Category Archives: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH

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.

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – ENGLISH COUNTRY DANCING AT PMSS

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Blog: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  

ENGLISH COUNTRY DANCING
AT 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 cconfirmedin 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.

 

GALLERY I: Dancing in the Cabbage Patch – English Country Dancing at PMSS


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.


RECORDINGS:  COUNTRY DANCE MUSIC LIST RECOMMENDED BY  DOROTHY BOLLES

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
Confess
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
Newcastle
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.)
Nonesuch
DB 84 The Fine Companion
Hit and Miss
The Beggar Boy
Heartsease
DB 182 Oranges and Lemons
Grimstock
Hyde Park
DB 183 Never Love Thee More
The Maid in the Moon
Chestnut
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)

BIBLIOGRAPHY – SEE:

CECIL SHARP AND MAUD KARPELES VISIT TO PMSS


DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – GUIDE

Pine Mountain Settlement School
DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH
GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH: Essays on culture, agriculture, foodways, and other topics at the Pine Mountain Settlement School, Harlan County, Kentucky 1913 –

 

GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  – GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH I – ABOUT

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH II – INTRODUCTION

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH III – PLACE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV – SETTLEMENT SCHOOLS IN THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS, Pt. 01

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV – SETTLEMENT SCHOOLS IN THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS, Pt. 02

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV – SETTLEMENT SCHOOLS IN THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS, Pt. 03

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV – SETTLEMENT SCHOOLS IN THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS, Pt. 04

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV – “PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL IN THE MAKING”

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV – FARMING THE LAND 1913-1930

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY I – EARLY YEARS, Pt. 01

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY I – EARLY YEARS, Pt. 02

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY II – MORRIS yEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI – POULTRY

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VII – IN THE GARDEN (part 1)

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VII – SEEDS AND CROPS (part 2)

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VIII – IN THE KITCHEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IX – DIETICIANS, CANNING & PRESERVING

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH X – IN THE DINING ROOM, MANNERS & ETIQUETTE 

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XI – MAPLE SYRUP AND SUGAR

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XII – SORGHUM MOLASSES – A STIR-OFF

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XII – A  SORGHUM MOLASSES STIR-OFF

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XIII – PMSS AND WAR

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

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XV – ‘POPPETS’, CORN-SHUCKS, AND OTHER PLAY-PRETTIES

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  XVI- KATHERINE PETTIT AND THE “AGRARIAN MYTH”, Pt. 01

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XVI – KATHERINE PETTIT AND THE “AGRARIAN MYTH”, Pt. 02

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  XVI – KATHERINE PETTIT AND THE “AGRARIAN MYTH” Pt. 03

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XVI – KATHERINE PETTIT AND THE “AGRARIAN MYTH” Pt. 04

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XVI – KATHERINE PETTIT AND THE “AGRARIAN MYTH” Pt. 05

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XVII – PRACTICE HOUSE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XVIII – 1936 PMSS & MEXICO

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH XIX –  FEEDSACK

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI – POULTRY

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI 

POULTRY

CHICKEN ‘N DUMPLINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chickens tended by early staff. II_7_barn_275a

Chickens (White Leghorns) tended by early staff. II_7_barn_275a

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

HOUSING THE FLOCK

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

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

hayes_IMAG0147

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

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

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

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

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

May 1935, as recorded in The Pine Cone. 

CHOCOLATE PUDDING

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

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


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

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

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

May 15, 1932

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

Dear Mr. Martin: 

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

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

Sincerely, 

Glyn Morris

hayes_0032

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

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

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

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

POULTRY – SELECTIVE  BREEDING

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

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

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

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

ON THE TABLE

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

SCALLOPED EGGS

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

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

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


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

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

“CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS TO BE SERVED ONCE AGAIN”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chang wrote:

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

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

CHICKEN N’ DUMPLINGS AGAIN

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

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


See also: CHICKEN HOUSES

GO TO:

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – ABOUT

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  I – GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH II – INTRODUCTION

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH III – PLACE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV – FARMING THE LAND 1913-1930

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY I – EARLY YEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY II – MORRIS yEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI – POULTRY

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VII – IN THE GARDEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VIII – IN THE KITCHEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IX – DIETICIANS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH X – IN THE DINING ROOM, MANNERS & ETIQUITTE 

 

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV FARMING THE LAND – EARLY YEARS 1913-1930

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV
FARMING THE LAND – EARLY YEARS 1913-1930

TAGS: Katherine Pettit ; Ethel de Long ; Pine Mountain Settlement School farm ; farming ; sustainable agriculture ; William Creech ; Mary Rockwell Hook ; Evelyn K. Wells ; Margaret McCutchen ; creek farmers ; farmers ; Greasy Creek ; Isaac’s Creek ; soil analysis ; livestock ; Ayrshire cows ; poultry ; grazing ; farm managers ; Marguerite Butler ; Farmer’s Cooperative ; University of Kentucky ; Kentucky State University ; Fitzhugh Lane ; Horace DMcSwain ; Mr. Baugh ; Gertrude Lansing ; Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Doughtery ; Mr. Morrison ; Boone Callahan ; Harriet Bradner ; Fannie Gilbert ; William Browning ; Louise Will Browning ; Peder Moeller ; Oscar Kneller ; silo ; Darwin D. Martin ; Brit Wilder ; irrigation ;

CLEARING THE LAND

Planning for Pine Mountain was very deliberate and where land was involved, Katherine Pettit. co-founder of the School, was a keen observer and a diligent doer.  Of the two co-founders, Pettit and Ethel de Long, it was Pettit who assumed the lead responsibility for the land issues of the School. Under Pettit’s direction, the land was to support the school, but it was also to be a driving force in the school’s programs. In her vision the land would be a source for the agricultural, educational, physical, and emotional needs of the school.  The forests, gardens, planting fields, grazing fields, flower beds,  —- all received careful consideration under her watchful eye.  There is no doubt that the vision for the school’s physical site was always in Katherine Pettit’s mind’s eye but she also called on her excellent on-site help, particularly Uncle William Creech. If she didn’t find her answers in those close-by staff or in the community folk, she did not hesitate to seek outside consultation.

1913 opened with the first visit to the campus of one of the most important of those farm consultants, Miss Mary Rockwell, an architect from Kansas City,  Together, Pettit,  Ethel de Long, and Hook developed a plan for growth that centered on the topography of the land and the plan was followed, according to Evelyn Wells, (the first chronicler of the school’s history), very closely.  Every effort was made to build around the productivity of the land; to use what the land provided and what the topography suggested. Forest lumber, stone from the fields, native plants and flowers, local human and animal labor, native seeds for garden crops and other native resources were called into use.  All were considered important to the aesthetics and to the growth of the school and its environs.  The remote location demanded that the planners seek local solutions to many of their needs and that they model the best solutions if they were to be both practical and educational in their mission. But, this local focus did not mean the outside world was excluded. It was, in fact, tapped for all it could contribute.

