• Description
  • Play Interview
  • Rights & Request
  • Citation

Interview Summary

James Ell Ratliff was born in 1893 on Marrowbone Creek. He can recall hearing about the sinking of the USS Maine in 1898. Residents received the Louisville and Cincinnati newspapers through the mail in those days. Ratliff remembers the era of the steamship on the Big Sandy River, and he recalls seeing them being unloaded. He talks about the coming of the railroads and the opening up of the mines on Marrowbone Creek. Child labor was common, and sometimes the children were paid nothing. If you worked as a "backhand," that is, not working directly for the coal company, but for a contractor or another miner, you ran the risk of not getting paid at all. Farm work paid fifty cents a day, and sawmill work paid about one dollar. As low as mine wages were, at two dollars a day they were still higher than other kinds of paid labor. Ratliff worked as a boss in the mines. His wages were around seven or eight dollars a day. He describes the duties of a boss, in particular the firing of miners. He recalls being ordered to fire over thirty men one morning. Ratliff was against the UMWA and recounts the events surrounding the Henry Clay strike of the 1930s, where he was a boss. He describes Perry Adkins, a union supporter who was killed during the violence, as "a dangerous man." He states that the miners were divided over the union, and that the union did "whatever it took" to gain a foothold in the mines. The union miners were "ruthless in their demands," in his view. Ratliff also discusses his marriages, as well as how the mining companies acquired mining rights from many landowners in Pike County. Ratliff then describes the interviewer's great-uncle, as well as the African-American coal miners in Pike County. Ratliff discusses the Civil War, and compares it to a story in the Old Testament about war. The interviewee then illustrates why he did not serve in World War I or World War II. Ratliff then talks of Franklin Roosevelt, and the trials after the Henry Clay mine strike. Technology milestones during Ratliff's life are also recalled. To conclude the interview, Ratliff provides his opinion on doctors, describes his recent health, and lists his most important role models during his childhood.

Interview Accession

1987oh197_app120

Interviewee Name

James E. Ratliff

Interviewer Name

Nyoka Hawkins

Interview Date

1987-08-21

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Interview Usage

Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Restriction

No Restrictions

Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Add this interview to your cart in order to begin the process of requesting access to a copy of and/or permission to reproduce interview(s). 


Ratliff, James E. Interview by Nyoka Hawkins. 21 Aug. 1987. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Ratliff, J.E. (1987, August 21). Interview by N. Hawkins. Appalachia: Social History and Cultural Change in the Elkhorn Coal Fields Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Ratliff, James E., interview by Nyoka Hawkins. August 21, 1987, Appalachia: Social History and Cultural Change in the Elkhorn Coal Fields Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt7z08637w63