Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel

BESSIE V. GAUNT, Housemother & Bookkeeper, 1922-1928

TAGS: Bessie V. Gaunt ; housemothers ; bookkeepers ; bookkeeping ; Bill Dawn ; Mabel Sidelinger ; Ethel de Long Zande ; Central Normal School ; 1979 Homecoming brochure ; Diversey Arms Hotel ; Allandale Farm ; Springfield, MA ;

When Miss Darracott decided to resign from her position of one year as PMSS bookkeeper and secretary, Ethel de Long Zande, then co-director, was anxious to refill the position. The deadline was by September 1, 1922, the day after Miss Darracott’s departure. Mrs. Zande turned to Bessie V. Gaunt of Springfield, Massachusetts. Miss Gaunt originally learned of the School from Miss Mabel Sidelinger and had applied to work at PMSS the previous year.

In a letter dated August 4, 1922, to Miss Gaunt, Mrs. Zande described the position:

Since I wrote you a year ago, we have somewhat changed our method of keeping books, so that the professional part of the book-keeping is done by an auditor in Cincinnati. Our book-keeper here now keeps the minor books, attends to cash receipts and disbursements, handles the payroll, etc., helps on much of the secretarial work such as typing forms and keeping records, the sending of bills and filing of school business, and the keeping of three ledgers, — the Accounts Payable, the Accounts Receivable, and the Accounts Receivable Students Ledgers. Her schedule, as you see, is a very full one.

Mrs. Zande was wise in her selection, as Miss Gaunt was well-qualified. According to her application form, Miss Gaunt received training from Central Normal School and studied at a business college. She had 10 years of experience, having worked with General School Supply, in charge of two departments, then with the Michigan Baptist Convention office as bookkeeper and secretary.

BESSIE V. GAUNT: At Pine Mountain

As it turned out, from 1922 to 1928 Bessie V. Gaunt was employed as a bookkeeper for four years in the PMSS Office and a housemother at Boys’ House for another two years.

In June of 1928, as Miss Gaunt was preparing to leave Pine Mountain, the following two statements of recommendation were written for her (author unknown, possibly Ethel de Long Zande):

June 21, 1928

Miss Bessie V. Gaunt was book-keeper at Pine Mountain for four years, during which time the school profited greatly by her ability, business experience and keen mind. The work was never mechanical with her because she always saw the meaning behind it. She was a great loss to the office when she left it to become housemother of the older boys in the school. During the two years that she has served in this capacity, she has been a great resource to us and has often been appealed to for advice on book-keeping questions that have come up. Her personal qualifications make her a most pleasant and valuable member of an office staff.

June 21, 1928

Miss Bessie V. Gaunt was housemother in our boys’ dormitory for two years. She had most of the time a family averaging twenty-five boys, and supervised their home life, trained them in personal habits, kept their confidence and was a constantly upbuilding influence with them to a remarkable degree. She possesses a very unusual understanding of young people, boys in particular, and succeeds in building up group life in a very happy way, without sacrificing interest in individual development. The boys who have been under her care at Pine Mountain think of her first of all as their good friend and owe her a great deal.

Her executive ability, good taste, and practical attack of housekeeping problems help her to create a home atmosphere. Her breadth of interest, strong religious nature, and sense of humor always make their mark on the young people associated with her. Her fine mind and shrewdness appeal to boys very much and help her to get to their problems very quickly. She is a “born housemother.”

Bill Dawn, a PMSS student in the 1920s and, in later years, a member of the Advisory Council to the PMSS Board of Trustees, wrote the following tribute to Miss Gaunt in the 1979 Homecoming brochure as part of a narrative about his PMSS memories:

...A Miss [Bessie V.] Gaunt, school office secretary at that time, sort of adopted me. She lived at Boy’s House and several times helped keep me from being sent home — expelled from school. I was a typical, uncouth, Harlan town boy and always getting into trouble — at least the first year.

It was she who advised me to finish high school at an accredited school, for Pine Mt. at that time was not. So, as mentioned, I spent three years there, 1925-26-27 — the best years of my life. At any rate, it changed me from a hillbilly brat to a fairly decent, well-mannered boy, who learned to love good books and music with some added culture.

BESSIE V. GAUNT: After Pine Mountain

Bessie Gaunt continued to correspond with the staff at Pine Mountain Settlement School until at least 1930.

The 1930 U.S. Census shows a “Bessie V. Gaunt” among a long list of working-class “guests” at the Diversey Arms Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. At that time she was single, age 38, and employed as a secretary at a country club. She and her father were born in Michigan, her mother in Canada.

The 1940 U.S. Census lists a “Miss Bessy Gaunt,” age 48, as the principal of “Allandale Farm,” a private residential school for homeless boys located in Lake Villa Township, Illinois.

See Also: Bessie V. Gaunt Correspondence


Bessie V. Gaunt

Alt. Title

Bessie Gaunt ; Bess Gaunt ; Bessy Gaunt ;




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Bessie V. Gaunt ; Bessie Gaunt ; Bess Gaunt ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Miss Darracott ; housemothers ; bookkeepers ; Boys’ House ; Bill Dawn ; Mabel Sidelinger ; Ethel de Long Zande ; Central Normal School ; General School Supply ; Michigan Baptist Convention ; 1979 Homecoming brochure ; Diversey Arms Hotel ; Allandale Farm ; Springfield, MA ; Cincinnati, OH ; Chicago, IL ; Lake Villa Township, IL ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ;

Subject LCSH

Gaunt, Bessie V., — 1891 – (?)
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 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel.

Coverage Temporal


Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Springfield, MA ; Cincinnati, OH ; Chicago, IL ; Lake Villa Township, IL ;


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 Bessie V. Gaunt ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Bessie V. Gaunt ;




“[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

2017-06-09 aae ; 2018-04-06 aae ;



“Bessie V. Gaunt.” 1970s Alumni Relations. Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 30 March 2017, Illinois > Cook > Chicago (Districts 1501-1750) > image 3 of 4; citing NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002). Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 30 March 2017, Illinois > Lake > Lake Villa Township, Lake Villa > image 1 of 12; citing Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012). Internet resource.

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