Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 10: BUILT ENVIRONMENT – Medical Settlements
Series 14: MEDICAL
Medical Settlement – Big Laurel
1919 – c. 1973

Medical Settlement - Big Laurel

Medical Settlement – Big Laurel. Log cabin on snowy hillside. [big_laurel_3343.jpg]

TAGS: Medical Settlement, Big Laurel, settlement outposts, medical satellites, community medicine, educational satellites, doctors, fundraising, settlement extensions, Line Fork Settlement, donors, Cabin, Playhouse, stable, community, teachers, doctors, nurses

MEDICAL SETTLEMENT Big Laurel, 1919 – c. 1973

Cabin 1919 – c. 1973
Playhouse 1920 – 1925; (rebuilt) 1926 – c. 1973

The Medical Settlement Big Laurel was the first of seven planned outposts that Miss Katherine Pettit, the director of Pine Mountain Settlement School, hoped would serve a larger community. It was begun in 1918 and the first structure, the “Cabin” completed in 1919.

The outposts were conceived as medical and educational satellites for the central settlement school at Pine Mountain. Their administrative structure was quasi-autonomous but they reported to the Pine Mountain director and were included in all fundraising and annual reports.


In 1920 Angela Melville, a worker at Pine Mountain spent nearly six months fundraising for the settlement extensions. She was quite successful, as the November 1920 issue of Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School tell us:

MISS Angela Melville spent six months of this year raising a fund with which to carry on the extension work to which Pine Mountain has long looked forward. Old friends will remember that an important part of our original plan was the establishment of little centers on the remote creeks untouched by upbuilding influences. …

In Kentucky and Ohio and other locations, Angela Melville raised nearly $14,896 which was to be split, with half going toward actual construction and staffing costs of the new extensions and the other half toward an endowment that would grow to support the satellite operations.

Though early fundraising was successful, only two of the satellite facilities were ever built and fully functional. The Medical Settlement at Big Laurel, only four miles from the School on Greasy Creek and known simply as the “Medical Settlement,” was the first. The second extension was created at Line Fork and called the “Line Fork Medical Settlement” or simply “Line Fork Settlement.” It was approximately six miles north and east of the main School. Both the Medical Settlement at Big Laurel and the Line Fork Medical Settlement could not have been built were it not for the enthusiastic support of the community members who hewed logs, worked on construction and negotiated the difficult task of supplying water for the two extensions.


A gift of $3,500 to fund the initial housing of the Medical Settlements, the so-called “Cabin,” came from Mrs. Mary Emery, of Cincinnati, Ohio. Completed in 1919, the Cabin accommodated staff and served as the office. The second construction in 1920 was the “Playhouse,” which served as a community center. It burned in 1925.

The third important construction was a stable to shelter the horses. The stable was a necessary facility for the rural visitation of doctors and nurses in a region that had no roads of any consequence. Two of the first equine residents of the Medical Settlement complex were “Billy” and “Maude.” Both horses endeared themselves to the staff at the facility, as often life and limb depended on the reliability of their transport.

The Playhouse was re-built in 1926 and was again conceived as a community center that could house large groups, and was also given the addition of a clinic room. This time the scale was even larger. It was the gift of friends of Pine Mountain Settlement School from New England who were acquaintances of Katherine Pettit, director at Pine Mountain. The new Playhouse was also planned to include living quarters for a worker who would be the teacher for the outpost and expand the offerings of the facility for the local schools.

The first resident of the new Playhouse building was Miss Emily Storer, (? her dates do not match) from Boston, Massachusetts. She joined Dr. Grace Huse and Harriet Butler (the so-called “Community Nurse”) who were already in residence in the Medical Settlement’s main Cabin.

Ethel de Long Zande writes in the November 1920 Notes that the efforts to establish the Medical Center at Big Laurel

… were our first efforts at moving Mahomet to the mountain, and they have demonstrated how keen our neighbors are for better trained leadership. Sewing classes, Sunday schools, playground days, district nursing are crying needs of every little community — and the neighbors will do all they can to provide for them.

Katherine Pettit, Ethel de Long Zande, and others at Pine Mountain were no doubt nudged into action by support from John C. Campbell of the Russell Sage Foundation, who had visited the School and had often stated his belief in extension work, saying:

Spread yourselves thin. Go where the people are, and don’t depend only on your parent school. Hundreds of people can be reached if you send out to them, who will never get to you if you sit at home. [Notes, Nov. 1920]

The work at the Medical Settlement continued under various leaders until 1960 when the facility was rented out to independent community groups that continued occupancy until 1970. By c.1973 the facility was abandoned due to deterioration. The buildings and land were sold to Alvin Boggs, a resident of the Big Laurel area and later director of the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Boggs had the log cabins deconstructed and removed to his property next to the Pine Mountain Settlement School where he established a religious center for the community.

