Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel

Marguerite Butler Letters 1916

TAGS: 1916 Marguerite Butler Letters 1916; teachers; students; correspondence; Sunday School; smallpox; the road; Katherine Pettit; Delia and John Lewis; Old Log; maple sugar camp; Aunt Sal Creech; Day Family; Easter celebrations; funeral; fundraising;

Miss Butler was hired to teach at Pine Mountain Settlement School during the earliest years of the School when construction of only two permanent buildings had been completed – Big Log and Old Log – and 28 to 38 children boarded at the School (plus 15 who lived in nearby homes). Besides teaching, she served as a housemother and eventually as superintendent of the School’s extension work and fundraiser. Her years at Pine Mountain were from 1914 until 1922.

The following accounts were recorded in letters to her mother, father, and sister Jeannette, which she often signed as “Muggins.”

Note: Letters are given an approximate order, often assigned by Marguerite when she donated them to PMSS. Brackets in the transcription indicate notations by HW.

Click here to read Marguerite Butler‘s biography.

CONTENTS: Marguerite Butler Letters 1916

1.    1916 LETTER 1 – Wednesday night, January 15, 1916 – “Dear Father — The box didn’t come until Monday night…” (images 001-004)

boxes from home ; no appetite ; returned to school ; training new housemother ;
gave toothpaste to children ; teaching for next couple weeks ;

2.    1916 LETTER 2 – Sunday, January 22, 1916 – “Dear Mother — This a lovely day. Most of the children, at least all over ten, have gone four miles down the creek to meeting….” (images 005-009) 

children at meeting or Sunday School ; breakfast routine ; dependence on outside food ; fetching Docia and Becky Mae who had run away ; smallpox season ; canvassing local people for the road ;

MBB Note: “Delia & John Lewis lived in a one room plank house with kitchen lean-to….” 

[NOTE from D. Gray, who organized letters: “Attached to this respective bundle are notes fletton 1920 & 1917. The dating of #G in 1917 I think is the most serious mistake if it is a mistake. The errors in 1920’s bundle may be just nit-picking.” D. Gray]

3.    1916 LETTER 3 – February 1916 – “Dear Jeannette — It was great to get your letter. I nearly died at the L________ — is that what you call it? It was great fun getting so many packages….” (images 010-017)

cleaning and training seven new children ; helping at Laurel House ; disagreement with Miss Pettit over laundry method ; visited neighbors along Greasy with Willie ;

4.    1916 LETTER 4 – Friday morning, “Old Log Cabin,” Spring 1916 – “Dear Mother — “You see I have changed homes, having a really, truly family now of my own….” (images 018-020)

moved to Old Log Cabin ; Old Log housemother ; evening activities with the children ; sent basket of items gathered by the little girls ; maple sugar camp ;

5.    1916 LETTER 5 – Spring 1916 (?) – “Dear Jeannette — In five more weeks and I shall be starting for home. Really the time has just flown since Christmas.” (images 021-027)

five weeks before leaving ; requests dress sample ; read to Aunt Sal and grandchildren ; visited Day family on Greasy ; preparing for Easter ; two new 15-year-old boys ;

MBB Note: “This must have been written in the Spring of 1916….”

6.    1916 LETTER 6 – Monday & Wednesday night, Spring 1916 – “Dear Father — The Easter greeting was a lovely, lovely surprise. I never dreamed of
another box….” (images 028-033)

taking it easy these last few weeks ; assisted doctor tending Delia Creech’s daughter Christel ; Christel’s death ; Miss Gaines’ eye better ;

MBB Note: “This was my first experience with such a tragedy….”

7.    1916 LETTER 7 – No date or salutation ; Partial letter written on lined paper]” “….. been used for ages. There were 34 to dinner. It was a good dinner, too.”(images 034-035)

34 attended Aunt Sal’s dinner ; other dinners ; new 15-year-old girl ; leaving for Harlan to raise funds from coal companies ;

Orientation: 1
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TRANSCRIPTION: Marguerite Butler Letters 1916

LETTER 1 – Wednesday night, January 15, 1916 – (images 001-004)

Dear Father — The box didn’t come until Monday night but I washed the steak and sausage in soda water and hung up so it was all right. I certainly was glad that I sent the food. From Sunday noon until Tuesday noon I didn’t eat as much as I did at home in one meal. Really this is the truth. Fried potatoes. beans, bean soup, spaghetti, corn bread — it made me sick to even see it. Mail is not coming in again until Friday night so I suppose by that time my other box will be here.

