Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Staff/Personnel
Series 12: Farm


Oscar Kneller Correspondence consists of images of Kneller’s business letters and personal letters between Kneller and Glyn Morris, Director of Pine Mountain Settlement School, written from 1932 to 1936.

Kneller worked as dairyman, farmer and teacher of agriculture at PMSS from 1931 to 1934. His time at the School was cut short due to a dynamite explosion that nearly blinded him. His letters detail his struggle to come to terms with the accident and with the resulting unemployment. As these letters indicate, Morris and Kneller exchanged advice and discussed PMSS issues. Morris came to Kneller’s assistance in several instances, particularly with a plea to postpone an outstanding debt and in helping him to find another job.

See also: OSCAR KNELLER Biography

TAGS: Oscar Kneller Correspondence ; Glyn Morris ; Wilkes Barre, PA ; farming ; disability ; personal injury ; Educational Aid Society of the Evangelical Church ; agricultural training ; religious training ; rural culture ; insurance payments ;

GALLERY – Oscar Kneller Correspondence

TRANSCRIPTION – Oscar Kneller Correspondence

[NOTE: The text has been slightly edited in transcription.]

[kneller_o_bio_001.jpg] Carbon copy of typewritten letter.

August 5, 1932

The Ross Cutter & Silo Co.
Springfield, Ohio

Relative to our requirements we cannot be entirely certain, as we are erecting a silo for the first time, and there are no silos in this vicinity. We will be feeding twelve to fifteen cows for a period of at least seven months without pasture plus a supplementing of pasture for a month or more. We hope to reduce the amount of hay feeding to a very minimum, as hay is very costly, being shipped in.

Our own estimate of our requirement is as follows: Upward of 40 ton of ensilage in a silo of about 10 feet in diameter. we have had under consideration a wood silo 10×36.

We would like your estimate and quotation on the metal silo.
Yours truly,

[kneller_o_bio_002.jpg] Carbon copy of typewritten letter.

August 10, 1932

The James Manufacturing co.
Elmira, N.Y.

Dear Sirs:
Would you please send us a price list of your barn equipment? We are interested particularly in the drinking cups.

Thank you.
Very truly yours,

[kneller_o_bio_003.jpg] Carbon copy of typewritten letter.

August 9, 1932

Virginia Seed Service
Richmond, Va.

Dear Sirs:
Will you please send us your catalogue of seeds. Thank you for your kindness.
Very truly yours,

[kneller_o_bio_004.jpg] Carbon copy of typewritten letter.

April 20, 1932

Dear Oscar:
Numerous complaints have come to me about your tardiness at meals. I cannot make an exception of you, so I shall appreciate it if you will be on time (underlined) for all meals from now on.
Sincerely yours,

[kneller_o_bio_005.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 1 of 5.

[Letterhead] O. KNELLER
PINE MOUNTAIN, KY. [crossed out]

Morning, Feb. 23 [notation: “1935”]

Dear Glyn–
I am here anchored in a snow-locked port. Thanks to the cabin’s walls I am comfortable and can view or listen to the raving elements with content.

Boy, you should see and hear. A fierce wind is driving a fast-falling snow, which one can tell is fast-falling only when the wind is lulled. For the wind is throwing that which fell last night up to meet the oncoming. About a foot fell last night. (Over about four inches of old snow). It is dry, for it…
[Page] 1

[kneller_o_bio_006.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 2 of 5.

…has been cold while it has been falling. won’t we have some lovely drifts.

Everyone is well here. The farming business is good enough to be encouraging. last year was a fairly profitable one, and things are well-ordered for this season’s work.

To go back to my trip for a moment. It was a delightful one, so much so that it is too bad to have to stop.

I stopped with your folks for a day — Wednesday afternoon to Thursday afternoon. It was good to see them and to be entertained so nicely. Your mother seemed only slightly less than…

[kneller_o_bio_007.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 3 of 5.

…normally healthy. She said that she wasn’t quite so strong as before but that she was gaining. She is still able to exert a motherly influence on Jack, who isn’t going to work till he get over the effects of La Grippe.

Dad brought the car and Mother and Eleanor to meet me at Wyalusing [PA], 8:00 P.M. Thursday and here I am. You don’t know all that that means, but it doesn’t matter.

The very first thing now is to get a piano. Have you heard of one? If not, what would you advise in the light of this; I find on looking in at used pianos…
[Page] 3

[kneller_o_bio_008.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 4 of 5.

