Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 01: Planning for PMSS / Correspondence
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Community
Lewis Lyttle (1868-1950)


Lewis Lyttle. Grace Rood Album. [rood_083.jpg]

TAGS: Lewis Lyttle, Rev. Lewis Lyttle, The Reverend Lewis F. Lyttle, Baptist missionaries, mountain preachers, Katherine Pettit, May Stone, Ethel de Long, WCTU Settlement School, Hindman Settlement School, donors, mountain people, Creech Family, Uncle William Creech, Dear Friend letters, city judges


An itinerate preacher, who acted as liaison in the early 1900s between the co-founders & the community to find donors of suitable land for the School.

“Judge Lewis Lyttle, 1948” and “Columbus Creech.” [nace_II_album_075.jpg]

The Reverend Lewis Lyttle, an itinerant Baptist missionary, was one of the earliest notable figures in the long history of the Pine Mountain Settlement School. He was among others who pushed mission work with the “mountain whites” of the southern Appalachians at the end of the nineteenth century. One of the earliest crusaders was Edward Owings Guerrant, a Presbyterian minister and close friend of Katherine Pettit’s family. However, Reverend Lyttle follows the path of the many “home-grown” itinerant preachers in the Baptist tradition, such as Uncle Ira Combs, and others.

The Reverend Lewis Lyttle’s story begins in Spring 1910 when he guided Katherine Pettit, Ethel de Long and John C. Campbell (from the Russell Sage Foundation), to the area surrounding Pine Mountain, with the hope that they would be interested in building a new school somewhere in the vicinity. The two women were discouraged by the remoteness of the area but their spirits were revived after meeting with William Creech who offered a bit of land for a start.

A year later, Lyttle wrote several letters to Katherine Pettit, who was operating the WCTU Settlement School in Hindman, Kentucky, (which in 1915 became known as the Hindman Settlement School) with May Stone and Ethel de Long.

In the May 1, 1911, letter, Lyttle wrote of his support for the school that Pettit and de Long wished for the mountain children, describing the need for one, and offering his assistance. He included a list of interested neighbors and possible donors and stated that there were about 125 children in the area ready to attend.

In one of the letters to Pettit, dated May 9, 1911, Rev. Lyttle praised Miss Pettit and May Stone, both of whom he had known for 10 years while living in Hindman, Kentucky. He admired their good work at the Hindman school and the consequent improvement of its local ways of life. He urged the women to visit the place he had in mind for another school in the Pine Mountain area and to learn more about the community and its educational needs. His descriptions of the mountain people indicated his respect for them and their needs as well as for the work of Pettit:

I think you will find a kind and responsive people but they are not cultured. They will not do you a wrong by any means. They will be as kind as they know how to be. I am satisfied you will like the field and it is the very place to make a model school for you have the material to begin with… [The place has] pure air, pure water and plenty of children to enjoy it. Invest something in their character of these boys and girls and some day you will reap a good harvest if not in this world it will be in heaven where there is now many stars in your crown for what you have already done.

Acting as a go-between, Rev. Lyttle paid a visit to the Creech Family in the Pine Mountain valley. As he sat at the kitchen table with “Uncle William” and two of his sons, Henry and Columbus, he mentioned that there were several women, currently working at a school in Hindman, Kentucky, who were interested in starting a new school near Pine Mountain. For years “Uncle William” Creech had felt strongly that a better education for mountain children would improve their lives and that of the country. Upon hearing about the women’s dream of such a school, he offered whatever help he could provide.

Rev. Lewis Lyttle soon delivered this good news to the women who then wasted no time pursuing this opportunity. When Miss Pettit responded with interest in his offer of assistance, Rev. Lyttle sent her another letter on May 9, 1911, with information and directions to the proposed Creech site and to his home at the head of Leatherwood Creek. In the further exchange of letters and meetings, Rev. Lyttle continued to act as a liaison between the Hindman women and the Pine Mountain community, promoting William Creech’s land as, in his estimation, the preferred location for a school.

The several visits to the Pine Mountain area that were made by both Miss Pettit and Miss Ethel de Long, guided by Rev. Lyttle and accompanied by friends and local neighbors who supported their ambitions, were described in promotional letters addressed to “My Dear Friend.” Written by Pettit and her associate, Ethel de Long, the letters not only reflected the women’s enthusiasm for the potential of the region for a school campus but also reveal the persuasive personality of Rev. Lewis Lyttle.