While Mary Rockwell Hook was helping to develop a plan for the land and how the buildings would interact with the landscape, several other consultants were also called upon for direct assistance with farming. James Adoniram Burgess, who was the Superintendent of Construction of buildings, a woodworker and vocational instructor at Berea College,  starting in 1901, was well informed about construction and was heavily consulted by Pettit.  Pettit also consulted with the  Agricultural Department of State University (University of Kentucky), specifically J.H. Arnold, who had written extensively on factors necessary for a successful farm.  While Arnold’s focus was on the Blue Grass area of the state he had some sound recommendations for the business side of agriculture. In 1917 he co-wrote with W.D. NIcholls, USDA Bulletin No. 210 “Important Factors for Successful Farming in the Blue Grass Region of Kentucky.”  This unique partnering of Burgess and Arnold was evidently very productive.  Ethel de Long notes in her May 1913 Letter to Friends, that the consultants

… were here last week … to give us their advice on the best use of our land and the best disposal of the buildings we hope to have in the course of time. 

The progressive ideas of the early founders was not missed on visitors to the School.  Margaret McCutchen, a visitor to the School in 1914 and writes:

“The first intimation I had of the School was the foot-log over Greasy, carefully flattened on top by well-placed stepping stones.  Here I met with my second surprise, (the first was the beauty of the place) that about this school, only an infant in the wilderness, everything was so ship-shape.  Good fences, substantial gates, roads, hitching posts, mounting blocks, the straight furrows of the ploughed fields and even rows of garden patches, wood-boxes on the porches, coat pegs by the doors, and the picturesque stone tool-house to protect the tools and farm implements — all these spell to me in large letters one of the chief articles in the constitution of the school, ORDER.”

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View of the school grounds c. 1913-14. Old Log sits at what is now the entrance to the school. The foot-bridge Miss McCutcheon traversed is just opposite the cabin and crosses Isaac’s Creek where it becomes Greasy Creek, the headwaters of the great Kentucky River.

The school’s early years required some clearing of forested land and the re-preparation of older fields cleared by the earliest settlers.  In the above view of one corner of the school campus, the land is just being prepared for farming.  Efforts to straighten Isaac’s Creek [also known as Isaac’s Run] and to construct a bridge can be seen.  Old Log cabin, the first permanent dwelling on  the school grounds is seen to the left in the photograph.  Moved to the site for early housing of staff, the structure still welcomes all who visit the school.  Today it is the site of the school’s gift shop.]

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A very early view of the Pine Mountain Settlement. The distant house is Old Log with the “Indian Cliff” behind. The field in the foreground is in front of what is now the Chapel.

CREEK FARMERS

A view down the long Pine Mountain valley in the first decade of the twentieth-century would have revealed the steep hillside farming often practiced in the Pine Mountain valley and the surrounding valleys.  In the narrow valleys such as that running beneath the long Pine Mountain spine, the community farmers used as much of their land as they were able to physically cultivate. Often the farms stretched far up the mountainside in a series of random terraces, often following natural contours of the land. The school claims to have introduced terracing but it was also introduced by livestock continually navigating the steep hillsides and by the constant planting and cultivating of corn rows that horizontally followed the contours of the hills.  Each year the farmers often advanced up the mountain in search of  rich soil as their crops depleted the soil. It was arduous work.

005a P. Roettinger Album. "Country [?] Looking from Uncle John's toward the School."

005a P. Roettinger Album. “Country [?] Looking from Uncle John’s toward the School.”

While much farming in the Pine Mountain valley was on the sides of the mountain, the practice of farming in the area was often called “creek farming” and the farmers as “creek farmers.” The narrow strip of bottom land in the eastern Kentucky valleys led to this description in the 1960’s of those who farmed the region. The term was broadened to include the entire family and meant those families who lived only a stone’s throw from the streams of the region. In the small hollow that led into the valley, this geography was often accurate, but the broad slopes of the valley often meant that the farm was much more than a “stone’s throw” from the creek.

Because the developing transportation system often shared the same meandering creek path or sometimes the creek bed itself, the land that could be farmed was further reduced and families headed for the hills.  This form of subsistence farming, a more common term than “creek farmers”, and the confined transportation corridors, led to the development in the valleys of a kind of continuous and uniformly distributed series of small “centers.”  The so-called “Mouth of Big Laurel” is one such nuclear community.  The Pine Mountain valley and most near-by valleys followed this pattern of development common to eastern Kentucky.

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View of the Big Laurel Community in the second decade of the 20th century. From the Kendall Bassett Album, pmss001_bas010.jpg.

GREASY CREEK

Greasy Creek, a large and stony stream that has its headwaters at the School where Isaac’s Creek flows into Shell Creek, is the largest stream in the immediate area of Pine Mountain.  It was supposedly named for the grease of a bear that was killed near the stream. The clear water in the early years supported a variety of aquatic life including abundant bass, brim, and other common stream fish. I was one of the favorite fishing streams in the area and an important source of food for many families. It also served as a water-way to float log rafts down river to mill during Spring-tide. Today, it is slowly recovering from mining intrusions over the years that have left sections of the stream severely polluted and with diminished aquatic life — with consequential degradation of the entire stream.

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The Big Laurel community on the headwaters of Greasy Creek soon became an important outpost for Pine Mountain Settlement School.  As the location for the first of a half-dozen outposts proposed by Katherine Pettit, Big Laurel Medical Settlement was situated on a hill overlooking Greasy Creek and the wide bottom-land created at the meeting of  Big Laurel Creek and Greasy Creek.

During the early years of the School and before, every piece of land was precious and was often cultivated to the top of the ridges.  This extensive cultivation may be clearly seen in the following photograph taken in the first decade of the twentieth century.  What appears as terracing is often the result of cattle and farm animals paths that horizontally negotiate the steep hill-sides.  Greasy Creek flows in the center of the photograph of this country of “Creek farmers.”

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FARM CONSULTANTS

Pettit realized that education would be needed to change local farming practices that were both labor intensive and not sustainable. Following the first consultation regarding the layout of the School and two years after the founding in 1913, Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long in 1915 again brought consultants from Kentucky State University [University of Kentucky] to the School to hold a “Farmer’s Institute.” It was open to the full community and brought participants from along the valley and hollows surrounding the school.

