Dancing in the Cabbage Patch Is a joyful and personal description of life at Pine Mountain seen through the lens of family involvement with the school. The narrative centers on three main themes: farming, foodways and celebrations. The narratives cover the years of 1913 to the present and are broken into running topical sets that relate to the three main themes. Dancing in the Cabbage Patch contains photographs, manuscript materials, oral histories, and artifacts and external links found in PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL COLLECTIONS, that supplement the personal recollections and reflections of the author. The ideas explored in the narratives are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent ideas held by Pine Mountain Settlement School.


Pine Mountain Settlement School


A personal reflection on Appalachian migration.

“The effect of mass migration has been the creation of radically new types of human beings: people who root themselves in ideas rather than places, in memories as much as material things; people who have been obliged to define themselves — because they are defined by others — by their otherness; people in whose deepest selves strange fusions occur, unprecedented unions between what they were and where they find themselves.”
Salman Rushdie

“It seems to me from my personal experience that there is kindness everywhere in different proportions and more goodness and tenderheartedness than we read of in the moralists.”
                           Elizabeth Barrett Browning

These may seem strange companions in a discussion of migration — Salman Rushdie and Elizabeth Barrett Browning — yet they both share an understanding of our deeper selves. They reach into the core of what makes us human regardless of our origins. Migration can tear at that core in ways we are still coming to understand. In Appalachia migration is a constant theme that runs throughout our conversations. So is the idea that others can redefine us; it makes us defensive and not just because we are perceived as “somthing else.” It is much more complex.

My grandfather was always on the move, going and coming from somewhere else but always returning to there —to Appalachia. He didn’t have a car. He was left to the many devices of journeying. Neither did he have a career that kept him moving up the staircase of advancement in the ways we understand advancement today. He simply moved. That was his advancement. He changed his location and with it, he changed his sense of self. Though he mined coal for much of his life, we never knew many of the other jobs he worked into and out of in his goings. But we knew him because he was always coming back.

“Papaw,” the Appalachian term of endearment, or not, — for the fathers and grandfathers of children growing up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, was always going and coming back. He kept the flow of life in the household unsteady, but he also kept it animated by expectation. When he returned the household became filled with somber but expected and many times unspoken conversations. Where did you go? What did you do? Who did you meet? What was it like living … there? Did you miss us? Silence. The silence in the house dictated by our grandmother, whom we affectionally called “Daa”, was palpable. Our questions and the non-answers often hung in the air with their weight of deep anxiety. But the silence was always temporary. When the house filled with family, with the sons, the wives and their sons and daughters, the voices and laughter and stories filled the rooms. The memories of family, together, flowed like healing waters over all the unspoken answers to Papaw’s going and coming. But, Daa, the affectionate name for our grandmother, kept him in her wary view and could silence his answers with just a gaze.

When we gathered, Daa often filled her table with fried chicken, cornbread, ham slices with red-eye gravy, fried oysters, pickles, mashed white potatoes from the garden, cole-slaw, and fried sweet potatoes — crisp with hard sugar edges. We playfully juggled for chicken legs, yearned for four-legged chickens, and made jokes about the “toot” which Daa always left on the bird. No one got enough sweet potatoes and we rarely had room for the blackberry cobbler, but we ate it anyway. For us, a coming home was a celebration of family and the wealth of the table. We, the family and the cousins, repeated this ritual many times in the early years of growing up. We could do that with frequency because early-on we never lived far from our grandparents. We traveled to Coxton where our grandparents spent most of their life; first, as residents of the coal camp and later in a house they bought nearby on the road to Evarts. At most, our coming and going was across the county of Harlan, or up and over Pine Mountain to the valley where my family lived, at the settlement school called Pine Mountain Settlement, a beautiful little community nestled between two steep mountains and beside gentle Isaacs Creek, the headwaters of the long and beautiful Kentucky River. 

Papaw left his home many times but the most telling time was when he left — really left Daa and her boys. She had just been diagnosed with tuberculosis. In a coal camp tuberculosis was held to be a slow death sentence. and she still had young boys at home — five of them. According to apocryphal tales told by cousins, Daa had told someone that, Papaw, when he left, said he had to go because he did not want to stay and watch her die.

Given the common prognosis, his expectation that she would die was not unrealistic but it was cruel to have said it out loud. Most tuberculin cases ended badly. But, this going seemed most cruel if that was what he said and that was why he had left. Some of us never accepted this story, but clearly Daa never forgave Papaw for some thoughtless words said somewhere (if said at all). His awful prognosis or Daa’s fear of being alone, or the terror of the mining camp —had led to his departure. But, she and her sons also never gave up trying to entice him back home.

The 1930s in Harlan County were not easy years with strikes and union unrest and violence. Daa’s “disease” could easily be fatal but so could many other diseases. And, so could a random bullet. In many ways, Papaw’s prognosis was just as stark as that of Daa. Black lung ended the lives of most miners or the unpredictable cave-in of the deep mine could crush the life from a man in an instant. Union thugs could target whomever they did not like. When Papaw left to take jobs in the industrial north, or to Colorado, or whereever he went in his mysterious departure,  I always believed that he was saving his life and the life of the family. The industrial factories had their own labor strife and workplace dangers but dying was not generally a common outcome. When he left he aimed to be lucky.

