Category Archives: ENVIRONMENTALISM

Includes topics that are related to Pine Mountain Settlement School’s commitment to the environment. Workshops, bulletins, collections, and other environmental topics are covered in the material.

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Earth Day and Mary Rogers

Pine Mountain Settlement School
DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH
Earth Day and Mary Rogers

March 21. It was the time of Equinox when night and day are of equal length and when the earth seems to hesitate in its spin as it slips into the longer communion with the sun. In 1983, March 21 had already been changed to April 22 as the universal “Earth Day.” Even earlier, Mary Rogers had set the idea of “Earth Day” firmly in her mind. On March 21, 1983, Mary Rogers slipped into her “sub specie aeternitatis” [Latin for “under the aspect of eternity”] Earthbound, we can know little of her eternity but we have often imagined that it is an exquisite balance of time and space which recognizes the temporal but is not bound to its limits. This is not a story of that enigma eternity but it is a glimpse into part of Mary Rogers’ journey in the temporal world and the wise environmental and spiritual messages she left with those she touched.

NASA/ GSFC/ NOAA/ USGS [Public domain]

The earth swirling with life and framed by the vast blackness of deep space is an iconic image with which we are now quite familiar. The enigma of suspension, the sheer beauty of our home, and the scale of that home in the vast universe is arresting. Suspended in eternity, we are charged to protect this vibrant home. Perhaps this is why the image of planet earth suspended in space has become the symbol of Earth Day. The image reminds us of our fragile existence in an unknown but expanding universe. How remarkable it is that we can now hold that enormous image in our mind’s eye and wonder at it blueness, its roundness, its surface teeming with life — our life. Mary was without doubt entranced by that image, but more often she was exploring small things; the universe of life on that shimmering globe. In her note, “Small Things with a Message,” she tells us

MILKWEED PODS

I love milkweed pods. The perfectly overlapped red brown seeds. The gloriously silky plumes, to feel which is one of the great tactile joys of life. Then comes the moment when it all boils up from the pod and flies off into the air —- pure beauty.

I was holding one once and could hardly bear it that I was alone and there was no one to share it with. But God saw it. It was his and he made it and he must have loved to see it — and he let me share that joy.


—- Mary Rogers. Seed Thoughts, 1990. “Small Things With a Message”
LITTLE BROWN JUG

The little brown jug is one of the least attractive flowers in the woods, and hardly anyone sees it as it is hidden beneath dead leaves. You have to clear them off to find it. When you find it its only appeal is its oddity. Its color is drab, the color of red and green mixed together — muddy. It is closed. Its three blunt lobes are the only opening on the small fleshy bottle of the flower. But take a knife and cut it open. It is lined with a rich dark red velvet like an expensive jewel box, and set in the box is a jewel like a tiara with its whitish stamens and anthers. Beautiful! What is the point of this beauty? Few people ever see it. Even the pollinating insects grope around in the dark. What a waste! There are millions of beauties even in this world which are never seen by man, but their creator knows them and has joy in them.


—- Mary Rogers. Seed Thoughts, 1990. “Small Things With a Message”
Fungus. [Photo: H.Wykle]
EARTH DAY BEGINNINGS

The first Earth Day according to many records was conceived by John McConnell, Jr. a peace activist and a Pentecostal from Southern California. McConnell, Jr., born on March 21, 1915, in Davis City, IA. He was the son of a itinerate doctor and was raised in the deeply religious ethic of the family that held to the idea of service to others. McConnell, Jr.’s early job working for a corporation that produced plastics caused him to question his responsibility to the earth and was the beginning of a long journey that sought to call-out actions that endangered the planet and the many lives that shared it. He initiated the idea of “Earth Day.”

It was through the eloquent advocacy of McConnell, Jr. for an Earth Day that the idea found its way onto the 1970 agenda of the National UNESCO conference in San Francisco in 1970. Through McConnell and others, his initial proposal was given serious consideration and an Earth Day Proclamation by the city of San Francisco was made. The date chosen for the celebration of this first “Earth Day” and organized by McConnell, was March 21, 1970. The day was also McConnell’s birthday. The event captured the imagination of many and large celebrations were held in San Diego and in New York, as well. McConnell had opened the milkweed’s pod and the silky plumes were loosed to the winds and the seeds began to grow.

Mary Rogers was, no doubt, encouraged by the work of McConnell, but she had a long head-start on the idea of Earth Day. To her mind, her every day had been an “Earth Day” and the seeds of her journey had been planted early in her life. When she helped to organize the first formal educational offerings at Pine Mountain Settlement School in 1972, it was just ten years after the publication of Rachel Carson‘s groundbreaking Silent Spring (1962), a book that was of profound interest to Mary. Carson’s work was in many ways the beginning of the environmental education movement.

Following McConnell’s March 21, launch came an official proclamation from Washington that echoed the sentiments of McConnell but that put a national urgency to McConnell’s idea and that shifted the celebratory date from March 21 to April 22. This date shift was initiated by Senator Gaylord Nelson, an environmentalist from Wisconsin who believed that the new date would allow schools to map their instruction more closely with school calendars throughout the country. The new date would also allow time to work through the national bureaucracy which would fix the event in the national calendar. Democratic Senator, Gaylord Nelson, with the assistance of Pete McCloskey, a Republican Congressman from California, jointly announced a national “Earth Day” for 1970, and for the successive years. Nelson and McCloskey then recruited Harvard scholar, Denis Hayes as the coordinator the new Earth Day and charged him with the process of creating an annual “national teach-in on the environment” throughout the country.

LARGEST SECULAR CELEBRATION ON EARTH

In 1970, the April 22 designation of a national Earth Day resulted in massive national demonstrations for the environment and by the end of the year, it had spawned a bi-partisan creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and the Endangered Species Acts. The interest and cooperation did not stop at the national level. Denis Hayes built on the national Earth Day planning and went on to found the even larger “Earth Day Network” which was expanded to over 180 nations and garnered the endorsement of the General Assembly of the United Nations. The International Mother Earth Day still remains the earth’s largest secular celebration.

Under President Jimmy Carter, Denis Hayes would later become the head of the Solar Energy Research Institute (1977) (now, National Renewable Energy Laboratory) By 2016 the Federal appropriations for renewable energy resources reflected the national attention to the environment with increased appropriations in solar energy, wind energy, biomass, and biorefinery systems, hydrogen technology, geothermal technology, and water power. Today, those initiative continue to struggle forward. We still continue to celebrate but our memories don’t always find partners in our actions.

SEED THOUGHTS

Mary’s reflections in Seed Thoughts

Each one of us comes into the world beautifully crafted to give light — maybe as candles or lamps, with wick and fuel, maybe as electric bulbs with the outer container to hold the filament or gas, and we are trying to improve on these by making them make [a] more effective use of the power.

The power: all the candles, lamps and light bulbs in the world are so much clutter unless they are ignited, and if they are damaged through improper use the only thing to do with them is to dump them in the trash. …

— Mary Rogers. Seed Thoughts. “Ye Are the Light of the World”

While the annual efforts of Pine Mountain in building their Environmental Education Program (EE) were modest, they were timely, and over the 47 years from 1972 forward, Pine Mountain has touched the lives of some 3000 students and teachers annually. The history of environmental education at Pine Mountain Settlement reveals an ever-evolving program and commitment. But, the mission is persistent. The reach of the program is extraordinary. The lives of students, teachers and other adults have been close to 141,000 over the years of the Environmental Education Program (EE). The longevity of the program speaks to its need and the outcomes speak to our future on this small blue globe, called earth.

Stream ecology class. Environmental education class – St. Francis School at PMSS

Mary was never the center of the programming for Pine Mountain’s environmental education, as many skilled EE educators came and went, particularly Afton Garrison, Ben, and Pat Begley and others. But no one will contest Mary’s central role in the formation of the program at Pine Mountain. Her work and that of those at the School provided the first model of environmental education in the State of Kentucky. Her self-taught inspiration and knowledge were recognized in 1988 by the Kentucky Association of Environmental Education which presented Mary and Afton Garrison their coveted award for excellence in the environmental education field. In 2015, Dr. Melinda Wilder, who sits on the Pine Mountain Board of Trustees was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kentucky Association of Environmental Education.

The wisdom of Mary may also be found in the creation of the Green Book, the early manual of instruction for the Environmental Education Program at Pine Mountain. It continues to be the underlying structural tool for the ongoing Pine Mountain program. Though major changes have occurred in the standard course of instruction mandated by Kentucky schools, the early work of Pine Mountain helped to guide the restructuring of the state curriculum. Going forward, Mary and her successors have continued their advocacy for the environment and have gained new voices. In her lifetime Mary was a legend, a resource that was incomparable. With her death in 1993, a profound presence and resource were lost.

At the end of her life, following a diagnosis of cancer, Mary looked back at her notes and her diary of written reflections. The brief thoughts reveal moments of illumination and doubt and deep spirituality. Only a few of these notes of inspiration are shared here. A large number of of her thoughts are, no doubt carried in the minds of those whose lives were touched by her instruction. The notes, titled, “Seed Thoughts” speak of the important revelations that can come at any point in life and that she compared to seeds that grow. As she gathered her many notes to create Seed Thoughts she advised that she selected the ideas that seemed to stick most firmly to her memories and which she “nourished”. She says modestly of those memories

Now, in 1990, I find my mind getting more boring to live with, less tuned in to joy, my memory losing its clarity, my powers of expression somehow blunted, but I want to record some of the incidents which have stood by me as truth… instances I have used in talks given in various places, …These incidents are seeds. Seeds are lovely little things, full of potential, but to realize that potential they must be planted, take root, receive nourishment and grow … to their full richness and glory.

