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 – XIII PMSS AND WAR

Pine MountainSettlement School
Blog:  Dancing in the Cabbage Patch

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – XIII PMSS AND WAR

While growing up many families have carried forward the idea that Eastern Kentuckians have contributed disproportionately to enlistments, casualties, and valor in war time.  One author has noted that this idea has some roots in reality.  Alice Cornett, writing in 1991 for the Baltimore Sun noted that the disproportionate number for Appalachians killed while fighting in the wars following WWI, has not gone un-noticed.  Recently this disproportionate number of soldiers from Appalachia has been associated with the “Sgt. York Syndrome.” This term coined by Dr. Steven Giles, a psychologist working for the Tennessee Veterans Administration Medical Center at Mountain Home, is in Dr. Giles’ view both laudatory and troubling. He notes that it is said of Appalachian soldiers that  ”Appalachians make good soldiers, and the Army knows it.” This goals congruence factor, for good or ill, has often found Appalachian soldiers at the front-line of battle.

Why has Sgt. York today become a “syndrome’?  Sgt. Alvin Cullum York (December 13, 1887 – September 2, 1964), was a native of Pall Mall, in eastern Tennessee. By most accounts he has been described as a hero and the quintessential soldier.  A rifleman, whose bravery in battle and subsequent award of a Medal of Honor, captured the imagination of a nation was immortalized when his life was made into a movie in 1941.  Sergeant York directed by Howard Hawks with Gary Cooper as York, was as timely, as it was motivating.  The enrollment for WWII was growing and Sgt. York set a standard of conduct that almost made serving in the Army a religious duty. York’s exploits translated to the silver screen furthered his legend and that of the Appalachian soldier. On the cusp of WWII, York, in the mind of the nation, became the quintessential soldier and the “Sgt. York Syndrome” evolved. York’s bravery and his philanthropy now known to all Appalachian young men and to their families following the Great War became a topic of pride in the mountains and remains so today. After the release of the film, perceptions grew regarding the fearless nature of the Appalachian soldier. In fact, all the wars since the Great War which the United States has engaged have evoked the name of Sgt. York, particularly in the Appalachian mountains and particularly when recruits came to visit.

Yet, even before York, the Nation had seen large numbers of young men and women from Appalachia step eagerly forward to serve. In one Appalachian county in Kentucky, Breathitt, there were no draftees during the whole of WWI because quotas had been met and exceeded by general enlistment by county residents.

However, a grim fact gathered by Alice Cornett should be noted

As a percent of its population, the Appalachian region has sustained higher losses in our wars of the past 50 years than has any other section of the country. West Virginia, the only state designated as wholly in Appalachia, had the highest casualty ratio in both World War II and the Vietnam conflict.

Because many of the counties in Appalachian states have seen their young men recruited, volunteered, and served, the propensity to fight in wars has also been associated with the need for employment and the often biting poverty of the same Appalachian counties that sent large numbers to war.  The numbers of Appalachian soldiers is also now matched by a disproportianate number of racial minority recruits. Thus, Appalachians, Blacks, Hispanics and other groups touched by economic and social challenge often find military recruitment a way into careers and out of poverty and again, the military knows these young men and women will “soldier on.”.

[See: http://kentuckyguard.dodlive.mil/2013/03/19/a-patriotic-clan-from-eastern-kentucky-in-the-war-to-end-all-wars-part-one/]

PMSS AND WWI

rood_066x

At Pine Mountain, there are many stories regarding the School’s engagement with WWI. As students left to fight in the Great War, the staff also left their positions to fight alongside their students. The School was often challenged to fill critical staff positions as well as maintain a balanced student body.  For example, when Leon Deschamps, a Belgian farmer working at Pine Mountain left for WWI early in 1918 he kept in touch with the School and with the children. His presence in the battle abroad was followed with fascination by the whole School.  Too, the students regularly held cocoa and rice dinners to save money for the “Belgians in the war” effort.

