Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Students, Staff
Series 19: STUDENTS
Fern Hall Hayes (1916-2012)


Fern Hall (Hayes), 1916-2012. [IMAG0116-e1603665978157.jpg]


Student 1933, 1935 – 1938
Office Assistant 1934 – 1937
Housemother at Far House 1940 – 1941

Secretary to Directors Morris, Benjamin, Rogers, 1937 – c. 1953

TAGS: Fern Hall Hayes, PMSS students, PMSS staff, Eula Fern Hall, Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain KY, Harlan County KY, secretaries, Pine Mountain Settlement School Girl’s Octet, ballads, dancing, Glyn Morris, William Hayes, Flora Patsy Hall, Enoch Hall, Jr., housemothers, Perry County KY, Viper KY, Practice House, Country Cottage, Burton Rogers, Mary Rogers, Steven Hayes, Helen Hayes, Philip Hayes

Fern Hall applied to Pine Mountain Settlement School when she was fifteen years old in 1932. She was the oldest of four children of Enoch C. Hall, Sr. and Myrtle Brashear Hall. The four children, Eula Fern Hall, Flora Patsy Hall, Enoch C. Hall, Jr. and Mary Susan Hall, span two decades. The first three children attended Pine Mountain. The third sibling attended local schools in Perry County and later attended Berea College.

FERN HALL HAYES: Hall Family in Viper, Kentucky

Fern, the oldest, was born in Viper, Kentucky, on October 27, 1916. Viper was a small village at the conjunction of Mason’s Creek and the North Fork of the Kentucky River and was the home of the Halls until the mid-1960s. The small community was a crossroads for much of the railway traffic coming into and out of Perry County and connecting to Hazard, the largest town in the county. Just up the river from Viper were the two settlements of Fisty and Rowdy and not far away was the town of Hell-Fer-Sartin. In the other direction, as if planned to balance the damnation, was the small settlement of Kingdom Come. Eastern Kentucky is a land of colorful names and many speak to its turbulent history and to the whimsical humor of the people who settled there. Viper, however, probably took its name from the non-venomous snake, the viper, reportedly found in the area.

Fern’s father, Enoch Combs Hall, Sr., was the son of Eli Hall whose home was in Viper at the head of Masons Creek. Eli was the son of an early surveyor, Philip Whisman, or commonly, “P.W.” Hall, who had deep pioneer roots in the area. P.W. Hall, the surveyor, thrived on land speculation and at one time owned many tracts of land in Perry County. Most everyone in the Viper community was either related or could trace to some common pioneer history in the region. Common names in the area are Combs, Brashear, Whitaker, Woods, Engle, Campbell, and more. Most families in the area were either subsistence farmers or worked at logging or mining or had small mercantile stores. 

Enoch C. Hall, Sr., kept a barber shop and a mercantile store in Viper with his cousin Corbet Hall and managed well until the Great Depression which caused a collapse of many economic enterprises. During the difficult years of economic downturn, many families in the area saw little change in their living standards, but those connected to a trade or to a dependency on financial transactions had considerable difficulty. During the Depression years, many students found a bargain at Pine Mountain School. It was a life-line to an education that seemed far removed by the events of the Great Depression. At Pine Mountain students found an education that would have been impossible under the economic circumstances of the day.

When Fern was growing up, the main economic base of her Viper community and of many other communities in the area, was logging and transport of resources such as lumber and coal. Logging was an occupation Fern’s father engaged in during his younger days. Both the Brashear family and the Hall family had come into the mountains when farmland began to be exhausted and the forests stripped of their valuable timber along the Eastern seaboard. But, the mountains of Appalachia still had large forests and shallow coal seams. These natural resources promised great wealth to those who could acquire land.

Logging near Viper, Ky. Enoch C, Hall, Sr. is at the center between two oxen. [hall_family_new-26.jpg]

Philip Whisman Hall, whose family came from the New River area of southwest Virginia, was a surveyor, but he was also a land speculator. As one of the first settlers in the region, he acquired large tracts of land and like many speculators, he also lost large tracts of land. Ultimately, he settled in the area and his large family married into other migrating pioneer families. His homestead was located at the mouth of the right fork of Mason’s Creek in Viper, Kentucky.

