America’s poorest white-hot town: abandoned by coal, swallowed by pharmaceuticals

In the first of a series of dispatches from the USs poorest communities, we call Beattyville, Kentucky, blighted by a lack of jobs and addiction to painkillers

Karen Jennings patted her heavily made up look, put on a sarcastic smile and told me that she imagined she examined good after all shed been through.

I was an alcoholic firstly. I get drunk and fell in the creek and transgressed my back. Then I went secured on the anaesthetics, the 59 -year-old grandmother said.

Over its first year, Jennings back healed but her addiction to powerful opioids stood. After the prescriptions dried up, she was drawn to the underground dose commerce that specifies eastern Kentucky today as coal, petroleum and lumber formerly did.

Jennings spoke with startling frankness about her part in a beset seize the isolated, fading townships scattering this part of Appalachia. Frontier communities engulf in the myth of self-reliance are now blighted by addiction to opioids hillbilly heroin to the persons who use them. Its a reliance bound up with economic anguish and financed in part by the same social welfare system that is forestalling off economic collapse across much of eastern Kentucky. Its a crisis that sweeps generations.


One of those communities is Beattyville, entered by a US census survey as the poorest white town 98% of its 1,700 residents are white in the country. It was also by one measuring the Census Bureaus American Community Survey 2008 -2 012 of communities of more than 1,000 beings, the latest statistics available at the time of reporting among the four lowest income towns in the country. It be the first time that stop for a series of discharges by the Guardian about the well-being of those trying to do more than survive in places that seem the most remote from the aspirations and possibilities of the American Dream.

Beattyville sits at the northern tip of a region of the most enduring rural poverty in America. The loop runs from eastern Kentucky through the Mississippi delta to the Texas border with Mexico, taking in two of the other towns one overwhelmingly African American and the other exclusively Latino at the bottom of the low income magnitude. The town at the extremely sole of that census inventory is an outlier far to the west on an Indian reservation in Arizona.

The parishes share common struggles in grappling with blighted histories and uncertain futures. Parties in Beattyville are not alone in know … … if their kind of urban town even has a future. To the young, such places can sometimes feel like nets in an age when social mobility in the US is diminishing and they are experiencing greater obstacles to a good education than other Americans.

At the same time, each of the towns was characterized by problems not common to the residual. In Beattyville it is the dope outbreak, which has not only destroyed lives but has come to redefine a city whose momentary embracing of prosperity a generation ago is still visible in some of its grander official builds and residences near the heart of the town. Now they appear to accentuate the decline of a main street littered with ghost patronizes that havent watched business in years.

Jennings shook off her addiction after 15 times. She struggled to find work but eventually got a job serving in a restaurant that pays the $300 a month lease on her trailer home. She compiles a small disability part from the government and volunteers at a meat bank as a kind of atonement. Facilitating other parties is, she said, her direction of going through: I simply want to serve God and do what I can for people here.

income map

It was at the local meat bank that Jennings spilled out her story.

There are lots of ways of going medications. The elderly sell their prescriptions to make up coin to buy food. There are doctors and pharmacies that exactly want to make money out of it, she said. I was the manager of a fast food residence. I used to buy from the customers. People could come in for a hamburger and do a drug busines with me and no one “wouldve been” notice.

Even as Jennings referred the toll of drug abuse the division it played in destroying at least some of her five marriages, the overdose that practically overhead her life and the letter she wrote to her doctor requesting for the help that ultimately wrenched her off the pills she communicated as if one stair removed from the experience.

You get hooked and youre not yourself. You go on functioning. You do your work. But I actually dont see how Im alive today, she said.

It was only when Jennings got to the part about her son, Todd, a bank vice-president, that she hesitated. I lost my son three years ago from suicide. My lifestyle contributed to his depression. I take responsibility for my part of it, she said.

Alex Dezanett lives in a tent pitched in a mare trailer in Beattyville. Picture: Sean Smith for the Guardian

The cluster of people awaiting their turn to collect a cardboard box containing tins of beef stew, macaroni and cheese instantaneous dinners, dough, eggs and cereal overtaken no direct statement as Jennings narrated her history.

Some of them carried their own appreciation of defeat at having come to will vary depending on government assistance and private largesse. But subsequentlies there was a scent of surmise from other persons who seemed to see the decades-long worsen of their home communities as a moral failing.

