STAPLETON REPORT – December 1932 and January 1933 “All you helpers of Santa Claus — East and West, North and South …”

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel
Series 14: Medical, Health & Hygiene
Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton
Line Fork Medical Settlement 1927 – 1947

STAPLETON REPORT – December 1932 and January 1933
“All you helpers of Santa Claus — East and West, North and South …”

TAGS: Dr. Ida S. Stapleton,Line Fork Medical Settlement,Christmas celebrations,Dr. Kenneth Gould,stories about people in the community,visitors to Line Fork,musical instruments,food preparation,Holiness meeting




For December 1932 and January 1933

Gilley P O Kentucky

Dear Friends:-

All you helpers of Santa Claus – East and West, North and South – are included.  Verily boxes came from Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida & Kentucky.  All were filled with Christmas joy & aided in making the season a glad one.  By the time we had sorted those “pretties” into suitable packages for sixty families, filled gay Christmas boxes with sweets and peanuts then wrapped tablets, pencils, pictures, handkerchiefs with some little toy or picture scrapbook for fifty-five children, we had a very lively feeling that we had indeed been in league with the dear old Saint.  We borrowed a costume from Pine Mt and one of the young men at Coyle Branch enjoyed helping in the distribution of the gifts and even pulled some from his overflowing pack.  At Bear Branch the teacher had assisted a few of the older pupils in putting on a little play called “Generosity” in which Santa had a part.  It was so very appropriate that all the people appreciated it.

It was satisfying to hear the children and older pupils who are not now in school sing the best beloved carols and Christmas songs with Mr Stapleton, the very tiny ones joining in the choruses and with gladness singing “May God bless all friends here.”

There was not the slightest disturbance.   Even the two sisters-in-law who “fit” each other a year ago sat opposite each other and if they had any thoughts of what they had done last year they were deeply buried and appeared to be forgotten.  One had her own first baby with her.  There were two tiny babies at Bear Branch Christmas tree.  But three more are promised for February. One arrived January 20th.  I had a special tree and treat, both small, for the ten children who come to our Sunday morning class at the Cabin. The exercises at the schools had been on Thursday and Friday mornings.  This latter was on the Sunday and took place at the Cabin.

We ourselves had a delightful Christmas Eve with radio programs finishing at midnight or later with the ever joyous Hallelujah Chorus.

Sunday afternoon a call came from Pine Mt from Dr [Kenneth] Gould for some assistance as the nurse was away on a short vacation and just in time to be called a Christmas Baby a little girl was born to a very young little mother.  She had been suffering for three days, all the neighbors suggesting this or that Grannie.  But little Alice said, “No Grannie for me.  I’ll go to the Infirmary”.  Indeed to get away from a solicitous mob of relatives and neighbors was a calming influence in itself.  During the two hours when even the doctors’ souls were tried, we were thankful for the resources of the hospital.  What could we have done in the inconvenient cabin hDeDome?  I stayed two days and nursed Margaret Juliette as she was named by mother Alice.  She had thought of Jule and I suggested Juliette as a really beautiful name.  Then she heard the name Margaret (that of one of the school girls who was taking care of the house) and added that.  As soon as Alice had her baby in her arms the following day she said “Now I have my baby let me go home”.  Dr Gould kept her five days then she seemed in very good condition to be carried the four miles on a stretcher which was loaded on a handcar and rolled down to her home at Big Laurel.

Every day or two someone visits the Cabin from Big Leatherwood hoping for some leftover Christmas joy and how happy they are to find that they too had been counted in.  The two Mallies, one the stepmother of the other who is just about her age and to five other younger children.  The other is mother to three of her own and a stepchild.  After playing some of the songs of the children on the organ, a little talk about the Christ Child demonstrated by a tiny crèche of kneeling wise men, adoring mother and Joseph with some tiny lambs and a cow near by.  The package which is given often has a much needed washrag with piece of soap as a reminder to keep the blessed children as clean as possible.  Tildy and her baby not yet six weeks with her mother-in-law walked the ten miles from Clover Fork both very untidy and very tired.  I’m afraid in this case my talk was much more about their condition than it was about the Christ Child except to urge them to do better for His sake.  The mother had brought six eggs and my question was “Why did you not swap them for some soap, a spool of thread and so come clean and mended to the Cabin?”  She never thought she could cut off some of her coat tail to mend some of the ugly holes.  You can imagine the subject of my talk.  It was not the first either so some severity was needed.  The next time they come they will at least be washed…

One day Neely came and she had to be reminded that she needed soap.  She began to wish she had sheets & c.  But I said sternly, “Neely it is not sheets that I am talking about.  It is your own skin.”  Well a week or two later she came for some left over milk but wouldn’t come in lest she would be scolded.  “I aim to clean up to-morrow for Christmas” she said.

A visit was made up the Fork to see Bett’s least one that had been puny for a day or two.  It was not possible to go the day they called me but promise for the morrow was made.  What was my delight upon arriving there to see the beds all made neatly with new cotton blanket covers of such bright colors.  Even the three-year-old mentioned it with delight.  The sick one was in the bed all washed clean with old and worn but clean garments.  Little Bonnie and Claude for once looked quite as clean as could be wished.  Baby had had a dose of oil and was quite himself.  Bett said “I guess I just got scared he was so dull and slept all the time”.

