Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff
Marguerite Butler Letters 1921


TAGS: Miss Gaines, scout activities, Leon Deschamps, Open House, Aunt Sal, Line Fork, clinics, students, Queen, workers, Ethel de Long, Katherine Pettit

Note: This 1921 MARGUERITE BUTLER LETTERS page provides images, contents & transcription of letters from Marguerite Butler to her family about her PMSS experiences in teaching and supervising the School’s medical extension and Harlan County’s eleven one-room schools.

Her letters are often undated. Therefore, in some cases dates are assigned from the content of the letter. The following order of the 1921 LETTERS is approximate.

Click here to read Marguerite Butler’s biography.

CONTENTS: Marguerite Butler Letters 1921 

1.  LETTER 1 – September 11, 1921 – [no salutation] –“It is seven o’clock – Miss Gaines and I have just come back from Delia’s….” [4 pages, images 001-004]

MB and Miss Gaines visited Delia and May ; planned scout activities for fair with Mr. Deschamps ; children have day in the woods ; worked on Open House ; visited Aunt Sal ; going to Line Fork tomorrow with new nurse ; planned fair and Line Fork with Miss Pettit ; notes on the children ;

2.  LETTER 2 – September 14, 1921 – “Dear Mother — ‘Queen’ is here! From the enclosed letter you will see she was shipped….” [4 pages, images 005-008]

picked up “Queen” (horse) from train ; going to Line Fork Friday with new nurse ; visited Line Fork last Monday ;

3.  LETTER 3 – September 18, 1921 – “Dear Mother — It is nearly five and I am at Open House. Miss Gaines and Miss Jones are coming ….” [3 pages, images 009-011]

supper at Open House with the Misses Gaines and Jones ; party at Lean-To with workers ; lists names and positions of workers ; visited Medical Settlement with nurse ; doctor and nurse gave hookworm treatments ; fixing up Open House ;

4.  LETTER 4 – November 13, 1921 – “Dear Mother — This is a regular grey, windy, November day. It is sleeting now. ..” [6 pages, images 014-019]

Miss Pettit took children to Jack’s Gap to cook dinner ; planning Thanksgiving activities and nativity play ; lists daily visits ; visited Leslie County teacher who needs help ; Columbus Creech goes to Line Fork tomorrow to do kitchen carpentry ; asked mother for comforts for Line Fork ; Miss Gaines’ leg needs doctor’s attention ;

MBB Note: “In 1917-22 my one room schools were only five months…” [2 pages, images 012-013]

explains schedule for the school year ;

5.  LETTER 5 – Sunday, November 1921 – “Dear Jeannette and all — As you are the only one I heard from this week here goes to you!” [8 pages, images 020-027]

describes Open House fall decorations ; Sunday night dinner with workers ; nurses arrive for clinic but doctors couldn’t attend ; stayed overnight at Line Fork ; ladies tea party for Mrs. de Long ; hosted ladies tea party for Mrs. de Long who is leaving ;

GALLERY: Marguerite Butler Letters 1921 

TRANSCRIPTION: Marguerite Butler Letters 1921 

LETTER 1 – September 11, 1921 [4 pages, images 001-004]

Sunday night, Sept. 11, 1921

It is seven o’clock. Miss Gaines and I have just come back from Delia‘s & [?]. We had a lovely visit with Delia. She asked for everyone and about everything. She begged us to stay for supper but we wanted to get home early. Then we stopped at May [Deschamps] ‘s — she, Mr. Deschamps, her sister Kitty and the baby were up on a big rock having supper. It was lovely up there — a view way down the valley. Carol is a dear baby and so good — Mr. Deschamps and I planned some things for the fair — girl and boy scouts.

Today, dinners were sent to all houses so the children could go off for a day in the woods. Laurel House went across the m[ountain] to Metcalf rocks, three houses to Jack’s Gap and some to Peter Rock. The children had the best time. I didn’t begin S[unday] S[chool] today for I couldn’t get things planned, get the key or get word to the children. I will begin next Sunday. All morning I did things at Open House. Miss G[aines]. & I had dinner on the front rock. It was lovely looking out thru the pine and beech trees. After dinner I wrote a few notes while R.B.G. [Ruth B. Gaines] slept.