Im not one for helping people who dont help themselves but sometimes you do the best you can and you still need aid, said 63 -year-old Wilma Barrett who, after a lifetime of hard work farming and digging coal, was unsettled to find herself reliant on welfare payments and the nutrient bank. A mint of its our fucking fault. The Lord says job and if you dont piece and provide for yourself they are no reason why anyone else should. I know its easy to give up but the Lord tells us not to give up. Too many people here have given up.

Food bank volunteer Karen Jennings, who described her life as a former addict. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian

Hidden world

Eastern Kentucky falls within that part of Appalachia that has come to epitomise the grey underclass in America ever since president Lyndon Johnson sat down on the porch of a grove room in the small town of Inez in 1964 and built it the look of his War on Poverty.

The president arrived virtually unannounced at the home of Tom Fletcher, a 38 -year-old former coalminer who had not harboured a full-time task in two years and was struggling to feed eight children. The visit offered the rest of the US a disturbing peek into a largely concealed macrocosm where houses regularly paucity energy and indoor plumbing, and children habitually failed to get enough to eat. The 1960 census registers that one in five adults in the region could neither read nor write.

Half a century subsequently, while poverty levels have descended dramatically in some other parts of the country in good component thanks to Johnson, the economic gap between the area and often of the rest of America is as wide-eyed. And its deprivation reiterate once again predominantly invisible to most of the country.

Beattyvilles median household income is exactly $12,361( about APS8, 000) a year, placing it as the third largest lowest income town in the US, according to that Census Bureau 2008 -1 2 canvas.

Nationally, the median household income was $53,915 in 2012. In real terms, the earnings of people in Beattyville is lower than it was in 1980.

The municipalities poverty pace is 44% above “the member states national” average. Half of its class live below the poverty line. That includes three-quarters of those with children, with the helper causes. More than one-third of teens drop out of high school or leave without graduate. Merely 5% of tenants have college degrees.

Surrounding parishes are little better. Beattyville is the capital of Lee County, named after the commander of the Confederate army of Northern Virginia in the civil war, General Robert E Lee.

Five of the 10 poorest counties in the US run in a line through eastern Kentucky and they include Lee County. Life expectancy in the county is among the worst in the US, which is not unconnected to the fact that more than half the population is obese. Men lived an average of just 68.3 times in 2013, a little more than eight years short of “the member states national” median. Women lived 76.4 times on average, about five years short of national life expectancy.

An deserted truck in Beattyville. Image: David Coyle/ Team Coyle for the Guardian

A few months before he inspected eastern Kentucky, Johnson said in his State of the Union address: Our purpose is not only to alleviate the evidences of privation, but to dry it and, above all, to prevent it.

Over time, the focus of that endeavor shifted to inner-city poverty and many of the programmes Johnson launched came to be seen as aimed at minorities, even though to this day white people make up the highest numbers of recipients.

But when the president sat on Fletchers porch in Inez, he had in intellect rural poverty of an almost exclusively grey field where the coal manufacture which for a while plied places but not the much-promised prosperity was already receding and parties contended for more than a basic income from the land.

Television pictures of Johnsons visit presented Americans with a hardness of living in the midst of some of the greatest beauty the US has to offer. Life in a log cabin buried in the forest from which it was hewed is nostalgic until you have to collect sea by barrel in the dead cold of winter.

The War on Poverty did relieve many of the indications. Food stamps and housing subsidies, healthcare for the poorest of the poor and elderly people and improved access to a decent education have deterred millions from struggling with the destitutions Johnson encountered in Inez. There are few homes in eastern Kentucky without electricity and indoor toilets these days. But the promised antidote for poverty never materialised.

Lyndon B Johnsons Poverty Tours

Three decades after Johnsons visit, Fletcher was still unemployed but receiving disability benefits. His first wife had died of cancer. His second had been convicted of assassinating their three-year-old daughter and attempting to kill their four-year-old son with a drug overdose to assertion the life insurance.

A film of Johnsons visit describes joblessness in the region as chiefly attributable to lack of industrialisation and losses in the coalmining industry.

People in east Kentucky still call it coal country, although there are the fall resumed primarily unabated and the number of jobs in the industry fell with the guide of each presidency. There were 31,000 under Bill Clinton but fewer than 14,000 by the time George W Bush left influence.