 PMSS Students from Perry County

During the 1930s there were many students at Pine Mountain School who came from Perry County which, like many of the surrounding counties had a dramatic downturn in logging, mining and mercantile trade during the Depression years. Many of the students were relatives of the extended Hall family or came from families nearby the Viper railroad hub. These children included the Ritchies, Combs, McIntyres, and others. May Ritchie had been one of the first from the Viper area to attend Pine Mountain. The oldest of the Ritchie children, she had gone to Pine Mountain in the 1920s and upon graduation had married one of the staff members, the Belgian, Leon Deschamps. She and other sisters and brother who followed her spread the word regarding the educational benefits of the Settlement School and Pine Mountain had many Perry County students.

 Combs Family

Fern’s family roots are also linked to the Combs family whose origins were on Troublesome Creek which runs through Perry, Knott, and Breathitt counties. Many of these families were familiar with the work of Hindman Settlement School located on the headwaters of Troublesome. Hindman was Katherine Pettit‘s first settlement school and a model for many of the programs at Pine Mountain. Communication was not difficult in the mountains.


 Brashear Grandparents

Fern’s grandmother, Mary Jane, was from the Woods family who came from an area known as Thousand Sticks. Fern’s grandfather, William Brashear, or “Frosty Bill” as he was often called, lived in a more remote area of Perry County. It was a home that Fern visited many times and where she spent many summers as a child. The Brashears [de Brashear] were early settlers and had a large progeny. They were French Huguenots who came to Virginia in 1634, moved to Maryland and then continued to move westward as the family expanded. The William Brashear family settled near Viper on Bear Branch and maintained a pioneer lifestyle for most of their lives. Their two-story log cabin was solid and rustic. The family, descended from one of the earliest Jamestown immigrants, Benoit de Breshear, followed the agrarian lifestyle of the Brashears, but in Kentucky joined the ranks of the so-called, “subsistence farmers,” but with a particular specialty. “Frosty” Brashear, was well known for his corn liquor, a skill that brought him a good income but also brought his sons to the attention of the prohibitionists and “revenuers” in the 1930s and 1940s whe they were given a choice of jail or WWI. They chose WWI. “Frosty” (for his head of blond-white hair) was a first cousin of Uncle William Creech, who donated land for Pine Mountain Settlement School.

In the mid-1940s Arthur Dodd, the Principal at Pine Mountain made a visit to the Brashear home hoping to recruit members of the Reynolds family. Gertrude Brashear, sister of Myrtle Brashear, who married a Reynolds, was living with the elderly Brashears at the time. Gertrude Brashear Reynolds, as the youngest daughter, was the designated caregiver to the elderly parents. While on this student recruitment journey Arthur Dodd photographed the elderly William and Mary Jane Woods Brashear (photo below). The Reynolds children, Rex, Harold, Doug and Bonnie were all successfully recruited to Pine Mountain Settlement School where they all graduated and all later all went to college —- most to Berea College.


“Grandparents of several Pine Mountain students. The gentleman is a first cousin of Uncle William Creech.”[VI_51_friends_neighbors_1690.jpg]

FERN HALL: Pine Mountain Settlement School

Fern’s rich Appalachian family legacy brought her and others to the attention Pine Mountain’s development staff who selected children who, in the view of the School, could benefit from the boarding school experience and who could shine light on the cultural heritage of the Appalachian region for the School. Many of the selected students showed talents in some significant cultural area, but their talents were also well matched to the programming of the School that allowed for either industrial training or for a standard educational or college preparation program. Fern’s deep Appalachian heritage of folk ballads and stories and that of many of her classmates were used to promote both the mission of the School and to seek out additional students … as well as appeal to donors.