REV. LEWIS LYTTLE: Ethel de Long Correspondence, Early 1911

Ethel de Long, who was also on the staff at Hindman, was, like Pettit, encouraged by Rev. Lyttle’s letters to visit the Pine Mountain area. After doing so, she wrote her 1911 “My Dear Friend” letter (no month or day is specified) in which she merged her observations and those of Pettit’s to describe a visit to the “headwaters of Greasy” in great detail, featuring the people she met along the way and the evidence of the need for a school.

At first, de Long was skeptical of the site’s suitability, fearing the property may be too small for a school for a large group of children. When she saw the proposed location she soon realized that Rev. Lyttle was correct in his choice at the headwaters of Greasy Creek. On page 7 of the de Long “Dear Friend” letter, she wrote;

We were all the more eager to go on to the headwaters of Greasy and see the site originally chosen for us by Mr. Lyttle, though we hardly thought we would find it a suitable place. Yet we wanted to leave no stone unturned, and besides, the day was so beautiful that we were glad to be abroad. We scarcely hoped to find land enough for our purpose, for we thought that no one appreciated the size of our plans, and indeed when Mrs. Henry Creech, [Delia Creech] who went with us for company, showed us the proposed spot, she pointed out land enough for only one or two buildings.


In fact, de Long found the general site so appropriate and so beautiful that she imagined with the others in her group about how its various features could be used in a school campus. As the day ended, the travelers stopped at

…the quaint old-fashioned home of Mr. and Mrs. William Creech [approximately a mile from the proposed location on Isaac’s Creek], whose simple goodness and kindly courtesy were like an evening benediction. It was here as we sat around the fire that the fairy-tale came true — for little by little we discovered that “Uncle William” had been planning, since he first heard of our coming, to secure for us one hundred and ten acres of land and help us build our school.

Rev. Lyttle caught up with de Long and her entourage at Mrs. Gib Lewis‘ home [near the home of William Creech] in order to guide them over the mountain the next day. De Long’s letter describes on page 10, the evening the group spent together with the preacher:

We sat around the fire where the enormous logs were burning, rings of yellow pumpkins drying for winter above our heads — till late that night; and Mr. Lyttle sang old hymns for us, “If you love your mother — meet her in the skies,” or joined Mrs. Lewis’ [Arwilly Lewis] beautiful, shy, little granddaughter in some more modern hymns such as “Jesus is a Rock.” This was a household inclined to disapprove of “song ballets (sic),” though it hardly considered them “devil’s ditties,” as do many of the old-time Baptists.

De Long continues to describe Rev. Lyttle, delighting in his antics as the little group continued on their journey after the overnight at Mrs. Lewis’:

The next day was a rare one, for our guide was an inimitable story-teller, and could take off the mannerisms and the sing-song chant of the old-fashioned mountain preacher to perfection. We shall never forget his tales, or the unanswerable argument of the old preacher who declared a child of God could not fall from grace, “for what if the enemy does say, brethring, ‘if ye fall from grace,’ — you all know, bothring, that it is an impossible verb an’ in the everlasting tense.”

Just at the point where three counties, Harlan, Leslie and Perry, meet, Mr. Lyttle dropped his character of entertainer and told us he wanted to have a little service right there where we could see the blue line of Pine and Black [mountains] and all the gorgeous colorings of the interlying hills. He took out his little pocket Testament, read us the Sermon on the Mount, and then sang for us the old sweet songster hymn, “I’m Dwelling on the Mountain.” Then we followed the trail straight along the top of the ridge for five miles before we descended to the waters of Leatherwood.

Leatherwood, in Perry County, was then the home of Rev. Lyttle and his family. They had taken up residence in a small cottage on a farm at the head of Leatherwood. This site Lyttle used as his base of operations, serving some 5 churches he maintained in the region of Perry and Harlan counties.

REV. LEWIS LYTTLE: Pettit Correspondence, May 27, 1911

Later that month, Miss Katherine Pettit and Miss Harriet Butler journeyed to the Pine Mountain to view the site and visit with the Creech Family. Pettit described the experience in a letter to “My Dear Friend,” dated May 27, 1911. Like Ethel de Long, she too includes her impressions of Rev. Lyttle, whom she grew to admire for his generosity, pragmatism, and his cheerful and optimistic outlook on life “despite his many odds.” 


