By Stephen D. Bowling
She came into view as the train rounded a curve along the Kentucky River. This strange site, created by the need to remove a hillside, was one of the most famous mountain locations that visitors always waited to see. It lasted about 30 years, and then one summer, it disappeared. The famous “Stone Lady” of Quicksand was no more.
The “lady” was created in 1891 when the Lexington & Eastern Railroad extended its tracks from the train yards at Jackson to a new spur at Quicksand. The bustling town was added to the L&E line to transport millions of board feet for sawn lumber out of the mountains to feed the voracious appetites for construction in Lexington, Frankfort, Louisville, and Cincinnati. Surveyors and workmen cleared the path along the river to extend the tracks 2.42 miles to the Quicksand and soon laid the tracks.
As the railroad bed passed over the bridges at the mouth of King’s Branch and Lick Branch, the possible location for the tracks narrowed. Crews used dynamite to cut back the hillside to make a railbed wide enough for a single track to pass below the high riverbank cliffs. The result was a strange silhouette that gave the general appearance of a woman staring off in the distance with her plummed hat atop her head as trains chugged by headed for Quicksand. The spot, seen only from a southbound train, became known as “the Stone Lady.”
Every day for nearly thirty years, trains laden heavy with their wooden haul steamed past the lady on their way north through Jackson and points beyond. Little information about the “lady” is recorded in the pages of history except for a short sketch that was printed in a Chicago daily tabloid and later printed in newspapers around the country.
Stone Woman Has Seen Two Tragedies
Quicksand, Ky.—A woman of stone, looking out of the face of a 150-foot cliff, greets the traveler just below the South Fork of the Quicksand Creek, near here.
A freak of nature has left the face and bust plainly discernible, while vegetation at the top of the cliff might easily be imagined as a pompadour.
The stone woman of Breathitt county has seen two tragedies in the last few years. One came when a 12- year-old negro girl fell from the top of the cliff and was killed. The other was when a raft of timber in Quicksand Creek crashed against the foot of the cliff, severely crippling one of the workmen.The Day Book, July 15, 1914, page 7
By the 1920s, the need for additional room for a side track led to the death of the stone woman. The L&N Railroad, the successor of the L&E, blasted her profile away to move the track and add more stability to the rails in this section, and to reduce the number of rock falls that blocked the tracks.
Slowly, memories of the stately lady who sat silently and watched over the track faded. She and her unique beauty are now just another memory nearly lost to the progress of time.
© 2023 Stephen D. Bowling