Mattie B and her daughter-in-law Bertha with her six months old baby walked from the head of Little Laurel.  The husband and father-in-law had just finished building a new little cabin.  “The old’un was just no kind of a place to live in no how.”  But she had stood hit for five years.  The baby was a gay little thing bouncing up & down in its mother’s arms.  The grandmother spoke to it “You be so briggity.  I guess you know you have some new shoes.”  That was the first time I had caught the word “Briggity”.

Mrs B from Beech Fork off from Big Leatherwood brought her daughter Mary to see me.  She had had spells of pain in her side for years, but now that she is married her husband “Farmer” wants something done about hit as hit keeps him awake at nights.  Susan R was on the way from Stony Fork to see the doctor also and the three came along together.  It was cold so we sat around the fire place and in my endeavor to find out the cause of these annoying pains we got to the subject of intestinal parasites and they told rather gruesome tales.  Mrs B had once given a treatment to her young’un and when the results were apparent the child ran screaming to the house, “ there was a great long snake and it took right after me”.  The mother said “and we never did like to get him pacified”.  Susan said “I reckon that’s what ails my least one.  I find a long thin white one in its hippins every time I take hit off”.  All this conversation gave me a subject for a talk and the story of what dirty hands, faces and feet do to children and grownups also if they are careless in washing.  Mothers often complain they are too tired to wash the young’uns at night.  My reply to this is given with vigor.  “I’d wash them before going to bed if I dropped in my tracks”.  At least they would then be clean in the morning.  Mrs B added “and your quilts would not get so dirty”.  Then came the question of food and how it should be chewed after being well baked etc, etc, until the place was reached where it was possible to say “If you don’t remember anything else of my talk remember to chew the bread by itself and not covered with flour gravy.”  The flour gravy is more or less of a custom.  The women think it is a necessary part of the meal tho’ at times it would not be eaten but would go into the slop for the hogs.  My question to them is “Why not just drink the milk?  When they have no milk it is made of water, grease and flour.

After an hour or two of such talk the worm medicine is given with careful instructions for its use for the two year old, the ten year old and the young woman.  Then Susan says my mother Louisa (usually called Blue Eyes) has smothering spells.  Can’t you send her something?  Mrs B chimes in with “My little girl Elva’s kidneys can’t be right her water is that white hit fairly makes a mark on the ground. “  At last they are gone and I start to get dinner.  It is a little late and two or three school children come up at noon perhaps to mail a letter as Mr S goes down to Gilley P O nearly every day and is always glad to accommodate; or to get books from the library so a few minutes are taken to choose appropriate ones for their ages and hustle them back to school.  Some very small girls have been asking for quilt pieces.  These are given along with the word to bring them back after getting a block pieced together so I can see how well they do it.  Their mothers cut them out and sometimes insist on the work being pulled out and more care taken or Mrs S won’t give you any more scraps.

Loretta is older and is making a log cabin pattern as you can use even the tiniest strings for that.  Her mother has a sewing machine.  Then there is talk about the worth whileness of hand work that can be done in making a quilt.  For she prefers to sew the pieces on the machine.

One day Jude came to see me and we were talking about quilts.  She mentioned she had seven tops but could never get any stuff “to set them up with”.  She had two already that could go together to make one top if she only had a lining.  Among Santa’s things there was a bat of cotton and a piece of print.  These went to Jude.  A neighbor said, “No telling how that pleased her”.  A couple of worn dresses when ripped apart made a back for one of Neely’s quilts.  Then Bert came to show me a block and to ask me to order her some print with the thirty-five cents coming to her for work she had done.  One of the young’uns had said when Mr S passed “I see Man Stapleton riding by on his nag”.  Another day he said “Woman Stapleton is going up the Fork”.

It was little Ruthie’s 6th birthday.  She was one of my first babies since coming down here.  Nancy Jane, her mother, told me with much pride that Ruthie had been keeping her little hen for the birthday dinner and that Sister Wright the preacher’s wife was making her a cake.  “She can make them better than I can”.  Nancy Jane was not well so I was visiting her occasionally and purposedly chose the birthday for one of the visits and altho they did not say exactly, I know that they expected me to stay to dinner.  Frank had just finished two dulcimers and was justly proud of his work.  The black walnut wood polishes so beautifully.  In place of some steel wire that marks the steps of the scale, he had used latch pine which he cut into half inch lengths.  The three strings of the dulcimer are also of wire.  A bit of wood holds down one string while another thin piece of wood or leather is gently moved across the strings.  Frank could play a few tunes but he reckoned his brother Hi could do better. (This we found to be untrue at a later testing.)  He said, “A dulcimer doesn’t make one enough noise to ache your head like a banjo would”.  The dulcimer is seldom seen in the cabins around here.  If they have any musical pieces it is a guitar or a banjo.  Some few of the better homes have organs which they seldom learn to play “to do no good” as they say.

