This History of Magoffin County started in 1860, when state Senator, and native of the area Sam Salyer, proposed that Magoffin County be formed from parts of Floyd, Johnson, and Morgan Counties. It was named for the then governor, Beriah Magoffin, and the town of Adamsville would be changed to Salyersville in the Senator’s honor.
In 1887, a meeting was held at the Franklin County courthouse to discuss extending the rail system into Eastern Kentucky. According to the Hazel Green Herald on February 16th,
“ A large and enthusiastic meeting was held at the court house Thursday. It was presided over by Judge George W. Craddock. It was composed of merchants, bankers, proprietors of saw mills and distilleries, with a good sprinkling of working men. It was a representative meeting, and a great deal of interest was manifested to secure another railroad from Frankfort. A committee was appointed to confer with similar committee from the counties through which the railroad is to go, and another meeting will be held in this city Monday, to hear their report.”
“The road will be run through the Stamping-Ground and on to Georgetown, thence to Paris, on to Mt. Sterling, and thence to Salyersville, in Magoffin County; and thence on to Prestonsburg, being 100 miles from this city. The road and its connections will go through the coal and iron fields of Kentucky-Frankfort Argus.”
By 1894, Magoffin County was a thriving community, but still had no rail system. However, plans were in motion for the area to eventually add itself to the C & O line, as it stated in the Hazel Green Herald in July 19, 1894,
“ Some cannel coal is shipped from Magoffin, on poplar rafts, to the lower markets. Magoffin has, as yet, no railroads, but the “Kentucky Midland,” from Frankfort, via Paris, Owingsville, West Liberty, Prestonville, and Pikeville, to the stat line, at the “Breaks of Sandy,” will pass thro’ the county via Salyersville, the county-seat, and it is believed will be completed at an early day, it being one of the numerous railways recently projected to aid in the development of the mineral and timber wealth of Eastern Kentucky.”
By 1895, speculations arose that Magoffin County had a vast silver mine in its mountains. Rumors flew around the country about the possible “discovery” of the famous SWIFT MINE, to a mine so vast, it was to rival the deposits found in the Black Hills of South Dakota. All of this speculation further fueled the desire for a rail line in the area.
Even with the popularity of a railroad traveling through Magoffin County, it would take another 20 years for it to become a reality. Newspapers of the day reported of “special meetings” and “trips to the coal fields,” to make future plans.
Also during this time, investors began purchasing properties and building businesses along the proposed route. According to the Big Sandy News on Feb 19, 1909,
“Shelby J. Dish, of Central City, KY, a prominent Kentucky coal operator, is associated with a number of Louisville capitalists, among them Dr. W.H. Netherland and Vernon J. Blow, in coal and timber lands in Magoffin and Carter Counties. Mr. Dish and his Louisville associates are going to develop the property, and will open up mines and saw mills right away. It is also their purpose to build a railroad that will connect their property with the L & N and Southern. Thousands of dollars will be spent in the developments and improvements to be made, and the mining company will be one of the biggest concerns in Eastern Kentucky.”
Finally, by April 18, 1919, The Big Sandy News reported that, “Work on the extension of the Jennies Creek railroad from Riceville to Magoffin and Breathitt counties, is now being pushed. This new road will open up a rich section in coal and timber.”
According to a journal written by R.P. Rice of Ivyton, Kentucky in Salyersville, he records,
“The Rail Road the first steel rail laid in Magoffin Co., KY Dec. 26, 1919. B.S. & RR. Co. from Johnson Co., KY through the narrows of Jennies Creek. The first Locomotive work train in said Co. Jan 5-1920-Then though the Trimble Gap March 25-1920. Then in Ivyton, across the Tressel June 11-1920. The first passenger train in Ivyton, Sept 8-1920.”
Having a new railroad proclaimed to the rest of Kentucky, as well as the rest of the country, that Eastern Kentucky was worth investing in. According to the Big Sandy News in July, 1921,
“Some of the mountain projects with local money partly raised and waiting action of Congress for work to begin are: …the cross mountain road connecting the Midland at Mount Sterling with the Mayo Trail at Paintsville, giving Menifee, Morgan, and Magoffin an outlet to the railroad, and finance with bond issues as far as Magoffin and Johnson are concerned;”
In 1922, The Name, Dawkins, in reference to the rail line, was first used in the newspapers, however for negative reasons. On March 31, the Big Sandy News reported that, “L.J. Gerlach, a traveling salesman, was dangerously hurt in a fracas at Royalton, KY. The report says he was hit on the head with a billard cue in the poolroom.” It goes on to state that; “Royalton is a new town in Magoffin County on the Dawkins railroad. “
By October of that same year, it is reported that, “a special car bearing…Sir Herbert Holt, chairman of the Royal Bank of Canada (where Royalton gets its name), …W.H. Dawkins, Lou Davis, Captain Fletcher, W.E. Berger and Jack Fisher joined this party today to go with them on the trip of investigation.”
This same article, written by the Big Sandy News, goes on to explain the connection of these men to the railroad,
“ With the financing of the Royal Bank of Canada and under the general direction of the Dawkins Lumber Company this enormous field has been opened up and operations have been under way since a year last August. Under their directions, the Big Sandy and Kentucky River Railroad were constructed forming an outlet for the Magoffin and Breathitt fields. Although a single-track road this ine tops one of the most important and wealthy sections of eastern Kentucky, passing through the great oil fields and coal area and the agricultural districts of the county. This is the only railroad in Magoffin County. The road extends from Dawkns on the C & O, to the logging camp, Betts Mann Camp on the Quicksand River. Along the road lies the most important towns and villages of the region, which have sprung into prominence since the boom. It is up this road that the party will travel.”