Pine Mountain Settlement School Series: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Books and Horses
BOOKS AND HORSES AND PLACE
In 1941 the Co-op Program was a well-tested and central part of the educational curriculum at Pine Mountain Settlement School. As an important part of the progressive curriculum, it was a community outreach program that included many aspects of the popular WPA librarians on horseback or packhorse librarians initiative.
In addition to bringing books and magazines to the surrounding Community, the Pine Mountain Settlement program also checked on the health and well-being of the families it served. Many of the visits were in countrysides so rugged that the only means of reaching the home was to travel along streambeds or over roadless mountains. Horses and mules were the only viable transportation. The visits of the Co-op students and often their staff monitors were eagerly anticipated in the homes and they opened the way for families to connect to the Pine Mountain Settlement School and for the School to expand its services.
While the program was conceived under the direction of Glyn Morris, the young Settlement School Director, it was not implemented until the mid-1930s and ended in 1949. While not unique in the many mountain programs of Librarians on Horsebackt, it touched the lives of many children and their families. While established for very pragmatic and often life support reasons, the idea of young women on horseback traveling through difficult mountain terrain, in the rain, sleet, and snow also had a romantic over-tone.
Perhaps it is the romantic notion of a young girl and her horse facing the world together that appealed. In older generations, the story of Black Beauty still lingers with romantic nostalgia. Perhaps it is the Kentucky horse ambiance. Whatever the inspiration, the stories surrounding the workers and “librarians” who participated in the packhorse program have, in recent years, begun to proliferate. The reasons for the recent uptick in interest in the WPA Librarians on Horseback are many. But, the message, one of service, sacrifice, selflessness, and literacy is important to any generation.
The many selfless hours spent doing community work by women while dependent on the courage and coordination of a horse has far more practical lessons than many contemporary children’s book themes. Further, getting lost in the imagination while on the pages of a book seems far more productive than the passive clicking on electronic media.
A new book has just been published by Little Bee Books, written by noted children’s author Emma Carlson Berne, and illustrated by Italian artist Ilaria Urbinati. It fires up the reader’s imagination. What is so very special about this delightful book is that it is written for and about rural children who are often more removed from libraries. The rural in this case is based on conversations with people from the Pine Mountain Settlement School and the valley is in one of the most remote areas of Eastern Kentucky.
The book quickly brings the reader into a very accessible tale of Edith, the young “Librarian” who sets off to deliver books while riding Dan, her trusted horse. As the story gallops along, it is sprinkled with local references such as pawpaw pudding, mountain springs, a fierce and unexpected thunderstorm, and even a familiar mountain family name, “Caudill.” The possible nod to Caudill is perhaps an oblique recognition of noted Appalachian children’s author, Rebecca Caudill, a winner of the National Young Reader’s Award and also a Newberry Honor Book in 1950. Caudill was a frequent visitor of the Pine Mountain Settlement
The second delight in Berne’s book are the beautiful illustrations by Italian artist Ilaria Urbinati. Ilaria, who lives in Turin on the northern mountainous edge of Italy, has captured the dual nature of mountain living with its beauty and its danger. Her images nearly gallop off the page with energy that competently matches the romping narrative. While Edith looks a bit like a modern Pippi Longstockings, the artist has captured the energy of horseback riding and of the fearlessness of so many Appalachian girls in their native mountains. The author and illustrator have both grasped many of the natural obstacles that the women on horseback often faced in delivering their “libraries.”
Edith, the librarian in this little book, as Berne explains in her Author’s Note, is not the typical urban librarian that families may know in their city and town settings. She’s a very special librarian, and one that historically existed in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Edith, like the other “librarians” that were often called “Packhorse Librarians” in the WPA (Works Progress Administration 1935-43) offering, was special. In the Appalachian region, young girls were often hired from the local community to fill the librarian role. They knew the mountains, the weather, the dangers that come with the rugged countryside, and the lives of the isolated families.
In her notes, Emma Berne places the story within the genre of WPA Packhorse Librarians in the Appalachians, but she makes the nature of the program locally intimate in her description of the mountain librarian, as well universal in the bravery of women generally. She describes how her local interviews and personal background helped her to shape her story. What she offers up is an inspiring and beautifully illustrated tale that will capture the imagination of young children of both genders, will enchant the parent reader, and bring the public into close contact with rural America.
Pine Mountain thanks Emma for her interest in the Settlement School and for the inclusion of interviews in the region while developing her book. This book is highly recommended for all libraries. While other reviewers have pointed out that the book is “White”, suggesting that it was purposeful in excluding people of color, they have most likely not traveled in the most remote regions of Appalachia. Yet, it is a book that gives dignity to all peoples, particularly rural America, and which is independent of race, ethnicity, and class.
Pine Mountain Settlement School DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Sheep Shearing and Cecil Sharp
0046a P. Roettinger Album.”Sheep Shearing, Uncle John Shell, Aunt Sis Shell, and Mrs. Joe Day.” c.1920s [Woman standing next to a barn on left, watching man and woman sheer a sheep.]
TAGS: sheep shearing, Cecil Sharp, sheep, sheep flocks, dreaming of sheep, sheep in history, sheep in song, Uncle John Shell, Aunt Sis Shell, Mrs. Joe Day, George Pullen Jackson
SHEEP SHEARING and CECIL SHARP (Say that fast!)
It is not likely that Cecil Sharp (1859-1924), the British musicologist, ever sheared a sheep. But, he was, in any case, a close observer of the ruminants and probably an even closer critic of their bleets and baahs! Nonetheless, what Cecil Sharp has left to the history of sheep is a unique auditory trail that helps to re-trace the prevalence of sheep within the rich agrarian history of Great Britain and in the American Appalachian mountains.
When musicologist Sharp sat on the porch of Old Far House at Pine Mountain Settlement School in Kentucky and watched the Kentucky Running Set as it was performed by students and staff, he was watching the well-trained legs that probably had chased a sheep or two up the Pine Mountain and down. Tending sheep is an active job and the energy of that Kentucky Running set is just a short measure of the energy that is needed to maintain a sheep flock in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.
SHEEP IN APPALACHIA AND BORDERLAND CULTURE
in the early years of the Central Appalachians, in the small hillside farms, it was a celebration when lambs arrived and again when wool was sheared. In the far-off “lands across the sea,” as Uncle William Creech, a founder of Pine Mountain Settlement used to say, many Europeans were continuing similar agrarian practices, particularly those people of the so-called “Borderlands,” that narrow bridge of land between Scotland and England. This region has long been associated with the early settlers of the Central Appalachians. The European Borderland customs and agrarian practices lingered on in many of the immigrant ancestors found in the Appalachians. In fact, they formed one of the largest immigrant groups living deep in the Appalachian mountains.
The raising of sheep was built into the early Appalachian pioneer imperative. Like so many of the customs familiar to the European immigrants from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, and also those from other points of origin with agrarian roots, sheep were fundamental to survival. As an international livelihood, sheep flocks and along with those of goats are closely tied to the stories of agrarian cultures.
CECIL SHARP, SHEEP, AND SONGS
What Cecil Sharp added to sheep history was the discovery and transcription of an English folk song that no doubt flowed from the music and lives of early sheep farmers. While his discovery was not in the Borderlands but was probably in the Norfolk area of England, it captured the centrality of sheep to everyday agrarian life.
When Cecil Sharp made his journey to America and eventually to Appalachia he wove the common elements together. Other song and ballad collectors preceded Cecil Sharp, but few had his broad recognition. When Sharp identified the British elements found in Appalachian songs and ballads he opened the flood-gates to other musicologists to marry Appalachia to “Merri Old England.”
While Sharp was interested in the music, the music held a history that was less obvious. This is the relationship of the music to agrarian practice. While the growing obsession with “Merri Old England” in early twentieth-century America assured a close historical musical bond it also revealed something of the common agrarian practices. The catchy alliteration of Sharp’s collected songs underlines the importance of sheep in the daily lives of agrarian Europeans and their ancestors in the Appalachians. Alliteration and all its musical overtones came naturally to the early oral culture of England and Appalachia. Mother Goose rhymes such as “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers … etc. ” is well known on both sides of the Atlantic as are many other ditties. But, just try saying “Cecil Sharp and sheep-shearing,” and see what lyrical lapses leap from your tongue and fix on your memory. Songs of shearing sheep are not at all uncommon, especially in families with a weaving willfulness — a trait that springs from sheep-herders and that abounds in the mountains of the Central Appalachians and across the world. Our first school yards were the pastures of the world.
COUNTING SHEEP AND DREAMING
Even as we sleep, we are not far from the sheep pasture. It is no small wonder that when we speak of dreaming, we also often speak of “counting sheep.” There is a very practical origin for that numerical association. It was the duty of the herdsman to know the number of sheep in his herd. It was a daily practice. Counting sheep is deeply etched into the fabric of descendants of sheep-herders and deep in the historical agrarian psyche. We have been counting sheep for as long as we have joined our lives with the practice of raising sheep and other herds of animals. Sheep have been a part of our history as a country from the beginning of European settlement and have had considerable influence on our practical and formal education. At one time Kentucky led the nation in the number of sheep. For Kentuckians, that is a lot of counting and a lot of dreaming.
Yet, Cecil Sharp was a collector of songs, not sheep, nor wool though he shows all the instincts of a weaver, dreamer, and numerator. He began his collecting of folk ballads in the English countryside. There, it was inevitable that he would encounter a myriad of sheep and those who tended them. Those country sheep herders had a deep association with alliterative language and ballads and ditties. Some references to sheep were sure to appear, and they did.
The song that Sharp recorded on his journey to Norfolk was one that succinctly captures sheep and their shepherds. That ballad from his song-gathering encounters, was published in a small book he edited called 100 English Folk Songs [ published by Oliver Ditson Co., Theo. Presser Co. Distributors, Philadelphia, 1916].
