STAPLETON REPORT 1930 Thanksgiving and Christmas on Line Fork

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff
Series 14: MEDICAL
Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton
Line Fork 1927–1947
Stapleton Report 1930
Thanksgiving and Christmas on Line Fork

STAPLETON REPORT 1930 Thanksgiving and Christmas on Line Fork

First cabin at Line Fork in snow. [kingman_056b]

STAPLETON REPORT 1930 Thanksgiving and Christmas on Line Fork

TAGS: Stapleton Report 1930, Thanksgiving and Christmas on Line Fork, Bear Branch School, Cornett Family, Dennis Boggs, teachers, Cornett Family, Smith Family, Lewises and Smiths, Christmas dinner, moonshine stills, community members, bootleggers, Doc Metcalf, Coyle Branch schoolhouse, Line Fork, Dr. Ida Stapleton, Dr. John Leonard Hill

TRANSCRIPTION: Stapleton Report 1930 Thanksgiving and Christmas on Line Fork


Dear Friends:-

You would have been interested in seeing the neighbors gathered at Bear Branch School for the Thanksgiving program and dinner. It was to begin at ten o’clock but some pupils were late, so to fill in the time I read the story from the Nov. Christian Herald about “Plenty and To Spare”. It suited us so well that Manon Cornett remarked that he would like to read that again. He had not attended previous Thanksgiving Days not even when we had had the community dinner two years ago. But this time nearly all of the Cornett family came, sons with their wives and children, brothers and their children, that is there are four brothers in this district and clustered around them at a distance of a quarter to half a mile are the sons and daughters with their little ones. It reminded one of the record of Noah when they begat sons and daughters.

Dennis Boggs the teacher is liked by everybody since he is well known having taught here before. He suggested the dinner this year making extra visits with Joe Sergent the teacher of the Coyle Branch school to invite the people to assist. Coyle Branch children came but not many of the parents.

There were a few of the Thanksgiving poems recited by the children, appropriate hymns and scripture. The very little children sang the welcome song “Dear parents” shyly but sweetly and then several other little songs.

We couldn’t have a big table but one was brought over from Bert’s house and the biggest Cabin-tablecloth covered that and the teacher’s desk. The women all brought their baskets and the food was displayed to that everyone could help himself after the children had been started with paper plates and a sandwich from my own homemade bread. There were plenty of biscuits, roasted sweet taters, chicken & turkey, beef & pork, canned beets, pickles, besides cakes. I also made some little turnover apple and raisin mince pies sweetened with sorghum molasses and drop cookies. They were real treats as I have not seen them in any home yet nor the sandwiches. The school seats were arranged around the sides of the room for the children to sit upon while they ate. But the adults stood around the table and ate until satisfied the children returning for second helpings when they wished. I hate to say what the school floor looked like but Loretta and Nancy Smith said they were going to sweep it up and make it look tidy for school by Monday morning.

Martha Ann took the occasion to invite us to the 51st birthday dinner for Manon for Saturday of the same week and we accepted with pleasure. With some pride Marthy Ann showed me a letter from their daughter Orphie who was sent to Berea by one of [the] first workers at the Cabin and now she is studying nursing in Cincinnati. The letter was beautifully written and was a credit to any girl. She is the only one of this family of eight who has gotten away from Line Fork except one who evaded justice by going to Canada for a few years. He returned and now lives in a tiny shack with a young wife – his younger brother, wife and two babies in part of that. Another brother in speaking of Orphie said he did not see how she could stay away from home so long.

This week three of Mary Smith’s sons returned from the “pen”. She called today and said she reckoned they would not go into the moonshining business again. But we know that she herself urges them to go it again soon after they get back. A son in law was out on parole but was taken up not three months after he reached home. It is born and bred in their bones.

The Lewises and Smiths make another family group about two miles from the Cornetts. Three of their men have been given five year sentences. Two brothers and their families are not on speaking terms because one accuses the other of having been the cause of the imprisonment of his nephew altho they say he is as guilty as the one now serving time in jail. He informed against the nephew to save his own neck. It is impossible to bring a man to justice unless he is caught at the still or with the goods on him.

We had Christmas dinner with Hen & Sara Jane. This is the fourth time we have been invited there. Last year we did not go but thought that we would make it an opportunity for fellowship at this time. The conversation returned again and again to the subject of stills. The husband of one daughter is one of the five year prisoners while a son and another son-in-law are out on suspended sentences and are obliged to report every month as to what they are doing. I have just sent the son-in-law to Louisville for medical treatment and am taking the young wife to the Cabin for her first baby-party shortly. Sara Jane rooms and boards the two teachers and would have to send them away if she waited on Mary. So Mary asked if she might come here. I am more than willing as I can do it such more conveniently here.

Another neighbor Mary Susan asked to come to the Cabin but when she tried to leave her home her sister Tildy who helps there caring for the four younger children threatened to leave. Moreover she declared she would not go in the night to the Cabin for the doctor. She would call Doc Metcalf and have him there which she did tho she had asked me to attend her and I had given her some advice that should have been helpful. However when I called four days after the party I found her alone with her two least ones. Tildy had gone to the store and the room was left uncared for. The soiled ragged old bedquilt left in a heap on the floor behind the bed. I found a broom and pulled out the beds one after the other. From under one bed a bushel basket of onions was removed to the chimney cupboard. A box of trash was removed to the other room and the soiled clothes were pitched into the yard back of the house. I offered to change the bed but she said there was no other sheet dry. I really think she had none. In this case it was pure shiftlessness as the house is a new one and the husband one of the most successful moonshiners and bootleggers as well as a fugitive from justice. He never sleeps in the house but has a bed in a little shack in the forest. At times he comes to the Cabin for medicines and books. He is the only man who reads much.

