GLADYS HILL Staff Trustee Interim Director

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff
Gladys Hill, Housemother & Teacher 1929-1952,
Trustee 1949-1952, Interim Director 1949
Gladys Ranson Hill (born c. 1906)

GLADYS HILL Director Staff Trustee

Gladys Hill (right) with co-op students, 1941. (Source: Harmon Fdn stills.) [pmss_photo_coop_harm_091DB.jpg]

GLADYS HILL Staff Trustee Interim Director

Housemother & Teacher 1929 – 1952
Member, Board of Trustees 1949 – 1952
Interim Director 1949

TAGS: Gladys Hill, interim directors, PMSS staff, housemothers, teachers, students, Glyn Morris,  Consumers’ Cooperatives, Harmon Foundation, scoliosis, cooperative stores, PMSS Board of Trustees, Vera R. Hackman


Gladys Hill, C. 1929. [hill_g_bio_086_xx]

Gladys Ranson Hill joined the Pine Mountain Settlement School staff at the age of 23 in 1929, a year after earning an A.B. at Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College (later Eastern Kentucky University) in Richmond. It is unlikely that she could imagine that her teaching position with the School would last for the next 23 years.

Hill’s longtime relationship with the School began in the spring of 1929 when she sent the School the required documents: a completed application form, a photograph, and letters of recommendation. Her college major in English and history, practice teaching, and then experience in teaching high school students at Herndon, West Virginia, and as a current teacher and principal at Campton, Kentucky, made her an excellent candidate. She was offered a teaching position at a salary of $50.00 a month “and home” by Angela Melville, Associate Director, who described what to expect at the School in her acceptance letter to Hill, dated April 9, 1929:

This work means teaching boys and girls, some of whom are quite old in years. We hope next year to regrade our children and have them more nearly where they belong in both intellect and achievement. …. Life here is out-of-door country life in all weather, and is in the winter somewhat rigorous. You would, however, be comfortably housed and our food is excellent.

Hill was indeed “comfortably housed” at Big Log when she arrived in August, although Director Hubert H. Hadley‘s letter of August 12 warned her, “…I am sure since Big Log has been closed all summer that you will find many cobwebs hanging about….”

Another letter, dated May 31, 1929, provided Hill with these directions:

You write a week ahead to Mr. Wilson Lewis of Nolansburg, KY, asking him to meet you on the train coming up the valley on such and such a date and you get off at our station stop of Laden where he will be with a mule.

Thus was the start of Miss Hill’s many years at Pine Mountain as a teacher of science, economics, history, and mathematics and at one time a housemother in Big Log. In the summers of 1949, 1950, and 1951, she furthered her studies by attending classes in child development and psychology, reading, audio-visual methods, nutrition, elementary school measurement and evaluation, art education, and language arts at Radford (VA) College and Eastern State College.

Although Hill was beset all her life by a sideways curve to her spine, possibly scoliosis, this condition did not prevent her from becoming a reliable, conscientious and tireless employee of the School. At one point, in 1942, she had to leave the School for a short period of time to recuperate from back pain. In a letter to Morris in early March, she reported that during a visit to Bradenton Beach, Florida, “I am feeling much better. I am taking treatments this week and will get two weeks of sunshine.” A week later, she wrote to Morris:

I am spending every possible minute in the sunshine. All the pain and soreness is gone from my back and my legs are working remarkably well these days…. Mr. Morris, I do want you to know that I appreciate everything you have done. I remember how you carried me all over creation and then gave me a chance to get away for a while.

Co-op Store, 1946. (left to right) Oma Jackson, Margaret Bleir, Don Freeman; Owen Lewis, Roy Crase, ____, Harold Cox, Ida Mae Lewis. [pmss_photo_coop-store_dodd_db.jpg]

The Cooperative Store Years 

From 1936 until 1949, In addition to Miss Hill’s other teaching assignments, she also taught courses in cooperation and managing cooperative stores. As described in the March 1953 issue of Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School,

During the administration of Glyn Morris she was in charge of selling school supplies and candy to the students. Mr. Morris suggested that [Miss Hill] develop this into a student-operated cooperative store. She replied that she wasn’t interested and knew nothing of cooperatives, but compelled by his enthusiasm she read books and articles, visited cooperatives, and invited Pine Mountain people active in the movement who could inform and inspire the children. In the thirteen years that the cooperative was in operation it developed into a basic part of the curriculum [for sophomore students]…. [All the classes] related to the responsibility of organizing the student-owned cooperative store….