The number of people employed in mining in eastern Kentucky has fallen by half since Barack Obama came to power, although the long history of drop-off has been conveniently set aside in the clamor to blame the current president. The more cautious commentators say Obama is anti-coal because of his environment programmes. But a no less popular panorama in the region is that it is part of chairman Obamas war on white people.

Beattyville and Lee County did well out of lubricant, extremely, until the 1980 s. A decade eventually, the largest boss in the town were a factory write dress, a data company and a private penitentiary supporting captives from Vermont. Now, the clothe and computer industries are croaked and Vermont has just moved its captives to Michigan, where it is cheaper to house them.

The part of the Sturgeon Mining Company, Main Street, Beattyville. Picture: David Coyle/ Team Coyle for the Guardian

The largest employer in the district is now those schools. There are 5 times as numerous healthcare workers in east Kentucky as miners. Coal country is today little more than a cultural identity.

The office of Ed Couriers Sturgeon Mining Company is on the high street. Its few continuing ours commit people mining coal out of hillsides. Ive been in the coal business since 78 and the last five years Ive been trying to get out of the coal business. Theres no future for it here, he said.

Couriers office is an old-fashioned accumulate front on Beattyvilles Main street. He nodded towards the window and mentioned caustically on how many former browses in the once bustling municipality centre were given over to payday lend companies and donations. One leaved away exactly what he universally known as the Obama Phone, a free mobile available to anyone on food stamps or other forms of assistance that furnishes 250 hours of asks per month.

Things were really good when I came here in 72 and I ceased up standing. When I came here there used to be three new car dealerships. There hasnt been a new auto dealership here since 89, he said. Theres no future here. I have a sense of sadness. I wish people had a better life.

The War on Poverty lives on through federal subsidies. Food stamps, occupation programmes and disability allow have cushioned many people from the harshest effects of the recede of jobs from countries of the region. Some pedigrees still struggle to applied sufficient food on the table but “their childrens” are fed if not well in the sense of healthily at academy.

Federal money likewise built Vivian Lunsford a new room a spacious wooden bungalow with a balcony on two sides and forest to the back, constructed in a ravine just outside Beattyville. The narrow street from the town airs past simple log cabins buried in the trees.

Theyve maybe been there since the early 1900 s, she said. I dont know how people live in them. Theyre real essential. Their alone direct liquid is the brook. But people only continue staying there. They dont want to leave. Its the pride. The heritage of that land.

Trailers in Beattyville. Picture: Sean Smith for the Guardian

Before going the house Lunsford, 38, was unemployed and homeless. Her father shall be used for a concede and a cut-rate mortgage on her daughters behalf without telling her, in order to build a most modern and spacious form of the old-time grove cabins. Lunsford refunds the mortgage at $389 a month, less than it would cost to rent.

Theres so much better grant coin went toward it that so long as I live there for 10 years I dont get paid that conceded fund back, she said.

Lunsford was also able to region a errand with the Beattyville housing association that constructed her residence, which she shares these days with her spouse and his school-age daughter.

This place is notably poorer. You cant just go out and get a job in McDonalds. A Walmart is an hour away. I can go to my father in Florida and the world is like a different plaza. Here is more stuck in time, she said.

Our homeless situation is actually different to a big city. Its couch surfing. Youve get lower income parties, grandparents with their children and spouses living there with the grandchildren. Theyre all crammed into this one house. Theres a lot of them.

Other parties on the waiting list for new dwellings wooden bungalows or trailers are what she announces burn downs, whose homes were destroyed by ardor from candles, kerosene heaters or pot belly staves. Many of those are in dwellings disconnected from electricity and other practicalities to save money.

Utility legislations are disgraceful in a trailer because they lack insulation. I have a little lady Ive been helping with, Miss Nelly. Shes in her late 70 s. Her electrical greenback in the wintertime here flows about $400 a month. She cant render that. Trailers dont hot good, she said. Some parties choose not to connect to utilities to save money. A heap of parties here, their income is like between $500 and $700 a few months. Thats all they get. Thats not a lot, specially if youve got kids and the price of gas and auto assurance and youve got all these things that have to be paid.

