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Kingdom Come History

Established June 11, 1961

Harlan County, Ky. is rich in natural beauty. It also has a rich and varied history. On June 11, 1961 the Kentucky Parks Board unanimously agreed to accept an area of Pine Mountain called Ravens’ Rock into the state park system. After considering a suggestion made by the Cumberland Lions Club, the parks system agreed to change the name of the new park from Ravens’ Rock to Kingdom Come. The unique name of Kingdom Come is in honor of the best -selling novel by native Kentucky author William Fox, Jr., The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come.

Located on the top of Pine Mountain, Kingdom Come State Park has the highest elevation of any park in Kentucky. The views are spectacular. In the distance can be seen the 4,150 foot Black Mountain, the highest peak in the commonwealth. The Cumberland Lions Club purchased 500 acres to donate for the new park.  John Coppinger donated more than 800 acres, Mrs. A.J. Creech donated 200 acres, and the International Harvester Company donated 245 acres.

Between 1933 and 1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed 17 miles of trails. The Kentucky Division of Forestry added 21 miles of new trail during 1961-1962. The trail was extended over the years until the system covered the crest of Pine Mountain, providing a means for travelers to observe some of the most spectacular scenery in the state.

The history of the area that includes Kingdom Come State Park is colorful. Ravens’ Rock, a huge sandstone outcropping, reportedly got its name from the hundreds of ravens that flew around the site and were observed by early settlers. Ravens’ Rock also had a more sinister history. According to local legend the rock may have been the last campsite of one of the region’s most notorious thieves and murderers, the renegade Simon Benge. During his murderous career Benge and his band of cutthroats looted, killed and kidnapped a number of hapless victims. He kidnapped young women to give or sell to the Indians. On his last raid he captured a woman by the name of Elizabeth Livingston, sometime referred to as Betty Levisay. Benge camped at Ravens’ Rock and Livingston scratched the letter “B” and two crosses in the rock hoping her husband would follow her clue and rescue her.

According to the story Benge reached a large chestnut tree at East Stone Gap where as a matter of habit Benge carved a mark to note his passage through the area. He counted his eleventh mark and said, “I always count myself safe when I reach this spot.” Just as he said this, a shot rang out and a one-ounce musket ball struck him in the forehead, killing him.

The change of name from Ravens’ Rock to Kingdom Come honored author John Fox, Jr. (1862-1919). The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, written in 1903, became the first novel in the United States to sell a million copies. Fox wrote about the people of the Cumberland Mountains in such a way that he is identified as a mountain author although he was born in Bourbon County in the inner Bluegrass region of the state.

In 1964, the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources completed a three-acre lake to provide a sufficient water supply for the park. The lake is stocked with bass, bluegill, crappie and trout for fishing. The park is famous for its eight overlooks that give a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. A gazebo overlooks Black Mountain giving visitors to the park a sense of the area’s grandeur.

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