Category Archives: GUEST POSTS

These histories have been written about Pine Mountain Settlement School, Harlan County, Kentucky and the local area by staff, students, visitors and others. The histories often reflect a specific time period or a personal perspective or experience. The histories, often autobiographical travelogues, end-of-life recollections, or work histories, record the school through many generations and link their experiences to their larger contexts. The reflections provide valuable insight into the school as a change agent and capture important lessons and events at the School. The HISTORIES are supplemented by photographs and by links to specific BIOGRAPHY and to the PMSS ARCHIVAL COLLECTIONS.

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Stones, More Stones and Scalloped Potatoes

Pine Mountain Settlement School
DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH
Blog

STONES, MORE STONES AND SCALLOPED POTATOES

TAGS: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Stones, More Stones and Scalloped Potatoes; Pine Mountain Settlement School; Harlan County, KY; stones; scalloped potatoes; rocks; agriculture; farms; farming; foodways; cooking; Raven’s Rock; limestone; geology; lime; lime burning; kilns; quick lime


ROCKS AND THE PINE MOUNTAIN RANGE

The geology of the Pine Mountain is very complex. But one component is much in evidence. That is the stone. Limestone, conglomerate, shale, shist, coal, and sandstone are in abundance. From the bothersome creek boulders to the giant Rebel’s Rock, or the beautiful Raven’s Rock arch, stones in the region can charm and confound.

Kendall Bassett Photograph Album, c. 1928-1929. [pmss001_bas001.jpg]

LIMESTONE AND LIME KILNS

One stone in plentiful supply in the Pine Mountain geology is limestone. Limestone is in rich supply in the valley of Pine Mountain. Often limestones and other stones were troublesome and were carried from the fields where they had troubled the plow. But some stones could be a gift. Limestone, for example, was a gift to the soil and to the farmer. Limestone is a stone that can be burned. But unlike coal, limestone, when burned, produces rich by-products. The richest of these by-products is known appropriately as “lime.” It is an important nutrient for many crops in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky and helps to neutralize the soil’s acidity.

While the burning of limestone for lime has consumed considerable forest throughout history, it is still well-known as a boost for tired soil. Today packaged in various fertilizers, it continues to be added to the soil to support crops and enhance grazing land. Before the importation of commercial fertilizers, however, lime was wrested from the stones of the surrounding mountains.

The history of lime-kilns goes far back in the history of the world and no doubt the practice came to the New World with our earliest ancestors and settlers. Until the advent of commercial fertilizers, the production of lime through lime kilns (the burning of limestone) was common throughout much of rural America. It was, however, not so common deep in the small valleys in Appalachia. The practice of burning limestone for fertilizer, according to some, was a practice that Pine Mountain Settlement brought to many in the local farming population, though the practice of adding lime was in practice before the School was founded.

The so-called “lime cycle” starts with the stone — technically known as calcium carbonate and carries the chemical compound symbols of CaCO3. The limestone is stacked over a fire fueled by wood or coal and layers of limestone and fuel are then alternated to create a sizable pile that will burn for 10 days or more. This “pile” generally reaches temperatures in excess of 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat from the fire cooks off the carbon dioxide, CO2, and leaves a rich residue of carbonates (calcium oxide, CaO). This calcium oxide, also known as “quick lime” can then be applied directly to the soil, or better, can be mixed with water to de-acidify the soil.

 

VII 63 Life Work Maintenance, Farm, Grounds part I

Burning brush or possibly a lime kiln?. VII 63 Life Work Maintenance, Farm, Grounds. [VII_63_life_work.jpg]

Quick lime can also be used to make “white wash,” an insect retardant “paint” often seen on the base of trees, or on fences or around the base of wooden structures in early Appalachian homesteads. Even much later, well into the 1950’s and 1960’s, homes sported trees with their bases white-washed or old tires painted white and filled with flowers or foundation stones supporting a home, carefully painted white. An important early use was hygienic. Lime was a key additive used to keep insects and disease at bay in the many privies of the Appalachians. Both lime and wood ash with its high concentration of lye were also used as alternative disease retardants in the privy. Today, lime is still used in water treatment and sewage treatment along with ferrous sulfate.

When quick lime is mixed with other additives, it can also be a key ingredient to strengthen concrete or added to stucco for the same purpose and for its pure white nature. It can bolster or build strong walls or can be used in ‘pointing’ stonework. Much of the concrete at the school used some local lime in the concrete mix. Today, the practice of burning lime has been replaced by commercial lime that may be purchased in fertilizer mixes and other commercial amalgams. The forest can be heard celebrating this turn toward commercial lime.

Analyzing and creating some of the early pointing concrete is an art. Pine Mountain has been fortunate to have Bob Yap’s good eye and deep knowledge of restoration when addressing many of the issues found in the stone foundations and sidings of many of the Pine Mountain buildings that have broken down with time. Yap’s annual workshops are some of the most exciting workshops held at PMSS. While Yap’s skills range across many restoration skills including window restoration, roof flashing, siding, fine carpentry, and so much more, he also addresses the vital skill or re-pointing rockwork. See the Pine Mountain schedule of events and workshops for dates the next series of restoration workshops.

STONES AND MORE STONES

Stones in the Pine Mountain valley are everywhere present. They fill stream beds, sometimes tumble down mountains, pose major obstacles in the construction of roads and homes, or provide the central building material of the same. They are rockwalls, laid dry-stacked one on the other and stone mantles above the stone fireplace. They mark the well-traveled paths around the campus. They hide the infrequent copperhead snake and the quick-witted “red-britches” ground squirrel. Stones are in evidence at every turn at the School and they are still being added to the landscape in the dry stack workshops that have now become an annual offering at the School.

hook_album_2blk__036

From Mary Rockwell Hook Album. [hook_album_2blk__036]

But, there is a difference between “cliffs”, “rocks” and “stones”.

Stone at the School can be found in flagstone walks and simple stream stepping stones. Rocks are often referred to as residing deep in the woods, where they are natural monuments with trillium tops and gentle fern and lichen-laced sides. They are places to sit for a stream-side picnic or a personal reverie. At Pine Mountain, almost no one is without a stone — or some affection for a “rock.” The Playground rock beside Isaac’s Creek is one of the most iconic rocks at the School. The large rock (no one calls it a stone) is nearly encased in the root of a giant poplar tree and provides many nooks to play or sit, or cut hair.

2457 Clyde Blanton and August Angel cutting hair at large poplar on playground, 1930s. [IX_students_09_2457_001.jpg]

The stone steps of Boy’s House have long been a favorite photography venue for Board pictures, students, and solitary musing.

POTATOES AND ROCKS

Not all rocks are stones. Potatoes were a popular crop in the mountains, but rocks and potatoes do battle in the field. It is difficult to grow potatoes in rocky fields, thus all workers took on the task of clearing the fields of rocks and turning them into stones:

“Another piece of economy has been the application of the two-birds-with-one-stone theory to the loose stones on our cultivable ground. We have secured building material for two sanitary closets and a fine tool house by gathering wagon loads of obstructive stone from our potato fields. As to rocks, we still have more worlds to conquer and we shall use them for building and retaining walls, paving, and roads.”

Nov. 14, 1914, Letter to Friends from Ethel de Long

DRY STACK CONSTRUCTION AND SCALLOPED POTATOES

In recent years Pine Mountain has held several workshops in dry-stack wall construction. The sinuous wall along the road from the Office to the Industrial Building (Plant Center) is a good example of the work of dry-stacking.

P1050413

Stone wall along road from Office to Industrial Building. [P1050413.jpg]

While it may be a stretch to compare stacking potato slices to something like stacking a dry wall, the art of stacking can make all the difference in a random pile of rock and a random pile of potatoes. Both can become an aesthetic work of art. Dry-stack rock work is one of the workshops now offered at the School and can be a valuable skill for both a gardener or a cook. Both take a good eye! Dry-stack rock work may be seen throughout the School campus. The recent preservation workshop that re-built the wall just east of the Office possibly were treated to a meal with scalloped potatoes. It is not known if the masons were rewarded with the scalloped potatoes, but the following recipe is one drawn from the records of the School.

SCALLOPED POTATOES

Why scalloped potatoes? They actually have much in common with stacked stones. Potatoes are often what causes a stone to be moved, removed, stacked, broken up, hated or other actionable scenarios. Like dry stacked walls, scalloped potatoes are laid into the pan one slice on top of the other. In the kitchen the idea is “light-weight” but in the field, it is an exercise in heavy lifting.

SCALLOPED POTATOES

3   LB potatoes
4   T butter
4   T flour
2   t salt
1/4  t pepper
2  cups milk

Pare and dice potatoes and put in a buttered baking dish, sprinkling each layer lightly with the flour, salt, and pepper. Pour milk and melted butter over the potatoes. Cover, bake in moderate oven for 60 to 90 minutes.

Recipe in The Pine Cone, May 1935

GALLERY OF STONEWORK AT PMSS see ROCKWORK

Stones were life-long labor for farmers at the School as well as in the community farms and gardens. Some areas were more troublesome than others. The barnyard seen here was slow to be cleared of these troublesome partners of most mountain soils. But when “clearing” was completed, the stones were ordered into a rough paving behind and in front of the barn where the mud and muck was an ever-present nuisance.

Barn. Early construction with stones littering yard. [II_7_barn_281.jpg]

In some locations, stones were an advantage when they were arranged and sometimes even if they were not. In the barnyard at the School where soft earth could quickly become mired with manure and mud, the stones even though lacking organization, kept the yard drained and the feet of livestock, dry.

HORSES AND ROCKY ROADS, TRAILS AND PATHS

The stories of negotiating rocky streambeds on the backs of horses or in wagons abound in the Pine Mountain Valley. Steep mountain slopes and laurel thickets offered poor trails and often the thoroughfares were the streambeds. One story stands out in the myriad of tales of rocky-stream mishaps. That is the fall of Dr. Alfreda Withington on a dark night medical call. In her own words from her autobiography, Mine Eyes Have Seen (E.P.Dutton & Company, 1941) she describes the 1926 accident.

