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DIRIGO, KY: An Adair County village has mysterious, almost mythical aura

Arkansawyer bought whole town, lock, stock, and barrel, 20 years ago
Several photos accompany this story
By Ed Waggener
A never ending story: Tips, facts, anecdotes, corrections, and photos, maps, and directions are welcome for additions from time to time
To most Adair Countians, Dirigo, KY, is a place of mythical proportions. Nearly everyone has heard about it. They know it is in Southern Adair County. And the main resident, a transplanted Arkansawyer, is about as famous as any among us.

Because so few Adair Countians could actually recognize Cherokee, or have ever seen Dirigo, the man and the place retain a aura of mystery.

It is an enchanted place. Nestled in a pretty southern Adair County valley on Harrods Ford Creek.

For those only knowledgeable of the major Adair County towns, it is southeast of Sparksville, East of Breeding, and west of Chance and northwest of Inroad.

Mayor, judge and town council is Vietnam era veteran

Harold "Cherokee" Allinson, Vietnam Veteran, is the Mayor, Judge and Town Council, all in one, in the now private village of Dirigo in southern Adair County.

Unlike actress Kim Bassinger's disastrous experience buying the entire Georgia town of Brazelton, Cherokee's town is now one of long term stability and normalcy. His governance and proprietorship has has been more of preservation than development.

Dirigo hasn't changed much. Cherokee putters with the buildings, making slight changes, but basically it's got the look of a half century ago.

The community's, i.e. Cherokee's, financial soundness is a result of low expenditures and a very high soldier's retirement, he says.

For the most part, there is little agri- or horticulture. But Cherokee does have some kiwi plants growing. They've never borne fruit. Grapes he's planted did bear, but not for his benefit. "The deer ate them," he says, "before I could get any." Cherokee has a wall of medals and says he turned down the Congressional medal of Honor "because they wouldn't also give them to the two Montaignards who had fought beside me."

He says missed getting one medal for some rowdiness

He says he also missed one award after socking a Colonel, whom, he said, cheapened the awards by landing some officers, flown onto the post-fighting battlegrown, by helicopter, for the sole purpose of putting the non-combants into a combat arena so they could receive medals. "Here we were with 350 dead bodies around us," he said scornfully, "and they do that."

He still relives his wartime experiences, pointing to the flag and sign he made with 7 bullet holes in it, from brutal days on the battle field.

Too many movies in his head to watch others about Vietnam

He says, ". . .naw I don't watch no movies about Vietnam, there's already too many movies in my head . . .my mind goes a million miles a minute."

Found out about town from real estate flyer

He responded to a flyer 20 years ago and bought the whole town, a home, country store and garage on 32 creek bottom acres for $12,000.

He has his own water, heat and says he won't drink beer nor do drugs. But he does have a little whiskey every day.

The store is now used only for storage, but he's made a number of changes to the house.

Cherokee grew up the son of lawman in Benton, AK

The son of Beryl Allinson, Benton AK, left there with his Mom after Dad's death. He says he had a brief stint in the Saline County, AK, jail for some juvenile mischief, and he left Arkansas.

He and his mom wound up on Oak Street in Louisville in a $10 a week apartment, he says.

While in Louisville he says he got a notice from the draft board back in Arkansas. They were going to draft him, but, at 18 he jumped the gun and joined the Army. He volunteered for Special Forces, and ended up in Vietnam, he says.

Dirigo was a thriving community until shortly after WWII

Dirigo was a thriving community until the late 1940s. Several hundred people would often get necessities on Saturday. Good roads and easy access to bigger stores in Columbia spelled it's end, old timers remember.

Excellent account in Ernestine Bennett's book

There's an excellent story on the store, the mail carriers who took mail to Dirigo, and the Englands, McClisters, and Campbells who ran it in Ernestine Bennett's dandy second edition of "The Old Country Store," July 2004, which is self-published and available at the Adair County library and from a few bookstores.

If you go to Dirigo:
Take care. This is fairly remote country. A lot of the land is posted. A four wheel drive is recommended. And remember that it's hunting country; there are a lot of firearms. And, Mr. Allinson's property is private. And to go the way across Bird Road, either way, recrossing requires crossing water. Cell phones may not work in valley. GPS devices recommended.

First: Go south from Columbia on KY 61 to Sparksville. After passing Sparksville Elementary School on the right, watch for Bird Road on the left.

Turn left on Bird Road and go about 4.5 miles southeast to Dirigo. The road is a little rough on the hill. It was chipped and sealed over four years ago.

To get to the other side of the creek, if you have a good truck, you can cross through, or you can backtrack, turn left on 61 south again, go to Breeding and turn left on Independence Ridge Road. Go about five miles, past Wells Chapel Missionary Baptist Church and turn left on Dirigo Road. This way, you have to ford the creek from the other side.
For a 1941 Community News Letter from Dirigo, Click Here
For directions, good food to start or end the trip:

Flatwoods Grocery & Deli On KY 61, Flatwoods, Adair County, KY. Last chance for foot prior to tackling climb up Lynch Hill and maneuvering its switchbacks.

Along the way, you'll pass Highland Raku Studio & Gallery at the top of Lynch Hill.

Books about Adair County:

J&F Variety Store & Christian Book Store Open bookstore, on the way to Dirigo.

E.P. Waggener & Sons, Booksellers. Not open store. Online only.

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This story was posted on 2006-03-19 11:14:11
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DIRIGO, ADAIR CO, KY: a one-man town

2006-03-19 - Bird Road, South Adair CO, KY - Photo Linda Waggener. Cherokee stands in front of the central building in his one-man town of Dirigo. The decorated Vietnam vet bought the whole town 20 years ago, after reading a flyer.
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DIRIGO, ADAIR CO, KY: U.S. Mail carriers arrived on horseback, used this mail slot

2006-03-19 - Dirigo, Adair CO, KY - Photo Linda Waggener. The mail for Dirigo was delivered mostly on horseback in the 1930's, and was put through this slot when the store was closed. Ernestine Bennett says in her book, The Old Country Store, Second Edition, that James Fletcher, Coy Claywell, and Nelson Branham were among the mail carriers serving Dirigo.
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DIRIGO, ADAIR CO, KY: Cherokee tells townie about war-time experiences

2006-03-19 - Dirigo, Adair CO, KY - Photo Linda Waggener. Cherokee, right, shares wartime stories with townie reporter. The adornment to the cap Cherokee is wearing is an actual fox tail, he said.
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DIRIGO, ADAIR CO, KY: A memorial to soldiers

2006-03-19 - Dirigo, Adair CO, KY - Photo Linda Waggener. Cherokee fashioned this memorial, himself. It features seven bullet holes through armor and graphics produced with a welding rod. The memorial is at the base of a flagstaf in front of his home.
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DIRIGO, ADAIR CO, KY: Past and Present

2006-03-19 - Dirigo, Adair CO, KY - Photo Linda Waggener. A cameo drawing of how Dirigo once looked is a prized possession of Cherokee's. In the background is the house and store as it looks, now painted red, today.
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DIRIGO, ADAIR CO, KY: 1800s photo shows thriving town

2006-03-19 - Dirigo, Adair CO, KY - Photo staff of Cherokee photo. Cherokee keeps this photo with a hand-penned caption around border,not visible above, which says that is is of Cherokee Allinson's Dirigo Store and Post Office, late 1800s. Cherokee says that if you look closely, the boys on horseback are carrying pistols. If anyone has identification for the people in the picture, please send the information to :
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