— Mary Rogers, Seed Thoughts, 1990.
EE Staff – [left to right] Scott Matthies, Mary Rogers, Afton Garrison, Steve ?, Cami Hamilton, David Siegenthaler (Director). c. 1980 & 1981. [X_100_workers_2604_mod.jpg]

For those who knew Mary, it would be difficult to describe anything that she said as “boring.” She shared her enormous wealth of environmental information with such sincerity and convictions that even the most hardened skeptics were often swayed and the rapt attention given her reflections on nature could be found across all age ranges. She left hundreds, if not thousands as friends of the earth. Her heartfelt will to bring her audience into her focused spiritual realm was not a hard-sell proselytizing, yet it left few untouched by the spirituality of nature’s offering. By sharing her wealth of knowledge with the many, many children and adults who passed through the Environmental Education (EE) program, —-what she envisioned and fostered at Pine Mountain Settlement School was also a lesson in labor, love, and sacrifice. The many years that Mary gave to the Environmental Education Program was unpaid service. Late in life, she struggled with the idea of service and what it means to share one’s gifts for free. Nature’s gifts are also free. The foundational ideas and inspiration flowed freely from both sources. Her life was also a lesson in values. The environment is not an unlimited free resource, but one that comes with comes with hidden costs. Educational programming and days, such as Earth Day remind us of our responsibility to be educated in the stewardship of this precious and fragile life on the great blue planet that freely gives us so very much.

I receive so much in food and housing and care, — but money? How wonderful it would be if like the monks we felt we could live without having to be reimbursed with money. I have a strong inner sense that so many of the evils of the world would be weeded out if people could live their lives for the service they can give for the love of God, and not for higher pay.

Has one the faith to say, “I don’t want a salary.” It seems so lacking in faith not to, and yet getting old may be very expensive if one becomes unable to work, and has to have constant care. One doesn’t want to foist the responsibility for the time spent in care and the money spent on care onto anyone else, yet if one can’t live one’s testimony it is not a testimony, and if one doesn’t believe God is faithful one is faithless. How much should we save for our old age?

—Mary Rogers. Seed Thoughts, “Our Lady Poverty”. “Absolute Poverty”
SIMILITUDES

In February of 1992, Mary was given a book by Phillip Keller, As the Tree Grows (1966). It is as Mary described it is a “similitude.” She says of the Keller’s work, “He uses the symbols differently but it is a splendid “similitude”. How the living tree and the living person is sustained. Many points amplify what I have already written …” She follows that with her own similitude

In spite of the fact that a few plants still stick with the old way of extracting shreds of energy from the rocks, yet most living things, from the amoeba to the whale, from the algae to the giant redwood, from microorganism to man, all live, grow and function by virtue of the energy the sun supplies through the medium of the plants. We people are only able to grow, to think, to move by virtue of the sunlight collected and stored by the leaves of plants. We are built, we operate by virtue of the sun’s energy present in every part of our bodies. Our coal, our oil, the energies after which we scrabble among the fossil rocks, come from the same source. We wouldn’t need to agonize over our supplies of coal and oil, fossils holding on to their living energy if we could turn to the sun directly, for it is still shining today and every day. More energy reaches us from the sun than we could possibly use.

Often we hunt for spiritual energy from among the fossilized doctrines from the past, and ignore the vast available source of spiritual power with which we are, as it were, bombarded every second of every day, and bleat sadly because we are powerless.

—Mary Rogers. Seed Thoughts, Similitudes – The Sun
Forest at Pine Mountain Settlement School. [Photo: H.Wykle]

Her close friend, Milly Mahoney, teacher and educational leader at the settlement school, described her friend in a talk she gave in October 1998, to the local chapter of the D.A.R. , shortly after Mary’s passing. She quoted some of the many tributes to Mary by her co-workers and her students. For example, a former anonymous staff member of the EE team said, “I never could seem to find the detail, wealth and wonder in a rock, a seed or a flower that Mary could see and illuminate so beautifully with her reverent description and exclamations.”

Few who met Mary will ever forget the messages that Mary drew from the natural environment — this author, included. She drew from a deep well of joy and excitement that never ran dry and that was fed by her deep spirituality. For her, there was an inseparable relationship between ecology and spirituality and it was presented with a deeply held conviction. Her spiritual nature was no doubt spawned by her early life as the daughter of a Vicar of the Church of England in the small town of Greenham in Berkshire, England, but it was nurtured by the Eden she found in the Pine Mountain Valley, a location that continues to inspire awe and a sense of wonder and reverence in those who spend time there.

Mary Rogers working with Environmental Education program at Pine Mountain. X_100_workers_2669_mod.jpg

When Mary described the Environmental Education Program in one of the brochures sent out by the School, she quoted from Thomas Merton, “… to help visitors come to see and respect the visible creation which mirrors the glory and the perfection of the invisible God.” Many of those visitors took that advice to heart and one wrote


Observation, a sense of wonder, a measure of understanding, and hopefully love for the created world may spring from such experiences. A sense of wonder is easier to transmit than pure information and in the long-run is probably the most important thing learned.”

—Anon

Sharing excerpts from Mary Rogers “Seed Thoughts” on this Earth Day, 2019, we continue the efforts of Pine Mountain to engage a broader audience, fire the imagination, and to remind our friends that decisions regarding the environment have consequences for our fragile and endangered planet and for us. Another gentle reminder is found in an example taken from Mary’s Seed Thoughts and one that she dates to her early childhood. It demonstrates how early she came to her environmentalism and how deeply implanted her connection to the environment remained throughout her life.

THE WILD ROSE
A rose in front of Old Log at Pine Mt. Settlement [Photo: H.Wykle]

THE WILD ROSE

There were not many “pretty” walks round Little Common in Sussex (near Bexhill). We spent summer holidays there at our grandparents’ for many years. At home we were used to roving at will over our Common at Greenham in Berkshire, with its distant views of the Hampshire downs and its heather and gorse expanses with their marshy gullies and surrounding farms and woodlands. We found the Sussex countryside drab, but we were used to going for walks, and one summer when I was 7 or 8 we went for a walk to the “High Woods”, with our governess and our aunt.

I recall it as one of those grey days when nothing looks interesting. As we went along a lane between hedges I stepped to the ditch line to look at a wild rose, pale pink and delicate with its golden heart of stamens. As I looked into its face I found myself repeating lines of a poem I loved ….

Oh, no man knows through what wild centuries roves back the rose.”

Suddenly time disappeared and I seemed to be looking down the vistas of eternity.

That moment has stayed with me, and when I later read that Brother Lawrence‘s tree had been a deep experience for him, I recalled my rose. When I saw it the first time I consciously realized that all of time and space experienced as everyday time was unreal compared to this experience. A new dimension was to be with me and stay for the rest of my life. Yes, we were living in the temporal, but nothing can be limited by time. That consciousness has never left me.

I couldn’t put it into words at the time and didn’t want to. It was personal and interior but all-pervading.

— Mary Rogers. Seed Thoughts. “The Wild Rose”


ALL THAT’S PAST

Very old are the woods;
And the buds that break
Out of the brier’s boughs,
When March winds wake,
So old with their beauty are —
Oh, no man knows
Through what wild centuries
Roves back the rose.
Very old are the brooks;
And the rills that rise
Where snow sleeps cold beneath
The azure skies
Sing such a history
Of come and gone,
Their every drop is as wise
As Solomon.

Very old are we men;
Our dreams are tales
Told in dim Eden
By Eve’s nightingales;
We wake and whisper awhile,
But the day gone by,
Silence and sleep like fields of aramanth lie


Walter de la Mare. “All That’s Past” from The Listeners and Other Poems 1912
Road to Big Log with sheep shed to left and 'Lady' headed home.  [Photo: H. Wykle]
Road to Big Log with sheep shed to left and ‘Lady’ headed home. [Photo: H. Wykle]

H. Wykle
Easter Sunday
April 21, 2019

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Laden Trail or The Road

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

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


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


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

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

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD: Gallery

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD: Transcription of the Prospectus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD: History

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

Laden Trail or The Road

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

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

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

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

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

Laden Trail or The Road

[lave015.jpg]

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

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

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

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD: Biodiversity of Pine Mountain

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

Laden Trail or The Road

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

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

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

KENTUCKY GOOD ROADS ASSOCIATION PLAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laden Trail or The Road

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

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

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

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

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

1913

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

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

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

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

1918 – JANUARY

Surveying began after preliminary work done in 1915-1916.

1919 – May

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

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

1924

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

1929

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

1931-32

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

1934

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

The Road was completed by CCC labor.