She had been treating a child who had been badly burned and had stayed the night with the family. As she started the next day on the long trip home by horseback she had what she described as “bad luck.”

It was the next day when I was returning alone from this visit, that bad luck overtook me. As Maud [the horse] was going downhill she stumbled on a rock, falling and hurling me straight over her head, so that I struck almost squarely on my face. I remember the sensation of hurtling through the air and hearing a crash. Then there was a blank

A mountain woman was standing over me when I came to. I had an awareness that something was wrong; putting my hand to my nose felt it crunch, and it was bleeding terribly. I told the woman to give me my kit, and lying there I manipulated the grating bones, straightened them, and poked some gauze up my nostrils. Though faint from loss of blood there was nothing for me to do but remount and ride the four miles home.

The next day my face was swollen beyond recognition. I rode thirteen miles more to the railroad and took the night train for Louisville to consult a specialist. He said I could be thankful indeed that my malar bones were not smashed; a stiff hat saved them.

“What I do every Friday. M.K.. [Marian Kingman] Along Grease [sic] Creek, Pine Mountain, Ky.” [kingman_098a.jpg]

Dr. Withington’s tale was repeated many times over by staff at Pine Mountain and the community families whose only roadways were streambeds and rocky hillsides. Most could identify with her “bad luck” as they had either experienced it or knew someone who had. Dr. Withington was 65 years old when her accident occurred. She was slowed down for a while but she continued to ride in streambeds and along narrow ledges above streams in order to serve the many families needing medical attention for many more years. She left the stones of the Kentucky mountains in 1931, finally retiring at the age of 70,

SCENIC ROCKS AND HIGH PLACES

Indian Rock, Rebel’s Rock, Raven’s Rock, arches,. Sandstone cave…..

STONE SOUP

Besides scalloped potatoes, there is Stone Soup. Any soup may become “stone-soup” when a clean and dense stone is heated intensely and dropped into a soup pot. It acts like a slow cooker and it both cooks and maintains the warmth of a meal. The following is a pleasant winter stone soup made from stored and home-canned goods.

Vegetable Stone Soup

1 cubed onion, braised (or added directly to pot)
1 qt. jar of tomatoes
1 qt. jar of corn
1 qt. jar of green beans
3 cups of beef broth
1 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

One clean medium stone thoroughly heated. Place stone directly in soup mixture. Let cook for 1 hour. Patience. Re-heat stone, if needed. Serve with cornbread. and cold buttermilk.

To explore the many uses of stones and rocks at Pine Mountain the following Gallery will give a good overview of the value and required skills to utilize this building material. Buildings that are noteworthy for their rockwork are the Chapel, Laurel House II, and Draper Industrial BuildingRockwork, as seen in ROCKWORK at PMSS can also demonstrate some of the troublesome aspects of this medium.

PLAYING IN THE ROCKY, STONEY, BOULDER STREWN CREEK

Ann Angel Eberhardt is the other editor and voice on the Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections website (there are two of us). She is a cousin, friend, writer and superlative sounding-board. Her father is the hair-cutter in the image, above.  When she saw this piece she felt compelled to share some of her memories among the stones of Pine Mountain. I am sure other readers will have similar memories in the creeks of Eastern Kentucky. I asked if I could share her comment

Your article reminds me of those times my family would regularly visit Mom’s people, the Halls, in Viper in the summers of 1940s & early 50s. We cousins would spend most days setting up little “playhouses” on the huge boulders in the creek. Each of us would have his or her own boulder (stone?) and use twigs, pebbles, stones, discarded items and anything else we could find to create our playhouses. One cousin even directed the creek in a way to have “running water.” There was a perfectly round hole in the rocky creekbed that we called “Indian’s washbowl.” It was probably formed by eons of circling pebbles that the creek water washed into it.

Helen Hayes Wykle

ROCKWORK AT PMSS

 

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH In the Kitchen Pots and Pans I

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Blog: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VIII
IN THE KITCHEN

IN THE KITCHEN In the Kitchen Pots and Pans I

Home Economics classes and the Practice House (Country Cottage) at Pine Mountain Settlement School aimed for a comprehensive education in kitchen ways and this included the many tips and tricks that women often learn following their mothers around their home kitchens.  But, most of the girls who came to the School in the early years did not have the advantage of following mothers around their kitchens, as some had no mothers, some had no kitchens to speak of, and they rarely had the time for extended instruction. Cooking had to be balanced against many other tasks including care of children, gardening, canning and preserving, weaving, sewing, and other consumers of time. The kitchen education of women in the Pine Mountain community usually gave way to the tasks of keeping ahead of economic disaster through a grinding work schedule or keeping the cycle of planting and harvesting on schedule.  “Time” in the kitchen, if a kitchen even existed, had nothing of the time many younger women now take for granted. And, the kitchens, themselves, bore little resemblance to our idea of a contemporary kitchen.

In 1940 Alice Cobb, a staff member out visiting neighbors in the community described a kitchen that belonged to the Sarah Bailey family. [See: ALICE COBB STORIES “About Sarah Bailey” 1940.]

The kitchen of Sarah Bailey was the community exception — not the rule. Sarah Bailey was an exceptional woman

“Come right in folkses. Supper’s all ready, and agittin’ cold on the table. Glyn [her son],  bring them chairs in here honey. (To us) “You set down now and go to eatin’ if they’s anything thar that’s fitten to eat.”

We were almost carried in on a wave of fragrance — a delicious combination of smells of all the good things in the world, sweet and sour and baked and fried. Glyn led the way with two chairs, we brought the other, and presently were seated saucer-eyed no doubt, if there had been mirrors to see with before the round groaning table (the work is used advisedly) in the same stout chairs we had occupied in front of the fire.

The children stayed in shy stairsteps in the doorway, watching our every move. Sarah stood by the kitchen stove, her hands folded, and with dignity oversaw the banquet.

The table was without any exaggeration covered, with no spaces between dishes. A heaping dish of spare ribs joggled against a bowl brimming with apple sauce. Piled up sausages on a platter were ready to tumble into the full butter crock. There was so much that it was hard to kow just where to start. And amid our protests at the bounty before us, Sarah brought another dish of what looked to be quarters of fresh raw apples, offered as a special treat. We were amazed.

“Not apples at this time of year!”

“Hit’s sulpherated  apples,” she explained. “They stay just like new that way.” Se promised to take us out later to see her sulphurating equipment.

We began to count them to see how much of that dinner had come out of Sarah’s own farm of four acres. The chickens (there was boiled chicken, steaming and tender) she had hatched and raised in her own back yard. We saw some of their family roosting in the apple tree outside, while we ate.

“Them shucky beans,” she saidGrowed in the garden and me and the children strung them up and hung ’em out last summer.” (One has not really tasted beans until he has had the shucky kind and there is no mountain porch complete without lacy festoons of them, which like so many of the attributes of mountain life, represent combined social, aesthetic and practical values. Bean stringing is entertainment, the decoration is lovely, and they do taste wonderfully good when they are finally eaten!)

“The sausage and pork sides was from the two hogs we raised, and I butchered just last week” she went on, and then left’ her post by the stove to hasten the passing around. “Here, have some sausage — you hain’t eat nothing!”

“You mean you butchered  yourself?”

Her eyes danced like Glyn’s as she nodded. “Law, yes!” Why there haint no man alive can cut up a hog as good as me. The men folks around here always calls on Miz’ Bailey when they got a butchering on hand to do.” (Miz Bailey” is a mite of a person not nearly so big as an average sized hog!”

“I raised the corn and canned hit last summer, and I pickled my own beets and I raised them sweet potatoes and the Irish potatoes too.”

We went on enthusiastically to note that the eggs (a platter of fried ones, and a bowl of boiled eggs in gravy) of course came from her very own chickens, and the cornbread —

“Well, I reckon you wouldn’t hardly say hit was all mine. But hit was my corn that dried and went to the mill to grind. Hit was the meal that went in to bake!”

“And the milk, of course —”

Oh yes, my cow gives good milk. Plenty for butter for us and mam’s and pap’s. Have some more bread. You haint’ touched nary a thing seems like. course hit’s just plain country cooking’ but I’d hate it a sight for you fellers to go away hungry. Have some buttermilk?”

We couldn’t!

“Now you all just have some cake, if you won’t eat no more chicken or port and beans. Seem like you’re aiming to starve.” We were faced with two enormous cakes, one dark and the other light, and a great bowl of canned peaches (from Sarah’s tree, and canned by her). It is wonderful how accommodating the stomach can be so pleasant an emergency. We partook with gusto of the cake, which she regretfully confessed was “… all furrin ingredients, ‘cepting the lard,” and the coffee with sugar which was also furrin although she explained that as a general thing her family didn’t use “fotched on” sugar at all, but the sorghum from her own cane, made at her stiroff last September, or the honey from her two bee gums ‘robbed’ last June.

At long last it was apparent even to this Sarah Bailey that her guests could hold no single spoonful more. It was time for another move.

“Well, if you hain’t aiming to eat nothing,” she spoke with a distinct tone of reproof,”I reckon you all might want to see my canning cellar and the way I sulphurated them apples.”

Before we were well out of the tiny kitchen the children had snatched our places and were diving into the remains of the feast. Certainly, this had been no ordinary supper, but very evidently prepared for the special occasion with willing and friendly hands, prompted by a warm and welcoming heart.

How do we know all this? There are many stories of visits to the homes of neighbors by the scribbling settlement workers. They often charted in detail where they ate, what they ate and how it fared with them. Even the most rudimentary meal was welcomed by the workers if they had been long in the community for it was well-understood that criticizing a meal was one of the largest insults to be given a home, but food was often raised by both workers and community women.  That food was a constant topic is well documented in the literature of Pine Mountain Settlement School eras and the documentation outlines a clear rationale for the inclusion of a “Practice House” where the foodways of both workers and students could be expanded.

