Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY
Series 19: STUDENTS
Thomas J. Madon (1917-1979)
Student 1931-1937


Thomas J. Madon, standing on a boardwalk. [X_100_workers_2567a_mod.jpg]

THOMAS J. MADON Student, 1931-1937

TAGS: Thomas J. Madon, Tom Madon, Thomas Jefferson Madon, PMSS students, PMSS Farm and Dairy, Milk Reports, Glyn Morris, walking tour, dairying, industrial work, poetry, The Pine Cone, H.M.S. Pinafore, Tomfoolery plays, Brit and Ella Wilder, Carrie H. Madon, Helen Louise Madon, Oscar Kneller, Noe’s Bar-B-Q Inn, Class of 1937, Everett K. Wilson, Eula Lee Pendleton, 1979 Alumni Homecoming

THOMAS J. MADON: Student At Pine Mountain

As a student at Pine Mountain Settlement School (PMSS) from 1931 to 1937, Thomas J. Madon often did not perform well on the academic side of his education, much to the frustration of his instructors. His interests and skills lay elsewhere. He was at his best when working at the PMSS Farm and Dairy, where he was reported to be “capable and dependable,” and taking part in the School’s extra-curricular activities.

On his Student Application, Thomas stated his desire to study dairying after high school and that he preferred to live in the country (rather than the city) where he could follow his interests in dairying. The Milk Reports in the PMSS Collections were large charts kept in the PMSS Dairy during Thomas’s time at the School. The 1935 version, showing dates, cows’ names, and the amount of milk they produced, indicates that it was designed by “Thomas J. Madon, Assistant Farm Boss.”

During Thomas’s last year at PMSS, then-Director Glyn Morris wrote a narrative consisting of a “walking tour” of the Pine Mountain campus. As Morris walked the reader through the physical space and the educational activities that occurred at each point in the tour, he described Thomas at work:

“Coming back down the hill we pass the Barn where Tommy Madon and his crew of boys have in charge the dairy of sixteen cows. Tommy has done very good work in his course in dairying and has learned to be so efficient in his industrial work that he has been given the entire responsibility. The promotion has done another service in adding to Tom’s self-confidence and happiness. He may go to an agricultural school after he leaves us — or he may go back on his father’s land and farm, but in any case, he will know the best way to handle cows and milk in the mountains.” 

Source: Morris, Glyn. “EDUCATION 1936 PINE MOUNTAIN Industrial Courses,” Pages 2 and 3.

Thomas Madon’s other interests were arguably the antithesis of farm work. He listed “poetry” on his student application among the activities that he enjoyed. One of his instructors reported that, for the last several weeks of his class, Thomas “spent most of his time reading poetry, taking one period this last week to read to the class.” He contributed the poem, “Thanksgiving,” to the April 1933 Pine Cone (page 4), in addition to serving as the sports writer for the student publication in February 1936

According to reports in the Pine Cone, Thomas also joined in various stage productions. In February 1935, he was “Dick Deadeye” in the operetta H.M.S. Pinafore. In October of the same year, he played a Dairy scene character in the School’s second Tomfoolery play. A subject index file card records “five puppet plays made up by [a] class of little girls and Tom Madon.”

Thomas J. Madon became an orphan at an early age but he was not alone in the world. Several of his eight siblings cared for him at one time or another, along with the staff at Pine Mountain Settlement School, a place he called his “home.”

The 1930 United States Census lists Thomas, age 13, as living with his sister Edith and her husband Enoch Wells, a coal miner, in Lee County, Virginia. By 1933, Mrs. Brit Wilder (Ella) at Pine Mountain, Kentucky, was considered Thomas’s guardian. Ella was Thomas’s sister and also a former PMSS student. 

Another sister, Carrie H. Madon (1909-1999), provided him not only with a home but with the financial means to attend PMSS. She was a former PMSS student and had attended Berea College. By 1934, she was working as an R.T. (respiratory therapist) at St. Elizabeth Hospital, Covington, Kentucky. Her May 1934 letter to Morris, in which she enclosed a payment for Thomas’s tuition bill, expressed how she felt about PMSS: 

“I wish to take this privilege to thank you for the kindness you have shown Tom and the interest you have taken in him. We all appreciate and recognize the remarkable good your school has done him.” 

Helen Louise Madon (1920-2016), the daughter of Thomas’s oldest sibling, John Randolph Madon (1896-1976), attended PMSS from 1935 to 1939, overlapping her uncle Thomas’s years at the School. 

In the summers during his school years, Thomas was engaged in part-time jobs, including work in Rummerfield, Pennsylvania, on a farm owned by Mr. and Mrs. Kneller, parents of Oscar Kneller, a former PMSS worker. Madon was happy with the work and the Knellers, but missed PMSS, observing in a letter to Morris that “One never knows what Pine Mountain really is until he has done left it. I always felt that I was a member of a large family….” In the summer of 1937, he sought employment at Noe’s Bar-B-Q Inn in Harlan, Kentucky, which was apparently owned by relatives on his mother’s side. The correspondence in his files does not indicate whether he was hired.

