't a bit afeared”, said the caller from Singin’ Carr or Carr Creek, “but what we can git a house fer ye to live in, ef ye'll just come an he’p us git goin.  We‘re poor but I reckon they's enough food on Carr to feed ye!” 

            The man who had come on this quest for help for the oncoming generation told us with a certain sort of patient eloquence, of the long, disappointing struggle. A year before, the little community had enthusiastically raised the frame of a schoolhouse. They had given the land and they gave the timber. The gift of “timber” meant actual hard work, chopping and hauling.  Then they gave their labor and got the framework of the building up. And then came the bitter dis-appointment. Promises had been made them that if they would give the land and timber--as they had--money would be supplied for the remainder of the material and labor. The county, a poor one, had already given all that was in its power to give. The promised funds, because of sickness and its inevitable costliness, failed to come. What were they to do?  They had heard of Miss Weston and myself and decided to make a bold appeal for help. So, we came.

            Aunt Lucy, ninety years of age, was our first hostess. She is the oldest member of the Carr Creek Community and one of the most interested. She took us two “foreign women” into her home for a month while we were waiting for the little cottage on the mountain side to be finished and for that month her home was headquarters of the Community Center.

            The story of that cottage which we have named The Patchwork Cottage, is perhaps unique in community stories. How it grew from an idea in the mind of someone to a place of shelter one could call home, is almost a miracle.

            Said Aunt Lucy to me one day, “I heerd you-all’s doors ain't come. They’s a door to Pap’s old log house. Hit's a good door--not like the brought-on kind. I'd like to hev hit up whar you-all are goin’ to live. Hit’d be right close to whar Pap’s a-lyin’. I reckon he'd kindly like hit thar.”

            So, it was through the generosity and “advanced thought” of Aunt Lucy and others like her, interested to have a school for the young mountaineers, that we finally were able to live in our Patchwork Cottage on the mountain side, about five rods from the peaceful spot “whar Pap’s a-lyin’.” Windows and parts of windows had been donated; old pieces of screen did their duty; the earnestness of the people to make it possible for a teacher to live among them, was such as to inspire and arouse the most laggard to utmost service. 

            Before the Patchwork Cottage was finished--so to speak -- Miss Weston began her primary teaching in the old storehouse that let in the rain and kept out the light. Hiram Taylor, a mountain storekeeper and teacher, been began teaching the older children in a small and still less habitable room of the storehouse. The only light in this room comes through the door when it is open or through the chinks between the planks. The seats are rough boards nailed together. There are no desk and there is a constant competition between the voices of the reciting children and Aunt Lucy's pigs who live not far off.

            Looking down from the mountain side upon this little temporary school in it's dark little hollow, stands the naked frame of a new school building. I'm looking at it as I write and I long for the help of some generous hand that will cover the skeleton and equip the school for the faith of these mountaineers, deserves to be met more than halfway!

            The “new school” around which clusters such fond hopes and dreams—the ninety-year-old Aunt Lucy ranks high among the dreamers--commands a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains and the bottom land through which Carr Creek those singin’ and its world-old, wordless song. 

            “I'm glad the school’s up that-a-way,” said a mother of twelve children, “fer hit’s right smart healthy for the chaps among the pines.” Just beyond the school there is a natural spring from which gushes pure clear water, unpolluted with the vicious typhoid germ, the scourge of the bottom lands.  This too will be “right smart healthy” for the school children.

            Just beyond the unfinished schoolhouse in the pines is our Patchwork Cottage near “whar Pap’s a-lyin’.”  In its tiny livingroom the primary school has its “books.” The seats are just planks of wood resting on movable blocks of wood.

            Through two windows we get “light a-plenty.” There are two other windows, boarded up temporarily, one with planks, the other with the door.  Only the first plank floor has been laid and as it had to be made of unseasoned wood, the cracks grow steadily wider. On sunny days, we wrap up in whatever we can find and have school out in the sunshine. But the children do not mind the cold. They have in them the sturdy spirit of their native pines and their truly wonderful ancestors.

