STAPLETON REPORT 1928 – December. “Of course after Thanksgiving everybody began …”

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel
Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton
Line Fork 1926 – 1937

STAPLETON REPORT 1928 – December.

“Of course after Thanksgiving everybody began to say ‘It’s only four weeks or three or two until Christmas …”

TAGS: Stapleton Report 1928 – December. “Of course after Thanksgiving everybody began …” ; Dr. Ida Stapleton ; Rev. Robert Stapleton ; Line Fork Settlement ; medicine ; Thanksgiving ; Christmas traditions ; Gilley Post Office ; Laurel House ; Big Laurel ; trustees ; influenza ; Dr. Withington ; community houses ; Christmas Gold ; Cabin ; mules ; mustard plaster ; burials ; hospital ; earaches ; trachoma ; Federal Hospital

TRANSCRIPTION: STAPLETON REPORT 1928 – December.”Of course after Thanksgiving everybody began …”

Transcription courtesy of Gretchen Rasch, great-granddaughter of the Stapletons.


December 1928.                                            Gilley P.O. Ky.

Dear friends:-

Of course after Thanksgiving everybody began to say “It’s only four weeks or three or two until Christmas”. And then it was here, but Santa Claus had been busy in a good many places to make a Christmas for Bear Branch and Coyle [sic] branch people and his representatives here had “packed” boxes up from Gilley P.O. for two weeks preceding the great event. Some things came from Pine Mt School supplies. Anyway “Darby and Joan” spent some busy evenings getting the appropriate gifts ticketed to the right persons. On Friday before Christmas the boxes were loaded on to Swallow and “Joan” climbed aboard while “Darby” marched alongside.

The teachers and children had prepared the school room at Coyle Branch school down by Gilley P.O. and decorated it very prettily with holly while the tree was in shining tinsel and candles.

A nice little program by the children with Christmas songs Mr S had taught them and a story “Christmas Gold” from the Christian Herald told by Mrs S held the attention of the well-filled school house for a half hour or more after which, with the aid of one of the young men dressed up as Santa, the gifts were distributed by us thru Santa’s hands.

There was a scripture calendar for every family addressed to Mr. and Mrs.  ———- and I mean to call attention to the verses for the day whenever I call at a home. Every woman had a pair of stockings in her package and a handkerchief or some other little thing. The older children had some pictures from the National Geographic Society with description well adapted to their intelligence, and something else. There were toys and such for the younger children.

One family had somehow held aloof from the Christmas celebration last year but they were all present this time and one remarked “If you fellows had not been here we would had had no Christmas at the top of Line Fork.”

The special treat was oranges and little boxes of raisins. We chose them instead of candy as I have noticed they seem to get all they need of that from the little stores nearby. I’ve been glad to have several come and ask to buy raisins by exchanging eggs for them or even nickels.

This Friday evening they were to have a dramatic service of the Nativity at Pine Mt so we went over in time for supper at Laurel House. The dining room was so lovely with laurel garlands along the balcony and tiny trees on each table. The grand tree in the angle near the great fireplace in which a huge yule log had been placed. Surely never in any medieval castle was there more space for a log. It took Mr Browning (the manager of Pine Mt farm) and four husky boys to get that log back in place. The tree – well you have all seen trees and trees but to these mountain girls and boys it was a vision of beauty. On the Tuesday evening two groups of girls had sung in the dining room lighted only by candles. The first group in white, sang “Holy Night” as they lighted the candles. Then as the second group in Red Riding Hood capes sang “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen” they marched around the tables placing wreaths of little woodsy things – bits of lichen from trees, tiny hemlock cones, bits of red berries and white popcorn – over the tiny trees with “Tidings of Comfort and Joy”.

As most of the children get away for vacation on Saturday we brought Miss [Marian] Purbrick the nurse back with us to stay over Christmas and we did have a happy Christmas Eve together but a message came for her to return to take care of some sick, so Mr. S. had to take her back on Christmas morning. He had the turkey dinner at Laurel House with those who remained during vacation and I had a very quiet and happy day by myself.

We had had the tree at Bear Branch on Monday and some four families joined us in the Christmas dinner. About the same sort of gifts were given there. Mr S played Santa Claus in a regular suit he had worn at Big Laurel where he had officiated twice in that character. One little girl who had never seen a Santa Claus before was a bit afraid at first, then decided “he would not hurt anyone.” We were glad to see several fathers with their children. The three Hall brothers who make brooms and chairs and the school trustee seemed much interested. The girls had trimmed a little tree and branches of hemlock between the windows and protecting wire made the school room look like a “bosky dell”[?].

