KATHERINE PETTIT Sassafras Weaving Album 1901

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography
Series 07: Directors

KATHERINE PETTIT Sassafras Weaving Album 1901

TAGS: Katherine Pettit; Sassafras, KY; weaving; Hazard, KY; Hindman, KY; coverlets; Enoch Combs;  Mary E. McCartney; May Stone;  Rae M. McNab;

Before Katherine Pettit came to Pine Mountain Settlement School she was involved in the establishment of Hindman Settlement School in Hyden, Kentucky. Her work there began just after the turn of the century and involved summer work with literacy camps and temporary shelters for the workers. One of these temporary summer shelters is seen in photographs 002 and 003 in this album.

The work in the very rugged hills surrounding Hyden brought her into contact with many of the mountain families. She became fascinated with the “kivers” or coverlets that many of the women in the area wove and treasured. The patterns are some of the oldest known patterns passed along through weaving families who settled in the Southern Appalachians.


The Sassafrass Album donated to Pine Mountain by Katherine Pettit is a rare glimpse into the distant past of the craft of weaving. The small album captures the unique processes used by Appalachian mountain families who sheared their sheep, washed and carded their wool, spun the wool and then wove it into patterns. These were processes that were often passed along through their families for generations.

Enoch Combs and his wife Mary were a childless couple who lived at Sassafras, near Hindman, in Knott County, Kentucky, Pettit’s first school location. The Combs were the hosts for a group of young women who came to the third and final summer camp at Sassafras in Knott County prior to the establishment of Hindman Settlement by Pettit and May Stone. Katherine Pettit, of Lexington; Mary E. McCartney, of Louisville; May Stone, of Louisville; and Rae M. McNab, also of Louisville, traveled into what had become familiar, but still, very rugged mountains of eastern Kentucky. Their summer school at Sassafras in 1901 was the last of a series of summer camps established to serve the literacy-poor hollows in Knott County. The success of these summer camps and the enthusiasm of Pettit and Stone led to their founding of a permanent school at Hindman in 1902 the following year.

The life of the Combs family and their skills at weaving were captured in this small album of photographs belonging to Katherine Pettit which she titled “The Social Settlement in the Ky [Kentucky] Mountains, Sassafras, Knott Co[unty]. 1901.” The small and fragile album of 27 pages, held in the Pine Mountain archive, shows members of the Combs family and a young lady who was living with the Combs, shearing their sheep, washing the wool, drying the wool, picking and carding, dying the “hanks”, and finally spinning the wool to be placed on spindles. The images freeze this valuable pioneer process in time and allow the viewer to understand the many complex tasks associated with the manufacture of textiles in the Southern Appalachians.

GALLERY: Katherine Pettit Sassafras Weaving Album 1901

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