War, for most of the students was a distant and somewhat romantic engagement until the soldiers began to return home with shell shock, lungs destroyed by mustard gas, or, in a casket. Yet for many staff at the School war was already very real experience, and pne not to be romanticized.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable impacts of war on Pine Mountain staff is found in the personal narratives of staff who came to the School after having served in remote corners of the world during wartime. One of the most harrowing first-hand accounts of war can be found in those whose lives touched the front-lines of conflict. The Armenian conflict witnessed by Dr. Ida and Rev. Robert Stapleton was particularly horrific and is well recorded in a recent book published by their granddaughter, Gretchen Rasch, The Storm of Life: A Missionary Marriage from Armenia to Appalachia, published by the Gomidas INstitute in (2016 tells of their horrific struggle with the mass genocide of Armenians in and around Ezerum Turkey.

The Stapletons who served as co-directors of Line Fork Settlement (Letcher County, Kentucky), a satellite settlement associated with Pine Mountain Settlement School, in the late 1920s and early 1930s were particularly well equipped to meet almost any human conflict with experience and compassion.  The trials of moonshine and guns was part of their everyday life on Line Fork in the early decades of the twentieth century and a life they often met with humour and compassion.  But, their early work with the Ottoman-Armenian conflict brings the petulance of personal and familial battles quickly into perspective.

The letters and stories surrounding Edith Cold, another staff member at the School, are equally chilling and capture the severe circumstances that war brings to community across the world. The New York Times articles regarding Edith Cold’s ordeals , also during the Armenian genocide in a more western region of Turkey, echoes the brave and harrowing tales recounted by the Stapletons of life in Turkey in the first decades of the twentieth century. It is difficult to imagine the heroism she showed in that time of stress.

PMSS AND WWII

During World War II the actions of war came closer to the School as communication improved and the radio brought reports of the war closer to home.  Great numbers of Staff and students left to join the ranks of soldiers or became support staff to the war effort.  During these years communication flowed more rapidly and frequently and the war became a real and present conflict that had little room for romanticizing.  The American mind was war-focused in this second world conflict and daily informed through radio.

rood_065xOf all the wars, World War II,  possibly had the greatest impact on life at Pine Mountain and in the valley.  Many fathers and sons left their farms in the valley to fight in the war. Many young men stopped their classes at PMSS to go fight the war in Europe and women signed on to nurses corps or to the Red Cross or to canteens in Europe to do their share in the war effort. Classes were suspended when key instructors left. Basic supplies could not be obtained for many families and money was tight. Many families could not afford even the smallest tuition. The impact of WWII on the farm was dramatic as rationing began to impact food supplies and families in the community looked to the School for more assistance in farming needs and health issues. Subsistence and rationing became uneasy partners in many families. Rationing, particularly, was a critical issue with all residential schools and particularly the food issues and family loss only compounded the national and personal crises in the Appalachians.

There are many stories related to Staff who had some relation in either the European or the Pacific theater of war. See especially the important documentation of war efforts by soldiers in Perry County, KY, maintained by Waukesha Lowe Sammons, daughter of one of the county’s soldiers who did not return from WWII. Waukesha, a Berea College graduate, has created a comprehensive website that traces the Military Legacy of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, who served from the American Revolutionary War to Operation Iraqi Freedom.  http://www.perrycountykentuckymilitarylegacy.com/

War in the Asian theater has also directly affected the lives of many of Pine Mountain’s staff and students. For example, the expulsion of staff member Burton Rogers from Yali, the Yale in China School where he was teaching when the Japanese invaded in 1937, is another story of severe challenge, hardship, and courage.  rood_030xBurton Rogers came as School principal and later served as the Director of the Pine Mountain Settlement School. His wartime experience was profound and left him a conscientious objector during WWII and member of the Quaker faith and outspoken critic of war for the remainder of his life.The brave and courageous contributions of two Pine Mountain Dr’s, Emma and Francis Tucker and their nurse protegee, Grace Feng Liu  to the war effort and their struggles to escape China when it was overrun by the Japanese, is an inspiring tale of courage and contribution that they shared with the Pine Mountain community and with the students.

In 1941, the School’s Director, Glyn Morris left to join the war effort as a military Chaplin and with him went a large number of young men to either enlist or later, to take advantage of the V-12 programs that offered training and educational assistance to capable young men. The letters to staff from soldiers in WWII are important records of the history of the war, as well as the adjustments that the School made during those difficult years.  See for example the Bill Blair WWII Letters and  the record of Joe Glen Bramlett.

