A Trip to Quicksand in 1911

In 1911, Breathitt County had the fastest-growing city in the state of Kentucky. It was not the metropolitan centers of Jackson, Crockettsville, not even the big city of Lost Creek. Quicksand, located a few miles from Jackson, drew thousands of people from across the region to work in the mills at the Mowbray-Robinson Company Sawmill and the other attached business.

An image of the Mowbray & Robinson Mills at Quicksand during the city’s heyday a few years after the 1911 article.

Quicksand was a “happening place” and, by the early 1920s, would grow to rival Jackson as the largest population center in the county. Although it was never incorporated as a Kentucky city, its economic and political power dominated the county for many years.

In the June 23, 1911 edition of The Jackson Times, a newspaper representative traveled to Quicksand on business and wrote an assessment of the thriving community for the front page.


One of The Leading Cities of Eastern Kentucky.

The Town of Quicksand, located on the North Fork of the Kentucky River, three miles east of Jackson and the present terminal of the Lexington & Eastern Railway, is one of the most rapid growing towns in the Mountains.

Monday, The Times was called by telephone by the Merchant’s Supply Company of that little city, to send a representative to their place to receive a large order for job printing.  While there a general inspection of the little city was made by our representative, who, upon his return said, “Gee, but how that place does grow.”

Those people are hustlers.  A modern hotel, electric lights, water works, mills, wholesale and retail stores, in fact, a genuine little city filled with good people and “it all happened in six months.”

Read the ads. of Miles Back & Co., and The Merchants Supply Co., in this issue.

Miles Back & Co. ad from page 8 of the June 23, 1911 edition of The Jackson Times.

They are hustling establishments that deserve personal mention.

“The store upon the hill,” is Miles Back & Co.  One going to Quicksand finds a hustling manager at this place in the person of Mr. Bales.  He is building for his company a wonderful patronage, and when one visit is made to this establishment, he always returns when the opportunity affords.

The Merchant’s Supply Company, “the Big Store,” is just simply a wonder, doing both a wholesale and retail business.  People from all parts of the county are found there doing their shopping.  Mr. S. M. Croft, one of the members of the company who attends the store, is a very pleasant gentleman, and his kind treatment to patrons is noticeable.

The Merchant’s Supply Company at Quicksand served the people of the mountains as a wholesale and retail store.

In going through the big establishment, one meets among others, Miss Florence Napier, J. C. Dickson, D. D. Hurst, Elisha Hurst, and Whitley Mays, who are behind the counters at all times busily engaged with their work, and Mr. Flynn Hull, the expert book-keeper.

Mr. Goldbarth, is the manager, who, with great skill and executive ability, superintends the establishment.  He knows where everything is, what it cost, what it sells for, and whose business it is to handle and sell it, and these things he oversees with exactness.

Merchant’s Supply Company ad from page 5 of the June 23, 1911 edition of The Jackson Times. A. W. Brown would manage this store before moving to Jackson and opening Brown’s Hardware on Main Street.

He is a very cordial gentleman which together with his enterprise and up-to-date ideas, is extending the patronage of the company through many neighboring counties.

The new hotel, fitted with all modern conveniences, is a great drawing card and is noted as a place where you get the value of your expenditure.

The City of Quicksand continued to grow and prosper until most of the old-growth or larger timber was harvested. Slowly the business of the Mowbray and Robinson Lumber Company dropped, and the trains hauled away the final loads of lumber. The fortunes of the town declined with the exodus of the company.

Quicksand now is a small and quiet hamlet. No mills are running, and the sounds of steam whistles and saws are not heard. Few hints of the rumbling and smells that once called Quicksand home when it was the fastest-growing city in eastern Kentucky.

© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
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