Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Staff/Personnel



 BeginningsWilliam Creech‘s dream & donation

The School Today — number of buildings, staff, students ; H.R.S. Benjamin, Director ; counties served ;

Kind of School — description ; medical/social centers ; helping neighbors adjust to changes ;

Plan of School — tuition ; learning by doing ;

What is Taught in the School Itself? — college preparation ; general education ; class subjects ; school paper ; co-op year ; Citizenship Committee ;

Extras — leisure program ; health program ; hospital plan

Few Stories About Learning — student interest in learning

Special DaysFair Day ; May Day ; Christmas ; Assembly ;

Charity Fund – Sacrificial Meals — Community party ; Christmas spirit ;

Needs –scholarship ; budget help ;



*NOTE: The following transcription of the Margaret Motter talk, “An Old Man’s Dream,” extends the abbreviations found in the original (above) and contains added language for clarity.

[image 001, page 1] “Except they have a vision the people perish.” [This is a] Story of an old mountain man’s conversation with visitors from the North — “Wal, I allow that thar’s a heap o’ things goin’ on up thar that we all don’t know nary thing about.”

“An hit’s the case, I reckon, that thar’s a heap o’ things goin’ on down hyre that you all don’t know nary thing about.”

After a short pause, he [Uncle William Creech] came to this philosophical conclusion: “An’ mixin’ larns both parties.”


Long years ago a mountain man with a third grade education who lived in South Eastern Kentucky had a dream of a school for his children, grands, great-grands, and neighbors. For thirty years he dreamed; then he heard of a school about forty miles away. [He] sent word — [like MacCall ?] and two ladies came in answer to his call. How did the dream unfold? He gave 136 acres — all he had & with deed wrote in his unlettered hand some priceless words — words that we cherish because we consider his document the ever recurring challenge to us to carry on —

I don’t [image 002, page 2] look after wealth for them, I look after the prosperity of our nation. I want all younguns taught to serve the living God. Of course they won’t all do that, but they can have good and evil laid before them and they can choose which they will. I have heart and cravin’ that our people may grow better. I have deeded my land to the PMSS to be used for school purposes as long as the Constitution of the U.S. stands, hopin’ it will make a bright and intelligent people after I am dead and gone.

After difficult and trying beginnings the school grew. [An] old mountain man at our Fair this fall told me of the early years. He said he “holped to build some of the houses and gave 10 months free labor” the first year. It is just such spirit thru years from neighbors and many friends that has made possible our beautiful school of today that is serving a neglected area of Southeast Kentucky and is giving a wonderful opportunity to Mountain boys and girls.


Now what of the school itself?

We have 22 buildings, 25 staff members (including administration, medical groups, housemothers, and teachers). The Director is Mr. H.R.S Benjamin. 100 children live at the school and some day pupils [also] attend. They come to us from surrounding counties — Bloody Breathitt, Bad Harlan, Belle [sic], Letcher, and Leslie (with the highest birthrate and one of the highest death rates in the whole United States.)

[image 003, page 3] KIND OF SCHOOL

[the school is] non-sectarian, but Christian, vocational high school. But we are more than that. We have two centers where social and medical work are carried on — one at Line Fork, 7 miles from school in Letcher County (minister and wife teach and work in community [Richard and Lutrella Baker] and the other four miles down Greasy Creek (our creek) at Big Laurel where a social worker lives and serves entire community.

We have, therefore, a double responsibility, because we are not only a boarding school for boys and girls, but a social center in an intensely rural community. The neighbors, near and far, are part of our reason for being there, for along with their children they are facing great changes as the roads are extended and improved, and we need to help them with their adjustment so that they and their children can find their places in this changing world.


Pupils pay $10 entrance plus $15 a month if they can afford it. In addition, they work for school under supervision. They learn to do by doing. “Better for folkses’ characters to larn them to do things with their hands.” All work of the school is done except mining coal. Children [image 004, page 4] work on 9 weeks’ shifts at various tasks, and thus learn to do many useful things. Attitude toward work? “One thing I don’t like ….”