But, Daa with her lung disease was lucky, as well. Dr. Clark Bailey, a Pine Mountain Board of Trustee member, who had diagnosed her disease early had also found her a progressive sanatarium in Louisville where she could possibly be cured through an experimental treatment of the deadly disease. Through Dr. Bailey, she had also learned about Pine Mountain Settlement School, a progressive and inexpensive boarding school for mountain children and with his help she started the process of enrolling her sons. Though Daa had only an eighth-grade education, she had been called on from time to time to teach in the coal camp school and later served as postmistress. She aimed for something better for her sons.

When she learned of the Pine Mountain program through Dr. Bailey and that the sons could continue their education and earn their education through a work program, she planted the seed of that idea in her sons. The older sons could pay their own way and also earn money in the summer to help pay for their younger brothers and later, perhaps, their mother’s care. The plan, as it turned out, was a good one and Daa’s tuberculosis was healed, the boys went to school, and Papaw was for a time not deep inside a mine. But, the wound of abandonment, the going and Papaw’s long migration history, was not so easily healed.


In the mountains of Appalachia, wars also created migrants in the sense that many young men left the mountains and never returned, or if they did return, they carried with them the changes wrought by new and brutal experience but often romantic tales of far-off battles in far-off places. Papaw’s brother fought in the Boxer Rebellion and also in the Spanish American War and when he returned he brought the romance of far-away places. All but two of Daa’s five sons fought in WWII. One of the two sons died from a coal camp disease — chronic diarrhea. Another became a farmer. Daa cried when her sons went to war but her “babies”, as she called them even into adulthood, went anyway. Going to war was a noble and necessary act for the country and the sons adopted those noble ideals. They took on the journey to war with relish and looked forward to the chance to travel, to adventure and to do something that would stamp them with the noble entry into manhood.

But not all noble ideals end well. When Uncle Silven, Daa’s oldest son went to fight in France, he returned to the mountains, in a coffin nearly five months after his death. His service was lauded throughout the community and within the family and by his wife, Alline. His body returned from the distant and foreign war to the war being waged in the coal camps as mines ramped up to support the war effort. His death filled the house with grief. His coming back brought foreign lands to the mountain family and all the myths of exotic lands exploded with his death.

Silven’s story has been repeated many times over by Appalachian families and their mountain sons. The heroes, the wounded, and the families of the killed in action, like Daa’s family, allowed how they were so proud of their heroes as they filled the rooms with tears. Silvan had been missing in action and throughout the long five months it took to determine his fatal end, Daa wrote stacks of letters. When finally his death was confirmed she shed tears of relief and of grief. Daa’s family and other mountain families then came face to face with another kind of tangled emotion, that of displacement.

Hidden behind the pride and the grief that war brought on, was a growing distrust in the minds of some; a great fear of going away and the dangers it carried. Noble or not, the scars of displacement, of leaving home, were deep in the mental fabric of many Appalachian families. Who they were before the war and where the family found themselves following the war, were not the same.

When Uncle Silven went away he went, not for family, but for some larger community, the nation, freedom, a cause, that we knew was somehow, ours as well. We knew we owned his death because he fought for us and we knew that his death was among many noble deaths and that we should be proud. But, we also knew that his going away had killed him. It was a going, a departure on two planes of our imagination and understanding. The soldiers who went to war and who came back either dead or alive, created a local, neighborly, psychic and emotional displacement in the family.

When Silven came back home the conversations in our family and those families who had experienced similar losses, turned. Daa’s other sons, her “babies,” also went to fight in the war and she talked of nothing but their safe return until they all were back home. Her mind during those years was as displaced as a migrant’s must be. Her neighbors and our neighbors and their neighbors went to war and the conversations revolved around the places of those wars past and future. Men sat on crates in front of the local post office and told tales of their wars — the Civil War, the Spanish American War, the Boxer Rebellion, WWI. Those conversations prepared the next generations for war, for the long journey to some foreign country where, like Achilles, they would challenge an unknown enemy. Then, my brother and my cousins went in the military to prepare for future wars. Then my generation began to “migrate.” We all became experts on the subject of war and the “enemy” and foreign lands.

Yet, while the elderly grieved war’s loss and the young stood lonely and confused on the edge of that large landscape of death and destruction and noble causes we all went with them in our romantic notions. Later, when my brother went to war in Viet Nam and survived his many supply flights and sorties into Da Nang airbase, we stopped holding our breath and proudly watched him advance in his military career. Yet, we still understood that we were preparing and training for the next war and that war and migration were joined in creating new ideas and new places where those ideas would grow. It was a painful growth. We knew that what we were and what we would become was somehow tied to the outcome of wars and displacement — and migration. As Daa’s grandchildren grew up, the coming and going seemed to grow, as well. Transportation changed and travel became easier. Still, we always carried the memory that going was a kind of war that never ends and that coming back would have an end — would be the end.

Our family continued to gather after the wars and in the times of peace between the wars. In the 1950s we still gathered around the dinner table to tell stories. It was a time of my best memories of going and coming back. The fried chicken was still shared with tall tales of the earlier war in the South Pacific, Navy training, guns, ships, airplanes, the sandy beaches of the Solomons, and of bravery. The boys waited for the stories with the eagerness of the wait for the crisp edges of fried sweet potatoes. The girls listened with polite reverence and some sorrow — at least this one did.

