Remarkable Twin Tiers Musician Showcased in the Library of Congress
Lawton, Pennsylvania is only miles across the border from the Vestal Center area of New York and is a sleepy little town with only 301 residents per the last census but this town was put on the map thanks in part to a truly extraordinary old-time fiddler named Jehile Kirkhuff.
Jehile Kirkhuff was born in 1907 to a musical family. His father, grandfather, and uncles were all fiddle players and by the time he turned five years old, Kirkhuff had been bit by the same bug. By the time he was 19-years-old, Kirkhuff had won his first fiddle contest and in 1954, he would go on to win the World Championship Fiddler’s Contest in Texas.
What made Kirkhuff truly unique is that when he was a teenager, Kirkuff began to lose his eyesight, and eventually he went blind, but he kept on playing. As he transitioned into adulthood, Kirkhuff not only played fiddle at events in his community but also taught others how to play. preserving a piece of old-time fiddle playing.
At the age of 32, Kirkhuff married Lola who was 24 years his senior. Together, they made a living by raising bees and playing music.
It is said that Kirkhuff knew how to play 1,500 songs and along with friends who were fellow musicians and through the Jehile Kirkhuff Old-Time Fiddle Music Fund, Kirkhuff recorded over 400 of those songs for the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.
Kirkhuff died in 1981 and was buried in the town in which he was born but his legendary story continues to be told to this day. In 2003, Ken Oakley published a book on the remarkable life of Jehile Kirkhuff titled, "Jehile-The Blind Fiddler From Lawton, Pennsylvania." The book is no longer available for purchase on Amazon and other retailers are charging upward of $150 for a copy of the hard-to-find book.