Marguerite Butler, an early worker at the school describes the Farmer’s Institute

Four splendid instructors from the Kentucky State University have been here for four days holding Farmers’ Institute. It is a splendid thing for this part of the country and you never saw such interest as the farmers showed. Last night one of the men said it was by far the best meeting he had ever had in Kentucky. Of course mothers, fathers and children came for miles around. Yesterday the school cooked dinner for all out in big black kettles in the open . The men killed a sheep Saturday for the great affair. The talks were splendid on the soil and care of it, proper kind of food and why, how to raise fruit trees and poultry, which are both easily but poorly done in the mountains. I enjoyed every single speech. Just about four yesterday afternoon we learned that there was a “meetin” down Greasy five miles. Of course we wanted to go, so in ten minutes one of the men and lady instructors, Peg, one of the older boys here and I started off. I bare back behind Miss Sweeny on her horse. We had wonderful fun and the ride at that time of evening was glorious. I stuck on, even when we galloped beautifully. One of the men invited us there for supper so he rode on ahead to prepare supper. They had made biscuit, stewed dumplin’s and chickens, sweet potatoes and all sorts of good things. These professors said it was one of the experiences of their life. We all walked down to meetin’ afterwards in the Little Log School. I succeeded in falling in the creek, so did Miss Sweeney, as we only had to cross one four times. You couldn’t possibly believe what a meetin’ is like unless you hear it with your own ears. I shall have much to tell you. After an exciting ride home over a black, rough road we got here at 10:15, no worse for the wear. [1914 Marguerite Butler Letters]

Miss Pettit’ s consultation and the broad sharing of the findings of the Institute gave not only the farm program at Pine Mountain its first leap forward. but jump-started the educational process for the local community.  Pettit believed that the farm was central to the success of the school and that it should be managed by progressive and trained farmers. Her plans were large and her enthusiasm was even greater when it came to farming at Pine Mountain. However, she found it difficult to match her vision with the succession of early school farmers whose early departure from this key position was almost as rapid as annual crop rotation,

Fitzhugh Lane, a young boy whom Pettit and de Long had brought with them from Hindman to help establish a garden and some subsistence farming, was the first farmer at Pine Mountain. He did not stay long and was never designated as “the farmer”.  He overlapped with the first designated farmer, Horace McSwain at the School He came in late 1913 but also quickly left in 1914.  McSwain was hired to also serve as the manager of the new saw-mill at Pine Mountain. The dual position was likely unmanageable as the rush to construct new buildings was cyclonic. The following note in a letter to the Board in 1913 describes the clearing of land and the multiple duties of many of the staff:

I wish you could know what important work has been done here through these last weeks. The coal bank has been made been made ready for the winter’s digging, according to the directions of Professor Easton and we are now making a road to it. We have had foot logs laid in many places over the Creek and have built a bridge that ought to last for two generations so that we may haul stone to the site of the school house. Miss Pettit has had charge of most important work In ditching the bottom lands. You will be interested to know why she had to give her time for this, instead of Mr. McSwain. He has had to be at the sawmill all the time, largely because he has not known what minute one of his hands would have to escape to the woods. You see this is not a conventional community and many of our best workers have indictments against them, for shooting, fighting, or even being mixed up in a murder case. Since this is the month when court convenes the men with indictments against them are all afraid the sheriffs may be after them….

Mr.[ ?] Baugh, whose full name has been lost to time, is listed as the designated farmer for the year of 1914. It is unclear whether he overlapped with McSwain or if his tenure as farmer was less than a year. He shows up on the staff listings simply as “Mr. Baugh”.   Harriet Bradner is listed for 1915 as a worker on the farm. Leon Deschamps, a Belgian émigré arrived in 1916, hired as the School’s Forester, farmer and teacher.  His tenure was to be the longest to date. He briefly left the School to serve in the Great War [WWI] but returned after a year and stayed until 1927.  During 1918 and 1919 another woman, Gertrude Lansing is listed as a farm worker, but was not the designated farmer. In 1919 Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Dougherty were hired to work on the farm and charged to pick up some of the responsibilities of Deschamps who was temporarily away.  Several staff who had other duties are also listed as farm workers during this time.  Edna Fawcett, for example worked as a teacher, a house mother, and on the farm from 1917 – 1919. Many other staff shared farm responsibilities from time to time.

FARM ASSETS AND LIABILITIES

By 1917 the assets and liabilities of the new school are listed as:

Assets:

The original 234 acres of land
125 acres recently given. (Mostly coal and timber)
A coal bank
A limestone cliff
A boundary of timber aggregating 600,000 ft.
A stone quarry
A maple sugar grove
Annual pledges to the amount of $1600.00
An unpolluted water supply
Three dwelling houses
One tool house
Two sanitary closets
Sawmill
Two mules
Two cows
One hog and two more promised
Chickens
Two collie pups

Liabilities:

$700.00 a month

FARMERS

 In 1920 Mr. William Browning came to the School as the farmer and stayed for seven years.  Later, in 1922-1924, Fannie Gilbert was assigned to work on the farm and assisted Browning. Until Browning, no farmer had lasted more than two years with the exception of Leon Deschamps, whose duties were spread among three positions (forester, farmer, teacher).   Miss Pettit’s agenda was a large one and the work to be completed was hard labor and long hours. Farming under Katherine Pettit also required considerable ingenuity and diplomacy in negotiating Pettit herself and the community skepticism of new farming practices. It is clear from the many staff letters that William Browning was a favorite with the women staff. He is described in many staff letters as quite attractive and charming, but someone who “needed to be taken care of.” One of the workers described Mr. Browning as a “buttonless man” who had difficulty keeping his wardrobe together.  It appears that many of the women at the school were eager to sew on buttons for the “buttonless man.”

Browning was also assisted by Leon Deschamps, a Belgian whose training as a forester allowed him to address both the silviculture and farming needs of the school. Browning and Deschamps overlapped from 1920 until 1927 when Deschamps left Pine Mountain.  Under the guidance of Browning and Deschamps, the farm had grown in productivity and, like the previous farm workers, these two farmers largely developed the land according to Miss Pettit’s plan. Deschamps, when he was left in charge of the farm largely followed the planning of Pettit and Browning but when he left in 1928 the direction of the farm went through a series of short-term farmers and some of Pettit practices and vision were set aside. A Mr. Morrison, of whom we know little, followed Deschamps and he was quickly followed by Mr. Boone [?] Callahan who became one of the legendary members of the staff and who was also well known as a wood craftsman. Boone Callahan, one of the many Callahan children brought to the School in the very early years and Brit Wilder were among the first Students to come to Pine Mountain.  In the 1943 special edition of Notes, “Our Mountain Family,”  the contributions of Callahan and Wilder are noted

“…  since the days when they [Callahan and Wilder] cut “pretties” for Miss Pettit with their knives, they have never been far away from the life of the school. Boone had special train-
ing in agriculture at Berea and at Bradley Polytechnic Institute, and has been in charge of the carpentry department for years. He lives with his family at Farm House.  Brit is the truck driver and superintendent of the mine. He is the grandson of Uncle William, is married to a former Pine Mountain student and has a lovely home close to the school.”

