Kentucky Novelist

Historical Marker #1141 in Bourbon County marks the birthplace of John Fox, Jr., born December 16, 1862, at Stony Point between Paris and Winchester.

John Fox, Jr., the son of John Fox and his second wife, Minerva Carr, lived in Bourbon County with his many siblings until he entered Transylvania College in Lexington at the age of 16. After two years at Transylvania, he entered Harvard as a sophomore and graduated cum laude, the youngest member in the class of 1883.

Following graduation, Fox served some years as reporter for "The New York Times" and "New York Sun" but he returned home because of poor health. Upon returning to Bourbon County, Fox taught in his father's school and did some private tutoring.

In 1888, Fox moved with his family to Big Stone Gap, Virginia, where they had interests in mining and real estate. There he became interested in the area. Fox went on walking tours and mingled with the mountain people, whom he admired. Encouraged by James Lane Allen, Fox's professor at Transylvania, he began writing stories.

Soon Fox began producing a number of short stories which led to his first novel, "Mountain Europa." On September 15, 1892, "The Saturday Evening Post" declared a new novelist had been born. He was 30 years old. During the following 27 years of his life, he wrote 45 short stories and 14 novels. Almost all of his writing became popular, which made him a celebrity and sought after speaker. Fox was in demand all over America and in Europe as a lecturer. His audiences enjoyed his wit and charm and use of mountain dialects.

"The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come," the first American book to sell over a million copies, was adapted twice for Broadway and as a movie once. The "Trail of the Lonesome Pine," another million-copy success, was made into three movies and a popular outdoor drama.

Fox wrote in the era of local-color fiction and reporting, which grounded stories in place and regionalism, but also, often traded in stereotypes and derogatory tropes to sell sensationalized serials. Fox, particularly, traded in sentimental and often patronizing characterizations of Mountain folks, especially women and the few people of color in his novels.

On July 3, 1919, while on a fishing trip in Virginia, Fox developed pneumonia. He went home to Big Stone Gap, where he died on July 8. His body was brought back to his first home, Bourbon County, where he was buried in a family lot in the Paris Cemetery.

The marker reads:


Site of birthplace and early home of John Fox, Jr., famous Kentucky author, born 1862, graduated from Harvard in 1883. Died, 1919. His understanding of mountain life in Ky. and Va. revealed in 12 novels and 45 short stories, including The Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come, among first books published in US to sell one million copies, and Trail Of The Lonesome Pine.

This marker was dedicated in 1986.