Another remarkable story is that of Frank  W. “Unk” Cheney who survived imprisonment by the Japanese during WWII at the Chapel prison camp and whose experiences in China and the Far East brought the war effort closer to those students who knew Frank.

Paul Hayes, a student, and later PMSS Director, went to Berea College as part of the V-12 program and later to Duke as a recipient of the same military assistance. Paul saw duty in the Pacific. His brother John Hayes, fist signed on as part of the Army Corps of Engineers and later in the regular Army, also going to the Pacific theater to fight. Silvan Hayes, the oldest brother was already in the Army in the European war and was killed in 1943 in France. rood_063xEnoch Hall, a PMSS student from Perry county joined the Army and served in Hawaii where he was stationed when his barracks were strafed by the Japanese in the opening of the Pacific war. Joe Glen Bramlett, a student who served in the Army left a large visual record of his years at the School and those in the Army.  Student William David Martin left PMSS in March of 1941 to join the Navy and following his completion of duty wrote a letter to the School saying that he had earlier been overcome by “Navy fever” and would like to complete his degree at the School.

WOMEN IN THE WARS

[**See: http://kentuckyguard.dodlive.mil/2013/03/19/a-patriotic-clan-from-eastern-kentucky-in-the-war-to-end-all-wars-part-one/#sthash.1NIycerE.dpuf]

There were no women allowed in the ranks of the military before WWI.  In 1901 women were able to join the Army Nurse Corps and by 1908, women were allowed into the Navy Nurse Corps. When the US entered into WWI, the ranks swelled in number to around 250 women with approximately 15 drawn from the Appalachian region. Three of the women were from eastern Kentucky and all were graduates of Berea College’s nursing program. **

During WWII there were numerous women from eastern Kentucky and from Pine Mountain who joined the war effort. Two notable nurses who trained at Pine Mountain were Mable Mullins, from Partridge and Stella Taylor who both earned commendations for their war work.

rood_064x

Stella Taylor

Women, too, left to provide services or direct support in WWII.  Mable Mullins became a Major in the Army, Stella Taylor contributed nursing services as a military nurse.

Many young men in WWII were not drafted but were exempted in order to maintain farms and critical operations on the home-front, or, often they were exempted because they already had multiple siblings fighting in the war. William Hayes was one such student and later staff member. His correspondence with his brothers and with various students who fought in the war is extensive and the sacrifice of his older brother, Silvan Hayes to the war effort in France left permanent scars on his family. William’s correspondence with Bill Blair is extensive and provides a picture of a student’s course through military training and deployment during wartime.  The list of enrollees in the war efforts of the 1940’s is a long one. Yet, exemption for most young men from Appalachia was not something that they welcomed during WWII just as it was not during WWI and many of the succeeding wars.

PMSS AND THE KOREAN WAR

The Korean war did not have the same impact on PMSS as did the larger WWII conflict, but it still left its mark on families in the Pine Mountain valley.  As noted by Alice Cornett’s statistical accounting of participation in that war in her 1991 Boston Sun article,

Nine percent of U.S. military forces in the Korean War were from areas of Appalachia, but 18 percent of the Medals of Honor awarded in that war went to the Appalachian soldiers. In Vietnam, they made up 8 percent of our troops and received 13 percent of the Medals of Honor.

[See:  http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1991-11-11/news/1991315046_1_appalachian-counties-vietnam-war]

PMSS AND THE VIETNAM WAR

At the opening of the Vietnam conflict, Pine Mountain was no longer a full-time school but many of the children who had attended the Community School saw action in Vietnam. The most dramatic impact on Pine Mountain of this conflict was the same at that found throughout the country. Families were wrenched apart by conflicting sympathies for the war effort and communities were pitted against other communities.  Coal was often in the news as the resources went to support the energy needs of the war effort and families saw a large out-migration to Northern factories, as in WWII, where work in the military-industrial complex could be found.