The birthday morning was like a Spring day so I gathered up a few things to make the day distinguished from others by having Ruthie give something first to her mother and then to the other five children, one younger and four older than herself.  She came out to meet me as I rode up on Swallow and she was permitted to carry the package into the house.  As faces and hands were none too clean altho as Nancy Jane said “Frances has been awashing them” I insisted on a wet rag to do something special to Bobby’s face while Ruthie went to wash her own.  Some books on barn yard life for Bobby, an ABC book for Ruthie as well as a birthday dollie.  All were much appreciated.  When sister Wright arrived with her brood of seven boys and girls the room was full or seemed to be so when Frank and the three big sons came to dinner.  Sister Wright and Nancy Jane busied themselves with making dumplings and corn bread.  The little hen had been replaced by a young rooster which Nancy Jane was picking standing on the porch as I rode up. In the package were found some loose beads of various sizes and some odd buttons for the children to string so they gather round me.  Bobby the two and a half year old strung the buttons pricking his finger often but keeping at it until there was quite a long string.  Ruthie picked out the largest beads and jaubed the twisted string thru quite expertly.  Then Frances found a needle and picked out the more unusual ones.  Maxine and Velma the preacher’s daughters joined us and threaded the tiny ones so, soon, all the dolls were decorated.  One of the tiny linen books was about dolls and they were persuaded to adopt the names suggested there.  Ruthie chose Mary Springtime.  Frances had Betty Sun-shine, Velma took Violet and Sereaphine remained for the doll whose eyes had been punched by Boonie, the little brother younger than Frances.  About this time Frank came carrying a piggin he was making – a small wooden tub with a handle used for a salt dish and hangs on the wall over the kitchen table by its one handle.

The food was all on the table and I slipped in behind on the bench with Ruthie on one side and Boone on the other.  Alfred, Maxine and Velma filling up the bench.  On the other side was Sister Wright, brother Frank and three more children.  Nancy Jane was at the end where she could get to the stove easily and wait on the table, filling the dishes with dumplings, pouring coffee into cups (almost as brown as coffee with spoons likewise) for the elders, pouring milk for the children and waiting on Bobby and Bessie standing at the corner of the cluttered kitchen table.  All ate heartily while I sliced and served the cold boiled fresh ham that had been prepared the day before.  There were also boiled white potatoes and baked sweet’uns.  I always carry some extra paper handkerchiefs or napkins and make myself the official nose-wiper as none of the little children think of it or mothers either for that matter.  With so many it kept me busy tho I tried to do it unobtrusively.  Alfred who is his mother’s helper in the kitchen helped the bigger girls pick up and wash the dishes while Nancy Jane sat down with her knitting.  She had spun and dyed some wool for socks for the three youngest children and was on a second pair for the least one.  Sister Wright was sitting by the fire with her nursling which had been asleep on the bed.  We chatted and exchanged stories of adventure.  I started it and then they continued while the older children played out of doors a little or occupied themselves with the toys.  Ruthie brought her book for me to read.  She already knew her letters.  The school children sang a little song Mr S had taught them about the birdies in the tree.  Red, Snow-birds Blue and Black were their names and their colors.

It really was quite as mixed up a party as I write it.  They asked why “Robert” Mr S had not come.  And if he had gone he would have had to sit on the bed.  But it had not been clear that he was expected so he had just not gone.  We do go there together some times and the children love to hear “Robert” sing “Johnny Smoker” perhaps or Nancy Lee as well as some of the Gospel hymns.  We cannot follow the quaverings of their old tunes.

Oh, I must tell you how the women worshipped at the last meeting of the Holiness brethren.  They are calling each other brother and sister now and the sisters must have been told that they could honor God by taking down their hair and letting it hang loose during the preaching.  They had one service of feet washing also before their communion service at Christmas.  The scene of twenty five men and women kneeling in worship bawling their untied prayers in voices that are so loud they are heard a half mile distant and not any words distinguishable except in occasional moment when several stop to take breath and others continue would be ludicrous if you did not sense their utter seriousness and feel that they are striving to follow the teachings of Jesus as to loving their neighbors.

And now a Happy New Year to us all.

Sincerely yours

The Stapletons

Please forward to

Miss Ruth Miller, 320 Ash Str. Conway, Ark

Miss M M Foote, RFD #1 Corning, Iowa

Mrs Della Murray Banks,  1735 Beverley Blvd. Los Angeles Cal.

Miss Edith F Mack, 2119 Silver Street, Jacksonville Florida

Miss Margaret Motter, Frederick, Maryland

**Transcription by Gretchen Rasch

Notes:  Della Murray Banks [b. Dec. 3, 1864 d. Aug. 29, 1950] was an early adventurer who traveled to the Yukon region of Alaska in 1899 with her husband Austin Banks, and who documented her travels in letters and journals.  She hired on as cook for the Alaskan expedition and showed the same rugged spirit found in the Stapletons. The town of Homer, Alaska, was named by Mrs. Banks who was the first white woman to venture into the area. Her journals and letters are held by the Autry National Center, and, Braun Research Library, Los Angeles, CA.  Just how she is known by the Stapletons is not discovered.  Possibly she is related through a relative, Beatrice Murray, who was a teacher at PMSS in 1916?