Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff
Josephine M. Merrill Correspondence I:
Application and Letters to and from
Medical Settlement Big Laurel, 1931-1933


Anon. Album. Four children. Two on mule and two in box at Big Laurel. [unknow_019_mod.jpg]

TAGS: Josephine Merrill correspondence, PMSS staff, application for PMSS employment, Medical Settlement Big Laurel, Grace Lewis, Miss Marie Taylor, Wellesley College, contracts, Glyn Morris, community residents, Barbara Merrill Bartlett

JOSEPHINE M. MERRILL Correspondence I, 1931-1933

Community Worker at PMSS Extensions
(Medical Settlement Big Laurel and Line Fork), 1931-1937

Teacher and Housemother at PMSS, 1937-1949

CONTENTS: 001-026

[Note: Letters from PMSS staff in the PMSS Collections are carbon copies, typewritten, unsigned, and meant for the Office files. The original signed documents were sent to the correspondents. The initials at the bottom left of most PMSS letters indicate the writer (along with initials of the secretary). For example, “EKW” for Evelyn K. Wells, and “GAM” for Glyn A. Morris. Letters from Josephine Merrill and others are handwritten originals unless specified otherwise. The following list of contents is in chronological order and not necessarily in the order of the image numbers.]



002 May 30, 1931. Responses from Supt. H.H. Taylor, Hindman, KY, to a questionnaire sent on May 28, 1931, by Evelyn K. Wells, PMSS Acting Director, who requested information concerning Miss Josephine M. Merrill’s “ability to fill the position of community worker at Pine Mountain.”

001 June 6, 1931. Responses from Miss (Lavinia B.) Henry, R.N., G.S. Hospital, Lexington, KY, to a questionnaire sent to her on May 28, 1931, by Evelyn K. Wells, PMSS Acting Director, who requested information concerning Miss Josephine M. Merrill’s “ability to fill the position of community worker at Pine Mountain.”

003 June 15, 1931. A questionnaire sent to Miss Lois Cyr, Franklin, Nebraska,on May 28, 1931, by Evelyn K. Wells, PMSS Acting Director, who requested information concerning Miss Josephine M. Merrill’s “ability to fill the position of community worker at Pine Mountain.” 
003a Response (on reverse side) from Miss Cyr:

In all sincerity I should give Miss Merrill a high rating in each of the first 18 points. … [S]he is not aggressive but rather unduly modest about her own abilities. However, this trait does not seem to be a handicap in dealing with the mountain people.

004 May 19, 1931. To Wells from Josephine M. Merrill, North Newport, NH. “I have been talking with my sister, Mrs. [Barbara Merrill] Bartlett, about the work at Pine Mountain. I am especially interested in the position of community worker at the Medical Settlement.” Merrill asks for information and an application.

005 May 22, 1931. To Merrill from Wells, describing the “family” at the Big Laurel Medical Settlement: Merrill, Miss [Marie] Taylor (nurse), a little neighborhood girl in training, and 15-year-old Grace Lewis who lives there. “It is some time since we have had anything but the medical work going on down there. We really want you to diagnose the situation as much as anything else.” Wells describes the community and the “plant of the Medical Settlement itself.”

006 May 23, 1931. To Wells from Merrill, who encloses her application blank. “[I] am looking forward to the work with much interest.” 

007 May 23, 1931. Application blank completed by Josephine M. Merrill. Age 53; Education A.B. Wellesley College 1899, 1 term at Washington State Normal School in Cheeney, WA, 2 summer terms at University of California and University of Chicago. Experience: 9 years of rural education work. In response to “How did you become interested in work at Pine Mountain?” she writes: “Friends – Visit.” She lists her references.

008 May 29, 1931. To Merrill from Wells, explaining why Merrill is needed to arrive earlier that she proposed. “Miss Taylor has been alone since Dr. [Alfreda] Withington left in February…[and] needs the relief of your coming in order to give proper attention to her medical work.” Wells encloses “statement of your relationship with the school” to be signed.

009 June 1, 1931. Contract with PMSS for Josephine Merrill to work at Big Laurel Medical Settlement for “$75.00 a month and $25.00 a month for living expenses. One month’s vacation with pay in twelve months.” Signed by Wells and Merrill.