            “Cold or no cold, I'm a-comin’ every day,” and Willard smiles sturdily into the Teacher’s face. “There ain't no turnin’ me!”

             Willard is one of nine children. The family lives in a typical two- room cabin. But they are out and bound for an education. It is a sight to see three of them riding to school on a kicky old mule, these snowy days. *This story was sent to The Farmer’s Wife in midwinter, but we understand that the struggle and the need still go on.  They have to cross Carr Creek in order to reach the Patchwork Cottage. And, it seems, to the mule’s ears, the voice of Singin’ Carr must have charms, for says Willard to Teacher:

            “Does you-all count it late if the mule stands in the middle of the Creek an’ there's no stirrin’ him?  If ‘twas that-a-way, I reckon you just wouldn't.”

            And I reckoned I wouldn't--and didn’t.

            The mountain mothers are all hard working. Whole-heartedly, they want “learning” for their “young-uns,” and somehow, they find time and somehow, they find cloth to put patch upon patch so that the children will be decently covered for school.

            The older women spin and knit. In many cases, the blankets have been made by ancient handlooms. Miss Weston and I are going to try to revive this fine old industry which has begun to die because women with families of from ten to fourteen children have little time for weaving. Aunt Lucy was one of the champion weavers of her day and she still wears a linsy woolsy skirt which, she tells us, she wove “jest atter my last man went to that other war and never came back.” Its black-and-red checks are still bright and is nonetheless warm for its huge patches.

            When our building is habitable--may all good hearts help us speed the day! Miss Weston and I plan to have a room where we can set up a loom and teach weaving to the young girls.

            Corn is a food staple. Unless it can be made to grow there will be no food. All the members of each family must work in the corn field, spring, summer and fall. And the field is the steep mountain side, so steep that at first glance--and second and third--it seems impossible for even a mule to stand there and much less to plough. But it is done.

            On hot summer days, men, women, and children climb the mountain side, hoes over shoulders. To hoe in the upper row, is an honor, so there are many contests and proud is the “chap” who wins first.

            In the fall their leaves are pulled from the stalk to be preciously hoarded for fodder. The corn in the ear is left on the stalk till it has been touched by frost three or four times. This corn, planted and cultivated and harvested by such hard work on the part of all, is food for pig and chicken and folks. From the meal the women make the famous Kentucky cornbread and I defy anyone to prepare a more appetizing meal than Aunt Lucy does of fried chicken and cornbread.

            In spite of poverty and crowded, chilly cabins, these people are happy, and their religious spirit is deeper and more genuine than any I have met elsewhere. Every month, meeting is held at the head of Carr. Everybody goes on Sunday, men and women riding double on mules; whole bunch is a beautiful children astride ambling farm animals.  The preacher waits for inspiration before they preach, and it is miraculous what words comes from the lips of these illiterate mountaineers.  “Stuttering Johnny” will preach for an hour without the least sign of hesitation.

            And so, in spite of a chilly patchwork cottage, we two “foreign women” are glad we answered the call of the weary horsemen who road twelve miles to deliver the Community appeal in person. We know that the people have done all they can. They have no money to buy materials and it is our work to get it for them. We know that the solution of the mountain problems lies in establishing these community centers. Through them, feuds will be erased, and the moonshine still will be a thing of the past. If good men and women out in the world who have to spare of this world's good, will close their eyes for a moment, and see the mists and the grayness of the mountains, the swirling creeks, the muddy roads and the stony path, and seeing, understand and love and help, because the spirit of love is in their hearts, then the Patchwork Cottage will disappear, and in its place, “clost to whar Pap’s-a-lyin’” there will be a sturdy community cottage with real glass windows letting in the sunshine, doors that stay close when the wind blows, a “sure enough” floor, through which you can't lose a pencil , if you happen to own such a treasure, and a school--a real school--with desk and a blackboard and light and warmth and happiness and—a future! 

Carr Creek Education

By Dessie Amburgey

This article was taken from “History and Families Knott County Kentucky” 1995

         In 1919, the parents of the little community of Dirk, Kentucky in Knott County saw the need or a school for their children. They had been promised money to help build a school house, if they would give the land and build the framework.

