STAPLETON REPORT 1929 – February “Early in the month the Federal Officers …”

Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton
Line Fork 1927 – 1947
STAPLETON REPORT – February 1929
“Early in the month the Federal Officers came thru and made a clean sweep of our most determined moonshiners and …”
TRANSCRIPTION courtesy of Gretchen Hasch, great-granddaughter of the Stapletons:

LINE FORK SETTLEMENT.   Gilley PO Kentucky    February 1929

Dear friends:-

Early in the month the Federal Officers came thru and made a clean sweep of our most determined moonshiners and bootleggers. Some fifteen were held up in custody over night at our neighbors – a half mile distant – and if they slept any that night it was just as they stretched out on the floor and the five officers watched lest some make an escape. Mary, the daughter of the house who helps at the Cabin one day a week, said they got breakfast for them all, the officers taking them in squads to the table. There were some among them whom we had not suspected and two or three who were only found in bad company and so were quickly released after the examination at Pineville. Three others had been let off on a previous offence for good behavior and they were summarily sent to work out a six months’ sentence. These three were all sons of one man who tho’ arrested was released as the sons declared the still to be theirs, altho’ doubtless the father is more guilty than the sons. Just a day or two ago the wife of one of these three came to the Cabin begging us to write a letter to the judge asking that her husband Little D. be allowed to come home and put in the crop before serving the sentence. But we just could not do it as he is not to be trusted any more than Finley of whom I’ve written before. Florence the wife is a nice little person living on her father’s farm – one of the most difficult of access – so I do not get there very often but she comes to the Cabin for medicine or papers to paste on the house walls. Little D. is also awaiting trial for the murder of one of his neighbors with whom he had a quarrel when drunk.

The others are out of prison on a thousand dollar bond each, to appear at the court in May. The officers found and destroyed nine stills within five miles of the Cabin. One remains that was not found. The owner of this one has a son in Pine Mountain school and when asked by the visiting dentist what business his father followed he replied altogether unabashed, “He has a moonshine still”. Eventually he is bound to give it up but he says he has a right to make it and drink it, yet he is not one of the drunks nor does he get into altercations with his fellows.

Finley has succeeded in having his trial deferred twice and now he has summoned me to appear March 22nd at court in Harlan town because I removed the bullet. It seems his lawyer is going to try and prove that the bullet hit a rock and glanced off, thereby killing the man who was in its path – catching at a straw, as far as I observed it was a clean shining copper bullet that went right thru the man’s body and lodged just under the skin over the heart. So much for the consequences of fooling with “raw corn”.

Come and take a day with me over on Clover Fork. It takes a day to go and come so we shall enjoy the ride over the mountain – a long climb to the top and then a steep descent to Stoney Fork. This ride through the forest has always a certain fascination. Many kind of trees – all bare now excepting the hemlocks and a few pines. A half-fallen oak or chestnut is lodged in other tree tops across the road and I’m always a little fearful lest it should fall just at the moment I am passing under it. But it cannot unless three other trees give way at the same time, so why worry?

Stony Fork is aptly named so, and we cross it twenty times before reaching Big Leatherwood into which it empties. Here we have two or three miles better road but must cross Big Leatherwood twice before we get to Clover Fork. The fords are rather deep now but the nags wade thru without any fuss. Now we enter Clover Fork – shallow and stony at the mouth. Up half a mile we reach the Couches. The occasion of this visit is because of illness of all the family and especially the mother. Her daughter Eliza came to the Cabin with baby Tiny – a child eighteen months old – so sick I thought she might die any moment. Eliza said she knew she would die if she did not have some help so she had mounted a mule and persuaded her young brother who had been here once to come with her and they had arrived. I found them sitting on the porch upon my return from some other visit. Baby Tiny got a good rubbing with musterole which seemed to relieve the breathing a little and after a lot of advice and a bottle of medicine – sundry glasses of milk for Eliza and her brother – some biscuits and raisins to eat on the way back they started in a cold drizzle of rain.

