|By Bob Weaver (2004)
One of Arnoldsburg's longtime characters was mountain man Smith Cottrell who lived to be ninety-nine.|
A frequent bench sitter at the village's country stores, he was a spinner of tales, one of the West Fork's men who drank hard, worked hard and played hard.
He talked about his days in mining, timbering and railroading.
Born and raised on the Head of Beech in a log cabin, he was the son of Civil War union soldier Thomas Cottrell, who came to Calhoun from Jackson County, Ohio.
Cottrell's mother, Nancy White, moved from the wilderness of eastern Kentucky to escape the Civil War, marrying Thomas Cottrell is 1866. She found the conflict lively in Calhoun.
"There was no money, but people helped one another, going maybe ten miles to build a house or barn, or help harvest," said Cottrell, who had his first pair of shoes at age 14. "In the coldest weather I wore knit socks and coffee sacks.
"Standing barefoot in the snow and chopping wood made a man," he said.
"My mother had the voice of a steam mill. You could hear her a half-mile away, calling the family into dinner."
Cottrell said his mother sang old ballads, but his favorite singer was "Uncle Nance," who would come and sing until midnight.
Smith Cottrell was married to Susie Lane (1885-1969). They raised six boys, one of which was "killed in the war." They are buried in Sand Ridge Cemetery.
Editor's Note: If you have stories about or told by Smith Cottrell, we would like to hear from you.
Photos courtesy of Earl Hall and Lena Parsons