The stories lingered in our heads and we went home and got our play guns and loaded them with caps and shot each other in mock battles. We thought of Silven in the casket, but it still did not stop us from romancing war and playing with guns. In those years my brother and I were young and the Viet Nam war and his fatal air crash on Mt. Rainier were thirty years or more away. I had not yet migrated to California but my brother was soon in Utah majoring in aeronautical engineering and chasing forest fires in old Navy planes. We both still practiced the ritual of going back home every chance we got. Strange, the physical power of stories and the ritual of coming back. Neither of us could think of never going back.

Early on, the conversations of war had filled the imaginations of all the young-uns at our family table and gradually had given more meaning and nuance to the idea of going and coming back. Our going had punched a hole in the fabric of our isolation. The going and coming back of our family members had given us to wonder what was beyond the small world of our goings and coming back across a county, a mountain, a country, a world. The fragile fabric of family held tightly to the breast of our mothers and grandmothers had been ripped apart by the stories we heard, then imagined and then lived. As our generation aged our coming back to share stories and to listen to the voices of our relatives sometimes left us insecure, but excited us for more adventures to come. As we got older we started to find that the stories sometimes conflicted with our growing understanding of the world and our loyalties to people and place. The stories, old and new gave us restless ideas. The coming and going and all the tales spun from those brief migrations fractured our loyalties. Our stories unsettled us just as surely as did our physical departures.

In my mind, I knew that my own migration and the War Years migrations had some common threads. The War Years were times of massive going and coming back for many families like mine in Appalachia and across the country. They made a younger generation restless. Going meant that our lives were fragile but it also meant we were brave. It meant that some of us would die in faraway places and some would come back with their mighty tales of adventure. But we all migrated. Some near and some far. Our family, like so many others, was pushed and then pulled back.

Papaw did not fight in any war, but war had raised the mystery of the going and coming back of Papaw to another level. It had made travel mysterious and set the imagination in flight. Now older, I hunger for new tales and new outcomes. I still want to know the adventures of Papaw while he was away. I still want to travel….. to go away. Now, I still want to hear the spirit of adventure in his tales like those we heard from the Uncles. But the memory of the gaze of my grandmother and the tension around the dinner table that always froze those conversations haunts me and gives the going a weight I cannot shake off.

Papaw’s stories of what he did in his personal war were never fully told by him. He came back, not as a hero, but as one who left his family behind. He did not have the stories to give honor to his departure or his return. His valor in coming back was never celebrated. In some sense, he never came back because his migration had been a permanent fracture with Daa, but came back for family. He came back before he ever started — to a place where he was not welcomed. His migration was the migration of an idea. He held fast to his idea that a better life was out there. Daa was firmly rooted to place. It was the ultimate battle of going and coming back. I like to believe that his going away was brave but his return was heroic.

The icy stare of our loving Daa, our powerful grandmother, ended my grandfather’s stories before they began. Anything that might give credence to “That Man” and his adventures was censored by Daa. The going and coming back of Papaw would remain a mystery and that was that. For the grandchildren, Papaw was imaginary travel writ large. His untold stories of goings and comings would remain mysterious and compelling. Papaw’s life was, for me, was a grand idea. It was the idea of a “better life”. Daa’s life was anchored to one place to which everything returned. That was her “better life.”

So many families in Appalachia have stories that revolve around going and coming back and a “better life.” My family story is only one. War certainly filled many conversations in the cyclical migration that constitutes war’s outcomes. But strangely it was only the going of a Papaw that pulled most strongly on my imagination. Many Appalachian fathers went away alone. It was not uncommon. But, a more common going was the whole family that packed up and went away together. Place was abandoned. This going and coming back of Papaw’s mysterious travel — somewhere in the North, was the journey that was so very hard for many families to process. It was a journey not to exotic places like Iwo Jima or France or the jungles of Batan. It was to Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago and Detroit and other centers of industrial production. It was this form of migration that was clearly a going — that took families and individuals from Appalachia away from the “home-place” and constructed the fabric of what we generally consider as the Appalachian family migration.

What these migrant families shared with Papaw was not the journey itself, but a perception of lack of responsibility to place. Going North when the mines failed was a journey of faith as much as it was a journey of necessity. But the journey to an urban environment was one that puzzled those who stayed behind. To not have land to work, to not pull your existence from inside the earth, to own your own earth, was to lack responsibility. The shift in lifestyle that came with the move to urban centers was monumental. The life of the Appalachian family would no longer be bound to the soil and the context of the stories around the communal table would develop a new framework and new conversations of “place.”

When the migrants came home from the urban North the telling of stories now had to capture their new and unfamiliar landscape. They had to introduce new words, new traditions, new lifestyles, all, often so alien that their descriptions, their stories were intrusive. The stories of migrant families became stories of urban survival, of bullying, of discrimination, of playing in streets and alleys. These were poignant stories tinged with unspoken longing for corn fields and mountains and rivers. In many ways, the new stories fractured the bonds of families unless the story could be woven into the cloth of the extended family that had stayed put.

Going was an inventory of things to be missed, a litany of stories about hoeing corn, feeding the livestock, freezing in hard winters, walking barefoot. The migrants took their patchwork quilts, their crazy quilts, their heritage seeds for a garden, a string of shucky beans …. their fatalism. When they came back, the stories changed. At their core, the celebrations of return were pure fatalism. Their life as a migrant was a violent story of being ripped from nature’s familiar arms, the enfolding of mountains, and the warm bosom of the family. They had been to “war.” Coming back was often a rant against the new environment or false boasting of the wealth and excitement of cities. Migration in hard times became a mantra writ large and passed along in the rich oral tradition of Appalachia.