…thru different places in Wilkes-Barre that I could get a pretty good one in an old fashioned case for about $45, or in a rather modern case for $60. In all cases they would be conditioned, tuned and loaded on a truck. The transporting won’t cost me more than $10 — maybe I can get it for $5. Neighborhood storekeeper runs a truck with farm produce into Wilkes Barre.

Well that is the possibility I see, in case I don’t do better. I don’t want to pay $75 or even $50. So if you can get one for nothing, except freight which would be $15-20 from Cincinnati, I would be glad, but not to…

[kneller_o_bio_009.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 5 of 5.

…wait long.

About the radio, I shall let you know in a couple days. They didn’t have any battery sets in Wilkes-Barre. They have them in Dushore and I shall see them as soon as I can get into that town. When I have seen what I can do there, I shall very likely ask you to have a Kadet sent to me.

Well, I hope this drift of cloud’s down doesn’t bed you under.

Best wishes to you and Gladys [Mrs. Morris] and your wards.
[Page] 5

[kneller_o_bio_010.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 1 of 2.

[Letterhead] O. KNELLER

[Notation diagonally across top half of page: “This isn’t a carbon copy, exactly. The other, in my sister’s handwriting, is in a little better business form. A combination of business form and nonsense, I should say, and not so clever as it might…”]

Dushore, Pa
Feb 26 [?]
[Notation: “1935”]Rev. G.C. Gabriel
43 First Ave.
Red Lion, Pa.

Dear Sir:
Of the matter you mention in the letter I have just received I have been very painfully aware lately. I had hoped to be paying on that debt at this time. My hopes have fallen. A serious accident in November of last year quite disabled me financially, while unfitting me for any occupation at the present or in the near future. I am just now recovering eyesight, and its restoration to a permanent state will require four or five months still.

There are a few facts in regards to my career since graduation from Albright College which I wish to call…
[Page] 1


[kneller_o_bio_011.jpg] Handwritten [by Oscar’s sister] letter, page 3 of 3. [PAGES 1-2 ARE MISSING?]

…the work as useful as that which could be done on a foreign mission field. The policy of the school is socially religious throughout. Though my work was mainly in the industrial line, I had frequent opportunities of expressing my religious ideas.

I am asking the Director of the school, the Reverend Glyn A. Morris, to write to you a letter, to commend to you the work and recommend as he may, my part in it. For I continued the work there, having been placed on the staff of salaried workers the spring following my going there, until the accident of which I have spoken.

My earnings at Pine Mountain had gone to paying debts other than that to the Church. Ones which were interest bearing. I had just succeeded in erasing those, and was thinking hopefully of soon paying that to the Society. Unfortunately, I cannot without contracting others.

If it seems necessary to the work of the Society, I shall borrow elsewhere to pay the bond.

Kindly let me know if you wish this.
Faithfully yours,
[Page] 3

[kneller_o_bio_012.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 1 of 2.

[Letterhead] O. KNELLER

Feb. 26 [Notation: 1935]

Dear Glyn —
It had to come out, the matter of that debt had to come out, and I must answer as cleverly as I can. In doing it I am taking liberty with the offer you made in regards to it. maybe it seems unwise to do it this way but it appealed to me, and I know you can do it in such a way as not to cheapen yourself; for myself I don’t care a great deal. If the plot goes over, fine; if it doesn’t, what the hell!

If they don’t let me pay them without interest, if they refuse me consideration, I shall have a reason to make them sick, and will I!

[kneller_o_bio_013.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 2 of 2.

I am sending you the letter which I got and the one I am sending. Use them carefully.

There is little further news of me. I am at my sister’s near Wysox, near Towanda. She and May and Eddie are keeping a nice home, are prospering and happy.

It is a beautifully wintry day. Snow lies eight inches deep. the wind blows cold. The temperature was 10 [degrees] an hour ago.

Hoping we can satisfy the old soul-hunters.

[kneller_o_bio_014.jpg] Carbon copy of typewritten letter.

Mr. Oscar Kneller,

Dear Oscar:
I wrote to Brother Gabriel this morning, and am returning to you the letter which he wrote.

Now regarding the piano, I have written to Miss Bolles and she has located one, but since hearing from her she has had to go to the hospital, so that the matter is at a stand still. I also have Dr. Paul Heath in Washington looking for one. I am sure that there are any number of pianos which we can find, if you can just be a little patient. We need not spend any $50.00. Miss [Evelyn K.] Wells thinks there are many pianos among sellers — music stores, etc., all of which they would be glad to give away. Dr. Newman is also on the lookout for one in Plainfield, N.J. Just wait a little while and I shall follow up all these people at once. I have just returned from my trip to New York, and am busy as you may know. As soon as I hear anything definite I will write you — but don’t you do anything until you hear from me.