            They eagerly began to work. W. T. Francis and Simeon Francis donated the land. The other men in the community gave their labor. They chopped and felled trees, hauled the timbers and set up the framework, but the promised funds failed to come.

            In spite of their disappointment, they did not give up. In 1920, Marion Francis road horseback to Caney to talk to two ladies and tell them of his needs. He had heard that Miss Olive V. Marsh and Ruth E. Weston had heard the needs of the mountain people and were interested in helping out. They both gladly answered his plea. Miss Weston as a teacher and Miss Marsh as a secretary.

            A ninety-year old lady, Aunt Lucy, took them in, fed and sheltered them for a month, while the men of the community were building a little cottage for them. When the doors and windows failed to come. Aunt Lucy offered them the doors from her dad’s old log cabin. Other families donated windows, parts of windows, old pieces of screens and all of these were used. This was their reason for giving the cottage the name, Patchwork Cottage. The kindness and willingness of the mountain people, to make them a place to live, was such an inspiration for the two ladies, it made them happier than ever to help out.

            Before the cottage was finished, Miss Weston began her primary teaching in an old store house. Hiram Taylor taught the older children in another room. This house had no windows nor desk. Their seats were rough planks laid on blocks of wood or nail kegs. While Miss Weston was teaching, Miss Marsh was writing letters by the thousands, trying to get money to finish the schoolhouse and equip it.

            By November Patchwork Cottage was almost finished and Miss Weston moved her primary school into the living room. Here again the seats were planks resting on blocks. The light came from two windows, the other two were boarded up; one with planks; the other with a door. After Christmas, some of the older children had their turn of schooling in the living room of the cottage.

            Slowly the work of the schoolhouse advanced.  Miss Marsh kept sending out pleas for help. In May of 1922, the school building was practically finished, and these two ladies began to look forward and make plans for a real Community Center. They had been using the unfinished building for a free lending library, for various club meetings, community sales of second- hand clothing and social gatherings.

            School was to begin in July. The county could only pay small salaries for two teachers for six months. Miss Weston and Miss Marsh began to raise funds to supplement this amount so they could have eight months of school and, if possible, hire another teacher. They were still living in the three little rooms of Patchwork Cottage and had taken in two little orphan boys. They needed more room and at least one additional helper.

            By September of 1922, the county had extended the school months to seven, so with an additional $160 they could have an extra month. They were also promised an extra track of land for half price. They sent out another appeal for help. Luckily a gift was sent to put the finishing touches on the school house and for additional seats and desk.

            Christmas this year (as the ones before and years after) was is the very happy one. Miss Weston, a cripple, rode her pony, Tinker Bell up and down Carr. Miss Marsh and most of the students followed after, stopped to sing Christmas carols at each home. The parents were so thrilled to hear their children singing.

            In 1923, a governing board what setup. Miss Marsh and Miss Weston where the executives and five men of the community, selected by other people, formed the board. The school now had a six-room schoolhouse, a one room office and “The Singing Carr Home” (a dormitory for orphan girls). This home was opened in October to four orphan girls: Lon Hale of Does; Violet and Lola Combs of Littcarr; and Arnie Johnson of Dirk. Cora Johnson of Dirk stayed at the orphanage to help with the chores.

            Lola, Lona and Cora started high school that year, since it was Carr Creek’s first year to teach high school. There were only twelve students: Raleigh Johnson, Ada Collins, Demis Francis and Carley Stamper from the community; Oscar and Lawrence Hale and Chester Back walked or rode horseback from Breedings Creek. The other two I can't remember. Carley, who was loved so dearly by both students and faculty, was playing basketball, he got too hot and took pneumonia and died on March 28th, 1925 -- a very sad loss for the Stamper family and to the Carr Creek classrooms. As always, the men of the community gave free labor.

            In 1924, two two-room cottages were built, by the help of the parents, to house the high school students who lived outside the community. The students furnished their own food, bedding, and fuel. They went home on the weekends. The girls where supervised by a woman teacher, and the boys by the manual training teacher, Mr. Oscar Morgan - later by John Morgan.