Even deeper, the going became an all too familiar series of stories told over and over by those who experienced migration or those who witnessed migration’s impact on the extended family unit. Their stories became fusions of the stories told by migrants throughout the world. Their stories were war stories as well as economic sagas. A thousand times over their stories were at their essence the stories told by migrants from Syria, Sudan, Yemen, the Rohingya of Indonesia, and so many more. We are a world awash with the psychic trauma of displacement — of having to go.

Environmental disasters have added to the displacement saga. What distinguishes the Appalachian migrant from those now filling temporary camps throughout the world is the fact that most of the world’s migrants will not have the advantage of going back. They will become immigrants in a state of permanent displacement. Their displacement is our terror, the terror of never coming home.

For every family going to Cincinnati, to any new city, to find work, to survive, to build a future, there are hundreds more on the move throughout the world. But, migration is not always immigration; a going and staying. Like Papaw’s going, migration is most like a yo-yo. In Appalachia, going is often a continuous loop of going and coming back. For most of the Appalachian migrants, the departure was not a permanent exile — it was deeply believed to be temporary. The migration and the new place were malleable and so were the people to some degree. For Appalachian families, the migration was a constant recreation of communities of support balanced against the need to stay connected to home, to the rural familiar. Coming back, in some cases, could take years, as it did in my case from far across the country. Or, coming back could be only the old stories around a new and a permanent table in the new “home.” But, most times, coming back was ritualized. It was part of being a family from the Appalachian mountains. It was required.

Living as a migrant is to adapt but retain. It is to remember to never “get above your raisin’. It is foodways raised to the level of a sacrificial offering. It is barter, not money. It is the noble carried in the back pocket and the voice of ancestor’s in the head. For the migrant in the city, the physical state was dirt, crime, monotony, an urban prison where the walls of tall buildings replaced mountains. For most families from Appalachia who experienced leaving for urban centers, going required a coming back … a return to the cathedral of nature and the true familiar community where the memories could be refreshed or restored. When the migrants could not soon go home again, they pulled the vision of home from their dreams and awash in memories of themselves at home, they sought out other like-dreamers and formed centers of Appalachian life in their new cities.

It is important to understand migration if one truly wants to understand the Appalachian mind or any human mind that has been displaced from their home. Migration is not about “other.” It is about us.

Helen Wykle



DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH English Country Dancing at Pine Mountain Settlement School

Pine Mountain Settlement School


May Day 1949. Drawing by Mary Rogers

English Country Dance crept into the Pine Mountain Valley like the bright green of Spring time creeps up the North flank of the mountain — slowly. Dance in the valley was not unknown in the first decades of the twentieth century, but the gentility of English Country Dance was unknown. Anywhere there was a large community gathering in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky there were “parties” and “party games” and often “set-running.” Churches were largely opposed to “dancing” but “party games” were often accepted. In the more strict religious sects, dance had always been forbidden. Dancing was seen as the work of the devil, but so was moonshine, but never guns.

In the Pine Mountain Valley, many in the community had been “dancing” most of their lives. The dance most favored was one later called the Kentucky Running Set. It was a fast-paced, vigorous and lengthy series of maneuvers which were rhythmically called out by a leader. According to Phil Jamison, in his 2015 book, Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance, pp.72-73, the idea of a “Running Set” is not as intuitive as it seems. A noted North Carolina dance historian, dancer and set caller, Jamison suggests that the term “set” has several definitions.

In the seventeenth century, for example, a “set” was used to describe a series of simple steps in place to one’s partner, as in the action to “set” to a partner before turning. Jamison. however, also conjectures that Karpeles and Sharp conflated the meaning with another “set”, that of a composition of figures, such as Jamison’s suggestion, “a ‘set of Quadrilles.'” Further, French dances that had many parts were referred to as “sets”. This last description of a set given by Jamison, suggests to him that the use of the term is associated with the idea of a Quadrille “set” and this seems to be confirmed in the appearance of the term and idea in the Southern Appalachians. Strengthening his argument for a French connection with the Quadrille, he quotes Karples from an article, “Some Additional Figures for Set Running,” In the Journal of the English Folk Dance Society 2, no. 3 (1930): 39-50.

“It is very probable that the word ‘set’ implies a ‘set of figures,’ in the way that it is customary to speak of a ‘set of Quadrilles.'”

As for “running” Jamison conjectures that it has its origins in Scotland. In dances, particularly the reel, where “running a set” was a common description of the dance pattern.

It was this “dance,” this running of sets, that surprised and charmed one of the world’s leading instructors of English Country Dance when he first viewed it at Pine Mountain. The dance form had been observed by visitors to the School and commented on by the staff when visiting on fundraising trips to the North East. And when Cecil Sharp came to America, it was recommended by English Country Dance lovers in the North East that Sharp come listen to the ballad singers and see what the remote people in Eastern Kentucky had retained of old English forms of entertainment in song and dance. Pine Mountian gave Cecil Sharp a gift, and Cecil Sharp left a gift for the School — English Country Dancing. 

