Pine Mountain Settlement School
Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton
Line Fork 1927 – 1947
STAPLETON REPORT – April & May 1931
“You would have glorified in our wonderful tulips on the border on the East side …
LINE FORK SETTLEMENT APRIL & MAY 1931
You would have gloried in our wonderful tulips in the border on the East side of the Cabin as our neighbors did who came to Mother’s Day celebration yesterday. None of the neighbors have tulips in their garden so they were particularly admired. A blue vase held one of each color and the children learned the word GLORIOUS to describe them. A few giant pansies merited the same description.
The Sunday before I had had the children make little invitation cards to invite their mothers and they all came. Evelyn’s mother Sara Jane is grandmother to three other of the children present so two of the women were her daughters-in-law another her own daughter and one her sister-in-law; so with the exception of Alfred Hall it was a family party.
Sara Jane said she didn’t rightly know what Mother’s Day meant but she wanted to learn. Mr S sang a ballad – The Chair that Rocked us All. Susie thought her mother had had a rocking chair but Sara Jane knew her mother never had one nor had she. They joggled their babies by going backward and forward on a splint bottomed chair. Alfred, Isabel and Evelyn had some little part on the program while Mr S gave a little talk on what is meant to be a good mother.
While the children were occupied by the lesson about “He causes His wind to blow”, the mothers were chatting. Sara Jane said that Mary her daughter had just been so afraid to stay in the Crow’s Nest she had come home and Henry had gone to find him a job. It was not a week before he returned and by dint of much persuasion induced Mary to return. She wouldn’t take all her “house plunder” as she knew she could not stay there. Henry too has such an ornery habit of sulking and pouting she couldn’t put up with it. But Sara Jane wasn’t going to have it said that she had kept her at home yet she was welcome to come if she and Henry didn’t pulled (sic) together. I had suggested that Mary take care of Viola’s baby and get dinner so as to give her mother the chance to come. But both Viola and Belle brought their babies. In the evening I heard another sad tale. Lilly the daughter next younger than Mary had also come home with her “house plunder” – a chair borrowed from her mother and a few other things. Cilles had brutally struck her in the face and told her frankly he had never loved anyone like Bertha his first wife, who had left him some three years ago and gotten her another husband and child. Now she had left him or he had left her and she wants Cilles back. There is more to the sorry tale but Sara Jane had tried to prevent Lilly from marrying Cilles – too late, as she had never wanted to have Lilly go to Pine Mt School.
At the end of the lesson Isabel and Elsie were distinguished as waitresses by some pretty little head bands a friend had sent and they passed lemonade and cookies to the mothers and children. It was so wet I couldn’t take the party up under the spreading dog-wood tree so we had it in the house.
We did have a picnic dinner under that Dogwood Tree on Friday when some visitors from Konnarock School, Smyth County, Virginia came over from Pine Mt to visit us. One was a nurse who does much the same kind of work that I do. One of the midwives of their district being their washerwoman she had opportunities to teach her some of the rules of sanitation. (She had a certain pair of scissors that had been boiled three hours when she first got them three years ago and they had not been boiled since.)
For three weeks I’ve been occupied with three new babies and their mothers , at Gilley post office and near by neighbors. Mellie the post-mistress had had a serious confinement some years ago so took the precaution to call Dr Fields of Cumberland but asked my assistance also. Along about eleven o’clock her husband started for Cumberland on the mule and on the way invited his two sisters and two cousins to attend the party. It seemed to me that two would be quite sufficient but Mellie said she wanted them all. Henry thought he could get a taxi to bring the doctor but found the water in the Fork too deep for a car and Dr Fields had to ride the mule while Henry walked. We knew that four AM would be the earliest he could arrive. In the meantime Alta, across the creek, began to have her party. Harrison came to the post office and said they just must have me right away. Aunt Jane was so scared about Alta, I had to urge their patience and had Harrison get Swallow saddled so that I could leave the moment Dr F arrived. Henry had taken Swallow’s saddle and Harrison found another that did not fit her. When I was half way up the hill it began to turn over. I hung on to Swallow’s mane to ease myself to the ground. Quite unhurt I jumped up seized my bag leaving Harrison to care for Swallow and the saddle while I climbed the rest of the way to the house. Alta was a good sport and said she had not blamed me at all for not leaving Mellie tho she reckoned she was about to die. However in about two hours a fine baby girl was born and at nine o’clock Dr F had brought a boy to Mellie. He is an old friend of Line Fork and of many other Forks and Branches. When he was leaving, he asked Mellie when she wanted him to bring her another boy. I came back to the Cabin for a little rest then “took the night” with Mellie as she was rather feeble. The next morning before returning home I visited both patients other than Mellie. Her two daughters were a great help but Alta had to depend on Harrison’s help altogether for washing and care of the two little boys. During the ten days attending Alta I had a chance to demonstrate the care of the children especially in the use of soap and water. Thanks to friends I could give the soap. Now Harrison has a job and Alta has one also – keeping the little boys inside the palings.
