Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Staff/Personnel
Series 19: Students


Teacher of Weaving, Folk Dance 1930-1932
Student, 1914-1926

TAGS: Becky May Huff ; weaving ; students ; John C. Campbell Folk School ; Brasstown, NC ; Wilmer Stone Viner ; Danish Gymnastics ; Saluda, NC ; Berea College ; Fireside Industries ; crafts ; Ruth B. Gaines ; Katherine Pettit ; Evelyn K. Wells ; Ova Sexton ; rural urban conflicts;

Becky May Huff seated in front of Laurel House I as it was being constructed.

Becky May Huff (b. 1906) was already very familiar with Pine Mountain Settlement School when Katherine Pettit, the School’s director, wrote her in April 1930. In her letter, Pettit asked about her plans to teach weaving, as well as country dancing, gymnastics and singing games at PMSS during the next school year. Becky May had entered Pine Mountain at the age of 7 and had graduated at the age of 19. She had had a thorough immersion in the ethos of the School.

Pettit suggested that, on Huff’s way back to Pine Mountain to work through North Carolina, that she stop at the J.C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown for ten days of instructions from a Danish gymnastics teacher, as well as spend a few days with Mrs. Wilmer (Stone) Viner, a former Pine Mountain teacher, now in Saluda, NC, for dyeing lessons.

Weaving on looms. Arthur W. Dodd Album. [dodd_A_033_mod.jpg]

Weaving on looms. Arthur W. Dodd Album. [dodd_A_033_mod.jpg]

All this must have sounded good to Miss Huff. Her specialty was weaving which she had learned during her many years as a PMSS student and later as a Berea student and teacher of weaving at the college for three years. She responded that she was interested in all that Miss Pettit proposed, at the same time easing Miss Pettit’s fear that Huff, as a young woman, would leave PMSS soon to get married. Becky May and classmate Ova Sexton had courted while at Pine Mountain. Huff assured Miss Pettit that she wasn’t interested in marrying for several years yet.

All qualifications being settled, Miss Pettit welcomed her back to PMSS as a weaving teacher for the 1930-1931 school year:

I am especially anxious to have you because I think you have a real understanding of our desire to do the old things and not just make mercerized…things and that you will help to hold up the standards upon which this department was started.

026b P. Roettinger Album. "Becky Mae (sic) Huff." [Little girl with basket and mule tied to post, behind.]

026b P. Roettinger Album. “Becky Mae (sic) Huff.” [Little girl with basket and mule tied to post, behind.]

Miss Huff was eager to return to Pine Mountain, writing on May 18, 1930, to Miss Ruth B. Gaines, PMSS Secretary, that she “can hardly wait to get back to Pine Mountain again. I feel like I’m really going home again.” But by this time Miss Pettit had lined up a third stop for Huff on her way to Pine Mountain, making it necessary to delay her arrival even more. Besides visits to the Campbell Folk School and with Mrs. Viner, a scholarship was arranged for Huff by Miss Evelyn K. Wells for a week’s training at the Amherst Folk Dancing School so she might also instruct in that area, as well as weaving at the School.

Becky May Huff Huff was born in 1906 to John Huff and Mary J. Huff. By 1920, she was attending PMSS and her family was living nearby in Harlan, Kentucky. Her three siblings were Alafer(?) Huff (the oldest at age 25), Joanne Huff (age 11) and Bertha Huff (age 8). All family members were born in Kentucky.

After her student years at PMSS, Miss Huff studied at the Normal School at Berea College from September 1926 to May 1927. When she accepted the PMSS weaving position, she had been teaching for three years at Aiken Hall in Olive Hill, Kentucky. She taught weaving at Pine Mountain Settlement School for two school years: 1930-1931 and 1931-1932.

Miss Huff eventually married Ova Sexton in c. 1932, the same year her teaching position at Pine Mountain ended. She was compelled to leave the School when weaving classes were discontinued due to the slow sales of the Fireside Industries, the operation that sold the weavers’ products. So her promise to Katherine Pettit not to marry too soon became moot.

There is evidence in a survey conducted by Everett K. Wilson of alumni of Pine Mountain that Becky May was not entirely happy with her life outcomes. She wrote in answer to the question, ” [I]…Needed more book learning. Not enough different studies.” She suggests more work in social studies. She noted that the training in industrial work was very helpful but apparently, she found the transition to Berea difficult and soon after leaving she married her classmate, Ova Sexton, and returned to farm living. Marriage seems to have been uppermost in her mind following her departure from Pine Mountain and Katherine Pettit seems to have sensed her conflicts and her yearning for the “old ways”. Becky May summarizes her reflections in the following manner,

Pine Mountain was started and considered to be a school for poor mountain boys and girls. I think they should not be taught to imitate the ways of city boys and girls. This makes them dissatisfied with mountain living.

According to a report in the February 1936 issue of Pine Cone, a PMSS student publication, the couple had moved from Big Laurel, Kentucky, to Kittanning, Pennsylvania, a small town about 40 miles north of Pittsburgh. The article mentioned that Mrs. Sexton was continuing her interest in weaving. Strangely, Kittanning was the site of the 2010 pilot of the film Justified. The television series was eventually filmed in Harlan County and was based on events suggested to be part of Harlan’s history. In Kittanning, Becky May had, in many ways, gone home again.





WELLS RECORD 13 PMSS Fireside Industries 1913-11928


KATHERINE PETTIT – Weaving at PMSS – Beginnings



Becky May Huff

Alt. Title

Becky Mae Huff ; Mrs. Ova Sexton ; Becky May Sexton ;




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Becky May Huff ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Mrs. Ova Sexton ; Mrs. Becky May Sexton ; Katherine Pettit ; country dancing ; gymnastics ; singing games ; teachers ; Wilmer (Stone) Viner ; vegetable dyes ; J.C. Campbell Folk School ; Amherst Folk Dancing School ; Evelyn K. Wells ; Ruth B. Gaines ; John Huff ; Mary J. Huff ; Alafer Huff ; Joanne Huff ; Bertha Huff ; Berea College ; Aiken Hall ; Ova Sexton ; Pine Cone ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Berea, KY ; Olive Hill, KY ; Big Laurel, KY ; Kittanning, PA ; Brasstown, NC ;

Subject LCSH

Huff, Becky May, — 1906 – ?.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Weaving — Study and Teaching.




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 and Series 19: Students ;




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: Staff/Personnel and Series 19: Students ;

Coverage Temporal

1906 – 1936

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Berea, KY ; Olive Hill, KY ; Big Laurel, KY ; Kittanning, PA ; Brasstown, NC ;


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 of Becky May Huff ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Becky May Huff ;




“[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

2015-10-08 aae ; 2015-10-24 hhw ; 2017-03-29 hhw ; 2018-08-10 aae ;



“Becky May Huff.” Staff Directory, Pine Cone, Roettinger Album. Series 09: Staff/Personnel and Series 19: Students. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 8 October 2015), Becky Mae Huff in household of Harriet Quientes, Olive Hill, Carter, Kentucky, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 0008, sheet 7B, family 107, line 59, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 739; FHL microfilm 2,340,474. Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 8 October 2015), Becky M Huff in household of John Huff, Harlan, Harlan, Kentucky, United States; citing sheet 9A, family 164, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,820,574. Internet resource.

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