Miss Gaines met me and we cooked dinner just above the half-way rocks. She said it was the first real meal she had eaten in days. All week long before she knew my box was coming, she longed for a John Butlers box.

It was nearly five when we got to school for we just poked along. The children, after their club came to meet me. Just as I came up on porch, out popped Massie, her face crimson. She had stayed home to [pop?] corn for a surprise and just as I came in, threw some of the Xmas wreaths on to make a pretty blaze. I told the children when I left not to burn them all but save some for me. Miss Gaines did her best to have them all burned and out of the way but the children just wouldn’t. We had supper around the fire then I took a hot bath and Miss Gaines and I visited until about nine. We were both tired.

Never was it so hard to get up by starlight Monday morning. I told Mother it wasn’t bad when everyone was doing it. but it certainly was. It wasnt light until we were thru breakfast. I am having my hands full breaking in the new housemother. I never realized what a big job Laurel House was until I started to train in this woman. It seems to me I’ve done nothing but talk to her, show her, plan work. etc., and still we’ve just begun.

Tonight I gave the children the tooth paste. They were SO tickled. Each one planned just how long it would last and how much they must use. The first most of them have ever had.

I am going to send Emily’s watch, a Xmas present, so have J. take it to Henshedes to regulate and fix. Tell them to keep it until they are sure it keeps good time.

I have been teaching this week. Am going to for a couple weeks. Miss Foster [Duncan Foster ?, teacher 1918] is coming back February 1st.

Thank you so much for my Xmas present. It was such a lovely one.

We are having very warm weather … too warm!

I’m going to bed.

Love, Marguerite

LETTER 2 – Sunday, January 22, 1916 – (images 005-009) 

MBB Note: Delia & John Lewis lived in a one room plank house with kitchen lean-to on [Abrams?] Branch. Becky May — the second house on Gabes Branch just above the falls.

Dear Mother — This a lovely day. Most of the children, at least all over ten, have gone four miles down the creek to meeting. Our Sunday School was held out on the steps of this house. It consisted in singing songs and teaching what few children there remained about. We have just had lunch and now everything is quiet and peaceful.

I think after while I’ll go out in the woods to gather some leaves as I want to send some to so many. I wrote to Mrs Mayle thanking her for the cover.

Did I tell you about our breakfast scheme?–having coffee and bread in our room about eight. We get up when the breakfast bell rings and all dressed by the time the children are thru. Then we supervise the morning work before we have ours. The raisin bread lasted until last Monday. Celia wrote for a box which came last night – five loaves of nut bread, two lbs. of butter, two boxes of sliced bacon and two boxes of [reception?] flakes. She has a percolator and earlier in the year her father sent her at least ten pounds of coffee and a gallon of alcohol. When this supply gives out I’ll write for some more raisin bread but don’t send anything until I write. We really couldn’t exist if we didn’t have this outside food.

We hope to be in Laurel House next Thursday night for the first time but I’m not counting too much on it as there is still lots to be done.

Last Sunday morning before daylight Dosia, John her brother, and Becky May (Dosia’s age) ran off. They were homesick and hadn’t been allowed to go home on account of smallpox on their branch. The youngsters slipped off before a soul knew it. Of course Miss Pettit is away now and we hated to have her come back to find part of her family gone so Wednesday at 11:30 I set out on Bobby, Miss deLong’s horse. after Dosia.

It was very cold and the roads were bad and creeks worse. It was 2:30 when I got there — eight miles away — and Dosia was so ashamed she couldn’t look at me. I asked her if she wanted to come back and it just took a second to say “yes” and in she flew to get ready. Honestly I never saw anyone get as dirty in three days as she did. Of course she had slept in her clothes. There had been nine living in one room. I brought her home on the horse behind me. John is coming today.