Some of the lessons that Pine Mountain sought to instill in its students were common-sense, but these practical skills were also mixed with industrial training that could carry over into jobs in food service industries, domestic work, as a dietitian. nursing and nutrition specialist, and other kitchen-related or food-related employment.  The helpful kitchen hints provided throughout the student newsletter, the Pinecone, describe simple hints for the preservation of food, kitchen safety, cleanliness,  and maintenance of kitchen tools. Many of these prescriptions were part of Home Economics instruction and a requirement for most all students at some time in their education. The emphasis on foodways served to raise awareness of home-safety in the handling of foods and food preparation as well as expanding the palate of the student.  Food-borne illnesses, disease, and poor hygiene were ever-present in the homes of many in the surrounding community and particularly in some of the coal camps where close-living made for a precarious existence. The direct impact of integration of proper food handling, relationship of disease to cleanliness, transmission of common bacterial infections, etc. was high on the agendas of many of the workers at the school as their health was also at stake.  Handwashing, cooking at the proper temperature, storage, etc. were subjects integrated into classroom activities, work routines and service in the community. Hands-on food preparation and preservation of food were part of the routine work program for many students at the school and the awareness of proper handling of food and food preparation was in the interest of the entire community.

The early kitchen in Laurel House I, the first main building and dining commons for the School was exemplary for its day.  It was a large facility, outfitted with ample ovens and stoves, washing areas and food preparation areas, and the Laurel House kitchen saw a steady rotation of students through its training.

The student newspaper, the Pinecone gives testimony to the integration of kitchen work and food savvy in the lives of the students.

Angela Melville Album II, Part I. [melv_II_album_018.jpg]

Angela Melville Album II, Part I. [melv_II_album_018.jpg]

The following is a Pinecone list of helpful hints.

KITCHEN HINTS

[From The Pine Cone, February 1938]

1.    To keep the smell of cabbage, onions, and other strong-smelling vegetables from going all through the house, burn newspaper on top of the stove.

2.    To keep smoke down from sugar and other things which have boiled over on the stove, apply salt.

3.    To keep lemon fresh in hot weather put in fresh water every day or keep buried in sand.

4.    To keep cheese from molding, wrap in a cloth wet with vinegar.

HINTS ABOUT DISHES

1.    Rinse and wash as soon as through using dishes if possible.  If not possible soak in cold water.

2.    Soak in cold water all dishes which have been used for batters milk or eggs.

3.    Care of coffee and tea pot —

(a)   Rinse in cold water

(b)   Wash in hot water

(c)    Scald, dry and leave open.

4.    Egg beaters —

(a)   Rinse, clean, dry and hang up as soon after use as possible.

(b)   Never put egg beaters to soak and never let the cogs get wet.

POTS, PANS AND STOVES

Stoves were rarely found in the early Pine Mountain community homes until coal became a common fuel and roads allowed the transport of large durable goods, such as heavy stoves, into the community. Even after the advent of the gas and the electric stove, the use of the coal stove continued in many households but, then, only in the homes that could afford the transport of the heavy metal stoves and the cost of the coal stove, itself.

“Kitchen” was also not a word that was common in many households where the cooking of food and preparation of food was not relegated to a specific room in small homes.  It was only in larger homes and cabins that “kitchens” began to appear.  Most often they were in areas often referred to as the “dog-trot”, the area that sometimes joined two sections of a cabin home or sometimes they were small sheds attached to the side of a house or cabin.  This location was for several reasons, the most common were the removal of this area to an area away from the central living space to reduce the danger of fire and injury to children. The evolution of the “dog-trot” into a kitchen was not uncommon. The small cabin at Pine Mountain School has remnants of a “dog-trot” in the center of the lower floor of the structure and when cooking moved indoors, this space was the preferred location.

Angela Melville Album II - Part III. [melv_II_album_240.jpg]

Angela Melville Album II – Part III. [melv_II_album_240.jpg]

Difficult to document because of the lack of light and windows, very few photographs exist of the interiors of mountain cabins.  Those photographs that have captured interiors sometimes show how central the fireplace was to the small cabins and homes.

Angela Melville Album II - Part III. [melv_II_album_229.jpg]

Angela Melville Album II – Part III. [melv_II_album_229.jpg]

Tracing the history of cooking and the common practice of kitchen arts in early mountain homes, the clever use of iron cooking pots stands out.  Large cast-iron pots on tripods were used heavily at Pine Mountain in its early years.  Sometimes used in interior fireplaces or on tripod supports mounted in the yards or in the “dog-trots”  or “go-betweens” of cabins, iron pots of various sizes were portable and versatile. They saw uses for many fundamental cooking projects including soap-making, dye pots and boiling down cane or maple syrup.

Before the campus kitchen was in place at Laurel House I, workers at the School used iron pots to prepare group meals, boil laundry, dye wool, make soap, and various other tasks — but not always in the same pot! Keeping the pots clean and being mindful of a pots previous use was extremely important!  There are good tales of pot confusion, however.  Iron pots were critical tools for the early mountain families and were heavily used.  Today they are treasured items of many mountain families or have been relegated to the yard when their bottoms fell out from too many lye soap batches. In their bottomless state they were still treasured for they could hold plants and flowers on porches and in yards.

A humorous story is told about the mixing up of pot contents when an iron pot accidentally became contaminated with soap and was then re-used for soup. One of the important lessons that all students were drilled on was to not criticize the food as it was served at the communal tables.  So, when the dinner soup arrived and was ladled out to the table, there was consternation written large on the faces of the students around the table.  One brave student suddenly exclaimed, “This soup tastes just like soap!”.  As the other students drew in their breath and looked to the staff member at the table for the requisite reprimand, the distressed student quickly altered his remark by saying, “…and, that is just the way I like it!”

Worker at the Medical Settlement at Big Laurel next to cooking tripod with cross-bar. X_099_workers_2478a_mod.jpg

Iron pots can hold heat for long periods of time and whole meals can be cooked in a single unit and sometimes be stretched over several days.  Flat cast-iron skillets can be used with skill to fry fat-back to render cooking lard, a staple in almost all households. In the early households, cast iron pots and skillets were constantly put into quick action for all meals, often keeping an ever-ready location on the hearth.  Often, too, they were placed where they could readily be moved over hot coals or onto metal stands. The skillets were well seasoned and could withstand the high heat of frying as well as slow cooking.

With a lid, the pans could be used for baking by being buried in the coals of the fireplace.  Like the large cauldrons used on tripods, the deep cast-iron skillet with a lid was a vital tool in common food preparation.  Corn pone, fried chicken, bacon, fried onions, greens with fat-back, fried apples, fried potatoes, fried fish— anything that would fry, simmer or bake was placed in these deep skillets and generally with a generous dollop of rendered lard.

Larger iron pots could be covered with a lid or not and could be hung from a metal “arm” and be placed or swung into the fireplace.  Into this pot could go most anything.  Squirrel stew, rabbit stew, chicken, and dumplings, or a rich vegetable stew.  Stews of many varieties were common in mountain homes as they could be kept going for several meals.  Any dish that required substantial liquid and a long cooking time were most often placed in these “slow cookers”  — the very deep cast-iron pot with a lid. If the family had a “footed” iron skillet with a lid, this was often placed directly in the coals of the fireplace and coals shoveled on-top of the lid. This “oven” vessel would bake cakes and oven recipes.  Biscuits, cobblers, and other items that required baking could be handled quite well in these small “ovens.”  Clearly, the possession of a cast iron pot was almost critical to the early settlers in the area and a kitchen item that was guarded carefully. The skills of its use were passed along in the family and readily adopted by the settlement workers.

SEE:  FOODWAYS: “Old Fashioned Dinner” 1919

 

GO TO:

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  I – GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH II – INTRODUCTION

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH III – PLACE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV – FARMING THE LAND 1913-1930

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY I – EARLY YEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY II – MORRIS yEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI – POULTRY

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VII – IN THE GARDEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VIII – IN THE KITCHEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IX – DIETICIANS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH X – IN THE DINING ROOM, MANNERS & ETIQUETTE 

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XVII – FOREST AND FIRES

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 11: Land Use

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XVII – FOREST AND FIRES

p1130242

Forest fires along the Little Shepherd Trail above Pine Mountain School. Oct. 29, 2016. High tunnels for crops in foreground.

In 1922 an article appeared in the Harlan Daily Enterprise.

PlNE MOUNTAIN LADS LOSE TIME FROM SCHOOL WORK AND SLEEP.
REPORT OF FOREST FIRE IN VICINITY OF PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL

The total burned area of the last forest fire on Pine Mountain is 4000 acres. The cost $12,000.  (a very conservative estimate).  The Cost includes:

  • The destruction of half of the young trees forming the future forest crop.
  • The injury to the soil such as burning of leaves, humus [sic] and ground cover.
  • The injury to the standing timber by eating away the lower part of tree trunks until the wind blows the tree over or permits the entrance of wood-destroying fungi.

(signed) Leon F. Deschamps, Forester for the Pine Mountain Settlement School.

On  November 28, 1922,  the mountains around Pine Mountain Settlement School caught fire and threatened the entire community.  As reported in the Pineville (Ky.) Sun the terrible fire created a serious re-assessment of the forests and the threat of fire to part of the School’s important resources.  10 students at Pine Mountain, led by Leon Deschamps, the school forester and also the leader of the local Boy Scout troupe put forward a petition which they hoped to forward to Kentucky’s Governor Morrow. The petition was also signed by 19 girls, members of the local Girl Scouts and supplemented by a letter from their Scout Captain, Miss Lucretia Garfield, grand-daughter of President Garfield, who was on the staff of the School as a teacher and Scout leader from 1919 to 1922. The petitioners asked that the Governor establish a forestry service and a state forester to be appointed to Harlan County.  As part of the petition each of the boys who fought the fire, for an estimated 30 hours each, wrote of their personal experience fighting the fire in individual letters attached to the petition.

Mountain Day. Fire Tower in Kentenia State Forest.

Mountain Day. Fire Tower in Kentenia State Forest. c. 1953 (Putney Tower). No fire towers were available until after 1937-38. Today the tower no longer exists.

