“What if everything you are being told about the demise of rural living is wrong? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail to bring all these folks who say they might want a more rural life into the fold?”
-Robin Rather, Collective Strength

While the demise of rural life in many areas is overstated, there are many areas that are in long-term decline, brought about by sustained job losses and single-focus economies. In Cannel City, Kentucky’s case, it was coal and timber. The city was founded by the Kentucky Block Cannel Coal Company in 1905 as a company town for its nearby coal mines. At its height, three coal companies provided more than 500 jobs for a town that boasted a train depot for the Ohio & Kentucky Railway, several churches, stores, hotels and banks.

Cannel City’s Union Church was a multi-denominational church that was constructed in 1905.

After the coal mines were depleted and the available timber cut, traffic on the railroad declined. Most of the mines closed in 1933 and the railroad was subsequently abandoned shortly after. Mirroring the dwindling economic fortunes, the population of Cannel City declined. Without a sufficient and stable congregation, Cannel City Union Church was vacated in 1961.