The weather was so bad I could not go there for a week and it is that visit that we are making now. It is a rather cold day and I am glad to draw up to the fireplace which is already well occupied. Mrs Couch has managed to crawl out of bed as she said she could not breathe lying down. Her baby was somewhat better and looks lively enough. But they have been giving it candy and it had rubbed it all over dirty hands and face. The father comes and takes it out to the porch and washes it. Eliza was nussing (meaning holding) Tiny and has made her a little dress from scraps given her at the Cabin. When asked if she had a needle she replied that she might find a needle but she could get no thread so this was added to the scraps.

Tildy the daughter-in-law is standing by with her “young-un” only three months old. I have given her a simple little layette for which she aims to pay one dollar but has not managed to get more than fifty cents. I make her hand me the small bundle and you will never believe anything so white could have become so black in three weeks. I ask her if she is not able to keep it a little cleaner. She thinks she might but everyone has been so sick she just has not been able to wash anything. She is even more grimy than her baby. Then as tho this is not enough another little mother comes up to the fireside complaining that her baby has been fussy all night and she has not slept any. Mrs C. indicates a bottle of paregoric on the fire-board. At that I ask for the baby to see what the matter is. A little questioning brings out the story. She has carried the baby from her mother’s house (she having left her husband three months before the birth of the child because he did not work for her) to visit her grandmother three days before and has no change of garments for the little one – it had only four diapers -rags- anyway. It is cold and wet and soiled so we have a cleanup right away since I have a few baby things with me. Now there come in some half-fledged chickens to enjoy the warmth of the fire. They are stretching limbs and spreading their wings as they nestle on the warm hearthstone. A mangy puppy has to be driven out every minute only to return whenever a chance is given him to enter.

The family has partly dined and I am invited to partake also. I try to refuse but it seems best and polite to make some show of appreciation. Tildy is bidden by her father to “toast” me an egg. Toast means to soft fry them. I go into the “other house” (the other room) where the table stands opposite the door since the room has no window whatever. Two double beds occupy the dark corners and there is a rickety stove by the fireplace.

There is a dish of very greasy and underdone potatoes, a big platter of fried apples but the spoon among them looks so discoloured I cannot bring myself to sample them. So I eat the eggs also blackened by soot that has fallen into the frying pan and a bit or two of sticky corn bread. While I eat Victoria comes with her baby but I urge her to stay by the fire with the child a few minutes until I finish and then I will hold it for her while she eats. This I do and soon they are all back again in the living room, only a little less dingy than the other room and it also has two beds in it.

In the meantime Swallow has had a little corn fodder and being on Clover Fork I go on up to see how Rosa and Harmy were getting along. Their house is in a hollow at the very head of the Branch some three miles of the roughest apology for a road. Indeed it is nothing but the creek bed for a mile and a half and then a trail over the ridge above the creek. The trail at the end is almost covered with briars that clutch at your garments as you push thru. From the ridge appears a small clearing with the house on the far side.

Before reaching Rosa’s we pass first a cabin made of hand split shingles instead of logs – very sketchy as to any kind of comfort. Tildy with husband and baby live here. They were at home to help his family when they were all prostrate with flu. The next house or cabin is a shade better. Here another Couch and family live. Two lovely little children with red hair and just the daintiest peach bloom skins. Their mother can read and seems to enjoy her children’s faces clean. As usual I have some pictures for the children and reading matter for anyone who can read. When opportunity offers I read or tell some stories in a conversational way. They tell me of their ailments and there is much to be said in connection with that subject. But let us go to Rosa’s.