Books on cooperatives have carried accounts of what was done at Pine Mountain. Also, in 1941 the Harmon Foundation filmed the story under the title, “Let’s Cooperate.” Miss Hill submitted an article to the May 1946 issue of Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School, describing the cooperative program’s beginnings, its ups and downs through the years since the Harmon Foundation filming, and finally the success of the cooperative program.

During the 1940s Miss Hill joined with an English teacher at PMSS, Vera R. Hackman, to write several articles and pamphlets about Cooperatives, including Experiences in Consumer Cooperation at Pine Mountain Settlement School, which could be ordered from the School. The editor of Consumers’ Cooperation, the official publication of the Consumers’ Cooperative Movement in the U. S. A., wrote of the booklet and the School’s work:

The chapters in the booklet describe cooperation in the store, cooperation in the classroom, spreading the cooperative idea, basic materials for cooperative study. We cannot refrain from moralizing to the effect that every child in every public and private school in America ought to have the opportunity of engaging in cooperative business activities as well as of studying, writing and speaking about cooperation in other school courses as the children who attend this Settlement School are having.

In 1944, Miss Hill was asked to write an article about the cooperative experience for the 1944 Pine Mountain Family Album, a booklet about PMSS students, staff, and community. Her narrative is transcribed here.

One of her students wrote this account of Miss Hill in the student newsletter, the Conifer, in 1948 


The worker I am going to write about is very understanding. Anytime we co-ops want to know anything, we feel free to ask her and she gives us the answers. During the tie of the rumors about the school’s closing, she would say, “If I were free to do so, I would tell you all I know, but we aren’t sure of anything yet.”

She is always kind and sweet. The minute she walks into the classroom I can tell whether she is in the mood for gaiety and laughter or if she is serious. I don’t believe anyone can tell a story as amusingly as she can. She makes her dullest classes interesting by being a cheerful friend to us instead of being a dull, strict teacher all of the time, as some of the teachers are whom I have had in my lifetime. 

She is reliable at all times. If she promises one of us something, we can depend on its being done. And I know she expects the same of us. Anytime you want to go into the Co-op Store on Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday, you will find her sitting at her little table, ready to greet you with a friendly smile. 

I guarantee that any Co-op who has ever had Miss Hill for a teacher will agree that she is the most understanding and patient teacher he has ever known. To be frank, I think she is a great woman, 

Lois Collins, Co-op. 


GLADYS HILL Director Staff Trustee

Gladys Hill. [pmss_photo_hill_gladys.jpg]

Miss Hill became a member of the PMSS Board of Trustees in 1949. Three years later, she died as the result of a heart attack in her sleep on March 26. Six former students acted as pallbearers, including Bill [Hayes] and Paul Hayes, Alonzo Turner, and Hayes Bunch. She was buried “under the cedar trees east of the new Laurel House and northeast of the old Laurel House,” a spot selected by Bill Hayes, farm manager for the School, and marked by a bronze plaque on a rough-hewn limestone boulder.

According to Glyn Morris, a PMSS director in the 1930s who flew in from New York State to conduct the service in the Chapel, Miss Hill was beloved for her “humor, her earnest work, and the achievements she made while a teacher.”

According to a tribute to her in the March 1953 issue of Notes From the Pine Mountain Settlement School,

Her period of service…longer than any other staff member including the founders…began under Miss Kath[e]rine Pettit…and encompassed every administrative era. Because of this unique experience and her rare memory and perception we have all of us enjoyed her wonderful tales of the past. …Miss Hill was born to teach. She had a personal, compassionate interest in all children [that] brought from them the best they were capable of.

Fred J. Burkhard, former PMSS worker and then editor and owner of The Casey County News (Liberty, KY) wrote an article to PMSS alumni describing Miss Hill’s life and her funeral which he had attended:

Pine Mountain was her home. She gave it everything she had, and it was more than most people knew. She never entered into campus politics, no matter who came or went. She had a job to do, and politics was not a part of it. She got along with all the students who were bright and who were poor and who could not learn fast…. She knew the whereabouts and the doings of all former students and workings of the people of the community. She worked through several administrations and got along with all of them. She was quite a woman.


Gladys Ranson Hill was the daughter of Dr. Julius Wesley Hill, a physician, and Nellie (Regenstein) Hill, who assisted in her husband’s private practice as a secretary. Miss Hill was born in approximately 1906 in West Virginia, her father’s home state. A year later her younger sister, Lucille Hill, was born. Her brother, Don W., was born in 1914. Her siblings, like her mother, were all born in Kentucky. As of 1920, the family was living in Sardis (Mason County), Kentucky, and by the time of Miss Hill’s move to PMSS in 1929, they were living in Richmond, Kentucky.