010-010a June 2, 1931. Two-page letter to Wells from Merrill, agreeing to arrive July 1 and enclosing the signed statement.


011-011c July 11, 1931. Four-page letter to Glyn Morris from Merrill at Medical Settlement, Big Laurel, KY, [011] asking if PMSS can take in a brother and sister from Irishman School, Knott County, a coal camp school. “They are unusually good material and able to pay their expenses.” [011a] Merrill taught them and gave them their 8th grade certificates. [011b, 011c] Their names are Geneva Collins, age about 16 and Guy G. Colins, 14; children of Smith Collins of Smithsboro, KY. 

012 July 13, 1931. To Merrill from Morris, who is sending application cards to the Collins children and will admit them upon Merrill’s recommendation.

013-013b October 28, 1931. Three-page handwritten letter to Morris from Merrill, describing the “Big Laurel boys…. There is quite a group of them who seem just as ready to go right or wrong, & perhaps more ready. Mr. Pittman has talked school to them all the fall…. [They] will need a great deal [013a] of individual teaching.” She asks if Pittman can use the community room to teach them through the winter. [013b] Merrill asks for Morris’s advice on this subject.

014 October 29, 1931. To Merrill from Morris, advising that Pittman uses the community room to get the Big Laurel boys “started in the fundamentals of schooling,” and determine later whether to accept them at PMSS. 

015-015a November 19, 1931. Two-page letter to Morris from Merrill, reporting that the reservoir is slowing filling – averages eight inches a day.” Mr. Turner is preparing to build a fence; forest fires are nearby and clearing is being done for a safety zone.

016-16a November 25, 1931. Two-page letter to Morris from Merrill, enclosing a work report. Suggests that Morris visit Bob Taylor on Big Laurel “to see his fine hogs and corn.”

017-017d [Notation in top margin: “Miss Merrill’s Report, November 27, 1931.”] Five-page report by Merrill, [017] describing interaction with the community, dispersing advice and medical aid. Mentions Nance, [017a] who works at various tasks at the settlement one hour a day, and other community residents who offer and ask for help. Mentions Laura, Hemp, Arthie, Rachel, Beckie, [017b] Judy, Jonna, and Betts. Merrill describes the classes, meetings, and events held in the Community House; whooping cough; [017c, 017d] Sunday School; home visits by the community worker, who sometimes stays overnight and becomes “a family friend for all time.”

018-018a December 10, 1931. Two-page letter to Morris from Merrill about Miss Taylor’s request for a Christmas vacation, ending Denver’s coal business, and Harmon Turner’s goods made from the wool of Harmon’s sheep.

019 December 15, 1931. To Merrill from Morris, requesting that Miss Taylor send him a weekly report of her calls and selling or giving away medical supplies, which he needs “for use as reference.”


020-020a April 20, 1932. Two-page letter to Morris from Merrill, recommending Miss Mollie Cody from Lexington as a successor to Miss Emily Hill. Merrill describes her background and experience. 

021 April 27, 1932. To Merrill from Morris, explaining a change in Laurel House staffing policy involving a housemother and a dietitian. However, he will keep Cody in mind.

022 July 1, 1932. Unsigned contract on PMSS letterhead between Josephine Merrill and PMSS as community worker for Big Laurel Medical Settlement.


023-023b June 26, 1933. To Morris from Barbara M. Bartlett [Josephine’s sister] in Westport, NY, ℅ Lane Construction Corp., with updates on the healing of her hand. “…[S]he will be able to look after Boys’ House when school begins.”

024 July 3, 1933. To Merrill in Keene, NH, from Morris, asking if she would serve as housemother at Far House this year in case Mrs. Powell returns. Merrill would replace Miss Ross who is not returning. Morris is glad Merrill’s hand is healing and hopes to see her by late August.


026 July 9, 1933. Typewritten letter to Morris from Merrill, who agrees to work at Far House. She describes electrical treatment for her hand and expresses gratitude for Mr. and Mrs. Morris’s kindness.

GALLERY: Josephine M. Merrill Correspondence I

– 1933-1938
 – 1939-1954

See Also:
JOSEPHINE M. MERRILL Staff – Biography