Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Staff/Personnel
Series 05: Administration – Board of Trustees

CELIA CATHCART, Teacher, Fundraiser 1915, 1918 – 1919; Member, Board of Trustees & General Advisory Board

TAGS: Celia Cathcart ; Celia Sconce Cathcart ; Celia Cathcart Holton ; Caryl Holton; Katherine Pettit ;  teaching ; teachers ; education ; Caryl Ames Holton ; World War I ; fundraising ; Daughters of the American Revolution ; The Depression ; funeralizing ; PMSS Board of Trustees ; Pine Mountain road ; Road-Maker Magazine ; The Outlook ; The Highway Magazine ; William Cathcart Holton ;guns ; pistols;

Celia Cathcart

Celia Cathcart. [photo_cathcart_celia.jpg]

Celia Scone Cathcart was born on May 8, 1893, in Sidell, Illinois, the only child of William Gabriel (“WG”) Cathcart and Anna Sconce Cathcart. WG’s parents, John Marshall Cathcart and Sarah Alexander, had emigrated from County Tyrone, Ireland, to Illinois in the mid-1800s.

After attending grade school and high school in Sidell, Celia studied at Illinois Woman’s College (now the co-educational MacMurray College) in Jacksonville, Illinois. Celia studied for two years at MacMurray College before transferring to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. There she joined the Alpha Phi Sorority, earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa, a society that honors outstanding scholastic achievement, and graduated in 1915.

According to Pine Mountain Settlement School’s staff records, Celia performed volunteer work at Pine Mountain in 1915, possibly having been recruited by Miss Katherine Pettit, PMSS co-director at the time, on a visit to Northwestern. Celia’s son, William Cathcart Holton wrote about his mother in 1984, describing Celia’s PMSS experience as

…living in another world of poverty, illiteracy, transportation by mule and wagon, but enriched by working with a proud people with a rich heritage of self-sufficiency and strong religious faith.

Back in Illinois, on January 16, 1918, Celia married Caryl Ames Holton, also from Sidell. A University of Illinois graduate in civil engineering, Caryl was employed as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. World War I was raging in Europe at this time and, only a few months after the wedding, Caryl was sent to France with the U.S. Army Expeditionary Force to fight alongside British and French allied units against Imperial German forces. He was discharged from the Army in June 1919, seven months after the Armistice. 

Pine Mountain School records indicate that Celia returned to teach upper grades at the School from 1918 to 1919 while her husband was overseas during World War I. She also worked hard to raise funds needed for a road that would connect Pine Mountain school to the railroad. According to William Holton,

The lasting contribution which Mother made to Pine Mountain was that of raising funds to build a road over the mountain which would end the isolation of the little school. She went by train to a number of cities where she solicited wealthy individuals for contributions. She carried a 25-caliber pearl-handled automatic pistol for protection. According to Pine Mountain records, she and one other woman raised about $50,000. The road was started in the early 1920s but was not actually completed for over 10 years. And by our standards today, it was only a cleared path which could be negotiated by horse-drawn wagons. The path can still be seen.

In 1917, an article about Celia Cathcart’s fundraising for the road was printed, along with her picture, in Highway Magazine, titled “Wills, Ways and Women: Building the Pine Mountain Road” by B.G.M. The author referred to Celia as “one of those people who just take delight in doing things that folks say can’t be done” and named Celia as the “Missionary Extraordinary for the Pine Mountain Road.” The article described her fundraising strategy and skill:

The Pine Mountain Settlement School wants a road over the mountain, and Miss Celia Cathcart is at work proving to people of Kentucky and the whole region that it must and shall be built. It will be six miles long and the County Road Engineer has calculated its cost at $60,000. Since it is an inter-county seat road, half of the expense will be borne by the State; $5,000 will be donated by Harlan County, and the remaining $25,000 is Miss Cathcart’s little stint. At the rate she is going, it will not take a great while either. People go to road meetings, where she is to speak, in a spirit of indifference or criticism and return filled with a crusader’s zeal for the mountain road. The talks that she gives them certainly have the punch. Enthusiasm finds vent not only in applause and cheers but in the bestowal of good hard-earned dollars and supplies of every kind that can be of assistance to the enterprise.

Also in 1917, The Road-Maker magazine published Celia’s article, “Where the Trail Now Ends,” an “earnest appeal” for donations for “the paved way” and the Pine Mountain Settlement School. The editors of the magazine joined in her call for help by offering to provide contact information to readers who requested it.

Meanwhile, Celia’s father, William Gabriel Cathcart, had purchased a house and farm named “Rosedale” in London, Ohio, for Caryl and Celia. After Celia returned to Illinois from Kentucky in 1919, the couple moved to the Ohio property, with hopes of finding work and starting a family. Celia kept busy working for the Daughters of the American Revolution, Delphian Club, and the East High Street Club, and teaching a Rudora Sunday School class. She was active in the Republican Party and worked for the election of Judge Frances Allen to the Ohio Supreme Court. Although Ms. Allen was not elected, she would have been the first woman in such a position. William wrote the following about his mother’s life in London, Ohio:

Born to wealth, Mother had to cope with severely limited finances all her married life. Feeding and clothing three growing boys during the Depression years was difficult; little was left over for little luxuries.

After Celia left Pine Mountain Settlement School, she continued to support the School. As recorded in the Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine of 1920:

Celia Cathcart Holton, a DAR member, gave a talk at the meeting of the London, Ohio, chapter of the DAR, titled “At the End of the Trail,” about the lives and possibilities of the Southern mountain people.