            The Singing Carr Home was a real home for orphan girls who would have had no chance, at that time, for an education. Due to the kindness and interest William Hale, my eighth-grade teacher, and Cullen Francis, I was taken in the dormitory at the end of 1923-24 school year. A $150 donated by kind and loving person from the “outside world” gave us a chance to grow into worthwhile citizens, not only for ourselves but for America.

            In April 1925, there were sixteen in the little family at the orphanage, two children and six workers. During summer vacation, three girls and three boys stayed at the school. Miss Marsh and Miss Weston moved into Singing Carr Home with the three girls. Evelyn Pigman, Violet Combs and myself. The three boys slept at Lynnhurst Cottage. We stayed to keep things running and to get everything ready for the following year. The boys did the outside chores: took care of two cows, a pony and several chickens. They felled trees, sawed and split wood for winter and tended a small garden. The girls cooked, kept the building clean, did the laundry and did some canning.

            By September 1925, and addition was made to Patchwork Cottage and the name was changed to Lynnhurst Cottage. Two more little orphan boys were taken in. One was on crutches, he had been hurt while working at a sawmill. He was so happy to have a home and he hopped about with such a sweet smile that he was called,” Our Little Tiny Tim. “

            Each year the enrollment got larger as more orphans were taken in and interested parents built homes and moved into the community. The primary teacher, Mrs. Oscar Morgan, crowded 55 students into a room built for 32. She took it with a smile and did a wonderful job. Her husband, Oscar Morgan, came to teach manual training but also took on the job of eighth grade teacher and basketball coach. He and his wife were both wonderful people. The students went to them for advice. They watched over the orphans counseled them and took them under their wings.

            In March 1927, Miss Marsh and Miss Weston severed their connections with Carr Creek and moved to California. Miss Marsh was needed to care for an elderly aunt and Miss Weston’s health was failing. Mr. W. T. Francis, one of the board members was elected as an executive for more than a year. He and Miss Margaret Humes took over the work and carried it on very successfully.

            Miss Humes was from Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. She had volunteered her work since 1923. She was a wonderful lady. Her wisdom and intelligence were insurmountable - her love for the mountains and the mountain children was so great it broke her heart when she had to leave. Her work was not only as an executive: she was a housekeeper, teacher and was always ready and willing to do any job that she was asked to do. She even used her own money to buy things for us if she saw we needed something. She was a great inspiration to all the Carr Creekers and was greatly admired by all. Words cannot express our gratitude for knowing such a wonderful person.

            In November 1927, Berea College held an Extension School at Carr Creek, the first of its kind in the mountains. There were six of President William Hutchin’s staff who came for this experiment. We had lectures on agriculture, industry, religion and health care. We had community singing, storytelling and games for recreation. The weather was bad, but even so, we had an attendance for the ten sessions of 1,193. They came on foot and horseback from miles away. We had round table discussions and we learned from each other. We enjoyed it so much that the 1928 graduates gave up their senior trip to attend Berea’s Opportunity School.

            In April 1927, the first class from Carr Creek Community High School graduated. There were only seven: Lone, Cora, Ada, Lawrence, Oscar, Raleigh and Chester. Demens and finished at mid-term.

            In May 1927, a cloudburst came in Knott County and washing bridges, chickens, hogs, corn and gardens away. Everyone was facing starvation. Carr Creek Community Center came to the rescue by taking in more children and to clothe, feed and educate. The men in the community began to cut trees to build a boy’s dormitory, and as soon as it was finished, to start an addition to the girls’ dormitory.

            That fall, the children did all the work. We were up at four o'clock preparing breakfast, feeding the animals and milking the cows. Each one had a definite task do at a certain time. The work was inspected and graded. There was an atmosphere of wholesome competition and the winning team was allowed some special privilege. By this efficient management, plenty of time was left for study and recreation. The work was hard, but everyone had fun.