SONGS FOR ALL TIME [Songs of All Time]
One of the songs in Sharp’s collection found its way into another small book of collected folk songs. The Songs for All Time printed at Pine Mountain Settlement School was issued by the Council of Southern Mountain Workers c. 1946, and was intended to be a resource for “recreation material in the Highland [Appalachian Highlands] area.” It was a utilitarian collection of songs for social gatherings that is largely dependent on the rich oral tradition of the Appalachian region and that contained many familiar tropes that would be recognized in Great Britain. The Foreword tells us that
The contents, folk songs for the most part, were compiled by a committee which has made practical use of them with singing groups. Where tunes and words depend on oral tradition, innumerable versions usually exist — some of them perhaps better than [the] variants included. There is no version which can be called the correct one, but the committee has chosen those which it has found satisfactory in the light of their lasting qualities and the ease with which they can be learned. Modal melodies are not always easy to introduce to those unfamiliar with such music, but practically all songs included have been put to the proof: given a little time and repetition they “sing well” and become dear to the heart of the singer.
Song For All Times [Songs of All Time], Copyright, 1946, by Cooperative Recreation Service, (Forward). [4 editions published in 1946 in English and Undetermined and held by 29 WorldCat member libraries worldwide.]
On the back of the booklet, Songs For All times, there appears a short essay by George Pullen Jackson, an American musicologist, and educator. Pullen was a pioneer in the field of Southern (U.S.) hymnody and popularized the spurious term “white spirituals” to describe “fasola“* singing. [*fasola= harp singing or shape-note singing] Pullen says
…Sing, preferably your own songs, brother. Live your own song life and be proud of it. Don’t let the I-dont’-know-a-thing-about-music complex trouble you. Don’t let the processed and canned music lower your musical morale. If you are a mature person, re-learn and re-sing the songs of your childhood and youth. (You’ll be surprised at the large admixture of genuine folk songs among your remembered ditties.)
George Pullen Jackson, comment from Songs for All Times [Songs of All Time]
What George Pullen Jackson sensed was the power of music to heal and make joyful the day when it is pulled from routine experiences and even more when it is derived from a shared experience. The shearing of sheep and other communal activities of pioneer families brings home the satisfaction of sharing with neighbors the sometimes daunting tasks that an agrarian life demanded. Further, Jackson in his remarks shares with Cecil Sharp the understanding of the healing power of song as it is remembered across all time and as it derives from the common stories of living.
While there is no direct knowledge of the following song appearing in the original musical repertoire of the Central Appalachians, the sentiment would clearly have resonated with the mountaineers. The Sheep-Shearing, was collected by Cecil Sharp in his 100 English Folk Songs for a good reason. He described it as “very popular among English country folk” and “in existence before 1760.” His sensitive ear could also, no doubt, frame the picture evoked by the lyrics in this and in his other collected songs
How delightful to see, In these evenings in Spring, The sheep going home to the fold.
The master doth sing, As he views everything, And his dog goes before him where told, And his dog goes before him where told.
The sixth month of the year, In the month called June, When the weather’s too hot to be borne, The master doth say, As he goeth on his way: “Tomorrow my sheep shall be shorn, “Tomorrow my sheep shall be shorn.”
Now as for those sheep, They’re delightful to see, They’re a blessing to a man on his farm. For the flesh it is good, It’s the best of all food, And the wool it will clothe us up warm, And the wool it will clothe us up warm.
Now the sheep they are all shorn, And the wool carried home, Here’s a health to our master and flock: And if we should stay, Until the last go away, I’m afraid ’twill be past twelve o’clock, I’m afraid t’will be past twelve o’clock.
Cecil Sharp, 100 English Folk Songs, …”In existence before 1760.”
Pine Mountain Settlement School Series: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Trees Helen Hayes Wykle EARTH DAY April 22, 2021
TAGS: trees, Katherine Pettit, Leon Deschamps, forest ecology, William Tye, poetry, edge habitats, logging, preservation, timber inventories, land dispossession, Steven Stoll, Lucy Braun, oak trees, Perfect Acre, edge habitats, Speculation Land Company, Tench Coxe, William Morris, North Carolina, archives,
THE SOVEREIGN TREES
It would be difficult to ignore a tree at Pine Mountain. Like many students, they have personalities and carry memories and there are so many of them! Like great sovereigns, they fill the valley with fragile green in Spring and a brilliant dance of color in Fall. They are remembered as favorite courting markers, their roots a resting place for an outdoor barber, their leaves an endless work task, and their loud trunk-fall a cause for awe. Walking into the forest is almost always a topic of excitement and sometimes a poem and a reminder of how much we have in common with trees.
When students at Pine Mountain were asked to compose essays or poems in their English classes, or to write a scientific analysis, trees often figured into the picture. For example this poem by Pine Mountain School student William Tye found it’s way into Mountain Life and Work in the Spring of 1947
All about me stately oak trees Send their sprawling branches upward: Sovereign they stand O’er trees about them. Yet drab they look, standing leafless, While other trees Of less dimension Proudly display their Easter garments. But their assets are but folly: For these trees which now so gaily Show forth their beauty And rejoice in their appearance — Theirs shall be the destruction. They shall but feed the soil On which the oak tree thrives, While waxing mightier By their destruction The oak tree stands Sovereign still.
William Tye. Mountain Life and Work, Spring 1947, p. 12.
When the European settlers came to America in the late 16th Century they left countries that had waged wars against trees as the population grew into the surrounding forests. The Native Americans, on the other hand, had a well-established and comfortable history born of respect for their surrounding forests. William Cronan, in his informative discussion of the changes that occurred in the land when the colonists arrived, tells it this way
“… the edge habitats once maintained by Indian fires tended to return to forest as Indian populations declined. but edge environments were also modified or reduced — and on a much larger scale — by clearing, an activity to which English settlers, with their fixed property boundaries, devoted far more concentrated attention than had the Indians. Whether edges became forests or fields, the eventual consequences were the same: to reduce — or sometimes, as with European livestock, to replace — the animal populations that had once inhabited them. The disappearance of deer, turkey, and other animals thus betokened not merely a new hunting economy but a new forest ecology as well. “
Cronon, William. Changes to the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1983, 2003, p. 108.
Katherine Pettit, one of the founders of Pine Mountain Settlement School, and a re-born colonist and a die-hard Colonial Dame, aspired to or imagined herself to be following in the footsteps of her European ancestors — sovereigns of another sort. Pettit may never have composed a poem to a tree (I would love to find one!) and she had a somewhat tenuous relationship to the surrounding forest. I say, “somewhat,” because she had both enormous respects for trees while she warily “politicked” — an activity designed to continue to encourage donations from the growing timber and mining industries. To many who still seek to understand her, she remains a walking enigma in her early years at Pine Mountain Settlement.
When Pettit arrived at Pine Mountain and saw the surrounding forest, she was enchanted and she was appalled. Giant chestnut trees were still in abundance. The mighty oaks were not yet being harvested in great number for the barrel staves of Blue Grass liquor, but timber for mine roofing supports was picking up and timber was being negotiated away the steep slopes of the Pine Mountain and the Black Mountain, along with any sale or transfer of land that could be negotiated.
On the other hand, maples were being regularly tapped for maple syrup by the community and giant poplars were being felled to build her new School buildings. The modest cabins in the hollows and along the stream banks on the Northside of the long Pine Mountain melted into the rural countryside and both charmed and apalled Pettit. The use of trees by Community and School were often marvels of ingenuity. Hickory bark was being pulled from young hickory trees to provide bottoms for chairs, baskets, and tilt-top tables. White oak shakes (shingles) were still being reeved with hand tools for the roofs of cabins. Trees were being planted and strategically removed throughout the new School site. Under Pettit’s supervision, trees were being managed and monitored.
PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL TIMBER TRACT INVENTORY 1921
Forest management was monitored by Pettit and managed by her farmers and her new forester, Leon Deschamps. One of the earliest inventories of the timber tracts at Pine Mountain Settlement was completed c. 1921 by Deschamps, a native Belgian and the forester hired by Pettit and her staff to oversee both the forest and the farm at the School through the early 1920’s. What the Deschamp inventory shows is a healthy forest on the 119.48 acre inventoried tract. The School forest was a forest comprised of the standard timber resources of the day: maple, basswood, chestnut, white oak, red oak, poplar, beech, cucumber, hemlock, hickory, buckeye, ash, black walnut, and black gum, in the amounts indicated below
Deschamps advised Pettit that not more than 200 Board Foot Measurement (BFM) were to be removed per acre per year and further advised that if there were large trees on the acre (what he described as “over mature”) that up to 400 BFM “could be removed without injury.”
Deschamps then provided a ten-year plan for management that included the lot to be cut and the Block (I, II, III) . He adds
In 1921 lot 2 Block II was clear cut, this operation was necessary owing to the bad shape the forest had been left in after the previous logging operations conducted a few years ago. (A few more trees will be removed from this lot but not before 1926).
During his years as the forester at Pine Mountain, Deschamps went on to create what he called the “ Perfect Acre.” It is was a small demonstration plot just behind the Chapel at the School. Today it bears little resemblance to Deschamp’s original plot as many of the trees have been removed when they over-grew the perimeter of the Chapel roof. The older trees created complex moisture issues for the backside of the Chapel and the potential for roof damage due to falling limbs and the near trees were “weeded out” of the Perfect Acre. It is difficult to know how Deschamps would have felt about this “weeding”.
