STAPLETON REPORT – August 1930 “The summer has been unusually hot and dry …”

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton
Line Fork 1927 – 1947
“The summer has been unusually hot and dry …”



Gilly P O

August ‘30

Dear friends:-

The summer has been unusually hot and dry – yet nothing like it has been in the Blue Grass region and other places.  Most of the people have enough to eat, yet there are many pitiable cases of widows and children who haven’t even a garden patch but who search the woods for medical roots that are bought at the local store for a mere pittance.  Old Sally who calls me Doc with a great appearance of affection came over from Clover Fork ten miles away with her sick daughter-in-law and said, “I tell you Doc I tried my best and only got eighty cents worth in two weeks.”  Her daughter Judy just can’t do anything “she is so puny” but mind her three year old baby boy.  The three live in a little stable near her son’s hut.  She did live in a mean shack farther up the fork near another son but they had quarrelled so she moved her bed and what few belongings they had down to Arch’s on his mule.  Judy did come herself a few days before as the baby had a swelling on his jaw – he had mashed it by running against a snag.  It was rash of her to come as she fainted away twice before she got back home.  But both she and the baby got better.  I had given her some quilt pieces and she had quite a presentable quilt lining it with grain sacks she had opened up and washed in the Branch.  Cindy the other daughter whose husband had been arrested for desertion of his family has her husband with her again as he is out on bond to support her and their children.  He must have found some work as she has not been to the Cabin for help for some time.  The children were all sick with anemia so we kept them on cod liver oil besides the corn meal for some months.

Another “poor” from Clover Fork came also.  Tildy and her sister Hattie who tho but sixteen never “had her health”.  Tildy had such a threadbare dress on I asked her if she had no other.  She said yes, but it is worse than this one.  Fortunately I had two dresses to pass on for Hattie was quite as shabby.  Both were barefooted and had walked ten miles.  Tildy is expecting her second baby in a month.  I had taken her some baby things for which she was very grateful.  She just wanted to see the doctor to see if she was all right.  She had such a bad cough could I give her anything to relieve it.  This I was able to do.  But since she and her husband were young I just couldn’t give her the poke of meal for which she had taken me to one side to beg in a whisper.  I know her husband doesn’t try much for a job but just hangs round his father’s place where they live sharing what the father gets for he has some corn growing, a garden and a coal bank.

One Sunday there came a “pore” looking individual in blue glasses, clean but worn overalls held up by a cord around his waist.  Would he come in and join the Bible class then in session.  After the lesson he explained he had come to ask the doctor to go to Beech Fork to see his wife who had been “sick in the bed” three months.  They had had a doctor from Cornettsville but they had to pay him eight dollars for such a visit.  This had been paid by the relatives clubbing together but they could not do it again.  He – “Kin” was her second husband and had married her to be taken care of himself.  As he had no one he had undertaken to work for her and her eight children.  Now there were four more.  “She was all worn out. Old age” he reckoned.   With great faith the doctor is trying to make over that poor woman – suffering from nervous exhaustion.  Since she had already been given divers medicines I am trying to build up her health by means of a fruit and milk diet.  The first three days was to clean out and clean up then three days of blackberry juice – the children picked the berries tho it was getting toward the end of the season for them, then came three days of only apples after which tomatoes were added and milk.  Then I made another visit and really found a little brighter eyes, tho nothing but skin and bones otherwise.  The patient was lying on a cot at the side of the lumber shack in which they live protected a bit by the sun by an old patchwork quilt.  Such a mess of people around – her mother and two sisters who had come to see the doctor on their own account, three half-grown daughters who did the work and wait on their mother.  Five younger children – shy enough to keep their distance – a married daughter with her, her plump attractive baby, a married son’s fifteen year old wife with her tiny baby and one or two other neighbors.

I fairly had to shoo them out of the room when attending the sick one.  Her mother remarked, “she is the peartest on her feet of any one to be so skinny I ever seed.”  I tried to give them a little spiritual food along with the cod liver oil that was added to the treatment, reciting the 23rd Psalm followed by a prayer for them all.  They are so simple in their vocabulary that even when they can read they can’t understand the simplest lesson leaf we might hand them to read.  But almost none of this group can read at all. “Kin” short for McKinley has a steady  job with the lumber company working on the railroad track at a dollar a day but only working five days a week.  Out of his wages he must pay two dollars a month for his shack, two dollars for his coal the company provides and two dollars for the doctor of the camp who will not attend the family.  How the twelve live on that possible fourteen dollars a month, who can tell?  But they just do.

