Our Purpose

The major emphasis of the Bell County Historical Society is the collection and preservation of  historical documents, photographs, and artifacts of the Cumberland Gap area including the adjacent counties of Harlan and Knox Counties from which Bell County was formed on February 5, 1867.  We are pleased to be able to display artifacts given to the museum as well as those loaned for a specific or indefinite length of time.

The Museum

The historic building housing our museum, built as the Carnegie Library and deep-rooted in the enrichment and educational development of the citizens of Middlesboro, still follows the legacy of Andrew Carnegie. It remains dedicated to learning and enlightenment, providing an opportunity for the youth of this generation to know and appreciate the rich cultural heritage of this region, the region which witnessed thousands of early pioneers traveling along the Wilderness Trail, through the Cumberland Gap and into  Kentucky. A great many made permanent homes here in Kentucky.


Our History

Chained Rock Overlooking City of Pineville

On September 17, 1981 an organizational meeting for the Bell County Historical Society was held at the Middlesboro-Bell County Public Library. There were 41 people present at the meeting. After a lively general discussion of the nature and purpose of a Historical Society, those present voted to organize themselves as such a group. A nominating committee was chosen to select a slate of officers for the new organization. The first officers of the new Bell County Historical Society were as follows: William Bell Sr., president; Ellwood J. Carr, vice-president; Frances Hyde Gambrel, recording secretary; Marie Maxie, corresponding secretary; Mary Slemp, treasurer; and Mabel Taylor and Dr. Edward Wilson, directors.
As time went on the society began its first publication later called Gateway: The Journal of the Bell County Historical Society, which is still in publication today. The Society is proud to say they have grown to a number well over 200 members, to be found in 24 of the 50 states, as well as a few overseas.

Our current officers are Robert Vaughn, president; Dr. Kenneth Smith, recording secretary; Kirby Smith, Treasurer. Completing our board is Marsha Bratton, Michelle Lawson, Mark Smith, Tom Kelemen, Clarence Lambdin, Charla Costanzo, Glynna Brown, Dr. Anthony Maxwell, Tom Shattuck and Ann Matheny. For more about our history check out our History page. There is history in every place and every person. History is a part of us all. We hope through continued support we will keep our history alive for many generations to come. We invite you and your families to join us in “Our History”.

Our ongoing program is the collection and preservation of artifacts, photographs and documents recognizing the importance of the history of our area in our past and of those who live here and of those who passed through, leaving their imprint in the history of the Cumberland Gap area.  We have developed a multifaceted program to facilitate this directive.