            In 1928, our basketball team won fame throughout the country by taking part in the state and national tournaments. The boys had been trained in their younger days by the little cripple lady, Ruth E Weston, and later during their high school days by volunteer coach, Oscar Morgan. He was such a good person, so quiet and understanding. He gave so unselfishly of his time, ingenuity and many times his finances to keep the boys going. He had a hard time keeping basketballs. Most of the time the balls were cheap or hand-me-down balls and the boys had no uniforms, but this did not stop them. Miss June Ranney, a teacher Greenville, Michigan, heard Mr. Morgan talking about needing a good basketball, so she gave him her first month salary to buy a ball. She really meant it for a loan, but Mr. Morgan didn't understand, and she didn't have the heart to tell him. When the boys won their fame and put Carr Creek on the map she was glad to have a small part in helping out.

            Later W. T. Frances say this in an address at the International Bible Conference and Winona Lake, Indiana “Last spring, our boys of the Carr Creek High School won fame throughout the United States by their skill in basketball. Mountain lads trained by volunteer coach, himself a mountain man. They started out with nothing, their improvised court was only half the size of a regulation gymnasium floor and the homemade baskets six inches lower than prescribed by rule; yet they battled their way through three tournaments in the state and were awarded the Kentucky YMCA silver loving cup for the best sportsmanship in the state. They lost the state championship to Ashland only after four overtime periods.”

            “In the last forty seconds Ashland made a basket which decided the game. Kentuckians, with pride and enthusiasm, raised the money to send the Carr Creek team to Chicago for the national tournament. In Chicago, they swept three nationally known teams from the floor, and of the 40 teams entered where the thirty-sixth team to be eliminated. In this season's tournament they played eighteen straight games and never used to substitute or called a timeout. They have given to Kentucky and the world a new inspiration in the game of basketball. They were equipped for the game of life with the same determination and clean living. Given a chance our mountain lads can and will make good. 

A Visit with Sprout Johnson And Morton Combs

By Paul David Taulbee

My good friend Pappy Edwards had talked to me back in March about going up to Carr Creek and seeing Sprout Johnson and Morton Combs.  It sounded like a good story idea so I told Pappy that I'd have some time off during spring break and that it would be a good time for the interview. However, due to the many days that school in Perry County was dismissed last winter, spring break was deleted from the school calendar. I saw Pappy at church and told him we'd go up to Carr Creek when school was out.  When school finally ended, I taught a week of Bible School, then I worked every day at the paper helping Mr. Thomas with the 175th Celebration of Perry County edition getting it completed and ready for printing on time.  This Sunday afternoon we finally got our schedules together. I went down, picked up Pappy and we drove to Sprout’s house which is in an ideal setting near Carr Creek High School overlooking Carr Creek Lake.

Sprout, Mr. Willard Johnson, no one calls him Willard or Mr. Johnson, was sitting out in his yard waiting for us. Pappy introduce me to Sprout. Pappy has known Sprout for a long time. I think he was acquainted with him back in 1928, or shortly thereafter. Sprout’s wife, Nell, told us to come on into the house that it was too hot to be outside. The blessing of air conditioning, one of the comforts of the latter 20th century that I certainly appreciate.

Sprout had gotten together all his Carr Creek scrapbook material and had it on the table. There were stories from the Courier Journal covering the legendary 28-season. The most read columnists of the time, Will Rogers, had written about the Creekers astounding performance at the National competition. Telegrams poured in from Kentucky and from across the country congratulating the team and their coach Oscar Morgan on their remarkable accomplishment.  Sprout was a freshman sub on the outstanding team and never got to play.  The team never used a substitute. Under the rules of those days once the ball was in play the team members were not allowed to communicate with the coach. The couch sat quietly and let the team play the game. Could that rule be reinstated? 

Though Sprout never got into a game he and the other substitutes did get to scrimmage with the team every day in practice. They didn't have a gym and practice was on a dirt court. These boys were in top notch physical condition.  Sprout explained, “We were all country boys. If we went anywhere, we walked. From Carr Creek to Hindman is ten miles, many of a time when something was going on in Hindman, a bunch of us boys would walk to Hindman. We didn't walk we went at a steady trot. After attending the fair or whatever we'd all trot back to our homes on Carr.”

Coach Morgan, whose primary duty at Carr Creek, was shop teacher, is the man who gave the game of basketball the all court full press.