Hattie C has just returned from St Joseph’s Infirmary in Louisville where she has been for an operation.  She was much improved and full of praises for the kind treatment of nurses, sisters and doctors.  She had been ailing for a year and was quite discouraged.  Her mother is the mid-wife on Leatherwood.  Aunt Polly as she is called.  She told me she had been helping her neighbor[s] in that way for seventeen years, having one hundred and sixty-one babies to her credit only four of which had been lost in the borning or were born dead.  She was just home from her last case to which a doctor had been called and she said, “He killed the baby with his forceps but I reckon he saved the mother’s life.”  She had raised her own large family and now has a little orphan grandson to care for also.  She means to send him away to school when he is big enough, meaning an orphans-home where he will be well cared for.  Nearby lives one of her sons whose wife came to the fence as I passed and entreated me to do something for her as she had a bad digestion and none of the doctor’s medicines ever helped her except as she was taking them so I must needs explain to her a diet and gave her a promise to see her again when I go over there this time next week to see Mrs “Kin”.

At another house I am told of a little seven year old double niece – a child and a sister and husband’s brother living with old grandparents who are willing to give her up to a good home; will I not try to find a place for her?  So I pass along with greetings from other houses and won’t I stop by and rest awhile?

Neely brings her four “young-uns” up Sunday morning all freshly “stripped” and fairly well scrubbed.  Myrtle had run a sliver into the sole of her foot and that had to be dug out and the place treated.  Denny had been sick a few days.  One day Mary, one of the four came to the Cabin saying, “Mammy wants you tofind a diaper for Denny.  He’s got the “diree” and she wants some sody too.”  We sing “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” and learn a little prayer then I try to tell them the story of a good mother and how her children must trust her.  Mary pipes up and says “Myrtle just lays me out.”

Monday was quite a day at home.  Widow Mary Ann and little Elsie came to ask for a poke of meal.  Her daughter Dessie was working but she had to buy herself a pair of shoes.  They day after she bought them a girl about her size ran off with them and she had to work another week for a second pair; even tho her mother and four brothers and sisters had no bread.  She wanted some thread to tie a quilt she had been piecing having lined it with good bits of old overalls.  Her old mother needed some stockings and would send me a chicken she had long since promised, could I send her a pair.

Florence came from over the ridge behind the Cabin and she said if she could get some clothes for Carlos and Hansel they could stay with their grandparents and go to school.  She also and the little ones needed some clothes so I drew on the stores and helped her out for a while.  Her husband is in prison and is also likely to stay there as he killed a neighbor in a drunken fight.  So when released from this sentence he has to face that charge.

Some little time later Hannah came.  She hadn’t been here since the Cabin was rebuilt so I needs must show her round.  She remembers all the other workers who lived in the former cabin.  She needed some quilt pieces and would like to hear some songs on the organ.  Her son Edgar had been arrested with a companion Holcomb for disturbing the peace when drunk.  The sheriff had taken his gun and was holding Holcomb by the wrist.  He asked to be let loose and this being refused he drew his knife and at once slashed the officer across the abdomen.  It was dark but before he fell the officer shot off his pistols.  Holcomb escaped only to be taken later at his home with a battered shoulder received when he fell or from the shots.  It is now said that the sheriff will recover but for two days it was thought that he would die as a result of the wound.  Edgar did not get away as the second officer held him and he even aided in caring for the wounded officer.  He will be held nine days for drunkenness and then as a witness in the case of the stabbing.  Hannah is a long time widow also, having barely scratched a living for her four children.

Johnny came also to see if Mr S would help him by getting a keg of blasting powder which he needed in getting coal from his coal bank.  The loan is to be returned in coal later.

Another day Pearly came from her home over the ridge with young Nancy who had slipped off from home to go to Pine Mt school.  I talked with her parents about it and her mother was willing but I did not expect her to come before school began the latter part of this month.  However she seemed so eager to work we decided to take her on to Pine Mt the next day to see Mr Hadley.  He also was prepossessed in her favor and made a place for her altho some others had been refused.  The next day she asked to go home and when it was suggested how it would be impossible to let her go alone she said she would write for her things to be sent to her.  She then told Miss Gaines at Laurel House that Mr Hadley had said she could go and left for home.

Alas for our hopes.  Poor girl, she does not realize what an opportunity she is missing.  In spite of her likely appearance the truth is not in her, and so we have our disappointments.

Over on Turkey Fork we visited a family of five children, all above eight years who have never been to school, always too far away.  The mother knew how to read yet had never taught her children.  They had lived in the same place for twenty-seven years and have quite a sizeable apple orchard.

Over the ridge and down a very steep trail we came to another farm.  Six boys and “nary a girl” till Buddy got married.  He had been at the Cabin some time ago.  For his medicine and advice the doctor had asked him to get twenty-five cents.  He now hastened to assure me that he had never used the medicine or advice except to stop using so much “baccar” thus inferring since he had not used any he need not pay the quarter.  His mother tho insisted on getting us some dinner.  I wouldn’t let her fry us any potatoes insisting that a glass of buttermilk would be quite enough but on the table we found corn bread, beans and applesauce.  Mr S sang some songs for the boys after which I read from John’s Gospel and then we had a hymn and prayer.  As soon as I began to read the two big boys left the porch but returned before we finished the services.  Such barren lives: How we do wish to be able to show them the satisfaction and joy of a Jesus who could be such a friend to them as He is to us.

Sincerely yours