An article beginning on page one of the January 1946 issue of Notes from Pine Mountain School tells of the School’s celebration of the 100th birthdays of Uncle William and Aunt Sal Creech. A memorial program was held at the School House in the afternoon and attended by trustees, staff, friends and the community. It was a “simple folksy meeting with speaking and singing in the spirit of the old time gatherings….” The legacy of The Reverend Lewis Lyttle’s efforts to bring about the School was not forgotten:

We missed Reverend Lewis Lyttle who was the mountain circuit rider in the early 1900’s and carried messages from Uncle William to thequare women” at Hindman, and who helped to select the site for Pine Mountain School. Mr. Lyttle was ill, but sent his message by his children, the son a fine young soldier, the daughter a marine, both delightful representatives of that old man whose spirit is so much with us here at all times….

A review of Rev. Lyttle’s data in the U.S. Census from 1910 to 1940 suggests that he was hardworking most of his life, supporting a family that grew in number over several decades.

According to the 1910 U.S. Census, Re. Lewis Lyttle was a minister at the Baptist Church in Hazard (Perry County), Kentucky. Neura Belle Lyttle, age 26, was his second wife of nine years. The household included three children (2 of which were borne by Belle): Shirley, age 9, Horace, 7, and Cecil, 1.

Katherine Pettit’s My Dear Friend letter of May 27, 1911 (pages 3-4), tells his story in detail as of 1911:

Mr. Lyttle, who built the Baptist Church at Hindman ten years ago, lives on Mr. Shepherd’s farm. He has four church organizations in log school houses; one on Big Leatherwood, one on Little Leatherwood, one at the mouth of Big Laurel on Greasy, and the other across the mountain on Cumberland. That means that he must walk at least fourteen miles every three Sundays in the month to get to his churches. I wish I knew some way to get a horse for him. He says he thinks he must wear out enough shoes each year to pay for one.

He gets $10.00 per month for all this preaching. Besides his wife and two children, several years ago he adopted what he calls a “bastard” who had no one to take care of her. Last winter his sister’s husband ran away and left her with three children and another on the way. She had absolutely no money and no place to go, and [Mr. Lyttle] had to take her into his two-room house. And there he is cheerfully supporting them all on the $10.00 per month he gets for preaching and what he can raise on the land that Mr. Andy Shepherd gives him to use. He really is a wonder!

He was born and brought up in Harlan County in the midst of the Turner-Howard feud. His people all had a part in it and he tells about it in a most interesting way. He knows the mountain people, their needs and conditions, their traditions, their legends, their songs, their ballads, every quaint saying, has absolutely no prejudice, and is not sensitive.

By the time of the 1920 U.S. Census, Rev. Lyttle, still a clergyman, was living in TeJay (Bell County), Kentucky, with his family that now included another daughter, age 5, and Ruby Logan, and a granddaughter, age 2. Lewis Lyttle himself was the enumerator of the census.

In 1930, the U.S. Census records show the Lyttle Family as living in Wallins Creek (Harlan County), Kentucky. At age 61, Lyttle was working as a “city judge at police court.” The household included Belle, Cecil, Larue, a new son, Boyce, age 9, and a daughter-in-law, Ethel Lyttle. As of 1940, Lyttle, now age 71, continued to serve as “police judge” in Wallins Creek. Boyce, now 19, was the only child living at home.

REV. LEWIS LYTTLE: Lyttle’s Narrative of His Life

According to the 1944 Pine Mountain Family Album, a booklet about PMSS staff, students and community printed by the School, Rev. Lyttle was in that year the only one of the early founders still living. Even at the age of 75, he continued to walk across the mountain to tell the story of the School’s “brave beginnings” to the School’s students. His own narrative of his life was requested by the editors of the 1944 Pine Mountain Family Album. His brief narrative of the founding of Pine Mountain is transcribed here.

“About the Spring of 1910 Miss [Katherine] Pettit accompanied by a young lady Miss Ethel Delong, a teacher of Hindman school, from Connecticut (or some of the northern states) who later on became Mrs. Zande, came to my house and I accompanied them to the mouth of Big Laurel. There we were met by John C. Campbell, representative of Russell Sage Foundation fund. We spent two days looking over the surrounding country, there seemed to be very little inducement to establish a school in that place it was so isolated that it could only be reached by bridle or foot trails across Pine Mountain. The party of us went to Uncle William Creeches and lodged for the night. We told him what we were out for, and he was interested. So he said, ‘if you are in earnest in what you say, if it will be any inducement, I will give you a 25 acre spot to start on.” Undaunted by the handicaps that existed, Miss Pettit accepted the proposition and began immediately to plan to start work. Other folks promised to give timber and work.