Sprouts said, “Well it's hard to describe how I felt about Chicago. I think I had been to Lexington one time on a train. But for the rest of the boys on the team it was their first time to take a long train ride. When we got to Chicago, we were all given a pass, which opened a lot of doors for us. All transportation and food were free. We were supposed to stay in a dormitory on the University of Chicago campus, but we were delivered by mistake to the Cooper Carrollton, a large nice hotel.  When the sponsors of the tournament found out we were at the Cooper Carrollton they arrange for us to stay there.”

Earl Ruby, sports writer for the Courier Journal, took a real liking for the Creekers, at that time the Courier Journal was one of the top newspapers in the country. Ruby accompanied the team to Chicago and covered their every move, and like Mark Twain he might have stretched things a little, but Madison Avenue couldn't have provided a better PR person for the team than Earl.    

The Cooper Carrollton was located on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Sprout said the boys enjoyed the show of big ships docking and unloading on Lake Michigan about as much as anything else they saw in Chicago.

Sprout had a copy of the 1928 program from that National Tournament.  The roster for the boys from Carr Creek Dirk, Kentucky:  B Adams-10, Stamper-6, Madden-7, G. Adams-5, Z. Hale-3, Garnett-9, A. Adams-8, Francis-2, W. Johnson-1. Everett Stamper, Roy Stamper, Hiram Stamper and Sprout are the only members of that twenty-eight team still alive.

Pappy and I had visited with Sprout over an hour when Coach Morton Combs dropped in.   Pappy had called Coach Combs earlier and told him we would be by to see him. Pappy and Morton played for Hazard under the immortal Pat Payne in the early thirties.   Both Pappy and Coach Combs had tremendous respect for Coach Payne. Pappy said Coach Payne really knew how to motivate players to get them to consistently play at their peak. He told the story from Sanders Petery another Hazard man who played for Coach Payne. It was not a good game, at the half Hazard was down by 18 points. Coach Payne never came to the dressing room. The boys were sitting in total silence with about a minute of the half time left, in walked Coach Payne his remarks were short, “Boys we eat in the best places, on road trips we stay in the best places, and this is the way you thank me.” The Dogs went back out and did their best and won the game.

Don Miller, Carr Creek’s Great Guard, May Choose Eastern

Ashland Daily Independent, March 22, 1948

            Thousands of tired fans streamed from Louisville yesterday to points throughout the state following the completion of Kentucky's greatest sporting event - the high school basketball tournament, and those that weren't discussing the championship game or cussing the officials were singing the praises of Carr Creek’s great guard Don Miller.

            Before going any further, we'd like to correct one of our statement made Friday night which said none of the teams reaching the semi-finals had an individual leader equal to the great of the past such as: Ellis Johnson, Warren Cooper, Wah Wah Jones and Ralph Beard. We mentioned Miller and a few others as the nearest approach to the all-time greats but after Saturday's games there is no doubt in our mind that Miller can be rank right along with the others. As a leader, ball handler and scoring threat, he was easily the best of the lot in Louisville last week.

            Miller told us yesterday he received four college offers after Saturday night's consolation game. They came from: Murray, Morehead, Eastern and Georgia Tech. We believe his choice will be Eastern, because it's nearest his home and because some of Carr Creek’s great 1928 team went there.

            Officials and writers who named Miller as the best player in the tournament, chose Coy Creason of Brewers second with Gus Stergons of Maysville third and Billy Puckett of Clark County fourth.

            Ashland was discussed quite a bit along press row Saturday night because Maysville and the Brewers had reached the finals on consecutive years for the first time since the Tomcats did it in 1933 and ‘34 and also becaues Brewers was the first undefeated champion since Ashland in 1928. Brewers won 36 straight games this year and Ashland won 36 including their national tourney victories.

            But for two personal fouls in the last 45 seconds, both so trivial they wouldn’t have been notice if the referees hadn’t blown their whistles, Carr Creek would have been in the final instead of Maysville. Fully half the fans and writers thought Carr Creek had the best team in the tournament and a few favored Clark County, but Brewers deserves all the credit in the world. When a team is put on the spot as the one to beat even before district play starts, and with every foe “pointed” to it, yet comes through with the crown, it can't be praised too much. Coach McCoy Terry’s team had everything a champion needs ….most of all a never-say-quit spirit.