One example of a promotional event for the School was an invitation for Fern to accompany PMSS Board member, Fanny Gratz, to Philadelphia on a fund-raising trip. In Philadelphia, Fern was to give a small speech about the School to an audience at Independence Hall. The audience was a national meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution [D.A.R.], a women’s heritage association that was vigorously supported by the School’s founder Katherine Pettit and many of her associates, particularly Fanny Gratz, a Lexington, Kentucky, family friend. The D.A.R. also gave generously to the Settlement School.

In later years Fern complained that “her” speech was changed many times by Gratz and that the Gratz version was then edited by Director Glyn Morris and then re-edited by Gratz. It was truly a tug of war and, unfortunately, a copy of the speech was not recorded, as it was surely a record of the push-pull visions many had for the School. But, it is for sure that it was not Fern’s speech. Late in life she lamented that she was merely the “voice.” She had no problem finding her own voice in later years — and used it.

The Musical Heritage of the Ritchies and Halls

Abby Ritchie, daughter of Eli Hall was Fern’s aunt. She was mother to what became known later as the “Singing Family of the Cumberlands.” The Ritchie family of Viper who lived nearby had sent many of their children to Pine Mountain Settlement and others to Hindman Settlement. Jean Ritchie, the youngest of the Ritchie children, found her own voice early in life. She studied in the Perry County public school system and then on to college at the University of Kentucky. She became the most famous member of the family and was a nationally-known folk-singer, folklorist, and writer whose clear voice continues to inspire American folk music and musicians who have interests in Appalachian music, particularly its balladry. A musical heritage ran deep in both the Ritchie and Hall family histories.

When students were asked to answer an autobiographical questionnaire for entrance to Pine Mountain School, one of the queries of students was: What musical instruments do you have in the home. Fern answered, “We have these musical instruments: Piano, radio, guitar, banjo, phonograph, and violin.” In the mountains, that “violin” was known as a fiddle. To the question, “When I have time of my own these are the things I like to do:” Fern replied: “Spend my time with music…” She had a special talent for many instruments including guitar, piano, banjo, ukulele. At Pine Mountain, she added another stringed instrument, the cello, to her list. The many native talents of students at the School were not missed by Glyn Morris, the Director, who quickly tapped her and seven of her talented classmates to form the Pine Mountain Girls’ Octet. The Octet became a touring promotional group for the School, particularly during 1936-1938.

pmss_octet0001_mod ; FERN HALL HAYES Student Staff

PMSS Octet, c. 1937. Fern is seated at center, first on the left. Other members from left to right are Georgia Ayers (Dodd), Lucille Christian, Nan Milan, Ruth Christian, Lela Christian, Ruby Ayers, and seated, Joan Ayers. [pmss_octet0001_mod.jpg]

Three of the Octet members at the 1981 Homecoming: "Lela Christian Meador, Georgia Ayers Dodd, Fern Hall Hayes." [1981_pmss_alum_min_009.jpg]

Three of the Octet members at the 1981 Homecoming: “Lela Christian Meador, Georgia Ayers Dodd, Fern Hall Hayes.” [1981_pmss_alum_min_009.jpg]

FERN HALL HAYES: After PMSS Graduation

In her last year of schooling at Pine Mountain, it was recommended that Fern apply to Berea College or a similar school. She was given catalogs for Berea, Maryville (Tennessee) College, and Kentucky State University (University of Kentucky). But by 1938 she was in love with the farmer at the School, William Hayes, and she had also been hired by the School to do secretarial work for the Director. She was then encouraged to continue her study of shorthand and secretarial skills at Strayer Business College, then a leading secretarial college (now Strayer University) in Washington D.C., and to return to Pine Mountain as secretary to the Director and as a housemother.

In June of 1941 she married the School’s farmer, William Hayes and continued as secretary to the Director, Glyn Morris until the arrival of her first child, Steven Hayes. She then settled in for a long stay at Pine Mountain, as a mother, and off and on, as Secretary to several Directors.

