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 Pine Mountain Settlement School

Pine Mountain Settlement School

TAGS: English Country Dancing, Pine Mountain Settlement School, Harlan County, Kentucky, dancing, recreation, folk dancing, set running, party games, Kentucky Running Set, Cecil Sharp, Maude Karpeles, Phil Jamison, Dorothy Bolles, Abby Winch Christensen, Dorothy Nace, Mary Rogers, Berea College Country Dancers, Berea College, Arthur Dodd, Glyn Morris, 


May Day 1949. Drawing by Mary Rogers

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

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

In the seventeenth century, for example, a “set” was used to describe a series of simple steps in place to one’s partner, as in the action to “set” to a partner before turning. Jamison. however, also conjectures that Karpeles and Sharp conflated the meaning with another “set”, that of a composition of figures, such as Jamison’s suggestion, “a ‘set of Quadrilles.'” Further, French dances that had many parts were referred to as “sets”. This last description of a set given by Jamison, suggests to him that the use of the term is associated with the idea of a Quadrille “set” and this seems to be confirmed in the appearance of the term and idea in the Southern Appalachians. Strengthening his argument for a French connection with the Quadrille, he quotes Karpeles 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 Mountain 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 Karpeles, he witnessed a joyful and energetic community of set runners and when he left, he set a tradition for the inclusion of English Country Dancing in annual celebrations and in the school’s educational program.


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


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

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

All records are 12″ and 4/6

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


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




Pine MountainSettlement School
Blog:  Dancing in the Cabbage Patch


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


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

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

York set a standard of conduct that almost made serving in the Army a religious duty. York’s exploits which were translated to the silver screen furthered his legend and that of the Appalachian soldier. On the cusp of WWII, York, in the mind of the nation and particularly in the minds of Appalachians, Sergeant York was the model soldier and the “Sgt. York Syndrome” took roots and grew. York’s bravery and his philanthropy now known to all Appalachian young men and to their families following the Great War, became a topic of pride in the mountains and remains so today.

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

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

However, all this patriotism has yielded a grim fact.  Data gathered by Alice Cornett should be noted

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

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


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



Unidentified PMSS student.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

The brave and courageous contributions of two Pine Mountain Docotrs, Emma and Francis Tucker and their nurse protegee, Grace Feng Liu  brought first-hand accounts to the School’s understanding of the impact of war on individuals. Their stories are remarkable. The Tucker’s heroic struggles during the Japanese invasion of China and their work to raise the standards of health in rural China equipped the couple for the rural medical work they completed at Pine Mountain. The two were at that time long past the normal retirement age.  Their story of encounters with the Japanese invading forces and their escape from China when it was overrun by the Japanese, is an inspiring tale of courage and contribution that they shared with the Pine Mountain community and with the students. Grace Feng, a native chinese nurse, was brought by the Tuckers when they departed China and she came for a brief time to the School. It was at the School that she later married T.C. Liu, another Chinese migrant. The story of Grace Feng Liu and TC. Liu is a touching one and can be traced in their own words in the School’s archive.  The couple returned to China following the completion of their education in America but were soon caught up in the deadly Communist regime of Mao. 


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

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


WWII students at PMSS.

Many students felt the call to service in both wars, but perhaps WWII had the most profound effect on Pine Mountain Settlement, as so many young men enlisted that work crews and the work-flow of the institution was dramatically affected.

The three young men to the right are typical of the pride shown by these new soldiers.

Paul Hayes, a student, and later PMSS Director, went to Berea College as part of the V-12 program and later to Duke as a recipient of the same military assistance. Paul saw duty in the Pacific. His brother John Hayes, first signed on as part of the Army Corps of Engineers and later in the regular Army, also going to the Pacific theater to fight. Silvan Hayes, the oldest brother was already in the Army in the European war and was killed in 1943 in France. Enoch C. Hall II, a PMSS student from Perry county left Pine Mountain and joined the Army and served in Hawaii.  He was among the many soldiers who were witness to the opening days of WWII when Pearl Harbor was  bombed by the Japanese and led to the declaration of war by the U.S.  Hall’s barracks at the Honolulu air field were strafed by the Japanese in the opening days of the Pacific war. Joe Glen Bramlett, a student who served in the Army left a large visual record of his years at the School and those in the Army.

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

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



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

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


Stella Taylor

Many will agree that Mullins and Taylor made remarkable careers for themselves in WWII. Mable Mullins became a Major in the Army, a rank as high as a woman could go t the time.  Stella Taylor contributed nursing services as an Army nurse and gained recognition for her work.  Other nurses trained at Pine Mountain were quickly signed on to the war effort.  Also, women left the School to provide services or direct support in WWII in jobs that did not require enlistment but that supported the war effort. Generally these jobs were those in industrial support, and/or  canteen work.

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

See more at:

Kentucky Soldiers in WWII, Harlan County

See also:


Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 11: Land Use
Forests and Fires


Smoke from nearby forest fire on Pine Mountain. p1130242

Forest fires along the Little Shepherd Trail above Pine Mountain School. Oct. 29, 2016. High-tunnels for crops in the foreground. p1130242


In 1922 an article appeared in the Harlan Daily Enterprise.


The total burned area of the last forest fire on Pine Mountain is 4000 acres. The cost $12,000.  (a very conservative estimate).  Cost includes:

  • The destruction of half of the young trees forming the future forest crop.
  • The injury to the soil such as burning of leaves, humus [sic] and ground cover.
  • The injury to the standing timber by eating away the lower part of tree trunks until the wind blows the tree over or permits the entrance of wood-destroying fungi.

(signed) Leon F. Deschamps, Forester for the Pine Mountain Settlement School.

