The city of Jenkins, Kentucky (established as a sixth class town and incorporated in 1912) is located at the foot of Pine Mountain in Letcher County. In the fall of 1911, Consolidation Coal Company purchased one hundred thousand acres of coal lands in Letcher, Pike, and Floyd counties from John C. C. Mayo. The town was named for George C. Jenkins, a promoter and Baltimore banker. The railroad reached Jenkins in 1912. Consol built the Elkhorn Lake to supply water to run their turbines in their power plant. They constructed several businesses, which the company owned. Examples include a bank, grocery store, sawmill, brick plant, stables, depots, and even a hospital that was built in 1915 but is still being used today as a rest home. Consol also built a bakery, drug store, post office, jail, hotel, recreation center, churches, schools, and roads.
Consol also built homes for their employees, including 600 houses built in 1925. With Consols’s 14 tipples, Letcher County was the largest coal producer in Kentucky in 1916. Consol gave their employees a rent-free house and paid for all utilities. Part of the employees’ wages were paid in script—money printed by the coal companies that could only be spent in a company store. It has been said that the company brought the citizens of Jenkins into the world—since they owned the hospital, and took them out of the world—since they owned the only funeral home.
The biggest simple social change in Jenkins came in 1947 when the company announced that the whole town was for sale. Nothing happened until 1956 when Bethlehem Steel bought their interests in the area. Bethlehem sold in 1988 to the present day owners—Pike Letcher Land Corp. Jenkins remains a small coal town that is a great place to live and work today!