Pettit was well read on farming practice and she never ceased her consultation with available experts in the field. During the 1920’s Katherine Pettit had been observing the agricultural progress at John C. Campbell Folk School under their new Danish farmer, George Bidstrup. The Scandinavian farmer, who had been hired to bring Danish farming practice to the Brasstown, North Carolina folk school. Bidstrup was charged to provide model farming for the Brasstown community and had enjoyed considerable success in farming in the North Carolina mountains.  Marguerite Butler, a Pine Mountain Settlement School worker who had left Pine Mountain to study in Denmark and had subsequently been recruited to John C. Campbell Folk School by Dame Olive Campbell in 1922. She maintained a lively correspondence with Katherine Pettit following her departure from Pine Mountain and much conversation centered on farming and gardening. Butler married George Bidstrup shortly after she arrived at Brasstown and she was eager to share what she had learned from him about farming with Pettit. When Butler married Bidstrup many local Brasstown practices were passed directly along to the Kentucky school. Intrigued by the Brasstown experiments in farming methods, Pettit went looking for her own Danish farmer and found Peder Moler. Inspired by what she saw at John C. Campbell, Pettit set about to bring the Danish farmer to Pine Mountain where he could introduce Danish agricultural methods to the subsistence farmers of the Pine Mountain valley. Through Marguerite and her new husband, George Bidstrup, many Danish practices entered the Pine Mountain Settlement School farm program and many Pine Mountain practices were adopted by the community of the John C. Campbell Folk School.

While Pettit eagerly set about bringing the Danish farmer, Peder Moler, to the School, the immigration quotas of the late 1920’s slowed down the immigration process.  When the Danish farmer finally arrived at Pine Mountain in 1930, Katherine Pettit had just (late 1930) departed  the School as Director and Hubert Hadley had just been hired for a brief year (1930-1931) and was followed by interim director, Evelyn Wells until Glyn Morris could come as the the new Director.  It was an unstable time at the School.

In late spring of 1930 the new Danish farmer, Peder Moler, immediately encountered a slew of challenges, not the least of which was resistance to any foreigner changing long-standing mountain subsistence farming methods.  As a “furriner” Moler persisted as best he could, and was from all accounts, an energetic and visionary farmer, but one who was “severe” in his demands. His tight “command” of the farm and his crews led to tensions in the work place. Oscar Kneller, an amiable and seasoned farmer of the Appalachians was quickly hired in July of 1930 and was charged to help Moler. The two were, by all accounts, a good team and they produced record crops.  Cabbages and tomatoes were in abundant supply.  The surplus of cabbage was so great that it was still feeding the school “until Christmas the following winter.” [Wells, History, p. 26]

Moler and Kneller made many improvements to agricultural practice as well as the grounds of the School but events at the School soon slowed that progress.  On May Day in 1932  an unusual act of violence occurred on campus at Pine Mountain.  A disturbed young man came to campus, following an argument about a love triangle in the community.  He threatened a student with a gun and then killed him   Moler, who was present at the event, was very shaken by the confrontation and the shooting and the events following the murder.  Glyn Morris, the new School Director, hired in 1931, asked Moler to accompany him on the arduous hike across Pine mountain to the Big Black Mountain community to deliver the news of the young man’s death to the family. The emotional event, the anguish of the family and the memory of the violence and the cultural differences profoundly affected Moler and he decided to return to Denmark. His departure left Oscar Kneller singly in charge of the farm.

Kneller was an energetic worker and he immediately set about completing projects begun by Moler and enhancing them. One important project was the purchase of a silo for the barn.  The silo was expected to bring down farm costs, particularly for winter feed. Other projects included the further straightening of Isaac’s Creek, particularly in front of the Office and the completion of the pathway and steps to the Infirmary from the lower roadway.  In School documents there is reference to the “hardsurfacing” of roads by Moler, This most likely is a reference to the use of gravel and particularly coal cinders which gave the roads protection in the winter freeze and thaws.  This practical road surfacing and re-use of coal burned in the campus furnaces, was a practice Kneller continued.

Evelyn Wells, in her unpublished history of the School, describes at length the importance of the addition of the silo and Oscar Kneller‘s role in proving the worth of the new purchase

“Mr. Kneller’s project was the building and filling of the new silo. Up to this time all food for the cattle had been purchased and carried to the school in trucks from across the mountain, and it had been most expensive.  There was some disagreement over the building of the silo, but with Mr. Darwin D. Martin‘s backing the silo parts were bought, and in 1932 the farm boys and Mr. Kneller built the silo.  The first filling took several days and all the men workers helped the boys. Every evening the progress of the filling was announced in the dining room, and on the last night, when the fodder from the last field had been cut and brought up, the boys and men workers stayed on the job all night.  Early in the morning, just at daylight the task was finished,  The silo lacked three rings of being filled, but all the corn was put away.

At he end of November 1931 the cost of the Dairy was $1140,08. At the end of November 1932 it cost $1471.80 which included the cost of the silo, cutter, and all incidental expenses of transportation and erection.  Ensilage lasted until the middle of March.  No hay was bought. The argument for building the silo was that it could be bought, built, filled and still we could come out at the end of the year with no more expense for the dairy than the year before, leaving the end of the year with the silo paid for. Hay had cost $200 a car plus freight from Putney. It usually was necessary to buy two or three car loads. Thus, there was a saving of about $600. In May 1932 dairy expense amounted to $2469.38.  In May 1933 it was only $ 1591.38, plus the cost of the silo $541.55. 

Of course a large amount of the land was given to ensilage, and a a relatively small amount to truck garden.  But the bottom land was resting in clover, since it was practically exhausted.  It was replaced with [a] vegetable garden between the creek and the tool house.  This record was made in the spring, and at that time a large number of cans of peas had been put away [number not given] the cabbage between 12,000 and 15,000 heads looked well, and corn covered the hill below the chapel.”  [Evelyn Wells, History, p. 26] 

Crop rotation, another new farm practice, had also been introduced slowly to many local farmers by the school. Some already practiced this technique, having learned by close observation of their soils. The introduction of crop rotation helped to ensure more sustainable farmland for the School and for farmers in the community.  Under this practice, crops were given systematic rotation, i.e. cabbage fields were rotated annually with corn and corn with beans, and so on.  In fall corn shocks, fodder for animals, often dotted fields where  the year before cabbage grew for the school’s extensive canning program. Under the gentle guidance of Oscar Kneller, the majority of the farmers in the area adopted the rotation practice and local crops began to thrive and steep hillsides began to heal and to suffer less erosion.

In a 1920’s editorial in the Jackson Times, the newspaper of Jackson, Kentucky, the editor ruminates that farming

….. for rich and poor, for city and country should stimulate idealism, purpose, action, responsibility, service, brotherhood, true patriotism. It should aim to make better citizens by making better men. And finally, it should recognize the fundamental education in the doing of the common tasks of every day—the education which only needs to be linked with intelligent vision to make everyday life better and happier. This is our problem in the mountains.

The editor further asks

Is it a mountain problem alone?

Clearly by the 1920’s farming had taken on a role beyond just subsistence and had been integrated into the economic and educational dialogue.