In a letter from Pettit to Leon Deschamps. Just three years after the creation of the plot and after Deschamps had left the employee of the School, Pettit was fretting about the acre. Without the watchful eye of Deschamps, the little plot was causing concern. Miss Pettit with her usual demanding tone, asks Deschamp to give her some direction. Leon Deschamps had left the School in 1923 following his marriage to May Ritchie, one of the famous Singing Family of the Cumberlands Ritchies. The couple had moved to John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina where he had assumed a variety of responsibilities, including farmer, forester, and architect. Pettit’s letter pleads for guidance in dealing with the weeds on the site
July 2, 1928 Dear Mr. Deschamps: You remember you told me never to go into the Perfect Acre, and do one single thing, unless you told me to. There is so much underbrush now, especially ironweed, that I believe something ought to be done about it. We have done a pretty good job getting rid of the ironweed on this place, and are at work now on dock and ragweed.
When I asked Mr. Browning if he could give a day’s work to getting the ironweed out of the perfect acre, he reminded me again of your orders. Now, if you have any further directions, please tell me. …
We don’t have Leon Deschamp’s answer to Pettit, but it is certain that he had recommendations.
While the charm of the view out the back windows of the Chapel continues to be beautiful, and we don’t have the privilege of knowing what Deschamps replied to Pettit, nor have we photographs of the early “Perfect Acre”, the remnants of the perfect plot are still there. The anxious question from Pettit signals how rapidly the forest and the field can over-take the land and the vigilance needed to maintain the acreage at the Pine Mountain Settlement became a point of concern. An image of the plot today can be seen below. .
KATHERINE PETTIT AND EMMA LUCY BRAUN
What we can discern from the brief exchanges we have gathered regarding the “Perfect Acre” is that Deschamp, the forester, and William Tye, the poet, were both passionate about trees and that Pettit was a responsible and a respecting steward. We also know that Katherine Pettit seems to have grown into her environmental conscience. At the end of her life became a vocal and energetic defender of trees. Her end-of-life advocacy for stands of virgin timber in Eastern Kentucky is well documented. She joined forces with her friend, the well-known environmentalist Emma Lucy Braun, to save the dwindling ‘big trees” of the area. Through Pettit’s efforts and those of Lucy Braun and others, many of Kentucky’s finest stands of timber and largest trees may be found in the south-eastern counties of Kentucky. See Big Trees.
THE SCRAMBLE FOR APPALACHIA
During the first two decades of Pine Mountain Settlement School, there were other forces at work in the forests at Pine Mountain. These forces had started their push against nature much earlier. Many of these depredations are still at work. Author, Steven Stoll, in his landmark study of the ecological dispossession of the Southern Appalachian mountains, traced several paths that he and others believe led to massive take-downs of virgin forest across the region. In his book, Ramp Hollow: the ordeal of Appalachia, (2018) Stoll is focused on western Pennsylvania and on West Virginia, but his observations encompass the Central Appalachians and call attention to threats that continue to emerge in the forests of the region.
By tracing the history of the Appalachian region from the seventeenth century to the twentieth, and by exploring the idea of the history of *enclosure as a part of the history of capitalism in the region, Stoll leads his readers on a worrisome journey. It’s a journey through the early Colonial exploitation of forests to the later clear-cutting and destruction of the Appalachian forests. In his well-written exploration of the subject, he highlights the ravages of clear-cutting.
Specifically, he explores the eventual dependency of many mountain households on the ecological base of the surrounding forests and ties that cultural relationship and its ecological threads to later practices of timber harvest. It is the interwoven practices of poor timber stewardship and no timber stewardship that he contends contributes to the ongoing saga of what he calls destructive dispossession. It is dispossession not unlike that which happened with coal.
This mercenary scramble for Appalachia as described by Stoll is compelling.
… An army could invade [Appalachia] but never dominate the mountains. Capital moved differently. It acted through individuals and institutions. It employed impersonal laws and the language of progress. Mountain people knew how to soldier and hunt, to track an animal or an enemy through the woods. But few of them could organize against an act of the legislature or to stop a clear-cut. The scramble built upon these vulnerabilities, but it did not happen all at once. The first thing it required was a conversion in the ownership and uses of the land.
Stoll, Steven. Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia, New York: Farrer and Strause, 2017, p.130-131.
The conversion to dispossession came early in the Appalachian mountains in the form of land grants and very early purchases by wealthy speculators. These early mountain real estate “deals” are still being fought over and litigated. While much of the race to own land as a form of capital was quite early, the sale and re-sale and poor record tracking resulted in decades of litigation. A classic example of the practice of land speculation can be found in the so-called Speculation Lands tracts owned by Tench Coxe, his partners and successors in the state of North Carolina. The Coxe empire that spread throughout Western North Carolina and eventually encompassed over 144,000 acres sheds considerable light on the questionable race to “disposes” by any and all means. Records from the large Speculation Lands Company are held by the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Appalachian State, and at Chapel Hill and together they represent an instructive example of the “dispossession” process.
Tench Coxe (May 22, 1755 – July 17, 1824) was an American political economist and a delegate for Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress in 1788–1789. His skills at dispossession were well known during his lifetime. It is telling that he was known to his political opponents as “Mr. Facing Bothways.” As assistant to Alexander Hamilton the Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington, Coxe was an “insider.” He was also no new-comer to the monetizing of land-holdings. The cycle of his speculation centered on timber and minerals and strategies to dispossess as many landholders as possible in the far reaches of western North Carolina.
One of his partners was Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who unlike, Coxe and his successors, pushed his “speculation” (another word for dispossession) beyond his means and ended up in debtor’ prison. Speculators such as Coxe, Morris, Blount, in Tennessee, and earlier even George Washington in Kentucky, set the bar for land speculation. Coxe and partners began their empire by borrowing money (some $9,000) in order to purchase land at .09 cents an acre. The land held in Western North Carolina was over the years passed along to other investors who continued the process of dispossession and a long cycle of litigation that was not completed until the late 1920s and involved investors in England and in France. The dispossession is still going on. In Kentucky, the land and timber saga has much the same narrative and can be traced in the activity of surveyors, landowners, and speculators.
It is likely that Katherine Pettit sensed this history would be written. Late in her life she returned to trees. Like old friends, she embraced them and joined with well-known environmentalist Emma Lucy Braun to spend many of her last years fighting to save the remaining patriarchs of the forests in Kentucky and Ohio.
As this Pine Mountain student reminds us about the presence of trees
All about me stately oak trees Send their sprawling branches upward: Sovereign they stand O’er trees about them. Yet drab they look, standing leafless, While other trees Of less dimension Proudly display their Easter garments.……
Pine Mountain Settlement School Series 11: FARM Series: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH hhw 2021-09-13
414 Two men standing and holding two bottles of what is surely moonshine [?]
TAGS: Dr. Henry Mixter Penniman, moonshine, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, W.C.T.U, Frances Beauchamp, Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs, Katherine Pettit, May Stone, Ethel de Long, Henry Mixter Penniman, Michael McGeer, Abner Boggs, Bish Boggs, Lucy Furman, Percy McKaye, John Fox Jr., William G. Frost, moonshine stills, kettles,
Moonshine was not a favored drink of mountain settlement workers, but it was certainly a favorite topic of conversation and generated many a tall tale within and without the School and the Appalachian community. The stories about moonshiners, moonshine stills, brushes with revenuers, and competition between distillers, were often collected and repeated by workers, the community, and visitors to eastern Kentucky and other locations in the Central and Southern Appalachians. These tales abound in staff letters, diaries, and scrapbooks in the Pine Mountain Settlement School archive.
When Katherine Pettit founded Hindman Settlement School with May Stone in 1902, near the small town of Hyden in Knott County, Kentucky, she was under the blessings of the W.C.T.U, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union but she was privately following the national trend toward Progressivism. While the two may seem to cancel one another out, they were strange companions in the opening years of the twentieth century.
By 1910 and in the following years the term progressive was commonly used in a variety of political ways. [*See: Michael McGeer. A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 2003] Hindman, in 1902, was in the mainstream of the progressive Settlement Movement but it was also under the influence of the other national trend, that is the WCTU or the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
The WCTU provided funds for Hindman during its first thirteen years but the relationship soon began to unravel as the progressive ideas of Jane Addams and many of her colleagues saturated in progressive idealism did not play well with the WCTU. At the risk of the loss of funding from the WCTU, the women in Eastern Kentucky’s settlements held steady for the early institutional years as the WCTU funding comprised a considerable amount of the school’s operational budget.
During these WCTU early years, Pettit and Stone were bolstered by the Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs and a close friendship with Frances Beauchamp, the Kentucky president of the WCTU. With this strong but disparate support, Pettit and Stone mounted a vigorous campaign to eradicate alcoholism through a program of education that focused on social and moral reform and scientific agriculture. But, Pettit and Stone and their Women’s Club friends were not hatchet carriers like Carrie Nation. They believed that reform started from within and not from without. The emphasis placed on health work that Pettit learned at Hindman carried over into her work and programs at Pine Mountain.
Following the departure of Katherine Pettit to Pine Mountain in 1913, the funding from the W.C.T.U at Hindman dwindled and the school experienced several disastrous fires that added to their woes. In 1915, two years after Pettit departed, Hindman experienced a “Broadening Out,” as they described it and the name of the institution was formally changed from the W.C.T.U Settlement to the Hindman Settlement School. The name change came just as prohibition began to be a hot political debate in the state of Kentucky and as the Progressive movement rose in favoritism. Frances Beauchamp, President of the Kentucky WCTU and a friend of Pettit, was soon the object of considerable “mudslinging” as described by Jess Stoddart in her well-researched history The Story of Hindman Settlement School, (Stoddart 2002, p.82.)
While references to the W.C.T.U school disappeared in the wake of the political battles of Prohibition, the settlement at Hindman also was charting a new and progressive educational course. Angered by the perceived retrenchment from prohibition, some significant donors pulled their support for the school. All the while, moonshine did not go away. It continued to light the midnight production of corn liquor and the revenue continued to support families who lived on the economic margins of society. Moonshine, after all, was a very persuasive form of social capital not unlike that seen in many parts of the world — not just Appalachia.