One day while I was there, little Milburn slipped away down the hill to where Swallow was tied and where some little cousins were waiting to present the Dr with a “flower-pot”. His grandmother tried to get him back but he would not come so I said, “Let him stay until I go down”. He was determined not to go back so was hiding in a fence corner. Little Lena said “We tried to stir him”. I bribed him with a pretty card to show his “Maw”. He started on the run. The “flower-pot” was a flour poke that had been turned in and filled with “fearns” and violets. As it was impossible to carry it on the mare I asked Grace who was presenting it to carry it up to Alta.
One other day little Lena brought a bunch of violets to the fence where I was mounting Swallow and said, “Take them flowers and put ‘em on the Christmas tree”. Her mother Sary was telling me that she goes round singing “May God Bless” – “that song Old Man Stapleton teached at Christmas time”. She has a daughter Gladys only thirteen who did the washing and cooking for the family of eight while her mother was down. Bradley the father stayed away from his work four days and helped but he had to get back as soon as possible to keep the bread basket supplied. When returning from the other side of the mountain he found a patch of bear lettuce and picked a bucketful in no time. It was better in taste than garden lettuce said Sary. Aunt Jane too had labored to get a mess of thistle greens for old Gran. He said he worked all day and she didn’t do nothing but wait on her grandchildren. Monroe the contrary bachelor son who lives with them is not fond of his many nephews and nieces so often speaks his mind. Aunt Jane said he told her he wished she had all Line Fork children hanging to her skirts she liked them so well.
Gladys had the wash tub supported on a turned down chair – too low and very awkward. I urged “Brad” to make a stand of stones of which there are plenty about and little boys could help him. He left early the next day so I wouldn’t pester him about not having done it. But he knew where there was a log that he could get sometime. He had been careless about the house roofing. One night when he was home it poured and there was hardly a dry spot in the house. He had to hold a pail over Sary’s bed to keep it from wetting her. Now he really will get some roofing. He did not believe it was so bad as Sary had complained.
Janey the postmaster’s sister is quite a wag always making fun of some kind or other. She told me that Kelly her little boy informed his little brother that Mr S stayed up thar in the woods making them babies and Mrs S packed them around to mothers. She asked him if she should ask me to bring them one. He reckoned they could get along without ery another as he has two younger brothers. She doubtless put the words in Kelly’s mouth.
Nancy Jane wrote the Doctor a note. She has a wretched pain in her side but Frank is planning a log-rolling on the coming Saturday and she a sewing. Won’t we come and assist. It happens we had planned to go to May Day Festival that day so I chose an afternoon before, took my scissors, thimble and thread and went prepared to do a bit of sewing even tho it was not the day. In fact I would rather join the family when it is alone. Nancy Jane was at the sewing machine and had a garment started for Frances. I took the bloomers and a waist of not very well bleached flour poke. “The colors will come out with repeated washings” said Nancy and “it would be better had it been ironed”. However there was no fire to heat the irons so I smoothed out the wrinkles as well as I could, attached it to the bloomers, made buttonholes and sewed on buttons, put in the boilfast elastic tape, overcasted the seams and so finished it. While Nancy was finishing the dress I offered to mend a tear in Arnie’s new shirt. It was good stout cloth but Arnie is always rough on his clothes. He had a sore throat too. At the same time the nursling ten months old was crawling around his mother’s chair wetting on the floor and wiping it up on his very soiled dress. He was stripped that morning says Nancy but it never occurred to her to mop up the puddle before the baby got in to it. Finally he teased to be nursed and after he is satisfied Frances takes him out for a while but soon came back tired with him and placed him on the floor. She went off with Boonie and Ruth to feed the chickens and buried a dead hen that had hung itself in the wire fence. Alfred had been out picking a mess of greens – wild mustard, thistle and dandylion. He had stopped and gathered some violets which he presented with a blush. Nancy told me many stories of her relatives and I commented as I had opportunity.