In April of 1964. Lyndon Johnson had traveled to Inez, Kentucky and stood on the porch of the Tom Fletcher family and declared the War on Poverty.  As noted by many, the universities in the Appalachian region were more engaged in naming buildings and honoring the dead than they were engaged in protest. It was Johnson’s “War on Poverty” that created the largest shock wave to Appalachia, not the fighting in Vietnam. The fall-out from Johnson’s social service program for the Appalachian region would have an impact far greater than any war in the past. Many say that families in the region today are still climbing out of poverty that was prolonged by this federal assistance effort. The casualities from parts of the War on Povery were not just sons and daughters, it was entire generations.

Jack Weller was describing Yesterday’s People (1965) to the myriad of Appalachian Volunteers who came into the region believing that they could make a difference, while others like Myles Horton at the HIghlander Center in Tennessee and cut from the same cloth as PMSS Director Glyn Morris, advised the volunteers to remember to “…find out what they [people of Appalachia] want you to do and work quietly, and remember: you’re different. They’re not different.” Don West, poet, activist and native of Appalachia was more direct

The Southern mountains have been missionarized, researched, studied, surveyed, romanticized, dramatized, hillbillyized, Dogpatched and povertyized …

War comes in many forms and is met with an equal variety of responses. Whether it was the Civil War, the War of 1812, the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the War on Poverty, or the wars in the Middle East, the people of Appalachia have been there as defenders, patriots, educators, nurses, and often leaders, and the Pine Mountain valley has never been far away.

hhw


See more at: http://kentuckyguard.dodlive.mil/2013/03/19/a-patriotic-clan-from-eastern-kentucky-in-the-war-to-end-all-wars-part-one/#sthash.1NIycerE.dpuf


See:  http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1991-11-11/news/1991315046_1_appalachian-counties-vietnam-war

 

Follow us:

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – XII – FOREST AND FIRES

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 11: Land Use

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 country sides 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 Environment 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 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 

Follow us:

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


Follow us:

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH: LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD

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

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.”

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 .

Follow us:

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI – POULTRY

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI 

POULTRY

CHICKEN ‘N DUMPLINGS

When dairy farming was no longer viable at Pine Mountain, the school farm returned to earlier farm ventures, including poultry. The raising of sheep was another bucolic adventure but the brief trial of raising  sheep placed too much stress on the local flora and available pasture-land. Further, complications with hoof disease from the constant damp fog and rain in the valley created ongoing health problems for the sheep. Though there are many pictures of sheep on farms in the valley in the early years, the number of sheep on local farms had dramatically declined by the 1940’s.  It is likely that hoof disease was part of the problem in maintaining sheep herds just as it was for the later sheep farming experiments at Pine Mountain School. But, two other issues worked against the raising of sheep.

Before turning to poultry as the main focus, the work with sheep was reviewed in full.  There were complications with hoof disease from the constant damp fog and rain in the valley created ongoing health problems for the sheep. Though there are many pictures of sheep on farms in the valley in the early years, the number of sheep on local farms had dramatically declined by the 1940’s.  It is likely that hoof disease was part of the problem in maintaining sheep herds just as it was for the later sheep farming experiments at Pine Mountain School. But, two other issues worked against the raising of sheep.  One, was the increasing institution of laws governing free-ranging livestock.  The fencing of sheep furthered the burden on local farm-land and promoted erosion of hillsides.  Secondly, the introduction of cheap commercial fabrics was rapidly reducing the need for wool and home weaving was no competition for the industrial mill.  Mountain sheep wool was notoriously full of brambles and dirt.  It had little market appeal as it was expensive to process. Sheep started to no longer be considered necessary farm animals in the view of local households and mutton was not high in the diet of the southern Appalachian, nor had it ever been. Sheep were, clearly,  not an option at Pine Mountain School.

Harriet Butler feeding chicken and chicks at iron pot cooker at Medical Settlement, Big Laurel. X_099_workers_2497_mod.jpg

Harriet Butler feeding chicken and chicks at iron pot cooker at Medical Settlement, Big Laurel. X_099_workers_2497_mod.jpg

Poultry, on the other hand, had and have a long and tenacious hold on Appalachian families.  At Pine Mountain School, poultry farming had always played a role in supplying the school with eggs and meat. Of all the farming initiatives, chickens proved to be the most continuous animal husbandry venture at the School.   This may have been due to the fact that chickens are relatively easy to manage and the yield in eggs over the life of the healthy hen can be considerable.   Even today fresh eggs from family chicken flocks are a part of many households in the Pine Mountain community.