Please keep me advised, will you, about your eyes. It seems they must be coming along, from your writing.

The clouds are hanging low today, but we are not down yet.


[kneller_o_bio_015.jpg] Carbon copy of typewritten letter, page 1 of 2.

March 11, 1935

Rev. G.C. Gabriel,
Treasurer Educational Aid Society,
Central Penna. Conference, Evangelical Church,
St. Paul’s Evangelical Church,
54 First Avenue, Red Lion, Pa.

Dear Mr. Gabriel:
A few weeks ago Mr. Oscar Kneller, who was a classmate of mine at Albright College, and who has been working with me here for the past four years, spoke to me about his indebtedness to the Educational Aid Society of the Evangelical Church. This was occasioned by a long discussion we were having about his capacity for earning money, which was greatly impaired by a very serious accident to his eyesight. Mr. Kneller was deeply concerned about his obligations, and the difficulty he would have in meeting them.

While I realize that an obligation is an obligation, I feel very strongly that the facts of this case would attenuate at least for the present, his obligation to the church. Mr. Kneller tried to secure a position with a church, if I remember rightly, some time around 1930, but because there was no vacancy he was obliged to look elsewhere. All during his student days he desired to be an agricultural missionary, so that when I took up my duties as Director of the Pine Mountain school in 1931, I sent for him at once, feeling that this was the ideal place for him to use not only his agricultural training, but his social and religious training as well. He came at once, and for a time worked on our staff as a volunteer worker. Later he became the head farmer. In passing, I might say that this school is similar to the one conducted by the Evangelical Church at Red Bird, and that while the school is not under the direct supervision of any church it is decidedly Christian in character.

I understand that the loan secured from the Educational Society is specifically for the training of men who are going into the active ministry. However, since Mr. Kneller could not secure a position, and since he took the next best thing, for which, no doubt, he was better suited, I feel that you know these facts about his case. Unfortunately we have no form of compensation here, so that Mr. Kneller has been forced to discontinue his work without any provision, at least for the immediate present. May I respectfully urge you to be as lenient as possible with him regarding his obligation?

[kneller_o_bio_016.jpg] Carbon copy of typewritten letter, page 2 of 2.

I recall with a great deal of pleasure the occasion when I, as a member of the Red and White Quartet, sang in your church some years ago.

Sincerely yours,
Glyn Morris

Dictated by Mr. Morris
but signed in his absence

[kneller_o_bio_017.jpg] Carbon copy of typewritten letter.

March 28, 1935

Mr. Oscar Kneller

Dear Oscar:
I have received a card from one Miss Sweeney who asks me to report on the 500 Gettsberg [Gettysburg?] Battlefield Black Walnut seeds which she sent us in 1932. You will recall my giving you this sack of walnuts, and perhaps you can recall what was done with them. Will you give as detailed as possible a report so that I can write this party.

I was glad to get your letter recently, and to know that things are looking better with you. I was happy to hear about your visit to Towanda.

As soon as I hear something about the piano, I will write you a longer letter. Unfortunately, Miss Bolles is now in the hospital. I am still waiting to hear from Dr. Heath in Wilkes-Barre, and the Newmans are waiting to hear from Plainfield.

Drop me a line soon.
As ever,

[kneller_o_bio_018.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 1 of 3.

April 2

Dear Glyn —
It distresses me that I can’t give you a good story on those walnut seeds, for I can guess how important it is to you. But theft doesn’t make a good story and other details make the story worse.

Relation[?] of time and events isn’t very clear to me, but it seems that if the seeds were sent in ’32, they must have been sent in fall or winter. It seems that it was in January or February of ’33 that they were turned over to me.
[Page] 1

[kneller_o_bio_019.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 2 of 3.

Do you recall that I brought the literature which came with the nuts to you and asked you what about it. It was a “suggested ceremonial” for the tree planting day with horn-blowing, flay-waving, song-singing, Boy Scouts and all. When I brought it to you [it] was a few days before Washington[‘s] Birthday I know. I told you at the time that I would like to plant them but I didn’t know where, that I might put them around the edge of the pasture field, but each one would have to be fenced in. You had no suggestions.