Cecil Sharp‘s discoveries at the School were well described in his book. English folk songs from the southern Appalachians, collected by Cecil J. Sharp; comprising two hundred and seventy-four songs and ballads with nine hundred and sixty-eight tunes, including thirty-nine tunes contributed by Olive Dame Campbell, edited by Maud Karpeles. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1932. The book, dedicated to William Creech, the donor of the land for the Pine Mountain Settlement School remains a testimony of a mutual fondness for the culture of the Southern Appalachians. When Cecil Sharp came to the School along with his secretary, Maud Karples, he witnessed a joyful and energetic community of set runners and when he left, he set a tradition for the inclusion of English Country Dancing in annual celebrations and in the school’s educational program.


Some English Country Dancers may recognize formations that readily suggest the named dance being performed. Most will not. Many times the dance forms overlap and are incorporated in a new dance with new sequences and new rhythms. Few English Country Dancers,  will, however, fail to recognize the familiar names of the dances.


When Pine Mountain Settlement School was organizing its dance programs they borrowed heavily from the Boston Center music and dances. Dorothy Bolles, the link in that important chain of influence, supplied the School with a list of available music for English Country dancing.

Here is her list of “His Master’s Voice, Gramaphone Records” most of which were collected by Pine Mountain or were played on the piano by Arthur Dodd and accompanied by Glyn Morris on violin or by fiddlers in the community.

All records are 12″ and 4/6

I.D # Titles
C 1644 Apley House
Old Noll’s Jig
C 1645 Seed the Plough
Pop Goes the Weasel
C 1646 The Triumph
The Twenty-ninth of May
C1263 Nancy’s Fancy
Tink a Tink
C1264 Flowers of Edinburgh
Christchurch Bells
C 1265 Childgrove
Sage Leaf
C 1266 Mr. Beaveridge’s Maggot
Jack’s Maggot
C 1072 Brighton Camp
The Ribbon Dance
C1073 My Lady Cullen
Bonnets So Blue
C 1074 The Mary and Dorothy
Haste to the Wedding
B 2954 Oaken Leaves
Mage on a Cree
Hey Boys Up Go We
B 2955 Newcastle
Jenny Pluck Pears
B 2956 The Old Mole
Shepherd’s HOliday
Parson’s Farewell
B 2957 The Phoenix
St. Martins
B 2958 Lady Speller
Rufty Tufty
The Maid Peeped Out at the Window
B 2959 The Merry Merry Milkmaids
If All the World Were Paper
The Black Nag
B 5071 Galopede
We Won’t Go Home Till Morning
B 1370 Scotch Cap
The Boatman
Picking Up Sticks
B 1371 Chelsea Reach
The Lady in the Dark
B 1372 Argeers
Broom, the Bonny Bonny Broom
Oranges and Lemons
9769 Helston Furry
Indian Queen
5503 Fourpence Halfpenny Farthing
Lilli Burlero
5504 Epping Forest
Gathering Peascods
B 1193 Three Mewt
The Butterfly
B 1194 Goddesses
Hudson House
5505 Picking Up Sticks
5434 Haste to the Wedding
Bonnets So Blue
5733 Hey Boys Up Go We
Rufty Tufty
Mage on a Cree
Parsons Farewell
5734 Sellinger’s Round
The Black Nag
If All the World Were Paper
DB 82 Dick’s Maggot  (orch.)
DB 84 The Fine Companion
Hit and Miss
The Beggar Boy
DB 182 Oranges and Lemons
Hyde Park
DB 183 Never Love Thee More
The Maid in the Moon
COLUMBIA (Morris Jigs and Running Set)
DB 226 Jackie to the Fair  (Violin E. Avril)
Old Mother Oxford  (Violin E. Avril)
The Fool’s Jig  (Pipe and Tabor/ J. Sharp)
Old Woman Tossed Up (Pipe and Tabor/ J. Sharp)
DB227 Running Set  (Violin E. Avril)
Ladies Pleasure  (Pipe and Tabor/ J. Sharp)
None So Pretty
COLUMBIA  (Sword Dances)
9800 Flamborough
Kirkby Malzeard
(Folk Songs)
DB ? I  Will Give My Love An Apple  (Clive Carey)
Oh Sally My Dear  (Clive Carey)
My Billy Boy  (Clive Carey)
The Lover’s Tasks  (Clive Carey)
DB 336  A Farmer’s Son So Sweet  (Annete Blackwell)
As I Sat On A Sunny Bank  (Annete Blackwell)
Dance to Your Daddy  (Annete Blackwell)


DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  English Country Dancing at Pine Mountain Settlement School


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

Pine Mountain Settlement School

IN THE KITCHEN In the Kitchen Pots and Pans I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not apples at this time of year!”

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

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

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

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

“You mean you butchered  yourself?”

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

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

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

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

“And the milk, of course —”

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

We couldn’t!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following is a Pinecone list of helpful hints.


[From The Pine Cone, February 1938]

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

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

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

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


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

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

3.    Care of coffee and tea pot —

(a)   Rinse in cold water

(b)   Wash in hot water

(c)    Scald, dry and leave open.

4.    Egg beaters —

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEE:  FOODWAYS: “Old Fashioned Dinner” 1919















Pine MountainSettlement School
Blog:  Dancing in the Cabbage Patch


Many families have carried forward the idea that Eastern Kentuckians have contributed disproportionately to enlistment, casualties, and valor in wartime.  One author has noted that this idea has some roots in reality. Alice Cornett, writing in 1991 for the Baltimore Sun noted that the disproportionate number for Appalachians killed while fighting in the wars following WWI has not gone unnoticed.  Cornett and others have recently suggested that often large number of soldiers from Appalachia have been associated with the “Sgt. York Syndrome.”