The next day I started for Becky. She was tickled to death to come and simply flew for her cape and was out on the nag in a second. She was so ashamed she wouldn’t come out so I had to get down, tie the horse and go in. Even then she stayed way back in the corner and wouldn’t come near the fire. The house is one of the dirtiest I know of — right in a little barren. rocky hollow with no house within two miles in either direction. The father has a still and the mother is in a stupor from constant use of moonshine. I guess four days of it was enough for Becky. It was pretty late by the time we got home. As we were riding along the high road the moon came up behind Pine Mt. just opposite. It was the loveliest sight. The whole valley and mountain were as as black as pitch and then the tip of the big yellow ball came slowly up.

Miss deLong leaves in a week – to be out three months. She asked me to take Bobby (thus exercising him) and each afternoon make a trip canvassing the people for our road over the mountain. We want everyone to share in it.

Is our phone changed tor a new line? How is Babe Wilson and who has taken Metz’s house?

Good-bye, Lovingly, Marguerite

LETTER 3 – February 1916 – (images 010-017)

Dear Jeanette — It was great to get your letter. I nearly died at the [L____ C____?] — is that what you call it? It was great fun getting so many packages at once and I tell you we appreciated it all.

Well, I reckon I never had a real taste of Pine Mt. Settlement School life until now. I worked, and truly know what it is like. In the past few days we have taken seven new children in this house and one knows what that alone means – unless they are here. Of course they have got to be scrubbed from head to feet – and a lot more done to the head part. All the clothes they possess are what is on their back so entire outfits must be raked together for each. You must start to train from the very first. It is hectic trying to get them to use their own towel and basin, a tooth brush they ignore entirely.

Oh, dear, and then the work each must be trained for their jobs. The other night I arrived just in time to see Ellie Jane mop up the floor with her bath towel. Don’t you like the names: – Eura, Ernest, Malachi, Ella Jane, Viola, Israel and Eric! Israel and Eric are cousins. On account of such crowded quarters we have had to double up these two boys and so they sleep up in the loft side by side — the father of one has killed the other one’s father. Israel is the funniest, chubbiest little fellow you ever saw – the children call him Muffin Man already.

Well, yesterday morning I was desperate. Out of my seventeen children, K.P[ettit] takes five for the Barn, Miss Gaines five for her Laurel House and leaves me the tiniest and poorest ones of this bunch. I told Miss Pettit today I wouldn’t do the work another day if she didn’t give me some good help.

To go back to my tale, I had Israel carry out the slop buckets (Malachi’s arm is so sore from vaccination he couldn’t do it alone.) They were heavy and full for there were at least twenty bath waters to be taken out and some had been first baths. Wish you might have seen those two boys. Celia and I stood at the window and shrieked. Malachi in the lead was struggling with one over the stepping stones to the “Little House” and in close pursuit was Israel. breeches reaching most to his ankles, a-puffing away for all he was worth. He was carrying it with both hands and most every step would kick it. I have regretted ever since that I didn’t take their picture.

I stayed over to Laurel House yesterday helping with the dinner things as two of the girls were away. Miss Preston and I did all the kitchen things. scrubbed tables, swept floor, and all. I ought to have come right over here but was sick of my family so R.B.G. [Ruth B. Gaines] and I went up to the girls’ porch and took a nap. About 5:30 we made tea, got some cold chicken, gingerbread and cheese and locked ourselves in the pastry room so no one could find us. I appeared just in time to put the children to bed.

Willie and I had a beautiful time Saturday. Miss Pettit and I had a scrap over the laundry about 8:30 and I decided to light out for the day. (She didn’t approve of R.G.B’s and my method – — said she would work out a better one. I’m dying to tell her according to her better one a full hamper of dirty clothes was left in the boys’ loft this morning. I discovered it at quarter of eight. Really nothing would have pleased me more than to have left it but I took pity upon her “better” plan and got it to the laundry before eight.)

Willie and I started out down Greasy stopping in to visit at every house along the way. We had dinner at one of Aunt Sal’s daughters and there we stayed until after two. Chester and Bertha were coming up to Uncle William‘s so we two rode side behind the saddle on the mules. I never laughed so in my life and I wonder now how we ever stuck on. The road is all up or down hill and at times we raced. I should think you might have heard us. We had to stop at mill on our way home and there saw everybody and visited most an hour. As soon as March 1st comes we are going to strike out on several trips.

This a perfect day. Would love to go tor a long ride. I am writing this between periods of directing work and tending to two sick children.