Sheriff Wendell Bug Childerts. Picture: Sean Smith for the Guardian

Still, the rehousing curriculum is not without its questions. Bob Ball constructed Lunsfords home. He likewise built one for a guy in his early 20 s called Duke and his wife, both of whom were unemployed and had been living in a caravan.

Ball has since hired Duke as construction workers. Federal money keeps the makes business alive but he still mentioned with a clue of disapproval at the governmental forces fund residences. He got a new mansion so young. We all paid for that, said Ball.

Through much of the 19 th century, this part of the Bluegrass State was romanticised in floors of rugged frontiersmen and daring hunters as the paradigm of American self-reliance. None more so than Daniel Boone, a hunter and surveyor at the forefront of deciding Kentucky. A good part of Lee County engraves into a national forest mentioned after him.

Cultural heritage here is important, said Dee Davis, whose category was from Lee County, though he grown up in a neighbouring county where he leader the Center for Rural Strategy. The first bestselling romances were about such regions. It was at one time the iconic America. This kind of frontier: lily-white , noble. This was the iconography.

By the time Johnson arrived a different portrait had taken was of the view that of the anti-modern, moonshine swilling, grease-gun toting, backwards hillbilly. The stereotype was continued on tv by a popular 1960 s slapstick picture, The Beverly Hillbillies, in which naive mountain folk find petroleum on their district, get rich and move with their guns, bibles and Confederate compassions to live among Californias millionaires.

In 2003, Davis led a campaign against a CBS plan to remake the comedy as world television by setting up a good Appalachian house in a Beverly Hills mansion. One scorning CBS executive remarked on the health risks: Guess the episode where they have to interrogation maids.

Davis beat back CBS but said here scheduled programme manifested a sense that white people living in poorer parishes were is the responsibility of their condition.

Theres this feeling here like people are looking down on you. Detecting like its OK to laugh at you, to kindnes you. Youre not on the same common ground for purposes of comparison as someone whos better off or living in a better place. That doesnt entail its ever true, it only means we was of the view that burden speedily. Were primed is responding to people we think are looking down on us. That they judge us for our clothes, adjudicate us for our car, reviewer us for our income, the way we talk, he said.

This is the poorest congressional district in the United States. I grew up delivering furniture with my daddy. No one ever said they were in privation. Thats a word thats are applied to adjudicator people. You hear them say, I may be a poverty-stricken serviceman but we live a pretty good life for poor person. People refer to themselves as poor but they wont refer to themselves as in poverty.

Karen Jennings encountered the racism when she first left Beattyville.

When I went to Louisville as a teen to be employed in Waffle House I had this country accent. They giggled at me and asked if we even had bathrooms where I come from. Beings here are adjudicated in the bigger cities and they resent that, she said. The gap is the cities secrete their problems. Here its too small to hide them. Theres the drugs, and the privation. Theres a lot of the old-time people come in here for nutrient. The welfare isnt enough. Three daughters in my granddaughters class are pregnant. This is a hard situate to grow up. Parties dont conceal it but they resent being evaluated for it.

Drug epidemic

The stereotype has derived. Deepest Appalachia may still be thought of as downward and dirt poor but its now likewise widely known as in the grip of a prescription drug outbreak. Without spurring, its the first thing Steve Mays, Lee Countys de facto mayor, talks about.

Mays is the countys judge-executive, an archaic claim that carries political but no judicial government. His office is in Beattyville, where he was born and was a polouse for 16 times, half of them as chief of police.

When I operated as a police officer and leader there was narcotics here and we made a lot of failures, but things are getting worse, he said. We dont “ve got a lot” of jobs here. Some beings look for a way out. They havent reached what they wanted to and theyre just looking for that escape, I predict. They get that high and formerly it gets a maintain of you they have a hard time get away from it. They dont believe the future appears good for them or they dont feel theres any hope so they continue to stay on that drug.

Its parties of all ages. You feel sorry for them. Good parties. It takes their lives over. They do situations you wouldnt usually think theyd do. Stealing, writing bad cheques, younger girls prostitute themselves out for drugs.

Mays experienced the sting all the more acutely because his daughter was convicted of illegally acquiring doses from a neighbourhood pharmacy where she worked.

In 2013, dope overdoses accounted for 56% of all accidental deaths in Kentucky and an even higher amount in the eastern part on the part of states.