The syndrome coined by Dr. Steven Giles, a psychologist working for the Tennessee Veterans Administration Medical Center at Mountain Home, is in Dr. Giles’ view both laudatory and troubling. He notes that the syndrome is bolstered by the pervasive idea that the Appalachian soldier is a “good” soldier; that  ”Appalachians make good soldiers, and the Army knows it.” This goals- congruence factor, for good or ill, has often found Appalachian soldiers at the front-line of battle and often lauded as heroic.

Why has Sgt. York today become a “syndrome’ of Kentucky soldiers?  Sgt. Alvin Cullum York (December 13, 1887 – September 2, 1964), was a native of Pall Mall, in eastern Tennessee. By most accounts, he has been described as a hero and the quintessential soldier.  A rifleman, whose bravery in battle and subsequent award of a Medal of Honor, captured the imagination of a nation. He was immortalized when his life was made into a movie in 1941.  Sergeant York directed by Howard Hawks with Gary Cooper as York, was as timely, as it was motivating for many young men who viewed the film.  The enrollment for WWII was growing and Sgt.

York set a standard of conduct that almost made serving in the Army a religious duty. York’s exploits which had been translated to the silver screen furthered his legend and that of the Appalachian soldier. On the cusp of WWII, York, in the mind of the nation and particularly in the minds of Appalachians, York was a model soldier and the “Sgt. York Syndrome” took roots and grew. York’s bravery and his philanthropy now known to all Appalachian young men and to their families following the Great War, became a topic of pride in the mountains and remains so today.  In fact, all the wars since the Great War which the United States has engaged have evoked the name of Sgt. York, particularly in the Appalachian mountains and particularly when recruits came to visit.

York’s bravery and his philanthropy now known to all Appalachian young men and to their families following the Great War became a topic of pride in the mountains and remains so today. After the release of the film, perceptions grew regarding the fearless nature of the Appalachian soldier. In fact, all the wars since the Great War which the United States has engaged have evoked the name of Sgt. York. Particularly in the Appalachian mountains and particularly when recruits came to enlist, the name of Sgt. York was at the tip of both the recruit and recruiter’s mind.

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

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

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

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


WWII V-Mail letter from Alice Joy Keith to August Angel, 25 May 1945. [Angel WWII_vmail_from Alice Joy Keith. [Angel-WWII_vmail_from-Alice-Joy-Keith.jpg]



Unidentified PMSS student.

At Pine Mountain, there are many stories regarding the School’s engagement with WWI. As students left to fight in the Great War, the staff also left their positions to fight alongside their students. The School was often challenged to fill critical staff positions as well as maintain a balanced student body.  For example, when Leon Deschamps, a Belgian farmer working at Pine Mountain left to fight in WWI early in 1918, he kept in touch with the School and with the children. Deschamps served in the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe in 1917, under the command of General John J. Pershing. He was assigned as a translator (French) and in the forestry department. His presence in the battle abroad was followed with fascination by the whole School.  The students regularly held cocoa and rice dinners to save money for the “Belgians in the war” effort.

In reading through the Leon Deschamps Correspondence we are reminded of the discrimination that many immigrants faced following WWI and WWII and today. As a “foreigner” Leon was one of the first members of the Pine Mountain staff to join the WWI war.  Yet, he was excluded from many of the opportunities afforded job seekers when he retruned. In some cases, the discrimination came from some of the more “enlightened” educational institutions in the country, though there is little indication that Pine Mountain showed him any exclusions. His talents, determination and the enormous endorsement given by those who worked with him are well documented in his correspondence. Yet, the suspicions ran deep regarding “foreigners” following the war.  in the mountains of Appalachian, largely a rural geography, it is no surprise to find see the inclusion of those who knew him that he left legends in all the institutions he touched. Not many of us can claim such legacies.

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

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

The Stapletons came to Kentucky in the late 1920s to serve as co-directors of Line Fork Settlement (Letcher County, Kentucky), a satellite settlement associated with the Settlement School. They were particularly well equipped to meet almost any human conflict with experience and compassion following their harrowing experiences in Turkey.  The battles around moonshine and the frequent revenge killings of the Appalachians were part of their everyday life on Line Fork in the early decades of the twentieth century. It was a life they often met with humor and compassion, but even more, with understanding. Their early work with the Ottoman-Armenian conflict no doubt brought the petulance of personal and familial battles quickly into perspective.

Another staff member at the School also experienced the same Ottoman Turk-Armenian conflict in a more Eastern region of Turkey. Edith Cold was stationed in Hadjin, Turkey as a school teacher for children orphaned by the ethnic war. Her letters and stories regarding the conflict that slowly engulfed the region are equally chilling and capture the severe circumstances that war brings to communities across the world. The trials of Edith Cold were captured in a series of New York Times articles that chronicled her ordeals and her incredible bravery in efforts to keep the children and the staff of the school safe from harm. As genocide ravaged the Armenian populations, workers such as Edith Cold and the Stapletons witnessed horrendous atrocities and placed themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis. Today, those echoes of brave volunteers and their harrowing continue to fill the news and speak more of the inhumanity that lurks in every conflict of border, ideology, and beliefs. The tales recounted by the Stapletons and by Edith Cold of life in Turkey in the first decades of the twentieth century were shared with students at Pine Mountain, more in their models of tolerance, support, and understanding, than in their recounting or bearing witness of war’s inhumanity. There is good evidence that they softened the edges of many hard lives in the Pine MOuntain valley and beyond.