Like Hindman, the relationship of Pine Mountain to corn liquor is a story that is not easily altered by a simple change of name. Nor is the Kentucky tale a unique one. One of the most striking markers of Appalachia’s current return to what is often referred to as “localism” can also be found in locations as diverse as some South American countries and some countries in Asia, particularly in Thailand, Myanmar and Viet Nam. In those latter Asian countries, the nostalgia for social capital has been used to push for reform in health services, agriculture, and a variety of other older practices that were remembered as part of a healthy democracy.
It is interesting that place-based education, a kind of localism, has often returned to indigenous knowledge and past practice for educational assistance in an effort to re-form and inform social capital. A brief visit of a group of Viet Nam visitors to Pine Mountain in the early 1970’s revealed much about the common issues in the two countries, including the power of Asian “moonshine” cooperation to work its magic in restoring civic engagement and to nudge the people toward less destructive economic initiatives.
In Appalachia drinking was a discreet part of many social gatherings. It enhanced conversation, made young men bold, softened the sensibilities of young women, and lessened the aching back of the subsistence farmer. In many cases it was the juice of existence, providing desperate families a means of providing for a house full of children or a poor crop. But it is the stories of rampant drinking and associated violence like that documented in the records of the Hyden school and also at Pine Mountain, particularly in the health centers at Big Laurel and Line Fork, that are seared into the public mind.
The novels of Lucy Furman, a staff member at Hindman, and many other writers promoted “moonshine stories” to an eager national audience. Percy MacKaye, the playwright, John Fox, Jr., and other visitors to Pine Mountain continued to romanticize the practice of distillation of the mountain’s principal crop — corn. John Fox, Jr. was notoriously energized by the marketing of what Darlene Wilson in her article for Back Talk From Appalachia (1999) called the “dichotomous stereotype of twin Kentuckys — the twins being the “…sneaky, murderous, moonshiners,” versus the “civilized ‘outer-world’ of the rest of the state. (See: Wilson, Back Talk … p. 112). Yet, marketing and publications at Hindman and later at Pine Mountain can be found using moonshine stories to capture the imagination of an audience that believed the area to be rampant with stills and guns.
Unfortunately, the written records of the rural settlement schools, largely the record of “outsider authors”, gave credence to some of the tales of violence, redemption, and survival centered on moonshine. After all, in the 1920s Harlan County’s murder rate was the highest in the country — a ready testimony to the mixture of guns and alcohol. “Bloody Harlan” was at its core a name born out of the mine wars, but the rage was often fed by corn liquor. But, then, even this story is much more complex than the easy tales often spun about moonshine in the mountains of Kentucky and there is little doubt that it enables the easy path to the long road of stereotyping.
THE MOONSHINE MEN OF KENTUCKY
“The Moonshine Men of Kentucky,” Harper’s Weekly, October 20, 1877.
The Pine Mountain staff and community also added to the many moonshine tales found in the public literature. After all, moonshine tales are good entertainment — tried and true fodder for many Appalachians. One of Pettit’s first traveling companions into eastern Kentucky was the “expert” on mountain moonshine tales, Henry Mixter Penniman.
DR. HENRY MIXTER PENNIMAN
The Rev. Penniman was a faculty member at Berea College in Kentucky and a self-described and well-known authority on mountain culture. It was Penniman who led Pettit and a group of fellow troupers into the eastern mountains to explore the Appalachian culture. This trip occurred before the Settlement School in Harlan County became Pettit’s passion. Berea often encouraged visitors and their own faculty to visit the rugged mountains of eastern Kentucky and to see first-hand how the “notorious” mountaineers lived. Often visitor tours were directed and encouraged by the college President with the intent to seek out Mountain areas in need of educational support. The personal tour gave the travelers a deeper dive into the local culture of Appalachia.
Berea for many years provided consultation and support to the schools in the southeastern corner of the state and was particularly fond of Hindman and Pine Mountain. Many articles by William G. Frost, an early President of Berea , and by his faculty from the college, signaled that they felt the region to be under their informed care and their watchful eye. They kept in close touch with the settlement schools in the southeastern region and “moonshine” was often part of their concern and sometimes and somewhat, their exaggerated focus and conversations. At Berea, Penniman was their moonshine expert.
Dr. Penniman, as a faculty member was particularly concerned by life-style that he saw in the Southern Appalachians and in its toll on the people. As someone who had built up good relations with many of the people in the southeast corner of the state, he became a close observer of the culture and of the language and the wry humor of the people of the region. Not much was missed by Penniman, as seen in two tales both collected and somewhat concocted and, reportedly, recited by Penniman in public performances. These selections from the Berea Quarterly have surrogate copies in the archival records at Pine Mountain Settlement.
THE BEREA QUARTERLY 1908, p. 20-22 Henry Mixter Penninman
Professor Penniman is a Massachusetts man, educated at Brown University and Andover Seminary, who has been connected with Berea since 1895. More than any other member of our Faculty he has assisted the President in making friends for our enterprise, and more than any other, except Professor Dinsmore, he has come into immediate contact with the mountaineers. He is what the Kentuckians call a “good mixer,” and he has preached on half the creeks in Eastern Kentucky, entering into the real life of the people with a sympathy which opens their hearts.
Professor Penniman has a keen sense of the ludicrous and a good scent for literary material as well. Instead of giving a statistical or scientific account, he gives pictures, impressions, which have made his presentations of the mountain work most attractive, in spite of his being a ”minister of the Gospel” he has become a great impersonator, so that a business men’s club. or a camping party in the Adirondacks counts itself fortunate when it can secure an hour of his recitals.
We find room this month for one brief anecdote which is almost a photograph, but a photograph selected with an artist’s eye. Following it is a testimonial which recently came to President Frost regarding Professor Penniman’s impersonations before well-known people in Cincinnati.
Henry Mixter Penniman.
Splash, splash down the mountain passway, for the path lay in a stream fretting and playing in the narrows of a “V” shaped valley. A mountaineer on his big mule and a preacher on his horse, after a long, hot, hard day were riding forward in the edge of the night. The preacher was tired enough to fall off.
A long silence was broken by the man on the mule.
“Mr. Preacher, you’ve ben yere nigh six year an all thet time I’ve knowed you’ve wanted to ast me one thing an you ain’t ast hit. Now I’m goin to promise hit to ye without your astin.
“You’ve alius wanted to ast me not to drink no mo’. Now I promise I’ll drink no mo’.”
This was like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky. The horse moved over to the mule, and the big mountain hand almost crushed the preacher’s. The stump and rock in mid-stream that made them unclasp was a relief.
Again the silence was broken.
“Mr. Preacher this country will take notice that I am quitting and they’ll know you are into hit, and thars plenty of folks round yere will try and spile your mind about me. Now if you hear I git drunk come to me, ef I get drunk I’ll tell ye an I’ll still be a pullin’ to be a temperance man.”
Not long after, the preacher heard his mountain friend was drunk and riding to his cabin asked point blank,
“Did you get drunk?”
“Yes” was the answer,
“I got powerful drunk but I got drunk innercent.
” How was that?
“I’m troubled with cramps, when them cramps ketch holt I hev to hev some whiskey to subjew their pain and when I git nuf whiskey down to subjew their pain, hit onhinges my ides as to what’s right and I slip into the rest innercent.”
‘ ‘Mr. Preacher I don’t low hits wrong to take er dram, but I do say hits wrong to git drunk. I cayn’t tak er dram and not tak mo’, so I ain’t goin to tak er dram.”
In another of Penniman’s tales he tackles Moonshine head-on.
HARD AND HIS KETTLE
This tale, among many found in Penniman’s book, Moonshine Life of the Mountains of Kentucky, which charts the use and abuse of Moonshine, Penniman tells of the adventures of “Hard and HIs Kettle”. In this excerpt found in the Pine Mountain Settlement School collections .”Hard and His Kettle,” is a tale to remember.It is uncertain whether the book was published, and no copy is retained by Pine Mountain School, but this particular chapter was printed in the Berea Quarterly, Vol. 12 No. 9, 1908 and skillfully captures the regional dialect and humor often found in the community around Pine Mountain.
The typescript found here varies only slightly from the Berea Quarterly version and appears to be a transcript from the papers of Katherine Pettit who was a personal friend of Penniman.
“Hard and His Kettle,” from Moonshine Life of the Mountains of Kentucky, by H.M. Penniman of Berea College, 1908. 01 penn_moonsh_001.jpg
“Hard and His Kettle,” from Moonshine Life of the Mountains of Kentucky, by H.M. Penniman of Berea College, 1908. 02 penn_moonsh_002.jpg
“Hard and His Kettle,” from Moonshine Life of the Mountains of Kentucky, by H.M. Penniman of Berea College, 1908. 03 penn_moonsh_003.jpg
“Hard and His Kettle,” from Moonshine Life of the Mountains of Kentucky, by H.M. Penniman of Berea College, 1908. 04 penn_moonsh_004.jpg
“Hard and His Kettle,” from Moonshine Life of the Mountains of Kentucky, by H.M. Penniman of Berea College, 1908. 05 penn_moonsh_005.jpg
“Hard and His Kettle,” from Moonshine Life of the Mountains of Kentucky, by H.M. Penniman of Berea College, 1908. 06 penn_moonsh_006.jpg
The thirst for tall tales can be read in Hard’s hard tale but there were similar fascinations with the mountain still, like that illustrated in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper from 1883, that both illustrates the distillation of favored mountain drink and embellishes it’s furtive creation. .