What was done about my watch?

Got Pat’s picture, dear needle case from Kit and tie from Lee.

Lots of love, Marguerite

LETTER 4 – Friday morning, Spring 1916 – (images 018-020)

“Old Log Cabin”

Dear Mother,

You see I have changed homes, having a really, truly family now of my own. Miss deLong is to be away for a month and Miss Newman until the end of April so I shall be here until I leave. Of course I am pretty much tied down but I am glad to have the experience. Miss Gaines is away for ten days so Miss Pettit, who is acting as housekeeper, too, sends our breakfast and suppers down to us.

Every night I take the children out somewhere and they love it! Last night we had supper on a lovely big rock overlooking the creek. Afterwards I taught the boys how to do the “hop, step and jump” and many kinds of stunts. Then at dark we came in around the fire where I told the children all about the zoo and they told me “hant” [haint] tales. One of the boys ran on the garden several times in the afternoon so to punish him he went to bed before the stories. While we were all sitting around the fire he came down in his pajamas to say his prayers and kiss me good-night. The children all sing an evening song after their prayer and Douglas started out bravely to sing it all alone with all the other children around. He broke down soon but immediately Christopher said — the other ones had been sitting there as still as mice — “I’ll holp ye, Douglas” and all the children joined right in. It was too dear.

I hope you received the basket of spring pretties. The little girls loved gathering them. The maple sugar we made at the school. For the past five weeks we have had a sugar camp part way up the mountain.

At present many hands are making beds. packing water, sweeping porches. I snatched this minute to write for I knew I would not have another chance.

Love, Marguerite

LETTER 5 – Spring 1916 (?) – (images 021-027)

MBB Note: This must have been written in the Spring of 1916 because I was a bridesmaid and asked for a sample of my dress.

Was so glad to get Father’s letter will write to him next.

Dear Jeannette — In five more weeks and I shall be starting for home. Really the time has just flown since Christmas. I hope you will send me a sample of my dress for I am anxious to see it. Until that time I have much to keep me busy, certain work to accomplish, people to see and places to go. I want to go over all the school supplies, arranging everything for next year.

Yesterday afternoon I had a lovely time reading stories to two different sets of grand-children of Aunt Sal’s and Uncle William’s. I had never been up to one of her daughter’s before. It is about two miles up the creek at the very head of Isaac’s Run, but wanted to see the new little baby. Aunt Sal happened to be there and she loved the stories as much as the children did. She said after I had read Cinderella, “Well, if that hain’t the prettiest story I ever did heerd!” Some afternoon soon I am going to read to Aunt Sal as long as she wants me to.

This afternoon I went down Greasy to visit another family with a sick mother and six young uns. If you remember the picture of frowsy headed little girls on the last page of the Pine Mountain calendar [1916] you will know my playmates. They are Day’s – relatives of the Dr, Jonathan Day of Labor Temple, New York. As we sat around the fire talking, the dogs, hogs and kittens played under the beds. Occasionally Lilly Victoria or Ella Jane would chase out a pig when there was too much excitement. Four year old Polly sat cutting a stick with a knife as big as herself, and two year old Clara Ella gayly waved scissors around in the air.

It is true that the Kentucky women have no nerves. They worry about nothing: there is never a cross or excited word, and no harm results. It is a simple, carefree life. I have been going down quite frequently lately to see this family to win the children to school. Miss Pettit said that someone offended them last summer. Consequently, they have had no larnin’ this year. I am trying to get them back to school — a task which must be done tactfully, As yet have not even mentioned school to them. have just visited them in a friendly way and become a friend of the children. I do hope I succeed for here they are, our nearest neighbor on one side and yet live almost an isolated life. The children haven’t been off the place this year and if you could see their playground — few feet of bare rocky ground in front of the cabin door.

The children are all looking forward to Easter. Today in school we taught them an Easter song and then I told them the whole story of the Last Supper, Crucifixion and all. The children were dear. The song was “Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Our Triumphant Day.” While we were teaching it to them John said “Oh, jes think of the words, them’s beautiful.” Little Bobby Coots, the same youngster that arrived last fall and had to have his clothes burned, told me on the way home that he trembled when I told them part of it.

