ARY, Ky. — Unlike most communities in Perry County, the coal industry in the community of Ary wasn’t very active until fairly recently, and therefore its history doesn’t include coal camps or old mines. Instead, Ary’s history is closely tied with the medical field and the Homeplace community center.
Ary was actually named for a man named Ary Holliday, and sits on what was once a Native American site, according to Mary Holliday, a lifelong Ary resident and descendant of Ary Holliday.
“There was no coal camp here,” she said. “There used to be an Indian settlement here, right where I live actually. When you start doing gardening and stuff you dig up all kinds of arrowheads. There was a tomahawk found years ago in this particular area.”
Holliday said that she believes the original settlement was set up alongside, or in connection with this Native American site.
During its early days Ary consisted of only a few families until the 1930’s when a man from Ohio came and built the community center which is still in use today.
“Homeplace was founded in 1930 by E.O. Robinson, and he was from Cincinnati, Ohio,” said Holliday. “The hospital was opened in 1948.”
Homeplace acted as the town’s center of commerce, entertainment, source of jobs and medical facility. Robinson owned a large plot of forest stretching from Homeplace into Breathitt County, and he saw the need for this space to be developed in Ary and made it possible for the community to grow and flourish. During a time when most of the rest of the county was building coal camps, rail roads, and water mills, people in Ary were building a hospital.
Holiday said that her sister was born at the Homeplace hospital in 1953, and during this same time her father was a groundskeeper and maintenance man.
“When he first started there they had sheep and cattle,” she noted.
Homeplace played host to several different businesses and activities along with the hospital. They had a woodworking shop, clogging school, and community center. Holliday said that her brothers took clogging at Homeplace and noted that the students from the school always performed well in big competitions.
In 1968, the hospital at Homeplace closed and reopened as a clinic. Since the community’s identity has long been so tied with the medical facilities at Homeplace, Holliday noted that at one time most of the people that lived in Ary worked at Homeplace or in the medical field in one capacity or another.
“On Williams Branch there are a set of Campbells; I know three of the sisters worked there,” she said.
In 2006 Hazard ARH closed the clinic. It quickly reopened after it was purchased by the University of Kentucky.
“We were very upset when ARH closed it to begin with because we had a local doctor down there, Darren Radcliff, and he was absolutely great,” said Holliday.
The families in Ary had become very dependent of the jobs and the clinic. They are mostly connected in a very personal way to the facility since so many of them had worked their over the years.
UK reopened the clinic, but only for a few short years before it was closed in 2010. Homeplace has not reopened since. After the clinic closed, most of the people that had worked there were offered jobs at ARH and UK. Holliday said that this meant that most of the people that lived and worked in Ary stayed there even after the jobs left since Hazard is only 15 miles away.
Along with the clinic, another thing that the people of Ary are very connected to, whether they like it or not, is the water. The numerous floods in Aryover the years have closed schools and washed away bridges.
“There is a huge rock in front of my house and it came off the top of the mountain and it rolled all the way down into the creek, and that that is Ary’s water gauge,” said Holliday. “I have had numerous people call me, is the water over the rock? Yes, well then I can’t get home, because if the water is over that rock then Williams Branch is blocked.”
Holliday said that that rock has even been the gauge for emergency responder, who seh said have called her to make sure they could get in to some areas of Ary.
Ary’s Robinson Elementary has been the target of severe flooding in the past as well. During the 1970’s the elementary flooded twice, both times forcing students to be evacuated to A.B. Combs and Dennis Wooton Elementary where many of them had to spend the night. “I was in probably fourth grade and we had a principal at that time who came from Indiana, and he knew nothing about water,” said Holliday. “He wouldn’t let us go and the water was licking the banks.”
She said her brother, who drove a bus for LKLP, came to get the students from the building but couldn’t get back into Ary to drop them off.
“We couldn’t get past Ary Post Office,” she remembered. “The water was over the bridge there and all the kids had to be transported to A.B. Combs and Dennis Wooton, and their parents had to come and get them or that is where they spent the night. That time it got about eight foot up in the school.”
Holliday said that it has been some of these hardships that have made this community stronger.
“That has just been a part of our life, the floods,” said Holliday. “This is a very tight-knit community.”
Many of the oldest buildings at Homeplace are still standing and can be toured. Ary Holliday, who gave his name to the community, is buried in the Holliday Cemetery on Holliday Hill in Ary.