artifacts culture Blackey education activism appalshop

Joe Begley, 2/23/1919-3/27/2000
Joe Begley Remembered

Where in the World is Blackey?
Where in the World is Blackey?


Scanning Day

For the last 30 years, policy makers, writers, reporters and visitors from six continents have made the journey to the little mining town of Blackey, Kentucky, to meet Joe and Gaynell Begley and their neighbors. Among those visitors have been Studs Terkel, Harry Reasoner, Morris Udall, Wendell Berry, Morris Dees and Jesse Jackson. Twice Joe and Gaynell have been invited to the White House.

And for the most part their reputation grows from their operation of a small country store that has served for half a century as a reliable outlet for plumbing fixtures, quarts of milk and tutorials on citizenship. more

The store has headquartered several activist efforts throughout its history. A treasure of mountain tools, trades, and tales. A small mountain community with much history. The store has been central in local music, storytelling, and drama.The store is a living history of the Appalachian experience.

For further information contact:
CB Caudill Store

Tessie Mae Hogg Caudill


C.B. Caudill





Established by Tessie Mae Hogg Caudill, daughter of Blackey merchants, and her husband, C.B. Caudill, in 1933, the store has been the community center, the unofficial bank, the place to use the telephone, and the social conscience of a community for more than 60 years. When C.B. died in 1966, the business passed to his daughter, Gaynell, and her husband, Joe Begley, who took up the torch of bettering their community and extended their influence beyond Blackey's borders.Their leadership led to stricter regulation of strip mining, formation of a local library, improved health care, and a new Blackey water system.

Appalachia and Eastern Kentucky: The region in which the C.B. Caudill Store resides is a complex blend of breathtaking scenery and environmental desecration, old-time music and economic hardship, award-winning craftsmanship and illiteracy. Automation and shifts in the global energy market have combined to devastate the Appalachian coalfield economy. A recent University of Kentucky study showed unemployment in some coalfield communities reached as high as 65 percent of the adult population; this is a generation after millions of Appalachian residents left the region to find employment in the nation's urban centers.

Yet local culture survives and even flourishes, and the C.B. Caudill Store has always been at the intersection where local culture met economic hardship. Some of the region's toughest fights for social and environmental justice were begun at the store. While fighting battles, selling milk and raising a family, Joe and Gaynell also found time to document local Letcher County history and that of the region by clipping hundreds of newspaper articles and collecting artifacts of country life.

Today, the store holds an extensive collection of objects that chronicle Appalachian culture and economic life in the twentieth century. Antique farm machinery, coal mining implements, obsolete kitchen utensils, glassware and old patent medicines are hand-labeled by Joe and Gaynell, who know the history behind nearly every item.

In 1997, the store closed its doors as a retail business and began a new life as a regional history museum and cultural center. This exciting endeavor includes partnerships with local schools, collection of oral history interviews and old photographs, a permanent exhibit on Blackey history (in progress), and arts programming including exhibits, music and lectures. The most interesting aspect of the project is still Joe and Gaynell, who live at one end of the store and enjoy chatting with visitors about their experiences.

artifacts culture Blackey education activism appalshop

last update 01/08/01 sjr