On  November 28, 1922,  the mountains around Pine Mountain Settlement School caught fire and threatened the entire community.  As reported in the Pineville (Ky.) Sun the terrible fire created a serious re-assessment of the forests and the threat of fire to part of the School’s important resources.  10 students at Pine Mountain, led by Leon Deschamps, the school forester and also the leader of the local Boy Scout troupe put forward a petition which they hoped to forward to Kentucky’s Governor Morrow. The petition was also signed by 19 girls, members of the local Girl Scouts and supplemented by a letter from their Scout Captain, Miss Lucretia Garfield, grand-daughter of President Garfield, who was on the staff of the School as a teacher and Scout leader from 1919 to 1922. The petitioners asked that the Governor establish a forestry service and a state forester to be appointed to Harlan County.  As part of the petition each of the boys who fought the fire, for an estimated 30 hours each, wrote of their personal experience fighting the fire in individual letters attached to the petition.

Mountain Day. Fire Tower in Kentenia State Forest.

Mountain Day. Fire Tower in Kentenia State Forest. c. 1953 (Putney Tower). No fire towers were available until after 1937-38. Today the tower no longer exists.

The student letters were prefaced by one from Lucretia Garfield, Scout Leader.  She describes the fire:

From October 27 to October 31, 1922 Pine Mountain Settlement school was surrounded by forest fires. There were fires along Pine Mountain for many miles on either side of the School, fires down Greasy Creek below the Medical Settlement and fires between the School and Line Fork Settlement seven miles to the east, 

For a week the boys of Pine Mountain School had been fighting fires in the mountain now and then, but from October 28 to 31 they fought night and day. The dry woods burned fast and the fires were coming down the mountain toward the School. For hours the boys worked to rake large rings about each fire and then started back-fires to make the rings wider. Several times the fire broke over the rings and just as the boys were ready to come in at night another alarm was called. They say that one man near Nolansburg let out the fire that spread up Pine Mountain and westward along the top of the mountain, past the Dillon Trail, past Divide, and far down toward Incline.

The Line Fork fire which spread up Bear Creek burning on both sides for many miles was said to have been started by one boy who lit a brush pile for fun.

Her letter is followed by a summary of the time lost from school, work, and sleep by the boys of the Pine Mountain school, while they were fighting the forest fires.

The following is a summary of the time lost from school, work, and sleep by the boys of the Pine Mountain Settlement School while fighting these forest fires:

Average time spent by each boy fighting fires: 30 hours

Average time lost from school: 1-2 hours

Average time lost from work: 14 hours

Maximum time spent in fighting fires by any boy from October 27 to 31, 1922:  40 hours

But the best story of the fight the children made  is told by them, in their own way. Some of them have made written report of their part in the fight, as a requirement in their school work, and their story, brief, simple, but convincing, tells the story of the seriousness and danger better than any other version could tell, and a few of those compositions follow.

By Clarence Dozier ; Grade VII: November 3, 1922.
Sunday morning there was a fire on top of the Pine Mountain. Mr. Deschamps who is the Boy Scouts Master took ten or twelve Boy Scouts to fight fire. We took our dinner and stayed there until 6 o’clock Sunday night. We came off the mountain and ate our supper, the five boys went back to make a fire-line around the fire. They stayed until midnight. The next morning when they got there the fire had broken over and was coming over into the school ground. One of the boys came back to tell Mr. Deschamps about the fire. Before he got down the mountain he met Mr. Deschamps with some of the boys. They fought fire until dinner. Then some of us went back and made a fire-line from the top of the mountain down to the Lime Stone Cliffs. After we got through with the line we went back to the top of the mountain. And three of the boys went over the fire line. One of them came back where the boys were waiting for him and he said, “boys the fire has broken over the line.

We went to the fire and raked as much as we could. After a while a  man came to help us fight the fire.

I fought fire 40 hours. Time lost from school, three days. Time lost from work, three days. Hours lost from sleep, five.


Discovering a Fire

By Roy Redwin, Grade VII; November 3, 1922.
One morning when I was working for Miss Pettit who is my house mother, we noticed the smoke rising up behind Pine Mountain. Mr. Deschamps who looks after the forest at Pine Mountain, took me with two other boys to the top of the mountain to investigate the smoke. He climbed a tree to see if he could see fire. When he got down he said that he could “see fire i the distance.” Then we went on out a piece farther ad burnt a fire line so that if the fire came dow there it could not get over into the school grounds. We stayed all night and next morning we came back about 7:30 o’clock smoke was rising very fast ad some boys went up to try to put it out. This was the beginning of a forest fire which lasted about seven days. I spent about twenty-six hours fighting fire. I lost about seven hours fro school. I lost about eighteen hours of work time. The fire has destroyed many fine trees ad killed many young ones.

How I Fought Fire

By Watson Caudill, Grade VI; November 3, 1922.
Last Sunday with some other boys I went to fight fire on the Pine Mountain, on top of the mountain, where the Nolansburg trail crosses. We started raking a fire-line on top of the mountain down towards Nolansburg. We went half way down the mountain ad burnt it so that it would not catch over. When we had burnt it off we came back to the top of the mountain and it had caught over this side. We worked about two hours more before we got it stopped. And then we came to the house and went to bed at one o’clock that night. The next morning it had caught over again and we had to take up the fight again. I missed school two days and sleep two nights. I fought fire about 22 hours in all.

By Harry Callahan, Grade VII;  November 3, 1922
One afternoon Mr. Deschamps who is the Boy Scout Master at Pine Mountain Settlement school came in and said he wanted some one to go and fight fire with him. He just took three boys at first, and after a while he came back after some more boys to help him. He just took three boys at first, and after a while he came back after some more boys to help him. He said that the flames were crossing the line ad that evening some of the Boy Scouts went and stayed out all night fighting fire.

