Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff
Ethel Farquahar McCullough (1876-1950)
Summer Worker, 1914

Staff on Horseback. mccullough_III_094a

Summer 1914

TAGS: Ethel Farquaher McCullough, PMSS summer worker in 1914, Vassar College, Marguerite Butler, Mary Rockwell Hook, PMSS architect, Educational and Agrarian Reform, women reformers, early photographs of PMSS, Cincinnati, Ohio native, Charles William Dabney, agrarian reform, horseback riding, equestrians,

Ethel Farquaher McCullough (1876-1950) was a summer worker who came to Pine Mountain in 1914, the second year of existence of the School. As a Vasser graduate, she was a close friend of Marguerite Butler, a worker at Pine Mountain who accompanied Katherine Pettit to Pine Mountain when she was negotiating the creation of the settlement. In a letter to Mary Rogers, written at the end of her life, Marguerite described Ethel as one of the McCulloughs of Cincinnati and a friend of the Butler family. Marguerite’s family was also in Cincinnati. and she reminisces,

“I guess you know the Ethel to whom I refer was a McCullough from Cincinnati. Thru her I went to Vassar.

Just how this Vassar connection came about is not fully known but the two had obviously been family friends for some years and Ethel McCullough’s experiences at Vassar were obviously an influence on the younger Marguerite.

But before Vassar there was Ethel’s graduation from the University of Wisconsin in 1897 and then her continuing education at Vassar where she prepared for work as a Librarian. Immediately following her graduation from Vassar in 1909 she secured a position at the University of Madison Wisconsin where she was appointed in 1910 by the state library commission to teach library science. While in this position she departed to Pine Mountain Settlement School where, in the Summer of 1914 she served as a staff member and helped to establish the School’s library.

In this brief period at the Kentucky school she also built the rich photographic repository that captures the formative years of the rural settlement school.

In an oral history taken from Marguerite Butler, following her departure from Pine Mountain, Butler describes the trail of friendships that brought her to Pine Mountain including her the many points of contact to other important early women at Pine Mountain.. Marguerite describes the chain of events:

But then the summer of my junior year, a very, very close friend [probably Susan Huntington] went to Kansas City to visit another classmate, Emily Hook. And there she met her sister Mary Rockwell, who had graduated from Wellesley and was an architect, and Mary told of a school that was soon to be started in Harlan County at the headwaters of Greasy Creek where Isaacs Run and Solomon Branch come together. Mary was to be the architect for all the buildings at this new school. And she and Miss Pettit and Ethel de Long and Miss [Clara] Davis, the nurse, walked the fifty miles from Hindman to Pine Mountain.

Mary [Rockwell Hook] was full of the beauty of the country and the prospect of developing this new school. And when my friend, Ethel McCullough, came back and told me, she said “We knew this would just be the place that you would want to go.” So I immediately wrote Miss Pettit, Miss Katherine Pettit, whose home was in Lexington, Kentucky, and told her I had one more year at Vassar and then I would be interested to come down to this new school if they could use me. And I immediately had a reply. They would gladly welcome me. So I think I was one of the few who in my senior year knew what I was going to do the following year.

Ethel McCullough graduated in 1909 from Vassar and Marguerite Butler graduated in 1913 but the Cincinnati families and the Vassar connection tied them together and their commitment to the work of Jan Addams and the Settlement Movement cemented the relationship .

Ethel wrote in her Vassar yearbook, “Sentimentally I am disposed to harmony, but organically I am incapable of a tune.” But she certainly did not lack talents in many areas. She was one of the few Pine Mountain workers whose lives directly intersected with the icon of the Settlement Movement, Jane Addams.

In a letter found in the papers of Jane Addams is a brief note from McCullough that reads

Superior Public Library
Ethel F. McCollough

Superior, Wisconsin, Feb. 10 1910

Miss Jane Addams,
Hull House
Chicago, Ill.

My dear Miss Addams;

Pray do not consider me presumptuous for thanking you personally for your Spirit of Youth and the City Streets. You have placed in the hands of the librarians of the country a powerful weapon to be used in the fight for civic righteousness. Its simple direct style, its tone [page 2] of authority and its brevity combine to make it an easy matter for us to influence people to read the book. I expect every member of my staff to read it and having read to push its circulation. For Superior needs to learn the lesson you would teach — needs to learn the lesson quickly.

Thanking you sincerely. I am,

Very truly yours.

Ethel F. McCollough*

While Ethel McCullough did not stay long at Pine Mountain, her short summer left a lasting mark on those who knew her. She figures prominently in the letters and memoirs of the staff who worked with her during her short time at the School in its very earliest years.

ETHEL McCULLOUGH: Educational and Agrarian Reform

Ethel’s interest in Pine Mountain conforms with her remarkable educational foresight. This may be seen in a brief 1912 article she wrote for her college newspaper, the Vassar Miscellany, titled  “Combining Theory and Practice.” It is based on her observations of a program started by Charles William Dabney ,the President at the University of Cincinnati .  Her essay is a remarkable testament to the goals established by educational pioneers such as Dabney and that were adopted by Pine Mountain in its founding years and aapted to a rural setting.

