MARGARET MOTTER TALK: 1949 A Mountain School

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Staff/Personnel

The following talk by Margaret Motter describes the School in 1949 and was used on a promotional virtual tour of the School. The talk is written out in long-hand with her typical abbreviations and is an overview of Pine Mountain Settlement School and its programs.

The transcription expands the abbreviations and occasionally expands the sentence structure in the interest of clarity. The original may be read in the GALLERY below.


Book, “Playing Square with Tomorrow” ; fair play ; PMSS location ; Uncle William Creech’s dream and donation ; early PMSS ; learning by doing ; vocational high school ; elementary students ; Harlan County Board of Education ; new programs ; demonstration farm ; community church ; swimming pool ; hospital ; clinics ; social center ; Charity Fund ;



A MOUNTAIN SCHOOL (Talk to a school or young people, 1949)

Some years ago a book was written for young people called Playing Square With Tomorrow in which the author emphasizes the importance of adequate preparation in the early years in order that people could make their lives count for something in the future. It is a suitable title for a book for youth because we find that as a rule boys and girls like fair play. The fact that you are here in this good school is indicative of your desire (or that of your parents) that you receive the training to enable you to play square with your tomorrow.

Now I am coming to you to tell you of a School in an isolated section of South East Kentucky where about 200 boys and girls each year are being given an opportunity to learn to play square with their world. If it weren’t for this School, those children would find it difficult and in many cases impossible to attend a school at all.

[page 2] This far School is Pine Mountain Settlement School, a non-sectarian [but] Christian school located on Greasy Creek, 20 miles from Harlan the county seat, and 8 miles from [the] railroad. To reach this School people from this part of the country have to cross Pine Mountain on foot, horseback, or in an auto, over a winding narrow road (formerly mountain trail) that has become passable for motor cars within the last 5 years or so.

You may have heard these words from a poem — “He only is a dreamer who makes his dream come true….” Try and remember them as you think of Uncle William Creech the founder of our School. He was a man with a 3rd grade education who dreamed for 30 years of a way to help his people. When he gave his land — all he had — 136 acres — he expressed in these words not only his wish for continuous purpose of the school — ” I don’t look after wealth for them….”

[page 3] Thru the years the School has been trying to develop that type of education of which Uncle William dreamed and I want to tell you about it.

At the very 1st Pine Mountain, little children lived on the grounds in houses with a housemother — like family, learning to do many things under supervision — housework, cooking, farming, repairing buildings, etc. As one-room schools came in, Pine Mountain gradually developed programs for higher grades then it became a vocational High School. Recent years have found children not well prepared for High School — [We] realized we needed to give attention to smaller children, that the elementary grades should be strong, giving children a solid foundation. In cooperation with Harlan County Board of Education, we began new programs. This past August all neighboring one-room schools closed and 2 buses bring children to school. (Some walk a couple of miles down hollow to road). [We] have 199 pupils in first 9 grades and 2 in 10th. We comply with regular curriculum of the county Board of Education but expect to enrich [our] programs. We hope to have a certain amount of work [program?] retained whereby children learn to do by doing. “Better for folkses character to larn ’em to work….” — When we see children at work I am reminded of those lines about Gareth — ” An Gareth bowed himself with all obedience to the King and wrought all kinds of service with a noble ease, and graced the lowest task in doing it.”

[page 4] Attitude toward school: Most are glad to be there. Some moved to Harlan County side to be able to come to Pine Mountain. Old ideas — Morgan Brit, “I don’t like school….” His daughter — mountain man. Pine Mountain is more than a school. It is a Community well named.

1.) We have a demonstration farm – rotation of crops, prevention of soil erosion; conservation of timber; herd of Ayrshire [cows] — Joy, Rejoice; silo; poultry. Now able to sell grade A raw milk every other day. 1 case of eggs a week. Some farming machinery is a cooperative effort; community working together to help with crops.

2.) Our Church has become a community church. Several denominations meet there for services or Sunday School. Swimming pool is used for baptisms.

3.) Our hospital [has] 1 doctor and 3 nurses. It has 18 beds, 5 bassinets, and 1 incubator. Every child has a physical exam and inoculations. The hospital serves a wide area — 2 clinics — people come in. Pine Mountain Health Association. To vary routine we serve [page 5] as a social center. Fair Day, May Day, Christmas festivities. Folk dancing, ballads, handicrafts, movies, plays, parties, neighbors share in these.

Our children though underprivileged share with other underprivileged children through a Charity Fund.

Thus, you see in body, mind, spirit we are trying to help these mountain boys and girls to grow better. We know by the service they render in various locales that the School has truly helped them to be a “bright and intelligent people,” as Uncle William dreamed.

“He only is a dreamer who make his dream come true.”

You have had a share (or may have a share) in making it possible for this dream of Uncle William to continue to unfold.