The student letters were prefaced by one from Lucretia Garfield.  She describes the fire:

From October 27 to October 31, 1922 Pine Mountain Settlement school was surrounded by forest fires. There were fires along Pine Mountain for many miles on either side of the School, fires down Greasy Creek below the Medical Settlement and fires between the School and Line Fork Settlement seven miles to the east, 

For a week the boys of Pine Mountain School had been fighting fires in the mountain now and then, but from October 28 to 31 they fought night and day. The dry woods burned fast and the fires were coming down the mountain toward the School. For hours the boys worked to rake large rings about each fire and then started back-fires to make the rings wider. Several times the fire broke over the rings and just as the boys were ready to come in at night another alarm was called. They say that one man near Nolansburg let out the fire that spread up Pine Mountain and westward along the top of the mountain, past the Dillon Trail, past Divide, and far down toward Incline.

The Line Fork fire which spread up Bear Creek burning on both sides for many miles was said to have been started by one boy who lit a brush pile for fun.

Her letter is followed by a summary of the time lost from school, work, and sleep by the boys of the Pine Mountain school, while they were fighting the forest fires.

The following is a summary of the time lost from school, work, and sleep by the boys of the Pine Mountain Settlement School while fighting these forest fires:

Average time spent by each boy fighting fires: 30 hours

Average time lost from school: 1-2 hours

Average time lost fro work: 14 hours

Maximum time spent in fighting fires by any boy from October 27 to 31, 1922:  40 hours

But the best story of the fight the children made  is told by them, in their own way. Some of them have made written report of their part in the fight, as a requirement in their school work, and their story, brief, simple, but convincing, tells the story of the seriousness and danger better than any other version could tell, and a few of those compositions follow.

By Clarence Dozier ; Grade VII: November 3, 1922.
Sunday morning there was a fire on top of the Pine Mountain. Mr. Deschamps who is the Boy Scouts Master took ten or twelve Boy Scouts to fight fire. We took our dinner and stayed there until 6 o’clock Sunday night. We came off the mountain and ate our supper, the five boys went back to make a fire-line around the fire. They stayed until midnight. The next morning when they got there the fire had broken over and was coming over into the school ground. One of the boys came back to tell Mr. Deschamps about the fire. Before he got down the mountain he met Mr. Deschamps with some of the boys. They fought fire until dinner. Then some of us went back and made a fire-line from the top of the mountain down to the Lime Stone Cliffs. After we got through with the line we went back to the top of the mountain. And three of the boys went over the fire line. One of them came back where the boys were waiting for him and he said, “boys the fire has broken over the line.

We went to the fire and raked as much as we could. After a while a  man came to help us fight the fire.

I fought fire 40 hours. Time lost from school, three days. Time lost from work, three days. Hours lost from sleep, five.


Discovering a Fire

By Roy Redwin, Grade VII; November 3, 1922.
One morning when I was working for Miss Pettit who is my house mother, we noticed the smoke rising up behind Pine Mountain. Mr. Deschamps who looks after the forest at Pine Mountain, took me with two other boys to the top of the mountain to investigate the smoke. He climbed a tree to see if he could see fire. When he got down he said that he could “see fire i the distance.” Then we went on out a piece farther ad burnt a fire line so that if the fire came dow there it could not get over into the school grounds. We stayed all night and next morning we came back about 7:30 o’clock smoke was rising very fast ad some boys went up to try to put it out. This was the beginning of a forest fire which lasted about seven days. I spent about twenty-six hours fighting fire. I lost about seven hours fro school. I lost about eighteen hours of work time. The fire has destroyed many fine trees ad killed many young ones.


How I Fought Fire

By Watson Caudill, Grade VI; November 3, 1922.
Last Sunday with some other boys I went to fight fire on the Pine Mountain, on top of the mountain, where the Nolansburg trail crosses. We started raking a fire-line on top of the mountain down towards Nolansburg. We went half way down the mountain ad burnt it so that it would not catch over. When we had burnt it off we came back to the top of the mountain and it had caught over this side. We worked about two hours more before we got it stopped. And then we came to the house and went to bed at one o’clock that night. The next morning it had caught over again and we had to take up the fight again. I missed school two days and sleep two nights. I fought fire about 22 hours in all.


By Harry Callahan, Grade VII;  November 3, 1922
One afternoon Mr. Deschamps who is the Boy Scout Master at Pine Mountain Settlement school came in and said he wanted some one to go and fight fire with him. He just took three boys at first, and after a while he came back after some more boys to help him. He just took three boys at first, and after a while he came back after some more boys to help him. He said that the flames were crossing the line ad that evening some of the Boy Scouts went and stayed out all night fighting fire.

The next day was Sunday and just as soon as the boys got back they saw that it was across the fire-line and they had to go back and fight all day Sunday. When Mr. Deschamps came in that night he asked for volunteers to go and stay out that night and fight fire.

One night we ate supper ad went back and fought fire till about 10 o’clock that night. All the time we fought fire amounted to about six days of hard fighting.


By Gardner Combs, Grade VI; November 3, 1922.
Sunday a fire broke out in the forest and the boys at Pine Mountain were asked to help put it out. One party of boys went Sunday and another at night. 

The fire was coming up the other side of the mountain when we got there , and we began to rake a fire-line around the fire. When the ring was all way around the fire, we set fire to the leaves, next to the ring, to meet the fire coming. Then we came home at one o’clock in the night. 

The next day the fire broke over the time [sic line] and most all the boys went out to put it out. We raked a ring all the way around the fire, but it broke over again. Then we all went up and raked another ring and this time we put it out. I worked about thirty-four hours in all. I lost about 13 hours from school. I lost about 14 hours of work. I lost about six hours of sleep.


GALLERY


p1130319

Forest fires above the Chapel, Pine Mountain, KY. Oct. 30, 2016.

According to historian George E. Thompson, in his 2009 publication, You Live Where?, Harlan County, in 1913, was the first county in the state to create a forest fire protective association. The first state forest in Kentucky was also created in Harlan County in 1919, the Kentenia State Forest.

By 1925 the President of the United States had issued a Proclamation that declared April 27- May 3rd to be “American Forest Week”.  He stated that “I desire to bring to the attention of all our people the danger that comes from the neglect of our forests.” His proclamation was an enlargement of the “Forest Protection Week” that had been in place for several years.  It was clear that all was not right with American forests in the 1920’s, what Coolidge called “unwise dissipation of a great resource.”

Even in these early years the people of Harlan County recognized and wanted to protect their forests.  One of those Harlan County natives, Grover Cleveland Blanton, a grocer from Wallins Creek, near Harlan, had a particular love of forests and continued to purchase forest land to add to the Blanton forest all his life.

One piece of land Blanton was particularly fond of was a tract that showed no signs of logging or removal of trees. It was that particular tract that became a focus of energy for conservationists. Just four miles west of the town of Harlan, Blanton forest is literally a national treasure. It is one of the oldest forests in America that is designated “old-growth” forest. Many of the trees, some over 150 feet high and some four feet in diameter have weathered  many fires over the centuries.  And, there have been many centuries.  Some estimate many of the trees of 25-30 different species, are 300 to 400 years old.

This large forest, the “Blanton Forest,”  is comprised of 2,350 acres, of which 1,075, the least disturbed portion, has been set aside for a nature preserve. This important section is positioned on the south flank of the long Pine Mountain range that stretches through Harlan County, the longest of Kentucky’s counties (some 50 miles long by 20 miles wide). Marc Evans, working for the state Nature Preserves Commission to inventory the state’s forests,  is credited with the “discovery” of this remarkable old-growth” forest.  Marc is currently a Pine Mountain Settlement School board member.  When he walked into the area in 1992 he was astounded by what he saw and began a campaign to recognize and preserve the forest. In 1995 working with the Nature Preserves Commission, and with William Martin, then the Natural Resources Commissioner, about half of the Blanton Forest was purchased for $750,000.  This was the 1,075 acres identified as critical to preserve. The care given to this forest by the Blanton family and the care given to other forests in Eastern Kentucky, particularly Lilly Woods, and the forest in the Bad Branch area of Letcher County, are treasures that are very susceptible to fire.

The forest surrounding Pine Mountain joins this remarkable gathering of unique and irreplaceable forest lands in Eastern Kentucky and particularly in Harlan County. Since 1913, when the School was founded, there have been fires in the forests of the school like the one mentioned above. Most of them were the result of careless behaviors. William Martin, an expert in old-growth forests and former Natural Resources Commissioner for Kentucky in the early 1990’s, once remarked, “A tree doesn’t care how long a human being lives …”  But, it is clear that we humans need to heighten our understanding of the life of trees.  In many ways, they are our legacy. Today, along with fire, a recurring challenge to forests in Harlan county is irresponsible timbering. Grover Blanton made it clear throughout his lifetime that his forest was “More than timber.” “This is for saving,” he told his daughters, Nora and Serena Knuckles.

Today, along with fire, a recurring challenge to forests in Harlan county is irresponsible timbering. Grover Blanton made it clear throughout his lifetime that his forest was “More than timber.” “This is for saving,” he told his daughters, Nora and Serena Knuckles. They did that and continue to advocate for their father’s legacy.

The care given to this forest by the Blanton family and now the Nature Preserves Commission, and the care given to other forests in Eastern Kentucky, particularly Lilly Woods, and the forest in the Bad Branch area of Letcher County, near Pine Mountian School, cannot be underestimated. These forests are treasures that are susceptible timbering and to fire but are in many ways they are less susceptible than new forests.  Many of the old-growth forests have a built-in fire protection.  Many of them have large “boggs” and a moist understory that holds moisture when other forests have succumbed to long periods of drought. As we struggle with Global Warming, this feature of old-growth forests will become increasingly important. The forest surrounding Pine Mountain is joining this remarkable gathering of unique and irreplaceable forest lands in Eastern Kentucky and particularly those in Harlan County. Since 1913, when the School was founded, there have been fires in the Pine Mountain Settlement School forest like those described above. Most of them were a result of careless behaviors.