Open House was a wreck. So forlorn – and dilapidated. It is better now but needs some more work – balcony has to be rebuilt, etc. The forget-me-nots are wonderful. Last year I planted them all along Limestone Creek and from three or four tiny plants there are patches three feet square. In another year it will be a mass.

We took the calico dress to Aunt Sal and she loved it — never had seen calico that wide and couldn’t believe it was calico. She has the loveliest flowers — gorgeous deep red dahlias which must be over eight feet in height. Aunt Sal certainly keeps up. She was so glad to see us. She doesn’t know the new workers and said we were just homefolks.

Tomorrow I am going to Line Fork to stay over until Tuesday afternoon. I know there will be a lot to attend to when I get there. They say the fence is just fine. The nurse for Line Fork came last Wednesday. She is a dear. She is going with me tomorrow. This year there will be four workers— industrial, nurse, and teachers for two school houses.

All week I have been sorting material, getting straightened out, and just finding where I am. So much had accumulated. Saturday afternoon Miss Pettit and I planned out Fair and went over all Line Fork business. I was there from 4 until nearly 7. I can’t realize the Fair is so near.

Melinda wanted to know how you were. She is a dear child. Every time I get back I wonder more at the children. At this house every morning Mannie, ten years and small for her age, makes five beds, cleans six rooms and the hall before she goes at nine o’clock to school. She is so happy but I tell you her little legs just fly.

The children certainly have done well in school. I can[not] believe Oma Creech, Delia’s girl, will be in high school next year. She is brilliant really. She leads the class. She is no larger than Robert Wursten and so capable in every way. I think she is only eleven. Melinda is in seventh grade. When I first came nearly all children were in first and second grade. Now by far the majority are in the sixth and higher grades. I wonder if Jeannette remembers little Nobie Baker. He is a babe and in the seventh grade. They have splendid teachers this year.

I want to get another shade for our light. We can use one I got in dressing room but not in room. The bulb sticks straight out from wall, parallel to floor, six inches. I don’t know whether she can find a fixture that will work. The shade can be of tan or old rose paint, anyway 6 in. long,— can be longer. I guess an electric stove would be best,

Let me know price & I’ll send money,

“hideous white plug” [notation accompanying a drawing]

Good-night. My love to you all — Marguerite

Tell Cora I missed ice cream today.

LETTER 2 – September 14, 1921 [4 pages, images 005-008]

Wednesday night, Sept. 14, 1921

Dear Mother — “Queen” is here! From the enclosed letter you will see she was shipped by express. I got back from Line Fork last night to find this letter so I started over mountain at 6:15 this morning, a boy with me. We made it to railroad track in 1 hr., 15 min., going straight up behind Laurel House, the way Pat came out. He had to get back by nine o’clock school. At 7:30 I had crossed Pine Mt. I visited along the way and the school giving out fair programs. The train was not due until 9:07. I had packed a knapsack prepared to camp at Baxter until it came.

Such luck! It was put off train from Pineville just 5 min. before I got there. Poor Queen boxed in a big crate for two days. Of course she was awfully nervous. These mountain men certainly are lovely. Four of them uncrated her for me, took her to river to water, got feed and wouldn’t take one cent, fixed back, saddled her, etc. She was so nervous from the trains I didn’t start until after all had gone.

At [G_____?], first station on, I met the mail boy with his two nags and another boy riding a mule. I knew them both. One boy went to school to [sic] me my first year. They were so nice and we had a nice trip together. Fortunately I took my poncho for we had three showers, one pretty bad. I got here about 4:30. Miss Gaines was so surprised to see me for she had no idea I would get back today.

