Now that I think about it, after researching the topic for this story, I've actually visited a fair amount of cities at high elevations. With a number of relatives who live in the southern Rockies, that hasn't been hard to accomplish.

Those aunts, uncles, and cousins have lived either in or around Silver City NM for decades. I've always been a fan of this mining community--its copper mine is the city's and county's largest employer--and never gave much thought to it being 5,919 feet above sea level. Again, regarding cities in the southern Rockies, elevations like that are not surprising.

But everything is relative. I can be in mountainous eastern Kentucky or eastern Tennessee and feel like I could touch the clouds, yet not come close to the elevations in the western U.S.

The Incorporated Kentucky Town With the Highest Elevation

So what exactly IS the incorporated city with the highest elevation in the Commonwealth? Well, that would be Lynch KY in Harlan County with an elevation of 1,716 feet above sea level.

Its population of 658 might belie its rich industry in the coal industry, but it shouldn't. Nor should the DECLINE in population Lynch has experienced over the last 100-plus years. You see, Lynch was once the largest coal camp in the world whose population peaked in the 1940s at 15 times the size it is now.

In 1917 the U.S. Coal & Coke Company, a subsidiary of the United States Steel Company, built Lynch, then the largest coal camp in the world, on part of the 19,000 acres it had purchased in the southeastern tip of Harlan County in Kentucky, near the Virginia border. The camp's population peaked at about 10,000 but the reported figures vary because of the fluidity of its migrant population.

The following pictorial history gives us a fascinating and surprising look at what was once a thriving eastern Kentucky community.

There's Much More to Lynch KY Than Meets the Eye

Lynch was once the "training ground" for future B-movie western star Ken Maynard who learned how to ride a horse on the backs of the mine company's mules. It was also the setting for a world record 100 years ago:

On February 12, 1923, the world record for coal production in a single nine-hour shift was set here when 12,820 tons were mined by men operating forty shortwall cutting machines and loading it into 256 cars in six-unit trains.

Kentucky Proves There's a World Record for Everything

Lynch KY Today

Today, Lynch's fascinating history is reflected in the various abandoned structures that dot the town's and county's landscape. Lynch's Mine #31 is a good example:

Lynch High School has also long been abandoned; these folks took the opportunity to do a little investigation of their own.

A few years ago, KET's Kentucky Life series aired a feature focusing on the diverse number of people who moved to Lynch to work in the coal mines and now make their home there.

And then there's the amazing scenery. After all, this IS eastern Kentucky we're talking about. And Lynch is just minutes from beautiful Kingdom Come State Park.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Every town has history, even the smallest. When you have time in your travels, TAKE the time to look into your surroundings. What you find just might surprise you.

DISCLAIMER: Townsquare Media strongly discourages exploration of abandoned properties without the express permission of the property owner.

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