The next farmer, whose history spans some 27 years at the School, was a product of this economic and educational mantra.  William Hayestrained by Oscar Kneller when he came to the School as a student in 1933 became a valuable member of the farming crew. In late 1938 when he graduated from the boarding school at Pine Mountain he became the next farmer for the School and was retained until 1953.  Glyn Morris, hired in 1931 as the Executive Director of the School, had a particular crusade to engage students in industrial training and to meet them where their strengths and interests intersected.  He found this in Bill Hayes and also in his appointment of the farm assistant, Brit Wilder, the grandson of William Creech, who had entered the school during its founding years as one of the youngest children ever admitted to the School. Hayes and Wilder were a productive team for many years.

The Hayes years were the longest tenure of any farmer at the School, stretching from 1938 until 1953.  This era will be covered in Dancing in the Cabbage Patch V- FARM & DAIRY – THE MORRIS YEARS.  Also see:  William Hayes.

FARMING AND LAND OWNERSHIP TODAY

Land ownership in Harlan County has changed very little over the years, but ownership of mineral rights has dramatically altered  the idea of “ownership” and in some cases the pride that accompanies it.  As contracts continue to be drawn up for the new gas resources of the region it is not clear what this will mean for the relationship of future generations to their land, their water and their quality of life, but it is clear that the mountain garden will survive.  The transition from subsistence farming to mountain gardens reflects the shift in transportation, food availability, and life style in the Southern Appalachians.

Today, many family lands remain ravaged or vulnerable to the continuing injustice of the Broad Form Deed or “mineral rights” which allows the taking of minerals from lands that were given over by a “broad-form” deed which allowed the owner of the mineral rights to indiscriminately remove their purchased “minerals”.  The practice of mountain-top removal is the most indiscriminate form of this “taking.” Unfortunately the invasive mining practices of today could not be imagined by those who sold their mineral rights through these early broad-form deeds. The broad-form deed returned many families to tenant farmers as coal owners came and scraped off the surface of the farm to remove their mineral — much of this “taking” was bought for as little as a dollar an acre.  It was difficult to know in the pre-industrial eras that such easy money would later bring such hard lives.

The quality of rural life in Appalachia continues to shift as as new means and practices of exploitation are discovered. The uneasy tenancy of the land in Appalachia has shifted the agricultural focus of many families.  Why work the land if it will be stolen away in future years? Why work the land if the grocery store is within driving distance?  Why work the land if there is no one who remembers how to manage seasonal crops?  Why work the land if the only seeds available are GMO altered and will not come back the following year? Why work the land when there is so much entertainment to divert creativity? The excuses for abandoning the land for local farming and gardening are many.  Hard times, however,  always seem to return families to their garden and farm. The current downturn in the economy has brought many families back to the land in eastern Kentucky and with that return, many have begun to realize the profit potential of truck gardening, specialized crops, and family savings and the human potential of families in the garden,

Loren Eisely in his small study of Francis Bacon, The Man Who Saw Through Time, (1961) said that Bacon understood

“…that we must distinguish between the normal course of nature, the wanderings of nature, which today we might associate with the emergence of the organically novel, and, finally, the “art” that man increasingly exerts upon nature and that results, in turn, in the innovations of his cultural world, another kind of hidden potential in the universe.”

I would argue that a dance is better than wandering and it seems that dancing works best with a partner.

GO TO:   

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – ABOUT

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  I – GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH II – INTRODUCTION

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH III – PLACE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV – FARMING THE LAND 1913-1930

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY I – EARLY YEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY II – MORRIS yEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI – POULTRY

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VII- IN THE GARDEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VIII – IN THE KITCHEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IX – DIETICIANS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH X – IN THE DINING ROOM, MANNERS & ETIQUITTE 

 

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY II – Morris Years

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Blog: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V
FARM AND DAIRY II – THE MORRIS YEARS 1931-1941

ARRIVAL – LESSONS

When Glyn Morris came to Pine Mountain as Director in 1931 he was just twenty-six years old and a recent graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. The combination of theology and farming, while not new, took on a distinct character under Morris’ direction. When he arrived at Pine Mountain the environmental contrasts of urban and rural were stark, but Morris had been prepared.  Born in the village of Glyn Ceiriog, North Wales, Glyn Morris was no stranger to rural life, nor to farming, as his family farmed and quarried the stones of the region.  Morris was only four years old when he departed Wales with his parents for America. He was eight years old in 1913, the year Pine Mountain Settlement School was founded. When he arrived at Pine Mountain his early years growing up on a farm were merged with his theological and educational training. He joined these skills with the pragmatic work of both farm and dairy already instituted at the School but not fully integrated into the curriculum.

In his autobiography Less Traveled Roads (1977) Morris describes his early years and the time he spent with his family first in Milford, Connecticut, then in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania where the  Morris family joined a Welch community. In his book he describes the milk route he ran for a local dairy, his time at  Albright College as a student counselor and a variety of other formative experiences, most notably as a camp counselor,  paper boy,  a steel mill jobber, and a master chorister. These many diverse experiences were brought into the mix of Pine Mountain and produced, through Morris, a remarkable experiment in education and in farming from 1931 until Morris’ departure from the school in 1942.

When Morris arrived to take on the Director role at Pine Mountains his youthful enthusiasm and his progressive educational views were not without their critics from the community as well as from the Board of Trustees. Over the years and following his departure to serve the war effort as an Army Chaplain in 1942,  the tide of public opinion washed over him and he was not invited back to continue his role at the School.  Criticism from the school’s Board of Trustees had been growing and several direct confrontations with members of the Board and with leaders in the community who had become increasingly conservative as the country’s involvement in the war grew, had caused him to re-think many of his fundamental values. Continuing with the School became increasingly difficult.  Part of the growing local conservatism was in response to a growing resistance in the community to anyone who might stand in the way of the coal economy or who might have Socialist tendencies that supported striking coal miners.  It was his liberal political views that seemed to grate against the increasingly conservative Board. In fact, Morris had campaigned for Presidential candidate Norman Thomas, who was also a graduate of Union Theological Seminary, and a Socialist. Also, a settlement house worker and a socialist and pacifist, Thomas had run six consecutive campaigns for President since 1928Norman Thomas 1937.jpg, the year Morris supported him.

In 1928 Thomas lost the election to Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression followed but Morris continued to pay homage to his early path of pacificism and socialism.  He was an articulate speaker, as a Presbyterian minister he knew how to move his audience. Thomas was a part of Morris’ early education and the residuals of his early education may be found in his first major conflict at the School as Director. He describes one of these difficult time in his autobiography.