Do tell Clarkie that her pet is all she said. It wasn’t a fair test today for she was nervous, tired, and a sore back of which I was so careful and walked all down the mountain and every steep hill. She is gentle, likes to be loved. I am not going to ride her until Sunday anyway so the back can heal.

Tomorrow I’ll be here. Friday I’ll take the new nurse for Line Fork down to Medical Settlement to see nurse there. She is a lovely person.

Line Fork certainly is a changed place. Miss Dennis did wonderfully well but some things I would have done so differently. Miss Gaines, Miss Metcalf the nurse, and I walked over Monday a.m., coming back Tuesday afternoon.

A dear teacher for the lower school is there too this year which makes four workers. She has taught a rural school in South Dakota, her home. I think the workers will be very congenial.

I am so glad Aunt R. is such a perfect woman. Hope she likes her raincoat and that the little errand boy returned the other one. I do hope the medicine will work better in the mornings.

Thank goodness phone is in. That will save many steps for you. You be careful of yourself now and remember the trip we are going to take to Vassar, Lake Mohonk, New York to see Hulda & Bess and who knows where. Save your pennies so next we can do Europe.

Don’t you remember May wrote me a letter about a month ago thanking me for my cap.

I am enclosing Luella’s poem which came with candy. Also a letter from Nell Englehart  thought J[eanette] might enjoy reading.

I must go to bed. Good-bye – My love to you all. I will address my letters all to you so you can open. J[eanette] won’t care.

Love, Marguerite

LETTER 3 – September 18, 1921 [3 pages, images 009-011]

Sunday, Sept. 18, 1921

Dear Mother — It is nearly five and I am at Open House. Miss Gaines and Miss Jones [First name not given in Well’s list of staff] are coming for supper. Miss Jones is Miss Pettit’s housemother, a dear girl with bobbed hair and dresses to her knee nearly. She has finished one year at Johns Hopkins on her way to be a doctor. She and Miss Gaines like each other and she is crazy about this house.

Last night we had a lovely party at the Lean To. Jeannette can tell you how pretty it was with a big fire and the moon over the mountain. We had a real feast — chicken salad, beaten biscuit, butter, corn pudding, glazed sweet potatoes, coffee, pancakes and syrup. All the workers were there, two of the big boys, Henry [Creech], Delia [Creech], May [Ritchie] & Mr. Deschamps. We certainly have some wonderful people here. Miss Gill [Laura D. Gill], dean for years of Barnard College teaches sewing. Miss Wilson, who is lovely, had a girls school in Washington for years. My second year here she came and said then in five years she would be back. She is house-mothering 24 big boys. Lucretia Garfield and Kathryn Wright [came in 1919-21, returned 1923-25. Teacher, scouting, office] are both back. Marguerite Parkinson & Alice Andrews, her best friend. Miss Atkins[Mary Atkins, teacher, farm], most efficient person, has charge of poultry and housemothers girls at Farm House. We are hoping she will be head worker at an extension center next year. Five teachers for school and a Japanese nurse [Maya Sudo] arrives this week. So many changes J[eanette] won’t know the place.

Friday the nurse who is to go to Line Fork and I went to Medical Settlement for day. Everything is coming along fine there. We have two teachers for school there. The doctor and nurse have been busy morning, noon & night. They have given hookworm treatment to all but two families for miles around. They have asked for it. The greatest change in the community.

This morning I went to Sunday School. The children are dear and were so glad to begin again.

Columbus [Creech] was here working at O[pen] H[ouse]all day yesterday and Henry [Creech] is coming to­morrow. It looks a little more livable now. I am having Hazel Nolan to come tomorrow to wash windows, too.

Tuesday and Wednesday I may be at Line Fork again. They are building the wood cellar and I want to see about finishing things up.

Do not open package I am mailing to Jeannette. A box of baskets are coming from Hindman, but I’ll drop a line to J[eanette] about them. Don’t open them either. You see I’m beating Santa Claus.

I am so glad it is working out better to take medicine in the morning. And isn’t it fine that you are getting enough nourishment. I thought you were for you looked well.