In 1995 two fourth grade classes at Wallins Elementry School received a $500 grant from the Kentucky Environmental Council to develop games, a study guide, and other activities to heighten awareness of the unique forest in their back-yard and to educate for that legacy we need to acknowledge.

Because fires in Eastern Kentucky are usually fires in the understory, the huge fires in the tree crowns as found in the Western United States do not usually come to mind. However, it only takes one fire such as the one recently seen in the Great Smoky Mountains at Gatlinburg when all the element conspire to create a conflagration, to remind us of the danger of fires in the mountains. The following photograph taken in a very dry year in the early 1940’s shows a particularly fierce fire on the ridge-crest of Pine Mountain.

Forest fire in the ridge-top of Pine Mountain, c. 1945

It is now October 2016 and the Pine Mountain is again on fire.  A series of small fires deliberately set along the Little Shepherd Trail have grown into large fires that now creep down the mountain. Today we don’t send small boys up to meet the growing danger, but we watch warily as the forest clears its under-story making ready for the seeds of Spring. With each increase in the wind we grow anxious and continue to wonder what it is in our common community that still finds pleasure in setting things afire.

An editorial in the Lexington Herald, November 20, 1994 “Arsonists rob E. Kentucky of its verdant forests,” by Doug Crawford, wondered this, as well. He said, “…it is difficult to understand how one element of Eastern Kentucky’s own could be so disillusioned, so ostracized, so contemptuous that it could willfully destroy the region’s greatest and most lasting natural resource.” He goes on to muse that the “…epidemic of arson fires would seem to be a symptom of something still larger, reflecting a mentality similar to those who thoughtlessly trash the roadways and countrysides of Eastern Kentucky ….the people who are doing this have no respect for themselves or where they come from …The motivations for such behavior one can only speculate. Revenge? Contempt? Power? Kicks? ….whatever the reasons, getting at the root of this self-destructiveness is growing more crucial to the survival of Eastern Kentucky.”

p1130268

The Pine Mountain ridge in full Fall color. Late afternoon as fires begin to grow on South side of mountain.. October 28, 2016.

Pine Mountain Settlement School continues their environmental education work with a year-round Environmental Education program which began in 1972 and which offers students from throughout the state and beyond, the opportunity to study forest ecology, biodiversity, stream ecology and other environmental education issues for short or week-long sessions and for public and private schools. Education offers hope for a way out of the cycle of senseless crime and despair. It is never too early or too late to learn. [Contact Pine Mountain Settlement School for information on educational programs or visit http://pinemountainsettlementschoo.net  for a list of programs and workshops.]

GALLERY

 

 


GO TO:   

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – ABOUT

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  I – GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH: 1936 PMSS & MEXICO

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Blog: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH

1936 PMSS & MEXICO

1936_mexico_009

1936_mexico_009

In 1936, the country of Mexico was opening up to travelers and cars. Some travelers were now able to make long journeys in the country and find the needed road assistance along the way. The Pan American Highway was still under consideration after it was first introduced at the Fifth International Conference of American States in 1923 but agreements to begin construction were underway and in July of 1937 when the participating countries signed the Convention on the Pan American Highway, construction began in earnest. The roads in the rural countryside, like those at Pine Mountain, were rustic and treacherous, at best. But it is unlikely that roads presented an obstacle to an adventuresome group from Appalachia.

Intrepid souls were venturing farther than just across the border and they navigated the roads of Mexico and beyond just as they navigated many of the rough roads that marked a large section of the rural United States. In the mid-1930s some of those intrepid travelers to Mexico were from Pine Mountain Settlement School. Following the closure of the 1936 school year, the Principal of the School, the secretary to the Director, and a rising star who had just graduated from the Pine Mountain Settlement boarding high school were given the opportunity to explore the world outside the United States. Accompanied by a proper school marm/administrator from Perry County, the quartet struck out for Mexico City and surrounding towns. Arthur Dodd apparently supplied the car and the camera, Fern Hall took notes, and Georgia Dodd supplied the vibrant dialogue, while all were observed by the quiet and reserved school administrator and first cousin of Fern Hall, Grazia Combs. In one touring car the group drove first to New Orleans where they explored the gulf port and the energetic life of one of America’s oldest cities.

1936_mexico_035

1936_mexico_035

Leaving New Orleans, the group then headed for Texas where they planned to cross the border at Brownsville which sits just north of the large Mexican border town of Matamoros, Mexico. All we know is that they crossed the border into Mexico. Apparently Arthur Dodd hoped to repeat the trip he had made just two summers previous in 1934. Just what happened at the border is not certain. It is possible that the group took a train to Mexico City and rented a car within the country, or they may have driven the distance. That part of the story remains to be discovered.

The Mexican Highway 101, or the Carretera Federal 101, starting at Brownsville to Matamoros, is today a spur of the Pan American Highway that leads to one of the most treacherous highways in Mexico. But in 1935, it was an adventure, not a life-threatening drive. To get some sense of highways in Mexico at this time, the home movie shot by adventurers in 1935,Touring Mexico by Car, 1935 should give some indication of the experience of driving to Mexico City during the early 1930s.

By 1936, Mexico’s Revolution had ended, Cardenas was installed as the new President of the country and oil was providing the country a new economy. Diego Rivera, Frieda Kahlo, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Siqueiros were making their new revolutionary voices heard in the murals and paintings shared with the Mexican people as well as with an eager North American clientele. North American artists and the adventurous were frequently traveling to Mexico. For example, Anni and Josef Albers who were in residence at Black Mountain College in North Carolina in 1935, drove the 2000 miles to Mexico City where they both fell in love with the culture and lively art of the country. They returned many times from 1935 to 1967. As a weaver, Anni Albers was particularly sensitive to pattern and textures. Motifs taken from native Mexican weaving and ceramic shows up in many of the Albers work and the vivid and subtle color of native arts and natural landscape were evocative inspirations for the Albers color theory.

EDUCATIONAL EXPERIMENTATION

Pine Mountain Settlement School had much in common with Black Mountain College in North Carolina and the exchanges between the two institutions occurred regularly. Glyn Morris, the Pine Mountain director, had been deeply schooled in the Progressive educational models of John Dewey. John Rice. The Black Mountain College director knew Dewey who had come to spend time at the North Carolina school and there gained many subscribers to his educational theories. Both directors ran institutions that favored an educational model that was less a traditional educational institution and more a controlled educational experiment to test their theories. One major stumbling block in the love affair between Black Mountain College and Pine Mountain Settlement School, however, was Rice’s disaffection for Robert Maynard Hutchins. Robert Maynard Hutchins was the brother of Francis Hutchins, a major force in shaping the later years of Pine Mountain. Francis Hutchins was in China in the mid-1930s as the director of the Yale in China program. As a friend, educator, and later as President of Berea College, Hutchins directed many instructors and scholars and became a long-standing member of the Board of Trustees of the School.

But, in 1936 Robert Maynard Hutchins, then President of the University of Chicago had just published his book, The Higher Learning in America, which outlined what he sought to do at Chicago with regard to reform of the curriculum. Robert Maynard Hutchins’ reforms infuriated John Rice at Black Mountain. But at Pine Mountain, Glyn Morris walked a delicate line between the John Rice’s preferred experiential model of education, one not so fundamentally grounded in text and the more sequential and proscribed program of Hutchins at Chicago. In his 1937 article for Harper’s magazine, “Fundamentalism and the Higher Learning,” Rice blasted Hutchins’ model as “removed from experience.” “Why,” Rice asked, “include what can be printed and leave out what must be seen or heard?” [Reynolds, K. Visions and Vanities, p.147.] Rice elaborated

“Why include what can be printed and leave out what must be seen or heard: To some, Aeschylus and the sculpture of Chichen-Itza are in quality very near together. But we are to exclude one because it cannot be got from a book?”

“…Education, instead of being the acquisition of a common stock of fundamental ideas, may well be a learning of a common way of doing things, a way of approach, a method of dealing with ideas or anything else. What you do with what you know is the important thing. To know is not enough.”

Just what role educational experimentation had in the Pine Mountain groups’ travels to Mexico, is not known. However, Glyn Morris, the Director, and Arthur Dodd, the Pine Mountain School Principal, had frequently entertained Black Mountain faculty and students at Pine Mountain and the two had also visited in North Carolina meeting and speaking with many of the faculty there and at the nearby Asheville Farm School.

In the coal fields of eastern Kentucky, unionization was heating up and the so-called “Coal Wars” were underway. Charges of Marxism and Communism were creeping into the language of the area and Europe was undergoing major political shifts. Trotsky was still in Norway but would sail for Mexico within the year and arrive in Mexico in 1937 where he would share a residence with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in the famous Casa Azul or Blue House in the Coyoacan area of Mexico City. “Mexico,” as the largest Mexican city is called, was in 1936 a sprawling and cosmopolitan city that was generating enormous creative, political, and social energy that flowed north to a young and welcoming and eager intellectual population.

MORRIS AND EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION

In his autobiography, Less Travelled Roads, (1977) Glyn Morris, the Pine Mountain Director, makes a case for experiential education and cites the growing trend across the country that found that educated rural youth were not returning to their rural home areas but were joining the growing numbers in suburbia and now, urban centers, and ultimately to countries abroad. Morris’s educational plan was progressive but it was also pragmatic. What Morris and Dodd and all those early Progressive pioneers at Pine Mountain would not live long enough to see was the migration back to rural home areas by the youth who years earlier had left and a gradual retrenchment of the heightened exploration and curiosity of the youth about the world.

Morris, for example, declares

Regardless of the school’s program, its net result was to whet the students’ appetites for a quality of living simply not possible in an isolated, sparsely settled mountain community. It is a well-established historical fact — and is a fateful and challenging human problem, very obvious today. Even a relatively prosperous and self-contained family farm of twenty-five years ago can’t make it today on good soil, let alone in the Appalachian Mountain. In addition to this fact, a number of our students came from coal camps in the surrounding counties, and to expect the student to route himself into a career as a coal miner was unrealistic. I began, early in my term at Pine Mountain, to question the goals not only of Pine Mountain but of all the many private secondary schools and colleges in the mountains which asserted this unrealistic goal. My viewpoint on this matter was expressed to Dr. Harold Spears, formerly Superintendent of Schools, San Francisco, California, now Professor of Education at San Francisco State College, during his visit to Pine Mountain late 30s.