Deputy Sheriff David Stamper on patrol in Beattyville. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian

Leading the blight is a potent and highly addictive opioid drug, OxyContin, known locally as hillbilly heroin. Normally “its by” ground down and introduced or snorted to give an instantaneou and potent high-pitched.

Its misuse is so routine that the bulk of court cases presented in the local papers are dope related. Just about everyone in Beattyville has a story of the human rights payment. Some mention the decline of the towns homecoming princes, Michele Moore, into addiction in the 1990 s. Moore struggled by as a single mom living in a trailer home before she was stabbed to extinction by a gentleman while the two were taking drugs.

At about that time, Beattyvilles police chief, Omer Noe, and the Lee County sheriff, Johnny Mann, were to imprisonment for taking bribes to protect medication smugglers. Five year later, the next Lee County sheriff, Douglas Brandenburg, went to prison for a same crime.

Amid the relentless demolition of life, there is little that surprises. But four years ago tenants of Harlan County a couple of hours drive to the south-east were shaken by a series of deaths over six weeks of parents of members of the local boys and girls society. Eleven of “their childrens” watched a mother succumb.

Getting the drugs isnt difficult. Elderly beings sell their prescription drugs to supplement some of the lowest incomes in the US. The national median retirement income is about $21,500. In Beattyville it is $6,500.

Last year, a pharmacy owned in nearby Clay County, Terry Tenhet, was jailed for 10 times for illegally dispersing hundreds of thousands of capsules after police tied the prescriptions to various overdose deaths. In 2011 alone, he supplied more than 360,000 OxyContin capsules in a county with exclusively 21,000 occupants. Those prescriptions were mostly written by doctors in other governments.

Prosecutors to suggest that for years a single agony clinic nearly 1,000 miles back in southern Florida had provisioned the prescriptions for a quarter of the OxyContin sold in eastern Kentucky. The bus service to Florida is known to police and addicts alike as the Oxy Express.

In 2012, Dr Paul Volkman was sentenced to four life periods for writing illegal prescriptions for more than 3m pills from a clinic he ran in Portsmouth, Ohio, on their own borders with eastern Kentucky. Prosecutors said the prescriptions had contributed to dozens of overdose deaths.

Another doctor, David Procter, is acting 16 years imprisonment for extending a capsule mill at which at least four other doctors were involved in the illegal ply of drugs to eastern Kentucky.

There is little commiseration for doctors or pharmacists acting as dealers, but there is a opinion in Beattyville and circumventing townships that parties have been exploited by something big than a few medics, largely because they are regarded as downward.

Davis said the drug fellowships aggressively pushed OxyContin and similar pharmaceuticals in a region where, because of a mixture of the mining, the rigour of the outdoors and the condition, there was a higher demand for analgesics.

You couldnt go to a doctor without receiving a merchant there. Heres this synthetic opium product thats supposed to be good for palliative maintenance cancer patients and “theyre starting” exchanging it as regular tendernes drug. They knew how highly addictive it was and they exchanged it regardless, he said. I live in a town of 1,500 people with seven pharmacies as well as tendernes clinics and methadone clinics and the full backup industry. Everybody gets paid, doctors and pharmacists and lawyers.

Recently released research would point out that abuse of powerful opioid drugs is in part responsible for a sharp rise in the mortality rate among lily-white middle-aged Americans during the past two decades, especially less-educated 45 – to 54 -year-olds. The report by academics at Princeton university likewise accused ill-use of alcohol and a rise in cheaper high quality heroin together with suicides. The investigates said they suspicious about whether fiscal stress played a part in parties taking their lives.

OxyContins manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, was penalised $ 634 m by a federal courtroom in 2007 for misrepresenting the pharmaceuticals addictive impressions to doctors and cases. Purdue is now being sued by the Kentucky government. The positions united states attorney general, Jack Conway, accuses the company of secreting information about the dangers of the dope in order to addition earnings, and its salesman of claiming OxyContin is less addictive and safer than it is.

I want to hold them accountable in eastern Kentucky for what they did, Conway told the Lexington Herald-Leader. We have lost an entire generation.

Purdue has disclaimed the claim.