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


A “Thank you” to nurse, Grace Rood from Lester.

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

There are many stories related to Staff who had some family relation in either the European or the Pacific theater of war. See especially the important documentation of war efforts by soldiers in Perry County, KY, maintained by Waukesha Lowe Sammons, daughter of one of the county’s soldiers who did not return from WWII. Waukesha, a Berea College graduate, has created a comprehensive website that traces the Military Legacy of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, who served from the American Revolutionary War to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her comprehensive website covers just one eastern Kentucky county — Perry County, but it gives a vivid picture of how many wars impacted the region.

World War II in the Asian theater also directly affected the lives of many of Pine Mountain’s staff and students. For example, the expulsion of staff member Burton Rogers from Yali, the Yale in China School where he was teaching when the Japanese invaded in 1937, brought the family to Pine Mountain. His relocation is another story of severe challenge, hardship, and courage.  rood_030xBurton Rogers came as School principal in 1941, and later served as the Director of the Pine Mountain Settlement School. His wartime experience was profound and prompted him to a life-time as a  conscientious objector. As a  member of the Quaker faith and outspoken critic of war for the remainder of his life, Burton and his wife, Mary Rogers, committed their lives to pacification. Mary had learned how to skillfully negotiate conflict when she worked in India and met the pacifist, Ghandi.

The brave and courageous contributions of two Pine Mountain Docotrs, Emma and Francis Tucker and their nurse protegee, Grace Feng Liu  to the School’s understanding of the direct impact of war are also remarkable. The couple’s heroic struggles during the Japanese invasion of China and their work to raise the standards of health in rural China equipped them for the rural work they completed at Pine Mountain, long after most persons were retired. Their story of escape from China when it was overrun by the Japanese, is an inspiring tale of courage and contribution that they shared with the Pine Mountain community and with the students. Grace Feng was a nurse brought with the Tuckers when they came to Pine Mountain. She was later married to T.C. Liu at the School. The couple returned to China following the completion of their education in America but perished under the Communist regime of Mao.

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

Another remarkable personal story is that of Frank  W. “Unk” Cheney who survived the bombing of Shanghai and imprisonment by the Japanese during WWII at the Chapel prison camp. His experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese was both horrendous and productive for “Unk” who learned the Japanese language and developed an appreciation for Japanese furniture design. He demonstrated how even the most oppressive features of war can be turned to advantage. His aesthetic sensibilities and gentleness brought a different perspective of the Far East to students who had the privilege of working with him at Pine Mountain.


WWII students at PMSS.

Many students felt the call to service in both wars, but perhaps WWII had the most profound effect on Pine Mountain Settlement, as so many young men enlisted that work crews were dramatically affected. The three young men to the right are typical of the pride shown by these new soldiers.

Paul Hayes, a student, and later PMSS Director, went to Berea College as part of the V-12 program and later to Duke as a recipient of the same military assistance. Paul saw duty in the Pacific. His brother John Hayes, first signed on as part of the Army Corps of Engineers and later in the regular Army, also going to the Pacific theater to fight. Silvan Hayes, the oldest brother was already in the Army in the European war and was killed in 1943 in France. Enoch Hall, a PMSS student from Perry county joined the Army and served in Hawaii where he was stationed when his barracks were strafed by the Japanese in the opening days of the Pacific war. Joe Glen Bramlett, a student who served in the Army left a large visual record of his years at the School and those in the Army.

Student William David Martin left PMSS in March of 1941 to join the Navy and following his completion of duty wrote a letter to the School saying that he had earlier been overcome by “Navy fever” and would like to complete his degree at the School — which he did.

All these young men served with valor and conviction in WWII. Most came home, but some did not survive the ravages of battle. Their names were placed on a small plaque that once hung in Laurel House. Delicately inscribed and gilded, it now shows its age and has been placed in the Archive of the School.



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

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


Stella Taylor

While Mullins and Taylor made remarkable careers for themselves in WWII. Mable Mullins became a Major in the Army, Stella Taylor contributed nursing services as an Army nurse.  Other nurses trained at Pine Mountain were quickly signed on to the war effort.  Also, women left the School to provide services or direct support in WWII in jobs that did not require enlistment but supported the war effort such as industrial support, and canteen work.

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

The list of enrollees in the war efforts of the 1940’s is a long one. Yet, exemption for most young men from Appalachia was not something that the men generally welcomed during WWII just as it was not welcomed during WWI and the succeeding wars. It was noble to serve for most men in the community.  Within the staff workers at Pine Mountain, the story was often quite different, as many came to the School as conscientious objectors and served their time contributing to the work at the mountain settlement. Two Quakers come readily to mind: Peter Barry and Burton Rogers.


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

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



At the opening of the Vietnam conflict, Pine Mountain was no longer a Community School site but many of the children who had attended the Community School began to be caught up in the action in Vietnam as they came of age. The most dramatic impact on Pine Mountain of this conflict was the same as that found throughout the country. Families were wrenched apart by conflicting sympathies for the war effort and communities were pitted against other communities as the war dragged on for almost two decades.  Coal was often in the news as the resources went to support the energy needs of the growing war effort and families saw both a coal boom and a large out-migration to Northern factories, as in WWII, where work in the military-industrial complex could bring better wages.