This long detour into educational philosophy has a relationship to the Mexico trip. As an experimental settlement school, Pine Mountain was continually looking for innovative ways to open up the educational experience for both its teachers and its students. When Arthur Dodd headed to Mexico for the second time with a car full of single women, he was probably thinking about the very good odds for himself, but he was also doing just what Pine Mountian did best. He was providing an optimum opportunity to expose the students to a new world and to give his very proper School Principal from Perry County an opportunity to open up her own educational perspectives.

Georgia Ayers, the Pine Mountain student who had just graduated and who was among the Mexico travelers, was one of five girls selected from the graduating class of 1935 to remain at Pine Mountain and to participate in a rural education program. Dodd and Morris had devised and proposed a program in which the high school girls would visit homes in the community to nurse sick children or mothers, carry library books to homes, and assist in instruction in the area’s one-room schools. A catalog of responsibilities was constructed that acted as a guide for each girl’s participation in the program. Morris’s and Dodd’s new program became the core of the 11th-grade experience in a new curriculum. Georgia Ayers became the first supervisor of this experimental program as it was built into the new progressive curriculum. The Mexico trip was, in essence, her training and her interview.

1936_mexico_047. Gladys Morris, Georgia Ayers, Fern Hall.

1936_mexico_047. Gladys Morris, Georgia Ayers, Fern Hall.

THE ITINERARY

Arthur Dodd’s earlier itinerary (if it can be called that) to Mexico in 1934 in the company of Caleb Shera, son of a former art teacher at Pine Mountain, and August Angel was very loose. The trio had planned to travel by car to Mexico City but when they reached the border they found that the road was impassable in some sections. August Angel, in assembling his memoirs recalls the journey of the trio

In the summer of 1934, Caleb, Mr. Dodd, Principal of Pine Mountain Settlement School from which Caleb graduated from high school, and I, drove to Mexico in a Ford touring car for a summer vacation. We took turns at the wheel as we traveled. In Georgia, we stopped at Mr. Dodd’s home and stayed overnight. After a sumptuous evening meal and memorable homemade ice cream topped with fresh sliced peaches for breakfast, we drove south to Laredo, Texas, to cross the border into Mexico and toward Monterey.

We drove as far south as Tamazunchale, where we learned that the mountain road to Mexican DF [Mexico City] was under construction and we could not traverse. We decided to take the passenger train from Vera Cruz to San Luis Potosi, then transfer to a second, ending in Mexico City. We traveled second class, sat on slatted wood benches, and mingled with natives who were aboard with livestock, pigs, kids, fruit and vegetables to sell to passengers, or going from the countryside to nearby market places in towns along the railroad tracks. It was a day and night trip, and also a social encounter that shocked us to remember to this day.

In the city itself we did the usual sights – bullfights, opera, church, parks and museum tours, and a visit to the pyramids of the Sun and Moon. Mr. Dodd ate or drank something and caught the bug we dubbed “Montezuma’s Crud,” and spent a miserable month starving himself to get rid of it.

…. The six weeks we were on the trip cost me only $60. I started with $75 and returned to Kentucky with $15. Those were the good old days! It was a truly good vacation and affordable.

Though Dodd had a bad bout of dysentery it did not seem to dull his appetite for Mexico and this time he brought along a good body of film stock and camera.

In the 1930’s many tourists were traveling to Mexico and “the tour” was variously described by those who made the journey. One comprehensive travel account that has an interesting connection with Pine Mountain was recorded in 1936 by J.C. Nichols of Kansas City. Nichols was a friend of the Hook family of Kansas City and reportedly sold a lot he owned in the Rockhill Park area of Kansas City to Bertrand Hook who passed it along to his daughter. Mary Rockwell Hook, the daughter, was the architect for most of the buildings at Pine Mountain Settlement School. Because Mary was a fledgling architect in 1908 her father sought to further her career by purchasing the lot from Nichols so Mary could design and build her first house. To get a sense of a typical itinerary in Mexico see J.C. Nichols account Our Trip to Mexico August and September 1936.” 

The travels of the 1936 Pine Mountain Settlement School group took them to three major destinations: Mexico City, Puebla, and Taxco. Included in Dodd’s photographs are road shots of the countryside as the group drove along the roads connecting Mexico’s urban centers. In Mexico City, the photographs mainly concentrate on Chapultepec Park or “Bosque de Chapultepec” (Chapultepec Forest). It is the largest city park in the Western Hemisphere and covers just over 686 hectares or 1,695 acres.

1936_mexico_040. "Charros - Mexico City Park." [Chapultepec Park]

1936_mexico_040. “Charros – Mexico City Park.” [Chapultepec Park]

From Mexico City the group went South to Taxco, a city known for its silver and beautiful ornate churches in the Mexican Churrigueresque style. There are two views of Mexico’s most famous volcanos, Popocatépetl, and Iztaccihuatl, that fill the skyline some 70 Km Southeast of Mexico City. The city of Puebla, is the fourth largest city in Mexico. It is located 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes, Founded in 1531, it has some of the most significant Spanish Baroque cathedrals in Mexico.

1936_mexico_005. View of Popocataptle and Iztaccihuatl volcanos. 70 Km Southeast of Mexico City.

1936_mexico_005. View of Popocataptle and Iztaccihuatl volcanos. 70 Km Southeast of Mexico City.

A highlight of the trip to Mexico City, if measured by the number of photographs, was a trip to the ancient bullring Toreo de la Condesa in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City. Today the older bullring has been replaced by a new stadium in another location and the capacity doubled. The older location was overwhelmed by the rapid development of the Condesa area of the city. Apparently, the group saw a mind-numbing number of bull fights. Fern Hall wrote in a postcard to her future husband, William Hayes, the farm manager at Pine Mountain, that she saw six bulls killed that day. We don’t know what he thought about that report but it is likely that he was not cheering for the matador.

1936_mexico_045. Postcard. "Pase Natural, 319"

1936_mexico_045. Postcard. “Pase Natural, 319”

So, outcomes? Arthur Dodd managed to stay healthy and to enjoy the second trip to Mexico and return to Pine Mountain where he administered the school programs until their closure in 1949. Georgia Ayers’ trip to Mexico was the first of many, many journeys outside the United States. She was not only “interviewed” to head the new social services program at Pine Mountain, she was also sized up by Dodd, the adventuresome single man. He asked Georgia to marry him and they were married in late December of 1940. She then became the dietician for the School.

Fern Hall continued on as Secretary to the Director at Pine Mountain and in 1941 married Wiliam Hayes, a former student who had stayed on at Pine Mountain as the Farm Manager and instructor in industrial training. The Hayes’ stayed on until 1953 when most farming programs at the School were discontinued. It is Fern’s set of Dodd’s Mexico photographs that prompted this blog. Fern and Bill’s daughter, Helen, inherited the photographs and with them a curiosity for travel first in Mexico in 1963 and then in other regions of the world. Grazia Combs returned to Perry County where she continued to teach and assume multiple roles in education in the county including Principal of Dilce-Combs High School and later Perry County Superintendent of Schools.


GALLERY: 1936 PMSS & MEXICO


Bibliography

Touring Mexico by Car in 1935 http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/4127-touring-mexico-by-car-in-1935

J.C. Nichols Mexico travel account Our Trip to Mexico August and September 1936.” 

Angel, August. Trivia and Me, 2008


DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XIV – LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 12: LAND USE
THE ROAD [Laden Trail]

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XIV – LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD


TAGS: Laden Trail or The Road ; prospectus ; map ; economic advantages of the Road ; hauling goods over the mountain ; cable incline ; Harlan County’s financial contribution ; high cost of road-building in Appalachia ; benefit to School’s endowment and scholarship fund ; fundraising for the Road ; Little Shepherd Trail ; Kentucky Good Roads Association Plan ; biodiversity ; Ethel de Long Zande; Katherine Pettit; Celia Cathcart; Evelyn K. Wells


LADEN TRAIL, or “THE ROAD,” is a historical record of the campaign for and the building of a paved road over Pine Mountain that would connect Pine Mountain Settlement School to the Laden railroad station near Putney some eight miles across Pine Mountain. Negotiations for the building of the Road began in 1914, approximately a year after Pine Mountain Settlement School was founded.

The close timing of the Road and the School’s beginnings was not coincidental. As construction of the School progressed, it became obvious that the steep Laden Trail — truly only a trail —over the mountain was inadequate for hauling needed supplies by wagon. By 1920 the founders of the School had a plan, had called in consultants and had begun a fundraising campaign for a road. This page features a map and their argument for “The Road” in a Prospectus that was written to inspire donations.

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD: Gallery

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD: Transcription of the Prospectus

“Here, then is Appalachia: one of the great landlocked areas of the globe, more English than Britain itself, more American by blood than any other part of America, encompassed by a high-tension civilization, yet less affected by modern ideas, less cognizant of modern progress, than any other part of the English-speaking world.” — Horace Kephart

Will you help us build a road over our mountain, from Appalachia to modern America? The road will bring 5,000 people in touch with the railroad. It will be a wheeled-vehicle outlet for a great section of three mountain counties, which now have the most indirect communication with the world, either by costly, roundabout roads, or by tiny trails that even a sure-footed mule cannot haul a cart over.

It will mean economic improvement for the whole section — a market for apples and other surplus products — therefore, improved living conditions, larger houses, more knowledge of sanitation, a decrease in moonshining.

It will mean that the Pine Mountain Settlement School pays twenty-five cents a hundred pounds to haul goods from the railroad, instead of seventy cents. In 1916 the School paid to bring in from the L. and N. Railroad its groceries, building materials, heating apparatus, etc. $1000 of this, scholarships enough for eight children, could have been spent directly for their education, if there had been a road.