Late last year the Beattyville Enterprise reported that pharmacists in the town were petitioning to drug corporations in the interests of greater govern over another prescription medicine, Neurontin, which is increasingly in demand and has been found at the background of overdose fatalities. Heroin use is also on the rise.

Ask where people get the money for stimulants and just about everyone accuses it on welfare in general and the trade in what is known locally as daddy soft drink including with regard to.

The west expiration of Main Street, Beattyville. Photo: David Coyle/ Team Coyle for the Guardian

Close to 57% of Beattyville occupants claim food stamps. They are paid by electronic send on the first of the month. That same day, cases of Pepsi and Coca-Cola are marked down sharply in supermarkets and fade off the shelves, often paid for with food stamps.

They are then sold on to smaller storages at a lower price than they would compensate a distributor, in effect turning several hundred dollars of food stamps into currency at about 50 cents on the dollar.

The pop scam has become shorthand in Beattyville among individuals who regard welfare as almost as large-hearted a blight as the stimulants themselves.

We have a lot of smoke and the like around here, said Wilma Barrett at the nutrient bank. Food emboss go to pay for it. You can see it happening and its nauseating. Its become a kind of catch for us out here.

Courier, the mining firm proprietor, took a similar path, saying welfare had dragged Beattyville down. Its formed happens worse. Its disincentivised people from even trying. You cant create a handout and expect parties to draw themselves up. You have to give them the motivation to improve. I experience sadness that theyre being trapped, he said.

Living on welfare

April Newman flouted at the idea that she was captured by aid. She said it had saved her and their own children, aged one to four years old, from near poverty after she escaped a bad six-year tie-in.

You certainly do feel resented because I resented myself. Public look down on you for it, she said.

In order to get free dwelling and financial assistance, Newman was obliged to sign on to a Kentucky programme furnishing financial assistance to low-income class with children in combination with practice or volunteering. She receives a living allow not formally a spend cheque of about $800 a month after signing up with AmeriCorps, a federally extended national service organisation. She likewise receives $600 in food stamps. The state envelops healthcare cost of the children.

Its hard to get by on that but I have learned. Being on my own and being a single mother, you have to learn to plan. So if I know that institution invests are coming up, or if Christmas is coming up, three to four months in advance, I start to slowly save. That acces if thoughts come up, I have the money for it. Ive just learned to save really well, she said.

Newmans federal house is in a striking block on the edge of town where she doesnt feel specially safe. I wont be living here long though. Im actually going to try to do better and are coming out. You cant heighten children in places like that, she said.

But to move out, shell need to pay the rent and future prospects for a full-time place are somber.

Wilma Barrett does not have much pity for beings in Newmans plight, even though she too has come to will vary depending on government assistance.

We owned a farm and we excavate our own coal out of the hill. I had a heart attack and had to quit duty four years ago. Thats when I started coming over[ to the food bank ], she said. I have a milk cow, chickens for eggs. We didnt necessary a hog this year as we had some flesh left in the freezer from last year.

Barrett and her husband pull in about $1,100 a few months in welfare payments and food stamps. But she has little time for younger people she regards as unwilling to work. If youre not picky about what you do, theres ever something. A job that offer$ 6 an hour is better than zero. I was developed on a farm with got a couple of mules. I have three children and all of them know how to work.

In the late 19 th century, Beattyville was trumpeted by the investment company developing the town as the gateway for the drafting of all the great mineral, lumber and agricultural resources of eastern Kentucky.

Shut accumulate figurehead, Main Street, Beattyville. Picture: David Coyle/ Team Coyle for the Guardian

If a brick of lumber be thrown into the irrigates west of the mountains subdividing Kentucky from Virginia it will wind its mode between towering mountains and rich valleys until it swims over the embankment at Beattyville. Eastern Kentucky cannot be developed without Beattyville becoming a large and important city, it said.

It was not to be. Within a few years, railways had supplanted creeks as the principal means of moving goods and the studies came nowhere near Beattyville. Neither did the roadway structure that spread across America over the 20 th century.

In the end, what eastern Kentucky get was not development but steal.

In his distinguished 1963 detail of life in countries of the region, Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area, Harry Caudill described the avarice and clevernes of the coal kings who left behind few facilities but abundance of destitution.

