Inspiration Mountain: John Fox, Jr.

Historical Marker #777 in Letcher County notes how that region influenced the accomplished novelist John Fox, Jr.

Born during the Civil War in Bourbon County, Kentucky, Fox was educated in local schools, at Transylvania University, and at Harvard, where he graduated at age twenty.

Fox first became fascinated with the Cumberland Mountains during a trip to Jellico, Tennessee, where his family owned mining operations. He later relocated to Big Stone Gap, Virginia, with his family. There, he often traveled into eastern Kentucky and began to write short stories about the people and places he visited. His first published story, "A Mountain Europa," appeared in "Century Magazine" in 1892. Three years later, his first full-length book, "A Cumberland Vendetta and Other Stories," was published.

Fox’s famous "Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come" appeared in 1903. This novel, which sold more than one million copies, was set in Civil War Kentucky. The book was a sentimental tale, popular during the age, and was a prized favorite of many readers for years. The book’s popularity was witnessed by its production into a play and a motion picture.

"The Trail of the Lonesome Pine," Fox’s other well-known novel, was published in 1908, and was set in Big Stone Gap. It told the romantic story of love between a boy from the Bluegrass and a mountain girl. It, too, was made into a stage production and a film.

Fox caught pneumonia during a fishing trip in 1919 and died a few days thereafter. He was buried in his native Bourbon County.