We are planning a surprise for Easter morning. At each place is to be a tiny little chicken and Easter card and in the center of the table a bowl of colored eggs. I can just see just see their faces now. We are in hopes some candy eggs are sent us so we can have an egg hunt outside.

I had a lovely letter from Mrs. Catlin last night which I shall enclose as she sends a message to you and mother.

I didn’t tell you about our two new Andy Turner and Carmen Huff, both age fifteen. They are here on trial for a month having promised not to leave the school land so as to get “nary a drop of moonshine,” for they have been drinking frightfully. Miss Pettit is taking charge of their physical training and care, taking charge of their baths, etc., but has handed them to me for mental and moral training, They are two of the most interesting boys I ever worked with and I do think there are great prospects for them.

Yesterday in history tales, ten year old Monroe said “An idol is a home-made God.” Don’t you think that is lovely.

Love to all, Marguerite

LETTER 6 – Monday & Wednesday night, Spring 1916 – (images 028-033) 

Dear Father — The Easter greeting was a lovely, lovely surprise. I never dreamed of another box. Everything was fine and many parties will be [inched?] out of the box.

Well, I am having a gay time now. Miss Pettit said that she wanted me to rest, go visiting, and tramp around as much as I want these last few weeks and I certainly have been doing it. You see, for three months I only saw Aunt Sal at odd minutes. I feel quite a lady of leisure now.

Tuesday night

This is the letter I started yesterday morning and just couldn’t finish to send off this morning for I wasn’t in my room for twenty-four hours. I guess you received my card telling about the sad news. Right after dinner yesterday the doctor sent for me and I went up to Delia’s to relieve the doctor for a couple of hours. Christel was three and a half. and a darling child. Her dress caught fire from the kitchen stove and before Delia could get to her from the garden, every inch of her clothing was off and body badly burned, No one was home and frantically Delia ran down the road to Uncle William’s with the child in her arms. Poor Delia’s hands are a sight. I was alone with the family when Christel died and I shall never forget it, I thought Delia would lose her mind.

Naturally it has upset everything. Today the doctor and I washed and dressed it and laid it out in the little home-made wooden coffin. The whole thing was unbelievably sad. At the top of the ridge opposite Pine Mountain she was buried and a long line of silent men, women and children climbed the ridge. Miss deLong had a little service and all our children sang about eight songs, The children brought wreaths of dogwood, laurel and rhododendron. It is all so new for them for they have service at all but it pleased Henry and Uncle Wm.

Miss Gaines’ eye is a great deal better, not serious at all. I have been helping her as much as I can for they are two shy in the kitchen. …[more ?]

MBB Note: This was my first experience with such a tragedy. Delia kept saying “I can’t stand it” and Uncle William in his quiet way – “Delia, you got to stand it, that’s all there is to it:.” I had to put nickels on her eyelids. I can see it all today. Christel was a darling child. It happened on Easter Monday. She had been gathering flowers and came into the kitchen to put them in water.

1916 LETTER 7 – [Undated fragment] – (images 034-035)

” ….. been used for ages. There were 34 to dinner. It was a good dinner, too. Really, Aunt Sal was as happy as a child. She wanted 50 to dinner. Hulda[?] enjoyed the people a lot.

Yesterday the girls came to the school for dinner as it was to be an especially good one. In the afternoon we went to Peter Rock, coming back to Open House for supper. Today they have gone over to Little Laurel. Hulda is going to cut out dresses for Rhoda Wilders children. (Aunt Sal’s daughter). It is now 4:30. They aren’t back yet. R. B.G. [Ruth B. Gaines], Celia, and we three are cooking dinner at Open House tonight .

Last night I acquired a new daughter, [Dorrie?, Docia ?] Brown from “Kingdom Come.” The child is fifteen and ever since she was 7, when her mother died, have [sic] managed the house and children. She is a sweet girl and I’ve lost my heart to her already. When I put the children to bed last night she hugged and hugged me and wouldn’t let go. She is only in the second grade just the type of girl the school must take in.

I’m leaving for Harlan Wed. a.m. to be gone until Saturday night, Evelyn Wells, Miss deLong, Celia and I are to canvas Harlan, trying to raise $2,500. There are so many coal companies to see that Miss deL, thought it best if several of us would work at same time, so we could do everything in 4 days. It’s going to be work fun too — Ice cream.

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