She had been reading Proverbs since her eyes are better than they were. She was convinced that Proverbs speak truly about a fool and somebody was exactly it. Frank said it was useless to get the law on ‘em as that sort of people would set your house on fire. Frances returned and took up baby to put him to sleep. I could not resist saying, “you won’t put him to bed in that wet dirty dress. Well I’ll see if his skirt is dry.” It was, so he was changed. But I feared had I not interposed poor baby would have been well wrapped up in that wet dress.
Ruthie snuggled up to me for a bit telling me that the pet pig got into the soiled clothes that Nancy had left when she came to get dinner and ripped up several pieces. Ruthie was so angry she cried and threw stones at the pig. She had asked her mother if Mrs Stape would make her a new dress. At five o’clock I called it an afternoon and started to go. Frances and Ruth had picked me a little nosegay of violets and anemones while Boonie offered me a bunch of lilacs. The next day Alfred came to borrow a big kettle in which to boil the turkey for the log-rolling and brot with him a large bunch of pie-plant [rhubarb]. “I could have all I want as they do not like it.”
One day we got our neighbor’s nag Bess and went over the hills and far away – up the mountain from Line Fork and over the ridge to Jake’s Creek. It was fairly early. Hi and Sary had gone to work in the field. Belvie and Deltie were caring for the children. None of them had been “stripped” meaning washed up. Even the tiny baby was dirty from rubbing against their dirty clothes and they all must have gone to bed dirty. I know they can appear quite neat and tidy. They just don’t think it worth while to clean up unless they are going somewhere.
At the head of the creek Bryant and Hannah were making garden but came to the porch to chat for a half hour. Hannah was regretting her feebleness. She wasn’t able to stir about as she used to do. Her daughter Liza Jane who lives near by had to come and milk for her. Two weeks later I saw her piling brush and stones in the new ground while Bryant was plowing. A fire had destroyed about 500 yards of fence and they had had a working to replace it. We loaned the Cabin crosscut saw and Finley took it to cut logs to be split into rails. Some log heaps were yet burning. A very steep climb brot us to the top of the ridge along which we rode until we came to a faint trail that leads down to Mrs Griffis’ place. She and Mary welcomed us most heartily. Norman was asleep but his maw reckoned he would wake up when Mr S sang. He did and got right up. So accustomed was he to his “chew of baccer” he must have it before he could talk. His 44th birthday had been a few days before when Mrs G had a good fat hen to cook for the occasion. But the night before it was stolen along with another leaving only four speckled hens. She was about in despair about losing her chickens and pigs to the dishonest neighbor who runs a still yet is so cunning and secretive he has not been caught at either the bootlegging or the thieving. She was so eager to show us what she and Mary had done to clean up the orchard. She herself had plowed it and together with Mary had piled tons of rock.
Some old timer had been there and had taught Norman two verses of an old hymn. Mrs G had learned it also and sang it with him. After two or three of his favorites and as many from Mr Stapleton Norman said he must finish his nap. So he went back to bed. Mrs G put us on our way. She wanted some papers for pasting on the rough walls. Also she had been promised some sweet corn for seed. So I went again last week taking these things as well as some soap which I saw was very much needed. A certain Martha came to the cabin and had dinner with us that day. She was going to paste the papers for Mrs G who had been out hunting the cow and was quite tuckered out. This Martha and her man Green are cropping for Mrs G. Mary was plowing the small lot for the sweet taters. They had swapped the mare for a pony which is more manageable for both Mary and her grandmother. When I left I was obliged to take six eggs or hurt her feelings. This is the most pitiable family I visit and yet they are happier than some others. Most of the crops are planted and the very steep fields tho small are well cultivated.
**Transcription by Gretchen Rasch.