The Commencement Program for his graduation in 1937 lists Thomas as the presenter of the Class of 1937 Gift; and he was president of the senior class. During the year of his graduation, his counselor at Pine Mountain, Everett K . Wilson, worked diligently to find a place for him with one of the local dairies.

Thomas graduated in the spring of 1937 with the following students: Anna Anderson, Alta Collins, Lavinia Carroll, Celia Holmes, Nan Milan, Georgia Ayers, Corbett Hoskins, Marion Turner, and Clyde Blanton.

After Pine Mountain

An alumni column in the December 1938 Pine Cone (page 5) reports that after his graduation in 1937, Thomas stayed on to do farm work at Pine Mountain. Continuing his interest in the arts, the article states, “As a hobby he composes lyrics.” And continuing his interest in dairying, he is recorded by the March 1939 issue of Pine Cone, (page 4), as working for C.F. and Florence Hampton’s Dairy at Skidmore Farm in Harlan, Kentucky. By November of the following year, he was employed by Hamilton’s Dairy in Grays Knob, Kentucky (Pine Cone, November 1940, page 4). A month later, he married Eula Lee Pendleton.

As Thomas Madon continued to pursue his interest in dairying, honing his skills and knowledge of the industry, he eventually became the proprietor of his own dairy farm.

In his later years, Thomas returned to PMSS to attend the 1979 Alumni Homecoming, as noted in the Homecoming newsletter:

“The greatest gift of all was seeing Tom Madon, being assisted by his beautiful wife and daughter, after a long and frightening illness…miracles do happen.”


Thomas Jefferson Madon was born on March 30, 1917, Keokee, Virginia. His father was Robert George Madon, a coal miner (1874-1924 or 1922?). His mother was Elizabeth Inez Noe Madon (1876-1920 or 1917?). Thomas had three brothers and four sisters: John Randolph, Raymond Guy, George Roosevelt, Ella T., Beatrice Essie, Edith Virginia, and Carrie H.

On December 21, 1940, at age 23, Thomas married Eula Lee Pendleton (1921-2012), from Jonesville, Virginia. She was the daughter of Henry J. Pendleton and Flossie Mae Covey. Thomas and Eula had one daughter, Linda Gail. Reverend Tom Madon is mentioned in Eula’s obituary as their son.


Thomas J. Madon died on September 16, 1979, in Harlan, Kentucky, at the age of 62. Eula Lee (Pendleton) Madon died at the age of 90 on January 31, 2012, in Baxter, Kentucky.


Title  Thomas J. Madon
Alt. Title  Tom Madon ; Tommy Madon ; Thomas Jefferson Madon ; T.J. Madon ; 
Creator Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.
Alt. Creator Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;
Subject Keyword Thomas J. Madon, Tom Madon, Thomas Jefferson Madon, T.J. Madon, PMSS students, 
Subject LCSH Madon, Thomas J., — 1917-1979.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Date 2022-06-29 aae
Publisher Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.
Contributor n/a
Type Collections ; text ; image ;
Format Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet.
Source Series 09: Biography
Series 19: Students
Language English
Relation Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: Biography and Series 19: Students.
Coverage Temporal 1874 – 2012
Coverage Spatial Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Keokee, VA ; Tennessee ; Jonesville, VA ; Baxter, KY ; Lee County, VA ; Covington, KY ; Rummerfield, PA ; Harlan, KY ;
Rights Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Donor n/a
Description Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Thomas J. Madon ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Thomas J. Madon ;
Acquisition n/d
Citation “[Identification of Item],” [Collection Name] [Series Number, if applicable]. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.
Processed By Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;
Last Updated  
Sources “Thomas J. Madon.” Series 09: Biography & Series 19: Students. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Accessed 26 June 2022. Internet resource. Family Tree. Accessed 29 June 2022. Internet resource.

“Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : Accessed 29 June 2022), Internet resource.

“Kentucky, Vital Record Indexes, 1911-1999,” database, FamilySearch ( : Accessed 29 June 2022), Linda G Madon, 1947; citing Birth, Harlan, Kentucky, United States, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort. Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 27 June 2022), Tom Madon in household of Enoch E Wells, Lee, Texas, United States; National Archives and Records Administration, 2002). Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : Accessed 29 June 2022), Tom Madon in household of C F Hampton, Magisterial District 1, Harlan, Kentucky, United States; Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012. Internet resource.

“United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, 1980-2014,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 27 June 2022), Reverend Tom Madon in entry for Eula Lee Madon, Kentucky, United States, 31 Jan 2012; from “Recent Newspaper Obituaries (1977 – Today),” database, ( : 2014); citing , born-digital text. Internet resource.

“United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch ( : Accessed 29 June 2022), Tom Madon, Sep 1979; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing). Internet resource.

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See Also:
THOMAS J. MADON Correspondence
and School Records