“So she rented a farm house to live in and began to build the first house which was built of hewed logs. When the first house was finished she began to gather children from the nearest homes. Some lived close enough to board at home. Those that could not she managed to give them work and began to get teachers to instruct them. It looked like a small beginning, but there was to be a great future.

“I have been in close observance of the work that was being done there ever since I made the first visit with them and it seems like the Lord has blessed and guided everything that has been done for some noble purpose. All the money that has been spent has sure been put to a noble purpose and has paid a big dividend to the uplift of that country. When they began to build, that section of country was a hot bed of moonshine stills, that has been eliminated, and righteousness now prevails.

“We none can tell what the future will be but from what has been done at Pine Mountain School and what is being done now, what ever the problems we have to solve when this war is over that Pine Mountain School will be a great help to us in helping us to get back on a good footing.


Rev. Lewis F. Lyttle was born on February 17, 1868, in Clay County, Kentucky, to Elick Lyttle and Abbie (Faimer) Lyttle. He died on February 3, 1950, at the age of 81.

See Also:

KATHERINE PETTIT CORRESPONDENCE 1911 My Dear Friend Letter This fundraising letter dated May 27, 1911, recounts a visit by Katherine Pettit, Rev. Lyttle, Harriet Butler and Stephen Guilford through four counties in Eastern Kentucky. Pettit’s letter maps to the later Ethel de Long DEAR FRIEND Letter of 1911 which is a fund-raising letter to start the institution at Pine Mountain.

DEAR FRIEND Letters 1911 (Hindman) (Signed by Ethel de Long) This early fund-raising letter by Ethel de Long appears to rely on the earlier letter of Katherine Pettit which de Long says inspired the move to Pine Mountain by the two founders.

LEWIS LYTTLE Letters to Katherine Pettit 1911
LEWIS LYTTLE Letters to Pettit and Nolan 1912

PUBLICATIONS 1944 Pine Mountain Family Album

POST: A BRAVE AND IMAGINATIVE PLAN TAKES SHAPE: Lewis Lyttle – A Key Player in the Founding of PMSS


Rev. Lewis Lyttle

Alt. Title

Lewis Lyttle, The Reverend Lewis F. Lyttle ;




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Lewis Lyttle ; Rev. Lewis Lyttle ; The Reverend Lewis F. Lyttle ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Baptist missionaries ; mountain preachers ; Katherine Pettit ; May Stone ; Ethel de Long ; WCTU Settlement School ; Hindman Settlement School ; donors ; mountain people ; Creech Family ; Uncle William Creech ; Dear Friend letters ; city judges :

Subject LCSH

Lyttle, Lewis F., — 17 February 1868 – 03 February 1950.
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 01: Planning for PMSS / Correspondence ; Series 22: Community, Guests and Visitors ;




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 01: Planning for PMSS / Correspondence and Series 22: Community, Guests and Visitors ;

Coverage Temporal

1868 – 1950

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Hindman, KY ; Leatherwood Creek, KY ; Greasy Creek, KY ; Hazard (Perry County), KY ; TeJay (Bell County), KY ; Wallins Creek (Harlan County), KY ; Clay County, 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 Rev. Lewis F. Lyttle; clippings, photographs, books by or about Rev. Lewis F. Lyttle ;




“[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

2017-01-06 aae ; 2017-01-19 hhw ; 2017-03-23 aae ; 2019-07-13 hhw; 2023-06-03 aae ;



Lyttle, Lewis F. Series 01: Planning for PMSS / Correspondence and Series 22: Community, Guests and Visitors. 1943 PINE MOUNTAIN FAMILY ALBUM, page 5 ; DEAR FRIEND LETTER 1911 [Hindman]NOTES – 1946 ; PETTIT CORRESPONDENCE 1911 ; Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

“Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X6BL-7BD : 8 December 2014), Lewis F Lyttle, 03 Feb 1950; citing, reference certificate; FHL microfilm 2,372,557. Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch  (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M26R-ZWG : accessed 7 January.) Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MH2X-XPD : accessed 7 January 2017.) Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XM6T-971 : accessed 7 January 2017.) Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K7T4-XMJ : accessed 7 January 2017.) Internet resource.

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