Nothing was done about them except to put them away in the tool house. I…

[kneller_o_bio_020.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 3 of 3.

…guarded them, for I had hopes, when one planting season was past, of planting them the next. But when I first went into the back room of the tool house after getting back to Pine Mountain in December of that year I found the empty sack and a few shells. Evidently a few had been eaten there and the rest pocketed. Vacation had begun two days before and that was reason for doing nothing about it.

That is the story as best I can give it. I know it will be no help. Perhaps you can figure out something. Use my name any way it occurs to you.

I am hard at work now. I left the team standing to come and write this. I must hurry back.
As ever,
[Page] 3

[kneller_o_bio_021.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 1 of 5.

Wednesday Night
August 14 [Notation: “1935”]

Dear Glyn —
I am sorry to be so slow in answering your request, but there is time for little of anything except work here and I have my special difficulties. Long hours, terrific heat, and hay dust, in particular, have made the past month a rather painful time to me. Intense weariness is the consequence of each day’s work, even of Sundays for to Sunday is relegated all that I wanted to do about the gardens and they hold a big place in my interest at present.

I have decided, finally, as I have many times already, that this must be done, however briefly and poorly. I realize that I am not enough of a psychologist to analyze this subject you are inquiring on as it should be analyzed. Yet I have been observing deficiencies in the human product of rural situations and have unconsciously and thoughtfully associated these to elements in those situations. I…

[kneller_o_bio_022.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 2 of 5.

…shall offer you my interpretations and surmises.

Rural folk have their peculiarities, whatever the reasons or significance. [Notation: asterisk in red] First, is their heritage in the soil. Most [Notation in red: “mt”] farmers are the children of farmers through generations. Backwardness and a clinging to tradition is a consequence. The backwardness is a generally accepted fact. Few farmers have advanced knowledge, even in their own field, and so are slow to see the advantages of varying or new methods. Farmers are poorly paid and poverty is the lot of many. Undue devotion to industry is the lot of many more. Cause and effect in many relations [are] the lack of social intercourse among rural folk. Some significant results are unwillingness to cooperate, — witness the paucity of “cooperatives” and of rural community centers — lack of social activities, lack of social forms, unreasoned antipathies or blind following of various leaders or movements, also lack of pride in personal appearance and in beautiful surrounding[s], in varying degrees.

These things have significance in the character of the homes, of the…

[kneller_o_bio_023.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 3 of 5.

…parents, of the community life.

In the absence of free social intercourse the [Notation: red asterisk] child is too severely dominated by the home. Until he reaches school age he may be quite without associates of his own age. It is not likely that there will not be other children in the family, but others living under the same domination will hardly meet his necessity for mental growth and relief from the impact of his elders. When he goes to school he is spared from the home for a few hours, five days a week for seven, eight, or nine months of the year. Usually he must begin at an early age to take part in the work at home, working with his parents often at work too heavy or exacting, without respect until he can do it like a man (an exaggeration, — too often painted [?] — ) but what does it matter if the parents praise or criticize, the thing is, what does the child feel, does he find a favorable comparison of his own work with that of others, some consolation for his efforts. A child should not work alone, nor should he strain himself to match the efforts of his father.

Given the narrow selfishness…
[Page] 3


[kneller_o_bio_024.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 5 of 5.

…association of these deficiencies with elements in the rural situation I shall leave to you.

Do make some specific suggestions as to what to do for the rural child: find out, first of all, his home situation, his treatment there, and what are his duties and his individual amusements; find out his likes and dislikes, — by a questionnaire followed by an individual conference, perhaps — determine his interests and aptitudes, give him work which suits him; do not compel him to work alone at duties; show appreciation, if possible, of his home, his people, and the work they are engaged in; encourage him, by means which do not point him out, to take part in social activities; mark the stages in his growth and intensify the treatment.

I have great hopes for the [Guidance] institute and the contact with Dr. Hatcher. I wish that I could meet her.

I must be getting off to bed. My eyes are over-tired.
Best of luck,

P.S. Don’t put ‘College” [?] into my address. That takes a letter a long way around and might possibly side-track it. A letter without the R.R.[?] #1 sometimes takes the devious route.

[kneller_o_bio_025.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 1 of 2.

Thursday Morning
August 29 [Notation: 1935]

Dear Glyn —
A matter of some interest to me personally came to light last week, the matter of disability provision of my life insurance policy, a matter lost sight of because of its being subject to the heading of “permanent disability” — but disability is presumed to be permanent if obtaining for a period longer than ninety days, with benefits to begin after ninety days. I think I may be able to take advantage of the provision. That will be a help.

