Butcher Hollow, Kentucky

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The childhood home of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle, June 2014.

Butcher Hollow (also known as Butcher Holler) is a coal-mining community located in Johnson County, Kentucky, United States.[1] It is the birthplace of country music legend Loretta Lynn, who paid tribute to the community in the song "Coal Miner's Daughter", which begins with the lyrics

Well, I was born'd a coal miner's daughter

In a cabin on a hill in Butcher Holler

Later in the song, she also mentions Van Lear, the larger community in which Butcher Hollow is located:

My daddy worked all night in the Van Lear coal mines.

All day long in the fields a-hoein corn.[2]

Butcher Hollow took the name of a nearby valley which was named for the local Butcher family.[3] Butcher Hollow is a part of the community of Van Lear, which was constructed by the Consolidation Coal Company in the early part of the 20th century. Van Lear was named for Van Lear Black, one of the company's directors. Although most of Butcher Hollow lies outside of the old Van Lear city limits, the mailing address of those who have lived there has been Van Lear since the establishment of the Van Lear post office in 1909. Butcher Hollow is not an independent town or village in its own right. Currently, Van Lear is an unincorporated community. There are no deep mines operating in Van Lear proper, although some mines operate nearby. Most of the residents work in locations outside Van Lear, including the nearby cities of Paintsville, Prestonsburg, and Pikeville. Since the end of local mining, only a handful of businesses continue to operate in the Van Lear area, including a bookstore, Mine Number 5 Store, The East Kentucky Museum of Mysteries, and Icky's 1950's Snack Shop (located inside the Coal Miners' Museum).

Although Butcher Hollow is often listed as a separate town, it is geographically considered a street or a neighborhood by natives of Eastern Kentucky. Thus, Butcher Hollow's address would be Butcher Hollow, Van Lear, Johnson County, Kentucky.

"Holler" is the regional dialect pronunciation of "hollow," referring to a broad natural hollow, as of one a creek has carved, i.e. a small valley. Colloquially, this has led to the somewhat tongue-in-cheek definition that a "holler" is called such because of the need to "holler" to communicate with the nearest neighbor. In the hills of Kentucky, most of the fertile, tillable property is adjacent to the creeks that run down the hollow. When people settled the region, they pulled their wagons into the hollow along the creek and built a cabin high enough on the hillside not to be flooded during seasonal high rainfall events. The roads were dirt, and/or the dry creek bed during periods of low water. The saying, "We will be there come hell or high water," is related to the road being a part of and/or crossing the creek in a hollow.


Hundreds of tourists visit the town of Van Lear each year to see the childhood home of Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, and their siblings. Herman Webb, one of Lynn's brothers, had traditionally conducted this tour, with other family members stepping in when Herman is unavailable. The fee for the tour is a flat five dollars and had remained so for many years, in spite of inflation, in keeping with the spirit of the family's humble, folksy origins.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] USGS
  2. ^ Butcher Hollow byways.org. Retrieved on 2010-01-04
  3. ^ Blevins, Danny K. (20 February 2008). Van Lear. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 45–. ISBN 978-1-4396-3534-6.