            Personally, we rank Brewers and Carr Creek just about even with Clark County the third best team of the sixteen and Maysville fourth, Owensboro fifth, Male sixth, Covington seventh, Fort Knox eighth, London ninth, Irvine tenth, Scottsville eleventh, Madisonville twelfth, Shelbyville thirteenth, Garrett fourteenth, Corbin fifteenth, and Hughes- Kirk sixteenth.

            We omit the consolation final, which had the crowd laughing half of the time as Carr Creek toyed with Male. The Creekers stole the ball repeatedly and Miller put on a show that fans will long remember. He scored most of his tournament points on crips, rebounds and short one-handers, but occasionally drop one through from well out.

   The Independent’s all-tournament team is as follows: Creason and Owens of Brewers, Don Miller, Morton and Frances of Carr Creek, Morrison of the Brewers, Gilvin and Stergeos of Maysville, Puckett of Clark County and Kendenbrock of Covington.

*Carr Creek Indians Boast Kin of 1928 State Champs

Hazard, KY, Louisville Courier-Journal March 23, 1948, March 16, 1948  –

            Coach Willard Johnson and Principal Morton Combs of the Carr Creek Indians wish that the Creekers had drawn anyone except Fort Knox for a first-round foe in the state tournament in Louisville.

            But if kith and kin have any say so in the matter, it will be Carr Creek all the way. Every man on the current Creek squad is either a first cousin or a nephew of some member of the immortal 1928 Carr Creek team that banged up everyone they met up to the quarter finals of the national tourney.

            Wiley B. Stamper, guard of the Scalpers, is a first cousin of Shelby Stamper as is teammate, Wiley J. Stamper. Don Miller and brother Wink Miller and Bill Morton are nephews of Carr Creek’s immortal Zelda Hale of the ‘28 quintet. Paul Gene Francis, controller of the backboard, is a first cousin of the present coach “Sprout” Johnson, also a member of the twenty-eighters.

            It has taken the Creekers just 17-years to hit a state meet since their last fling at the big tournament. Carr Creek lost out in the first-round play in the 1930 state meet and dropped in quarterfinal play in 1931.

            But a 17-year gap in their return to the state finals isn't the only bit of bad luck the Creek boys have had. In 1940, Coach Morton Combs, member of the 1932 Hazard champions, had the gym refinished to keep snow and rain from coming through the windows. The ball boys and students did most of the remodeling work and exactly one week before Carr Creek was to play host to the 55th District the gym burned - not a splinter left.

            Carr Creek has come a long way since the 1928 boys and they say that they aim to keep right on going. Stiff competition is their big worry and Coach Johnson says that in Francis, the Miller brothers, the Stamper boys, Bill Morton, Vesper Singleton and the rest of the Indian tribe he has just the medicine to remedy most any situation that he might encounter in Louisville this year.

            Carr Creek enters state playoff with 24 wins and two losses; one to Hindman, being their only season loss. The other defeat came at Garrett by 39-38 in the Mountain Tournament.

 *This article appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal March 23, 1948. In the state tournament that year; first round Carr Creek beat Fort Knox 54-45, second round they beat   Holmes 57-53, then lost in semi-finals 56-54 to Maysville. Carr Creek came back to defeat Louisville Male in the consolation game to claim third place in state.

Remembering a Carr Creek legend

Photo courtesy of the Lexington Herald Leader

Photo courtesy of the Lexington Herald Leader

Troublesome Creek Times

Hindman, Knott County, Kentucky
by jhall • April 5, 2012 •  

E.A. Couch, one of Knott County’s most well-known sports figures, passed away a few weeks ago at age 75.

Mr. Couch will be remembered in his hometown as an outstanding member of the Carr Creek 1956 state champion basketball team, as a Wildcat playing for Adolph Rupp at U.K. – but most of all, as a fine person and beloved friend. Read more…