EXTENSION HISTORY “…a baby hope in the wilderness…”

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series    : COMMUNITY

EXTENSION HISTORY “…a baby hope in the wilderness…”

TAGS:  Pine Mountain Extension Settlements ; Satellite settlements ; medical settlements ; Angela Melville ; funding appeal letters ; social services ; vocational education ; industrial education workers ; industrial education ; school teachers ; 1920 ; Big Laurel Medical Settlement ; Line Fork Settlement ; circuit riders ; Marguerite Butler ; schools ; education ; medicine ; doctors ; nurses ;

Possibly written by Miss Angela Melville as part of her campaign to increase the number of satellite or extension settlements in the general area of Pine Mountain.  The campaign in its early years was quite successful, but as time moved on, the costs of maintaining the extensions grew and the needs at the main campus began to compete with the fundraising efforts for additional extensions.  Only two main extensions were fully developed, Big Laurel and Linefork,  and several regional schools were brought under the umbrella of the main Pine Mountain Settlement School.

The dream outlined in this appeal for funding was never fully realized, but there is no question that the extensions that were created changed lives, healed families, and “raised the people in the community toward humanity.”  The “innards” were not just guts, but the fortitude, the interior resources that are required of us all if we are  to move humanity forward.

COPY OF A LETTER DATED MAY 1, 1920

Seven years ago today Pine Mountain Settlement School was a baby hope away in the wilderness, having no habitation except a small borrowed farm house and nothing to live on save the visions of Uncle William Creech, who had dreamed it into existence and endowed it with a couple of hundred acres of the wild mountain land where foxes, wildcats, and copperheads had prior rights of possession,  But the school was an expectant infant and believed it would grow into a real place of learning; that some day simple cottages would house boys and girls from lonesome, unschooled creeks and hollows and its mountain acres be fenced and tended. More than that, unabashed by its weakness, it looked forward to some day being the parent of little neighborhood houses in remote places where a nurse and an industrial teacher should bring happiness and health to many wistful children.

It has grown sturdily through the cycle of seven years to a gracious achievement, marked this year, not by material equipment, but by a graduating class!  You people from the sophisticated world where commencement is a habit, and sometimes a bore, would have found our graduation exercises last night as life-giving an experience as a dip into the fountain of youth. Ten boys and girls typifying the fulfillment by youth of its forefather’s  dreams! Two boys were children of John Callahan who, four years ago, walked thirty miles to bring us his seven motherless children. You will remember how he said: “I don’t want them to be bowed under like I have been. I’ve got innards to raise them toward humanity.”

There is a granddaughter of Uncle William who established Pine Mountain School, “”… hoping that it may make a bright and intelligent people after I am dead and gone.”;  and two great grandchildren of that patriarch, Uncle Solomon Everage, who twenty years ago got Miss Pettit and Miss Stone to start the school at Hindman — he who “…had looked up the Troublesome and down the Troublesome and studied would anyone ever come into the valley of Troublesome and bring people larnin'”. What will be the future for the mountains of these ten lives which have behind them each high tradition!  All of them are planning for more education;  some at Berea or Lincoln Memorial University, some coming back to Pine Mountain to fit themselves for country teachers.

But the most presumptuous plans of that tiny school have come to life in other ways. Our first Extension Center is now a year old and another one will begin life this fall. At the Medical Settlement a doctor, a district nurse, and a teacher of sewing and of play are already indispensable neighbors. No wonder that a people who have all their lives been helpless and in sickness should not want to spare their new doctor even for a visit to her mother. Fathers who must leave their families to work in the coal mines say to their wives: “Now if anything happens before I come back, you send for the doctor first.”  We can’t envy the doctor her load of confidence but we rejoice that within a year it has become so heavy for her.

The neighbors on another creek are planning to give the land and this summer build a log house if the school will get workers for them — a nurse, a teacher, and an industrial worker.  Our circuit rider, Miss Marguerite Butler, has general supervision of eleven district schools along some thirty miles of Pine Mountain’s length and has charge of the extension work.  She knows half a dozen other lonely places waiting for just such a neighborhood house that life may mean more for the children that it has for their parents who “… jes’ breathe through the world.”

Unless you have lived at Pine Mountain you can scarcely realize the happy serviceableness of it life,  — the exchange of good things that enriches us all, neighbors, teachers, children. Pine Mountain dispenses such gifts that she has captured all our hearts.

It has grown through pinching poverty and it is lovely because it represents the hopes, not only of us who share its life, but of you who have believed in it and nurtured it.

As it grows, so must the number of its friends grow.  Its annual subscriptions amount to $12,896.  It needs $10,000 more, $27 a day to maintain the work already begun.  Every dollar brings us courage. Have you the “innards to raise children toward humanity?”

[Author is not identified.]