Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Students
Series 19: STUDENTS
John Wagers Student 1925
John Lincoln Wagers (1911[?] -1994)

John Wagers Student

Students and teachers on an outing. Kendall Bassett Album, c. 1928-1929. [pmss_pmss001_bas023_crop]

JOHN WAGERS Student 1925

TAGS: John Wagers, PMSS students, Louellen KY, Harlan County KY, Katherine Pettit, Perry County KY, Pauline Jane (Valentine) Wagers, Polly Jane Wagers, Polly Jane Kidd, 

It took John Wagers’ mother two tries to get her son into Pine Mountain Settlement School (PMSS). Her first appeal, in 1921, for John, age 9, and his sister Blanche, age 6, was rejected by the School due to their young age. Four years later, her second letter asking for John’s admittance was successful. In an acceptance letter from Katherine Pettit, PMSS co-director, John’s mother was informed that “…[I]f your boy is the kind of a boy we would like to take, we shall be glad to try him. We do not want to take bad boys, or those who use tobacco or bad language.” 

John came from Louellen, Kentucky, a coal town in Harlan County, to enter sixth grade at PMSS on August 24, 1925. A little over a month later, on September 30, Miss Pettit sent his mother this assurance and advice:

John…is perfectly well and happy now, and going to school and quite contented. He is anxious to hear from you and the children, so I hope you will write him often, but let him know that when he gets homesick, he is just to grin and bear it and stay right here. Then I think you will be pleased with him when you see him.

Sadly, John soon decided to leave the School and return home. In an October 5 letter, Miss Pettit wrote:

John was doing so well that I was sorry when he slipped off on Saturday morning. Of course the hard thing for him here was going without cigarettes. If you want him back [at PMSS]…let him know that he has got to stay….

Evidently, John’s mother abandoned her dreams for John’s education at PMSS. She sent a payment for John’s school expenses and asked for the return of his clothes.

The 1940 U.S. Census indicates that, as of that year, John was married with one son, Lowell, and living with his mother and sister, Ruth, in Glowmawr, Perry County. His education had ended in the sixth grade and as of 1940, he was, like his father, working in a coal mine.


According to the closest matches in the search results on, John Lincoln Wagers was born on February 12, 1912, to Pauline (“Polly or Pollie”) Jane Valentine Wagers (1884-1958) and Ulysses Wagers (1878-1958) a coal miner. (As of 1925, the last name of John’s mother was “Kidd.”) John was one of 10 children, including Blanche Wagers (1915-1999) who was mentioned in the mother’s 1921 letter to Pine Mountain.

John married Opal Irene Banks (1917?-2017).  He died on January 4, 1994, in Detroit, Michigan.

Title  John Wagers
Alt. Title John Lincoln Wagers ; John L. Wagers ; Wagers, John ;
Creator Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.
Alt. Creator Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;
Subject Keyword John Wagers, Pollie (Polly) Kidd
Subject LCSH Wagers, John,  — 1911 (1912?) – 1994.
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 2022-09-02 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 – Students
Series 19: STUDENTS
Language English
Relation Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Students and Series 19: STUDENTS
Coverage Temporal 1878 – 2017
Coverage Spatial Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ;  Louellen KY ; Perry County, KY ; Detroit, MI ; 
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 John Wagers ; clippings, photographs, books by or about John Wagers ;
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  2024-02-02 aae ; 
Sources FAMILYSEARCH.ORG Family Tree Tree
Internet resource.“United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 2 September 2022), Kentucky > Bell > Straight Creek > ED 5 > image 16 of 32; citing NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). Internet resource.


“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 2 September 2022), Kentucky > Perry > Magisterial District 4 > 97-19 Magisterial District 4 Hazard outside Hazard City bounded by (N) Hazard-Hilton Rd, Upper Second Creek, Combs Fork, Combs Fork extended; (E) county line; (S) Glomawr Rd extended, Glomawr Rd….; citing Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, Internet resource.

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JOHN WAGERS Student Records