Then we laid the table on boards placed across school desks as a leg of the saw horse had given out. It was decorated with pretty crepe paper runners and bright paper napkins. All the food that had been brought was arranged in view and while the people sat on the school seats facing the center where the table was, the mothers who had brought the food passed it to the company. My mince pies and Christmas cakes were praised by the way they disappeared.

Some Christmas stockings filled by a school in Detroit and sent to Pine Mt came to us after Christmas. These were taken by me as I go round visiting to distant families who did not have a share in the tree. Some were given out to chance visitors at the Cabin. There had been such a lot of sickness since influenza struck our valley! I’ve been going somewhere nearly every day since before Christmas.

New Year’s day we went to Big Laurel to Dr Withington’s Christmas party for the fathers and mothers. Mr S had been teaching singing over there also. They have an attractive and commodious community house and the big tree there did service for several groups. It sheltered delightful packages for men and women and about forty out of the fifty-two invited were present including several tiny babies who could not be left at home. In general the impression was of an old time group of country-people. We played games together and had refreshments. Mr S sang two carols and I told again the story of “Christmas Gold”. Several whom we had met before very cordially asked us to “take a night” with them but we replied with thanks that we were Dr W’s guests for the night and it was a very pleasant evening with Miss Taylor the nurse and the two teachers. Mr S and I sat the old year out by our own hearth and as the First appeared very rainy and the Dr had to make a call, at first we thot we could not go to Big Laurel but it cleared up a little and about noon we got off and a three hour ride brought us to Big Laurel at which place the party was already in progress with six nags tied to the fence. One woman had come five miles to enjoy that party.

Having a call over to see “Brad’s young’uns” on Stony Fork, as his young sister-in-law said when she brought the message, I thought to make several calls over there and took along a calendar picture for each family and some of the Christmas stockings with a few toys. While examining the baby, a cousin came in from Big Leatherwood asking me to go and see his mother and grand-pap. As I stopped a minute at Aunt Mandy’s there came “Little Rosie” of whom I wrote in the Fall. She was on her way to the Cabin to ask the Dr to go and see Hrmy [sic] (pronounced Harmy) (Hiram) her husband “who was took with such pains it seemed as tho his bones would be pulled apart”. She had stopped there to warm or I would have missed her and that was five miles from the Cabin and at least seven miles from her house, or hovel more correctly, on Clover Fork. She had brought little Nancy for company and they were riding a sorry mule she had obtained by swapping her sorry sewing machine. It was too far to go to both places and I had already promised to go and see Hannah so I fixed up some treatment for Hrmy giving careful directions and a little money to buy some condensed milk as she said they had nothing but cornbread and cabbage with a little coffee and sugar since a month previously when a friend had given me money to provide milk for the children for a couple of weeks.

I sent one of the filled stockings with her and a ball for the little boys. To them I gave boxes of raisins to eat on the way home. With what care little Nancy carried that package! We rode along together for a half mile then my way led off from the main road over a ridge thru the forest where I came to Hannah’s house about noon. She needed a mustard plaster but I had none with me but she had some mustard seed so putting them in a bit of cloth I pounded them fine with a hammer on the hearth stone. The family had got hot things around her and she was already a bit more comfortable. Grand-pap was dying with an internal growth and nothing could be done for him. I had seen him some three weeks before and he was patiently waiting for he was ready to go. He “reckoned something was tearing at his vitals and he was an old man”. He died the next night and was carried over the ridge to his son’s; the next day to a family burying place, “high up above where any spring of water might be” and buried by the side of other members of the family. Hannah has four half-grown children. These also received a Christmas stocking with evident pleasure.

Three miles down Big Leatherwood I came to a store where I sat and warmed a bit and chatted with the young man who keeps it. He has some chronic disease that was treated unsuccessfully for two years in a Louisville hospital. Rosie had been in and bought some milk so I felt that all possible had been done for her. I would have gone there the next day had I not been called and needed nearer home.

At another house I was asked to go in and see a boy with a pain in his ear. He had had it off and on for eight years and they had been offered a chance for treatment but when he was not in pain he felt so well he would not go and this time also they hoped it would pass, but the infection passed swiftly to brain tissue and a week later he died, only eighteen and a husky looking boy. His mother said she had often urged him to call on the Lord and he had with his last breath and she hoped God would be merciful to him.

