Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 9: Biography – Staff/Personnel


Housemother (Far House) 1924 – 1928; Teacher, English Folk Dancing 1927-1949; Teacher,  Weaving, Mechanical Drawing 1944-1949

TAGS: Abbie Winch Christensen ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; education ; Radcliff College ; Appalachian music ; Appalachian dance ; abolitionists ; Quakers ; activists ; teachers ;mechanical drawing ; weavers ; botanists ; vegetable dyes ; morel mushrooms ; climbing ferns ;


Born February 7, 1887, in Beaufort, South Carolina, Abbie Winch Christensen (“Winnie”) was named for her remarkable mother, Abbie Holmes Christensen (1852-1938), the abolitionist and woman suffragist. Abbie’s mother was a native of Massachusetts who settled in Beaufort with her family at the close of the Civil War. Her father, Neils Christensen (1840-1909), was a native of Denmark and former Union soldier.

Before Abbie’s birth, her mother and father had helped establish Port Royal Agricultural School, an African American school in Beaufort, SC, in 1870. Those associated with the Port Royal school were abolitionists and Quakers from Pennsylvania. They were able to establish the school in the Port Royal sound area, just a short distance from Beaufort which had been taken by the Union Army, forcing the Confederates to flee during the War Between the States. The school, founded shortly after the close of the war, had as its intent to offer support for the Sea Islanders who were struggling to survive in their new-found freedom. The name “Port Royal” alludes to their Quaker heritage and to the activist William Penn.

Abbie’s brother, Niels Christensen, III, was a Senator in the South Carolina Legislature, owner and editor of the Beaufort Gazette newspaper since 1903, and a lifetime supporter of human rights, particularly those of African Americans. Both he and his father, who had led troops against the South in the Civil War, were subjected to continual opposition from segregationists. The views of the family were often introduced in Neils’ state campaigns for public office, but his fair and even hand kept him in his Senatorial office for nearly twenty-two years. Eleven years older than Abbie, Sen. Niels Christensen III was a strong influence on Abbie, as were her socially conscious mother and father. In 1940 Abbie lost her brother (born 1876) in a tragic auto accident.


Abbie studied at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she first became interested in English folklore. While there, she joined the English Folk Song Society and the Appalachian Club. One of her strongest passions was for English folk dancing, which she taught at several summer camps before arriving at Pine Mountain Settlement School.

She served with the Red Cross in France during WWI as part of the Civilian Committee of the Beaufort Country Chapter of the American Red Cross from 1918-1919.

ABBIE WINCH CHRISTENSEN: Pine Mountain Settlement School

Like others who came to Pine Mountain, Abbie was Quaker and found many Friends at the School. She began as housemother in Far House in 1924 and was teaching folk-dancing as early as 1927, according to that year’s March issue of Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School: “…dancing is an all-the-year pleasure for us, with Miss Wells and Miss Christensen to teach classes and manage parties….” Abbie continued these roles throughout her years at PMSS, and was known for “dancing” as she walked about the campus. The May 1941 issue of the Conifer paid tribute to her contributions to the School:

Miss Winnie Christensen, who has been in charge of May Day for some time, has brought with her this year many new dances which have won the hearty approval of the students. The dancers consider themselves fortunate to have an authority such as Miss Christensen with them each spring to teach better appreciation of the fine art of folk dancing.

Her keen interest in dancing was also indicated by her membership with the American Folk Dance Society and her status as one of their leading experts on American folk dance. Possibly her interest and expertise were passed down from her father Neils, a Danish sea-captain, who would have been familiar with many of the Danish folk-school dances.

In addition, Abbie taught mechanical drawing from 1944 -1945 and weaving from December 1944 until June 1949. Many of her weavings still remain at the School. As a botanist, she was interested in vegetable dyes and apparently practiced the art of vegetable dying while at the School. Many of the children at the School remember her as their “weaving teacher.”

Some of her very elegant aeronautical engineering drawings remain at Pine Mountain. Produced as a part of her war effort, the drawings are highly detailed drafts and describe various parts of aircraft used in WWII.

She was a good botanist and introduced many at Pine Mountain to the morel mushroom. She also “discovered” the so-called “climbing fern,” an unusual trailing fern found in several locations at Pine Mountain.


Abbie Winch Christensen never married and spent the most of her life traveling extensively in the United States as well as overseas, often with her mother. By 1940, she was living with one of her four siblings, Frederick H. Christensen, his wife Helen (Bun) Christensen, and son in Beaufort, her birthplace. She is listed in the 1940 census as a “florist and artist” and the census indicates that she had her own shop in Beaufort. She died in October 1969 at the age of 82 and is buried in the Beaufort Baptist Church Cemetery.


Abbie Winch Christensen

Alt. Title

Abbie “Winnie” Christensen

Alt. Title

Abby Winch Christensen




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Abbie “Winnie” Wince Christensen ; Abbie Christensen ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; education ; Radcliff College ; English Folk Song Society ; Appalachian Club ; Appalachian music ; Appalachian dance ; Abbie Holmes Christensen ; Neils Christensen ; Port Royal Agriculture School ; abolitionists ; Quakers ; Sea Islanders ; Union forces ; Confederate forces ; William Penn ; activists ; American Folk Dance Society ; Far House ; Danish folk dancing ; teachers ; Miss Wells ; mechanical drawing ; weavers ; botanists ; vegetable dyes ; morel mushrooms ; climbing ferns ; Frederick H. Christensen ; Helen (Bun) Christensen ; Beaufort, SC ; Cambridge, MA ; Pennsylvania ; Pine Mountain, KY ;

Subject LCSH

Christensen, Abbie “Winnie” Wince, — February 7, 1887 – October 1969.
Educators — Biography.
Women — Southern States — History.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Weavers — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Folk dancing — Appalachian Region.
Folk dancing, Danish.




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY




Text ; image ;


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


Series 9: Biography – Staff/Personnel




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 9: Biography – Staff/Personnel ; Gullah Tales: South Carolina. Columbia, SC: Educational Television Commission, 2001. Internet resource ; “Christensen Family Papers, 1806-1999,” University Libraries: South Caroliniana Library ;

Coverage Temporal

1887 – 1969

Coverage Spatial

Beaufort, SC ; Pennsylvania ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Cambridge, 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 of Abbie Winch Christensen ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Abbie Winch Christensen ;




“[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

2007-07-12 hhw ; 2013-11-15 aae ; 2014-06-20 aae ; 2018-12-03 aae ;



“Christensen Family Papers, 1806 – 1999.” University Libraries: South Caroliniana Library. (accessed 2013-11-15). Internet resource.

Conifer – 1941. Series 17: PMSS Publications. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. . Internet resource.

THE PINE CONE 1942 April, “Miss Christensen Arrives,” page 4. Series 17: PMSS Publications. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. . Internet resource.

PMSS Staff Directory 1913 – present. Series 9: Biography – Staff/Personnel. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1940,” index and images. FamilySearch. (accessed 2013-11-14). Abbie Winch Christensen in household of Fredrick H Christensen, Beaufort, Beaufort Township, Beaufort, South Carolina, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 7-1, sheet 2B, family 35, NARA digital publication of T627, roll 3790. Internet resource.

“United States Social Security Death Index.” FamilySearch. (accessed 2013-11-14). Abbie Christensen, October 1969; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing). Internet resource.

GENI. Biographical Information. Abbie Winch Christensen. (accessed 2016-01-13.)

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