Swallow is left tied to a post of the falling palings. I crawl thru a gap in the fence and here I am at the house quite unannounced. Harmy is in bed as he seems to be having a relapse. Rosie has gone to beg help from her father and brothers. Belle and Nancy are out getting firewood. Willie, Judy and Amy are huddled near the fire while Hans and Eccie are asleep in bed. Willie greets me with “We ain’t got no taters”. There is not much I can do. They need food above everything as well as clothing and bed covers. I have a few things with me with a supply of evaporated milk. But they must have meal and meat (meaning pork as that has fat also) at the very least. I remain a half hour encouraging them as best I can and leaving a little medicine for Harmy. He has become a little better and has been able to ride to the Lumber company doctor who told him that he had pleurisy and gave him a treatment.

Since then Rosie has been at the Cabin as Harmy was not able to come so far and was no better. She said she had exchanged with some of her farther neighbors everything she could possibly spare for meal and meat. Her brothers helped them some but they were indeed on the edge of starving so she had come to the Cabin. I sent Harmy some cod liver oil that being both food and medicine and gave her an order to a store on Big Leatherwood that she should get some necessities. Ten year old Nancy was with her and it was the first time she had been away from Clover Fork. I felt like keeping her and giving one of the family at least a chance to live and learn. It almost depresses me beyond endurance with the hopelessness of the situation – being a case of live or die, sink or swim, survive or perish. Rosie was pathetically grateful – for their dinner, a ration of corn for the horse, a package of needles, a spool of thread, some old shoes for Harmy and even the old rubbers would be useful.

In a few weeks I must go again and see that she gets some onion sets as well as potatoes to plant if not to eat.

Here we are back at the cosy Cabin. Next week I’m going to take Mrs Susan to Richmond to have her eyes treated for Trachoma at the U.S. Hospital for that disease. The L&N railroad gives passes for indigent people applying through the Settlement doctors connected with Pine Mt Settlement School.

Sincerely yours
[signed] Ida S. Stapleton

[Date of transcription: 2014-02-27]



STAPLETON REPORT 1929 – February

Alt. Title

Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton
Line Fork 1927 – 1947


STAPLETON REPORT 1929 – February “Early in the month the Federal Officers …”


Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Dr. Ida Stapleton ; Rev. Robert Stapleton ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Line Fork Settlement ; Federal Officers ; moonshiners ; bootleggers ; Cabin ; stills ; Harlan court ; trees ; Big Leatherwood ; Clover Fork, KY ; Stoney Fork ; horses ; musterole ; paregoric ; food ; flu ; medicine ; pleurisy ; cod liver oil ; trachoma ; L&N Railroad ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Line Fork, KY ; Letcher County, KY ; Pineville, KY ; Gilley, KY ;

Subject LCSH

Stapleton, Dr. Ida S., — 1871 – 1946.
Stapleton, Rev. Robert, — 1866 – 1945.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Line Fork Medical Settlement (Gilley, KY) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural medicine — Kentucky — Letcher County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Rural health services — Appalachian Region — History.




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY


Gretchen Rasch


Collections ; text ; image ;


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


Series 21A: Personal Narratives (Written) ; Series 14: Built Environment – Line Fork Settlement ; Series 09: Biography – Ruth Dennis, Katherine Pettit ;




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 21A: Personal Narratives (Written) ; Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) ; Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) Library, Ida Stapleton Letters to Friends SC 462 ; Morris, Glyn. Less Traveled Roads, New York: Vantage Press, 1977.

Coverage Temporal

February 1929

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Line Fork, KY ; Letcher County, KY ; Pineville, KY ; 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.




Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton ;




Line Fork Settlement School – Dr. Ida S. Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers, Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;

Last Updated

2014-01-06 hhw ; 2014-01-10 aae ; 2014-02-28 aae ; 2014-03-06 aae ;



Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 21A: Personal Narratives (Written), Series 14: Built Environment – Line Fork Settlement, and Series 09: Biography – Ruth Dennis, Katherine Pettit. Archival material.


Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) (accessed 2014-01-06). Internet resource.

Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) Library, Ida Stapleton Letters to Friends SC 462 (accessed 2014-01-06). Internet resource.

Morris, Glyn. Less Traveled Roads, New York: Vantage Press, 1977. Print.