In our school we attempt to prepare [a] small percentage for college or further study, but [the] majority have good general education. They study the usual English, history, math, and science (often in simpler form). We also have home nursing for freshman girls, agriculture for freshman boys, economics for 2nd and 3rd year pupils, sociology for juniors, community work for juniors such as visiting in homes or going with the school doctor on her weekly clinics. Bible is taught to Freshmen and Juniors. All classes have home economics and woodwork. (Alternate in freshman year) Other electives are: weaving, mechanical drawing, printing, auto-mechanics, stone-cutting and setting. We plan to start typewriting as soon as we can get some typewriters. Seniors also plan and edit a school paper, The Pine Cone. An unusual and interesting feature of school is the 2nd year called the CO-OP year when they learn about cooperatives around the world. They run a little store, sell shares, take in [image 005, page 5] food and other supplies.

Another helpful side of our work is the actual participation in the government of the school. We have a Citizenship Committee composed of 6 students, the Director and 2 faculty members. This committee handles nearly all cases of discipline.


But Pine Mountain has so much more than the material plant. There are many extras that mean so much in the life and development of the children. Besides the studies in school periods, we have as part of our leisure program ballad singing, set-running, folk dancing, dramatics, movies, games, parties.

A school in an area like that is a means of real enlightenment. Like putting window in a windowless cabin. (Tell story [of window in cabin])

Now a window lets in air and light, and that is part of our health program. Diseases to be fought — Trachoma, hookworm, rickets, etc., Our hospital is doing wonderful work. 1 Doctor, 2 Nurses, small infirmary. Need for expansion. Health Association [established]. Mother care [and] 2 clinics.

We dream of the William Creech Memorial Hospital — 1st gift for it came from Dr. Oma Creech, grand daughter [of Uncle William] who served under UNRRA in war with the rank of Major.

[image 006, page 6] FEW STORIES ABOUT LEARNING

1. Square world – Morgan. “Not right to go contrarywise to scriptures.”

2. Miss Pettit’s story -“Didn’t like to disabuse her mind” ….

3. “Read writin'”

4. Zeal for larnin’. “Read books plumb through from kiver to kiver”

5. “A body couldn’t book [look ?] up all I don’t know.”

6. “I don’t like school but I like what it makes you be.”


Fair Day – In fall. Great community gathering, encourage canning, raising good crops, etc.

May Day – Beautiful colorful day in spring with a typical old English folk dances.

Christmas – Loveliest time of all year.

Assembly – Good King Wenceslaus, Wassailing Song – “Love and Joy”

Week before Christmas in dining room with dramatization of carols while the room is decorated with wreaths and garlands made by pupils and staff members. I am reminded at this point of a little girl who was asked to tell the prettiest thing she saw. “The prettiest thing I ever seed was when I was a makin’ me a Christmas wreath and run out of greens and had to go out at dusky dark to git me some more when the moon ball hit was a glistenin’ and a gleamin’ on Isaac’s Run.”


Another special feature of Christmas observance is the Community Party [in vacation?]. (Last year 300 guests, gifts, games.)

Effect of this? Children carry spirit of Christmas to homes. Answer of neighbor — “Hit’s the peace-fullest Christmas I ever seed…”

Before closing I should like to mention some of our needs:

Scholarships — Cost per pupil is high-need extra to help carry the load.

Annual contributions of $1.00 or more will help us to meet our heavy budget. Regular gifts or contributions of this sort are of tremendous value to us.

Your interest in our work will mean much to us. We need friends who will give us financial and moral support, friends who will pray that the school may make the most of its opportunity for service in this neglected area. If you share the responsibility of maintaining this splendid school in the Kentucky mountains, it will be very heartening to the staff and the trustees who are entrusted with the management of the school. Would you like to have a part in helping (or continuing to help) us to make Uncle William’s dream come true?