Pine Mountain Settlement School Series: Dancing in the Cabbage Patch Helen Hayes Wykle
TAGS: disease, rural health, WWI, Harlan County, Kentucky, hospitals, health, pandemics, Spanish Flu, mining camps, COVID 19, coronavirus, typhoid, diphtheria, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, flu, measles, spinal meningitis, Harry Garfield, Frank J. Hays, UMW, United Mine Workers of America, Federal Fuel Administration Office
GETTING SICK IN THE MOUNTAINS OF EARLY EASTERN KENTUCKY
The Pine Mountain Valley is isolated. There is little to dispute this fact. It was extremely remote in 1913, the year the School came into being. Today, there are roads but the multiple circuitous routes and the distance from towns and a hospital (the nearest is in the town of Harlan 45 minutes away) continue to be dauntung and isolating.
The health of people who live in the valley and in the hollows that branch off from the deep Pine Mountain valley is, like so many rural areas of this nation, daily put at risk from limited access to health services. Formed by the steep north-slope ridge of the long Pine Mountain that sits atop the Cumberland Plateau, the valley is faced by a south slope that joins a sea of low mountains, mostly sparsely inhabited. In the Central Appalachians, a mountain is both a barrier and shelter, yet, almost everyone who has visited this geography agrees that the undulating landscape of mountains, valleys and hollows is beautiful, peaceful —- but not easily accessed. This forced isolation in paradise is both a curse and a blessing.
When Katherine Pettit left Hindman Settlement in Knott County near Christmas in 1912, she aimed to establish the Pine Mountain Settlement in nearby Harlan County. She was already familiar with the terrain, having trudged through it many times over the years visiting with mountain families and looking for “kivers” and seeking support for more educational opportunities for the local populations. She had developed a deep respect for the native intelligence of the mountain dwellers and for their craft skills and their self-sufficiency. Her search for “kivers” or coverlets, the handwoven craft of many families, was a personal passion. However, this will to collect woven and other crafts in the area was consistent with a personal tendency to isolate herself from the many changes coming with industrialization.
Pettit saw the changes instituted by railways, logging, and mining as a threat to a unique culture and people. She saw in the mountain people a promise for the sustainability of the heritage of the region. In many ways, she saw her role as an “emergency” worker for an underserved and endangered population; someone who would protect the culture while rapidly educating for the coming industrial change. She had witnessed disease, poor health choices, and a lack of educational opportunity devastate mountain communities. But high on her list of needs for the people in this isolated region was medical care and health education. The many diseases that were coming to the area with the growth in timbering, mining and general industrialization, the new railroads, and the growing movement away from the land, she found disturbing. The change would come. She did not doubt that. She believed that education could mitigate those rapid industrial changes, but she also believed a greater threat to the core culture and people of the Central Appalachians were the many diseases coming along with industrial change — particularly in new timbering and coal mining populations.
The health issues of the region were growing when Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long came from Hindman Settlement to establish Pine Mountain Settlement in 1913. While Pettit and her staff were very familiar with the health issues of the region and had anticipated the increased threat of the coming railroad and growing lumbering and mining towns, they were constantly startled by the persistent primitive conditions in remote homes.
In 1914, the year following Pettit’s departure from Hindman, it suffered a major typhoid epidemic. While the cause, it was revealed, was not that the school was unclean or that nurses were not available to the school and community; it was an infrastructure problem. The School’s toilet system was poorly planned and constructed and had contaminated the water supply. The faulty toilet and water system was a problem that had been pointed out by the State Board of Health in 1912, but the rapid growth of the school and the many costs associated with its maintenance of educational programs were expensive. Further, the existing system was deemed adequate until the large remediation expense could be covered by Hindman’s budget. The operational budget dominated. Typhoid was the result.
The typhoid epidemic at Hindman sickened a third of the adults at the school and almost half of the boarding students. One student died. The failure of Hindman to identify infrastructure (water and toilet) inadequacies and to address them, resulted in both a “health and a pubic relations disaster” suggests the School’s historian, Jess Stoddart [Stoddart, Hindman …p.79]. The health crisis also created a deeper economic crisis for the school as revenues declined by 36%. By 1915 Hindman was questioning if they could continue to exist. Pettit was concerned about her previous school, but she was already at Pine Mountain shaping her own version of the model settlement school. She had brought with her one of Hindman’s most competent educators, Ethel de Long, and recruited other Hindman staff. She was now even more motivated to build a school and community resource that would address some of the short-comings she had seen at Hindman. Medical support and health education were primary building blocks in her plan.
PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT AND HEALTH PLANNING
Katherine Pettit was a seasoned and meticulous observer and actor on potential problems. She was determined to not repeat the infrastructure mistakes of Hindman in her plans for the new school at Pine Mountain. She placed health services at the center of her proposed programs for the new school and foregrounded health and safety for students and staff at the new school. The physical design of the campus was created with an eye to easy quarantine and she sought the assistance of engineers to advise on toilets and water within the first two years. In conversation with the newly appointed architect, Mary Rockwell Hook, she evaluated potential health issues and long-range growth. Hook, who was charged with the design of the new institution, was a skilled architect and one of the first women architects in the nation. The planning of Hook, Pettit and, co-director, Ethel de Long resulted in one of the nation’s most beautiful and well-planned rural settlement schools in the country.
Health staffing was the important institutional insurance that Pettit immediately put into her planning at Pine Mountain. Part of this insurance plan was Harriet Butler, one of the first nurses at Hindman who was, like Pettit, a person committed to regional health. The insurance plan was a good one as Harriet Butler was also committed to the educational side of health which would produce the optimum long-term outcomes for the people in the remote region. While at Hindman, Harriet Butler and John Wesley Duke, who then served as Hindman’s physician, and also the county medical officer, instituted a vaccination program and gave lectures on various health issues to the community. These talks included how to establish good personal hygiene regimes but early-on provided the community with information on how to deal with contagious diseases. Butler had instituted many of these changes in health care at Hindman, but for her, the changes did not go far enough. Butler was an admirer of the work of Pettit and had been increasingly discouraged with the pace of health education at Hindman. She and others in the region wanted more health education engagement in the community and increased public awareness. Like Pettit, Harriet Butler was an energetic pragmatist like her friend Pettit. At Hindman the staff lamented in their newsletter, “… it seemed as if, however fast we run, we could never keep up with the pace she [Pettit] had set.” They did not realize that Butler would soon follow Pettit to the new school at Pine Mountain. The combination of the two dedicated and energetic pragmatists assured that progress would be rapid.
By 1918 Harriet Butler had made her decision to leave Hindman and by 1919, at the invitation of Pettit, she joined Dr. Grace Huse, a smart and energetic young physician from North Carolina hired by Pettit and de Long. The team of Pettit, de Long, Butler and Dr. Huse was dynamic and their progress was rapid. In essence the process of planning two new health centers associated with Pine Mountain and prospecting for building out to seven more facilities had been percolating since Hindman. Organizationally, Huse and Butler would head the Medical Settlement at Big Laurel and would consult on the development of the Line Fork Settlement in nearby Letcher County and would be medically available to the Settlement School at Pine Mountain. The Big Laurel and Linefork sites were to be created as satellite locations for Pine Mountain Settlement School and were to be focused on medical and health education and industrial training. The staff at both satellites would also work with the local one-room schools to improve their standard educational programs. All programs would be under the general direction of Kathrine Pettit whose base would remain at Pine Mountain Settlement School. The plan was a lofty one. The execution was sobering.
As a doctor and nurse, Harriet Butler and Dr. Huse were a superior pair. They were given the opportunity to build an important model program that Pettit hoped would be replicated in the surrounding counties. Their resulting model at Big Laurel was indeed exemplary but was crippled by cultural obstacles and by the economics of maintaining multiple sites and expenses. Reigned in quickly by the growing expenses, Pettit’s plan for seven new satellite settlements never materialized as exemplary models are expensive —-forward-thinking — but expensive. The cultural obstacles also did not dissolve readily and access to patients and traditional models of medical care were slow to change and could not be pushed.
What was lasting in these initial programs were the myriad new ideas that the experiments introduced into the communities, albeit slowly. The ideas of Butler, Huse, Pettit, and others who took on the health challenge, were positively contagious even as a slow contagion. If it had not been for problems of the economy of scale, and a reliable revenue stream, the ideas of these women might have lasted much longer and adjusted to the in-coming industrial era. Many of the earlier programs and ideas did, however, persist in the later work of other visionaries such as Mary Breckenridge and her internationally recognized Frontier Nursing Service.
WORLD WAR I – “THE GREAT WAR”
By the spring of 1916, another kind of health threat loomed; World War I. Thousands of Appalachians served in this war, and Kentucky had more volunteers in the fight than any other state. Many men and women died in the merciless war and thousands came home with deep wounds both physical and psychological. New diseases also took their toll. Women from Appalachia were eager to join the war effort and quickly drained local resources. Women’s work early in the war as Canteen workers, Red Cross nurses and workers in France and other locations was vital to soldier’s health and morale. Later in the war women held key positions in the hospitals established to care for the sick and wounded both abroad and in the United States. Many of these women were also pulled from the Appalachian region. [See: Brumfield, Nick, The Forgotten Nurses of Appalachia’s Spanish Flu, March 17, 2020.xpatalachians.com]
In addition to health concerns, the Great War also brought on enormous economic concerns. A coal shortage emerged as industry ramped up its steel operations while the domestic supply of fuel for heating and electricity, and for ship and rail transportation stretched the uncoordinated and competitive supply system to a breaking point. In 1917 President Woodrow Wilson asked Dr. Harry Garfield to serve as the Director of a new Federal Fuel Administration and charged him to develop a plan for dealing with fuel shortages, particularly coal. By 1918 Garfield, the son of former President James Garfield came from the Presidency of Williams College to his new federal position. Harry Garfield had a direct connection to the coalfields of Appalachia. He had served on multiple boards that had coal interests, revitalized communities in which he lived, and negotiated many thorny labor settlements as a lawyer. Of important interest to the Eastern Kentucky region and the bituminous coal fields, his daughter, Lucretia Garfield briefly worked for Pine Mountain Settlement School in Harlan County, Kentucky as a community worker in its evolving health and education programs — arriving in 1918. It is clear that she also worked for her father and served as his eyes and ears for local issues, particularly in the important and growing Harlan County coal mines. Unfortunately, her correspondence from Pine Mountain is not available, but likely would be very revealing.
In May of 1918 Frank J. Hays President of the Executive Board of the United Mine Workers of America while meeting in Indianapolis, drafted a letter to Dr. Harry Garfield declaring that the coal production of the country was
“… far below the nations’ lowest possible estimated requirements, and that because of enforced idleness, miners who through their various organizations pledged their full support and co-operation to the fuel administration, are being forced to leave the mines in the industrial centers, where the car shortage [train coal -cars] shows no sign of improving.”
Coal Mining Review May 1, 1918, p. 4
The “forced idleness” was not just in the industrial center delivery points, but affected all coal-related industry, specifically mining of coal in the coalfields. The labor stoppage impacted most of the 500,000 mine workers. Further, the labor shortages brought about by the departure of foreign workers who had flocked to the new mining operations. The growing and severe economic hardship and pressure on the miners and their families in the Appalachian coalfields and coalfields began to be felt and noticed across the country. The “forced idleness” referred to in Hays’ letter reflected the practice of arbitrary pricing of coal that had to be negotiated. The negotiation process then idled workers while lengthy negotiations took place between operators and buyers. The price of coal was never consistent. With no pay coming in for miners while negotiations were underway, the workers could not take care of their union dues, and more importantly their health needs and debts. Many men left mining and those who stayed did so at great peril.
It was a tenuous and fragile economic existence for miners in 1918 and by May it had reached a crisis. There was no clear path as the world began to teeter on the edge of a health disaster. Hays, the UMW President asked Harry Garfield to help the union negotiate the minefield of rogue operators and the growing disregard for the lives of the mining workforce. Garfield set to work, but the journey quickly became more complex than just negotiating labor contracts.
In May of 1918, the War had ended but the residue was just catching up. Following the war, as if the ravages of battle had not taken the lives of enough Appalachians, another threat was building; that of economic instability and an enormous mining workforce weakened by unattended health issues and poor morale.
The CIDRAP researchers had done their homework and there was good reason to care at the time — as there was in 1918. Today, coal is still crucial and particularly to many underdeveloped countries that depend on supply coming from the U.S., but, the demand for coal in this country is steeply decreasing while the country and the world is deeply dependent on electricity. All the threats cited in the CIDRAP report were present in 2008 and in 1918 and many remain today and are potentially deadly if not addressed.
In 1917 when Dr. Harry Garfield assumed his leadership role in the new Federal Fuel Administration office, his role was vital to the survival of mining and miners but he had not yet encountered the other deadly threat —- a pandemic. Neither he nor the miners could imagine this even greater threat; a mysterious virus — deadly and with no cure. Popularly called the “Spanish Flu” because it was believed to have originated in Spain, the new threat created a storm of suspicion and exaggeration. The name “Spanish Flu” was, first of all, not accurate, but then news traveled slowly in August of 1918.
“Spanish Flu” did not originate in Spain, but its path of death was real with any name attached to it. In reality, the disease first appeared in the army barracks of the United States. The “Spanish” name had come quickly on the heels of an announcement that King Alfonso of Spain had come down with an unknown and untreatable flu or “la grippe.” The King’s illness was widely reported in news throughout the world. The “Spanish Flu”, then became the common name for what was not a “flu” but an H1N1 virus that had its origin in birds. Like the current disease, COVID 19, the “Spanish Flu” was a coronavirus with pandemic written all over it. The virus rapidly spread throughout the world in a manner similar to the current COVID 19 virus and also an earlier epidemic called the Black Death that killed 50 million Europeans in the Middle Ages or some 60% of Europe’s population at the time. The Black Death’s vector, or spreading agent was rats and fleas and it was not the first such outbreak through the earlier centuries.
The common practice of giving pandemic viruses easily recognized names is all too common, but it does little to describe the medical devestation such a virus wreaks on the populations of the world. Today we have linked COVID 19 with China where it apparently first appeared. China did not invent the scourage and blame will not take away its power. Linkage of the 1918 virus with Spain and the current association of COVID 19 with China do little to stop the spread of such virulent diseases. The Black Death described the color of the corpse when affected by the bubonic plague. That is perhaps as personal as “naming” can get.
Camp Funston, Emergency Hospital. Otis Historical Archives, National Museum of Health and Medicine / Public domain
Most historic accounts point to the first identification of the 1918 virus in U.S. military personnel. A recent (2005) paper suggests that the first cases were in New York, but a more accepted historic origin was thought to be in Haskill County, Kansas at an Army Camp called Funston. The two H1N1 virus strains , 1918-19 and 2020, are linked by their similarity. There was and is no known medical intervention that will halt the progression of the disease. Like the COVID 19 virus now rampant across the world, the 1918 virus was resistant to treatment and no known vaccinations were on-hand to stop the pandemic. As soldiers and nurses and immigrating Europeans flooded into the United States at the end of World War I, the extensive and busy railway system carried the multitudes of persons back and forth across the country. The 1918 virus exploded in the army barracks, in the cities, and eventually in most corners of America. In Appalachia, the mining communities were the first to be devastated.
As the war in Europe heated up, the coal mines in the Appalachians were frantically mining anthracite coal to supply the need for manufacturing iron for the war and bituminous coal for ships and trains and home heating. In the East, anthracite coal mining was generally centered in Pennsylvania, while bituminous coal was almost exclusively mined in the coalfields of West Virginia and Kentucky. While delivering coal and coke for the war effort, and supplying home heating and electrical needs, shipments of millions of tons of coal crisscrossed the country’s rails and new railroads were created and new laborers flooded in to fill the labor gap. The demand for miners and down-stream workers was enormous and miners came from all areas of the country and from Europe and Mexico and other locations looking for work. But work was demanding and often dependent on an operator’s negotiation of pricing and cars to carry the coal.
Following the common story that the flu spread in the United States with the return of soldiers from the war, the first instance of the disease in Kentucky was reported in September of 1918. The first appearance of the disease had occurred just the month before. In Kentucky the infection has been blamed on a train carrying troops from Texas which stopped at Bowling Green where several army soldiers who were carriers of the disease got off the train and then transmitted the disease to local people in Bowling Green. From there the disease exploded in the regional population and promptly moved into the mountains of Kentucky through the very mobile mining population.
With no vaccines to slow its progression, the world-wide pandemic took hold of the tightly packed and transient mining camps of Appalachia in the late Fall of 1918 and began a deadly march on the lives and livelihood of miners and their families. World-wide the virus left a long trail of death. In 1918 the world population was about 1.8 billion of which an estimated 50 million deaths occurred. That would be approximately 2.7% of the world population. The higher estimate of 50 million deaths would suggest the 1918 virus killed 2.7% of the world population. Though the exact number and percentages are not fully known.
While an exact number count of deaths cannot be tallied, it is known that the death toll in WWI was smaller than the 1918-19 pandemic human toll. Across the country, with the devastation of WWI, still fresh in their minds, the people now found themselves facing an enemy even more frightening than guns and bombs and mustard gas; more frightening than the epidemics of typhoid, diphtheria, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, mumps, whooping cough, and more. The new disease, created dis-ease and fear as it had no face and its weapons were new, stealthy, and deadly.
The 1918 world-wide pandemic lasted until the early summer of 1919 and while short-lived, it is estimated to have infected over 500 million people, approximately one-third of the world’s population. Of this infected population, some 50,000,000 or more died of the virus, or, according to other data gatherers, some 3%-5% of the world’s population. No matter the incomprehensible numbers, Appalachians soon found that the world was smaller than they had imagined and that they were not as isolated as most in the Appalachian region believed to be the case.
COAL TOWNS AND THE 1918 PANDEMIC
Appalachia in 1918, was both fortunate and unfortunate with regard to the influenza pandemic. Kentucky death estimates are believed to be in the range of 14,000 deaths, though the exact number will never be known. The death registers of funeral homes often listed the cause of death as pneumonia but the course of the disease which resembles the current respiratory distress path of COVID 19 is often defined as a type of pneumonia. While the death records are difficult to untangle, they tell an unfortunate story that centers on the devastating toll the 1918-19 virus took on the crowded mining towns in the coalfields of Appalachia. The fortunate story is in the remote hollows and the sparsely populated agrarian or subsistence farming valleys of the region. There the story is one of social distancing.
Today we are looking at race and ethnicity in our data tracking of the COVID 19 deaths. In 1918-19 there was no consistent account kept of the race and ethnicity of miners and families. The Immigration Act had just passed in 1917 which required a literacy test for immigrants from the southern and eastern European groups, that aroused suspicion as the war in Europe heated up. Author Mina Carson tells us in her well-researched book Settlement Folk: Social Thought and the American Settlement Movement 1885-1930, (1990) that when the U.S. entered the war, “new legislation was proposed to coerce ‘100% Americanism’ by eradicating all signs of immigrants’ lingering loyalties to their native countries. The National Federation of Settlements was opposed to this government action suggesting that such an action would breed “misunderstanding and bitterness.”
Mary McDowell, a Kentuckian and leader in the Settlement Movement was a friend of Pine Mountain Settlement School’s Director, Katherine Pettit. McDowell’s co-worker, and Settlement Movement leader, Mary Simkhovitch, and many others in the movement opposed the use of such terms as “Americanization” and instead aimed for what they called “transnationalism” or the concept of a “new kind of nation of many peoples ‘whom God hath made of one blood.'” [Carson, p.159] This sentiment was to be heard often from Berea College, a Kentucky school founded in 1855, and a long-time advocate for the people of Appalachia as well as the world. The college motto: God hath made of one blood all peoples of the earth (Acts 17:26)” Is remarkably close the transnationalists.
Pine Mountain Settlement did not enter into this “transnationalism” debate directly, but later history demonstrates that many within the School who had served as missionaries or medical workers abroad understood the threat of coerced acculturation and its possible potential for ethnic cleansing such as that seen in Armenia. [See: Edith Cold, English Teacher]. The program at the School and its mountain founder William Creech strongly evidenced the commitment to “peoples acrost’ the seas.” [See Uncle William’s Reasons]
In 1914 when WWI began, many of the miners in the coalfields were immigrants. They had hired-on in the booming years in the coalfields of the Appalachian mountains. Many immigrants came just for this economic opportunity. However, as more and more countries in Europe were pulled into the growing European war, many immigrants fled the War. Yet, many were pulled by patriotism back to their country of origin. The need to fight the war in their homelands was a noble action, but the impact on mining in the American coal fields was devastating as miners headed “home” and new immigrants headed for the cities.
By 1917 those immigrant miners who chose to remain in the United States and who fought with the American Expeditionary Forces numbered near one million. Also by 1917 many foreign-born males were required by law to register between June 5, 1917 and September 12, 1918 with the government. Most of the foreign males required to register were from the following countries
TOTAL ENEMY ALIEN MALES
Holden, Arthur C. The Settlement Idea A Vision of Social Justice, New York: McMillian, 1922. Appendix p. 197
From numbers compiled from the Foreign Language Information Service of the American Red Cross, it is also known that nearly one million immigrants from the following groups joined the American Expeditionary Forces to fight in the Great War
Holden, Arthur C. The Settlement Idea A Vision of Social Justice, New York: McMillian, 1922. Appendix p. 198
German immigrants of German birth were not listed but were estimated to comprise between 10-15% of the American Expeditionary Forces according to the War Department. Males engaged in mining between the ages of 18 -45 comprised a significant proportion of the figures on the two tables. Interestingly, mention is not made in these statistics of the large number of Mexican miners who were engaged to fill vacancies in the mining operations. In 1919 this brief note appeared in the Mining Weekly stating
No more permits for the importation of Mexican labor, which has been used to considerable extent by bituminous coal operators recently, will be granted, the Labor Department announces, and permits already granted will be void after January 15. Mexicans permitted to enter the country temporarily for war work will be “repatriated gradually,” but there is no intention to deport such laborers.
Mining Weekly, 1919.
President Wilson’s announcement of “no more permits,” had been misinterpreted and there was great fear that deportation would start immediately. The enormous contributions of immigrants during the years of the Great War and during the Spanish Flu epidemic are seldom recognized but they often made the difference in maintaining both economic productivity and security and bolstering the American Expeditionary Forces.
The immigrant departures, internments, and injustices just as the war was ramping up and again as it was winding down and while the nation was faced with a pandemic are often overlooked, but there are many descendants in the Appalachian coalfields who still remember. The increasing demand for coal to fire the steel mills energized an economic emergency created by a labor shortage. Of those who left at the beginning of the war to fight for their countries, not so many returned to America at war’s end to resume work in the coalfields of Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania and, West Virginia. At first, this exodus was an economic catastrophe played out in a labor shortage but little has been made of those immigrants who left to fight as patriots in the Great War. There is no debate, however, that when the pandemic infection took hold in the coal camps, it did not look at race, ethnicity, or patriotism and the human and economic catastrophe escalated in scale and misery.
As the virus took hold in the tightly packed coal camps, the crisis in the coalfields was not blamed on foreigners or foreign infection but was recognized as a problem that was home-grown and familiar but was incomprehensible in scale. The rapid infection-point of the virus could be directly associated with poor hygiene, a distracted population, and the slow-to-act or greedy industrial elite. The infection blame point was more insidious and blame was rarely sought and infrequently handed over to political rivalry.
Strangely, when the disease swept through the camps, it did not target the weak but was particularly deadly to a population that was thought to be the healthiest. Adults between the ages of 20-40 years of age died in great numbers. Men with weakened lungs from coal dust were remarkably susceptible. An unusual number of young Caucasian women also seemed to be particularly vulnerable. The death toll of both sexes was enormous in the mining towns and camps of Eastern Kentucky. One observer noted that in one camp he visited there were coffins on nearly all the porches in the camp placed there for those struck down or waiting to die from the virus. Finding able-bodied men who could dig graves was also a major problem for production as the maintenance of a work schedule at the mining camp could not be maintained nor enforced. Miners in the affected camps were rapidly becoming sick or assisting with the burials of family or neighbors and family. These efforts took precedence over the mining. In addition to the squabbles regarding coal pricing instability, the coal economy began to further deteriorate.
The rapid burial practice in the rural areas of Kentucky also had another side-story. The push for quick internment created tracking issues as there were insufficient records being gathered in the time of crisis and assembling an exact number for those who contracted the virus and who died of the pandemic was difficult to pull together and target. Most authorities who have looked at the mortality data from the eastern coalfields doubt its cumulative totals. It is likely that the numbers that were finally put together and that are fixed in the historical record were well below the actual deaths that occurred during the 1918-1919 years.
Remarkably, while history has not recorded those difficult years in a comprehensive and efficient manner, it has quickly forgotten the lessons of the pandemic. While few families in the Eastern coalfields escaped the contagion and the harsh suddenness of death and loss of a loved one, the historical record for the region is very slim and warrants only a brief treatment in history books about the region.
HARLAN AND CONTAGION IN THE COAL CAMPS
In Harlan County, the coal camps were running enormous mining operations in the 1916’s and 1917’s. The imperative to supply the war effort continued to be extreme and men and machines were pushed to a breaking point when contracts were settled. There were coal operators who tried to strike a balance in the enormous demands placed on their operations and there were others who saw their profits soar and felt no obligation to share the accruing wealth with their workers — many of whom were foreign-born. But there were exceptions to the rule of most coal camps. The exceptions were largely those operations that were well funded by mega-corporations. For example, great care had been given to infrastructure at Inland Steel’s company town, Benham, and at the International Harvester’s coal camp at Lynch, and at a handful of other well-run camps. These camps set an example for a high level of sanitation, pay, and for their medical support.
These two towns in Harlan County, Benham, and Lynch, were models of health care, and, in later years when Pine Mountain encountered medical emergencies they could not meet, they often called on the physicians and services available in the two coal camps. In the 1918-19 pandemic, the numbers of dead at the efficiently managed towns and camps were not as great as those that failed the health needs of their populations. Still, mitigation of the new “flu” created failure after failure. The bottom line was that in the pandemic of 1918-1919, common protections and practice and skilled medical knowledge were sometimes not enough, especially in densely populated centers.
By 1932 many of the coal camps in Harlan County were still lagging behind in their commitment to health needs and the grave health needs and great disparity within the county of Harlan are clearly documented by the study of health needs conducted by Dr. Iva M. Miller for the Save the Children Foundation in the 1932 Health Survey of Harlan County, Kentucky —just 12 years following the pandemic.
The scenario of the entry of the 1918 pandemic into Harlan County can be traced from a record of one of the earliest coal towns of Appalachia, Kaymoor in West Virginia. It was here that the story of the contagion played out so cruelly and that under-scores the tragedy of close-living, inadequate hygiene, and managerial and economic insensitivity. It is a story that became all too familiar in the coal dominated economy of the Central Appalachians in the 1918’s – 1920’s. Many coal towns like those of Kaymoor became the vectors for the pandemic in the surrounding region.
Kaymoor was one of the first company coal towns. Belonging to Lo Moor Iron Company, the coalmining operation supplied its black gold to the pig iron plant of Lo Moor Company located near Clifton Forge, in Alleghany County, Virginia. Abiel Abbot Low, a wealthy investor, and owner of the Lo Moor Iron Company, was a board member of the C&O rail line which was the new and only access to the Lo Moor Iron company and to its rich iron deposits. Abiel Abbot Low owned four thousand acres of iron ore in Alleghany County, Virginia, and the associated rail line linked to the southern West Virginia coal country where he had purchased eleven-thousand acres of coal land in Fayette County, West Virginia. With his transportation system in place, he then proceeded to build out his empire by establishing a series of coal town communities. The cooperative communities, aggregated under the name Kaymoor were begun in 1899. A full description of the Kaymoor communities may be found in Crandall A. Shifflett’s informative and deeply researched book, Coal Towns: Life, Work, and Culture in Company Towns of Southern Appalachia, 1880-1960 (pp. 38-40).
When the Spanish Flu and other diseases came to Appalachia, the closely packed coal towns, such as those like Kaymoor, were the most vulnerable sources for infection. The Spanish Flu was not the first epidemic to strike Kaymoor. It was particularly suited for infection. First it was smallpox in 1904 which was addressed by the community physician by inoculation — but not for all. When the company realized that inoculation would cost $60,000.00 to include all in the community, they parceled out the shots to those who could afford to pay or were cronies. It was selfish and a deadly mistake. The epidemic took off. It quickly killed hundreds of miners and their families. When the Spanish Flu arrived there was no vaccine to quibble about and the Company, guided by the large fatality numbers in the smallpox epidemic, mandated what is now call “Social Distancing.” Shifflet tells us that there were
“… drastic curtailments of activity to prevent its spread. Schools were closed, the theater was shut down, only one customer at a time was allowed in the barber shops, and all public meetings were discouraged as company doctors at Kaymoor One ‘… worked day and night to prevent the inexorable spread of the deadliest influenza epidemic in American history.’ “
Shifflett [p.56] notes the following correspondence as his source: E.R. Price to Dr. Don J. Schleissmann, Public Health Service, series 7, box 17, Wheelwright Collection, King Library, University of Kentucky, Lexington.
Their efforts were, however, too late. It is interesting that the physicians of the day and even later historians initially blamed the Kaymoor pandemic infection on the water supply and the lack of adequate sewers, not realizing until too late that the main culprit was human contact. The failure to grasp the transmission process was at first not unusual, as there were so many diseases in the coal camps that were caused by poor hygiene and by inadequate water and sewage systems, like that seen earlier at Hindman School. But, while the new disease was not directly associated with personal hygiene its spread was eventually determined to be directly tied to a personal hygiene regime — especially hand-washing. So many of the diseases in Appalachian communities could be and were directly associated with poor personal hygiene and inadequate health education and poor medical support systems. But the Spanish Flu, like the current COVID 19 was unfamiliar and more elusive in its contagion process.
QUARANTINE AND PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL
Outside the coal camps and the towns and cities in Harlan County, associated with the mining of coal, the 1918 contagion found that it had to fight a myriad of stubborn obstacles. One of them was Katherine Pettit — a force to be reckoned with. She reported in a note to a Pine Mountain Board of Trustee member, Mrs. Morton, who lived in Lexington, Kentucky, that while the flu was all around Pine Mountain School, it [the School] was untouched. She writes
Dear Mrs. Morton,
It was so good of you to be anxious about us … We have no influenza now, though it is still around us. Three-hundred have died in Harlan County, I hear …
Pettit, Katherine. Letter to Mrs. Morton, PMSS Collections. [pettit_1918_007.jpg] November 13, 1918
As Katherine Pettit relayed in this note to Mrs. Morton, Pine Mountain was spared the ravages of the 1918 pandemic. If any reason may be pointed to, it would be that the School had practiced quarantine many times in the past.
Katherine Pettit writing to her sister “Min” on November 8, 1918, notes that
“…tomorrow Miss Gaines [Ruth Gaines], comes from Massachusetts, and Miss Parkinson from Kansas. They are all to be isolated in Miss Butler’s house up on the mountain until we are sure they haven’t brought influenza. And I am wishing you could come now, and do the same thing…”
Letter: Katherine Pettit to Mrs. Waller O. Bullock, 8 November, 1918. PMSS Archive. Pettit Correspondence 1918. [pettit_1918_009.jpg]
Quarantine of the School in the fall of 1918 prevented a single case of Spanish Influenza from breaking out, though neighbors, showing a low immunity, were ravaged This was a most effective lesson to everybody on the value of quarantine. We have not always been as fortunate in keeping out contagious diseases and measles (1920, Boys House needed to take care of the 40 cases), mumps (worst in 1926, when they overflowed to the Country Cottage) and whooping cough (1924) have been our worst epidemics. There have been two deaths from sickness, among the children of the School. In 1923 Harry Callahan died of spinal meningitis resulting from severe injuries to the head when he was thrown from a moving train, and in 1924, James Gilbert died, also of spinal meningitis. There has been a steady decrease in colds and minor epidemics as underweight children have been built up by extra milk, rest [and] other special care, which has reacted upon the[ir] physical vigor.”
Wells, Evelyn. Wells Record 11 PMSS Health 1913-1928. Unpublished early history of Pine Mountain School that includes an outline of health care at the School from 1914 to 1928.
As reported by staff member Evelyn Wells in December of 1918
“And, influenza everywhere, though no cases at the school yet. Only one or two children are going home for vacation. We are rigidly quarantined, an object lesson we hope for the whole countryside.
Influenza, typhoid, diptheria, gun-shot wounds, snake bite, birthing babies, teaching children how to brush their teeth, wash their faces and hands, how not to hold the water dipper over the water bucket as they drank from it, teaching food preservation, food storage, how to bandage a wound, which herbs were harmful, which helpful …. the list is a long one in the diaries and letters of the nurses and doctors who worked in the two medical clinics that were managed by Pine Mountain Settlement. The first-hand accounts of treating a wide range of medical issues give some sense of the demands placed on those medical doctors and nurses who served the Pine Mountain Valley and beyond from the two clinics that were established to the east of the Pine Mountain Settlement School in Letcher County and to the west at Big Laurel on Greasy Creek. A Red Cross nurse, Frances Palmer, who had survived WWI and the 1918 pandemic came to Pine Mountain to assist with the development of two satellite health centers at the School in 1920.
Frances Palmer (Conquist) only stayed at Pine Mountain for six months before returning to Minnesota to be married. She was one of the first nurses to be placed in the new health settlement at Line Fork, in the neighboring county of Letcher. She describes an incident remembered from one of her tasks at the Line Fork Settlement which involved the removal of bullets from a young man caught up in a local feud. The Frances Palmer story is a short but revealing tale of a small Eastern Kentucky community at Line Fork and Frances Palmer’s lessons learned in the horrors of WWI in France. There, in the later years of the war along with 23,800 other Red Cross nurse volunteers, she treated soldiers injured by trench and gas warfare. These war injuries were some of the most ghastly of that merciless war. It was a new challenge and Frances Palmer was heroic and she excelled. In 1919, as a Red Cross nurse, she won a commendation from General Pershing for her “conspicuous service at Chateau-Thierry and at St. Mihiel”, two of the hospitals serving the most vicious battles fought by Americans serving in the war. She later worked in Coblenz, Germany as the war came to an end. There she again, she demonstrated her superior nursing skills while taking care of the multitude of gravely wounded and disabled soldiers. WWI was one of the most brutal wars in history. Frances Palmer lived it. When Frances returned home, it was to a country devastated by a pandemic but she volunteered to come to Eastern Kentucky to address another war that was being waged in Eastern Kentucky. A public health crisis that was evolving there and it had reached the attention of the nation. Experienced and in-experienced women workers looked to their own country and many came to the Central Appalachians..
Like Katherine Pettit, Frances Palmer was committed to serving the needs of the country’s health. A practical idealist, she had demonstrated that she could tolerate difficult environments and that she could do so at grave danger to herself and with courage that was commendable. Her service to the health of her country was a commitment made by so many other women serving in the Red Cross corps.
This is Frances Palmer’s brief account of one incident in her service to the Line Fork Settlement, a satellite health and education center near Pine Mountain Settlement School. A bullet-wounded young man …
It seems that several attempts had been made to “git” one of the young men of the community; and one Sunday night when he was alone in the store at Bear Branch [page 10] some one fired at him and filled his back and side full of shot. Word was soon brought to us, and Miss Dennis and I hurried to the store, where we found him lying on a cot. Most of the shots were superficial, but they were numerous. Nancy, who lives near the store, held the only light which was a miner’s lamp; and in the midst of first aid she fainted, and left me in the dark! Soon the light was burning again and after poor Nancy had had several dippers of water poured over her, she was ready to help again. I tried to persuade them to call a doctor, but they did not think it necessary.
For six or seven days the patient stayed at the store, as he lived some distance up the mountain side. Dressings were changed twice a day, and each time, more shot would be removed. When time came for him to go home, several of the boys cut two tamaracks, cleaned the trunks, and made a stretcher from a quilt and coats: they then carried him up the mountain to his cabin where he was confined to his cabin and bed for several weeks. Between his banjo and book and magazines from the settlement, time passed quickly until he was up and about again.
On my way home from this place, I was called to see a “risen” [boil] on a girl’s arm. She had had it for weeks, and the poultices of red sumac root, or apple and vinegar, of lim [?] root and sweet milk, of buckeye bark and cornmeal, and of hot oatmeal, did not seem to help it. All I could do at this time was to show them how to use the hot salt packs and say I would return in the morning. The next day I applied glycerine and gauze dressings and was informed that they didn’t like the salt packs and had put Vick’s salve on. [When I came to apply] the third poultice I found the oatmeal poultice on again and was almost ready to give up. But the girl had lost so much sleep and was in such pain, that she finally consented to have it opened and glycerine applied again. The next visit found things as I had left them and the “risen” draining well with the patient free from pain.
Pine Mountain Settlement is remote. It was spared the rapid infection seen in the close living of the coal camps in Harlan County. This was because a quarantine was initiated. “A stay at home mandate.” The community of Pine Mountan Settlement reflects a history of valuing the quarantine of infected persons and all the health benefits that go along with it. Quarantine is now a medical necessity in a virulent epidemic. Pine Mountain is a remote community, but it is a disciplined community. The people know how to survive hard times. Social distancing has been the lifestyle in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky for most of its history. Social distancing is in many ways not a mandate but a social pride that people enjoy. Social distancing is a solitude and an independence not found easily in urban environs. Most of Harlan County is now a rural culture well-versed in survival and “make-do” though less so than in years past. But, what remains within the culture of the families of the area are the memories of hard-times and the “make-do” of parents, grandparents, and relatives. Rural America, generally carries this recent memory of the skills to survive hard-times. What is less certain is how the current pandemic will test those skills of rural America including Appalachia and how that divide — rural and urban — will be re-shaped by surviving this hard-time.
Today, courage equal to that shown by Frances Palmer Conquist, is tbeing shown by many health professionals in this country, and by the many workers in Doctor’s Without Borders, workers for WHO, and a multitude of other health care providers here and abroad as they engage the hidden enemy of COVID 19. Today, when we social distance it is women and men like Frances Palmer and her cohorts that WE need to protect with masks and with respect. This is — and it should be — our contribution to this war against the hidden enemy, COVID 19. Wearing a mask and remembering that the six-feet needed for social distancing is our respect for quarantine and for each other. It is not too much to ask in “hard-times.”