In Morris’s first year at the School he ran headlong into considerable local controversy in November of 1931 the year following the “Battle of Evarts,” a particularly deadly conflict between striking miners and local lawmen in the service of the local Coal Operator’s Association. New to the area, he did not yet have a grasp of the local politics and when he encountered a friend on the streets of Harlan he had invited him to Pine Mountain. Arnold Johnson, a member of the National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners (NCDPP) had been a classmate of Morris’ at Union Theological school and had joined the socialist movement that supported the growing unrest in the miner’s labor movement.  Like the later IWW Committee led by Theodore Drieser and including John dos Passos, Edmund Wilson, and others, who came to the coalfields of southeastern Kentucky, where they were to observe and take testimony from coal miners striking in the Harlan County Coal Wars, Johnson was seen as enemy to many. The coal strikes of the early 1930s had left Harlan county fractured politically and had positioned Morris to be in conflict with the infamous J.H. Blair, sheriff of Harlan County, who supported the Coal Operators Association.  Morris was summoned by Sheriff Blair to come to his office and account for his activities and for his friendship with Anderson and his associates and to prove that he was not a Socialist or a Communist. Given the dangerous and complicated events surrounding the mine-workers, it was remarkable that Morris made his peace with Blair, but he did so with the assistance of workers and the community of Pine Mountain who helped him understand the gravity of his actions. He used this early experience as a reminder over the course of the next ten years in the complex cultural climate he was to negotiate as Director of the School.

FARMING

By 1931, the year Glyn Morris arrived at the school as Director, the farm was a central part of the education program.

He came with a deep appreciation for farming and a strong sense for land stewardship that had its roots in his early childhood and youth experiences in Pennsylvania. He understood what farming could mean for the educational life of the school and the health of the community. He acknowledged and embraced the agrarianism of Katherine Pettit and William Creech. He began to build on their vision by adding his own knowledge of contemporary farming practice scaled to the needs of the School. Morris was a farmer, but he was first an educator.

STEWARDSHIP

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Caring for the poultry in the first decade of the School. melv_II_album_176_mod

Morris paid attention to the past and included the idea of stewardship in his educational package. In the earlier years the care of the school’s animals was everyone’s responsibility.  The health of these critical food producers helped the school to maintain its costs and to support the educational programs of the school.  Instruction in farm management was an early program that continued into the Morris years of the boarding school.

In the early days of the school the girls from Practice House [Country Cottage]  were charged with caring for a school cow and for processing the milk for the other students and staff. It was this idea that caught the imagination of Morris and dairying quickly became a major part in his educational reform.

In his autobiography, Less Traveled Roads (1977), written at the end of his rich life, Morris recalls his first week at the school :

“My immediate focus of interest was the garden and dairy, particularly the garden, with its 5000 cabbage plants, rows of Kentucky Wonder beans, and large patches of Swiss chard, potatoes, turnips, onions lettuce radishes, corn, and other seasonal vegetables for the summer table — all of which, when stored or canned, would provide a substantial part of our menu during the ensuing  school year.  …”  [Morris, Less Traveled …p. 49  ]

FARM AND THEOLOGY

At Union Theological Seminary Morris had concentrated his studies in a relatively new area of  theology and education called “Church and Community.”  It was a course of study more closely aligned with sociology than any other field of study offered at the institution and it included attention to rural farming practice.  Steeped in the theology of Paul Tillich , Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), and the philosophy of Systematic Theology as expounded by William Adams Brown   (1865–1943), the courses at Union prepared Morris well for the challenges of rural settlement life at Pine Mountain.  The three influential professors at Union left their mark on Morris and subsequently on the school at Pine Mountain.  As described in his autobiography, he was enmeshed in the Seminary’s circles of influence and as a recent graduate he brought many of Union’s ideas to Pine Mountain. Soon he constructed a very progressive model for program management and for experiential education at the school. It would later prove to be a significant part of his legacy.

William Adams Brown, was an important idea generator for Morris.  Brown, the son of a prominent banking family in New York City and one of the founders of Union Settlement, an urban settlement house in East Harlem that worked with inner-city immigrants, it  was a progressive and well-run urban settlement house in the country’s largest city.   But New York was not Eastern Kentucky.  Testimony to Morris’ capacity to flex and to his already rich lifetime experience, he crafted his rural knowledge with that of his urban mentor and with the other interns at Union Settlement.

Brown’s influence was bolstered by the neo-orthodoxy of Reinhold Niebuhr and the existential theology of  Paul Tillich, two other instructors.  A  remarkably effective blend of  Union theology and philosophical education came together in the Morris vision for Pine Mountain Settlement School and its educational programs and is reflected throughout its programs, including farming.

As a student at Union Morris chose the New York City Settlement House as his field-work experience. He was most likely instrumental along with his professors in getting an assignment as ‘Boy’s Worker’.  In this position he was charged with the management of the day to day work assignments of the boys in the settlement.  He wove into that daily experience the fundamental theology of Brown, who taught a course of study called Systematic Theology, focused on the core truths of Christian theology and the practical skills of work and not on the sectarian beliefs of any one religion or Biblical exegesis.  Morris added to that pragmatism his own experiences growing up on a farm and in an industrial laborer family.  Philosophically he took much from Brown’s much quoted book, Beliefs That Matter:  A Theology for Laymen (1928) which was a foundational work for liberal theologians, particularly those who had attended Union Theological Seminary.  Many of the Union Theological school graduates carried Brown’s ideas to core areas of social and theological practice in the United States. Morris’ classmate Myles Horton, founder of the Highlander Folk School, now in Newmarket, Tennessee was one of those who also pulled strongly from Brown and Niebuhr.  In addition to Morris and his classmates, many later progressive leaders, such as Martin Luther King and others kept Brown’s systematic theology in the foreground of their life-practice and many helped shape critical civil rights reform in the country.

BARNYARDS

So, what does theology and philosophy have to do with cows?  As seen in the writing of both Elizabeth Hench and Glyn Morris — considerable. Morris believed that theology and philosophy were companions in the barn and on the farm and his progressive approach found many sympathizers and advocates in the staff and students. Today this agrarian theology and philosophy, so much a part of the Jeffersonian administration, still enters our farm language and lurks in our politics,  as in the recent farm metaphor by a former Majority Leader of the House

 I don’t want to leave my successor a dirty barn, … I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets there.” [Boehner, John  CBS’s Face the Nation, Sept. 27, 2015]

The delegated cleaning of the barn, monitoring the yard, minding the gates and styles, and keeping a watchful eye on all those animals whose home was the barn and the yard, gave many students the discipline to monitor and master other corners of their lives.

Barn. Early construction.

Barn. Early construction. Yard before stone collection and removal.