1937

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

Laden Trail or The Road

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEN

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

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

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

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

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

AND NOW [The Editor (?) writes:]

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

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

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD: What About Today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


SEE ALSO: 

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD

 LETTERS OF CORRESPONDENCE RELATED TO “THE ROAD”

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD CORRESPONDENCE Part I

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD CORRESPONDENCE Part II

CELIA CATHCART CORRESPONDENCE

 LADEN TRAIL PHOTO GALLERY

LITTLE SHEPHERD TRAIL

LADEN TRAIL VIDEO (1980s) – Paul Hayes

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DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH II Introduction

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Blog: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – II

INTRODUCTION  –  GROWING FROM THE SOIL

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Land in the Southern Appalachians is precious soil. The people grow out of this soil as surely as plants take root and spring upward towards sun. The people grow strong to work the soil and they bend as the soil pulls their tired bodies back to lay in peace within it. Yet, the cycle is more a dance than a dirge. The dance is the dance so many children and adults have today forgotten. It is the jitterbug of stream-beds and the waltz of wind-blown mountain tops. It is the courtly movement through rows of cabbages and corn. It’s the balanced step-dance across a foot-log. It is a dance that educates for wholeness; the kind of wholeness often found in the rhythm of rural country sides.

Dancing in the cabbage patch was part of the early education at Pine Mountain Settlement School. It was not an education just for children. It was the exercise of everyone who marveled at the cycles of life and the bountiful bloom of new crops as they re-shaped flat field and high hill. It was and is all that is intuited in the fragile relationship with the land. A dance in the cabbage patch is an exercise in the nourishment of both body and soul. It is a solo dance made joyful by the sharing.

We can dance alone, or we can grow the patch together. At one time Pine Mountain raised over 10,000 heads of cabbage. Today, together, the cabbage patches are unlimited for us all if we can re-connect with the land.

“Dancing in the Cabbage Patch” is structured into a series of essays, or in the current jargon “Blogs,” that explore the land of Appalachia, farming, foodways, and the celebrations found in the unique Appalachian settlement school of Pine Mountain, celebrating over 100 years.

_________________________________________________________

The foundation of Pine Mountain can be found in the early efforts of key visionaries in both the School and the community.  Some of these unique individuals are described in their        BIOGRAPHIES.  Others may be discovered in the many stories that are filled with characters whose lives may not at first appear visionary, but who have led may seekers of truth and fiction to a land little understood and often misrepresented. Some seekers understood and others could not shake their myths and prejudices. The Pine Mountain Valley, its land and its people is filled with a clear truth about the evolution of America and its vision of itself. Read deeply and the echoes of self will, no doubt, come shining or struggling through these fragments of the establishment and continuity of one of the first rural settlement schools and its community. Not soon to be forgotten are the narratives of the staff and community who helped to shape the vision we now hold of this early rural settlement movement and the foundations of our democracy. In the PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL COLLECTIONS ARCHIVE  there are many paths to follow.

When William Creech gave his land in 1913 so that Pine Mountain Settlement School could begin its journey, he also gave to the School one of the most famous quotes associated with the institution. Katherine Pettit, a co-founder of the School, used his vision for “his people” found in  his longer letter, when promoting the institution. His wisdom continues to resonate with many cultures and lives. Most all of Pettit’s successors at the School have found this quote to be foundational.

An Old Man’s Hope for the Children of the Kentucky Mountains

I don’t look after wealth for them. I look after the prosperity of our nation. I want all younguns taught to serve the livin’ God. Of course, they wont all do that, but they can have good and evil laid before them and they can choose which they will. I have heart and craving that our people may grow better. I have deeded my land to the Pine Mountain Settlement School to be used for school purposes as long as the Constitution of the United States stands. Hopin’ it may make a bright and intelligent people after I’m dead and gone.

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Uncle William and Aunt Sal stand in front of their old home while re-enacting their wedding picture. hook_007_mod.jpg

Uncle William and Aunt Sal donated  135*  acres of land for the Pine Mountain Settlement School. [*This acreage varies in the historical record and often includes the donation of other land from community and lumber and mining companies and other families such as the Metcalfs and Wilders and others.]

In this photograph the Creech couple re-enact their wedding in front of their original cabin home in 1917. The original “Aunt Sal’s Cabin” was relocated to the grounds of the Settlement School in 1926 and  is now a central landmark.

Founder Katherine Pettit  (1868 -1938) was a Kentucky native.  She served as co-director at Pine Mountain Settlement School until her retirement in 1930. For the next five years she traveled throughout Harlan County urging farmers to adopt modern farming techniques.  In 1932, she visited South America. In that same year, she received the Sullivan Medallion from the Univ. of Kentucky as the outstanding citizen of the state in that year. She died Sept. 3, 1938 at the age of sixty-eight.

Founder Ethel de Long Zande  (1868 -1928), a New Jersey native and Smith College graduate, was recruited by Pettit to be the co-director of the School and to give academic guidance, fundraising and educational programming.  Pettit knew de Long’s work as she had served in a similar position at Hindman Settlement School where she worked with Pettit for two years. Ethel de Long provided basic education for children and training for mothers in health, cooking, and home care. She married Luigi Zande in 1918 and died much too early of cancer in 1928. Her short time at Pine Mountain left a lasting legacy.

Mary Rockwell Hook was recruited to Pine Mountain to serve as the lead architect for the buildings and the grounds of the school.  Her work represents one of the first instances of women’s work in the architectural profession.  As one of the first group of women to study at the prestigous school of architecture in the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, her work earned the School recognition as a National Historic Landmark. The architecture, like the people grew up out of the land and it always runs as a sub-text throughout all that is Pine Mountain Settlement School.

Work Shop For The Pine Mountain School Boys Industrial MSR5852_1 M.R. Hook South Elevation 1/4″=1′-0″ (early proposed plan)

“Uncle” and “Aunt” when used with first names were often not designations of familial relationship, particularly within the staff and families at the School, but were long-held titles of respect and endearment in the Pine Mountain community.  Following his donation of land for the school in 1913, Uncle William only lived six more years, until 1918.  Aunt Sal lived on until 1925. Their passing was as though a near Uncle and Aunt had passed.

It was the generous donation of land by William and Sally Creech, the Metcalfs and others, and all their advocacy and their vision that made the school on the headwaters of the Kentucky River, a reality.  When Uncle William and Aunt Sal gave the land they did so with the intent to create a school and they sought out supporters in the community and the two remarkable women who became the new Settlement’s directors, Pettit and de Long.

In Pettit and de Long the Creeches found a congruence of goals and vision. Pettit and de Long took the educational challenge of Uncle William to heart. Katherine Pettit, a member of the Lexington chapter of the Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs, had, with May Stone, and the support of the Club founded Hindman Settlement School in 1900, and knew what she wanted in a school.  Thirteen years later,more importantly, she knew where she wanted a school.  Ethel de Long , who had worked for many years as an educator with Pettit at Hindman, was a pragmatic and articulate program creator but, like Pettit, she wanted to chart her own course and exercise some of her new ideas on education in the central Appalachians. Both Pettit and de Long were visionaries, as was Mary Rockwell Hook, but they were also well connected and their long chain of contacts gave them the foundation and support needed to launch a new settlement school.

The Creeches, Pettit,  de Long, and Hook as well as others in the Pine Mountain community were a productive and dynamic combination.  The quick formation of an Advisory Board provided the outside oversight, funding, and professional support needed to grow the institution. The founders of 1913 gave the school a solid financial and social base on which it could grow and flourish.  And, grow it did.  In 2013 the school celebrated its one-hundredth year as an educational institution confirming the promise and the wisdom of those early planners.

Mary Rogers, wife of Burton Rogers, School Director (1949-1983), and founder of the Environmental Education program at the School, wrote THE PINE MOUNTAIN STORY 1913-1983 for the School’s 50th Anniversary. It remains the best source of history of the school.

Mary Rogers’ small booklet covers the institutional history from 1913-1983, and breaks the history into easily understood blocks of history.  Her brief narrative history, illustrated with her own delicate drawings, is an eloquent statement describing the founding  years of the institution, the boarding school years and the later Community School.  It describes the founder’s plans for the School and the dedication to the founder’s ideas through the years.  She says of Pettit and the School

” She [Pettit] had a deep love for the people, and concern for their needs.  At Hindman she had already translated the work of Jane Addams and the urban settlement movement into a rural idiom.  Now, her thoughts were turning to more isolated, as yet un-served, areas of the mountains.

 Traditional schooling was a part of her plan, but she envisaged also a settlement serving a whole community in its economic, health and cultural development.  A settlement would not attempt to substitute an outside culture for the indigenous.  It would try to strengthen people’s faith in their own heritage, making use of both the mountain environment and their unique traditions as media for learning.  It would help people to retain a secure sense of their own worth as human beings. 

 The new school must have sufficient acreage to supply the bulk of its own needs.  It must be less dependent on the slow, unreliable transportation of supplies by ox wagon through almost roadless country.

Education was foremost in the mind of  Uncle William, and education was at the center of the mission of the two women co-founders of the institution, and all three agreed that this education must be a pragmatic education. It must give the children of the school not only ‘book larnin’, but it must also give them “education for life.” Uncle William described this “education for life” as an understanding of farming practice and a respect for the land that would combine with traditional educational practice. Only then could the total education of the person occur.

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Head, hand and heart at work in this early carpentry project by a student of the school.

Throughout the one-hundred year history of the School, the adherence to an agrarian focus is central to the understanding Pine Mountain’s “education for life.”  The pragmatic work engaged by all who passed through the School, emphasized education as a life-long process and one for which they, alone, were responsible.

“Education for life” demanded mindfulness throughout every day. Participation in farming, food preparation, community celebration, woodworking, environmental field work and more. It was an educational idea anchored in a classroom experience, but practiced in every action of the student.  Even today, this hybrid approach, solidified by hands-on learning experiences, has proven to be one of the most effective learning strategies, .