Just keep Kit’s box. It is for my birthday and I’ll be home before that. I may not use it here anyway. It is something she brought from Paris.

I am just sick about goods for my skirt. Have J[eanette] call Goldstein & Hammen and tell them. She had better shop for my suit when she is near there. I’ll let it go until Xmas now. She can explain they couldn’t get goods and I am away now.

The fair is this Saturday. We have many plans for it.

My horse will probably be in pasture all this week. Her back is too sore to ride yet. I have had to walk everywhere.

One guest has arrived so I must stop. My love to you all, Auntie Butler of course included. Marguerite

LETTER 4 – November 13, 1921 [6 pages, images 014-019]

Sunday, November 13, 1921

Dear Mother — This is a regular grey, windy, November day. It is sleeting now. We had our first snow Friday night so winter is here. That day one of the men on Line Fork said “Hit’ll snow by morning for the cattle are lying flat on the ground and hit’s a sure sign in this country.” He was right for it did by morning.

Miss Pettit and six children went to Jack’s Gap to-day to cook dinner [in the sleet!] . She sent a note saying she just must get to the woods or she couldn’t go on. They will be soaked for it is pouring now. The rest of her children are here.

My children were dear in Sunday School to-day. Next Sunday we are having special Thanksgiving verses and a song and then we work for Xmas. I want to have the nativity play, of course only a few scenes. They are so excited over it.

Same old story this week — Monday and Tuesday Line Fork, Wednesday Big Laurel, Thursday Abner’s Branch, Friday Line Fork. Mossie Miniard is teaching a school in Leslie County just a mile below one of mine in Harlan. I went to see her and she surely needs help. I have written her superintendent to see what funds we can have. Have a big box of books and handwork packed to send. It certainly showed what I had been able to do with schools in this district. Mossie was so grateful and was so pleased to see me.

Yesterday I was home doing a hundred and one things. I finished just at supper time.

To-morrow I start for Line Fork. Columbus is going with me for a couple days to build a long cupboard in kitchen on either side of sink to serve as drain board, table and cupboard. He has built them here and knows exactly how. I do hope to be finished over there in a couple weeks. Before I begin my Xmas trees anyway.

Mother do you think the church would make us some comforts for our house on Line Fork. There are six single beds and I would love six single ones like the last blue ones they sent. They were lovely. It is a log house and does get so cold. Mrs. Hummel [?] will, I think, for last year she was so interested.

I just wish Clarkey would have her girls dress dolls again this year for my trees. I hate to ask her for I think she is so busy but I never had anything so nice. Has she ever said anything about it. Luella promised to make the tiny bright stockings for the candy.

I am enclosing a letter from Ruth’s husband about their small daughter. Chester is so nice and they are happy together.

What did you mean by Alice going to Hughes High three times a week. Is Little Alice studying there?

I will send literature to Mrs. Murray the first chance I have. It is all in the office and that is closed today.

Jeannette asked if I knew where the plate for the cards was. I have never seen it. I should think it would either be at Poundsford’s or Stewarts & Kidd’s. Why don’t you call them and have them look it up. Mother’s box of cards are in little drawer in her room.

What are you going to do about Father’s and Walter’s-May’s Xmas gift? Ask J[eanette] to write me. I should think we could give May & Walter something nice together. She can suggest things they need. Also I want to know what she wants.

No decision about car!!

Miss Gaines’ [Ruth B. Gaines] leg has been bad again. She was in her room four days this week. Miss Pettit has written her brother-in-law, Dr. Bullock, in Lexington, to see if he can arrange for her. She will have to go to hospital and have it scraped to the bone. I am so glad Father’s box came when it did so we could enjoy it together. We still have bacon, butter and fruit left.

Take good care of yourself. My love to Auntie and all of you.


MBB Note [2 pages, images 012-013]

In 1917-22 my one-room schools were only five months; they all closed for foddering two weeks in the fall and by Christmas because of the roads and creeks—so often my Sunday School at Divide lasted between 2-3 hours to help take the place of school. — Often parents came with the children. M.

