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The Legend of Jake Martin's Gold

Rebecca Hilliard, Kentucky, USA
October 1998

This experience did not happen to me, but to my grandfather. He has told me about it so many times, however, than I can-and will-quote it to you verbatim.

My family comes from the hills of eastern Kentucky, where the mountains are tall and the coal is plentiful. Most of the folks in that part of the state depend on the mines for their livelihood in one form or another. I know, you've all heard the stereotypical stories about those mountain folks living in lean-to shacks, running around barefoot with corncob pipes hanging' out of their mouths, all that sort of thing. Unfortunately, that stereotype is true for some families in the region. However, this story is NOT about of one those families.

Jacob T. Martin was a wealthy man in Harlan Co. Kentucky. He made a fortune in the mining industry selling equipment to all the big outfits around that part of the state. He was a family man with a lovely wife and two children, a boy named Thomas and a girl named Elizabeth. Jacob, or Jake as his friends called him, was a generous man, always helping out those who needed it. He never forgot what it was like to go without the basic necessities of life, and he did his best to make sure others didn't have too. He always tried to raise his children to appreciate the value of a dollar and tried not to spoil them. He was a very well-loved, well-respected man all around those parts. One day though, Jake just disappeared. No one had seen him in days. He hadn't shown up at his office; his family hadn't seen him; he hadn't been at church for two weeks in a row; Everyone was very worried. They searched high and low over every conceivable place for him but to no avail. After all, this is the foothills of the great smoky mountains. If someone wanted to hide a body, for instance, there would be plenty of out of the way places that most folks wouldn't even know existed.

After several weeks, the search was called off. About two months after his disappearance, I believe the date was July 6, 1958, Jake's children had him declared legally dead, and they took possession of his estate. Of course, as soon as this happened the rumor mill started churning. Legend has it that Jake never disappeared. His children had actually locked him in the attic of his gorgeous home, and starved him to death trying to make him reveal where his fortune in gold was hidden. No one really knew if it was true or not, but after a while, you tell a story so many times and it becomes the "truth". All of that background leads me to Kentucky, circa 1985. My grandpa was a miner and he walked to work every day along the railroad tracks that hauled coal out of town for distribution. This particular morning, it was in late September, the air was crisp and cool. The fog still covered the mountain tops like haloes. Grandpa was about halfway to his destination when he noticed a fellow walking toward him on the other side of the tracks. He was an older gentleman, wearing a nice suit and derby hat. The man never spoke. He just tipped his hat at grandpa as he passed and they both continued on their way. Then for some reason, grandpa turned around to take another look. He just thought it was strange that such a well dressed man would be out walking along the railroad track at that time of day. So, when gramps turned around, he got the shock of his life. The man's feet weren't touching the ground!! He was literally floating about two feet off the ground. Well, naturally, my grandfather took off like a rocket. He got to work and told the other guys there what he had seen. He was so shaken up he had to sit down for a few minutes and try to collect himself. Well naturally, most of the fellows at work thought he was just pulling their leg. His foreman however, took him off to the side and pulled out an old scrapbook. He opened it up to the first page and showed my grandfather a picture. He said "Is this the man you passed back on the tracks?" Gramps was stunned. Right there before his eyes was a picture of the man he had just seen a few minutes before, floating above the ground. "Yes," he said, "That's the one!!" Excitedly, my grandpa started asking all the usual questions. "Where did you get this picture?" "Who is this man?" The foreman set him down and told him the legend of Jake's gold. Jake was the man who originally started the very mining company my granddad now worked for. Turns out he was not the first person to have seen Mr. Martin out for his morning walk. Different people had reported seeing him walking along the railroad track, always in the same suit and hat, always in the morning, just before the whistle would blow signaling everyone to go to work. He never spoke to anyone-just politely tipped his hat and went on his way.

I don't know how Mr. Martin died, or where his body is. But my grandfather is an honest, god- fearing man who never lied a day in his life, so if he says this happened to him, I believe it. So regardless of what happened to Jacob Martin and his gold, his soul still wanders up and down the railroad tracks in eastern Kentucky, perhaps seeking out those who need him.

Rebecca Hilliard, Kentucky, USA
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