The next day was Sunday and just as soon as the boys got back they saw that it was across the fire-line and they had to go back and fight all day Sunday. When Mr. Deschamps came in that night he asked for volunteers to go and stay out that night and fight fire.

One night we ate supper and went back and fought fire till about 10 o’clock that night. All the time we fought fire amounted to about six days of hard fighting.

By Gardner Combs, Grade VI; November 3, 1922.
Sunday a fire broke out in the forest and the boys at Pine Mountain were asked to help put it out. One party of boys went Sunday and another at night. 

The fire was coming up the other side of the mountain when we got there, and we began to rake a fire-line around the fire. When the ring was all way around the fire, we set fire to the leaves, next to the ring, to meet the fire coming. Then we came home at one o’clock in the night. 

The next day the fire broke over the time [sic line] and most all the boys went out to put it out. We raked a ring all the way around the fire, but it broke over again. Then we all went up and raked another ring and this time we put it out. I worked about thirty-four hours in all. I lost about 13 hours from school. I lost about 14 hours of work. I lost about six hours of sleep.



Forest fires above the Chapel, Pine Mountain, KY. Oct. 30, 2016.


According to historian George E. Thompson, in his 2009 publication, You Live Where?, Harlan County, in 1913, was the first county in the state to create a forest fire protective association. The first state forest in Kentucky was also created in Harlan County in 1919, the Kentenia State Forest.

By 1925 the President of the United States had issued a Proclamation that declared April 27- May 3rd to be “American Forestry Week”.  He stated that “I desire to bring to the attention of all our people the danger that comes from the neglect of our forests.” His proclamation was an enlargement of the “Forest Protection Week” that had been in place for several years.  It was clear that all was not right with American forests in the 1920’s, what Coolidge called “unwise dissipation of a great resource.”



Even in these early years the people of Harlan County recognized and wanted to protect their forests.  One of those Harlan County natives, Grover Cleveland Blanton, a grocer from Wallins Creek, near Harlan, had a particular love of forests and continued to purchase forest land to add to the Blanton forest all his life.

Grover Blanton was particularly fond of one tract that showed no signs of logging or removal of trees. It was that particular tract that became a focus of energy for conservationists. Just four miles west of the town of Harlan, that tract, later Blanton forest, is literally a national treasure. It is one of the oldest forests in America that is designated “old-growth” forest. Many of the trees, some over 150 feet high and some four feet in diameter have weathered many fires over the centuries.  And, there have been many centuries.  Some estimate many of the trees of 25-30 different species, are 300 to 400 years old. Many show the scars of fire.

This large forest, the Blanton Forest,  is comprised of 2,350 acres, of which 1,075, the least disturbed portion, has been set aside for a nature preserve. This important section is positioned on the south flank of the long Pine Mountain range that stretches through Harlan County, the longest of Kentucky’s counties (some 50 miles long by 20 miles wide). Marc Evans, working for the state Nature Preserves Commission to inventory the state’s forests,  is credited with the “discovery” of this remarkable old-growth” forest.  Marc is currently a Pine Mountain Settlement School board member.  When he walked into the area in 1992 he was astounded by what he saw and began a campaign to recognize and preserve the forest. In 1995 working with the Nature Preserves Commission, and with William Martin, then the Natural Resources Commissioner, about half of the Blanton Forest was purchased for $750,000.  This was the 1,075 acres identified as critical to preserving. The care given to this forest by the Blanton family and the care given to other forests in Eastern Kentucky, particularly Lilly Woods, and the forest in the Bad Branch area of Letcher County, are treasures that are very susceptible to fire.

The forest surrounding Pine Mountain joins a remarkable gathering of unique and irreplaceable forest lands in Eastern Kentucky.  Since 1913, when the School was founded, there have been fires in the forests of the school like the one mentioned above. Most of them were the result of careless behaviors. William Martin, an expert in old-growth forests and former Natural Resources Commissioner for Kentucky in the early 1990’s, once remarked, “A tree doesn’t care how long a human being lives …”  But, it is clear that we humans need to heighten our understanding of the life of trees.  In many ways, they are our legacy. Today, along with fire, a recurring challenge to forests in Harlan County is irresponsible timbering. Grover Blanton made it clear throughout his lifetime that his forest was “More than timber.” “This is for saving,” he told his daughters, Nora and Serena Knuckles.


Today, along with fire, a recurring challenge to forests in Harlan County is irresponsible timbering. Grover Blanton made it clear throughout his lifetime that his forest was “More than timber.” “This is for saving,” he told his daughters, Nora and Serena Knuckles. They did that and continue to advocate for their father’s legacy.

The care given to this forest by the Blanton family and now the Nature Preserves Commission, and the care given to other forests in Eastern Kentucky, particularly Lilly Cornett Woods, and the forest of the Bad Branch area of Letcher County, near Pine Mountian School, cannot be underestimated. These two forest tracts are treasures that are susceptible to timbering and to fire but are in many ways they are less susceptible than new forests.

Many of the old-growth forests have a built-in fire protection.  Many of them have large “boggs” and a moist understory that holds moisture when other forests have succumbed to long periods of drought. As we struggle with Global Warming, that is intensifying, this feature of old-growth forests and well maintained forests will become increasingly important. The forests surrounding Pine Mountain are joining other unique and irreplaceable forest lands in Eastern Kentucky in monitoring care and preservation.


Fires in forests have been present throughout history. Since 1913, when the School was founded, the fires in the Pine Mountain Settlement School forest, have been recorded, and like those described above, and like many of the fires of today, most of the fires were a result of careless and often malevolent behaviors.