There are some memorable images of staff workers with chickens that suggest that they were an integral part of the operation of the School at the very beginning and remained so through most of its history.  The same was true at the various satellite settlements near Pine Mountain.   The following photograph of the Big Laurel Medical Center nurse, Harriet Butler, feeding chickens from her split hickory basket at the Medical Settlement in Big Laurel, suggests the close attention given this food source.

Chickens tended by early staff. II_7_barn_275a

Chickens (White Leghorns) tended by early staff. II_7_barn_275a

The hen and her chicks feeding next to the large iron pot has a certain irony as these pots were often used to cook up a good chicken stew or chicken ‘n dumplings.   In the earliest years at Pine Mountain School and in the satellite settlements, the kitchens were outdoors, or partly outdoors.  The staff cooked in large iron kettles such as the one seen above.  Generally rigged on a tripod or from a trestle, the heavy pot could be used to feed large groups and served as a kind of “crock-pot” that could slow cook food and tenderize that extra tough rooster. Chicken ‘n dumplings was a popular meal prepared in these large communal pots. Not all iron pots were equal, however. It would not eat well to follow soap-making with chicken ‘n dumplings.

HOUSING THE FLOCK

Poultry farming at Pine Mountain had many levels of sophistication.  From the beginning, the School maintained a large flock of chickens for both eggs and for chicken ‘n dumplings, and other poultry related meals.  At first, only fences protected the flock and staff were given the responsibility of maintaining the flock and watching after their welfare, particularly attacks by predators — of which there were many including fox, great-horned owls, weasels, and bobcats.

Later, chicken houses kept the flock safe from fox and other marauders and like the Ayrshire herd, the flock was expanded. Various chicken breeds were favored over others for their egg production or for their meat quality, just as cows were sorted out for their milk quantity or its butter-fat content.

hayes_IMAG0147

Chicken House. c. late 1930’s early 40’s. Note rockwork.

While milk was considered the most important food in the diet of the Appalachian family, eggs made a close second.  It was for a reason.  Milk and eggs came from herds and flocks that were  relatively easy and inexpensive to maintain if food could be found.  It was also possible to grow the cow to a herd with the help of a bull and the small flock of chickens could produce the next generation of egg-layers with a little help from a rooster. A mountain family could often make-do with one good cow and a small flock of chickens.  The two staples, milk and eggs also provided a sound source of protein for a minimum cost among mountain families.

[From an early staff letter. n.d, probably c. 1914 or 1916]

“This spring we have at last a herd of cows and a dairy. Two weeks ago our six new cows and bull, all Jerseys, were sent up from the Bluegrass, and today we had our first dessert made entirely of milk and eggs, we have a large chicken house and two incubators and have raised fifty-six chickens from the first batch.   Two hundred more Leghorns are to come in from the out­side world, and we think that by the end of the summer we will have 400 chickens.  One worker devotes all her time to the care of the poultry and she has the most intelligent assistance from one of our older boys, age 15.”

While this may not be the “milk and eggs recipe” referred to in the worker’s notes, the following recipe is one that was favored by later Home Economics  classes.

May 1935, as recorded in The Pine Cone. 

CHOCOLATE PUDDING

3         cups of milk
1          cup of sugar
3         teaspoons of cocoa
1/8     teaspoon of salt
7 1/2  Tablespoons of flour
1/2     teaspoon flavoring
1         egg may be used

Heat the milk in the top of a double boiler.  Have water in the lower kettle under the milk.  In a bowl mix the sugar, cocoa, salt and flour until thoroughly mixed.  When the milk is scalding hot add  slowly to the ingredients in the bowl stirring all the time.  Return it to the double boiler, stir while it thickens for about 10 minutes.  Then let it cook 20 minutes more.  If the egg is to be added add some of the  chocolate mixture to the beaten egg.  When mixed return to double boiler to cook two minutes.  Remove from fire.  Let cool slightly and add flavoring.  Serve with cream.