In the early decades of the twentieth century Charles William Dabney was a major influence on education in the United States.  Having served as President of the University of Tennessee before coming to Cincinnati where he opened the doors to women enrollees in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, he was a progressive and and an innovator. He enhanced his educational track record by serving as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Agriculture (1893-1896) in the Grover Cleveland administration. (Cleveland, a Democrat, is the only President to date to leave the office and be returned to the Presidency after he was defeated by Benjamin Harrison by electoral vote while holding the popular vote.)

Serving as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, Dabney, had an advocate in the agrarian reformer President Grover Cleveland.  Further, he appears to have had his advocates in the Kentucky mountains, as well.  He married a Kentuckian, Mary Chilton Brent, from Fayette County,  the same home county of Pine Mountain Settlement’s founder, Katherine Pettit.

Dabney’s work was closely followed by Pettit, particularly his later work in North Carolina as the the Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station in that state. Also. Dabney’s family origins, like that of Pettit, had their roots in Virginia and later in Fayette County, Kentucky, where the agrarian threads and progressive agricultural reform urges ran deep.

While many workers at the Pine Mountain School took away life-long lessons, many left their skillful lessons with the School — and most of those reformers were women. Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long, and Ethel McCullough, three of the early women at the School saw agricultural reform as foundational for the institution.  The agrarian focus for the institution was instituted in the first decade of the institution. Workers such as Ethel McCullough and Marguerite Butler, and others helped to shift the focus of the Settlement Movement to rural communities. Those remarkable women workers, even in their short tenures at the School, left many lasting imprints on the institution, the early rural Settlement Movement and  their contributions have stood the test of time.

*See:  COMBINING THEORY AND PRACTICE  an essay by Ethel  McCullough, and written while a student at Vassar prior to coming to Pine Mountain.  Influenced by Charles William Dabney and his work at the University of Cincinnati, it is an essay years ahead of its time but in-tune with the founding educational map that Pettit and others put forward in the early years of Pine Mountain Settlement School. With Glyn Morris the seed grew into an industrial education component in the curriculum

In the last years of his life Charles William Dabney lived in Asheville, North Carolina. He would have been pleased to see the current growing program at UNC Asheville that now integrates industrial and agricultural reform ideas.  The UNCA program and a growing number of other institutions across the country, now meld the arts and the sciences,

UNC Asheville evolved from Biltmore College, where in 1947 Glyn Morris, a Director at Pine Mountain Settlement School, was invited to give the address to graduating Seniors. As North Carolina’s only liberal arts college, the UNC Asheville’s STEAM program continues to build bridges between education and the municipalities it serves. As Ethel McCullough put it in her Vassar paper in 1907 —quoting Dabney

“…the chief end of education is so to instruct the individual that all individuals as civic units will combine to make the best possible state.”*

See: Bibliography below

ETHEL McCULLOUGH: Photograph Album

McCullough’s photograph album, containing photographs taken by her and gathered from other photographers, were taken during Pine Mountain’s formative years. It is one of the best-preserved and annotated photograph albums in the visual record of Pine Mountain Settlement School. Just how much McCullough contributed to the taking of the images is not known, but the photographer  had an excellent eye for photographic detail and composition and gathered some of Pine Mountain’s most compelling and iconic images together in the carefully preserved album. The album was donated to the School by the family of Ethel McCullough and is one of its most treasured possessions.

McCullough was also a collector of art and donated her paintings by the Cincinnati born and trained artist Elizabeth Nourse (1859-1938)  to the Cincinnati Art Museum. Nourse, like Pine Mountain’s architect, Mary Rockwell Hook, took her passion for art and  went to France where she was one of the first American women to be elected as a member of  the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Nourse was trained at the McMicken School of the Arts, in Cincinnati. She was trained well as her peers and collectors give testimony and, importantly,  she made her living in France as an artist.  She remained in France until her death in 1938.*

for the multiple links to the photograph images, both as singles and on full pages.


108 ETHEL McCULLOUGH Photograph Album Overview 1914



Ethel Farquaher McCullough




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Ethel McCullough; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; summer workers ; Marguerite Butler ; Katherine Pettit ; Mary Rogers ; Vassar College ; oral histories ; Emily Hook ; Mary Rockwell Hook ; Wellesley College ; architects ; Harlan County ; Greasy Creek ; Isaacs Run ; Solomon Branch ; Ethel de Long ; Miss Davis ; Vassar Miscellany ; President Dabney ; University of Cincinnati ;

Subject LCSH

McCullough, Ethel.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY




Collections ; text ; image ;


Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet


Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: Staff/Personnel

Coverage Temporal

Summer 1919 ;

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Hindman, KY ; Lexington, KY ; Kansas City, MO ; Cincinnati, OH ;


Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.




Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Ethel McCullough ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Ethel McCullough ;




“Ethel McCullough”, Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;

Last Updated

2014-11-22 hhw ; 2014-11-25 aae ; 2022-04-08 aae ; 2023-08-15 hhw ;


McCullough, Ethel. “Combining Theory and Practice”. Vassar Miscellany. XLI.5 (1 March 1912): 374-377. (Accessed 2014-11-22) Internet resource.

Jane Addams Digital Edition Project. 1901-1935. 

Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Archival material.

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