In 1995 two fourth grade classes at Wallins Elementry School received a $500 grant from the Kentucky Environmental Council to develop games, a study guide, and other activities to heighten awareness of the unique forest in their back-yard and to educate for preserving that legacy. Education has always been linked to responsible fire management.

Fortunately, fires in Eastern Kentucky are usually in the understory and not the fierce fires in the tree crowns seen in the Western United States. Yet, the contributing wind can quickly change that comparison. It only takes one fire such as the one recently seen in the Great Smoky Mountains at Gatlinburg to remind us of the danger of fires in the Appalachian mountains. When all the elements conspired a conflagration, can be as destructive as that seen in the Western United States.  The following photograph in the Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, taken in a very dry year in the early 1940s, shows a particularly fierce fire on the ridge-crest of the Pine Mountain, near the School.

Forest fire on the ridge-top of Pine Mountain, c. 1945


In October 2016  the Pine Mountain was again on fire.  A series of small fires deliberately set along the Little Shepherd Trail grew into large fires that crept down the mountain. Today no small boys were sent up to meet the growing danger, but the small staff watched warily as the forest cleared its under-story and discussions centered on the process of making ready for the seeds of Spring. Yet, with each increase in the wind the observers grew more anxious and small groups went into the forest to combat the flames as they steadily marched down the mountain toward buildings.  Shortly a misting rain fell and everyone sighed relief yet many paused to consider and to wonder what it is in our common human community that still finds pleasure in setting things afire.

An editorial in the Lexington Herald, November 20, 1994 “Arsonists rob E. Kentucky of its verdant forests,” by Doug Crawford, wondered this, as well. He said, “…it is difficult to understand how one element of Eastern Kentucky’s own could be so disillusioned, so ostracized, so contemptuous that it could willfully destroy the region’s greatest and most lasting natural resource.” He goes on to muse that the

“... epidemic of arson fires would seem to be a symptom of something still larger, reflecting a mentality similar to those who thoughtlessly trash the roadways and countrysides of Eastern Kentucky ….the people who are doing this have no respect for themselves or where they come from …The motivations for such behavior one can only speculate. Revenge? Contempt? Power? Kicks? ….whatever the reasons, getting at the root of this self-destructiveness is growing more crucial to the survival of Eastern Kentucky.”


The Pine Mountain ridge in full Fall color. Late afternoon as fires begin to grow on South side of mountain.. October 28, 2016.

Pine Mountain Settlement School continues its environmental education work.  The year-round Environmental Education program which began in 1972 is no longer a focus of programming but it sits in the center of both the school outreach and the adult programming of the institution. Programming continues to offer students from throughout the state and beyond, the opportunity to study forest ecology, biodiversity, stream ecology and other aspects of environmental education for short or week-long sessions for public and private schools. Environmental education offers hope for a way out of the cycle of insensitivity and senseless crime and despair. It is never too early or too late to learn and devise ways to cope with the environmental changes occurring around us.

[Contact Pine Mountain Settlement School for information on educational programs or visit   for a list of programs and workshops.]

GALLERY (Included 2016 fire)

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

Pine Mountain Settlement School

1936 Pine Mountain Settlement School and Mexico




In 1936, the country of Mexico was opening up to travelers and cars. Some travelers were now able to make long journeys in the country and find the needed road assistance along the way. The Pan American Highway was still under consideration after it was first introduced at the Fifth International Conference of American States in 1923 but agreements to begin construction were underway and in July of 1937 when the participating countries signed the Convention on the Pan American Highway, construction began in earnest. The roads in the rural countryside, like those at Pine Mountain, were rustic and treacherous, at best. But it is unlikely that roads presented an obstacle to an adventuresome group from Appalachia.

Intrepid souls were venturing farther than just across the border and they navigated the roads of Mexico and beyond just as they navigated many of the rough roads that marked a large section of the rural United States. In the mid-1930s some of those intrepid travelers to Mexico were from Pine Mountain Settlement School. Following the closure of the 1936 school year, the Principal of the School, the secretary to the Director, and a rising star who had just graduated from the Pine Mountain Settlement boarding high school were given the opportunity to explore the world outside the United States. Accompanied by a proper school marm/administrator from Perry County, the quartet struck out for Mexico City and surrounding towns. Arthur Dodd apparently supplied the car and the camera, Fern Hall took notes, and Georgia Dodd supplied the vibrant dialogue, while all were observed by the quiet and reserved school administrator and first cousin of Fern Hall, Grazia Combs. In one touring car the group drove first to New Orleans where they explored the gulf port and the energetic life of one of America’s oldest cities.


1936_mexico_035 New Orleans

Leaving New Orleans, the group then headed for Texas where they planned to cross the border at Brownsville which sits just north of the large Mexican border town of Matamoros, Mexico. All we know is that they crossed the border into Mexico. Apparently, Arthur Dodd hoped to repeat the trip he had made in 1934, just two summers previous.  What happened at the border is not certain. It is possible that the group took a train to Mexico City and rented a car within the country, or they may have driven the distance. That part of the story remains to be discovered.

The Mexican Highway 101, or the Carretera Federal 101, starting at Brownsville to Matamoros, is today a spur of the Pan American Highway that leads to one of the most treacherous highways in Mexico. But in 1935, it was an adventure, not a life-threatening drive, but also not for the faint of heart. To get some sense of highways in Mexico at this time, the home movie shot by adventurers in 1935,Touring Mexico by Car, 1935 should give some indication of the experience of driving to Mexico City during the early 1930s.