An “education for life” is what the poet and writer Wendell Berry described in his thoughtful series of essays, A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural, (1970, 1972),  He calls it a kind of “local life aware of itself.” He asserts that this “regionalism is the awareness that local life is intricately dependent, [not just ] for its quality but also for its continuance, upon local knowledge.”  Berry dedicated his small book of essays to Ann and Harry Caudill, two Eastern Kentucky locals from Whitesburg, Kentucky, who were intensely aware of their place in the land and who educated us all on the fragility of Appalachian land in Night Comes to the Cumberlands (1962), a book, in the words of Steward Udall, that is the “story of land failure and the failure of men,” but that in its telling lifted the lives of so many in the Central Appalachians.

Today as we move rapidly toward ecological and social disruptions, the need to remind ourselves of our responsibility to an “education for life” is even more critical.  The education at Pine Mountain has always served in this idea.  Pine Mountain Settlement School is a place and an idea that educates for life and that is committed to the literacy of historical community and how that history informs the living community. This education, both formal and informal, is essential to tying together the land and the people in a fundamental and sustainable eco-system. In 2015 the mission statement was re-worded, but not dramatically altered when it admonished that the goal of the School was to enrich lives and connect people through Appalachian place-based education for all ages.

“Twenty years ago [1912] Kentucky ranked fortieth in Education among the states of the Union;  today she is still fortieth,” reported the Kentucky Education Commission after a two-year study made of education in schools and colleges in the Commonwealth from 1932 to 1934.  This was the pre-Depression era and it raised desperate appeals for ideas and help with a school system ravaged by a growing economic crisis.   As part of their 1932 study, the state surveyed the students whose lives they were charged to improve. Pine Mountain was visited and queried about educational needs and programs.   The surveyors found no shortage of students who were willing to closely critique their school and to make recommendations to their surveyors.  Remarkably, the surveyors listened.  The educational journeys described by the students served as a model for planning a new course for education within the state. The descriptions of those students are closely detailed in the nearly complete collection of student records held in the Pine Mountain Settlement School Archive Student Records.

In 2010 Kentucky’s ranking in a national survey was 34th in the nation.  In two years the state jumped 24 places in the Quality Counts annual report as recorded in Education Week magazine. In 2013, under the Governance of Beshear the state placed an amazing 10th in the national rankings for K-12 education.  Something is working. Attention to rural youth was part of the 2013 success.

Read more here: Kentucky Ranks 10th in National Education Survey 2013

The Rural Youth Guidance Institute, earlier called the Pine Mountain Institute, begun by director, Glyn Morris, in 1934 became known throughout the country as a progressive and successful educational model.  The Pine Mountain students were “educated for life” and the Depression years in Appalachia and at  Pine Mountain Settlement School provided some of the best lessons for that education. The 1930s had many teaching moments that few who experienced them, forgot — student or teacher.

The school still stands as a model for educators who want to “educate for life.”  Today, particularly in the field of environmental education, Pine Mountain continues to lead the way in the state of Kentucky across all age groups.  Today it educates multiple generations and promotes education as a life-long learning process.  A brief 1934, article for The Pine Cone, a school paper written by Pine Mountain students, reflects on the state’s campaign to reform education for its students and where Pine Mountain students fit into that campaign. It demonstrates how the PMSS students were actively engaged in the 1930′ educational planning process

A somewhat unusual feature of this campaign was the enlisting of the services and sympathies of the students themselves by the state. The generous response of the Pine Mountain students to this appeal for comments was characteristic of the sense of community promoted at the school.  The school, started twenty-one years earlier gave to the children a willingness to give of their energies that the cause of education may be advanced.  They described the influence of Pine Mountain as a real education that “will help us work a little more skillfully, think a little more clearly and act a little more kindly.”

The exploration of farming, food and community engagement at Pine Mountain Settlement School found in the DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH series of essays are authored by one of Pine Mountain’s  children, the daughter of one of the School’s farmers.   The essays are offered as a contribution to the history of the institution and are filtered through the writer’s perspective. There are many other perspectives.

PHOTOGRAPHS

The photographs of rural life taken by various photographers, during the long history of Pine Mountain Settlement School found in this essay, are derived from a life lived close to the land.  Within the faces of the students, the workers, and community families, especially in the children, can be found wonder, stubbornness, joy, fear, defiance, pride, and hope.  It is those images combined with some of the personal narratives captured in letters, documents and  autobiographies in the archival collection, that the many perspectives may be studied. In these often very personal and literal reflections, can be found a tall mountain of deep wisdom, peace,

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humility, despair, determination, hope, anger, but, especially, joy.  Yet, some who will view the photographs or read the workers letters about the community will only see the poverty and possibly the exploitation of the local population by “outsiders.”  That is not what the school was or is about and on close reading, that is not what the archive ultimately will reveal.

The author  John Berger reminds us in And Our Faces, My heart, as Brief as Photos (Berger, 1984)  that time and space are inseparable. He cautions us that we must be careful of giving so much to the historical projection of time. He argues, “It is space not time that hides consequences from us.” In the Pine Mountain Valley it is “up Cutshin and down Greasy,”  and Wellsley College and “between Hel-fer-Sartin and Kingdom Come,” and Boston and Turkey Neck Bend and New York and Fiesty and Rowdy, that we arrange and rearrangte our critical perspectives.

The words of those who knew and know the land best are sprinkled throughout the following narratives, but it’s the photographs, the images of land and people that most vividly detail the agrarian evolution of the community. The agricultural essence of the unique rural community on the north side of Pine Mountain as explored through the lives of those who worked at Pine Mountain Settlement School and those who lived near-by in the community, is as relevant today as it was when the first vision was shaped by the founders.   These are pictures of an education —is in a constant reciprocal stream of teaching.  In photograph and text the interactive life along the Pine Mountain range and at the Pine Mountain Settlement School is a reassertion of geographies of hope and how to move between our spaces. It is about finding a personal space in our society and the society finding a space for us.

Pine Mountain Settlement School today continues to be an experiment in rural settlement school practice as well as a model environmental education school. As the School moves beyond its 100th year,  the community celebrates with the School.  It celebrates the people, the place and an unwavering relationship to the land and to the lessons that may be learned from a close association with its geography in all its variants.  People and place, student and land, farmer and field, ecologist and mountainside, are all tied to an educational vision and mission. Today, the school’s programs and its “education for life” ethos reveals an evolving vision and mission. Remarkably, it is a vision that remains fresh and inspiring. No matter where one enters the narrative about the School, the general aim is clear.  It is to create critical minds and a sensitive eye when looking at how seasons pass,  space evolves, and lives evolve and pass in the valley.  It is a narrative that is both sequential and simultaneous, history and historical.

Today our polemics are animated by ideological conflicts, by rancorous politics, and an inability to discerne truths. We often lose our close touch with both time and space.  History melts our contexts into a sea of irrationality and speed and  often only surfaces to support some argument or political position that has no verity. We tend to forget in the rush of our lives that there are many truths, many more generations to inspire, and many lessons to learn and many  stories to tell that open the pages of our own unique place in time and space.  Many of those lessons are found in our relationships, in our historical and genealogical archives, while others may be found on a hike to some remote and quiet place like  Jack’s Gap overlooking a slice of life in the long view.  When we look out on the expanse of mountains that stretch out below high places the view may resemble a troubled sea. The deep green sea, interrupted by the silt, the growing tide of discontent, the green and brown of surface mining  —  but the air sits close upon that mountain fragrant with fresh pine and vibrant with sunrise and sunset.

Little Shepherd Trail

Jack’s Gap outing. Arthur W. Dodd Album. [dodd_A_066_mod.jpg]

As we all reach for improvement in the quality of our lives, there are many reminders in the stories and images from Pine Mountain that tell us, like Uncle William, that life does not need the accumulation of wealth, so much as it requires the nurturing of the wealth that surrounds us all. As we look backward with intelligence at the 100 years of Pine Mountain Settlement School, we will hopefully be better prepared to move forward with inspiration and intention to a vital future wherever that future may find each of us. I suspect Uncle William is smiling as his dream unfolds.

Helen Hayes Wykle

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Pine Mountain Settlement School
Blog: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – III

PINE MOUNTAIN AS PLACE
THE PHYSICAL SPACE OF AN IDEA
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LOG CABIN

Poem by Dora Read Goodale  (1863-1953), from Mountain Dooryards, Torch Press, Cedar Rapids, IA, 1941.

Little bitty ……. hit mought so be,
But it doesn’t look that way to me;
Ever’ log in it once a tree
That aimed at the sky ; the chimley-herth
Once a piece of the living yerth
And old Kentuck; and shutter and sill,
Puncheons, ruf-boards, or what ye will
Hewed and rived by my pap’s pap
When he was young an full of sap
Ther’es Coy’s fiddle — I tell you what! —
Mammy’s churn, and the big black pot
For Monday’s wash; and the shot-gun thar
Over the door, that’s kilt a bar;
Porch out front, and a picket gate
With flowers a-blowin early and late —
Why, ever’ one of em’s dear, so dear,
If I’d done been in Heaven a year
I’d still want out, to get back here.