If we do not build the road, we will soon be at even greater expense in bringing in supplies. At present, we haul goods over the mountain on a broken-down cable incline, some eight miles away, built years ago to take poplar logs to the railroad. The cable sometimes breaks, the rails are rotten, and the incline is already dangerous. At the foot of the mountain, the goods must be reloaded onto wagons, and hauled eight miles over a road which is often impassable.

It is better economy for us to stop right now, and work for a road, than to go on spending money wastefully, year after year. It is also a more constructive policy for our neighborhood. Money spent now, in a lump, for the road, means improvement along many lines. Spent in smaller sums, year by year, it is frittered away, and accomplishes no solid good.

Harlan County cannot build this road now, because it is spending all it will have for some years on fifty or sixty miles of road in the heart of the county. Remember that road-building is in its infancy in Appalachia —that the hills and the creeks make a mile of good road a costly thing.

Our six miles of road are the costly link in a network of highways that will in time bind together three county seats, and give free communication to many square miles of mountains. For the passion for road-building has come to Eastern Kentucky. But a mountain a mile high, with seventy-five foot cliffs to blast through is a huge obstacle whose removal will hasten tenfold the opening up of communication, through the expenditure of County funds.

Harlan County has given five thousand dollars for this road,— a princely gift, — and the first large sum ever appropriated for the benefit of outlying districts. The county will also return $25,000 from its share of state road funds in annual installments of $1200 if we turn over to it the funds for road-building this summer.

The game is worth the candle, for the $25,000 will accomplish three purposes:

1. It will build the road immediately.
2. It will save the School money yearly, and thereby add to our
scholarship fund.
3. It will become endowment for the School as the annual installments are returned by the County.

Such results are worth a huge effort. A great constructive undertaking brings its own inspiration with it. $3500 has already been given for this project. For this $21,000 still needed we must find:

I. Givers of $500.
2. Givers of $100.
3. Friends who will organize groups to give $100.
4. Promoters, who will talk for the road, suggest possible givers, make appointments for Miss [Ethel] de Long, keep faith alive.

There must, and will be a road across Pine Mountain. How many feet of it will you help us build?


LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD: History

What follows is a historical overview of the building “The Road” which was finally completed in 1940. The narrative concludes with a summary of the lessons that were learned and the changes the Road brought to the area and the School.

Laden Trail or The Road

Laden Trail road, car and forested hillside. c. early 1940s [nace_II_album_086.jpg]

From Katherine Pettit regarding progress on the Laden Trail, c. 1920:

You’d be interested in the preliminary report Mr. Obenchain [State Engineer] has just gotten out. On this side of Pine Mountain, there is a rise of one foot in every 1.34 feet (less than 45 degrees). The distance through the mountain is 1-7/8 miles, but we shall need almost 12 miles of road at $6,000 a mile, with an ascent of five feet in every hundred feet. Some undertaking!

This note from Katherine Pettit to the board in the early 1920s was a preliminary assessment of conditions for a road across Pine Mountain to the School. It was among the first steps in the difficult task of bringing a road from the south side of Pine Mountain to the north side of the mountain or, more specifically, from the railroad station at Laden to the settlement school at Pine Mountain.

Geography is often confounding. In the eastern mountains of Kentucky, this is especially true. From the earliest records of exploration of the “Dark and Bloody Ground” of Kentucky to the present day, mountains have been a barrier, friend, wealth, an obstacle to progress, an insulator of culture, and just plain hard to negotiate. The early accounts of travel in the region speak to the tangle of laurel thickets, the sharp ridges and the undulating crests, the short distance but the long journey. Horses and oxen fared little better than their passengers and their loads teetered on slippery saddles or slippery slopes. On many mountain paths supplies slipped, people tumbled down hillsides, roots caught up the unwary and weather made all mountain travel unpredictable, dangerous and costly.

Laden Trail or The Road

[lave015.jpg]

Katherine Pettit was wary of the rapidly developing industrial age, but she was practical and knew that if the school was to thrive it must have a viable transportation corridor for the exchange of goods, people, mail, and communication with new ideas. Rail had already been laid along the Cumberland river on the opposite side of the mountain to carry the cargo of coal and trees from the land, and this exploitative rush on the Southern Appalachians could not be stemmed.

Pettit and de Long believed that, while there were many reasons to join the industrial age, the process must be a partnership entered into with good skills and good sense, not one of exploitation. The isolation of the deep hollows and the mountain-locked valley would, in their view, eventually leave the region poor, exploited, and unhealthy. Roads, they believed, were part of the necessary infrastructure of the Progressive movement and they aimed to see to it that the school at Pine Mountain and the people of the long valley on the north side have this vital conduit to progress.

The undulating escarpment of the Pine Mountain, with its gentle dip slope and its sharp scarp slope is beautiful to view, but it yields few locations where roads can pass through natural gaps. The entire length of the Pine Mountain range, running northeast to southwest for 100 miles, give or take, is evidence of a thrust fault of major proportions. The settlement school sits at the foot of the steep side or scarp slope of the mountain.

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD: Biodiversity of Pine Mountain

A hike through the heavily forested area reveals the richness of the flora and fauna of the mountain. The Kentucky State Nature Preserves System has noted that there are more than 250 occurrences of 94 rare species of flora and fauna that are native to the region. Each year Pine Mountain School leads a walk through this wondrous mountain area that commemorates the early work of Emma Lucy Braun, a leading ecologist who stayed at Pine Mountain in 1916 while she conducted research on the “mixed mesophytic” (a term she coined) forest floor of the region. Her early work found the region to be the source of most of the woody species that appear throughout much of the Southern Appalachians. In the mesophytic forest there are some eighty different species as opposed to three or four in most other common forests. [Library of Congress: “Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia: Cove Typography”, web resource]. Every year reveal the increasing risk to the some 250 occurrences of the 94 rare species of flora and fauna on the mountains surrounding Pine Mountain Settlement School.

Laden Trail or The Road

‘Rebel’s Rock’ in early Spring, along the Laden Trail road, 2016. [P1120108.jpg]

It is through this wonderland of vegetation and long views that the workers and students walked to get to the School from the rail station at Laden (later Putney). As travelers came down the mountain from Incline (appropriately named) they could look northeast down the long valley and see West Wind, the large white building that sits prominently on the hillside facing out from the campus. Many said that if they could see the building, they knew they were close to the school. But, it was still a long walk.

At $6,000 a mile and twelve long miles, the $72,000 road project was vastly beyond the fiscal grasp of the School, but not beyond a cooperative venture with the county and the state of Kentucky. Pine Mountain became the voice of the cooperative project and a long battle with bureaucracy and funding stretched over the course of many years and is well documented in the School records and archive. An important player in the construction was the Kentucky Good Roads Association.

KENTUCKY GOOD ROADS ASSOCIATION PLAN

In 1912 the Kentucky Good Roads Association came into being in order to promote better methods of road construction and maintenance and to improve the laws and under which the work on roads was to be executed. Out of these early discussions and over the course of about ten years the Kentucky Good Roads Association, a non-partisan association, advocated for the issuing of a $50,000,000 bond to be expended over a period of no less than five years in order to complete the state mandate of 1920 to construct a state-wide system. This system would connect every county seat with hard-surfaced roads. However, the Legislature of 1922 failed tp submit the bond referendum to the people in a timely manner and the Good Roads Association decided in 1923 they would push for the submission of the referendum in the 1924 Legislative session.

The Eastern Kentucky branch of the Kentucky Good Roads Association was formed in 1923 and joined with the Central Kentucky Good Roads Association. The two began a campaign for the adoption and passage of the referendum. Their adopted motto assigned by member Tom Wallace was “United, we move forward; divided, we stick in the mud.” This was in reference to the taxation for road repair that the people called the “mud tax.” The “mud” was a reminder of the condition of the many roads in the state that were in poor condition.

Various counties appointed district chairmen to represent them. Ominously, Harlan County had no representatives at the time the Kentucky Good Roads Association published their platform, which was to be taken to the State convention of the Good Roads Association in Lexington on July 19 and 20 of 1924. But, wisely, they were later chosen as a representative of Harlan County at the State convention. Pine Mountain was a voice in moving the Good Roads Association platform forward.

The plan of the 1923 campaign was to follow 3 objectives:

  1.  Distribute literature and news matter in order to show the people of Kentucky what it would cost to build and maintain a completed system of hard surface roads.
  2.  Form in every County an active organization to carry out the aims fo the Association.
  3.  Through solicitation of memberships, collect fund to defray the expenses of the campaign, from every resident, taxpayer, person, firm or corporation having a legitimate interest in the construction of a hard road system in Kentucky.

The common practice of operating in a patchwork manner in which over 54 different centers of construction tried to coordinate jobs and plans, was not working and it was clear that the old patchy system needed replacement. Another challenge was found in what was referred to as the “Sinking Fund” which was the provision that was mandated to be used to pay off the bonds. The current funding for the Sinking Fund was also to be used to maintain the roads after construction. It was a sinking proposition. The ultimate outcome was a proposal that would require some $2,830,000 a year to retire the bonds in the timeframe mandated by the State agreement. With state revenues to off-set the pay-back, the total approximate maintenance budget could be kept at $1,100,000, a figure that some felt to be beyond reach.

Laden Trail or The Road

Broadside for the Pine Mountain Laden Trail Road project. [roads_004.jpg]

Katherine Pettit and others, like her, believed that many of the deficits claimed by the nay-sayers could be recovered by increased revenues to the counties through improved roads and increases in the motor traffic of the region. The assessment of motor vehicle owners, it was believed, could further offset the cost of principle and interest of the 30-year bond. The thirty-year cost would stand at around $85,729,721 which includes the principle of the bond of $50,000,000 and an interest rate of 4.5%. A further justification was made regarding the improvement that suggested the vital importance of roads to agriculture in the state and to the increase in opportunity for industrial materials transport.