By 1936, Mexico’s Revolution had ended, Cardenas was installed as the new President of the country and oil was providing the country a new economy. Diego Rivera, Frieda Kahlo, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Siqueiros were making their new revolutionary voices heard in the murals and paintings shared with the Mexican people as well as with a new and eager North American tourist clientele. North American artists and the adventurous were frequently traveling to Mexico. For example, Anni and Josef Albers who were in residence at Black Mountain College in North Carolina in 1935, drove the 2000 miles to Mexico City where they both fell in love with the culture and lively art of the country. They returned many times from 1935 to 1967 and brought back elements of the culture that were literally woven into their art. As a weaver, Anni Albers was particularly sensitive to pattern and textures. Motifs taken from native Mexican weaving and ceramics show up in many of the Albers work and the vivid and subtle color of native arts and natural landscape were evocative inspirations for the Albers color theory.


Pine Mountain Settlement School had much in common with Black Mountain College in North Carolina and the exchanges between the two directors of the institutions occurred regularly. Glyn Morris, a Welchman by birth, became the Pine Mountain director in 1932. He had been deeply schooled in the Progressive educational models of John Dewey and nurtured by the reformed theology of Reinhold Niebuhr.  John Rice, the Black Mountain College director, was a follower of Dewey and later a friend of the progressive educational reformer. Both Morris and Rice ran institutions that favored an educational model that was less a traditional educational institution and more a controlled educational experiment to test their theories.

John Andrew Rice, just fired from Rollins College in Florida because he wished to abolish grading and other progressive ideas, was in a hurry in 1933. He wanted to try out his ideas. When he came to Black Mountian he rushed the framework of a new institution into reality through what one observer noted was like a “pick-up game of football.” Further, Black Mountain College was born during the Great Depression and the pragmatism of Dewey and his views on art were easily integrated into the curriculum.

Glyn Morris, just out of Union Theological Seminary in New York City was also in a hurry the year earlier, to make his own mark on the world in another corner of Appalachia. When Glyn Morris landed in Pine Mountain Settlement School in 1932, the country was in the beginning stages of the Great Depression. It is not remarkable that the two directors found one another.

One major stumbling block, however, in a love affair between Black Mountain College and Pine Mountain Settlement School, was Rice’s disaffection for Robert Maynard Hutchins. Hutchins aimed to promote a kind of general education that would be comprised of fundamental ideas but would aim to end in intelligent action guided by practical wisdom. Rice did not envision his educational model following Hutchins’ fundamentalism and by 1937 he felt secure enough in his own model to attack Hutchins “General Education” plan in an article in Harpers, “Fundamentalism and Higher Learning,”

Robert Maynard Hutchins was the brother of Francis Hutchins, who became President of Berea College in 1939, and a major force in shaping the later years of Pine Mountain as a member of the Board of Trustees. Francis Hutchins had been in China in the mid-1930s as the director of the Yale in China program and followed his father, William Hutchins, as President of Berea College and. Francis Hutchins, as Berea’s President became a key supporter of Morris at the end of his tenure at Pine Mountian.

The relationship of the Hutchins with Pine Mountain did not appear to dampen the friendship of Rice and Morris and both adopted a “no-grades” approach to their educational programs. But, when Robert Maynard Hutchins, then President of the University of Chicago published his book, The Higher Learning in America, (1937) which outlined what he sought to do at Chicago with regard to reforming the curriculum. Robert Maynard Hutchins’ reforms infuriated John Rice at Black Mountain and confounded Glyn Morris at Pine Mountian.

At Pine Mountain, Glyn Morris walked a delicate line between the John Rice’s preferred experiential model of education, one not so fundamentally grounded in text and the more sequential and proscribed program of Hutchins at Chicago. In his 1937 article for Harper’s magazine, “Fundamentalism and the Higher Learning,” Rice blasted Hutchins’ model as “removed from experience.” “Why,” Rice asked, “include what can be printed and leave out what must be seen or heard?” [Reynolds, K. Visions and Vanities, p.147.] Rice elaborated

“Why include what can be printed and leave out what must be seen or heard: To some, Aeschylus and the sculpture of Chichen-Itza are in quality very near together. But we are to exclude one because it cannot be got from a book?”

“…Education, instead of being the acquisition of a common stock of fundamental ideas, may well be a learning of a common way of doing things, a way of approach, a method of dealing with ideas or anything else. What you do with what you know is the important thing. To know is not enough.”

While this discussion of Rice and Morris may seem outside the scope of the Pine Mountain connection with Mexico, there is a thread.  This is found in the dual role educational experimentation had on Pine Mountain and Black Mountain and which paved the way for the groups’ travels to Mexico. What could be more experimental than such a far-flung journey of educators and students. It was the equivalent of today’s educational “travel abroad”.

Glyn Morris, the Director, and Arthur Dodd, the Pine Mountain School Principal, and leader of the Mexico trip, had frequently entertained Black Mountain faculty and students at Pine Mountain and the two had also visited in North Carolina meeting and speaking with many of the faculty there and at the nearby Asheville Farm School.

In the coal fields of eastern Kentucky, unionization was also heating up and the so-called “Coal Wars” were underway. Charges of Marxism and Communism were creeping into the language of the area and Europe was undergoing major political shifts. Trotsky was still in Norway but would sail for Mexico within the year and arrive in Mexico in 1937 where he would share a residence with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in the famous Casa Azul or Blue House in the Coyoacan area of Mexico City. “Mexico,” as the largest Mexican city is called, was in 1936 a sprawling and cosmopolitan city that was generating enormous creative, political, and social energy that flowed North to a young and welcoming and eager intellectual population. It was the poor traveler’s European or International Immersion.