Emily’s baby also arrived but she went home and her father Doc Metcalf attended her. When we were at the dinner party Marthy and her mother-in-law said to me confidentially “Clarence never seems to get along like the other boys. We help him to food but Emily hasn’t any baby clothes and she is expecting its arrival any day. So I gathered from the Cabin stores a very modest little outfit and took it to Emily. Lily the other occupant of the cabin made a little Christmas gift for Emily’s first one. She, another daughter-in-law of Marthy Ann’s, was one of ten young women to make these gift-dresses for two year olds. I cut them out and made one as a sample as to how they would look when finished. Loretta and Nancy each made one and lost the neck and wrist finding so finished them with a contrasting material. But they finished them and little Arthur Christopher wore his to the Christmas Tree at Bear Branch school, living next door as they do.

Only two or three babies were brought but Mr S recited “Hung up the Baby’s Stocking”. A rubber dog or kitten was sent to each one. At Coyle Branch tree the six kittens for the least ones were all in one stocking and by some mistake of Santa’s or Mrs Santa the stocking got named for a little boy and he received the whole bag of kittens. Santa retrieved them later and they got to their proper owners. There was another mistake in the confusing of names – Aunt Jane and her granddaughter Mary Jane. There was a nice old soft black woolen veil for Aunt Jane and a purse for Mary Jane. The latter received both presents somehow while Aunt Jane’s lap was full of toys for her daughter’s (Dellie) babies they being yet too small to be taken to the tree. Mary Jane did not send the grandmother’s gift to her at once and she was unhappy about it and her daughter Nance brought it back to the Cabin to-day saying that Mary Jane would have given it to grandmaw herself if she had not made such a fuss about it. Now I discover that the two families have not been speaking to each other for over a year and both are baptized Christians. I shall have a prayer meeting with Grandmaw (Aunt Jane). She has visions. She brought a bucket of honey to the Christmas tree from her bachelor son Monroe in payment for the doctor’s services when Old Gran broke his scalp with a stick of stove wood. I wrote about this in a previous letter.

This was at the Coyle Branch schoolhouse. There are thirty-six children on the school roll who with their parents so filled the little school there was hardly room for Santa to get in and we had such a cunning Little Santa about three feet high able to stand alone in his little black boots. He came from an S S class in Louisville which sent us toys for the children of pre-school age while other friends helped us to give away to each child a tablet and pencil with some little gift wrapped up with it. Scripture text calendars were given to each of the forty seven families in the two districts. Then every woman had a wrapped gift sent by two or three friends who collect for Line Fork each year. Bless them! The oranges and raisins were eagerly accepted. There were enough for the pre-school children who were present.

The program emphasized the meaning of the Christmas symbols such as the tree, the wreaths, the candles, the bells and the songs told the story of Christianity to Paganism. During the candle song, the leader held a large candle and each child held one lighted from that of the teacher while they sang with Mr S “Jesus bids us shine”.

The law-abiding men of the district are always fearing some misdemeanor at public gatherings but nothing happened this time. One man had been noisy at Bear Branch on Tuesday and he had disturbed the meeting at Trace Branch farther down the Fork on the preceding Sunday. There was a warrant for his arrest which was served just before he entered the Coyle Branch school. That doubtless sobered him for the time being. His pals went his bail for a hundred dollars and he was free to appear in court later. The deputy sheriff a member of that school district was present and that helped matters.

Nearly every day someone calls at the Cabin and if they were not remembered at the tree there is some little remembrance ready to be given. Droosh came to visit yesterday from Leatherwood bare headed and was very glad for the little hat that had been sent for me to pass on. A picture of kittens went to her sister and a dress to her mother Hannah who is a widow with four grown children one of whom has a job. Lige her bachelor brother has a job also. He has been a help to them making his home with her. But he has lately married and is now living elsewhere.

Mary Smith did not get to go to the tree but when she stopped this morning she had a box of gifts to take to daughter Janey and her three little ones.

Yesterday there was a rather large snowstorm but Isabel and Mandy waded thru it to bring the milk and remained for an hour for the S S lesson. Then came three more and Mr S gave them the lesson suited to their years. After dinner came four more girls just in time for the sermon in the Church of the air by Dr Hill[i]. One returned a book and took another. Ethel came to see us on Saturday and brought a book and took a new one back with her. She asked for one to take to her brother. The two she brought back Monday having read the one she took for herself but her brother did not care for his so returned it. He wishes an Indian tale so he got this time The Deer Slayer.

Another visitor on Saturday was Delta Hall. We had just sat down to dinner. She had already eaten so waited till we were finished. I asked her if she wanted something and she said, “Yes the baby has the colic”. Oh I said is it Emily’s baby. No she said it is our baby born last Sunday. Oh another Christmas baby I enthuse. You must call her Noel. It’s a boy. Oh well Noel will do as well for a boy. I get the medicine and a gift for the new baby and promise myself to make a visit as soon as the snow goes down a little. The mother is Doc Metcalf’s sister-in-law.

And so the days go by. It sounds rather confusing but this is what “Neighboring” means at the Cabin on Line Fork.

[signed] Sincerely Yours

The Stapletons

Transcribed by Gretchen Rasch, May 2015

[i] Dr John Leonard Hill (1878-1964). A native Kentuckian, he was a Baptist leader, editor, professor at Georgetown University. His Sunday School lessons were broadcast on radio for more than 25 years.


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