By 1942 Fern and Bill Hayes had two children, Steven, born in 1941, and Helen in 1942. A third child, Philip, was born at Pine Mountain in 1952. Fern continued in her secretarial duties for Director Glyn Morris but as her family grew she reduced her time and shared secretarial duties with a number of other staff.

However, she maintained some secretarial duties through five Directors, continuing to provide administrative assistance for Director Burton Rogers‘ office even after she and Bill had departed the campus in 1953. In that year Bill took a position with the Kentucky Division of Forestry office located at Putney, just eight miles across the mountain from the School. Fern managed the office for the Division and acted as Dispatcher during fire season.

The farm at Pine Mountain had failed to thrive during the growing industrialization of farming in the 1940s and the growing regulation of farming produce. The ensuing economic changes further eroded Pine Mountain’s role as a model farm and farming gradually became gardening. Further, the dearth of available farm labor after the close of Pine Mountain’s boarding school sealed the fate of Pine Mountains long farming history.

At Putney Fern’s responsibility for the office of the Forestry Station kept her secretarial skills active and when Bill moved from the Division of Forestry to the Federal Park Service, and eventually to the Department of the Interior, Division of Surface Mine Reclamation, Fern worked for various State agencies. They included the Department of Natural Resources in Stanton, Kentucky, and eventually full circle back to Viper, Kentucky, where she worked for the Director of the new Hazard Community College and later for the Kentucky Department of Social Welfare in Hazard, Kentucky, as secretary to the Director.

FERN HALL: Return to Viper, 1977

The move to Viper in 1977 was a return home for Fern. The couple settled on land near where she was born, land that had belonged to her family since the time of the surveyor, P.W. Hall. The house at Viper, built by Bill, was on the steep field where Fern’s mother had milked her cow for many years. The home she and Bill built was a reconstruction of three pioneer cabins gathered from the region. It was surrounded by a complex native garden and a series of vegetable terraces and fruit trees.

The home stood until the late 1990s when the house and much of the property fell victim to a Kentucky Department of Transportation “taking” in order to rebuild 2.7 miles of “dangerous” road. In that 2.7 miles some 50 other families were displaced and a way of life along that short stretch of the Kentucky River changed forever. The road guaranteed that coal trucks would no longer have to negotiate a narrow stretch of road, and the owners of “coal rights” could get to their impounded coal seams without the challenge of private right of ways. But the busy traffic of coal trucks slowly decreased as the coal industry began its long slide downward. “Taking” comes in many forms in Eastern Kentucky — Broad Form Deeds for coal rights and imminent domain for political gain. No form is comfortable with families with deep roots or even new roots.

FERN HALL: Devoted PMSS Alumna

The commitment of Fern and Bill to the region was, however, total. Both maintained their commitment to the environment and their commitment to Pine Mountain throughout their lifetime. In their later years Fern served on the School’s Advisory Board and Bill on the Board of Trustees of Pine Mountain. Following a long line of other Pine Mountain staff and students who returned to or never left the area, both were always ready to assist where needed or when called upon. Fern’s tenure at Pine Mountain was long and she established a long and broad correspondence with staff and students which lasted for over 70 years. Some of that correspondence, both personal and administrative, provides a window into the history of Pine Mountain Settlement School from the late 1930s until the late 1990s and is a unique window into the School’s history.

FERN HALL: An Early PINE CONE Publication, c. 1935

Many students contributed to publications at the School as part of their school work and to give them the experience of writing for publication. A life-long writer, Fern had this small reflection published in the Pine Mountain Settlement School student newsletter the Pine Cone, c. 1935. It captures the ever-changing weather in the School’s valley and the refreshing rain that often moves along the wall of the North face of Pine Mountain. It also captures Fern’s eternal optimism.