In his autobiography, Less Travelled Roads, (1977) Glyn Morris, the Pine Mountain Director, makes a case for experiential education and cites the growing trend across the country which found that educated rural youth were not returning to their rural home areas but were joining the growing numbers in suburbia and now, urban centers, and ultimately to countries abroad. Morris’s educational plan was progressive but it was also pragmatic. What Morris and Dodd and all the early Progressive pioneers at Pine Mountain would not live long enough to see was the migration back to rural home areas by the youth who years earlier had departed.  There was a gradual retrenchment in the heightened exploration and curiosity of the youth about the world as they measured what they had against what they thought they desired.  For men, the ultimate going away and coming back was War.  But, that came later.

Morris, for example, declares

Regardless of the school’s program, its net result was to whet the students’ appetites for a quality of living simply not possible in an isolated, sparsely settled mountain community. It is a well-established historical fact — and is a fateful and challenging human problem, very obvious today. Even a relatively prosperous and self-contained family farm of twenty-five years ago can’t make it today on good soil, let alone in the Appalachian Mountain. In addition to this fact, a number of our students came from coal camps in the surrounding counties, and to expect the student to route himself into a career as a coal miner was unrealistic. I began, early in my term at Pine Mountain, to question the goals not only of Pine Mountain but of all the many private secondary schools and colleges in the mountains which asserted this unrealistic goal. My viewpoint on this matter was expressed to Dr. Harold Spears, formerly Superintendent of Schools, San Francisco, California, now Professor of Education at San Francisco State College, during his visit to Pine Mountain late 30s.


This long detour into educational philosophy has a relationship to the Mexico trip. As an experimental settlement school, Pine Mountain was continually looking for innovative ways to open up the educational experience for both its teachers and its students. When Arthur Dodd headed to Mexico for the second time with a car full of single women, he was probably thinking about the very good odds for himself, but he was also doing just what Pine Mountian did best. He was providing an optimum opportunity to expose the students to a new world and to give his very proper School Principal from Perry County an opportunity to open up her own educational perspectives.

Georgia Ayers, the Pine Mountain student who had just graduated and who was among the Mexico travelers, was one of five girls selected from the graduating class of 1935 to remain at Pine Mountain and to participate in a rural education program. Dodd and Morris had devised and proposed a program in which the high school girls would visit homes in the community to nurse sick children or mothers, carry library books to homes, and assist in instruction in the area’s one-room schools. A catalog of responsibilities was constructed that acted as a guide for each girl’s participation in the program. Morris’s and Dodd’s new program became the core of the 11th-grade experience in a new curriculum. Georgia Ayers became the first supervisor of this experimental program as it was built into the new progressive curriculum. The Mexico trip was, in essence, her training and her interview.

1936_mexico_047. Gladys Morris, Georgia Ayers, Fern Hall.

1936_mexico_047. Grazia Combs, Georgia Ayers, Fern Hall.


Arthur Dodd‘s earlier itinerary (if it can be called that) to Mexico in 1934 in the company of Caleb Shera, son of a former art teacher at Pine Mountain, and August Angel was very loose. The trio had planned to travel by car to Mexico City but when they reached the border they found that the road was impassable in some sections. August Angel, in assembling his memoirs recalls the journey of the trio

In the summer of 1934, Caleb, Mr. Dodd, Principal of Pine Mountain Settlement School from which Caleb graduated from high school, and I, drove to Mexico in a Ford touring car for a summer vacation. We took turns at the wheel as we traveled. In Georgia, we stopped at Mr. Dodd’s home and stayed overnight. After a sumptuous evening meal and memorable homemade ice cream topped with fresh sliced peaches for breakfast, we drove south to Laredo, Texas, to cross the border into Mexico and toward Monterey.

We drove as far south as Tamazunchale, where we learned that the mountain road to Mexican DF [Mexico City] was under construction and we could not traverse. We decided to take the passenger train from Vera Cruz to San Luis Potosi, then transfer to a second, ending in Mexico City. We traveled second class, sat on slatted wood benches, and mingled with natives who were aboard with livestock, pigs, kids, fruit and vegetables to sell to passengers, or going from the countryside to nearby market places in towns along the railroad tracks. It was a day and night trip, and also a social encounter that shocked us to remember to this day.

In the city itself we did the usual sights – bullfights, opera, church, parks and museum tours, and a visit to the pyramids of the Sun and Moon. Mr. Dodd ate or drank something and caught the bug we dubbed “Montezuma’s Crud,” and spent a miserable month starving himself to get rid of it.

…. The six weeks we were on the trip cost me only $60. I started with $75 and returned to Kentucky with $15. Those were the good old days! It was a truly good vacation and affordable.

Though Dodd had a bad bout of dysentery it did not seem to dull his appetite for Mexico and this time he brought along a good body of film stock and camera.

In the 1930’s many tourists were traveling to Mexico and “the tour” was variously described by those who made the journey. One comprehensive travel account that has an interesting connection with Pine Mountain was recorded in 1936 by J.C. Nichols of Kansas City. Nichols was a friend of the Hook family of Kansas City and reportedly sold a lot he owned in the Rockhill Park area of Kansas City to Bertrand Hook who passed it along to his daughter. Mary Rockwell Hook, the daughter, was the architect for most of the buildings at Pine Mountain Settlement School. Because Mary was a fledgling architect in 1908 her father sought to further her career by purchasing the lot from Nichols so Mary could design and build her first house. To get a sense of a typical itinerary in Mexico see J.C. Nichols account Our Trip to Mexico August and September 1936.” 

The travels of the 1936 Pine Mountain Settlement School group took them to three major destinations: Mexico City, Puebla, and Taxco. Included in Dodd’s photographs are road shots of the countryside as the group drove along the roads connecting Mexico’s urban centers. In Mexico City, the photographs mainly concentrate on Chapultepec Park or “Bosque de Chapultepec” (Chapultepec Forest). It is the largest city park in the Western Hemisphere and covers just over 686 hectares or 1,695 acres.