The Rhode Island White , now an endangered breed and few now existing, enjoyed wide-spread popularity in the 1920’s and 30’s for the  abundant white eggs produced by the flocks. Similar to the Wyandotte, the Rhode Island White was bred from the  White Wyandotte, the Partridge Cochin and the Rose Comb White Leghorn.  Like the Leghorns it was a robust chicken but was prized for its high egg production as well as its full-bodied meat. In 1922 it was  admitted to the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection when the national conference convened in Knoxville, Tennessee. Many mountain families and farmers were introduced to it at that time.

However, with the industrialization of chicken farming, many breeds were sidelined in preference for a few rapidly growing hybrids particularly the popular Rhode Island Red chicken. The Rhode Island White slowly slipped from memory.  Today the Livestock Conservancy has instituted a movement to recognize “Heritage Chickens” and counts the Rhode Island White among some three-dozen species facing extinction. Today the population of Rhode Island Whites is less than 3000 according to the Livestock Conservancy. Rhode Island Reds could take over the chicken kingdom in just a few cock-sdoodle-do’s.

All this discussion of the merits of chickens was not missed on Katherine Pettit in1932 and she cried fowl to Glyn Morris who had taken over as the new Director of the School and rankled at the proliferation of Rhode Island Reds.  Apparently Pettit followed the future of chicken breeds quite differently from the farmer and from Morris and more in line with the growing trend in the larger market.  Quickly, Morris wrote to the President of the Board regarding the rationale for retaining the older breed and laid out the argument  — and Miss Pettit’s preference.

May 15, 1932

Mr. Darwin D. Martin
Martin Trust Building
Buffalo, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Martin: 

In regards to Miss Pettit’s discussion against White Leghorn hens, I should like to say this:  we have hens primarily for the purpose of producing eggs.  White Leghorns have been developed for egg laying. The Rhode Island Reds that were here when I came weren’t worth the room they were taking. There is a difference in the weight of these two classes of hens, but not near enough to warrant keeping Rhode Island Reds in order to have a little more meat when they are finally killed. 

The White Leghorns have been laying without a break since December.  Reds would have broken long ago. 

Sincerely, 

Glyn Morris

hayes_0032

Yet, by the middle of the 1940’s when the School attempted to make the poultry farm commercially productive it was already out of step with the growing industrial cycle of poultry farming.  Too late for small-scale poultry markets and too small to compete with the growing number of large scale operations that began to supply markets throughout the country, Pine Mountain’s poultry farm efforts were not successful on a scale that could recover costs.  The possibility of moving poultry farming into a commercial realm had been discussed many times as a means to save the School farm, but the timing, the times, the law and the market were not in the School’s favor.

Even when the farm turned to egg production for commercial purposes it struggled.  Like sheep farming, and like other farming practices in the remote valley, the commercial production of eggs, proved to be too complicated in the new tightly controlled egg markets. Transportation to market and the competition of the market and government regulations created additional costs and burdens on the operation of a large-scale chicken farm.  By 1953, the poultry farming initiative had run its course. It was challenged by too many obstacles and was clearly faltering.

Poultry farming for meat had become even more daunting than for eggs as the rules and regulations surrounding the slaughter of meat or even the sale of live chickens was increasingly bureaucratic regulated for health standards that required additional equipment and manpower. Small operations found themselves squeezed out of the market.  The larger poultry farms could produce eggs more cheaply through mechanized means and the costly regulations that limited the sale of poultry meat through the open market through complicated and expensive federal and state laws could be absorbed by larger poultry operations.  The new markets and burdensome regulations were part of the “new” agriculture in the State and there was little room even for entrepreneurs to have a go at the rapidly changing commodity market.  The new market was the end of Pine Mountain’s sale of poultry meat and eventually to its sale of eggs, as well.

For some, the end of the chicken yard could not have come fast enough.  Anyone who has had any long-standing relationship with a chicken yard knows that roosters come with most flocks as they were used to selectively fertilized eggs that hatched out the new flocks.  Often aggressive, these rulers of the roost, the “rooster,” made a trip to the chicken yard a frightening experience.   Flogging of intruders was common and generally tolerated to a point but excessive aggression could easily find the rooster in a savory Sunday stew — though seldom was it bragged that the meal was “Rooster ‘n Dumplings as roosters were not known to be the tender type.