I mention the matter to you at this time, since I fear that it is too late to get in touch with Dr. Newman directly. I must know where to locate him as soon as possible. Perhaps, he will not have any records of my case with him now. It may be enough to know the dates: Nov. 14, when I was hurt; Feb. 16 when I left Pine Mountain; Nov. 15-25 at Harlan Hospital.

[kneller_o_bio_026.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 2 of 2.

I have been attempting to help in the farm work, but it has done me no good. If I can secure benefits from that policy, I shall quit irritating myself and put my energy into repairing myself.

I hope the [Guidance] institute will prove a big success. I would be greatly interested in what is said and done.

It is mail time. Let me know about Dr. Newman.

[kneller_o_bio_027.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 1 of 3.

Wednesday Afternoon
Sept. 25 [Notation: 1935]

Dear Glyn —
I just received my check from the insurance company. The amount is $145, in full payment to the first of October, enough to pay all my debts, except that old one which you know, and give me about $15. That is something of a relief. I can’t say I ever worried about my debts, but it gives me a feeling of liberation to think that I can erase a section of them.

I shall receive $20 a month until I am able to work. I think that will be enough to buy my luxuries and I shan’t have any necessities. This is the way I figure: A trip to New York on one month’s pay; a trip to Kentucky on two. Well, maybe, life will be more exciting now.

I have been hearing of innovations at Pine Mountain. I am greatly interested. But I wonder if the spirit of immobility isn’t…
[Page] 1

[kneller_o_bio_028.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 2 of 3.

…greatly distressed — maybe I should have said “spirits,” and, maybe, I should have mentioned names — but are you enjoying the cooperation of neighbors?; and are the students “satisfied?” I certainly hope so, for such a step as the new program, in particular, deserves no obstacles. Here’s luck, old man.

We are having the most beautiful weather here, cloudless generally, crisp mornings followed by hot sunshine. No frost has reached us yet, but we have seen it in the valley. Maple trees are showing patches of blaze. We have had an installment of October until to-day, but now a south wind is singing, “rain.” The sky is still cloudless, but the humidity has raised. A nice rain would warm us considerably. We are about to suffer a water shortage; if the wind changes too soon, we shall be in for it — and water-hauling for this place is no mean job. A good two-day rain would be lovely weather, too.

[kneller_o_bio_029.jpg] Handwritten letter, page 3 of 3.

They started silo-filling here yesterday. I think that they have just now finished with one of the tubs — for the present — when they have filled the others they will go back to the first and go over them all again, replacing what has “disappeared.”

You asked me what I thought of the doctor’s taking courses at Biblical. Biblical? I have forgotten how the label read. and after all our words of contempt! Well, I hope Frank enjoys his exegesis. That’s all that is necessary, since he has nothing to lose or gain.

Enough is enough Write when you can.
[Page] 3

[kneller_o_bio_030.jpg] Carbon copy of typewritten letter.

October 4, 1935

Dear Oscar:
I was happy to have your cheerful letter of September 25th. I am glad that you are realizing on your insurance.

Just let me add a word of warning — don’t overdo it! Of course I realize that on twenty dollars you can’t buy much of New York City, but “smoke” is only a nickel a glass, I understand, and well, you know you really can buy a lot for twenty dollars, so again I say — take it easy.

I won’t tell you about the innovations at Pine Mountain, since you have probably heard in a more detailed way than I can tell you now. On the surface things have not changed much, but certainly in spirit things are looking upward, I would say. Since a lot of educated people cannot quite understand the philosophy of working with individuals, it is useless to expect that our less informed neighbors are going to understand, and agree, and why add to our burdens?
As ever

[kneller_o_bio_031.jpg] Carbon copy of typewritten letter.

December 19, 1936
Mr. Oscar Kneller,

Dear Mr. Kneller:

I was glad to have your letter of December 15th, and hasten to tell you that I will be glad to answer any questions regarding you and your ability. I hope you will be able to land a position as dairyman in a school for boys. let me know, will you, how things turn out?

Tomorrow morning we go home for the holidays. We have had a delightful time this past week. Everyone is supremely happy.

I am glad you heard the girls [Octet] on the air. They certainly put on a good show.

Write me again soon. Glad [Mrs. Gladys Morris] joins with me in sending you our best.

Dictated by Mr. Morris
but signed in his absence

See also: OSCAR KNELLER Biography