FARM 1914-1915 COMMUNITY Fair Day Farmers Meetings

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 11: FARM
Series 16: EVENTS
FARM 1914-1915 Community Fair Day
Farmers Meetings
FARM 1914-1915 COMMUNITY Fair Day Farmers Meetings

“Community Day” (Fair Day) at PMSS, c. 1916. Earliest known photograph of Community Fair Day at PMSS. Angela Melville Album II – Part VI. [melv_II_album_291x.jpg]

TAGS: Farmer’s Meetings, farmers, Community Fair Days, fairs, Kentucky State University, Farmer’s Institute, farmers, sheep, foodways, agriculture, Katherine Pettit, Harlan County, Marguerite Butler, Columbus Creech, county fairs, Hubert Hadley, fair fund, Marian Kingman, Evelyn K. Wells, competitions

FARM 1914-1915 COMMUNITY Fair Day – Farmers Meetings

Precursors to Community Fair Day

[Letter from Marguerite Butler to her mother, October 21, 1914]

Four splendid instructors from the Kentucky State University have been here for four days holding Farmer’s Institute. It is a splendid thing for this part of the country and you never saw such interest as the farmers showed. Last night one of the men said it was by far the best meeting he had ever had in Kentucky. Of course, mothers, fathers, and children came for miles around. Yesterday the school cooked dinner for all out in big black kettles in the open. The men killed a sheep Saturday for the great affair. The talks were splendid on the soil and care of it, proper kind of food and why, how to raise fruit trees and poultry, which are both easily but poorly done in the mountains. I enjoyed every single speech.

By 1914 it is clear that a “Community Fair Day” had come into being as an annual outgrowth of the Farmer’s Meetings such as that held at the School by Katherine Pettit in 1914-1915. The “ownership” of the Community Fair Day, however, seems to have remained with the County of Harlan and with Pine Mountain cooperating and sharing responsibilities for planning the event. This arrangement appears to have persisted for at least the first decade of the School’s programming.

In 1914, Marguerite Butler was appointed the Secretary of the Farmers Meetings, and Columbus Creech, the son of William Creech and brother of Henry Creech, was appointed president of the meetings, revealing a very cooperative arrangement of school and community. Marguerite was asked to plan for the year’s event at the School. Writing to her sister Jeannette, she briefly describes her assignment and the resulting Farmers Meeting:

Sunday morning, October 1915

Dear Jeannette, This is a perfect day. I should love to go off on a long hike but feel ’tis my duty to help entertain the callers today. It is just ten now and already we have had four boys, four girls and two little children here. I madly dash for picture books, story books, newspapers or play the Victrola to try to amuse them. You see, the people like to come here on Sunday for it’s their only free day.

I’ve been working pretty hard this week. Wednesday was our Farmers Meeting and Columbus and I had charge of it. Lots of people came from miles around and everything went off fine. We cooked dinner for everyone in big iron kettles outside. Columbus Creech was elected president and your youngest child [Marguerite Butler] Secretary and Treasurer (I mean your darling sister – tho’t I was writing to mother for a minute) for the County Fair for next year. It’s going to be lots of fun! You didn’t know what a celebrated sister you had, did you?

It appears from Marguerite Butler’s letters that the use of “Fair” may have come about in 1915, though it may be that the two terms, “Farmers Meeting” and “County Fair” were used interchangeably in the earliest years of the event. It also appears that the event derived from an established practice that was common to counties in the state during the early years of the twentieth century. Records of county fairs in the State of Kentucky go back the mid-1800s. The shared management by the community and by Pine Mountain School in 1914 apparently became a standing arrangement between the communities of Harlan County and Pine Mountain School.

1914-1915 COMMUNITY Fair Day Farmers Meetings:
1931 Discussions of the County/School Funding

That the event represented the full County of Harlan can be seen in the planning discussions for the 1931 Fair. Hubert Hadley, the new director of the School, raised questions regarding the funding of the Fair that resulted in a discussion around revenues from the event. In several sharp exchanges Hadley, Marian Kingman (a trustee), and later Evelyn Wells, tried to clarify the relationship of Pine Mountain to the celebration and particularly the distribution of funds from the annual event. In a memorandum written on April 22, 1931, Wells, a former employee and then a trustee of the School attempts to clarify the arrangement. Particularly, she focuses on her understanding of the “money for the fair” and the dual role of County and Pine Mountain School. [See image below.]

Her insistence that “we do not enter the competitions…” is a change from the earliest years in which the staff at the School and the School itself was encouraged to enter the competitions.

1928-32_fair_days_040 ; FARM 1914-1915 COMMUNITY Fair Day Farmers Meetings

Note from Evelyn K. Wells, April 22, 1931, on separation of PMSS from the Community Fair management. [1928-32_fair_days_040.jpg]

Evidence then suggests that there were probably earlier “Fairs” in the county of Harlan than that at Pine Mountain in 1914. but the success of the event seems to have established a long-term partnership for the annual event and the eventual singular responsibility of the School for planning the annual event. Just when the annual event became the sole responsibility of the School remains unclear. However, in one of the first cooperative acts, Marguerite Butler, a School employee in 1914, was given the position of Treasurer of the County Fair, an honor she was evidently quite proud of and which led her to describe herself as a “celebrity.” This is apparently the first partnering of the community event.

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See Also:

COMMUNITY – What is Community? – Post