FARM AND THE PINE MOUNTAIN GUIDANCE INSTITUTE

The innovative ideas generated by Morris and others during the Boarding High School years soon received national attention. It is not overreaching to say that Pine Mountain had a lasting influence on farming and on education in the region. Lessons learned from Pine Mountain continue to inspire educators and school counselors in the region and even today as schools struggle to educate in a rough sea of social issues the model of Pine Mountain still rings true. Farm training, the co-op and classes in civics had significant roles in the educational models used at the School. The Youth Guidance Institute,  begun by Morris in his last three years at the settlement school was a model of institutional cooperation. Inspired by John Brewer’s Education as Guidance: An Examination Of The Possibilities of a Curriculum In Terms Of Life Activities, (1932) and O. Latham Hatcher’s work with The Southern Women’s Educational Alliance,  later called Alliance for Rural Youth, Morris established the Pine Mountain Institute.  The stated purpose as outlined in the institute handbook was “to increase our efficiency in helping Harlan County youth to find themselves; by surveying their needs and all possible resources for meeting those needs; by coordinating these resources in a concerted effort to accomplish the above objectives.” This cooperative guidance for regional schools lasted for three years and spawned a series of Guidance Institutes, known as the Pine Mountain Institute. In just three short years, it garnered national attention and several publications by Morris and by the noted Columbia University educator, Ruth Strang, who often served as a mentor and speaker for Morris’ Institute. The Morris initiated Pine Mountain Guidance Institute continued after his departure from the School to join the ranks of men serving in WWII.

The stated purpose as outlined in the institute handbook was “to increase our efficiency in helping Harlan County youth to find themselves; by surveying their needs and all possible resources for meeting those needs; by coordinating these resources in a concerted effort to accomplish the above objectives.” This cooperative guidance for regional schools lasted for three years and spawned a series of Guidance Institutes, known as the Pine Mountain Institute. In just three short years, it garnered national attention and several publications by Morris and by the noted Columbia University educator, Ruth Strang, who often served as a mentor and speaker for Morris’ Institute. The Morris initiated Pine Mountain Guidance Institute continued after his departure from the School.

After Morris left Pine Mountain to join the war effort in 1942 as a U.S. Army Chaplain, a modified Institute was continued under the guidance of Superintendent James Cawood in Harlan.  The collaborative training conference was very pro-active in the reform of the local schools. It is not surprising to find that the Pine Mountain Institute’s youth round table, a central part of the conference, was one of the earliest instances of racial integration in rural school initiatives. Black and white students sat around the same table trying to address local social issues long before those discussions finally brought integration to rural Southern classrooms. Jobs training and farming was frequently a part of the discussion.

John Brewer (1877-1950), also one of Morris’ mentors,  was a pioneer in the vocational guidance and counseling field but it was O. Latham Hatcher who gave Morris the connections he needed to move forward with the Pine Mountain Institute and who made the important connections between rural sociology and pragmatic education.  The well-known educator and former head of the Southern Woman’s Educational Alliance was seventy years old when Morris first met her. O. Latham Hatcher was feisty.

LITERACY, COOPERATIVES, ARTS AND FARMING

Literacy, international education, the arts, theater, cooperative economics and mathematics, home economics, and farming and stewardship of the land were all a part of Hatcher’s interests and her interests paired well with Morris’.  The two merged their visions and their interests found their way into the integrated curriculum at Pine Mountain. It was a Progressive curriculum in the model of John Dewey but one that was well suited to the needs of the Settlement School and its service region.

For example, a program which combined the expertise of teacher Angela Melville and her interest in cooperatives, the entire tenth grade in the late 1930’s was built around the theme of cooperation.  This cooperation found a solid model in the idea of a “co-op” and the management by students of a Co-op store.  The idea spread and later became a model for local farmers in the valley who were looking for a means to market their produce.

The eleventh grade curriculum focused on field-work in the community and the students participated in formal study of Folkways  as well as engaging in pragmatic tasks such as home-repair and Pack-Horse libraries. While no grades were given for any of their courses, students were accepted at both Berea and the University of Kentucky. Their acceptance was based on the recommendations of Pine Mountain staff and the extensive portfolio of work, progress reports and recommendations maintained by the school for each student. Often these portfolios ran from 50 -100 pages of close observation by classroom and industrial instructors as well as housemothers and advisers.

Gladys Hill (right) with co-op students. (Source: Harmon Fdn stills)

Gladys Hill (right) with co-op students. (Source: Harmon Fdn stills)

The twelfth grade students were given college preparatory coursework if that was their desire and their aptitude and their courses in their final year were singularly academic in nature. It was an innovative curriculum that paved the way for able students to continue their work  in college if they chose to do so or chart a course for industrial work. For those students who were not inclined to college work, there were skills training classes and trade preparation such as mechanics, printmaking, dairying, and other farm skills.

College work was not the required outcome for students at Pine Mountain but it was rigorous enough to garner approval by the state of Kentucky.  During the Morris years the school was accredited by the State Department of Education based on an elaborate system of accountability for all areas of learning.

 

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Classroom instruction. Butchering meat.[harm_088]

While Morris prepared extensive reports for the Board of Trustees on the intellectual life of the students and the productivity of the staff, he never failed to integrate the educational value of the farm and the importance of this program to the institution. The farmer was included in classroom instruction and integration of current trades related to the farm were explored such as butchering. farmer’s cooperatives, poultry farming, dairying, etc..

 

APPRAISAL – COMING AND GOING

Morris’ farm-focus is found in his first bulletin addressed to the Board in December of 1931.  It reflects his close attention to detail and his hands-on approach to all activities of farm-life at the School.

“Since the meeting of the Board here, we have acquired four shoats from Mr. Kenneth Nolan, as payment for the children’s tuition here at school.  This addition gives us a total of six hogs, two large and four small.  We have about completed the construction of a modern hog house, design as recommended by the Extension Department Department of Agriculture, University of Kentucky.  This house is so constructed as to give the maximum of air and sunshine.  It has a concrete floor which can be washed  as often as desired.  This will mean that we will keep our hogs and their living quarters as clean as possible.  This project serves a two-fold purpose: that of raising some of our own meat, and as a demonstration of how hogs should be kept.

Another project which we are about to enter upon is that of remodeling our manure pit, which is at present very impracticable.  We are going to cut down some of the wall and add a liquid manure cistern, also construct a roof over the manure pit.  At current prices, our manure as fertilizer is worth over one thousand dollars a year, but if it is not kept in a manure pit, 50-5% of its value is wasted by being exposed to the elements.  Manure is a an almost perfect fertilizer, with the exception that in this section of the country we need more phosphorus.  With proper care, our solid and liquid manure should prove a more valuable asset than it has in the past.

 We are pleased to announce that yesterday one of our cows, Lucy, gave fifty -two pounds of milk (twenty-six)quarts).  At the present time the cows are giving more milk than we can consume in liquid form, and we are making the surplus into butter. ”  

Over the course of his tenure at the School farm-life in the country underwent a major shift as industrialization began to dominate farming throughout the country and as the realities of weather, drought, floods and other advesarial events eroded the farm program. In his 1937-1938 Annual Report to the Board of Trustees , just before leaving the school to join the war effort as a Chaplain in the Army, Morris described a recent assessment of the farm activity:

“A critical appraisal of crops for the past year is not encouraging.  The dairy continues to profit from the farm, but in the main the quantity of produce raised on the farm for school consumption during the winter was not sufficient to warrant the expenditure and effort involved.  Sufficient beans were canned to last all year — and sufficient potatoes grown, but other crops were not successful.  Approximately twenty acres are under cultivation.  The school possesses at the present time fourteen cows, two heifers, three calves, one bull, one hundred twenty-eight hens, and seven pigs.”     