Gladys Hill (far left) at staff meeting in Director H.R.S Benjamin’s home (Zande House), late 1940s. (left to right) Gladys Hill, Arwillie Lewis, Fern Hayes, Ruth Smith, Margaret Motter, Mr. Benjamin, Mrs. Benjamin. [X_100_workers_2593_mod.jpg]

Mr. and Mrs. LaRue, Miss Hill, Miss Goodnow. October 1946. [nace_1_035a.jpg]


Title Gladys Hill
Alt. Title Gladys Ranson Hill
Creator Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY
Alt. Creator Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;
Subject Keyword Gladys Hill ; Gladys Ranson Hill ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; education ; teachers ; students ; Glyn Morris ; Fred J. Burkhard ; The Casey County News ; Julius W. Hill ; Nellie Hill ; Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College ; Eastern Kentucky University ; science ; mathematics ; English ; Cooperation ; Bill Hayes ; Paul Hayes ; Alonzo Turner ; Hayes Bunch ; Laurel House ; Big Log ; Harmon Foundation ; cooperative stores ; housemothers ; Notes From the Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Katherine Pettit ; Vera R. Hackman ; Consumers’ Cooperation ; PMSS Board of Trustees ; Chapel ; PMSS Alumni ; Pine Mountain, KY ; West Virginia ; Harlan County, KY ; Liberty, KY ; Richmond, KY ; New York, NY ; Fern Hayes ; Ruth Smith ; Margaret Motter ; Mr. and Mrs. H.R.S. Benjamin ; Zande House ;
Subject LCSH Hill, Gladys Ranson, — c. 1906 – March 26, 1952.
Educators — Biography.
Consumers’ Cooperatives — Kentucky — History.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Rural schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Date 2009-12-26
Publisher Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY
Contributor n/a
Type Text ; image ;
Format Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet
Source Series 9: Staff/Personnel ; Series 5: Administration – Board of Trustees ;
Language English
Relation Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 9: Staff/Personnel and Series 5: Administration – Board of Trustees.
Coverage Temporal c. 1906 -1952
Coverage Spatial Pine Mountain, KY ; West Virginia ; Harlan County, KY ; Liberty, KY ; Richmond, KY ; New York, NY ;
Rights Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Donor n/a
Description Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers created by or addressed to Gladys Ranson Hill ; clippings, photographs, publications by or about Gladys Ranson Hill
Acquisition n/d
Citation “[Identification of Item],” [Collection Name] [Series Number, if applicable]. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.
Processed By Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;
Last updated 2009-12-26 aae ; 2012-07-08 aae ; 2013-10-31 aae ; 2015-10-02 aae ;
Bibliography Sources

Annual Report to the PMSS Board of Trustees. Series 5: Administration – Board of Trustees. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. [no date]. Archival material.

Burkhard, Fred J. Letter to PMSS alumni dated April 10, 1952. Series 9: Staff/Personnel. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Archival material.

“Gladys Hill.” Notes From the Pine Mountain Settlement School, November 1946 and March 1953. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

“Gladys Hill.” PMSS Staff Directory. Series 9: Staff/Personnel. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (, Julius W Hill, Sardis, Mason, Kentucky, United States; citing sheet 5A, family 98, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,820,591. (Accessed 2015-10-07) Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 8 October 2015), Gladis (sic) Hill in household of Kathrine (sic) Pettit, District 4, Harlan, Kentucky, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 0024, sheet 16B, family 291, line 73, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 749; FHL microfilm 2,340,484.

Written By Gladys Hill

Hill, Gladys. “Pine Mountain’s Cooperative Group.” Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School. XIX.II (May 1946): 2 – 3. Internet resource.

Co-Written by Gladys Hill

Hill, Gladys, and Vera R. Hackman. “The Co-Op Idea: Pine Mountain High’s Course & Store.” The Clearing House. 18.6 (1944): 337-339. Print.

Hill, Gladys, and Vera R. Hackman. “Teaching Cooperation At Pine Mountain; Cooperation, the Core and the Method – An Enriched Program for the Tenth Grade.” Consumers’ Cooperation. XXVII (January – December 1941): 151-153. New York: The Cooperative League of U.S.A. Print. As of July 2012, an unedited OCR of the text is located at co41txt.txt. Internet resource.

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