Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Staff/Personnel

Teacher, Scouting 1919-1922

TAGS: Lucretia Garfield (Comer) ; Harry Augustus Garfield ; Williams College ; James Garfield ; Girl Scouts ; social justice ; War Relief Service ;

Lucretia Garfield was born January 18, 1894, in Ohio. The daughter of Harry “Hal” Augustus Garfield and Belle Hartford Garfield, Lucretia came from a remarkable legacy. Harry, her father, was President of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and the son of President of the United States, James Garfield and his wife Lucretia, or “Crete” Garfield.


Harry Augustus Garfield, 1911. Son of U.S. President James Garfield and Lucretia Garfield’s father. [pmss_archives-Harry_Augustus_Garfield.png]

PHOTO: Harry Augustus Garfield, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 1761-1911; From 150th Anniversary Celebration, Sunday, July 2, Monday, July 3, Tuesday, July 4, Nineteen hundred eleven; official program and souvenir (1911) front introductory section. Licensed under PD-US via Wikipedia –

Born October 11, 1863, Harry Augustus Garfield was, in addition to the President of Williams College from 1908-1934, a lawyer and an active player in the Federal government. His brother James Rudolph Garfield, Secretary of the Interior, was his law partner and was instrumental in his placement as the first head of the Federal Fuel Administration, an office created by Woodrow Wilson to address potential fuel shortages during wartime. He was married to Belle Hartford Mason, his second cousin, and they had four children: James Garfield (1889 – 1976), Mason Garfield (1892 – 1945), Lucretia Garfield Comer (1894 – 1968), and Stanton Garfield (1895 – 1979). Lucretia, as the only girl and the third child, had a special place in Harry’s attention. Harry died December 12, 1942, at the age of 79.

It was during his tenure as the first head of the Federal Fuel Administration in 1917, during WWI, that his daughter Lucretia, found placement at Pine Mountain as director of a Girl Scout program. Among his responsibilities as the chief administrator of the Federal Fuel office, Garfield was charged by Wilson with the oversight of the coal supplies in the country during wartime.

Garfield’s duty was to conserve the coal supply and keep the price within reasonable bounds. Local committees were appointed throughout the country to study local conditions and their reports formed the basis for the prices fixed in different localities. The ensuing winter was unusually severe, and serious shortage of coal threatened. Because of the shortage of coal in the northeastern United States, especially in New York City and Ohio, Garfield’s administration of the office was severely criticized in the press, but an investigation by the United States Congress showed that the shortage was due to failure of the railroads to meet the extra demands upon them, and federal control of the roads was instituted on December 28, 1917. Garfield also issued his “idle Mondays” order in January 1918, which closed non-essential industries for five consecutive days beginning January 18 and on every Monday thereafter up to March 25. This roused a storm of protest from many manufacturers, and the U.S. Senate voted a resolution, requesting postponement, but this reached him after the order had been signed. On February 14, however, the order was suspended and priority for certain shipments substituted. He disapproved of the method of settling the coal strike in December 1919 and resigned his office, resuming that of president of Williams College. [Wikipedia, Accessed 2016-02-03]

Like his father President Garfield, Harry had a strong sensitivity for the working class and the inequities that industrialization was exercising on the country. That his daughter showed the same social justice inclinations is not surprising. That she was an independent and assertive young lady is also not surprising. That she chose to come to Pine Mountain is only a little surprising. Her grandfather had served in Eastern Kentucky during the Civil War and her father had traveled there as a young man. Lucretia was only two generations away from a family that had a hard-scrabble life and had found a way out of poverty.

Named for her grandmother, Lucretia, she had many of the same disciplined and devoted characteristics as her relative. She never knew her grandfather, who was assassinated before she was born.

The portrait below is of “Lucretia Garfield,” grandmother of Lucretia Garfield Comer for whom she was named. Lucretia, wife of James A. Garfield died March 14, 1918. Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection. CALL NUMBER: LC-BH826- 30278 A

Image, Source: digital file from original neg.

Lucretia Garfield, wife of U.S. President James Garfield and grandmother of Lucretia Garfield. []

Just how Lucretia characterized her experience at Pine Mountain may not be fully known, but it is not inconsequential that she would have been able to provide her father with sensitive, first-hand information about the eastern Kentucky coal fields, the political and social turmoil associated with the local fixing of coal prices, and its effect on families in the Appalachian region. It is also not inconsequential that her father was a professor of Political Science at Princeton from 1903 to 1908 where he had befriended Woodrow Wilson, then serving as president of Princeton. It was through his friendship with Wilson that he departed Williams College for Washington. On his return to Williams College, Garfield served as the president of the American Political Science Association from 1921 to 1922.