                  Dora Read Goodale

Dora Read Goodale came to Pine Mountain Settlement School to teach when she was forty-seven years old.  She was born in 1866 in Mount Washington in the Berkshires .  Her arrival at the school in the founding year of 1913 provided her with a unique perspective of the school and community.   She came from a precocious Vermont family of writers and poets and brought those talents to her teaching at the school. Before she had reached adolescence she and her sister, Elaine Goodale [Eastman] had published extensively in national magazines and journals. and Dora, the younger of the two, continued writing poetry for most of her lifetime.  Her last work at age 75  was Mountain Dooryards  compiled while she was in residence at Pleasant Hill mission school, a Tennessee school, not unlike Pine Mountain. She served as the director of the Uplands Sanatorium in the late 1930s through 1941, a treatment center that was part of Pleasant Hill mission school.

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The 1920s view of the Settlement School above, shows the cleared areas and the site of the institution within the steep mountainous terrain. The wide angle view is deceptive, as the closeness of the mountain is missed in this panoramic view. Lower left is Old Log, the oldest building on the site.  The Tool Shed is to the middle left and the Office sits to its right.  Deep in the valley is the Burkham School House II and to its right is Old Laurel House.  The Barn,  sits high on the hill above the Office. The Infirmary (now Hill House)Practice House and Farm House were not yet built, nor were the Swimming Pool and the Draper Industrial Building.  Big Log is hidden in the middle distance of the photograph.  The Chapel is to the far right side and beyond, hidden by the dark knoll is Far House I. What stands out in this photograph is the large swaths of cultivated farm land. 

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Aerial view of Pine Mountain Settlement School c. 1941. Westwind is just under construction as the white patch to the right of the photograph. Again, cultivated fields stand out against the heavily forested area around the school. Today, most of the fields are overgrown with young timber and the cultivated land has been reduced to the central areas of the campus at the middle of the photograph. Photo, Arthur Dodd.

Pine Mountain Settlement School is nestled in the long valley on the north side of the Pine Mountain, a long continuous mountain chain on the Cumberland Plateau in the Southeastern United States.

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View down the Pine Mountain valley from the Westwind hill. c. 1920s.

The Cumberland Plateau encompasses some ten thousand square miles and contains nearly twenty counties in the eastern corner of Kentucky.  Pine Mountain Settlement School is in Harlan County, in the far southeast corner of the state where it borders on Virginia and Tennessee. The mountains in this area represent the most majestic in the state, particularly Big Black Mountain which faces the Pine Mountain range on its South side.

Harlan County was named for Major Silas Harlan, a commander in the Illinois Campaigns of 1779,  and was the sixtieth county added to the state.  It was formed from parts of Knox and Floyd counties. The county was one of the highest, most mountainous, and most remote of  the state’s 124 counties at the time of its formation and it remains remote in many ways, even today.

The history of Harlan County is dominated by a history of coal.  Most all the mountains  in the region contain some coal that was formed when the ancient bog and vegetation of an inland sea was compressed into peat and then into coal over a period of millions of years.  Pine Mountain, one of the mountain chains formed when the earth buckled and thrust upward has coal but is not coal rich as the coal seams are too difficult to mine. due to their quasi-vertical angle.  This long “thrust-fault” mountain chain, some 150 miles long, parallels the tall Cumberland range to the south which is certainly coal-rich.  Within this range is the “Big Black” mountain, at 3,300 feet, the highest mountain in the state.

When the Pine Mountain chain was  formed, it thrust upward along the 150  miles in a continuous line running east to west.  Pine Mountain Settlement School sits on the north side of this east-west thrust-fault and below the watershed point on the mountain for two rivers, the Kentucky and the Cumberland.

An amusing story is told of a local community member who had a unique perspective regarding how the mountain could have come to be so tilted. He asked Alice Cobb, a school worker, if she knew, “Why Pine Mountain was such a “quare” shape with so many big loose rocks scattered around.”  Miss Cobb started to respond with her short interpretation of the geology of a “thrust-fault” when the man continued. “Well people about here thinks that when Christ was crucified the earth trembled and shook so it knocked Pine Mountain plum over on its side. And, that’s why.”  And, “on it’s side,” it is. It is the gentle side, the slope, that forms the backdrop to the Settlement School though the mountains sit so close together, that the long slope is pressed up against everyone who lives in the valley.

As streams pushed their way  through the early plateau, they created multiple steep valleys with meandering creeks and rivers.  These many waterways eventually wound their way to the large tributaries of the Missouri and the Mississippi further west. Harlan County and specifically the Pine Mountain range above the settlement school is the source of three of Kentucky’s major rivers; the Cumberland, the Kentucky and further north, the Big Sandy river.

The Cumberland River runs westward and southward through the length of Harlan county and has its head-waters on the south-side of the Pine Mountain range.  Isaac’s Creek or Isaac’s Run, which runs through the campus of the School is the essential headwater of the The Kentucky River as it begins its journey and runs on the north side of the Pine Mountain.  This small stream soon forms Greasy Creek and then the Middle Fork of the Kentucky and then on to the main Kentucky river.

The Kentucky by state historian, Thomas D. Clark, told the story of the this important state tributary in 1942. Clark asked John A. Spelman, III, an art teacher at Pine Mountain Settlement School, to illustrate the book with his linoleum block prints.  The Kentucky was one in a series of books written for The Rivers of America Books, edited by Stephen Vincent Benet and Carl Cramer.  The Kentucky remains the definitive work on this beautiful river and a rich source for information on rivers and culture in the eastern part of Kentucky. Pine Mountain retains the Spelman original blocks for the prints in this important book.  Further, the linoleum blocks of John A. Spelman III may be found throughout Pine Mountain school publications created in the late 1930’s and the early 1940’s.

Thomas D. Clark says of the Middle Fork of the Kentucky

“… the middle one [stream] scampers along through the Big Laurel to Greasy Creek and then to an arbitrary point where temperamental map makers finally decide to imprint the name “Kentucky.”  Perhaps nowhere else in America does a stream drain a more genuinely rural or isolated area. In some respects the valley of this fork comprises America’s human museum. Here the great westward movement eddied and then stood still.  If it be true, as some sociologists have assured us, here are to be found America’s “contemporary ancestors.” Human life has changed little from what it was when the first settlers forced their way through the great pass at Pound Gap or wandered upstream from the “three forks.”  [Clark, p.9-10]

While Clark’s narrative written in 1942, captured life along the creeks of the north side of Pine Mountain, Spelman’s block prints capture the romantic wildness of the mountains in the area.  Spelman left another remarkable set of prints in which he captured the elegance of mountain cabins and the patterns of the mountain farm in his published work, At Home in the Hills: Glimpses of Harlan County, Kentucky Through the Media of the Linoleum Block and the Woodcut.  Published in the Pine Mountain Print Shop in 1939, this sensitive work caught the attention of Thomas Clark when he went looking for an illustrator for his classic, The Kentucky.

Spelman says in his introduction to At Home in the Hills

Where else can one find houses that so grow out of the soil, chimneys with so much unconscious beauty in their lines, roofs and wall spaces with such “at-oneness”? Time and the weather have done much toward their decay, but so have they colored these houses and barns to a mellowness that it makes them at one with the hills upon which they stand.

The Harlan County region has always been difficult to access and the remote geographic area saw only limited settlement in the early years of pioneer exploration. Further, the area  remained isolated far longer than many other more accessible areas of the Appalachian chain of mountains.  This geographic isolation of the north side of Pine Mountain in Harlan County has been a point of discussion of all who have sought to study the area and even today it continues to challenge visitors as they are asked to assess their visits to the School or are asked “How do you get there?” Whether the isolation of the area brings to mind Shangrila or geographic determinism, it is a topic in most any discussion of Pine Mountain Settlement School.  

Settlement of the region by pioneers,  largely European in origin, came early in the nation’s history.  The first exploration, completed by Dr. Thomas Walker in 1750,  rapidly opened the area to settlement.  Immigrants, mostly gleaned from England, Scotland, Ireland and the German Palatinate diaspora, eagerly homesteaded the mountainous area as pioneer farmers joining the Native Americans who were found throughout the area.

bram_ (59) Coal Tipple, c. 1940.  Arthur Dodd, photographer]

When coal was discovered in the mid-eighteen-hundreds, another wave of immigrants came from Europe and then Eastern Europeans joined them to work in the coal-fields. Italians, Austrians, Russians, Hungarians, Rumanians, Czechoslovakians and Polish men entered the mining work-force in Harlan County in large numbers. African Americans shifted from share-cropping and from inner city life to join the coal mining labor force in many of the larger coal camps. Coal accounts for a large population of African Americans in Harlan County, particularly in the International Harvester and United States Steel mining camps of Benham and Lynch.

Kentucky’s eastern coalfields have been both a source of wealth and  a deplorable example of labor exploitation. The region holds land of extraordinary resources and extraordinary environmental degradation.  The history of the settlement school at Pine Mountain, found in its farming, foodways and festivals, a large and important theme for mountain living, but coal always runs as a sub-theme in all that was and is Harlan County. King coal has often stood in,  in contrast to, and sometimes challenged the environmental sensitivity of the School. Today coal mining is both a significant monetary asset and a gross environmental liability for the region. The lack of a diversified economy throughout the Appalachian coal fields has always presented a land of competing values and contrasts.

