Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff
Ruth B. Gaines, Housemother, Dietitian 1913-1942
Ruth B. Gaines (1883-1980)


P. Roettinger Album. “Dot and Chester [the mule], Carman, Miss [Ruth] Gaines, Olga, and Oscar [Begley?].” [roe_059a.jpg] 

TAGS: Ruth B. Gaines, PMSS Staff, housemothers, dietitians, Laurel House garden, Mabel Mullens’ remembrances


Ruth B. Gaines: Housemother (Laurel House I), Dietitian
Creator of Laurel House Garden, 1914-1932
Developed the first grounds plan for PMSS 

It is hardly a surprise that the name of Ruth B. Gaines appeared so often in Pine Mountain correspondence written during the School’s first eighteen years. That she was beloved by all her many friends was evident in each mention of her name in archived letters such as the Marguerite Butler Letters (1918-1921) and Ethel de Long-Zande Collection (as early as 1908). She was also praised as “wonderful” in a video created c. 1980 of former student and worker Brit Wilder. She was remembered in a video of Carrie Day, one of the first students who came to Pine Mountain. And she was memorialized in the Spring 1980 issue of Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School. 

RUTH B. GAINES Staff: At Pine Mountain

According to Brit Wilder, Ruth Gaines came to the School as a secretary “but the job had been taken” so she was hired as a dietitian in charge of cooking, canning and gardening. Some of those who assisted her were: Emma Collins (1916), Imogene Costello (1918-1919), Emma Jane (Emily) Hill Creech (1921-1934), and Lena Swinerton (1920-1921).

In letters to her family, Marguerite Butler provides examples of Miss Gaines’ many and varied activities during her earlier years. They include Ruth’s good work as a dietitian and gardener and one disaster – the two women’s presence at the burning of the first school house in 1919. But most often the letters recounted their enjoyable times together, such as sharing in the care of the youngest students and delighting in dinners from boxes of food sent to Marguerite by her father. They, along with other workers, paid visits to community residents and Line Fork staff, spent evenings playing Ethel de Long‘s Victrola and had “lovely” picnics on the mountain.

Harriet Crutchfield, a fifth-grade teacher at Pine Mountain from 1928 until 1930, also wrote of Miss Gaines’ talents in letters to her parents:

Miss Gaines is the head of Laurel House where we all eat and 20 girls live. She not only directs the house and decides what work all the girls in the school shall do but she is the head of the kitchen, plans all the meals, etc. She is really a wonder and concocts some delectable affairs. We had a wonderful chocolate bread pudding the other day. Her cheese dishes are so good, too. She has been here about 13 years out of the 15 that the school has been going. She has a temper of her own, too, and when she speaks, the girls jump.

RUTH B. GAINES Staff: Remembered by Mabel Mullens


Miss Gaines, Pine Mountain School House Mother, following her retirement, c. 1970s. [x_100_workers_2592a_mod.jpg]

In later years, soon after Miss Gaines’ death in 1980, Alvin Boggs, PMSS Director, asked Mabel Mullins, a worker at the time, for information about Miss Gaines’ family and friends. Her response was in the form of a lengthy handwritten narrative of Miss Gaines’ life as she remembered it, and a list of names and addresses of contacts. Miss Mullins told the story well, even with a bit of humor, as the following excerpts demonstrate:

…Miss Gaines spent many years at Pine Mountain — just how many she could not remember. She arrived there on Thanksgiving Day, before Big Log was finished. It was being lived in by Ethel [de Long], Katherine Pettit…. Though Ethel was marvelously gifted, cooking was not among her talents — and she was in the midst of pumpkin pies. When Ruth Gaines walked in — following a long, long train ride and a first time mule ride across Pine Mountain from Dillon — she was greeted with Ethel’s floured hands thrown up and “This is all yours! Take over!” That was just an introduction to the many problems to follow — all of which she faced and solved with apparent calm and ease. (…One exception might be when we bobbed our hair.) How many hundreds of students she helped with her wisdom and good ‘horse sense’ no one could count.

When Miss Pettit’s health necessitated her departure, she asked Miss Gaines to stay on long enough for the new Director to get acquainted. [One of her best friends] was Marguerite Butler.