1936_mexico_040. "Charros - Mexico City Park." [Chapultepec Park]

1936_mexico_040. “Charros – Mexico City Park.” [Chapultepec Park]

From Mexico City the group went South to Taxco, a city known for its silver and beautiful ornate churches in the Mexican Churrigueresque style. There are two views of Mexico’s most famous volcanos, Popocatépetl, and Iztaccihuatl, that fill the skyline some 70 Km Southeast of Mexico City. The city of Puebla, is the fourth largest city in Mexico. It is located 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes, Founded in 1531, it has some of the most significant Spanish Baroque cathedrals in Mexico.

1936_mexico_005. View of Popocataptle and Iztaccihuatl volcanos. 70 Km Southeast of Mexico City.

1936_mexico_005. View of Popocataptle and Iztaccihuatl volcanos. 70 Km Southeast of Mexico City.

A highlight of the trip to Mexico City, if measured by the number of photographs, was a trip to the ancient bullring Toreo de la Condesa in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City. Today the older bullring has been replaced by a new stadium in another location and the capacity doubled. The older location was overwhelmed by the rapid development of the Condesa area of the city. Apparently, the group saw a mind-numbing number of bull fights. Fern Hall wrote in a postcard to her future husband, William Hayes, the farm manager at Pine Mountain, that she saw six bulls killed that day. We don’t know what he thought about that report but it is likely that he was not cheering for the matador.

1936_mexico_045. Postcard. "Pase Natural, 319"

1936_mexico_045. Postcard. “Pase Natural, 319”

So, outcomes? Arthur Dodd managed to stay healthy and to enjoy the second trip to Mexico and return to Pine Mountain where he administered the school programs until their closure in 1949. Georgia Ayers returned to Pine Mountain where she eventually married Arthur Dodd.  On her return to the School, she was not only “interviewed” to head the new social services program at Pine Mountain, she had evidently also “sized up” by Dodd, the adventuresome single man. He asked Georgia to marry him and they became a Pine Mountain couple. She married in late December of 1940. After her marriage, Georgia became the dietitian for the School. Georgia’s trip was the first of many journeys that Georgia and “Dodd” would take later in their lives.

Fern Hall continued on as Secretary to the Director at Pine Mountain and in 1941 married Wiliam Hayes, a former student who had stayed on at Pine Mountain as the Farm Manager and instructor in the industrial training program. The Hayes’ stayed on until 1953 when most farming programs at the School were discontinued. It is Fern’s set of Dodd’s Mexico photographs that prompted this blog. Fern and Bill’s daughter, Helen, inherited the photographs and with them a curiosity for travel first in Mexico in 1963 and then in other regions of the world. Grazia Combs returned to Perry County where she continued to teach and assume multiple roles in education in the county including Principal of Dilce-Combs High School and later Perry County Superintendent of Schools.



Touring Mexico by Car in 1935

J.C. Nichols Mexico travel account Our Trip to Mexico August and September 1936.” 

Angel, August. Trivia and Me, 2008

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH In The Dining Room, Manners and Etiquette



Over the years table manners were taken very seriously at Pine Mountain.  As all meals early in the School’s history as a boarding school were served “family style” at large round tables that could hold up to eight students.  The need for decorum in these group settings was soon evident.  In these earlier years when young children made up the majority of the population, the need for supervision at each of the tables was evident.  Each table included a staff member who would model table manners and would remind any child whose comportment was lacking, that there were better behaviors to strive for. Soon rules were instituted for table behavior and amended over the years to accommodate behaviors that “came along” with new populations and older students. One of the most egregious offenses was “putting your knife in your mouth” or “eating with a knife”.

“I like my peas with honey
I’ve liked it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny
But it keeps them on my knife!”

This ditty was often quoted with humor by many Pine Mountain students and no doubt called to mind the admonishment of NEVER eat with one’s knife. Never put your knife in your mouth!

Another table rule was that no matter how bad the food tasted to the student, they were never to complain about the food.  A recurring tale is told of a student who was having trouble with the new food he encountered at the School.  In  the kitchen, a small bar of home-made soap had somehow slipped into a soup pot and the soup found it’s way to the table.  A young man at the table took his first spoon-full and exclaimed, “This tastes like soap!” Silence and startled looks greeted his exclamation.  He quickly recovered, again exclaiming, “And, that’s just the way I like it!”

Every student at Pine Mountain Settlement was expected to also abide by what was called the “Three Bite” rule. The rule mandated that any food placed in front of the student was expected to be sampled by the student.  They were to take at least three bites of the “new” food and failure to do so was duly noted by their fellow students as well as the staff.  Failure to comply resulted in an end to the meal for the student. Many students would later say that was how they learned to like food unfamiliar to them.  Some recall this “Three Bite” rule with less fondness. Canned chard never became a favorite and there were many plots and maneuvers to avoid eating this limpid vegetable.


Certainly the three “rules” noted above, seem reasonable for those early years, but those examples are only three of 39 rules associated with dining at Laurel House that were mandated in 1921! Some of the 39 were not so reasonable.

The documented rules were addressed to those dining as well as those serving the tables.