She recorded her observations of a mountain funeral in an April 13, 1921 article, “A Funeralizing on Robber’s Creek,” [p.588-589] in The Outlook, a prestigious magazine of its day.* See also online FULL TEXT:  http://www.unz.org/Pub/)utlook-1921apr13?view=PDF

She also came back to Pine Mountain as a member of the PMSS Board of Trustees and served on the board until 1935.

Her son, William, described his mother’s character as follows:

Someone meeting Mother for the first time would be struck with her erect, proud appearance; with her short, man-styled hair (in a day when women wore their hair long). The impression would have been of a patrician…’lady’ who was confident of herself. She seemed gracious and a bit cool…The popular ‘sins of the flesh’ – smoking, drinking, playing cards – were intolerable to her.

She set high standards for herself and for her children. ‘Do your best’ was a frequent admonition — and the assumption was that your best would be just a little better than the best of others. She felt a keen obligation to help the unfortunate and needy.

Celia’s life was cut short by cancer in 1942, but her “spirit and vitality” was evident in all that she did, including her service to Pine Mountain Settlement School.


**Note:  Images were donated and annotated by the family of Celia Cathcart Holton (Julia Holton Todd).  She notes that the inclusion of the pistols is to document the comment in Celia’s letters

 “I don’t know how you are, but I have about reached the point where I should take my little pearl handled revolver to a dark corner and hold up the first passerby if I were sure he had $7,000.00 on his person!”[1]

  • [1] Letter from Celia to Miss deLong. June 1, 1917 [regarding raising funds for the Pine Mountain Road.]


CELIA CATHCART Correspondence I – Listings of published articles by and about Cathcart and letters in the possession of Julia Holton Todd, Celia’s granddaughter, dated 1916-1918. 
CELIA CATHCART Correspondence II
– Letters to Cathcart from PMSS Executive Staff, 1925-1926.

CELIA CATHCART  “A Funeralizing on Robber’s Creekby Celia Cathcart Holton. The Outlook, April 13, 1921.


“Biographical Notes: Celia Cathcart Holton” by William Cathcart Holton. An informal biography. Cathcart folder, (20 Feb 1984). Series 9: Staff/Personnel. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Archival material.

LADEN TRAIL or THE ROAD – Prospectus and History

See Also:

B.G.M., “Wills, Ways and Women: Building the Pine Mountain Road.” The Highway Magazine, vol. 8., no. 1, 1917, pp10-11.


Title Celia Cathcart

Alt. Title

Celia Sconce Cathcart

Alt. Title

Celia Cathcart Holton




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Celia Cathcart ; Celia Sconce Cathcart ; Celia Cathcart Holton ; William Gabriel Cathcart ; Anna Sconce Cathcart ; John Marshall Cathcart ; Sara Alexander ; County Tyrone, Ireland ; Sidell, IL ; Illinois Woman’s College ; MacMurray College ; Jacksonville, IL ; Northwestern University ; Evanston, IL ; Alpha Phi ; sororities ; Phi Beta Kappa ; Katherine Pettit ; William Cathcart Holton ; Caryl Ames Holton ; University of Illinois ; civil engineers ; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ; France ; U.S. Army Expeditionary Force ; U.S. Army ; teaching ; teachers ; education ; World War I ; fundraising ; Harlan County, KY ; London, OH ; roads ; Daughters of the American Revolution ; DAR Magazine ; Delphian Club ; East High Street Club ; Rudora Sunday School ; Republican Party ; Judge Frances Allen ; Ohio Supreme Court ; The Depression ; funeralizing ; PMSS Board of Trustees ; Pine Mountain road ; Road-Maker Magazine ; The Outlook ; The Highway Magazine ;

Subject LCSH

Cathcart Holton, Celia, — 1893 – 1942.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (KY) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History
Rural schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Schools — Appalachian Region.




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY


William Cathcart Holton, son.


Text ; image ;


Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet ;


Series 9: Biography – Staff/Personnel ; Series 5: Administration – Board of Trustees ; William Cathcart Holton.” An informal biography.” Cathcart folder, (20 Feb 1984).




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 9: Biography – Staff/Personnel, and Series 5: Administration – Board of Trustees

Coverage Temporal

1893 – 1942

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; County Tyrone, Ireland ; Sidell, IL ; Jacksonville, IL ; Evanston, IL ; France ; London, OH ; Harlan County, KY ;


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.




Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers created by or addressed to Celia Cathcart Holton ; clippings, photographs, publications by or about Celia Cathcart Holton ;




“[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

2010-01-04 aae ; 2013-10-28 aae ;



B.G.M. “Wills, Ways and Women: Building the Pine Mountain Road.” The Highway Magazine. 8 (June 1917). Print.

Genealogy records at http://web.me.com/jhtodd/HoltonFloyd/HoltonGeneral.html (accessed 29-December-2009). Internet Resource.

Holton, William Cathcart. “Celia Cathcart Holton.” Cathcart folder, (20 Feb 1984). Series 9: Staff/Personnel. An informal biography. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Archival material.

Scott, Frank William, ed. Semi-Centennial Alumni Record of the University of Illinois. University of Illinois: Champaign-Urbana, IL (1918). Print.

“State Conferences: Ohio.” Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine. 54 (1920): 533. Print.

Articles by Celia Cathcart

Cathcart, Celia. “A Funeralizing on Robber’s Creek.” in The Outlook by Francis Rufus Bellamy. New York, NY: The Outlook Company. 27 (1921): 588-9. Print.

Cathcart, Celia S. “Where the Trail Now Ends.” Road-Maker Magazine. 11 (July 1917): 12-15. Print.