Lincoln Binion

Lincoln Binion, taken early 1900s, Grahn, Ky., killed by propeller on Sellers flying machine. Married Mary Dean, g.g aunt of Lloyd Dean, Hayes Crossing, Ky. Linc probably first person killed in field of aviation.

Could it be true that Matthew Bacon Sellers of Grahn was actually first in flight and not the Wright Brothers?

Lloyd Dean of Rowan County and other interested parties say they believe it could be factual and hope to find the answers that would certainly change history.

Dean is the great-great nephew to Lincoln Binion who was part of aviation history as Sellers’ assistant and possibly the first person to die while working in the aviation field.

“I’ve always thought that it could be true that the Wright Brothers made their flight several years after Sellers,” Dean said. “My cousin Mary Lee Dean Mauk spent a lot of time at the Blakemore Mansion that was located in Grahn and the place where Sellers grew up. She was about 16 years old when Linc was killed when the plane’s propeller fell off and then fell to the ground striking Linc in the head. She said Sellers’ plane flew twice before the accident that killed Linc.

“I’ve always heard that on the day that Linc died, and while most were at the funeral, someone saw two men coming out of the house running with some papers. Family members have always believed that those people could have been somehow affiliated with the Wright Brothers and took information that could have proven they were not first in flight,” Dean added.

Mary Lee Dean Mauk passed away in Morehead in 1996 at the age of 103.

Sellers installed a seven-horse power Duteil-Chalmers two-cylinder engine on a glider and historically made the first flight Dec. 28, 1908 over Grahn.

As history tells, Wilbur and Orville Wright are credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, Dec. 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Also to dispute history was Joe Creason, a columnist during the 1960s, who wrote about Sellers and mentioned stories that included shreds of evidence to support the possibility that history may be wrong.

Creason wrote that the Wright Brothers’ first successful 1903 flight might have been years after a possible 1901 flight by Sellers in a small-size glider.

According to history, Sellers constructed his first full-size glider in 1903 and made several short flights in 1908, from a field adjacent to the mansion. At the same time, Sellers built a 3-by-24-foot wind tunnel, which incorporated instruments for recording air velocity and the lift and drag of various airfoil sections.

In fact, Sellers’ wind tunnel was more advanced than the one used by the Wright Brothers and history tells that the Wright Brothers actually visited Olive Hill to talk with Sellers about the wind tunnel design.

Tony Collier of Grayson also believes Binion may have flown before the Wright Brothers and plans to continue his research in order to possibly change history.

As part of his research, Collier is presently working on the third volume of his video series “Discovering Carter County,” that tells the story of Sellers and his life in Grahn. Collier hopes to have the video out by summer as he continues gathering information about Seller’s life in eastern Kentucky.

Collier met the Sellers family at the Lexington Airport while celebrating “Matthew Bacon Sellers” day.

During the gathering, Collier said one family member told him there was a diary of records that might prove Sellers took to the air earlier than 1908.

“His son Jack said it might have been around 1901 when he actually made his first flight,” Collier said. “His granddaughter Barbara and son Jack were among those to be there and I got a chance to explain to them what I was working on. They are all so excited about the video and said they would help in any way. Wouldn’t it be great to find out that he did make the first flight?”

Dean also was at the airport that day and got the chance to meet his relatives. “It was great to talk with all of them and to hear their stories about Linc and Matthew Sellers,” Dean said.

As Collier continues working on his video, he plans to film a portion of it from a powered parachute while flying over where the mansion once stood. With permission of the now property owners, he hopes to take the same route over Grahn as Sellers flew during his first flight.

The Blakemore Mansion was to be preserved and become a historical landmark, but it burned to the ground in November 1974. According to Bob Duvall, Olive Hill fire chief at that time, the chances of saving and possibly restoring the burned landmark might have been good if there had been a fire department closer to the Grahn mansion.

Although the Wright Brothers did receive recognition for the first flight, Sellers gained credit for the first aviator to use retractable landing gear.

When the mansion burned the deed was still in the name of Sellers’ son, Matthew B. Sellers of Fort Lauderdale, but was changed soon to the Blakemore-Sellers Foundation, a Carter County organization of approximately 50 persons in the 1900s. To this day, a landmark remains alongside the road in Olive Hill that tells of Matthew Bacon Sellers' time in Carter County. With a little research, could the Kentucky license plate be the one to read, “First in Flight,” instead of North Carolina?

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