September 6, 1921

  1. Good manners begin on the porch. Be orderly and quiet. Don’t run through the dining room.
  2. Leave Laurel House promptly after meals.
  3. Observe good manners in the pantry too.
  4. Take three bites of every thing offered. This is in order to learn to like it if you don’t, and to be polite to the cook.
  5. Eat everything on your plate.
  6. Take small bites, but not too small.
  7. Chew everything well, with your lips closed.
  8. Don’t talk while you are waiting on the table.
  9. Sit up straight at a convenient distance from the table; keep arms off the table and feet off table rungs and chairs.
  10. Don’t talk or drink water when your mouth is full.
  11. Wait till the server is ready to eat before you begin.
  12. Clap only when it is appropriate, and don’t clap too much.
  13. Don’t reach in front of anyone.
  14. Don’t tip your chair.
  15. Don’t turn around and stare at the other tables. 
  16. Keep the table neat. Beware of crumbs!
  17. Leave the chairs straight when you are excused.
  18. Discuss only pleasant things at the table.
  19. Don’t whisper, or talk to your next neighbor alone.
  20. Be considerate of the other people at the table.
  21. Wait patiently while the table is being served.
  22. Enjoy the amount of food served to you.
  23. Break up large pieces of food into convenient sizes.
  24. Avoid calling attention to the bad manners of others. And, be a perfect example youself.
  25. Do not wait on the table when your mouth is full.
  26. Do not play with the silver.
  27. Do your best to make every meal pleasant. 
  28. Join in the blessing.
  29. Be sure to say “thank you” and “excuse me” and “please often enough.
  30. Come to the table with your face and hands clean.

By the late 1930’s some of this early discipline began to break down as the age of the student crept upward and some began to assert themselves or insist on their learned habits.  In a memo from Glyn Morris, Director dictated to his secretary Fern Hall, he sends notes to staff charged with overseeing the Dining Hall in Laurel House. In this case the note is to John Spelman III. It reads

Notes from Staff Meeting held in Laurel House, April 2.

Mr. Morris requested that we watch the conduct in the dining room.
He mentioned such things as:

         excessive noise
         starting to eat before the hostess
         unnecessary amounts of going to and from the kitchen

Fern Hall, 


Dietitians rule at Pine Mountain. The Kitchen and the services associated with feeding students are unrelenting and critical to over-all well-being of the School. Attention to the dining decorum at the School was often front and center and there are several documents that spell out the rules of the table and one of them, importantly, is “Be polite to the cook.”

One of the longest reigning dietitians at Pine Mountain was Berdina Bishop.  Like many of the women who assumed this role at Pine Mountain School, she was not trained as a dietitian but quickly showed her skills at this complex task. She writes in her dietician notes of the experiences in the kitchen. Her notes, found in a large scrapbook and an album she donated to the School, and in the gathered reports she was required to submit regularly to the Director, demonstrate her eye for detail.  Her large Scrapbook contains many of her memories of her Pine Mountain years and it is within this tome that we find some of the records she kept of her kitchen years. Her records and reports to the Directors she served are found scattered throughout her record. The reports to the Director also provide a cost accounting of foodways at the School. Her reports join those of dieticians who preceded and followed her and track the growing cost of feeding students and staff at the institution. 

Other notable dietitians include Bertha Cold, sister of Edith Cold; Georgia Ayers Dodd; Chloe Hayes-Bunch, and others. During the two World Wars, several staff, such as teacher Louise Fliermans, were given that difficult task with little preparation. Much more may be learned about the Dining Room at Pine Mountain and ettiquite and manners by consulting the various biographies of those who worked in the kitchen and dining area.


During the Community School years (1949-1963)  at Pine Mountain, dining began to more closely follow that found in grade-schools throughout the country.  However, as can be seen in the photograph that introduces this blog, the tables were still set for dining with plates, saucers, silverware and napkins properly places for each student. Each child would take their plate through a “cafeteria” line where they received the main offering of the day.  

Grace M. Rood (back to camera) at Laurel House II dining hall. Grace Rood Album. [rood_043.jpg]

What is missing in the later years is the presence of an adult at each table.  Modeling behaviors and monitoring eating habits was done at a distance. At a long table, seen in the background of the photograph, some of the staff may be seen. The placement of students and staff today who gather as part of the very active Environmental Education programs at the School, looks much as it did during the Community School period.  One of the noticable differences today is the use of sectioned cafeteria trays used by all diners. All visitors and staff continue to bus their dinner ware.

In the dining room the beautiful multi-purpose tables from the very earliest years are still in constant  use. The tops of the tables tilt to full upright and becomes a seat which can then be used on the dance floor when folk-dancing is introduced following the meal. The hickory cane bottomed chairs are still found throughout the dining room.  Notoriously easy to up-end, the chairs now are more frequently heard hitting the floor as children are more accustomed to heavier seating. Another observation is that the noise level of the children has gradually increased and echoes off the walls of the dining room.  The excited and animated conversations are also often punctuated by some child leaning too heavily on the tilt-top of the table causing it to “slap” back down on the base. As children compete to be heard, the loud voices fill the room. The auditory experience in the dining room has changed dramatically from the earlier years when children were quickly quieted. Shouting and raising the voice in the dining room was monitored by all present and quickly corrected by staff and by the children themselves.

Dining room at Laurel House, today. Environmental education classes

While the 3-bite rule has faded away for most children dining at Pine Mountain today, another rule has been instituted. That rule is to refuse or not ask for food that will not be eaten. The food waste at the end of each meal for the student groups is scraped into a special bin and the scraps are weighed for each visiting school for each meal. Remarkably, the Gospel of the Clean Plate ideal has been reach by some remarkable school groups that have had “0” waste at their meals and have set a record for other schools to emulate. Further, each student in today’s dining hall is asked to bus their own tray and to assist the kitchen staff in the important job of sweeping floors, cleaning tables and straightening chairs after dining. Katherine Pettit is probably smiling at this continuation of individual disciplined responsibility which she attached to every activity.



GO TO:   





DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  In the Kitchen Pots and Pans


DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  In the Dining Room, Manners and Etiquette 

        DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  Gospel of the Clean Plate

        FOODWAYS Overview

        FOODWAYS Essential Foods at Pine Mountain Settlement School

        FOODWAYS An Old Fashioned Dinner March 14, 1919