From the beginning, the coal and timber business insisted on deterring all, or nearly all, the resource they grew, wrote Caudill. They were unwilling to plough more than a minuscule part of the money they made back into institutions, libraries, healthcare facility and other institutions essential to a balanced, agreeable, productive and civilised civilization. The insight and clevernes of their managers enabled them to debases and cozen all too many of the regions elected public officials and to frustrate the legitimate aspirations of the person or persons.

Even during the War on Poverty, as billions of dollars were run into the region, programmes were hijacked to serve politicians and coin was diverted of the representatives of Congress to prop up carry in constituencies far from those for which it was intended.

Yet ask who is responsible for Beattyvilles woes today and fingers in the town regularly time at one serviceman.

Since Obama its was a bad, said Courier. Theres the economy but likewise a lot of EPA[ Environmental Protection Agency] regulations. Theres been a lot of the amendments to the existing legislation over the past two or three years with hollow mining. As for large-scale mining here, its finished. I applied 50 people at the pinnacle. Now its six.

The amounts dont back up Couriers demands. The industry has been in reject for decades. Coal production in eastern Kentucky has fallen by 63% since 2000. Mechanisation ate into the number of jobs long before that.

Abandoned coal, Beattyville. Picture: David Coyle/ Team Coyle for the Guardian

Davis said there had been a political campaign by the mining industry to blame the government for the nosedive led by an industry-funded radical, The Sidekick of Coal.

In the coincide of the decline of coal employment creation and the corresponding dropped in the economy, the Acquaintances of Coal campaign get from auto displays and football games to music episodes it was very cultural and began to deflect push on the industry to blaming government policy. They put up posters: Stop the war on coal, he said.

Were in a region right now where a tonne of coal overheads about $68 to quarry in eastern Kentucky and about $12 to quarry in Wyoming. Theyre importing more Wyoming coal here than theyre expending east Kentucky coal. But if “youre asking” parties why this is, its Obama. They wont blamed the market, they accuse the policy. Its been very convenient to alter it to the black guy.

Hostility to the USs first black president runs deep. In an editorial, Beattyvilles largest dissemination newspaper, Three Forks Tradition, described Obama as trying to destroy the United States as we know it. It accused him of waging conflict on Anglo-Saxon males, who work for a living, believe in God and the right to keep and bear arms and called the president and his then attorney general, Eric Holder, race baiters with blood on their hands.

He has driven ethnic wedges between the people that will take generations to mend, the editorial said without irony.

Vivian Lunsford pushed a sheet torn from a small notepad across her desk at the casing association. The writing on it was in pencil in capital letters. It was a tribute to Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky senator who is the Republican leader in the US Senate. Mitch will keep us good, it said, contributing he would protect Kentucky from people who were against coal.

My stepdaughter expressed the view that, said Lunsford. Shes too young to think it for herself. God knows who placed that into her manager. It wasnt me. But thats how they visualize around here. Shes listens it at school. She sounds it from her friends and their parents. You hear it a lot.

Another Beattyville resident offered a forthright assessment of Republican support in the town.

Its crazy, it really is. Its not only this district, its the surrounding districts. Theres so many people on welfare and yet they vote Republican and its crazy. Im embarrassed, I really am. I understand a lot of its because theyre afraid what emblazon is our chairwoman, and thats what they go on, the person or persons said.

A few hours later the resident questioned not to be reputation because although every parole I said is true it would unnerve beings around here.

Deputy Sherrif David Stamper stops off at the Saturday local college basketball game. Photo: Sean Smith for the Guardian

Steve Mays, Lee Countys de facto mayor, is a Republican. He has a picture of McConnell on the shelf behind his table. I like Mitch. Hes very supportive of me when I involve gifts or something. He ever tries to come through for me, said Mays.

But just a few months earlier, McConnell had claimed massive numbers of people were receiving food stamps who probably shouldnt and described the programme of activities as obligating it excessively easy to be non-productive.

This threw Mays in a bind. His party regularly demonises people who receive welfare but many of his voters rely on it. Mays said he viewed welfare as a catch, but acknowledged that without it the town would die.

Its catch 22. I dont know what you do. I view people who really need the assistance. I encounter them in this office every day. They struggle and couldnt make it without it. But I realise some people taking advantage of it extremely, he said. Im not altogether against welfare. I dont see just anybody should get it, I dont agree with that. Theres beings that need it but its taken advantage of by people who are able to toil. But Im not one of those who says there shouldnt be welfare.