The Kentucky Good Roads Association plan was a good one and one that had the full endorsement of the Pine Mountain Settlement School administration and staff, particularly the efforts of de Long and Pettit. Both Director Ethel de Long and Katherine Pettit saw the state referendum as an opportunity for the School to raise sufficient money to qualify for extension and improvement of the trail into a full and useful road from the Putney rail-head to the School. Though their efforts were not immediately evident, the trail would never have become a road had they not pushed for a corridor to transport goods and services into and out of the Pine Mountain valley. The trajectory of their effort was a long one, seen in the chronology below.

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD: A Chronology of Pine Mountain Settlement School Road History

A one-page document compiling the history of the “Road Over Pine Mountain” was drafted by an anonymous author. It captures the long course of events associated with the creation of Laden Trail Road by the School.

1913

The School asked Harlan County Fiscal Court to appropriate money for a good road over Pine Mountain. Early estimates placed the cost at $10,000, and in June the fiscal court appropriated half that sum, and the School started out to raise the other half.

Miss de Long made trips to Harlan, found the cost would be $50,000, instead of $10,000, [The] School was to raise half and the state give dollar for dollar. But [the] School had to raise the second half to loan the state which promised to pay it back in annual installments of $1200.

Miss Celia Cathcart went to work to raise the first half in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. Miss de Long, from the School, raised the second half, which was to be the loan to the state.

Uncle William Creech went to Louisville to speak for the Road and made many friends for the School.

1918 – JANUARY

Surveying began after preliminary work done in 1915-1916.

1919 – May

Work began, but prices so high by this time that the Road had to cost $100,000. All the $50,000 raised by the School had to be used, and none of it would come back. In 1922 the funds gave out, and the Road had been graded only to the top of Pine Mountain [on the South side]. There was no money for further work on this [North] side.

Mrs. [de Long] Zande went to Frankfort to lobby, succeeded in getting a bill through which made the Road a link in the chain of State primary Highways between county seats, thus ensuring that eventually Kentucky would have to finish the Road. The School could do no more.

1924

The hauling road down this [North] side of the mountain was built by neighbors and county labor about 1924.

1929

In 1929 a sum of $50,000 was appropriated by the Harlan County Fiscal Court for the completion of the Road, and resurfacing of what had already been graded, but this sum was not available in the end.

1931-32

In 1931-32 the poor grade was improved a bit by the emergency relief workers. Aaron Creech was paid by the School to survey the new grade and was boarded at E.M. Nolen’s house free. Some work was commenced but was given up when the money ran out again.

1934

In the spring of 1934 the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] workers began work on the new survey made by Aaron Creech. Right of way was given by all the owners except Otto Nolan, who has paid money by neighbors and School.

The Road was completed by CCC labor.

1937

By 1937 the road situation in eastern Kentucky had improved and the number of paved roads can be seen in this hand-drawn map prepared by an unknown individual at Pine Mountain Settlement School. As can be seen in the map, the only high school that does not have access by a paved road is Pine Mountain Settlement School. While getting a road across the mountain was successful, access continued to be difficult for students on the north side of Pine Mountain. The “S” in green at the center top of the map is Laden Trail road as it leads into PMSS.

Laden Trail or The Road

1937 Road Map of Harlan County, hand-drawn by anonymous individual and showing location of high schools in the county and their access by paved road in 1937. [roads_005.jpg]


Work on the Road continued for many years even after its energetic beginning. Evelyn Wells, the Editor[?], writing for the Pine Mountain NOTES in November of 1920, speaks lyrically of the progress on the Road :

The progress of the Pine Mountain Road has been without haste and without rest.
     Six years ago we had a Dream of a Road.
     Next year we hope to have The Road.

There is about its history a slow rhythm suggestive of classic Roman roads, which should augur well for its quality as a finished road. It started at the railroad, sauntering along so easily that one would never know it was climbing, stopping now and again at a refreshing spring or stream, or just to give one a chance to look at Big Black Mountain’s wonderful mass. It struck a little hill and had to gather up its young strength to eat its way through with a steam shovel that chewed out four hundred cubic yards of rock every day for weeks. Then it swept around the hill joyously and easily until it came to cliffs — a genuine jumping-off place, full of old bears’ dens. Here it halted many weeks while the air drills and steam shovels moved tons of rock to make a huge fill. And now the road continues its climbing unwearied, below the Rebel Rocks, through deep, still thickets of rhododendron, and across pure streams, viewing always the mountain across the valley. We stand at the point where the old trail crosses the road, and wonder if future visitors, coming across all the way on its beautiful, easy grade, will ever believe that once we all, two-footed and four-footed alike, scrambled up the twenty-five percent grade trail!

The other day at dusk, seven men started up the road on their mules, one behind the other, quite as if it were not wide enough for them to go three or four abreast. The Editor called out, “What makes you go up endwise still? Why don’t you ride together until you have to take the trail?” “We got so used to it we couldn’t help it” came the answer, and the Editor read again the poem of Mr. W. A. Bradley on the “Men of Harlan.”

“For, in that far, strange country, where the
men of Harlan dwell,
There are no roads at all, like ours, as we’ve
heard travelers tell.
But only narrow trails that wind along each
shallow creek,
Where the silence hangs so heavy you can hear
the leathers squeak,
And there no two can ride abreast, but each
alone must go,
Picking his way as best he may, with careful
steps and slow.”

Frances Lavender Album. I don’t know these girls but the rear horse is Bobby. — This is such a good view of our roads.

It was always a topic of conversation with workers and students as seen in this exchange in the student newsletter THE PINE CONE, October 1937, which captures the ambivalence of older staff to change and progress:

THEN

Signs of progress are the highways of travel
Asphalt, cement, sand and gravel;
All play a part in this building plan,
Making easy the tours of man;
Girding the earth like ribbons of gray
Stretch in untold miles the broad highway.

Mistaken the one who the above lines wrote,
The following facts are worthy of note
Pine Mountain, Kentucky, clings to the past
Old customs, old ballads, she holds these fast.
Highways of travel — roads did you say?
“No such animal” comes this way!

Trails, paths, a creek bed for a road
Rough and rocky — a light weight becomes a load;
Mud and slush, mire and hill —
Traveling her give one a thrill!
No easy sailing over a road like this;
End of journey is peaceful bliss.

Companions of travel along these bogs
Are countless razor backs and other kinds of hogs;
In spite of the primitive way of it all,
There’s something about it seems to call
To the soul of living for a bigger life,
Away from the modern rush and strife.

So here’s to Pine Mountain, her roads and her ways,
May the blessings of peace be hers always;
If progress and growth be her birthright
Grant these come with education’s light;
Roads — highways of hope!
These, too, perhaps in her horoscope.

AND NOW [The Editor (?) writes:]

The above poem, which was written by Miss McDavid, a housemother at Old Log in 1930, brings to the mind of a worker who has been away from Pine Mountain for seven years the great contrast between then and now. Change has taken place and it seems to be simultaneous with the building of the road. No longer is there a blind clinging to the past merely for the sake of tradition. The best of the past has been retained and many new things have been added. Old restrictions are gone. The freedom at Pine Mountain is an amazing thing, but more than that, the new responsibilities on the shoulders of each student are a sign of a large forward step. Roads are a symbol of civilization.

The ever-present question is in what direction will Pine Mountain go from now on? Has the road brought each student a new highway of hope?

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD: What About Today?

Today, in 2016, the School is encircled by paved roads and even roads that perhaps should have remained dirt thoroughfares, such as Little Shepherd Trail on the crest of Pine Mountain above the School. That one-lane scenic road was paved, in part, to keep it from washing out and, in part, as a response to the success of the paving of other scenic mountain roads, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway. However, the sections that are now paved will need to compete with foot traffic if a proposed Pine Mountain hiking corridor reaches fruition. Obviously, transportation corridors change and the changes reflect the changing times.

The lessons of “The Road” were many before it found its way across the mountain. The negotiation, cooperation, double-dealing, graft, community support, all brought along an education to a new generation entering the industrial age. The Road made the trip to the School easier for many visitors who made the journey. It enabled the Cooperative Store during the Boarding School year to function, and it kept the growing school supplied through the difficult years of World War II.

To put this simple unpaved road in perspective, the Appalachian Scenic Highway, later the Blue Ridge Parkway, was begun in 1935. The Parkway was a 469.1-mile road that stretched across two states and took 50 years to complete. The final Lynn Cove segment of the road was not completed until 1987!

The Road on Laden Trail, six miles of arduous negotiation and labor was finally completed in 1940. It is only in the late 1970s that the Road became a scenic route across the mountain. The completion of Highway 421 across Pine Mountain at Bledsoe became the preferred conduit for goods and people across the steep Pine Mountain ridge.

Today, Laden Trail is not a designated scenic parkway, but it holds a special place in the mind of the community and continues to offer the beauty of the forests of Pine Mountain and the long views of both the Black Mountain range on the south side and the peaceful Pine Mountain valley on the north side. It offers access to the Little Shepherd Trail, a popular narrow and scenic road that intersects the Laden Trail at near its mid-point. The Little Shepherd Trail, which runs along the crest of the Pine Mountain has become a long classroom for the many environmental programs that Pine Mountain School offers to the public.

Further, while the main transportation routes in the area are now paved, unfortunately, they remain some of the most dangerous roads in Kentucky and have some of the highest maintenance requirements. Due to the many years of travel by logging and coal trucks, the narrow roads in eastern Kentucky can be heart-stopping at times, and also confusingly un-marked and intricate.

Roads come with their benefits and their deficits, but it is certain that road construction leading into the Pine Mountain valley, one of the most remote of Harlan County’s areas, would not have happened for many years were it not for a passel of women working hard to pave the way.


SEE ALSO: 

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD

 LETTERS OF CORRESPONDENCE RELATED TO “THE ROAD”

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD CORRESPONDENCE Part I

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD CORRESPONDENCE Part II

CELIA CATHCART CORRESPONDENCE

 LADEN TRAIL PHOTO GALLERY

LITTLE SHEPHERD TRAIL

LADEN TRAIL VIDEO (1980s) – Paul Hayes

This entry was posted in GUEST POSTS and tagged , , , , , on .