POULTRY – SELECTIVE  BREEDING

In 1935 the breeding of chickens was an important topic in the industrial training program of the boarding school.  Here Students learned about the health of the flock, its comparative worth as a meat, about best egg breeds and how to kill and butcher a chicken.  The following is an excerpt from The Pine Cone, May 1935, written by a student.

“One of the most fascinating problems connected with poultry management is the problem of breeding…

Some of the fundamental factors to consider are as follows; (1) Breed only pure bred birds  (if possible) of  a well-established breed…. (2) Breed only from heavy producers. These are the birds that molt late in the fall.   They are easily recognized by their healthy appearance and active dispositions.  They are alert, bright eyed, red combed and go singing happily far afield in search of food.  Upon closer examination of the toe-nails will be found to be worn; the vent large, pale light pink, or upon long extra heavy production, bluish white , soft and moist;  the color faded or blacked from the eye ring, ear lobes, beak and shanks of the Mediterranean class, such as Leghorn and Minorcas; the pelvis bones long, thin, pliable and wide apart.  These are the two bones located on either side of the vent.  The egg must pass between these bones when it is laid.  Consequently with increased production, there is an increased distance between these bones.  There is also considerable distance between these bones and the keel or breast bone; the comb is smooth, full bright red in color, and has a waxy appearance. (3) Breed from mature birds both male and female. (4) Breed from birds with good appetites and with large well-formed bodies …”

White Leghorn chickens  were good as a meat source, but as an egg producer, they excelled.  The breed is known to produce from 250 to 300 eggs per year.  This high production was a significant contribution to Pine Mountain’s breakfast and other menus.

ON THE TABLE

The following recipe found in the May 1935  issue of The Pine Cone  was used in the Home Economics Practice House fare.

SCALLOPED EGGS

6          hard cooked eggs
1          cup bread crumbs
2 Tbs   butter or chopped chicken [fat].
1 1/2    cooked material  [see below]
3          cups milk
6 Tbs   flour
4 1/2 T butter
3 tsp    salt

The cooked material may be spaghetti, potatoes, ground ham, cracker crumbs, flaked fish …   Arrange the sliced eggs and other material in layers in an oiled baking dish.  Pour the white sauce over the mixture, cover with crumbs and dot with the first amount of butter given and brown in a moderate oven.  Serve in the baking dish.

To make the white sauce, melt the fat in a pan, add flour, mix well and add milk, stirring as it thickens. Add salt.


The Second World War also put severe limits on poultry farming, as many of the young men who worked on the farm at Pine Mountain went to war, and the local chicken stock was reduced due to rampant diseases that killed many of the brood at the School and in the surrounding community.  The disease, probably coccidiodosis, possibly parasites, such as worms, or mites, were all common in chickens of the era and particularly in flocks that were tightly confined.  Any of these diseases can cause a wasting of the chicken and most of the diseases remained in the soil for some time.  The parasites and coccidiodosis can only be combated by cleaning and removing the chickens and their houses. Severe cold or heat can slow the progression of some of the diseases, but such severe cold can also kill the flock.  Permethrin, an unhealthy chemical solution and quick lime were used effectively for a while at Pine Mountain, but mites and other parasites continued to persist in the flock and thrive in the damp mountain environment and in the confinement of the chicken-houses. Raising chickens in quantity required diligence.

Though maintenance of the flock was difficult at Pine Mountain it  soon became clear that chickens were one staple that would keep the school eating during the difficult war years and pursuit of a remedy to the chicken disease should be sought.  In the March 1943, Pine Cone, the following article appeared:

“CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS TO BE SERVED ONCE AGAIN”

“With meat rationing and rising prices on eggs, Pine Mountain is going to purchase five hundred baby chicks. 

The school is getting ready to make room for five hundred baby chicks  which will be bought [as] soon as their new house has been constructed.  Blue-prints have already been drawn for the brooder house which will be twelve by fourteen feet. 

It will be located on the north side of the road [the road to Line Fork] near where the other chicken house used to be.