Authors who have written about the region have all approached the quandary of coal from different perspectives.  Dr. Thomas Walker in his important The Kentucky (1942) devotes one page to the topic.  “Coal” does not show up at all in the index to Henry Shapiro’s Appalachia on Our Mind (1978), one of the most comprehensive overviews of the Appalachian region.  David Whisnant, however, challenges the conundrums head-on in his All That is Native and Fine (1983)  He engages the coal story and citations for coal related subjects are many, including: coalfields  ; coal industry ; coal miners, etc.. Whisnant’s book recounts one of many conflicting stories of coal and its role in the life of eastern Kentucky, but it is a perspective that resonates with many and is important in the debates that surround the role of coal in the development of the early settlement schools of the region.

One story in the Whisnant book describes the early relationship of the coal industry with Hindman Settlement, Miss Pettit’s former home.  He recounts that early in the history of Hindman Settlement School, when Miss Pettit was still with the institution, the secretary, Miss Newman,  secured some $25,000 in preferred stock from the Elkhorn Fuel Company which over the years yielded a continuing revenue stream for the school.  John C. Campbell in a letter to John C. Glenn of the Russell Sage Foundation in 1913 noted that less than a decade after the founding of Hindman Settlement School (1909) some 76% of the school’s endowment was stocks and contributions from the local coal companies.  While this large investment in coal stocks was an early revenue stream for Hindman, Pine Mountain found it difficult to establish similar early ties to coal.  Katherine Pettit, when she came to Pine Mountain, reluctantly pursued both coal companies and logging companies for donations but was rebuffed in her early attempts to wrestle donations from both coal and timber companies working in the area. Her initial efforts to secure contributions from the Kentweva Coal and Lumber Company and its President, Mr. Merritt Wilson, were largely unsuccessful, as were her efforts to stop the Company from running a narrow-gauge rail line through the heart of the campus to haul timber from the region.

Ron Eller’s book, Miner’s, Mules, and Millhands (1986), a well researched classic resource on Appalachian life, also looks closely at coal and its impact on eastern Kentucky and other coal areas.  It provides a balanced, documented and clear assessment of the many sides of mining, mines and miners.  The story of coal and the Pine Mountain valley is a complicated one but the story of Pine Mountain Settlement School yields a history that largely placed the school outside the influence of the coal industry, but not its impact.  Though the initial purchase of land for the school involved a land swap with the coal and lumber company, Kentweva, the competition for land and resources in the narrow valley have steadily waxed, waned and waxed over many cycles at the School. Again, isolation played a key role as the north side of Pine Mountain has no coal and the area is too remote for much change.  It is, as recorded in a Settlement School survey taken in the late 1930’s, “Some Shifting Aspects of Our Problem,”  that the School was “16 miles, 6 hours from [the] Railroad.” Further, it noted that the “mines produce a large shifting element that is perpetually on the move, and therefore a very difficult class to help.” This antipathy toward the populations of coal camps and mining communities shifted during the late 1930’s and 1940’s when the need to help the youth from the large mining population centers became dramatic and youth from mining camps comprised a significant percentage of the School’s population.

For nearly half a century the school moved forward without significant contributions or endorsement from coal companies that came and went in the region.  Dis-entangled from any financial relationship to coal, the school became a voice for individuals, organizations and institutions that began to question the serious environmental issues associated with the coal industry. By the l970’s both the environmental and the social fall-out of the coal industry became a national issue and when Johnson launched his “War on Poverty,” the coal region came under the scrutiny of not just the Nation, but of the whole world.

When Uncle William said that he wanted the School to be a lesson even for those in other lands, he would not have imagined what valuable lessons many of those would be.  Over time, the school slowly became the conscience of the region with regard to mineral and gas extraction and the School began to openly oppose any entity that would damage the environment, the economic security of the region’s people, or the health of both land and the people.  This vocal advocacy which continued from the 1970’s onward was seriously challenged in 2000 when it was clear that the coal industry was quickly beginning to encroach on the rights of the school and was showing little concern for its operational environment and its modeling of environmental education.

The encroaching surface mining in the area threatened the image of the school as an environmental center and threatened the pristine scenic views of the school, its water sheds, and its unique flora and fauna. Fearing an ever-growing coal appetite and a fledgling gas exploration and facing an expanding degradation of environment, Pine Mountain took action and filed a petition on November 13, 2000, with the Kentucky Department for Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to declare the surrounding 5,226 acres around the school as unsuitable for all types of coal mining operations. This so-called “Lands Unsuitable …” petition pointed out that the School had recently received  status as a National Historic Landmark site and that as a national treasure it would suffer irreparable harm from continued mining in the immediate area.

Robin Lambert, Executive Director of Pine Mountain Settlement School (1999 – 2001), said

“As trustees for a National Historic Landmark which provides a unique resident outdoor environmental education experience to over 3,000 school children each year, and which has been a cultural and educational resource to this community for over 85 years, the Board of Trustees of the School believes that the permanent protection of the School property, the spring-fed water supply, and the view-shed, from mining impacts, must be our first priority.”

As reported by the Kentucky Resources Council,  Lambert stated,

“The process for designating lands as unsuitable for mining was intended by Congress to protect those lands where simply mitigating mining impacts on the environment would not be enough.”

The 32 page petition, endorsed by the school’s Board of Trustees, with strong support from environmentalists, historians, and friends, was successful in its effort to curtail proximate mining and to protect both the environmental mission and the physical environment of the institution for future generations.

These actions were specific to the immediate threat to the institution and were not intended as an indictment of the responsible coal industry and the many labor benefits that  responsible mining operations brought to the region. Many of Pine Mountain’s boarding  school children and, later, the children within the community, had strong ties to coal mining and their families were often wholly dependent on the industry for their livelihood. The tensions of these conflicting interests can still be felt in the community, but the School pulled from these experiences one of its most important educational missions, that of raising awareness of the human impact upon the environment.

Today, strong ties to coal is still the reality in Harlan County and the surrounding region.  Coal is “King” and “Black Gold”  rules both the economy and the cultural mind-set of the region. But, as coal again turns its back on the people of the region and as the industry declines — some say its last decline — the people and the state are looking for other economically sustainable livelihoods.

It is the juggling of diverse perspectives, the commitment to civil response and the environmental realism of Pine Mountain Settlement School that makes it so very important to regions such as eastern Kentucky that are being devoured by insensitive corporate interests and by equally insensitive personal greed. This ravenous appetite for mineral and other  resources is now world-wide and the dangers to environment and to people is great.  Conflicting views arising from mineral extraction is an international reality that is being played out in nearly every corner of the world today as resources become scarce, and as industries lose their social compass and populations grow. Clearly, a strong environmental voice, education in our schools regarding our relationship and responsibility to vital resources such as land and water, and civic responsibility, is fundamental to everyone’s survival, not just those who live in eastern Kentucky. Learning how to live as a community of diverse interests but one that shares concern and respect for the common good is vital to the survival of us all.

William Creech reminded Pettit and de Long in his letters that he wanted the school to be a benefit not just to the community, to “their generations as yet unborn,  but to the whole state and nation and to folks across the sea if they can get any benefit out of it.” Pine Mountain still has this international perspective and continues to bring residents from throughout the country to work in the environmental education programs at the school.  Pine Mountain invites foreign visitors to the school to experience the beauty and peace of the valley, while taking from the visitors, their multiple world views. This has always been the history of the institution — that it both shares its lessons and learns from the lessons of others.

As the region continues its struggle with the dominant coal economy and consciousness, and now with the rapid decline of that industry — again —  It is not only Pine Mountain School, but the many social, religious, and educational institutions in the area that are struggling with what James Still, noted Appalachian author, called “a handful of chaos.”

James Still used this phrase in his sensitive portrait of an Appalachian family in River of Earth (1940). Caught in the chaotic transition from a simple life close to the land, many families were challenged to sort out a largely agrarian life-style against all that an evolving industrial economy promised.

In Still’s novel the family obliquely debates their future as they roam in search of the eggs of a guinea fowl in the pennyrile near their home.

 “This would make the finest hayfeed ever was,” Mother said.  “Just going wasting.”

Father kicked the lush growth where it caught the top hooks of his brogan.

“I hain’t started eating grass yet,” he said.

“There’s not a beast on the place to be cutting it for, and it’s the truth.”……”If we had us a cow her udders would be tick-tight,” Mother said.

“It would be a sight the milk and butter we’d get.”

“Won’t have use for a cow at Blackjack,” Father said.  “I hear the mines are going to open for shore. They’re stocking the storehouse, and it must be they got orders down from the big lakes. This time of year they come, if the’re coming a-tall.”

Mother picked up the baby, holding him stiffly in the crook of her elbow.

“Where is the big lakes standing?” Euly [their son] asked.

 “A long way north. It’s on reckoning how far, ” Father said. “There’s ships riding the waters, hauling coal to somewheres farther on.”

 “I had a notion of staying here,” Mother said, her voice small and tight.  “I’m agin raising chaps in a coal camp. Allus getting lice and scratching the itch.  I had a notion you’d walk of a day to the mine.”

“A far walking piece, a good two mile. Better to get a house in the camp.”

  “Can’t move a garden, and growing victuals.”

  “They’ll grow without watching. We’ll keep them picked and dug.”

“I allus had a mind to live on a hill, not sunk in a holler where the fog and dust is damping and blacking. I was raised to like a lonesome place.  Can’t get used to a mess of womenfolks in and out, borrowing a dab and a pinch of this and that, never paying it back.  Men tromping sut on the floors, forever talking brash.”   