Here four little boys shared their Christmas stocking and one ran quickly and brought me an armful of apples and a special one for Swallow. He assured me there would be more when I came again.

Three miles further on I stopped to see a young woman with sore eyes. Trachoma apparently of three years’ duration. A wee babe in arms and three other children were her care which her half blind eyes made very difficult. She will use drops till next summer when she can go to the Federal Hospital in Richmond Ky for surgical treatment. I had handed the gifts to the children in the morning as I passed there and the mother said they had played with the ball and toys for two hours. Little three-year-old Fernando was much pleased with the toy dog that had fallen to him. I asked the mother what she called Fernando and she said they generally called him “Hando” so I said “Fido” would be a good name for Hando’s dog.

Another day was spent in visiting the Griffis. The old lady and her blind boy Norman with Little Mary who is doubtless a natural grandchild but left on the doorstep by an unknown person, when only a few months old. She is seven now and a great help and comfort. She showed me with great pride the new overalls and sweater her “Maw” had given her for Christmas. With what joy she expressed as she examined her Christmas stocking that I had taken her. She had never tasted an orange before nor has she ever been more than a mile from her house. The grandmother goes to the store at times and the children give her an hour and a half. Then they walk down the trail to meet her. Norman is thirty years old but very helpless as he has never learned to do anything with his hands. He is also deformed in body but knows a number of ballads that he sings for chance callers.

The house is almost falling about their heads but just that day their nearest neighbour and his three boys were cutting a “board tree” to make new shingles for it. She has considerable land such as it is and her husband planted apple trees forty years ago. She had a good many this year and that has helped out very much. She insisted on my going to the pit where she had buried them and she selected a peck or two of good ones for me to take home. She wanted to give me some eggs also but a sneak thief had carried off five of her hens just a night or two before. Mary said she heard the hens holler and went out to see the thief making off. She said, “I called him a bad word – a ‘son of a bitch’”. She assured me tho with many repetitions she love[s] me more than she could say and they had said before I arrived they must save me some apples.

Mrs Griffis had once known how to read but her eyes are so weak now she can’t see the words any more. With many thanks for the visit and urgent requests for another visit soon I left for home by another trail over the mountain, so steep Swallow had to dig in with all her might to make it while I hung onto her mane to prevent the saddle from slipping back, and then half sliding down the other side of the mountain I came again to Line Fork Valley and the Cabin.

[signed] Sincerely Yours
Ida S Stapleton

[postscript] See Ann Cobb’s poems in Jan 16th Outlook and Independent.

[Date of transcription: 2014-02-25]


STAPLETON REPORT 1928 – December. “Of course after Thanksgiving everybody began …”

Alt. Title

Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton
Line Fork 1926 – 1937


STAPLETON REPORT 1928 – December. “Of course after Thanksgiving everybody began …”


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 ; medicine ; education ; settlement schools ; industrial workers ; Thanksgiving ; Christmas ; Bear Branch ; Coyle Branch ; Gilley Post Office ; horses ; decorations ; Christmas songs ; Christian Herald ; scripture calendars ; gifts ; National Geographic Society magazine ; Nativity service ; Laurel House ; laurel garlands ; yule log ; Mr. Browning ; farm managers ; wreaths ; Christmas songs ; Miss Purbrick ; nurses ; food ; Santa Claus ; Big Laurel ; Hall brothers ; trustees ; Christmas stockings ; influenza ; Dr. Withington ; community houses ; Christmas Gold ; Miss Taylor ; teachers ; Stony Fork ; Big Leatherwood ; Cabin ; Clover Fork ; mules ; mustard plaster ; burials ; hospital ; earaches ; trachoma ; Federal Hospital ; Griffis family ; board trees ; Line Fork Valley ; Ann Cobb ; poems ; Outlook ; Independent ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Line Fork, KY ; Letcher County, KY ; Gilley, KY ; Louisville, KY ; Richmond, KY ;

Subject LCSH

Stapleton, Dr. Ida, –1871 – 1946.
Stapleton, Rev. Robert, — 1866 – 1945.
Line Fork Medical Settlement (Gilley, Ky.) –History.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, 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) ; Series 14: Built Environment – Line Fork Settlement ; Series 09: Biography – Ruth Dennis, Katherine Pettit ; 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

December 1928

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Line Fork, KY ; Letcher County, KY ; Gilley, KY ; Louisville, KY ; Richmond, 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, articles, 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 ; 2014-02-18 hhw ; 2014-02-22 hhw ; 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.

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