Clouds gathered in the sky and finally the golden midday sun hid itself behind them. A hush seemed to have fallen over the earth and the air was heavy and sultry. Suddenly there came a flash of lightning and, as if someone had loosed a hundred horses, the thunder roared across the sky to die away in the distance. Huge rain drops came racing down upon the dusty earth. Faster and faster they came until no sound could be heard above their roar. The wind howled while the rain continued to come in great torrents. Little rivers came down the mountain sides. The rain subsided as suddenly as it had come. The dark clouds drifted away over the mountains and the golden sun once more shed its brilliant rays upon the freshly washed face of a sparkling earth. [Pine Cone ,1935]

While Fern and her husband Bill made careers in Eastern Kentucky their life’s work, it did not signal that they had no interest in the larger world. They traveled extensively. They took trips to the Philippines, to Europe, Alaska, and many explorations of California and the West Coast where their older children lived. In her early 80s she and Bill sailed on her son’s boat from San Diego to San Francisco.

In 2011 at age 95 Fern boarded a hot air balloon in Asheville, North Carolina, to view the Fall foliage and to complete one more “I always wanted to do that!” When the balloon crash-landed on a nearby mountain estate, she was found by her daughter seated in the estate owner’s backyard, quietly spinning her delight in her hot-air balloon ride to the startled owner of the land. She remarked, “That was fun.”

When she was 91 she wrote to her friend and colleague from Pine Mountain, Ester Weller Burkhard:


Fern Hall Haye’s letter to Esther Weller Burkhard, October 21, 2007. [hayes_f_2003_10_27_001.jpg]

GALLERY II: Fern Hall Hayes



HALL FAMILY Reunions and Music 1940 

MUSIC PMSS Girls Octet 1936-1938

WILLIAM HAYES Family Photography Collection

WILLIAM HAYES Student Staff Biography


       Settlement Schools of Appalachia



Alt. Title

Eula Fern Hall ; Fern Hall ; Fern Hayes ;




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Fern Hall

Subject Keyword

Eula Fern Hall ; Fern Hall Hayes ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; students ; secretaries ; Pine Mountain Settlement School Girl’s Octet ; ballads; balladry ; dancing ; Glyn Morris ; William Hayes ; Flora Patsy Hall ; Enoch Hall, Jr. ; housemothers ; Perry County, Kentucky ; Viper, Kentucky ; Practice House ; Country Cottage ; Burton Rogers ; Mary Rogers ; Steven Hayes ; Helen Hayes ; Philip Hayes ;

Subject LCSH

Hayes, Fern Hall, — 1916 – 2012.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Daughters of the American Revolution.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.

Date Original

1916 – 2012

Date Digital

Digital publication date: October 27, 2015 ; 2015-12-20 ;


Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY


Pine Mountain Settlement School – School Records


Collections ; text ; image ;


Original and copies of images/JPG, documents, and correspondence; collection of photographs ;


Series 09: Staff/Personnel; Series 14: Students ;




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: Staff/Personnel; Isto: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 04: Directors; Kentucky Virtual Library collections <http://www.kyvl.org/> [searchable] Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives <http://www.berea.edu/library/Special/saarchives.html>
Transylvania College Archives <http://www.transy.edu/libspcoll.html>
Univ. of KY Appalachian Archives <http://libraries.uky.edu/libpage.php?lweb_id=84&llib_id=13>
National Historic Landmarks Database <http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=1756&ResourceType=District>

Coverage Temporal

1916 – 2012

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Viper, KY ; Perry County, KY ;


Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School. 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, photographs and administrative papers about Eula Fern Hall Hayes; clippings, photographs, books mentioning Fern Hall Hayes.




Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers, Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;

Last Updated

2015-12-20 hhw ; 2017-08-18 hhw ; 2022-09-15 aae ;



“Damsels in Ancient Dances!” The Enquirer, Cincinnati, OH., November 1937. Newspaper article.

Morris, Glyn. A Road Less Traveled, New York: Vantage Press, 1977. Print.

“Mountain Troupe Plays ‘Fascinating’ Music.” Indianapolis Times, November 11, 1936. Newspaper Article.

Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Archival material.

Return to BIOGRAPHY – A-Z