 “Notions don’t fill your belly nor kivre your back.” [responded the Father]

Few authors have captured as starkly the lives of families caught up in the economic conflicts of the industrialization of eastern Kentucky, as does Still in this classic novel.  The mining and timber exploitation of a region that was largely agrarian, fractured the lives of the rural families in the region.  James Still heard their stories first-hand for he spent most all his life within the folds of the hills of eastern Kentucky on Wolf Creek in Letcher County. He knew the lives of his neighbors and he heard their voices and sensed their dreams and he listened,  closely.  Very closely.

pmss0008Land cleared for mountain subsistence farming.

Pine Mountain continues to listen, as well.  As Pine Mountain looks back on its one-hundred year history it can take pride in its strong protection of the land; its commitment to the people of the region; and its understanding of the pragmatic life-style, the dreams and the work-ethic associated with labor close to the land.

Farming, food, community celebrations, and a strong commitment to the preservation and conservation of the natural resources of the southeastern Appalachians, eastern Kentucky, and Harlan County,  are integral to the on-going ethos of  Pine Mountain Settlement School. The activities associated with these core elements are part of the “educating for life” that continues to hold a fundamental place in its framework for the future.  As the School has evolved and re-shaped itself to the twenty-first century and as it has adjusted to increasingly rapid cultural surges forward, it shows every evidence of doing so with a solid foundation and values just as solid.

As this narrative, Dancing in the Cabbage Patch,  continues, it shares one story of Pine Mountain Settlement School.  There are many.  The essays are dialogues intended to contribute to and invite dialog regarding the most recent re-visioning processes at the School and more extensively in the eastern Kentucky region.  The narrative seeks to show how re-invention and the processes associated with it pay homage to and derive strength from historical commitments.  Like the warp of a loom, the narrative threads of history at the School continue to be a pragmatic and a demonstrably foundational dialog. The personal narratives continue as an unbroken warp within various communities of interest. The long narrative of the first one-hundred years is foundational to the next one-hundred.   Farming, food, celebration and a profound environmental awareness are shared experiences that are understood at a very basic level by the institution and the community, even as that community continues to grow and change.

In its new form this electronic narrative looks to the past, but it also looks forward with hope that the guiding principles of the school, “… will make a bright and intelligent people …” as Uncle William hoped. Pine Mountain Settlement School is only one-hundred years down the road, but if the first century of the journey is any measure,  the next many centuries will be even more exciting and rewarding if the values and the vision of all stake-holders can be shared and learned. It is ironic that coal sits as a fundamental contributor to the digital revolution.  The coal-fired plant fueled the electronic frontier and continues to do so today.  That Appalachia has been one of the last stops on that frontier, makes the coal relationship even more ironic. It seems fitting that Pine Mountain call these inequities to our attention and that we remind the lords of industry that their empires were built on the backs and resources of this unique region.

Farming, food, various celebrations, and conscious environmentalism, still serve to help sustain the school and its community, but it is the people, seen in many of the images in this web, or more accurately, weft, that give hope for the coming centuries. The resilience, determination, intelligence, and work ethic of the people in both the school and the community suggest that the future is bright and that the people of the valley of the Pine Mountain and beyond will continue to dance in the cabbage patch.

Just how Pine Mountain continues its commitment to community, how it protects and nurtures the land, how it expresses it joys and sorrows and how the people will respond to pressures outside the valley and the region, cannot be known.  But, is is very likely that farming, food, health, celebrations, and environmental education will continue to be integral to the settlement school mission and to the lives of those living in surrounding as well as virtual communities of interest.  It is also clear that those communities of interest are now, not just local, but are expanding rapidly to the global.

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Capturing a snapping turtle, children at Big Laurel, 1960’s. Friends & Neighbors – VI-51 –

Farming, food,  community celebrations, and conscious environmentalism have all become quite complicated by our modern life-styles, but as we all struggle to sort out how we will manage the “new-normal,” it may be instructive to look to the lessons found at Pine Mountain Settlement  School and  to imagine them practiced in a wider context.

 

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Students participating in the Environmental Education program at Pine Mountain, 2010

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Circle dance of students and staff on playground at Pine Mountain Settlement School, 1920’s. pmss001_bas098

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Children dancing on the playground at Pine Mountain Settlement School, 1990s.

How do we manage our resources?  How do we treat our neighbors?  How do we educate our children to respect nature? What lessons are there in working with our hands as well as our minds and hearts?  What is literacy?  Reading? Math? Computer skills? Visual literacy? Civic responsibility? How can we eat healthy? How can we grow responsible crops? How can we exercise, intelligently? How important are aesthetics to our well-being? How can we help to shape our life-style into quality of life? How can we better respect our natural environment? Speak out when our water resources are in peril? Stop the removal of our mountains? What does it mean to have quality of life? These are short questions with life long answers. To seek answers to these questions and more,  is the discovery of “educating for life” found at Pine Mountain School and in the surrounding community.

GO TO:  DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – IV – FARMING THE LAND

BACK: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH I – ABOUT

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH I About

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Blog:  DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH

ABOUT
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Dancing in the Cabbage Patch is a blog named for the photograph seen above.  It is a personal reflection on the history of one of the oldest continuing rural settlement schools in eastern Kentucky.

BEGINNING

Founded in 1913, Pine Mountain Settlement School is located in the mountains of eastern Kentucky in Harlan County.  It is one of several rural settlement schools influenced by the urban settlement movement that flourished in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth. The push in the mountains for “Community work,” following the Reconstruction era, brought many ideas and workers from the urban settlement houses and centers to the largely decentralized agrarian communities of the Southern Appalachians.  In the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia a robust rural settlement school movement took hold at the beginning of the twentieth-century.

A region of ridges and hollows, the long chain of mountains that comprise the Southern Appalachians were rich in natural resources but during the early twentieth-century the people who had settled the area were believed to be outside the accelerating industrial development of the country’s major cities.  Eastern Kentucky, in particular, lagged in development in many areas; social, economic, educational, and industrial skills. One of the objectives of the rural settlement movement in the Appalachians was to provide industrial training for people tucked away in the most remote corners of the region.

Supported by the early rural settlement movement, programs were initiated to ease the rural communities into the mainstream of America’s burgeoning industrialization but paradoxically the same movement sought to retain the isolation of the culture from  the perceived social ills of rapacious and rapid mechanization.   Workers in the early settlement schools danced an uneven course between unfamiliar cultural patterns and their own adaptation of a perceived culture that only needed to be “awakened.” The communities around the rural settlements of eastern Kentucky danced the “Running Set”, a fast-paced, energetic dance that generally had only the human voice to call out the moves.  It was a dance that echoed their lives.  Recreation had to be experienced quickly, guided by visual and auditory direction, for the patterns that shaped the lives of the mountain people was the seasonal life of subsistence farming.

Many of the workers who came to the isolated valleys and hollows promoted the isolation as a salvation from the evils of the industrial world by adopting a modified Arts and Craft Movement ethos. Others found a better balance through the introduction of many of the tenants of Progressive education, particularly through programs of civic-minded industrial training combined with a standard educational framework.  Pine Mountain Settlement School in these early years, charted a course somewhere between the two extremes.

In the region, many social service agencies, as well as church and charitable organizations developed institutions modeled on the early urban settlement movement, where plans were proposed to guide the area out of poverty and illiteracy by becoming a progressive presence in the community. Of these institutions Pine Mountain Settlement School, a uniquely non-sectarian institution introduced a powerful settlement school model for rural education and service that still inspires and is remarkably fresh when compared to contemporary trends in education and social services whether urban or rural.

The following topical essays contained in “Dancing in the Cabbage Patch,” reflect a personal journey and one not written to reflect the views of the current institution but to trace through personal reflection some of the highlights of Pine Mountain Settlement School during its 100-year history.

FORWARD

Perhaps overly romantic and nostalgic, the words “pastoral” and “bucolic” have often been used to describe Pine Mountain Settlement School. These words are most frequently used in the description of farmlands. Yet, in eastern Kentucky, generally, the farmland has often been described in disparaging terms, particularly by visitors to the region. Why this difference? The answers are complex.

The general perception of the land that comprises Pine Mountain Settlement School, in fact, stands in direct contrast to the observations of many of those who have written about Eastern Kentucky. The descriptive adjectives used for many Appalachian farms and sometimes its people often read “ravaged,” “uncultivated,” “disorganized,” “unkempt,” “scraggly,” “impoverished,” dirty, and other pejoratives that disparage any perception of beauty. Why is Pine Mountain “bucolic”, “lovely”, “peaceful”, “Shangrila”, “natures majestic garden” and on and on? Again, the reflections are complex.

Farming practice has always been central to the life of the Pine Mountain Settlement School and its surrounding communities.  Planning for the school was built upon the desire of William Creech to teach good farming practice as well as to educate students in an educational curriculum consistent with that offered to youth in other parts of the country. He saw these two objectives as joined in a reverence for the land and its people and progressive in its experimentation.

Farming at the School has a very long history and one that has been integrated into almost every program of the institution for over one-hundred years. While Pine Mountain Settlement has never been strictly a “farm school” it has had a long association with the production of food that nurtures body and mind.  Nature and nurture have always found a partnership at the school and were and are regularly celebrated in a variety of ways.

