Faith Hill Community on the Lucky Fork , Owsley County, Kentucky

  Lucky Fork

Owsley County
1931 - 1978

Lucky Fork ... 1931 - 1978

Before Margaret Kano and Chester Ranck were married in Philadelphia, PA in 1931, they announced that they were going to work in the isolated areas of the Kentucky Mountains. The first year was spent at Morris Fork, Breathitt County relieving the Vandermeers for a much needed vacation. From there they came 'over the hill' into Owsley County and found the spot at Lucky Fork they wanted for their work, the Faith Hill Mission.

The house was first to be built and it was there that their little son, Graham enjoyed a few short years. In those days the nearest available doctor was at Buckhorn and could only be reached by riding a couple of hours on mule or horseback. In memory of little Graham their church in Philadelphia gave money to build a small hospital or dispensary. It was geared for maternity work and here a number of babies were welcomed into the world.

My first trip to Lucky Fork was in 1937 when I persuaded one of my sisters to make the trip from Connecticut with me. Margaret had sent instructions (it was not on the map) to leave our car in Hazard and come by train to Chavies. Except for us, the passengers were all coal miners. A popular 'taxi' took a crowded carful to Buckhorn where 'Old Jerry Baker' was waiting with mules to continue on to Morris Fork and then to Lucky Fork.
Before another trip was made the US Navy had built a gravel road over the hill to Bee Branch and set up a band-mill to get virgin lumber for ships needed in the war. Now it was possible to have closer contact with Booneville and take part in Owsley County activities.

As in each community, the school house was the center for any service or activity but more and more, the Mission wanted its own church building. Interested folks wanted to help and a careful list was made of who promised what.
Trees were donated that had to be cut and the logs snaked down the hillsides and many rocks would have to be brot from the creek on sleds for the foundation. It would all take countless hours of both man and mule labor. There was also a list for the women. Not only would they bring vegetables, chicken, etc; but would help Mrs Ranck and 'Grandma Kano', her mother to prepare and serve dinner for the workmen. What times of fun and fellowship along with the work - but also times of discouragement like when precious logs floated away in a big tide. The brave determination of Bakers, Caudils, Morrises, Mosleys and others led by the Rancks was richly rewarded and in May of 1940 the beautiful log church was dedicated with a great celebration as people came from near and far.

During those early days, Mr Chester rode horseback over the hills to visit the schools in neighboring communities of Cortland, Gabrial, Rockhouse, Highland, Bee Branch as well as Lucky Fork. He not only taught Bible and told missionary stories but his beautiful tenor voice led them in songs and choruses that delighted the children.

Many of the young men had responded to the call to serve our country in the armed forces and had seen the world both in USA and abroad and felt the opportunity calling. One family after another moved to other areas of Kentucky or neighboring states. This left a great void in our community and especially in the church family. As reports came back we rejoiced that the children were doing well in school, the men had good jobs, most had found fundamental, gospel believing churches and some 'moms' were teaching Sunday School. Our loss was their gain.

As population decreased the schools in remote areas were closed one by one and remaining children brought to the nearest open one. In a few years even these were closed and all Owsley County boys and girls were bused to the consolidated schools in Booneville.
Through the years other workers came to help. Some came for a few months during summer vacations. Others stayed for a few years but all left for various reasons. In 1946 I was asked to join the mission as nurse and general helper. Mildred New came a few years later relieving Mrs Ranck of the school visitation and other programs. Requests from neighboring communities for Sunday afternoon services were answered as time and workers permitted.

When the Board of Elections urged Mrs Ranck to teach the Rockhouse school they decided to move to Mistletoe and leave the established work at Lucky Fork in the hands of a young couple coming in.

From time to time rumors would get started about such 'modern conveniences' as electricity, telephones and a road. (Our only 'road' was up through the creek and if that was high even a big log truck could not make it.) Because of many broken promises and shattered dreams our faith was weak. What excitement when the Rural Electric Co-op from Jackson County brought in huge poles and strung wires! Seeing was believing! At the Thanksgiving service all Lucky Fork in 1951 electricity was officially dedicated with a representative from McKee present. It was nearly ten more years before telephone service was enjoyed linking the workers in our several communities closer together. A dry land road was eventually scraped out. Life was changing.

Early in 1968, Margaret's health made it imperative that she leave the mountains to be close to hospital and medical care. This was a heartbreaking move for they loved their work and the people who had experienced so many joys and sorrows with them. In 1972, after much suffering, Mr Chester was granted his wish to 'sing in Heaven on Christmas Day' when he slipped quietly away. Miss Margaret had several more semi-active years which included a number of operations. On February 12, 1978 the Lord took her to her well earned eternal rest.

Both died of cancer. There were able to spend their last days in their home in Lexington. They are buried beside their little son on the hillside at Lucky Fork overlooking the Mission Center that was so dear to them.

Selma Johnson, RN; co-worker

Copied from files at the Owsley County Public Library
and submitted by
Golden Combs Ferguson
Booneville, Owsley County, Ky

 The Faith Hill Project is the property of Faith Hill Community Center. Website funded by Jackie T Burton. Webpage maintained by Golden C Ferguson