Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Staff/Personnel

Nurse, Medical Settlement at Big Laurel 1919 – 1924


Harriet Butler feeding chicken and chicks at the Medical Settlement at Big Laurel, c. 1920(?). [big_laurel_3326.jpg]

Harriet Butler was the first nurse hired by Katherine Pettit to accompany Dr. Grace Huse in the establishment of the medical settlements that were PMSS’s satellite facilities for community medical and educational outreach.

Harriet Butler was an older woman when she started the work for the Pine Mountain medical extension centers. She had been hired in 1905 by May Stone and Katherine Pettit to work at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union School (WCTU), and later (1915) with Hindman Settlement School near Hyden, Kentucky. As the full-time nurse at the new WCTU school, Harriet Butler modeled the charisma and energy of Katherine Pettit who founded the School along with May Stone [Stoddard, p.58]. The WCTU school was a good fit for Miss Butler, particularly in the first five years, and she remained at Hindman for the next ten years.

It was Butler who developed the health outreach for Hindman and wrote the health education program as well as laid the foundation for the establishment of a small hospital that was part of the early Hindman campus. It was likely Butler who helped Dr. Joseph Stucky, a well-known Kentucky physician, to bring to national attention the epidemic of trachoma in the eastern Kentucky mountains as this became a life-long crusade for her.

Miss Pettit was well aware of Butler’s energy and skills and of the community need for medical intervention. The need was, in fact, greater than either Pettit or Butler imagined and a second nurse was added to address the large demand from the community for home nursing and other health education at the Hyden campus. Eventually, Dr. John Wesley Duke, the first doctor in the county was hired. He served as the county medical officer and the first physician at the WCTU school.  

Harriet Butler certainly had a pivotal role in the early history of Hindman Settlement School and in the medical history of eastern Kentucky. She was a strong supporter of the work of Katherine Pettit and when Pettit left Hindman to found Pine Mountain Settlement School, she reluctantly stayed behind. Apparently, Pettit had struck a deal with May Stone in her departure for Pine Mountain, that she would not siphon away any staff other than Ethel de Long who had headed the educational programs at Hindman. That one recruitment was astute, as de Long became a pivotal figure in the development of the new settlement in the Pine Mountain valley. Harriet Butler took longer to follow Pettit.

Harriet Butler stayed behind and worked with Dr. Duke to make sure that a healthy community continued to be promoted through Hindman Settlement School’s community health work. The evidence of her outstanding work in the community was everywhere present and much to Harriet Butler’s credit she stayed the course at Hindman. However, there was one critical incident where her influence failed and that probably resulted in her departure for Pine Mountain.

Pettit had left Hindman at Christmas in 1912. In the fall of 1914 Hindman Settlement School had a massive outbreak of typhoid at the School. Butler and others had petitioned May Stone to address the poor sewage disposal at the School while Pettit was still present, but during the course of the next two years following Pettit’s departure, the improvements needed were postponed. In October, after a long dry spell the rains came and the accumulated sewage flooded the water systems. Typhoid fever soon followed and Harriet Butler soon left Hindman [Stoddart, p. 70-81].

This incident was most likely the reason Harriet Butler left Hindman, as well as differences with May Stone regarding the administration of the institution and Stone’s inattention to health concerns. Butler did not join Pettit immediately but wisely waited for Pettit to put into place plans for the medical extensions. When the economics were solid and the new endowment raised by Angela Melville was in place, she came to join the new physician, Dr. Grace Huse, at the Medical Settlement at Big Laurel.

Harriet Butler joined Pettit and the new community health efforts, gaining strength at Pine Mountain as a planner. She was highly suitable for the new medical extension settlements. Likely it was her planning that laid the foundation for both the Big Laurel Medical Settlement and the Line Fork Medical extension, and not that of Dr. Grace Huse, who carried the load of working directly in the community with patients. Much of the development work at Pine Mountain built on the successes of Butler at Hindman. With the strong support of Pettit and her new and enthusiastic supporters at Pine Mountain, Butler set about spreading the word and work she had started at Hindman. [See the account of the work of Butler and Huse as praised in the November 1921 issue of Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School.]

The May 1924 issue of Notes bids a fond goodbye to Miss Butler and Dr. Huse with these words:

Miss Harriet Butler and Dr. Grace Huse, the life of the Medical Settlement since its beginning five years ago, are leaving us on account of ill health. Their Big Laurel neighbors say, “Take any house-seat you want to build on, and just settle among us. Maybe we can get us another doctor, but where can we get friends like you?” To write of the happy changes that have come about through their friendliness and wisdom would fill a book, but “their works do follow them.”


Harriet Butler




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Katherine Pettit ; Dr. Grace Huse ; medical settlements ; outreach ; May Stone ; WCTU ; Hindman Settlement School ; nurses ; health education ; hospitals ; Dr. Joseph Stucky ; physicians ; trachoma ; medical intervention ; home nursing ; Dr. John Wesley Duke ; county medical officers ; Ethel de Long ; typhoid fever ; medical extensions ; Angela Melville ; Big Laurel Medical Settlement ; Line Fork Medical Extension ; Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Hyden, KY ;

Subject LCSH

Butler, Harriet.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Hindman Settlement School — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Rural health services — Appalachian Region — History.




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY




Text ; image ;


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


Series 9: Staff/Personnel




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 9: Staff/Personnel

Coverage Temporal

1905 – 1921

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Hyden, 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.




Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Harriet Butler ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Harriet Butler ;




“[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

2013-11-14 hhw ; 2013-11-25 aae ;



Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School. I.6 (November 1921): 1 – 2. Series 17: PMSS Publications. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School. II.2 (May 1924): 3. Series 17: PMSS Publications. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

Stoddart, Jess. Challenge and Change in Appalachia: The Story of Hindman Settlement School. Univ Pr of Kentucky, 2009. Print.

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