Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 17: PMSS Publications (Published by the School)

DEAR FRIEND LETTERS 1913 – October 1, 1913

CONTENTS: Dear Friend Letters 1913

Dear Friend letters 1913 ; building the school on 234 acres ; Cyarter Coots ; Solomon Day ; gardens ; hog-proof fencing ; donation of sawmill ; need for schoolhouse ; wilderness ; requests by neighbors for school ; neighbors’ sacrifice to send children to school ; 800 school-age children within seven miles of school ; children are handicapped and isolated, but keen-witted and eager ; how donations have already been used ; preparing land for farming ; building log house ; planning a reservoir and sewer system ; schoolhouse is greatest need ; currently using Masonic Lodge ; want to provide industrial training and a boarding school ; need for $10,000 for several projects ; Uncle William’s leaflet enclosed ; use pledge form ; from Ethel de Long and Katherine Pettit, Executive Committee ;

GALLERY: Dear Friend Letters 1913

TRANSCRIPTION: Dear Friend Letters 1913

Page 1 [dear_friends_1913_10_001]



Miss Katherine Pettit
Miss Ethel de Long

C.N. Manning
Security Trust Co.
Lexington, Ky.

Miss Elizabeth Hench
2145 Talbott Ave.
Indianapolis, Indiana

Mrs. J.R. Morton
Lexington, Ky.

Miss Viola Sullivan
Winchester, Mass.

Dr. Calvin N. Kendall
Commissioner of Education
Trenton, New Jersey

Miss Elizabeth Moore
St. Louis, Missouri

Mr. Samuel M. Wilson
Lexington, Kentucky

Dr. Elizabeth Campbell
Cincinnati, Ohio

Dr. Willis M. Butler
Old South Church
Boston, Mass.

October 1, 1913.

My dear friend:

I wish you could be here today, in the midst of this wilderness where we are building a settlement school, and see the beginnings of things. It takes a long time to get two hundred and thirty four acres of neglected land in shape for a model rural school but if we grow a little discouraged now and then we have only to go and watch “Cyarter” Coots and Solomon Day working against the weeds and underbrush along our creekbanks with the love of battle plain in every stroke of the scythe, — the true pioneer’s joy in getting the best of nature. With such a spirit we feel sure wonders can be accomplished. If our neighbors’ hogs annoy us because they consider our first modest attempt at a garden a pigs’ paradise, with no St. Peter to guard the rickety stake and rider rail fence, we listen to the woodmen far up the Mountain, cutting locust posts for the five foot “woven wire, hog-proof” fence we want to put around our paradise this fall. When we have not so much as a plank for a tiny bookshelf in this country of wonderful trees but no sawmills, we think of our yspendid mill, given us by a friend who well understood our needs, waiting and ready for the great chestnut and poplar logs that are being cut from the School forest. When we long for room to take in the children (and just how irresistible they are you can judge from our summer kindergarten teacher’s testimony that in all her ninety-two enrolled in Cleveland she has none so winning as her little Pine Mountain Brit — the same who, mindful of a past punishment, one day said to her, “I reckon you’ll have to sot me on the Lonesome Seat, I ain’t aiming to hurry this morning”); when we feel with the fathers and mothers hereabouts that a year is a right smart spell to wait for a schoolhouse we can write you, our friends outside, of our great need for one and ask you to help us build it!

I called this a wilderness from the phrase of a conspicuous literary man who visited us this summer and said he thought us the most fortunate of people with such a chance to build a school in the wilderness. His enthusiasm sprang from the fact that our mountains, remote,…

Page 2 [dear_friends_1913_10_002]

…undeveloped, and rough though they are, are full of children. Up and down Greasy Creek neighbors live scarcely more than a “sight” apart and Lick, Rockhouse, Laurel, and Sang Branches are not mere lonely streams girt with magnificent rhododendron thickets but have each its own homesteads and hearth fires. We go over to Line Fork, or the head waters of Cutshin (only two years ago eighty miles from a railroad) and as we sit by the evening fire people drop in from houses way up on the heads of “hollers” to ask when we will open school and take — not one child, but five or nine, all they have in their family! Nothing more truly shows the intense wistfulness of the people for opportunity than the sacrifices implied in sending the whole family away to school, for no people are more clannish, more devoted to their kin folk than these in the Kentucky mountains. There is also great economic sacrifice in sending the children away when even the least young-un can do his share on the farm.

The best figures that we can get tell of eight hundred children of school age within seven miles of us. They are not stupid children or heavy minded, for “blood will tell” and the best proof of their excellent ancestry is the fact that after a century of isolation they are keen witted and eager. Consider the immense handicap of this region in its tragic percentage of hookworm and trachoma cases, to say nothing of its remoteness, and the intellectual calibre of the people becomes one of the most astonishing facts in American life. With such children to work for, we ask only for a chance to fit them to be intelligent homemakers in their own mountains, so like themselves in rich, undeveloped resources.

We have tried to make good use of the money already given us for this new work. We are getting the land in order to raise food for the large School family we hope to have soon, as well as for farming experiments of value to the community. The log house, for which every piece of timber was given by our neighbors, is going up as rapidly as possible. The State University has completed a survey of the grounds from which data a sanitary engineer (also giving his services), is preparing plans for a reservoir and sewerage system that will be adequate for the completed plant. We feel that it is intelligent economy to plan with a view to the future and soon we hope to have a plat made of the grounds locating every building which we shall eventually need.

But now, our greatest need is a schoolhouse. We are teaching the neighbor children in the Masonic Lodge, located at the head of Greasy; but we want to take in from far and near the young people who need not only book learning but training in the common arts of the home and farm. If town and city schools find it necessary to provide industrial training, think how much greater is the need where geographical conditions have made the pioneer form of life the permanent type of one hundred years. For many, many reasons — not the least among them the parent’s view that if whiskey gives him pleasure he should not deny it to his tiny child — we know it is wise to keep the children in our school home for eight or nine months out of the year. If we have a schoolhouse, using some of its rooms temporarily for bed rooms, with our log house and tents to help out, we can begin to work for the community in a large way. We need its ample rooms for neighborhood uses also — young peoples’ and mothers’ clubs, Bible….

Page 3 [dear_friends_1913_10_003]

…school, Berea and State College extension work, etc. Do you not agree with us that we ought to begin work on its foundations this fall and get the timber sawed ready for spring building? We do not want to lose ground already gained; we do not know how to dishearten an entire countryside by long delay.

We want ten thousand dollars for the immediate construction of our central building, for setting out orchard trees, for going on with our forestry work, and for preparing the timber already on hand. If you still question the need for this school, read Uncle William‘s “reasons” on the leaflet enclosed. It was his own idea that he should write them, and they tell far more frankly than we do why there should be a settlement school here. When you have pondered them and read beneath the words to the thought and felt the thrill of this great old man’s visions for his country, tell us what share you wish to have in this work. Will you let us know before Christmas how much you will give, even if you cannot pay till later? No sum is too small to be of use.

Please cross the amount you will give and send the slip right away to The Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, Harlan Co., Kentucky.

Sincerely yours,
Ethel de Long
Katherine Pettit
Executive Committee