She and Emily Hill — her right hand from the very early days on — left [Pine Mountain] at the same time, I believe. …

After Pine Mountain, Miss Gaines worked for a short time — maybe 1-3 years — at a Women’s Prison in North Carolina…, then to Brasstown [John C. Campbell Folk School] where she worked for several years and loved it…. Her friend Marguerite was [there]; also May & Leon Deschamps. Her work there was similar to Pine Mountain, though less demanding, [as the girls at the Folk School were adults and provided more help than the children at Pine Mountain.]

….During Miss Gaines’ last years, she received several fractures and was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes. Just when she decided that she would have to give up her home and live permanently in a Nursing Home, Bob and [Miss Gaines’ friend] Mary [Gray] were ready to retire and move away from the city. They bought Miss Gaines’ home and took care of her in it, for about three years. After Mary and Bob moved in and she was cared for so beautifully by them, her health improved and she regained confidence in herself — even enough to consider making a trip to a Pine Mountain Reunion. Being able to spend her last years in her home was the greatest gift she could ever have. Heaven could not offer more.

Her home was a lovely old frame building, set on a large, partially wooded, lot in the small village of Granville, Massachusetts.

….After a long life of 97 1/2 years, filled with interest and love of people and dedicated to helping anyone who would accept her help, she died 28 February 1980.


Ruth B. Gaines was born on August 18, 1883, in Westfield, Massachusetts, to George Gaines of Connecticut and Melissa Phelps of Massachusetts. She died on February 28, 1980. Her burial place is located at Silver Street Cemetery in Granville Center, Hampden, Massachusetts.

See Also:
RUTH B. GAINES Correspondence


Ruth B. Gaines

Alt. Title

Ruth Gaines




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Ruth B. Gaines ; Ruth Gaines ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; correspondence ; Marguerite Butler ; Ethel de Long Zande ; videos ; Bit Wilder ; students ; workers ; Carrie Day ; Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School ; secretaries ; dietitians ; cooking ; canning ; gardening ; Emma Collins ; Imogene Costello ; Emma Jane (Emily) Creech ; Lena Swinerton ; school house ; community ; Line Fork ; Victrolas ; picnics ; Alvin Boggs ; Mabel Mullins ; biographies ; Big Log ; Katherine Pettit ; pumpkin pies ; mule rides ; Emily Hill ; women’s prisons ; John C. Campbell Folk School ; May & Leon Deschamps ; hospitals ; nursing homes; Bob and Mary Gray ; George Gaines ; Melissa Phelps ; Silver Street Cemetery ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Dillon, KY ; Brasstown, NC ; Granville, MA ; Westfield, MA ; Hampden, MA ;

Subject LCSH

Gaines, Ruth B. — August 18, 1883 – February 28, 1980.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY




Collections ; text ; image ;


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


Series 09: Staff/Personnel.




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: Staff/Personnel.

Coverage Temporal

1883 – 1980

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Dillon, KY ; Brasstown, NC ; Granville, MA ; Westfield, MA ; Hampden, MA ;


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, and administrative papers ofRuth B. Gaines ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Ruth B. Gaines ;




“[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

2015-10-05 hhw ; 2015-10-14 aae ; 2015-10-23 hhw ; 2021-08-29 aae ; 2024-02-13 aae ;


“Ruth B. Gaines.” PMSS Staff Directory 1913-present. Series 09: Staff/Personnel, Marguerite Butler Letters, de Long-Zande Papers, Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School, Ruth Gaines Correspondence. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

“Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 October 2015), Ruth B Gaine, 1980; Burial, Granville Center, Hampden, Massachusetts, United States of America, Silver Street Cemetery; citing record ID 79349946, Find a Grave, Internet resource.

“Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 October 2015), George Gaines in entry for Ruth, 18 Aug 1883; citing MASSACHUSETTS, 2:FCV55F; FHL microfilm 185,380. Internet resource.

“Massachusetts Death Index, 1970-2003,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 October 2015), Ruth B Gaines, 28 Feb 1980; from “Massachusetts Death Index, 1970-2003,” database, Ancestry ( : 2005); citing Westfield, Massachusetts, death certificate number 017763, Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Health Services, Boston. Internet resource.

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