In another five to ten weeks, a larger house will be built to make more room for them as they grow larger.  In the meantime, the students should not grow impatient, for it is just  a streak of luck to have chickens again. In the three preceding years it was impossible to have them because of a disease which kills them, and which remains in the soil for several years afterwards. “

hayes_IMAG0147_cropedWhile the stories abound regarding the Ayrshire herd and the acquisition and maintenance of the herd, the nurturing of chicken flocks at Pine Mountain is also well covered.  Also, in the community if one asks a mountain family about chickens, the stories, abound.  The rooster that terrified the children with his long spurs and fierce territorial aggression ;  the slippery slopes of the chicken yard after a rain ; the particular way the grandmother wrung the neck of the chicken or how she chopped off its head ; the smell of wet chickens in their yard in the heat of summer ; the night the fox found the chicken house ; how the skunk stole chicken eggs ; why crows steal eggs ; the black snake in the chicken nest, and more.

Following the brief attempts to resurrect large-scale farming at Pine Mountain through sheep and poultry, the Pine Mountain board in 1951 called for a thorough analysis of the farm at the school. The so-called Chang study, “Whither Pine Mountain,” while not centered on the farm aloneaddressed industrialization and the issues of the farm head-on.

During the Morris and later the Benjamin years, the margins of profit for the farm were small, but the educational value of farm practice supported the farm program and the two Directors put their energy behind the farm efforts. Too, both Morris and Benjamin had been raised on a farm and knew the issues associated with managing a farm and the discipline that was required to maintain a well-run farm-school.  Both realized the farm’s educational value. Morris clearly wanted to retain the farm program, but also began to have his doubts regarding the financial viability of the program as the School struggled to maintain a boarding school and compete with the growth of local schools for students. By the end of H.R.S. Benjamin’s tenure, the financial picture at the School had changed markedly and the educational programs had shifted to non-residential programming which eliminated the farm work-force. The Trustees called in several consultants, and evaluated the costs of the farm operation against the sustainability of the School.  The 1951 Fu Liang Chang Survey of PMSS , particularly, signaled an end to farming as it had once been exercised at the School. The economics of the Study indicated a downward spiral for small scale farming in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky and elsewhere in the nation. Pine Mountain’s demonstration work was not enough the bring new and effective farming methods to the mountains. Geography and efficiency were clearly at odds and more clearly the farm was in trouble as a model for few in the community could afford to invest in the machinery to maintain comparable farming methods.

Chang wrote:

The School farm has been facing an acute problem of labor since 1949, moving from over-supply to scarcity through the change from a boarding high school to a consolidated primary school. It was compelled to purchase a number of items of labor-saving machinery to run the farm. It has gradually changed its management with major emphasis as a practicing farm to that of a community testing and demonstration farm, with not a great deal of success so far. The subsistence farmers feel that the school can well afford to purchase the equipment which would not suit their farms of a few acres apiece. This has kept further apart the school farm and the subsistence farms of the community. It seems that the problem before the school farm is how to break down its agricultural improvement program into many small projects, some of which will meet the needs of the subsistence farms and the supplementary farms of wage-earners, and how, in cooperation with the county agent and the community organizer (after one is installed), 4-H Clubs and other rural organizations, to “sell” these projects to the community. Unless this is done, the school farm will remain a model farm, but not a community demonstration farm with the purpose of raising the standard of living of the people. 

By 1953, farming on a large scale at the school came to a close with the departure of the farmer. As there were no educational programs to benefit from the maintenance of a large farm practice and pressure from the Board to engage diverse small projects was not producing results as labor was fragmented.  The reliable labor in the form of community students and other salaried workers from the community was not in the institution’s budget. The last rooster had crowed. The farm and the poultry operation was forced to close down and much of the farm machinery and implements were sold to raise revenue for the school.  In 1953 the farm manager, William Hayes, left the School for employment with the Kentucky Division of Forestry at Putney, across the mountain from the School. where his knowledge of the land set the course for another career.

CHICKEN N’ DUMPLINGS AGAIN

Always a central part of any home-coming, chicken n’ dumplings is a recipe with many variations. “Slickers” or “Puffers” no matter, they are all consumed with gusto.

P1060010

Pine Mountain student, Patsy Hall Martin, class of 1945, can still produce a rib-sticking dumpling at the age of near 90.


See also: CHICKEN HOUSES

GO TO:

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – ABOUT

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 & ETIQUITTE 

 

Follow us: