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Sheep Shearing and Cecil Sharp

Pine Mountain Settlement School
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


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.


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.


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.


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.”


CECIL SHARP AND MAUDE KARPELES Visit to Pine Mountain Settlement School




FARM GUIDE to Sheep Goats Weaving and Dyeing


Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 11: FARM
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,” 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.


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.


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.


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

“Carrying sick person to railway. 18 Mile trail [to Laden], Pine Mountain, Ky. “[kingman_010a]


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.


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.

Harriet Butler, nurse and Dr. Grace Huse with cat at Big Laurel. [X_099_workers_2497b_mod.jpg]

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.


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.]

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.

In 2008 the CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy) at the University of Minnesota drafted a paper on the crucial preparedness gaps in the United States where electricity and the coal supply meet. The paper asks,

What’s the link between pandemic influenza, electricity, and the coal supply chain? And why should anyone care?

Osterholm, Michael, PhD, MSPH, Nicholas S. Kelley, MSHP, CIDRAP REPORT; Pandemic Influenza, Electricity, and the Coal Supply Chain: Addressing Crucial Preparedness Gaps in the United States, Nov. 2008. CIDRAP, University of Minnisota. [ACCESSED May 30, 2020]

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.


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

German Empire158,80904.09
Turkey 81,60802.10
Bulgaria 19,87300.52
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

Greek 60,000?
Lithuanian 35,000500
Jugoslav 20,000?
Russian 20,000?
Ukrainian 18,000500
Hungarian 7,000200
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.


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.


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]

Evelyn Wells writing about the pandemic in 1928 in her RECORD OF PINE MOUNTAIN SCHOOL 1913-1928 remarked that

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.

Wells, Evelyn. 1918 Excerpts from letters home. Decembre 19, 1918. [050-p.6]

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.

TO READ MORE: Frances Palmer Conquist, 1920, Line Fork Notebook, p. . Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections.

Another health tale from Frances Palmer.

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.

Frances Palmer Conquist, 1920, Line Fork Notebook, p.4 . Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections.

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.”


Brumfield, Nick, The Forgotten Nurses of Appalachia’s Spanish Flu, March 17, 2020.

Emergency Hospital [Image],Camp_Funston,_Kansas-_NCP_1603.jpg [Accessed May 31, 2020]

Carson, Mina, Settlement Folk: Social Thought and the American Settlement Movement 1885-1930, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1990.

Coal Mining Review and Industrial Index , 1918, 1919 []

Conquist, Frances Palmer, Line Fork Notebook, n.d. [1918], Pine Mountain Settlement School Archive, Pine Mountain, KY.

Crandall A. Shifflett, Crandall A. Coal Towns: Life, Work, and Culture in Company Towns of Southern Appalachia, 1880-1960.

Garrett, Thomas A. Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, [Accessed May 10, 2020]

Holden, Arthur C. The Settlement Idea A Vision of Social Justice, New York: McMillian, 1922.

Osterholm, Michael, PhD, MSPH, Nicholas S. Kelley, MSHP, CIDRAP REPORT; Pandemic Influenza, Electricity, and the Coal Supply Chain: Addressing Crucial Preparedness Gaps in the United States, Nov. 2008. CIDRAP, University of Minnesota. [ACCESSED May 30, 2020]

Wheelock, David C. What Can We Learn from the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-19 for Covid-19?, Economic Synopses 2020/05/18







Pine Mountain Settlement School

“‘Aunt Jude’ Turner, Big Laurel, about 1925” feeding sheep. [nace_II_album_010.jpg]

TAGS: sheep, agriculture, livestock, shearing, sheep shearing, wool, spinning, carding, weaving, dyeing, shepherds, textiles, looms, pastures, mutton, Thomas D. Clark, Aunt Jude Turner, Southeast Kentucky Sheep Producers Association, Patrick Angel, Merino sheep, Shetland sheep, Kentucky Sheep and Goat Development Office (KSGDO), Sarabeth Parido, sheep consultants, The Woolery


“The hills shall skip like lambs,” she sang
Of the mountain scallops ‘gainst the sky engraved.
Anew with gushing torrents laved
Were the mountain sides, and gay
With sarvice and red maples braved.

Sarah Marcia Loomis, Staff PMSS  c. 1928


The photograph of Aunt Jude Turner feeding her sheep, seen above, is one of the most iconic photographs in the Pine Mountain Settlement School collections. Scattered throughout the early photographs taken at the School there are images of sheep, suggesting that they were an integral part of the landscape and life in the early years of the north side of the Pine Mountain. This image captures the essence of “romantic” sheep raising. But, was it all bucolic?

Bucolic, serene, and pastoral, are all words often used to describe sheep at pasture, Sometimes these words are found on early Pine Mountain Settlement photographs or on notes that refer to them. These are words that conjure up years gone by and times when many farms in Kentucky had flocks of sheep. But how many sheep were there? And, where do sheep figure into the agrarian life of Kentucky, and particularly into the life of eastern Kentucky? A historical review is revealing and surprising.

THOMAS D. CALRK AND Agrarian Kentucky (1977)

Thomas D. Clark, one of the most esteemed of Kentucky’s historians tackles some of those questions in his small but important book, Agrarian Kentucky, (1977). He tells us that

“The rolling country hills and valleys of Kentucky present a massive and alluring canvas. Dotted with peaceful farmsteads and modest cabins, the land collectively represents the substance and spirit of home. Its rurality has been the womb of a nostalgic history into which Kentuckians have often retreated …

Clark, Thomas D. Agrarian Kentucky, University of Kentucky Press, 1977, p.x. (Kentucky Bicentennial Bookshelf).

Clark’s history of Kentucky’s agrarian past can be eye-opening to those who choose to only give singular recognition to one Kentucky herbivorous animal — and that, the horse. The Kentucky horse was important, but what Clark makes clear in his little book on agrarian life is that along with the horse came a myriad of other farm animals that formed the backbone of rural life and, ultimately, industrial life in early Kentucky.

Agrarian Kentucky Clark tells us, is much more complex than the culture that has grown up around horses and crafts and memories of early pioneers. The common cattle, turkeys, hogs, chickens, goats, and sheep followed the early pioneers as they wagoned — or walked into the western wilderness. Often with possessions slung across the back of a horse or mule, the early pioneers traveled down the Great Wagon Road that ran through the Shenandoah Valley, and as they looked out on the great virgin forests of North Carolina, the great green valleys carved by meandering rivers in southwestern Virginia, and the vast game-lands of what was to become Kentucky, it must have looked like paradise.

As the migrations of settlers and their livestock increased into North Carolina and then back up to southwestern Virginia and into what is now eastern Kentucky, the pioneers were awed to see a wilderness dotted with herbivores —with buffalo, deer, and herds of elk. As they crossed over the Cumberland Gap and the mountains opened gradually into plains, there were even larger herds of buffalo and elk. It was a land ready for settlement and herbivores of all varieties.

What is little recognized is how quickly non-native farm animal species of almost every variety flowed into the state following the early arrival of the pioneers. Large numbers of European sheep were among the earliest arrivals. The livestock that came down the Wilderness Road and on the many flatboats floated down the Ohio was not a trickle. It was a torrent. The animals came, into the broad, sweeping landscape of Kentucky and they quickly adapted and grew strong.

As the pioneers settled in they added the animals that had remained for many of them a part of the nostalgic and bucolic memories of their life in other times and other countries. As wealth began to grow, the animals they owned became, for the settlers a symbol of new-found wealth in a conquered paradise. The scrub cow, mule, nag, sheep, and goats thrived on the lush forage of Kentucky. The evident health and strength of the animal caught the imagination of the early pioneer and began to give way to a sensitivity to the breed of their animals. Breeding began to grow in importance, and with it, the ferocious art of livestock trading.

The many early settlers who came down the Ohio on their flatboats also floated their sparse but precious cargo on the Kentucky, the Cumberland, and the Rockcastle rivers in the mid-eighteenth century. One of the earliest incursions was that represented by the party of the pioneer settler Benjamin Logan, known as “St. Asaph.” He settled in the area of Stanford, then called Logan’s Fort, in what later became Lincoln County. The year was 1775. The later settlements of Lexington, 42 miles north, and Somerset, 32 miles south, placed Logan’s Fort in a critical position for shaping agrarian practice in the heart of Kentucky’s lush grasslands — the Bluegrass.


A second route of the pioneer into the wilderness of Kentucky was along what is now known as the Wilderness Road. This primary “road” followed the well-used Indian trails that came from Virginia and that passed through the Cumberland Gap where Kentucky now touches the border of Tennessee. It is this more southern route that is central to an understanding of the early Central Appalachian pioneer family. This growing population of both early-comers and late-comers found the close mountains and private lifestyle of the terrain comforting — and cheap.  They comprised the early settlers of eastern Kentucky and it is not surprising to find names today of the common ancestor who first settled the land. Nolans, Turners, Metcalfs, Boggs, and others formed a closely bonded origin and lifestyle. Sheep were very much a part of their history. 

The Wilderness Road was the route taken by Daniel Boone and his party that eventually led the famous party to their settlement at Boonesboro Fort on the banks of the Kentucky River. When Daniel Boone and his party settled into Boonesboro Fort, it was the same year that the Benjamin Logan party settled near Stanford, or Logan’s Fort, not far away. The magical year for both was 1775.

These two 1775 primary settlements introduced many of the herbivores that became an integral force in growing Kentucky agriculture and that today continue to be foundational to farming in Kentucky. For example, the number of livestock accompanying the early migrants was generally dependent on the number of family members. Historian Clark gives us an interesting formula for dependency. He tells us that a family of four would most likely have brought with them, “... a horse and a mule, a bull, three cows, a ram and three ewes, four boars, five sows and fifteen pigs, a rooster, and two hens.” This estimate is based on what is known about the settlement patterns of the earliest pioneers. But by 1860, this generous allotment of livestock per family of four (an uncommonly low number for Kentucky families of that time) was curtailed by the dwindling supply of pasture. The decrease in pasture, says Clark, changes the estimated distribution of livestock to the family size and is far less generous. He writes

In 1860, by comparison, 21 persons would have had to depend on a horse and a mule; 6 1/2 would have looked to a single cow for milk; 2 would have had a single pig to satisfy their needs for pork; and 1 1/2 persons would have fared better sharing a single beef cow.

Clark, Agrarian … p.37.

However, not all things were equal in the early settlements when it came to sheep. Clark fails to mention sheep in the 1860 picture. By that year the gentle herbivore had already run up against some obstacles. The pioneers who took up settlement in the mountainous regions of eastern Kentucky soon found that sheep needed extra attention. Unlike the hardy hogs that were left to their own devices to forage, mate, give birth, and fatten, did not easily fill the smokehouses of the settlers. The sheep were higher maintenance. They needed to be monitored and protected from cougars and other predators, particularly the growing packs of roaming settler dogs that found the docile sheep an easy target. Further, there were few flat grasslands in the mountains and the uneven uncultivated terrain readily grew the most bothersome cockles, briars, beggers lice, and many prickly burrs that tangled the rich fleece of the sheep and refused to be easily coaxed from their thick coats.

Nevertheless, the early pioneers of eastern Kentucky persisted. While they reduced the number of sheep in their flock according to their household number, they did so thoughtfully. They often measured the flock number against the amount of wool that might come from each sheep sheared and how much could be traded and how much spun into wool for their large families. They grew adept at determining how many skeins of wool could be spun from the pounds of wool on each sheep. It was estimated that one adult sheep could produce about twenty pounds of fleece. It was a good educational mathematical exercise the maintenance of their household “budgets.” It was this simple mathematical formula and others that pointed to a growing disparity in agrarian practice in the two states of Kentucky. Geography had begun to define the distribution of agrarian wealth throughout the Blue Grass and in the eastern regions of Kentucky and it was increasingly uneven.


While the migration of early settlers had slowed by the turn of the nineteenth century, the traffic across the Cumberland Gap had picked up. But, this traffic was largely going East. The new Eastward traffic was the surge of drovers pushing their livestock along the Wilderness Road to a growing livestock market in cities such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, and south to Charleston. It’s estimated that while both the eastern mountain migrations and the Blue Grass migrations of settlers were staggering in their rapid rise during the last half of the eighteenth century, the livestock traffic exporting out of the two areas until the middle of the nineteenth century, was far greater.

Pioneer migrations clearly shaped the future of domestic herbivores, while they also reflected the role that choice played in the formation of distinct cultural lifestyles in Kentucky. The introduction of domestic herbivores into Kentucky defined the two migrant cultures. Where the two cultures met was in their adept dialog at “horse-trading.” The success of both highlanders and lowlanders in managing their livestock wisely and becoming clever “horse-traders” and drovers, kept agrarian life vital in the Blue Grass and all along the Wilderness Road for well over a century. The vibrant trade in livestock was an economic stream as critical to the economy of Kentucky as was the later lumber and coal boom. In the two latter economies, eastern Kentucky excelled…. and not. Neither coal nor trees could quickly be replenished in the market.

Yet, not all was rosy in the livestock trade, either. Thomas Clark, tells us a cautionary tale about the meteoric rise of the Kentucky livestock trade. He describes what he calls the “greatest tragedy” of the boom in livestock production in Kentucky. That was the tragic loss of the state’s lead in sheep production to the poor control of vagrant dogs. It was a loss of control that was both a civic and a political tragedy.

The story goes that because of the dominant political party’s fear of alienating their voter base, legislative action to restrain canines from marauding sheepfolds was never taken. The dogs won over the sheep. Today we train dogs to watch over sheep and goats, but in the earlier years, dogs often ran wild in a pack, much like wolves, that were even more destructive. During the early eras of Pine Mountain Settlement School, the various Directors struggled with similar agrarian tragedies. The early agrarian tragedies were also educational tragedies.


When Uncle William Creech married Aunt Sal in 1866 they struck out on their own to shape a life for themselves in the Pine Mountain Valley. Like so many pioneers before him, Uncle William brought the necessary sheep along with his new family to the Pine Mountain Valley. Uncle William wrote about the early years in his brief autobiography

“I will now get back to my subject of farm work. So early the next spring my wife children and myself went to getting ready for another crop, them to burning logs and brush and me plowing the ground and planting corn, which we worked hard until the first of August, Clearing land was the greatest industry for the fall and winter for several years until we had enough for what we needed for wheat, corn, rye and flax and buckwheat. In the dry season of the year we had to grind our meal on a hand mill which was very hard work. By raising flax and sheep my wife carded and spun and wove cloth to make clothes for us all while I tanned leather and made all the shoes that we wore. While the days was warm and dry we plowed and hoed corn and wet days and by night I worked in my blacksmith shop and my wife knit and spun. But when the children got large enough to do work the boys helped me and girls helped their mother. But all worked to gather in the cornfield.”

William Creech. A Short Sketch of My Life, after 1913 (written for Ethel de Long)

It is education we now know to be the backbone of successful agrarian practice and few schools have worked harder to integrate the two. At Pine Mountain Katherine Pettit, one of the co-founders of the School, shaped the idea of agrarian training as a kind of “Industrial training” in which she championed both formal education, civic education, and indirectly, political education. In her agrarian “classroom” she aimed to take her passion for the agrarian life and shape students into new citizens who could help shape a new social and civil society in the mountains. Agriculture was a persuasive model and not, as some have claimed, a prop for a cultural agenda. Like the later Ayrshire herd, sheep make for beautiful pictures, but farming sheep and milk cows makes for a marvelous education.

Pettit has been accused of being driven by her cultural interests and her desire to foster cultural programs at Pine Mountain to the exclusion of other needs at the School — particularly agricultural needs. Certainly, weaving and Appalachian weavers were never far from Pettit’s eye, but it was the land and its agricultural and educational potential that drove the bulk of her agendas.


In her quest to understand the richness of the Central Appalachians, Pettit discovered “kivers” and they became the focus of her collecting instincts. In a personal letter that Pettit wrote to a friend in 1911, she outlines her fascination with “kivers,” the woven bed covers, the products of many mountain looms. Generally woven of wool raised by the family, spun, and then dyed with natural plants, these “kivers” or coverlets were prized possessions in the mountain families. Katherine Pettit had a passion for “kivers.” She certainly traveled miles to go see and seek her “kivers” but it soon became the “kivers” connection to the educational process of arriving at a “kiver” that held her attention and later her crusade. In instinct, she was a farmer in training and an educator before she was a collector.

… we had to hurry up to the head of Greasy to see Mrs. Shell and her coverlids [weavings]. She is over sixty years old and had just finished shearing her 100 sheep. Then we walked four miles along the foot of Pine Mountain down to Mr. [William] Creech‘s where they had looms, spinning wheels, hackles, etc., and had been longing for years for somebody to come along and tell them where they could get some flax seed to plant. They had been hoping for a school for 30 years and offered 100 acres of land.

Page 8 – [1911_pettit_ltr_0008-1.jpg]

Evelyn K. Wells captures another part of the Pettit-sheep story in a letter home to her family in 1918, in which she again describes the Shell family Picture of Shell sheep. Sheep eating neighbor’s corn … “The other day I called on Aunt Sis Shell [Mary Elizabeth Nolan Shell]. She took me into the bedroom to see her wool, the fleeces of 50 sheep, black, Southdown and white, piled high on three feather beds, we have picked out some fleeces — mine, a lovely Southdown, gray-brown, to be woven into a linsey skirt for next winter.”

EVELYN K. WELLS 1918 Excerpts From Letters Home.
Aunt “Polly” Mary Ann Shell Day knitting, and Josiah (?) with dried “shucky” beans and peppers above their head and fireplace behind them. [hook_album_2blk__014.jpg]

Writing to her family two years earlier in 1916, Evelyn Wells again singles out the Shell family whom she had just visited and suggests that not all sheep farming was bucolic. She describes the visit, “He was most entertaining, telling us all about the game one used to be able to catch, and conditions when the country was really wild.” ….. Later, in her letter, she describes another visit to the Shell home where

“I saw a quaint procession passing, through the bottomland. Aunt Sis stalking along, behind her Uncle John with his beard and slouch hat, and after them a boy driving a sledge drawn by a team of oxen. They are getting in their corn because the sheep are eating it….” 

EVELYN K. WELLS 1916 Excerpts From Letters Home.

It is the agriculture that sits behind each “coverlid” that became a primary concern to Pettit and her community of subsistence farmers.


Kingman Album. Woman with sheep following her. [c. 1920’s]  [kingman_021d]

The raising of sheep and the issues of negotiating the open pastures in the first decades of the twentieth century were a source of constant contestation. Usually, disputes were worked out neighbor to neighbor but sometimes — not. Pigs were of the greatest concern as they were often the most destructive farm animal on the loose. Sheep, it appears, could also create issues, such as foraging in a neighbor’s corn patch. One story relayed by Pine Mountain staff member Alice Cobb describes the common incident in which sheep eat a neighbor’s corn crop.

Another incident, also described by Alice Cobb in her brief vignettes of life in the Pine Mountain valley, is more serious and ends up in court but as the incident is re-told it becomes a story of “clever justice”.

All evidence in the Pine Mountain Valley shows that the raising of sheep and the shearing of the sheep for wool was persistent and intermittently practiced in dwindling numbers until the late 1980s. Again Pine Mountain staff member Alice Cobb describes her observations as an “outsider” of a household that is “too evasive to be captured”

There are fifty million “schoolhouses in the foothills” stories to be dramatized, published, gobbled and washed down with laughter and tears. The truth is that the situation is too evasive to be captured except in a net of romance or a mire of realism, and every small incident has its share of both. We from the outside come down to the hills. Many of us see the quaint picture of Mag shearing her sheep and spinning the wool, Grannie Hall dipping vegetable dyes and weaving rare patterns in rare colors; ….

Alice Cobb, Letters

What Cobb does in her insightful and graphic descriptions of life in the Pine Mountain Valley is capture and explode the romantic notion of culture as a singularity only recognized in the photograph or romantic or picturesque story posed to inform the outsider. What she draws our attention to is the pervasive and often grinding agrarian labor of most all life in the Pine Mountain Valley. The multitude of hours it takes to raise sheep, goats, and cows; the back-breaking labor of farming a steep hillside; the desire for education that is devoured by the hours at the simple tasks of making a life. Maintaining a mountain home is an education, but not of the schoolhouse type. The maintenance of that education was not bucolic or picturesque until its conversion into memories and reverie.

The tasks associated with an agrarian life are labor-intensive and demanding on every member of the family. A subsistence farm is not so much a culture as it is a composite of the family’s relationship to the land, their husbandry of their animals, and their household skills in managing their small plots of land and large families. An agrarian existence is often centered on the success or failure of the agriculture skill of the family. The enhancement of this life and the preservation of the memories were at the heart of Pettit’s mission. The “kivers” were her “school books”.

Even earlier, in 1911, three years before Pine Mountain was founded, Katherine Pettit and a large group from Berea traveled to eastern Kentucky. A companion on the journey, Maria McVay [McVey ?], described the trip in a serialized diary published in a major Cincinnati newspaper. Pettit mentions the trip briefly in an early 1911 letter to potential donors for a new mountain School in Harlan County. Written while she was still at Hindman she recalled her first impression of the mountainous eastern region.

Writing from Hindman, she describes the life of families in the Pine Mountain Valley that she witnessed on her very first long trip to the region in 1899. With that group gathered by Berea faculty member Henry Mixter Penniman and other travelers, she was clearly moved by the beauty and the deprivation of the area. Surrounded by kindred spirits, including the suffragist Madeline McDowell Breckenridge,, and the outspoken geographer, “Nellie” Semple [Ellen Churchill Semple], who all had their views about the skills of farming, Pettit began to shape her plans for a school in the Pine Mountain valley.

In her Letter to Friends, she describes the remote valley and with a reflection of deep regret, she also describes the push and pull of industrialization that was manifested in the railroad then entering the mountains. In an effort to prepare mountain communities for the coming industrialization, she began to form a vision that would take native craft and mix it with informed industrial training and traditional educational coursework much like the program she had initiated at Hindman Settlement.

Pettit writes

” …. we had to hurry up to the head of Greasy to see Mrs. Shell and her coverlids [weavings]. She is over sixty years old and had just finished shearing her 100 sheep. Then we walked four miles along the foot of Pine Mountain down to Mr. [William] Creech‘s where they had looms, spinning wheels, hackles, etc., and had been longing for years for somebody to come along and tell them where they could get some flax seed to plant. They had been hoping for a school for 30 years and offered 100 acres of land.….

While we were lying there in those cliffs, looking up at the sky and the eagles soaring above us, we heard the whistle of the locomotive and then [(strike through) our guide] Christopher Columbus [Creech] told us it was the first passenger train going up the Cumberland River twenty miles above Harlan Town to Looney Creek on the Black Mountain and Wasioto Railroad. You can imagine the shock I had when I realized that near this remote mountain region where I stood twelve [(striike-through) eleven] years ago was the railroad. 

Katherine Pettit. Correspondence n.d. (describes an 1899 trip)

There, on that mountain cliff, it seemed, the dream she held for the region merged with that of Aunt Louize in Sally Loomis’ poem, Neverstill, “The hills shall skip like lambs,” she sang —- Of the mountain scallops ‘gainst the sky engraved.


Along the Pine Mountain valley sheep were found on many early subsistence farms. In 1918, there is evidence that the Shell’s relationship with sheep was one that was long and deep as found in their knowledge of sheep raising and of weaving. It is probable that the Shell family had one of the earliest sheep flocks in the Pine Mountain Valley.


Emblematic of the return to models of an earlier time was the institution of the Community Farmer’s Day, later called “Fair Day. ” It was a day when the community could come together to show their skills in agriculture practice and animal husbandry. Community Day (Fair Day) was a time when students competed for prizes as the best hog-caller, and, yes, sheep-caller. Fair Day is a day that is still celebrated at Pine Mountain. Does anyone know how to call a sheep, today?

“How many of you ever heard hog calling? After some persuasion by Mr. Morris, the audience warmed up to the occasion and, with Old Aunt Till leading, half a dozen, one of them, little four-year-old Barbara Wilder [Brit and Ella Wilder’s daughter], filed up onto the porch and called the hogs or called the sheep, each in his or her own peculiar idiom. I know now why Mrs. [Alice Joy] Keith, when she first came, wondered what that train was that whistled down the valley at a certain time early each morning.” Community Day 1938 

The stories of farming sheep were not all joy and bliss. At Pine Mountain, the stories of dogs and sheep also took a darkly humerous turn in a well-known local feud. The story of that feud told by staff member Alice Cobb is about the uneasy relationship of dogs to sheep and the “price” paid for allowing one to dominate the other. Alice tells of an incident in the Pine Mountain valley that resulted in a trial and a long-lived but — on the face of it — amusing animosity. The story revolves around the famous trial of Jim Boggs’ dogs killing Abner’s (Abner Boggs) sheep) 

Bish is the father of Jim Boggs [see Boggs Family], whom we visit at Turkey Fork occasionally. One time I asked Jim what relation he was to Abner, and he said, “He’s my half uncle, but we don’t claim no kin”. That was my first realization that the disagreement was really serious, so after that I avoided the subject in both homes. But the other night Abner brought it up himself. He asked me if I read the papers, and I confessed that I didn’t as much as I should. “Well,” he said, “Miss Cobbs, you’re going to be a reading even in the Indiana papers, some of these days, about little old Abner Bogg a shootin’ Jim Boggs. Cause as sure as that feller steps acrosst my paths a aimin’ to inconvenience me, I’m agoin’ to take a shot right for his heart. Of course I wasn’t alarmed, because Abner wouldn’t hurt anything — he just talks all the time. But he went on to tell us about the famous dog trial at Big Laurel, which seemed to be one of his quarrels with Jim. It seems that Jim’s dogs had killed Abner’s sheep — at least Abner thought they had, and he went and got a warrant, and arrested the dogs, brought them up to Big Laurel to the magistrate (that was Clarence Patterson), and they had a trial, with Bish BoggsSilus [Silas ?] TurnerJohn Lewis, and someone else as the jury. Well the end of it was that they indicted the dogs for murder, and the jury voted for them to be sentenced, and then Jim Boggs went over to Harlan and got himself appointed a Deputy Sherriff and that gave him some influence with Clarence Patterson, and so the dogs were let out on good behaviour, and Abner’s lawsuit came to nothing.

Now if that isn’t real artistry, I don’t know what it is. Nobody but Abner Boggs would have had sufficient imagination to do a thing like that — he is truly an artist.

ALICE COBB STORIES Farewell Trip to Line Fork June 14, 1937 

AGRARIAN-INDUSTRIAL EDUCATION “Sheep Calling” and the Community Fair

How did Pettit’s vision of a new agrarian-industrial education in the mountains begin? It began with an old set of customs married to a new and human-level industrial vision and idea in the mind of the Pettit, her co-founder, Ethel de Long, and her mentor, William Creech. Agriculture was an opportunity for social reconstruction and if a cultural re-birth of skilled craft could be interwoven — all the better. Agriculture and the raising of sheep were given a fervent push by the forceful personality of Katherine Pettit and those who were inspired by her and who followed her.

In 1941, the announcement of the Community Fair called forward a past more than a century old and a past that had a tradition at the Fair. But one that held promise for future centuries.

ANNUAL COMMUNITY DAY TO BE HELD OCTOBER 11 — HOST JUNIOR CLASS to dance and sing, eat ice cream, watch the set running and dramatization, practice sheep and hog calling; hosted by the Junior class; entertainment by five rural schools in the surrounding community. “Pine Mountain is keeping alive folk ways that are in danger of being lost or forgotten in the swift pace of the machine age, which is even now finding its way into the most remote sections of the Kentucky mountains.”

Volume 6 Pine Mountain Settlement School, September 1941
Harlan County, Kentucky, No. 1

As they did so many times, Pine Mountain looked to earlier practices of agrarian ways to enhance their current practice and to offset the growing cultural, social, and environmental impact of coal mining on the region. During both wars coal mining camps were springing up all over Harlan County and in the surrounding counties. Enormous loads of coal and young men were leaving the mountains to satisfy the war need. The reference to “machine age” is an indirect reference to a pre-war popular book by Malcolm Ross, The Machine Age in the Hills, 1933 — a favorite of Glyn Morris, director during the 1930s and early 40s.

While the School was lamenting the passing of earlier times and struggling with the ravages of mining, the number of sheep in Kentucky had been growing. The 2013 issue of the UK School of Agriculture Magazine, “No Business Like Sheep Business,” tells us that in 1942 the number of sheep in Kentucky had grown to over 1.4 million sheep. In the United States, there were 56.2 million sheep. Kentucky held the record for the most sheep per square mile of any state east of the Mississippi, according to the article.


Malcolm Army’s grandsons, Michael and Eric with Burton Rogers and the sheep, 1980s. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Arny Fullar. [pmss_archives_arny_ photo1.jpg]

In the early 1950s there was an attempt to bring sheep back to the Pine Mountain Valley at the School. Sometime in 1953-54 a small flock of Merino sheep was purchased and was placed in the fields of the school. The Ayrshire herd had been sold and five beef cattle were purchased and they accompanied the sheep. The long-time farmer, William Hayes, had moved across the mountain to a new job as the Forest Ranger for the Kentenia Ranger Station and Brit Wilder, who carried many responsibilities on the farm, was assigned as acting head of Maintenance and the direction of the reduced farm. Brit was given sheep duty.

The School was slowly adjusting to cooperation with Harlan County Schools in the new Community School and everything was focused on making that educational experience work and the livestock were not high on the school’s radar. Pulled in many directions at once, in 1958-1959 the pilot trial of sheep at Pine Mountain ended, most likely due to the over-extension of staff to provide for their care. Brit Wilder was clearly over-committed by his responsibility to the farm and to maintenance.

In the 1970s there were intermittent attempts to bring back sheep and to re-focus on weaving. The period was marked by brief programs as the School that attempted to integrate sheep into the new Environmental Education offerings, Further, it was believed that the sheep could add to the new community Intervention program which also used weaving as an integrated part of its educational programming. It was during this time that community artisan, Sarah Bailey, led the School back to sheep.


Sarah Bailey was one of the most dedicated of the later crafts persons to work at the School and her efforts to bring natural dyeing back to the program and to maintain a weaving studio is fondly remembered by those who were privileged to work with her. Her full biography charts the important work she did for the School and chronicles her deep commitment to the craft of weaving and so many other mountain crafts. Her recommendations for a craft program are sound and still consulted but her reflections on sheep are not known.


Sheep have again entered into the Pine Mountain Settlement School conversation. Under the new direction of Preston Jones, the School has re-focused on the richness of the School’s agricultural heritage and married that to his skills and knowledge of agriculture. Preston’s years of outstanding work with Grow Appalachia and the recent enthusiasm of Patrick Angel, a former Pine Mountain Board member and sheep farmer, have led to new agrarian interests. The interests center on sheep and goat farming and a series of conversations have revitalized ideas around a demonstration project of sheep raising.

On August 13, 2020 a meeting was held via ZOOM to discuss the possibilities of a collaboration that would bring sheep back to Pine Mountain and would again link the agrarian past with a craft future. In attendance were Preston Jones, PMSS Executive Director, Patrick Angel, a sheep farmer and President of the Southeast Kentucky Sheep Growers Association [SEKSPA], Sarabeth Parido, a sheep farmer, wool producer, and craft workshop organizer, Ann Angel Eberhardt,co-editor of this website, and Helen Wykle, PMSS Board member and co-editor of the PMSS Archive web site.

Sheep and Malcolm Army’s grandsons, Michael and Eric with Burton Rogers, 1980s. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Arny Fullar. [pmss_archives_arny_ photo1.jpg]

UPDATE:  In the Fall of 2022 sheep returned to the campus of Pine Mountain in a cooperative project with Southeast Kentucky Sheep Growers Association [SEKSPA]

The group discussed resources and options that could be exercised under COVID restrictions. Also discussed were a range of options for the types of sheep and institutional needs and the economic impact of new directions. The two options of raising sheep for meat or for wool were discussed. Both the agrarian idea and the craft focus were seen to have good instructional potential for the School as well as a revenue stream. The various programs that might be developed around a small demonstration sheep project at the School were extensive but seen to be very feasible based on models offered by PMSS and by Patrick and Sarabeth.

If there is interest in exploring this path of returning sheep to the School and building workshops around this new farm/craft direction, please contact the PMSS office and schedule time to speak with Jason Brashear, Interim Director. It is important that all interested parties explore all the options this opportunity provides. 

Working with the Kentucky Sheep and Goat Development Office (KSGDO) in Frankfort and their craft consultant, Sarabeth Parido, is available to provide multiple educational workshops (small and COVID-safe) and/or virtual classes filmed at PMSS for distribution. Other options proposed in the meeting focused on the use of local and regional resources. Craft sessions were proposed as 3-5 hour sessions for very reasonable fees that would encompass a materials fee, registration fee, and cost of lodging and meals and that could be extended to seminar weekends, and other time frames, depending on COVID guidelines and enrollment. Pine Mountain is ideally suited for small groups and “distancing.” The large weaving studio at the school has 24 operational looms of variable size and a small stockpile of supplies. Examples of possible instruction workshops follow

  • weaving instruction classes (based on levels)
  • natural fiber workshops
  • natural dye workshops
  • felting workshop
  • raising sheep and managing small sheep farms, how-to and hands-on
  • various highly skilled artisans offering weaving and wool craft classes
  • basket weaving with wool
  • knitting worshops
  • instruction and guidelines for establishing a small sheep-centered business
  • goat cheese
  • goat soap
  • goat milk processing
0046a P. Roettinger Album.”Sheep Shearing, Uncle John Shell, Aunt Sis Shell, and Mrs. Joe Day.” [Woman standing next to a barn on left, watching man and woman sheer a sheep.]


FARM GUIDE TO SHEEP, GOATS, CRAFT, WEAVING The Magazine, Univ. of KY Sheep article –excellent
No Business Like Sheep Business – UK College of › Magazine › Summer2013 › story3 Describes Wildflower and Bird Weekends, Summer Spinning Bee, led by local craftswoman Sarah Bailey and members of the Kentucky Weaver’s Guild. 119 attenders went through all the old-time intricate processes of shearing the sheep, carding and spinning the wool into yarn, dyeing yarn with vegetable dyes, and finally weaving the patterns. Textile Workshop. 1974-75 Pictures of sheep … 1970s Aunt Jude Turner picture with sheep. (008) 1925 Shearing sheep (Shell family) Alice Cobb Story of raising sheep and living off the land. Florence Reeves story about Aunt Phronie .. describes her “pre delight” the care of sheep and took peace ad quiet as she carded ad spun the wool…. Mary Rogers subject directory: weaving of sheep wool Sarah Bailey 5 entries …as she demonstrated how to shear, card, dye, and spin sheep’s wool. “THE COMMUNITY. Old friends of the School would have especially enjoyed the Spinning Bee held last summer under the direction of Mrs. Sarah Bailey, neighbor and well-known craftswoman. She and members of the Kentucky Weaver’s Guild led the 119 attendees through all the old-time intricate processes of shearing the sheep, carding and spinning the wool into yarn, dyeing the yarn with vegetable dyes, and finally weaving the patterns. It was three days out of history!” On July 13, 1935, Sarah married Frank Bailey. The couple built their own house on a small farm where they raised a variety of farm animals, including sheep which provided the wool for Sarah’s spinning, weaving and knitting. Sarah was known for her excellent cooking skills, using produce grown in her enormous garden…” Aunt Nance Templeton. Great story on shearing and weaving with sheep wool….Alice Cobb as told by Pettit. Uncle Wiliam raising sheep before PMSS created…


No Business Like Sheep Business – UK College of › Magazine › SUMMER2013 › story3

  • Jul 1, 2013 – Kentucky sheep producers are tapping into a rich history. Stone Age humans domesticated sheep 10,000 years ago in Asia Minor—the first farm animals on record. They were easy to handle, and they produced meat, milk, fiber, and shelter.

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH A Brave and Imaginative Plan Takes Shape

Lewis Lyttle ( ) – A Key Player in the Founding of PMSS

Lewis Lyttle (1868-1950).[rood_083.jpg]

Reverend Lewis Lyttle, an itinerant Baptist preacher, knew intimately what he was writing about in his 1911 letters to Katherine Pettit. During his visits to the Pine Mountain area as a mountain missionary attending to the spiritual needs of the community, he learned firsthand the severe educational, medical, and cultural needs of the people. When he wrote to Katherine Pettit in the first years of the 1900s his letters were impassioned pleas for the people of the region. He asked Pettit to consider building a new school on a portion of land that he had seen and that he suggested was rich with potential for a school. He wrote, 

“I think there is a good place here where Greasy, Middle Fork, Line Fork, Straight Creek, Leatherwood, and Cutshin, all head in against the Pine Mountain. Pure air, pure water, and plenty of children to enjoy it.”

Lyttle, having seen Pettit’s work at WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) Settlement School (later known as Hindman Settlement School), had every hope that the same could be done in Harlan County in the Pine Mountain Valley.  It was clear to Lyttle that Pettit had the skills that could handle such an endeavor. Pettit not only understood the needs of the area but she also had a reputation for action and a no-nonsense leadership style that had already proved effective in the founding of the Hindman Settlement.

Rev. Lyttle wrote to Pettit 

“I would shrink from asking anyone but you to undertake to start a school in such conditions as we will have to meet but I know you understand them.”

Lyttle had ideas but no money, no land, and no aptitude for breaking ground, building out the facilities, or negotiating the finances. However, he knew landowners and community leaders who had these skills — and he knew Katherine Pettit — at least he believed he did. 

Lyttle began by preaching the idea of a school to the community. As Lyttle’s idea of a new school began to take shape in the mind of the community, William Creech and other valley families such as the Metcalfs, the Turners, and others called for a school, Lyttle continued to serve as a liaison between the community, the landowners, and with Pettit and later with Ethel de Long, her co-worker at Hindman. 

Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long had been struggling with their roles at Hindman and were ready for a new venture. Negotiating the exit from Hindman was not easy but  Pettit smoothed the edges. She was both a masterful negotiator and a fiercely independent presence. By suggesting the Pine Mountain idea as an extension of the settlement idea, she kept her relationships at Hindman while convincing Ethel de Long, one of Hindman’s most progressive educators to join her in the Pine Mountain venture. The Knox County school was struggling with increasing costs, a lack of farming land, and a dwindling donor base. 

Pettit and de Long became the co-founders of the Pine Mountain Settlement School.  Building on the ideas of William Creech and his generous donation of land. the two women ventured deeper into the Appalachian mountains. Their sanguine and determined success in founding the institution at Lyttle’s suggested location was a convergence of luck, savvy, and timing. The resulting institution was also a school with a well-chosen mission. It was one that has proved resilient enough to last for over 100 years. Part of the resiliency of Pine Mountain Settlement was the ecumenical foundation that Pettit and de Long instituted. It was a foundation that served the future. Successors in the governance and administration worked within the flexible framework established by the founders and ensured its longevity. 

While Lyttle was strongly immersed in his Baptist roots, he was also a pragmatist.  The School was never sectarian but was founded as a Christ-centered institution, not under the sway of any one religious denomination. Like Lytle and William Creech, the primary goals Pettit and Zande chose to address were education, civic responsibility, and human empathy.

In the letters of Lewis Lyttle to Katherine Pettit, one can feel the urgent appeals to reform all three important areas of life in the community.  Education, civic responsibility, and human empathy do not take easy to reform. In the area surrounding the new school, the challenges were enormous. Feuding,  drinking, and carousing had become a sport.  Lyttle in a letter to Pettit asked that she build a school that would  “invest in the character of these boys and girls.” The letters, recently added to the Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections website, present an early road map to the development of the School and education, civic responsibility. and human empathy in the area of service. 


Pettit and many of her colleagues at Hindman were steeped in the national Settlement Movement that was centered on the work of Jane Addams at Hull House in Chicago. The urban movement had much in common with the strong egalitarian and independent attitudes of mountain people. Both the early settlers of the Southern Appalachians and the founders of the Settlement Movement shared many of the precepts of the prevailing Protestant religions of the day — Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Congregationalists, and Baptists. Later years brought many other religious practitioners to the area such as Shakers, Mormons, Catholics, Mennonites, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Shinto, and others. However, no religion was as entrenched as dramatically as the Baptist sects.

In the early years of the twentieth century, Lewis Lyttle, as a Baptist itinerate preacher, knew he would never be far from a call to preach in the Central Appalachians. In the 18th century, the Presbyterians held sway in many pockets of the region but the religion did not meld well with the isolation and independent dwellers of the mountains. Many, if not most were descendants of the early European Dissenters and dissimulation was a second nature. But, as the population demographic changed with the industrial age of coal, this heritage of dissimulation, found mainly in Baptists and their many splinter denominations, began to shift. 

The shift within the greater population of the Central Appalachianssectarian institutions, but Pine Mountain funded on a non-sectarian base, did well.  Early in the settlement of the Central Appalachians, Baptist sects dominated many rural communities. An inventory of denominations in 1900 shows Baptists accounting for more than one-third of the total church memberships in the mountains of Kentucky. With the Bible as their supreme guide, many splinter groups reserved their right to their interpretation of the Holy Word, and small churches were established in the many small communities. The families were often defined by their geography and their kinships, more than their adherence to a specific dogma.

This fragmented geography, population, and religious disparity of the so-called “Southern Mountaineers” led Samuel Tyndale Wilson in his book, The Southern Mountaineer (1906) to declare in his small book, that the “Appalachian Problem” was found in its seven peculiarities: deep-seated Americanism; Protestantism; White; Country [i.e. rural]; Varied and Complex; Delicate; and Urgent. Wilson was a student and then a professor at Maryville College in Tennessee,

Writing from a Presbyterian perspective, Wilson and others have been described as leaders in shifting the focus of social/religious uplift from the Black South to the Appalachian mountaineer. The “problem”, as seen by Wilson and many others of his time, was

“How are we to bring certain belated and submerged Appalachian blood brethren of ours out into the complete enjoyment of the twentieth-century civilization and Christianity?”

The difficulty with this “problem,” was the many varieties of “Christian” and the growing competition for souls. Further, some “soul winners” held more sway than others in Eastern Kentucky.


Kathrine Pettit was strongly influenced by the Social Gospel Movement and the work of The Reverend Edward O. Guerrant, who was a family friend, a physician as well as a minister. Guerrant, founder of the “Soul Winner Society,” spent many years in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Along with the Rev. Stuart Robinson (1814-1881), he was instrumental in bringing together many of the ideas of the Settlement Movement into mountain mission work. Both Robinson [Stuart Robinson School, Blackey, KY] and Guerrant [Witherspoon College (Buckhorn School) and others] dominated the religious landscape of Eastern Kentucky. While a direct connection cannot be established between Guerrant and Lyttle, it is sure that they were familiars. 

While Guerrant’s “Soul Winner” sounds like a competition for souls, the Social Gospel that Guerrant proposed was more one of conciliation, and his role was one of a conciliator between the various religious factions. Guerrant saw the Soul Winners as inter-denominational — not favoring one religion or sect over another. From his base near Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, and not far from Berea College, Guerrant could easily strike out to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.  

What is more well-known is the influence of Guerrant upon the Pettits in their Blue Grass household near Lexington where he was frequently a visitor. His many tales of the area had long been shared with his friends the Pettits. Guerrant’s ideas likely stuck with Katherine Pettit as she listened to the banter in her household as she grew up. Following her junkets into the eastern mountains she began to know all too well how fragmented the religious tenets were in the region.  On the need to exercise caution and more than a little conciliatory wisdom, Lyttle, Pettit and Guerrant were all in accord.

Pettit entered the region remarkably well prepared for the task before her. Working with Lyttle and under the shadow of the work begun by Guerrant and other progressive reformers, Pettit was able to adapt the settlement movement initiatives.  She had learned first-hand at Hindman the basics and she adapted those and melded them with the missionary energy found in the early Appalachian mission schools.  The early residential schools that grew under the watchful eye of Guerrant became a lasting model for Pettit.  However, the lessons learned in those decidedly sectarian models were modified by Pettit and de Long. Their vision grew into a push for a non-sectarian and strong educational combination — Christian, but not bound to any denomination or sect. Pettit moved forward with a studied Progressive force, a hands-on agricultural knowledge, and a deep commitment to the lessons learned in the Settlement Movement. Pettit was more intent on enriching minds, bodies, and character than on sending souls to heaven. She was, as described in the article by


The letters of Lewis Lyttle and the insights pulled from the writings of Katherine Pettit reveal an informal, interpretative, and practical view of community development in the early years of the Pine Mountain Settlement School. The School’s relations with the Pine Mountain valley and its people focused on education and agrarian reform  It is clear from the letters of Pettit and Lyttle that the nature of the community fascinated them. Not just the “kivers” that Pettit so diligently collected, but the language, the agricultural practice, the relationships, show Pettit’s deep love for the land and the people. She spent a lifetime gathering snippets of wisdom which she recorded in her “Common Book,” a scrapbook of common wisdom, quotes, ideas, Biblical interpretations, and medicinal and mental health practices. The “Common Book,” held by the University of Kentucky, with copies at Berea and a poor mimeograph copy at Pine Mountain, is probably the most intimate record we have of the corners of early Appalachian life that are so difficult escribe. That Pettit was fascinated these “snippets” is much more that just a curiousity. The cultural picture gleaned from the scrapbook informs both Pettit and her Pine Mountain community. As a record of Pine Mountain’s essence and that of its founder, the “snippits” are,  perhaps, as close as we will get to an understanding of Pettit and hr motivations.

The letters of Pettit are anther means of getting close to the enigmatic founder, Katherine Pettit. They come close to revealing her motivations and her hidden personality. In the small body of personal comments found in her letters and tjose of her correspondents, Pettit’s personality begins to take shape.. It is unlikely that an intimate portrait can be drawn, but the letters help to give shape to her planning processes.  Through time the history of Pine Mountain Settlement School is revealed in its letters — internal and external..

Both Lyttle and Pettit worked diligently to contribute to the institution even after retirement. Lyttle continued to preach and as a formidable Harlan County Judge, he raised “judgement ” to another level — that of civic judgement. Until her death in 1938, Pettit kept an ever-watchful eye on the School and in a scattered array of letters she kept a watchful eye on the institution to which she gave birth and longevity.  She contiued to keep in touch with  Lyttle, and it is difficult to tell if she was at his beck and call or if he was responding to the force of her powerful personality. The lessons and the synergy of both are woven into the fabric of the School.

HHW w/ light editing by AAE


See Also:

LEWIS LYTTLE Rev. Biography


In these letters by PMSS’s co-founder, the seeds of PMSS were planted and planning for a school began.

KATHERINE PETTIT CORRESPONDENCE 1911 My Dear Friend Letter, May 27, 1911
This letter, dated May 27, 1911 and written by Katherine Pettit, recounts a visit by Pettit, Rev. Lyttle, PMSS nurse Harriet Butler and Stephen Guilford (a former Hindman student) through four Eastern Kentucky counties to view a site at Pine Mountain that was proposed by Rev. Lyttle for a new school and for Pettit to visit homes that wove “coverlids” — Pettit’s strong interest.

An earlier trip to Pine Mountain by both Pettit and de Long was recorded by Lewis Lyttle to have taken place in the spring of 1910.  That visit was described by Pettit when the vision she held for so long began to be realized to build an industrial training school in the mountains. Enthusiastic descriptions in Pettit’s earlier letter were used in de Long’s 1911 letter as a way to prompt readers to make donations.

This is a critical document for the Pine Mountain Settlement School as it shows the early passion of Pettit to build a school at Pine Mountain while she was still at Hindman and maps to the later Ethel de Long DEAR FRIEND Letter of 1911 which was a fundraising letter to start the institution at Pine Mountain.

DEAR FRIEND Letters 1911 (Hindman) (Signed by Ethel de Long.) This early fund-raising letter by Ethel de Long appears to rely on a previous Katherine Pettit letter which de Long says inspired the move to Pine Mountain by the two founders.


Horine, Kristy Robinson. “Practical Idealist,”

Huddle, Mark Andrew. “Soul Winner: Edward O. Guerrant, the Kentucky Home Missions, and the “Discovery” of Appalachia.” Ohio Valley History, vol. 5, No. 4, Winter 2005, pp. 47-64

Wilson, Samuel Tyndale D.D., The Southern Mountaineers, New York: Literature Dept., Presbyterian Home Missions, 1906.

LEWIS LYTTLE Letters to Katherine Pettit 1911
LEWIS LYTTLE Letters to Pettit and Nolan 1912
LEWIS LYTTLE Rev. Biography

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