WORKERS 1918-1928

Alderman, Mrs. Alice             1924-25
Brockschlager, Anna             1926-28
Burks, Marguerite                 1923
Butler, Harriet                         1918-22
Carpenter, Valley                   1927-29
Dunbar, Minnie                       1921-23
Fightmaster, Pearl                 1927-28
Henneberger, Anna               1921-22
Holladay, Iva                           1923
Krauss, Anna                           1925-27
Lewis (Nesbitt), Aileene          1923-1925
MacKay, Hazel                         1924
McReynolds, Nina                   1927
Nesbitt, Charles F.                   1923-25
Peters, Anna K.                       1919-21
Rouse, Margery                       1920
Storer, Emily                           1919-21
Vallette, Alice                           1921-22
Warren, Mr. and Mrs. John   1925-26
Whitis, Sallie Belle                   1926-27
Wulf, Anna                               1925-28

Big Laurel also utilized a rotating series of nurses and physicians who worked at the Pine Mountain Infirmary and also provided clinic support at both the Big Laurel and the Line Fork extension centers when needed.


Briscoe, Mrs. Helen               1918                         Nurse
Butler, Harriet                         1918-23                   Nurse
Davis, Clara                             1913-15                   Nurse
Huse, Grace                            1918-23                    Physician
Key, Betty                                1927-28                     Nurse
Larrabee, Euphemia              1916                          Nurse
Lavender, Frances                  1918-19                    Nurse
Little, Abby N.                          1916-18                    Physician
Medcalf, Anne Ruth                1921-24                   Nurse
Palmer, Frances                       1920                          Nurse
Purbrick, Marian                      1928                    Nurse
Roderick, Charlotte                  1919                         Nurse
Sandstrom, Esther                   1919-20                    Nurse
Skidmore, Mrs. Mary               1923                          Nurse
Sudo, Maya                                1921-24                    Nurse
Walker, Margaret                      1917-18                    Nurse
Withington, Alfreda                  1924-28                    Physician

See Also: 


LINE FORK Settlement

MEDICAL – Introduction
MEDICAL Staff Lists


Medical Settlement – Big Laurel

Alt. Title

Big Laurel Medical Settlement ; Medical Settlement ; Medical Settlement at Big Laurel ; Medical Center ; Medical Extension ; Medical Satellite ; Medical Outpost ;




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle :

Subject Keyword

Medical Settlement at Big Laurel ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; medicine ; medical clinics ; education ; Little Laurel ; schools ; roads ; Medical Settlement ; Big Laurel ; Medical Center ; outposts ; settlement extensions ; Miss Katherine Pettit ; community ; medical satellites ; educational satellites ; administration ; Angela Melville ; workers ; fundraising ; endowment ; Greasy Creek ; Line Fork Medical Settlement ; Line Fork Settlement ; log construction ; Cabin ; Mrs. Mary Emery ; staff ; offices ; Playhouse ; community centers ; fire ; stable ; doctors ; nurses ; horses ; PMSS friends ; living quarters ; teacher ; local schools ; Miss Emily Storer ; Dr. Grace Huse ; Harriet Butler ; Community Nurse ; Ethel de Long Zande ; Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School ; sewing classes ; Sunday schools ; playground days ; district nursing ; John C. Campbell ; Russell Sage Foundation ; Alvin Boggs ; directors ; religious centers ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Gilley, KY ;

Subject LCSH

Melville, Mary Angela, — 1886-1977.
Butler, Harriet.
Withington, Alfreda Bosworth, — 1861-1951.
Pettit, Katherine Rhoda, — 1869-1936.
Big Laurel Medical Settlement (Big Laurel, Ky.) — History.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.).
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky) — Community development.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky) — Hygiene.
Harlan County, (Ky) — Nutrition.
Letcher County, (Ky) –Nutrition.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Medicine — Practice — Kentucky.
Gilley, Kentucky — Line Fork Settlement
Organizations, social service — Medical Settlement
Schools — Kentucky.
Education, Rural — Kentucky.
Vernacular architecture — Kentucky.
Historic Buildings — Kentucky — Appalachia.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Medical literature — 20th century.
Women — settlement workers.




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY




Collections ; text ; image ;


Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet related to Big Laurel Medical Settlement


Series 10: Built Environment




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 10: Built Environment ; Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel ;

Coverage Temporal

1919 – 1980s

Coverage Spatial

Medical Settlement at Big Laurel, KY ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Line Fork Medical Settlement, Gilley, 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. Publication use requires permission of Pine Mountain Settlement School.




Documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers pertaining to the Medical Settlement at Big Laurel ; clippings, photographs, books about Big Laurel Medical Settlement.




“Medical Settlement at Big Laurel,” KY, Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers.

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;

Last Updated

2013-11-23 hw ; 2014-05-22 aae ; 2016-10-03 aae ; 2018-01-05 hhw ; 2023-02-14 aae ; 2023-04-14 aae ; 2023-10-09 aae ;


Hamilton, C. Horace. 1959. Health and health services in the southern Appalachians, a source book. Print.

Pine Mountain Settlement School. 1920. Big Laurel and Line Fork Extension Centers Photographs. Luttrell Collection. Archival material.

Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.). 1918. The history of the Pine Mountain Settlement School; the clothing of an idea with substance. Pine Mountain, Ky: n.p. Archival material.

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