BELCHER, KENTUCKY (41513)

 

    The history of Belcher, Kentucky, located in the Cumberland Mountains of Eastern Kentucky not far from the state line between Kentucky and southwestern Virginia, derives its beginnings from the American Colonial era. During the 1700's, before the American colonies united to form the United States of America, the land that comprises present-day Eastern Kentucky was part of the western lands of the Virginia colony, a wilderness country nestled among the formidable peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. It was during this era when His Excellency Governor Jonathan Belcher (1682-1757) ruled the colonies of New England and New Jersey, aided the efforts to establish the colony of Georgia, and assisted his nephew in the management of the latter's ownership of one-half of Roanoke Island, North Carolina, the place that had been the home of Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony when the island had belonged to Virginia. It was then, too, when Governor Belcher named Cumberland County, New Jersey after his friend King George II's son, the Duke of Cumberland, the person for whom the Cumberland River in southern Kentucky was named.

    In 1776, Kentucky was established as a Virginia county, and from henceforth, settlers trekked through the Cumberland Gap and across the Appalachian Mountains in increasingly greater numbers. At about the same time period when Kentucky gained its statehood in 1792, several pioneers, including George Belcher, a Revolutionary War soldier, crossed the Appalachian Mountains to become among the first settlers of Eastern Kentucky, in the region now known as Pike County. Others followed, coming from various regions, to settle in the area of Belcher, Kentucky. Thus, the history of Belcher, Kentucky began in the late 1700's, over two hundred years ago, and it is nearly as old as the state itself. The town was named Belcher after the pioneer family who founded it, many of whom were businessmen, timbermen, and landowners. The name Belcher originated from a combination of two Norman-French words: "Bel", meaning "good", and "cher", meaning "cheer". Belcher thus means "good cheer". Historians and etymologists trace the origin of the name Belcher back to the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror.

    Belcher, Kentucky (the area serviced by the Belcher Post Office) covers an area from near Elkhorn City, Kentucky on State Route 80 to Draffin, Kentucky (going toward Pikeville, Kentucky) to East Ridge High School on U.S. Highway 460 going toward the Virginia state line. In terms of latitude and longitude, Belcher is 37 degrees, 20.7 minutes North, and 82 degrees, 22.3 minutes West. Through the middle of the community of Belcher flows the Big Sandy River. The town of BELCHER, KENTUCKY includes various drainage areas, river, branches, forks, and creek.  Included (within) BELCHER, KENTUCKY are one river (Big Sandy River), and tributaries: Ten forks (Board Fork, Road Fork, Abner Fork, Brushy Fork, Spruce Pine Fork, Honey Fork, Weddington Fork, Blue Pond Fork, Slickrock Fork, Middlefield Fork); two branches (Jessie Branch, Shop Branch); one creek Ferrell (spelled with no "s"); two hollows (Hogston Hollow, Raspberry Hollow), and other smaller drainage areas. 

    Belcher is in a central location with reference to the surrounding states, for within Belcher, U.S. 460, leading eastward toward Bristol, Virginia, meets Route 80, leading to the Breaks Interstate Park and Kingsport, Tennessee. Going westward from Belcher, U.S. 460 intersects with the Mountain Parkway leading to Lexington, Kentucky, the heart of the Bluegrass Country.

    During the 1800's, John Martin Belcher, grandson of the founder of Belcher, Kentucky, and later his son, Amon, and grandson, William Kerry Belcher, owned and operated the Belcher Gristmill, where they ground corn into flour for the residents of the area and surrounding regions. Water from the Big Sandy River was changed to steam and used to power the gristmill and William Kerry Belcher's sawmill. The river also turned the waterwheel of the other gristmill owned by the family of George W. Belcher. William Kerry Belcher and his father-in-law, Enos Bart Bingham, were timbermen, and each operated his own sawmill. Belcher Sawmill was located near William Kerry Belcher's Supply Store near the banks of the Big Sandy River in Belcher, Kentucky. Many buildings were constructed from lumber produced by this historic sawmill, including several houses in Belcher which were built by William Kerry Belcher.

    Dr. Fon R. Belcher, Founder and President of Belcher Foundation (Belcher, Kentucky) (see the website: www.belcherfoundation.org), writes the following: "William [Belcher] sawed lumber the railroad used to make cross-ties. Lumber from Belcher Sawmill also made the clapboards needed for the region's mining camps [and] house patterns for the people of Belcher and the surrounding region. . . .His Belcher Supply Store contained everything a self-contained community would need, from hardware to food."

    The other supply store within Belcher was owned by George W. Belcher, a landowner and the father of Elbert Spurlock Belcher, who was Belcher, Kentucky's first postmaster. Their store was the first post office in this region (Belcher, Kentucky), which also served as the train station. Later postmasters included George W. Belcher's daughter. George W. owned much of the land in the central area of Belcher, including his store, which served as the post office and train station. At that time, the first church in Belcher was the Belcher Christian Church, built on land donated by George W. Belcher.

    The historic Belcher Post Office, for a number of years, was formerly housed in a building and located on land leased from William Kerry Belcher, the father of Dr. Fon R. Belcher, near the present location of the Belcher Post Office. Belcher, Kentucky's post office has the ZIP code of 41513. 

    With regard to education, there were two schools in Belcher during the early 1900's, one of which was the two-room Belcher School located by the railroad tracks, near the river. Augusta Bentley Belcher, wife of George W. Belcher, was the school's trustee. Many members of the Belcher family either attended or taught at that school, and one of them, Opal E. Belcher, won for the school its first unabridged dictionary in a county spelling contest. Robert Schoolfield Bingham, a circuit-riding Methodist minister who moved to Belcher from North Carolina, visited Belcher School and delivered talks to the students. Later, Dr. Fon R. Belcher earned a place in educational history by obtaining the first doctoral degree (Ed.D.) from East Tennessee State University.

    Belcher, Kentucky is a growing community. With the new East Ridge High School located at the East limit of Belcher, Kentucky, those traveling along U. S. 460 toward Lexington, Kentucky would see business places located along U.S. 460, including Belcher Plantation, where thousands of trees have been planted, which, along with existing trees, cover the slopes and mountains.

    Also located on Belcher Plantation is the Belcher Foundation (www. belcherfoundation.org), a research organization focusing on public policy, church and state, education, law, and history. It is named for Governor Jonathan Belcher (1682-1757), a dedicated Christian leader who was the royal colonial governor of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Jersey, and the founder of Princeton University at Princeton, New Jersey. The Belcher Foundation is headquartered at Belcher, Kentucky (USA), an area founded over 200 years ago by the pioneer family of Revolutionary War soldier George Belcher. 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:

George Belcher: Founder of Belcher, Kentucky

The Story of Josephine Bingham Belcher (1901-1988)

Belcher Regional Airport, Belcher, Kentucky 41513

 



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