The Garfield family was from Hiram, Ohio, where they were connected to the church of the Disciples of Christ. President James Garfield married Lucretia Rudolph whom he met at college. Lucretia’s grandmother “Crete,” as the First Lady was affectionately called, was a bereaved widow following the assassination of her husband on July 2, 1881, and never fully recovered from the tragedy.


It was one year following the death of her grandmother on March 14, 1918, that 25-year-old Lucretia came to Pine Mountain as a summer worker. She had served for a brief time in the War Relief Service but had little work experience beyond that. She was charged to establish and run a Girl Scout program for the School. It was, apparently, one of her first experiences in a hired position. From all reports she was a lively, competent and engaged worker at the School — well liked by her colleagues. (Research continues regarding her employment prior to coming to Pine Mountain.)


Following her work at Pine Mountain, Lucretia returned to Williams College where she worked for the college, spent time with her father and undertook a biography of him. The book was later published in 1965 under the title Harry Garfield’s First Forty Years; Man of action in a troubled world. (1965). It was on her return to Williams College that she met and married John Preston Comer on December 25, 1925, an Assistant Professor of Government at the college. John Preston Comer was born Sep 06, 1888, in Johnston City, Texas, and died May 1976 in Charlottesville (Albemarle County), Virginia.

Anon. Album. ""Jack' [John} Comer and Mary Laura Comer, children of Lucretia Garfield and John Preston Comer]."

Anon. Album. “Jack’ [John] Comer and Mary Laura Comer, children of Lucretia Garfield and John Preston Comer.” [unknow_020_mod.jpg]

Lucretia Garfield stayed in touch with Pine Mountain for many years. In the late 1920s she sent a photograph of her two children to the School. Located in a photograph album, identified as “Second Generation” Photograph Album, the portrait of the two children is charming. The photograph of John ‘Jack” P. Comer, born in Brookline (Norfolk County),  Massachusetts on October 23, 1926, and his sister, Mary Laura Comer, born in 1928 in Williamstown, Berkshire, join other “second generation” children of staff and community in the small photograph album located at Pine Mountain. A third child not shown in the album is the youngest child of Lucretia and John, Elizabeth Comer, born September 3, 1932. The photograph above is also tinged with sadness for it was reported in the bulletin of Bryn Mawr College, Lucretia’s alma mater, of the death of her daughter Mary Laura in Italy.

Mary Laura Comer, two-and-a-half year-old daughter of Lucretia Garfield Comer, died of pneumonia at Portofino, Italy, on January 8th. Professor Comer is on sabbatical leave for the present academic year, and he and Lucretia, with their two children, were spending the winter in Italy at the time of little Mary Laura’s death.


Comer, Lucretia Garfield, Harry Garfield’s first forty years; man of action in a troubled world. New York, Vantage Press, 1965, OCLC 569252

Doug Wead, All the President’s Children: Triumph and Tragedy in the Lives of America’s First Families, Atria Books, New York, 2003, ISBN 0-7434-4631-3

Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). “Garfield, Harry Augustus“. Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York.

Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). “Garfield, Harry Augustus“. Encyclopedia Americana.

Gould, Lewis L. American First Ladies: their lives and their legacy. New York: Garland Pub, 1996.

Barzman, Sol. The First Ladies. New York: Cowles Book Co., 1970.

James A. Garfield papers, 1853-1913. [archive]
Garfield, James A. 1831-1881. Columbus, O., Ohio Historical Society, 1853, 1913.


Lucretia Garfield

Alt. Title

Lucretia Garfield Comer ; Lucretia Comer ; Mrs. John P. Comer ;




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Lucretia Garfield ; Lucretia Garfield Comer ; Lucretia Comer ; Mrs. John P. Comer ;  Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Lucretia Garfield (Comer) ; Harry Augustus Garfield ; Williams College ; James Garfield ; Girl Scouts ; social justice ; War Relief Service ; James Rudolph Garfield ; Federal Fuel Administration ; Princeton University ; Woodrow Wilson ; Disciples of Christ ; John Preston Comer ; John ‘Jack” P. Comer ; Mary Laura Comer ; Elizabeth Comer ; Bryn Mawr College ;

Subject LCSH

Comer, Lucretia Garfield, — January 18, 1894 – ?
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

1894 – 1932

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Pittsfield, MA ; Hiram, OH ; Johnston City, TX ; Charlottesville, VA ;


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 Lucretia Garfield Comer ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Lucretia Garfield Comer.




“[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

2016-02-03 hw ; 2017-03-11 aae ;



“Harry Augustus Garfield.” resource, accessed 2016-02-03.

“Lucretia Garfield (Comer).” Series 09: Staff/Personnel. PMSS, Collections & Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource & archival material.

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