Cmdr. Steven Hayes (back row, far rt.). a student at PMSS and crew on the USS Constellation following end of Viet Nam War..

In April of 1964. Lyndon Johnson traveled to Inez, Kentucky and sat on the porch of the Tom Fletcher family and declared a War on Poverty.  As noted by many, the universities in the Appalachian region were more engaged in naming buildings and honoring the dead than engaging their cultural and economic conscience. A political and economic protest was not high on their agendas as they followed the welfare of family members caught up in the Vietnam conflict. Eventually, however, it was Johnson’s “War on Poverty” that created the largest shock wave on Appalachia, not the fighting in Vietnam. The fall-out from Johnson’s social service programs for the Appalachian region would have an impact far greater than any war fought in foreign lands.  Many scholars today remind us that families in the region are still climbing out of poverty that was prolonged by this federal assistance effort. —the War on Poverty. The casualties from the ramifications of the War on Poverty were not just sons and daughters, it was entire families and generations of those families.

Used as a sort of guidebook for the eager volunteers that came into the region, Jack Weller‘s Yesterday’s People (1965) became the cultural window for the Appalachian Volunteer program, an outgrowth of the War on Poverty. Funded through the Office of Economic Opportunity, the Appalachian Volunteers soon found themselves in a cultural war that roughly followed the same timeline as the Viet Nam War and the political differences were often as volatile and acrimonious as the Anti-Vietnam war movement.  Accused as Communists, radicals, hippies, elites, subversives, and importantly, “Outsiders,” the Appalachian Volunteers (AVs)  came into the region believing that they could make a difference. Two other “outsiders, Glyn Morris, then at Evarts and Myles Horton at the Highlander Center in Tennessee cautioned the new arrivals to respect the cultural differences of the region. Both Myles Horton and Glyn Morris had studied under Reinhold Niebuhr at Union Theological Seminary and Myles admonished the AVs who trained at his center in Tennessee to “…find out what they [people of Appalachia] want you to do and work quietly, and remember: you’re different. They’re not different.” Neibaur’s book, Moral Man in an Immoral Society, made a profound impact on both Morris and Horton and helped to shape both of their worldviews regarding war and each had an antipathy toward a war of any sort.  Don West, poet, activist and native of Appalachia was more direct in his cautions regarding the War on Poverty

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

By 1970 the Appalachian Volunteers had lost their funding from the OEO and Johnson’s War on Poverty had come to a virtual halt, but not before a number of Harlan County youth had begun to question and rethink the cultural and economic divide in the county and had begun to dialogue with the Volunteers — often against their parent’s protests.

Mildred Shackleford, interviewed by Alessandro Portelli for his book They Say in Harlan County (2011) put it this way

“I got involved in them [Appalachian Volunteers] because I thought they had something different to offer and I wasn’t too sophisticated at that time. I was about sixteen or seventeen years old. I was reading a lot. I was finding out different things. The involvement in Vietnam — I was finding out a little bit of it and I found out that, what the United States was doing in that country, wasn’t something that I could respect; and I hadn’t thought [of] looking at Harlan County in the same way that I looked at Vietnam. That’s one thing I did learn from those people pretty quickly; that in a way we were more like the people in Vietnam than [like] the people in the rest of the country.”

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

*The commentary in this blog is the that of the author, Helen Wykle, and does not necessarily represent the views of Pine Mountain Settlement School. hhw


Billings, Dwight B; Ann E.  Kingsolver. Appalachia in Regional Context; Place Matters, Lexington, Ky: University Press, 2018.

Niebuhr, Reinhold. Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1932.

Portelli, Alessandro. They Say in Harlan County, Oxford/New York:Oxford University Press, 2011. Oral histories taken from families in Harlan County.

Satterwhite, Emily. City to Country circa 1967-1970,  Looks at war in the populations of city and country.

Webb, James. I Heard My Country Calling; A Memoir. New York : Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2015. ©2014.  A novel about the Vietnam War by Webb, a former U.S. Senator; Secretary of the Navy; recipient of the Navy Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart and combat Marine. In his words, “…a love story–love of family, love of country, love of service. ” Born in Arkansas but with roots in Appalachia, the Webb family saga spans WWII, Korea and the Vietnam years. Explores the Vietnam War through the over-romanticized novel Christy by Catherine Marshall and the “familiar” depravity of Appalachians as depicted in James Dickey’s Deliverance.

Weller, Jack. Yesterday’s People,  Kentucky : University of Kentucky Press, 1965  (reprint 1995) “Mr. Weller presents, with compassion and humor, one of the most incisive studies that have been made of an American folk community. It contains many quotable passages about social classes in America, and about Appalachia in particular.”―Publishers Weekly

See more at:

Kentucky Soldiers in WWII, Harlan County

See also:


Pine Mountain Settlement School


Essays on, agrarian myths, agriculture, culture, farming, foodways, feed-sack, furs and silk, gardens and seeds, kitchens, kindergartens, migration, miners, mining, mores and manners, politics, possibilities, poppets and play-pretties, sheriffs, religion, settlement schools, communists and conservatives, hippies, hi-jinks, and other topics at the Pine Mountain Settlement School, Harlan County, Kentucky 1913 – present. 






DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  Farming the Land 1913-1930

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  Farm and Dairy Early Years I

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  Farm and Dairy Early Years II 



DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  In the Kitchen Pots and Pans 






DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Mexico and Pine Mountain Settlement School 1936