Historical Marker #1804 in Jenkins notes the history of this Letcher County coal town.
In the last decade of the 19th century coal production by industrial companies began in earnest. A rapidly industrializing United States needed a fuel source to power its vast machinery. Kentucky coal provided much of that power.
In Letcher County, Kentucky, coal companies such as Consolidation, Elkhorn, and South-East began to buy land and mineral rights from many of its citizens during the first decade of the 20th century. Near where rich coal veins were found company towns sprang up, some almost overnight. Coal company towns like Jenkins, Fleming, and McRoberts emerged that provided housing for the miners, who often were local men, as well as foreign immigrants, and African Americans from the Deep South.
Jenkins was incorporated in 1912 and was named for Baltimore banker and director of Consolidation Coal Company, George C. Jenkins. The town quickly grew due to the large workforce employed by Consolidation and a line of the Lexington and Eastern Railroad that soon extended into Letcher County. Businesses followed that hoped to capitalize on the increased population of the area.
When coal production dipped between the 1950s and 1960s Jenkins population dropped drastically. People moved looking for work, often to industrial centers of Ohio and Indiana. The draw of the mountain though has brought many of those that moved away in those years back home in their retirement years.