Still, he accepted the seeming contradiction of people voting for a party that was so sardonic of the government assistance their township survived on.

Youre right, Republicans are against that. But thats not why it is around here are registered Republican. Its because of local campaigners or family history. My pa was Republican. Im parent a Republican and voting Republican. Thats simply the lane it is, he said.

This is routinely, and sometimes sneeringly, characterised by Democrats in other parts of America as poverty-stricken white people voting against their best interests. Its a was of the opinion that irritates Davis.

They say, why arent these beings voting their self-interest? People ever vote their self-interest if they can see it. If they believe the government doesnt design, if they believe that the Democrat dont actually give a shit about beings like them, dont want to be in the same chamber with them, they want their poll but dont want to hang out with them, then as they see it theyre voting their self-interest, he said.

So whats the future?

Its bad. I dont belief rural America has a future, said Courier. The advantage rural areas had in the past of inexpensive drudgery is travel. We used to have a lot of little mills in this area but theyve gone to Mexico or China. In rural areas dwelling is inexpensives but everything else expenses more. Utility charges are higher. Food and transport are higher. Management doesnt want to live in rural areas. Education is grisly here. This is a third-world county. My kids grown up here until they were eight or nine, then they went to academy in Louisville[ a 145 -mile drive away ]. I wouldnt send them to school here.

An vacated railroad coal-loading terminal, Beattyville. Photo: David Coyle/ Team Coyle for the Guardian

Mays worried that Beattyville and Lee County were losing their best trained while the most dependent abode. These teenagers come out of high school and postgraduate with standings, and is to continue to grad college. Weve got a lot of them. Theres a lot of smart parties here but theres not a lot of opportunity for them here once they graduate college. Normally they wont stay here. We need to find a way to encourage them to stay, he said.

Just as the railways and highways bypassed Beattyville in the past century, so high-speed internet has failed to penetrate through to the town in more recent times. Most beings rely on slow and costly connects through satellite providers. Its a further despair to businesses.

Mays said the county was springing its hopes for the future in more rustic activities. Weve got rock climbing and four counties here just got together and invested in a recreation common for off-road vehicles. Were trying to get canoes on the river. Weve got a lot of compartments here and a lot of parties coming here from all over home countries. Were trying to work on that facet of it because thats what weve went going for us. We precisely requirement a divulge, said Mays.

I detect positive about the future. I wouldnt want to live anywhere else but Lee County. Weve get our problems but weve get good people Ive received beings with a lot of fund that wouldnt afford $10 to facilitate individual out but in this area even people who dont “ve got a lot”, when someone get down and sick, or if theyve got cancer, they band together and they elevate as much fund as they are unable for that person to help them.

I feel like the stimulant difficulty is our biggest edition. Not exclusively does it destroy lives but the economic situation. If a companys not going to come in because they dont have a lot of workforce make their own choices, or dont feel like they do, theres your jobs gone. And then people that move out of here. A slew of parties move out of here to bigger places to find jobs. So your population starts going down even more. I dont know how to change that. Im not smart enough to say how to do it. But if somehow it was possible to reined in, I think we could develop.

So, is the American Dream dead in Beattyville?

If you dont knowledge the American Dream, if youve never been taken out of the box, I dont think you believe in it, said Vivian Lunsford: People have to be able to see or feel it or touch it to believe.

Ed Courier said it lived on, but simply for those who escaped Beattyville. Theres opportunities if you go to college. But not for those who stay here. This plaza is being left behind, he said.

April Newman with Olivia aged two and one-year-old Jonathan. I dont want to stay here. I dont want their own children to stay here, she said. Picture: Sean Smith for the Guardian

April Newman agreed with that sentimentality. She saw her dreaming being fulfilled far away from Beattyville. I truly want to be a teacher and I have to get out of this town to do that, she said. Theres no alternatives here. I dont want to stay here. I dont want my children sitting there. Theres so much better that goes on. Its just really sad.

Dee Davis said the American Dream lived on even for those who could not escape Beattyville, but in a different way. Its not the dream of the immigrants so much as the dream of being OK, of surviving, he said.

This article was revised on 13 November 2015 to remove an portrait that was inconsistent with the Champion editorial recommendations.

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