LETTER 5 – Sunday, November 1921 [8 pages, images 020-027]

Dear Jeannette and all — As you are the only one I heard from this week here goes to you!

I wish you could all see Open House. It is so pretty with beech leaves in a great big basket on floor, deep red oak ones in bowl on the seat — witch hazel blossoms over a rhododendron hook , some lovely vine hanging near the fireplace, and a big piece of bark on the book shelves filled with red peppers, yellow peppers, small pumpkins, chestnut burrs and deep red corn. It looks like fall – All this on account of father’s box.

As I wrote you we had a feast last Sunday night – Miss G[aines] always – she is the uninvited guest. Miss Atkins [Mary Atkins] who goes to Line Fork next spring. She is lovely!! A Miss Darracot [Nell Darracott, office] who is taking Miss Sheltman’s [Constance (Ethel) Sheltman, bookkeeper] place. They had a lovely time. Just yesterday Miss Atkins said she was still thinking of the good time she had.

Monday we were all ready for clinic. The nurses from Line Fork and Big Laurel were here, a dozen children in bed with two dozen doses of castor oil in them (they requested this much) and the doctors never came — we didn’t give them up until Tuesday night. Some patient in Louisville was very ill and one doctor couldn’t leave. Three were coming. Of course there was no clinic so Monday night I had Miss Metcalf [Ann Ruth Metcalf, nurse at Line Fork] Line Fork nurse, and Miss Sudo our Japanese nurse. She is loads of fun and has the keenest sense of humor. Did I tell you she remembers me from Silver Bay? Her name is Maya Sudo and she is a dear friend of Kato Yamada, Vassar [College], 1917.

Wednesday I started for Line Fork expecting to be back that night. My watch stopped and before I knew it was too late to start [back]. I didn’t think Miss Gaines would worry so I stayed all night. At twenty minutes of ten, I [was] sound asleep, in walked Emily, Miss Parkinson and Irving, one of our big boys. They came to see if I was all right. I was so ashamed for I never dreamed the folks would worry as I stay at L. F. [Line Fork] so much. They got back at quarter to twelve, frozen stiff. That next night I came home but had to go back again on Friday. I hope this week I can get to some schools.

Yesterday afternoon I had an old ladies tea party for Mrs. de Long who leaves this week. As I said, Miss G[aines] was a fixture: — Mrs. de Long, Mrs. Zande, May Deschamps (old married woman) Miss Gill and Miss Wilson. Miss Webb and Miss Pettit couldn’t come. We had fruit salad, cinnamon toast, butter thins and tea. Oh! yes, two babies, Mrs. Zande’s and May’s and two dogs, Mrs. Z[ande’s] and Franklin. Everyone had a nice time. Then we stayed on & had supper. I don’t think sausages have ever been so good as these last ones. Please have father tell the butcher not to forget the kind. We hated to see last go.

I guess Auntie is back home again. I hope she had a nice visit with her friend. Did Mrs. Mayer stay just one week?

I had a box of candy from Mary Louise too.

Please send me two hair nets. I have some in my room somewhere. Either in little chiffonier drawer or in box on shelf in closet at head of bed where I have some hairpins, etc.

I want to hear what Father did and just what I owe him. I’ll send check as soon as he writes.

I hope Mother got my three dresses. I want them back as soon as possible for they are my best.

I must stop and build a fire for it is getting cold. Miss G[aines] and Miss Parkinson are coming up for supper.

Anything good in music line around Xmas? Let me know if a symphony comes then.

Miss Garfield and H. Wright are going to Straight Creek to help me with my two trees there. They are crazy to go.

I do hope mother is all right and that it is because she and Mrs. Mayers were so busy talking that they couldn’t write.

Will you stop in Roettig’s and see if they have [kakhi?] dye. The cake of soap kind is the easiest. Some of my middies are sad.

My love to you all, Marguerite

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