COMMUNITY CELEBRATION

Like farming, the celebratory events at the School play an integral role in the history of the institution. Like the cycles of agricultural life, community celebrations help to establish the ebb and flow of life at the School and map it to the rhythm of the community. Many annual events such as Community Fair Day, celebrated in the Fall and harvest time; the Nativity Play at Christmas marked the reflection afforded by winters seclusion;  May Day in the Spring and the school’s former annual Spring Dogwood Breakfast celebrated the rebirth of living things and the nurture they promise. All have their origins in a celebration of the seasons and are generally accompanied by food or by displays of the produce from local farming.

The celebrations, pageants, and plays are remembered fondly by many students who attended the school and many of these memories were or are associated with agrarian practice or with a foodway, or agricultural rhythm. These events were also linked to long traditions that the workers romanticized and tied to Anglo-Saxon heritage, pioneer life, the Pilgrims, self-sufficiency, and a myriad of other partial truths.

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May Day c 1920 – young children dressed in greenery for the celebration.

Whether performed for entertainment, for educating, or for the celebration of special people, event, time or place, the festivities at the School provided an opportunity for a connection with both the past and the future of the institution.

In the surrounding community past and present are equally revered but future rarely intruded into daily community conversation. Like dreams, the future was held close like some shining city on the hill or in the hereafter. Today, the community of promise seems even further away in conversation and practice as celebrations have steadily declined and as economic despair has increased.  The tightly woven fabric of the community began to tatter in the tangled ideals of the War on Poverty and in the reality of an economy that failed to diversify.

Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Robin Hood’s adventures, the Mikado, HMS Pinafore, the Cooperative Store skits, the Kangawa play, Halloween, the carrying in of the Yule Log, the simple dialog of the Nativity Play — all gave early students the opportunity to don costumes and assume other personalities and to imagine themselves in other lives, other countries and other times. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace …” was found written on the wall of a humble mountain cabin.  It is a quote from the Bible, but it is also a well-known quote from the annual Nativity Play at Pine Mountain.

The early institutional celebrations allowed the staff workers to gather and renew their friendships on the campus and were celebrations that brought the school and the community together in cooperative celebration. What was carried away would be or could be life-changing.

PHOTOGRAPHS AND PUBLICATIONS

The PHOTOGRAPHS from Pine Mountain document and celebrate many of the events at the School and the community while also capturing some of the most compelling images of institutional and community life in early rural Appalachia.  There are intimate portraits of Appalachian families at work and at play. There are scrapbooks by settlement school workers who gathered their visual memories and left them for the school to ponder their aggregation.  There are official collections of promotional photographs that sought to convey a particular image of the institution for calendars and brochures.  There are many overlaps and duplicates in the images across the many collections.  Sharing was always part of Pine Mountain’s culture. And, there are many months and years of lives in the photographs and mementos gathered in the scrapbooks, travelogues, and albums. The photographic images also capture the essence of the School as it grew and changed.

Music and dance, folk craft, mountain vernacular architecture, clothing, farm techniques and implements, food and food preparation, and many more themes may be found in the photographs and publications that were created over the life of the School and shared within the institution and with the communit.ies of interest  Some of the most compelling images are those of the workers and students as they danced … and danced … and danced some more.pmss001_bas098

As the educational programs changed and grew and as the current Environmental Education programs evolved, the photographs and publications about the School capture the shift in the scale of farming, the use of the land and the growing awareness of the preciousness of the natural environment.  In today’s technological world this preciousness is even more compelling. The photographs and publications are celebrations of the people as well as of the land.  Together, the land and the people provide what many call a “sense of place.”

FOODWAYS

Perhaps nowhere is the sense of place captured better, or traced more intimately than in the transition of food-ways at the institution.  Change may be observed in the narratives and the photographs when annual events were either down-sized or were, in some cases eliminated. The relationship between the land and the foodways of the people who shared the land may be clearly seen as food, events, and farming intermingle and wax and wane.

For example, May Day and Dogwood Breakfast, two spring-time events were eliminated from the annual calendar shortly after the closure of the boarding school in 1949.  After the closure of the boarding school the intimate community of the School began to fragment, as workers lived off-site, the tasks of the school became overwhelming with no students to crew the many jobs. The focus on agriculture declined. The many changes at the School reflected a shift in the general sense of community in both the central institution and also in the community at large. The numbers of staff at the school declined over the years and many workers came for short stays or had little knowledge or connection to the historical campus. Foodways changed as the more processed food was easily attainable and preparation of locally harvested food diminished.

In the community, the events in nearby urban centers such as Harlan, or other urban centers such as Hazard or Cumberland, or even distant Lexington, began to pull families away from the immediate community life of the Pine Mountain Valley. kingman_092b The isolation of the region was slowly but dramatically altered by roads, particularly THE ROAD, Laden Trail, across Pine Mountain, which the Settlement School sponsored with Harlan County and the State of Kentucky. Though the road was slow in its construction, it radically changed live in the isolated valley. New roads opened the region for an ebb and flow of new cultural ideas and life-styles.

Soldiers returning from WWI  and especially WWII, shifted the cultural climate even more. Film, television, and today multimedia and digital media and other entertainment and communication tools continue to contribute to the fracture of community cohesion. The reliance on immediate communication can now be acutely felt at the school as visitors roam the campus for “hot-spots” to keep in cell-phone contact with family, friends or business. Visitors often feel both in place and out-of-place … caught between past and future in the remote location.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMMING

With the full implementation of the Environmental Education program in the 1970s, older programs at the school shifted from a focus on hands-on agricultural management of the campus land resources to an educational understanding of the broader concepts of the total natural environment and its cooperative management.  The farm became garden and the devolution to subsistence farming could not be missed on those who remembered the farming years. Quickly, the new environmental consciousness of the 1960s and 1970s aligned with K-12 educational science standards found in the public school curricula and environmental education programs began to evolve. Pine Mountain School quickly realized the importance of its history and geography to the new environmental movement and began to give formal shape to its educational program..  Pine Mountain saw its opportunity to be a leader in the field of environmental education and was, in fact,  one of the first such programs in the state of Kentucky.  Today, the environmental programs at the School remain a model of environmental education while keeping pace with the growing national educational environmentalism and awareness. Global warming and other man-made environmental crises are giving special urgency to environmental education and not just to K-12. Throughout the world there is a growing struggle to find ways to address the complexity of environmental education for everyone.

Yet, Pine Mountain will always carry an environmental lesson. Whether “jitterbugging” in the local streams, or waltzing across a ridge-top, or learning to tango with a rapid thunderstorm, the dances with nature at the School have proven to be endless and sustainable and educational.

HEAD, HANDS, HEART AND EYES OF THE PHOTOGRAPH

PHOTOGRAPHS have always been important to the School. What the photographers at Pine Mountain selected to photograph documents the change in the community as well as larger cultural shifts. While the photographs capture the essence of the lifestyle of the age, they also suggest the personal interest of the photographers as they experienced their cultural context. The visual record, the photograph and certainly the individuals in the photograph, capture what the local culture saw as it looked back at the many cameras and photographers. The tensions are almost palpable in the distance between camera, subject, and photographer.  Both palpable and frozen, the many images taken at the school and in the community graphically capture  photographer, image and subject as they instantly interact —  their gazes joined, the landscape stilled and quiet, a thousand questions unanswered — just as it is in one blink of life.

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Visitors from Viet Nam in the classroom at PMSS, 1950s. [pmss_0037]

Photographs are remarkable vehicles for primary source information and their visual content opens for the teacher, researcher, and the viewer a variety of windows into other times and other lives. The potential contributions of Pine Mountain Settlement School’s photographs to Appalachian cultural research are extraordinary. One has to wonder if the young boy in the photograph above might have ended up in Viet Nam in the 1970s and what would he remember of this early encounter?

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Community family near PMSS. [Friends & Neighbors – VI-51 ]

Mary Rogers, wife of Burton Rogers, one of the Directors of the School, wrote in the “Preface” of the Pine Mountain Album – 1913-1963, prepared for the 50th anniversary of the School:

“Most of us are so busy trying to do what must be done today, and planning ahead to what needs to be done tomorrow that we have little time to look back to the things which happened yesterday. But we are celebrating an anniversary, the 50th anniversary of Pine Mountain Settlement School, and so we will turn to the past — get out the old album and look at the pictures.

It’s a funny thing, looking at old pictures. They don’t show the things that matter most: Uncle William’s craving that his people might grow better; Miss Pettit’s dedication to bringing help to the mountains; Mrs. Zande’s high standards and loving understanding of people; Mr. Morris’ dynamic energy; the different gifts brought by hundreds of workers over the years.

Nor do they show the important things in a student’s life: the moments of courage; the hours of service; the growth in understanding; the vivid enjoyment of life; the deepening love for a place and its people; and sometimes the realization that the source of all things is the Love of God. All the same, let’s look at the pictures, some faded and old-fashioned, but taken because someone wanted to “keep” something from the past, and let us try and read into them the things for which they stand.”
                                                                                            Mary Rogers, 1963

Another fifty years and more have now been added to the visual history of the School. Together, the photographs, the documents, the scrapbooks, the books and the vast natural and built environment of the school, form a rich educational classroom that is unexcelled in the Central Appalachians.  In 2013 Pine Mountain celebrated its 100th Anniversary. One-hundred years of “Dancing in the Cabbage Patch.”

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