In the 1936-37 years the financial statement of the school aggregated the farm under “Living” which included the sub-headings of Salaries, Provisions, Dairy, Farm and Garden, Poultry, Kitchen, and Dining Room. The total expense of this aggregate for the year was $15,683.68.  The expenses associated with the educational programs were $8,324.05. These comparative figures suggest that “Living” was starting to pull substantial revenue from the educational programs side.  Educational costs were listed as:  Academic salaries and supplies; Domestic Science [Country Cottage] ; woodworking ; weaving ; printing ; automotive.  Administrative expenses were totaled at $5,708.58 and included the Director’s salary and travel expenses ; Office ; Endowment Fund [management] expenses ; and Publicity. Morris was a farmer, but he was first an educator.

Also, somewhere in the later reports was the purchase of a new Farmall tractor in 1946.  The old Ford tractor had been patched up for the last time and the many tasks of cultivating the land could not revert to horse and plow.  The new tractor was expensive but vital to the continuation of farming at the school.  It unfortunately came too late to save the future of farming at the school and in the region, though it was intended to off-set the intense human labor needed to maintain a growing farm.  While new developments in technology aided the farmer significantly, many of the new equipment and technology was beyond the finances of the small farmer. Small farms were slowly being eliminated as market forces, began to argue for farm conglomerates and mechanization of many farm tasks. Pine Mountain had no immunity to this national shift.

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Farmer, William Hayes, a former student at the School on the new Farmall tractor.

Though efforts were made to introduce new technologies into farming practice, all signs pointed to the closure of small-scale farming across the country, The farm and the Ayrshire dairy programs continued for a brief time but the farming model was changing. Educational models were also rapidly changing and the closure of the boarding school program in 1949 ended the student labor program and consequently the dairy labor force. This reduction in available labor was a strong indication that the program could not survive.  Further, the consolidation of the school with Harlan County Schools precluded the need for production of milk for the resident student population and signaled a new standardized educational curriculum. The herd of cows was finally sold in 1952 and all the change agents forced the closure of the dairy farm as central program at the School.II_3_general_views_149b_mod

New regulations and increasing costs added to the woes of not just PIne Mountain, but all small farms and farmers throughout the region during this period.  The dairy operation had no choice but to shut down as it was no longer economical to continue production of milk for sale as the new regulations, increased competition and other regulatory restraints, and made production of milk for sale very difficult and expensive for farms the size of Pine Mountain. In 1920 there were no dairies in Harlan Couty. In 1924 there were 24, but by the 1940’s the number of dairies was radically cut. The eras of agri-business were just emerging throughout the country and the shift in the family farm was rapidly changing how farming would persist over the next many eras.

By 1955 not only the dairy, but small farming, generally, at Pine Mountain was perceived to have run its course. The silo was sold, as the need for silage no longer existed and the farm machinery was idled for lack of able labor to run and to repair it. Pieces of equipment were slowly sold or discarded as the tools for farming and for the dairy fell into disrepair.  By 1955, the barn was largely empty except for storage of school lumber and some machinery. Some of the more remote fields had started to fill with the early saplings of a forest and many fields always in production and long tilled, had not seen a plough for years.  The so-called Deschamps field and the field below the old CCC cabin, behind Burkham School House, were the first to be consumed by forest. Later, the field beside Practice House (Country Cottage) was let go and it quickly filled with saplings as the forest reclaimed its hillsides.

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Early view of hillside with Practice House field to top left on mountain.

Today there are only a few signs of the early and robust farm and many of the fields that supported those efforts.  The farming that won accolades for conservation and productivity can  not easily be discerned in the surroundings.  Today, only the stone walls of the milk-shed , its roof long ago fallen-in, may be found next to the barn, as an architectural reminder of the milk production years and the tool shed equipment changed from farm equipment to lawn mowers and weed-eaters.

DOCUMENTATION

The documentation of the history of the dairy farm is a rich collection at Pine Mountain. The documents give a graphic picture of the decisions made regarding the farm but the photographic history, also a form of documentation, is more difficult to read.  For example the “Master Pastureman” awards and long lists of milk production and quaint names of cows and the even more quaint and delightful letters and diaries of Elizabeth Hench, tell the dairy story in pictures, but to get the full story they must combine with the documents. The archives tell the story of  the early era of dairy management at the school and the bounty of the fields in production.  Each year the annual reports and the bi-annual board reports followed the farming practices of the School. Maps, photographs and other media also capture the visual changes that accompanied the evolving story of farming at Pine Mountain School. Snippets of stories from students and staff who worked in the dairy and on the farm appear in the school newsletters and in personal recollections and letters and can be mapped to photographic material forming a richly documented history of small-scale farming. For those interested in the evolution of subsistence farming, the Pine Mountain collections provide a rich body of research material. This blog is but one perspective gleaned from the records.

Overall, the closure of the Pine Mountain School dairy and the farm appears as a financially pragmatic action.  It was consistent with the rapid changes occurring throughout small farms in Appalachia following WWII.  As farmers struggled to re-position themselves in the new economy and the rapid development of  mega-food supply chains many farmers reverted to subsistence farming and became miners. Transport and distribution became a topic of great concern across the country and though roads now penetrated the valley of Pine Mountain, the distance and time to market was considerable. And, the closure was directly tied to the closure of the boarding school, its training programs and the ready supply of labor was a significant loss.

Even robust programs such as the McClure’s popular Farmer’s Federation cooperative in western North Carolina near Asheville, encountered increasing  pressures from transport to distribution. Most other settlement schools and mission schools that had supported farms had already either closed or had found new directions that did not include farming practice.  There were remarkable exceptions to these farm closures such as the Farm School, now Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, which persisted and continues in an amended form, today.  And, to a limited extent,  the farm at John C. Campbell Folk School, also in western North Carolina continued its farm program. The Berry School in Georgia also maintained a farming presence through to the present day.  All these institutions found ways to fiscally incorporate their farms into the educational process, such as work-study programs, or community programming, or agricultural courses but most were supported by a ready supply of labor. These examples speak to the current  remarkable resurgence of the farm in many educational milieus.  This is particularly seen in the developing “Farm to Table” programs and the “Grow Appalachia” programs at Berea College, which now partners with Pine Mountain Settlement School. Finding new pathways to incorporate farming into the new programs at Pine Mountain is ongoing.


GO TO:   

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – ABOUT

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  I – GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH II – INTRODUCTION

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH III – PLACE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV – FARMING THE LAND 1913-1930

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY I – EARLY YEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY II – MORRIS yEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI – POULTRY

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VII- IN THE GARDEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VIII – IN THE KITCHEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IX – DIETICIANS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH X – IN THE DINING ROOM, MANNERS & ETIQUITTE