ALICE COBB STORIES Told by Miss Pettit

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 05: Administration – Board of Trustees
Series 09: Biography

ALICE COBB STORIES Told by Miss Pettit

TAGS: Alice Cobb Stories Told by Miss Pettit; Alice Cobb; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Katherine Pettit ; Nance Templeton ; Greasy Creek ; Mrs. Fields ; Cutshin, KY ; Line Fork ; Chad Nolan ; Daniel Boone; Aunt Sal Dixon Creech; Uncle William Creech; LIne Fork Nativity Play; Kentucky Place Names;

Alice Cobb worked at Pine Mountain Settlement School (PMSS) as secretary and publicity manager in the 1930s, then teacher from 1942 to 1952. After her teaching years, she was the School’s fundraiser and consultant until 1995. Years later, in the 1980s, she served as a member of the PMSS Board of Trustees.

Among the many stories that Cobb collected were the following told by Katherine Pettit, the School’s co-founder and co-director, 1913 to 1930.


“Didn’t you ever hear of Aunt Nance Templeton who was the prettiest gal that ever lived on the waters of Greasy? All the fellers wanted to marry her cept’n one who lived across the mountain on the waters of the North Fork, but the others said she shouldn’t marry a furrin-er. But she went ahead and got ready to do it just as she said. She raised her some flax and sconched it and hackled it and spun it and wove her the prettiest linen dress of white linen and she sheared her sheep and dyed her some indigo yarn and wove her a blue linsey-woolsey dress, cause she said if it was a wet day she didn’t want to go to his house all drabbled up in white, but if it was a good day she’d wer her linen dress. Then she sanged [harvested ginseng] her out some money and went off and bought some other things and by the time she was sixteen she was all ready to be married and when the wedding day came she got up just at the peep of day and went out to see what kind of a day it was going to be. And thar on the loom bench on the porch she saw something curious and hit scared her so she went in and woke her pap who was in bed and told him to come out with a light. He lighted a pine stick and came out and there it wuz … the dead body of the boy she was aimin’ to marry that day. And he had the marriage license in his pocket.

“Well, hit was a sight in this work how she grieved over it. She just sat before the fire with a black sunbonnet on and mourned and mourned and mourned. All the fellers came from everywhere and kep atter her to marry ’em but she never would look at none after she found the dead body of her sweet-heart.

“Then atter a while she got up and went around to be a help to people. Whenever there was grievous times she was right thar. If anybody was sick she knowed just what to do for ’em. If anybody was behind with corn crap she always went to hep ’em hoe it out. Then the time came when her pap and mam got so old they couldn’t work. She did all the work for ’em and took care of ’em. But they died. Her nephews and nieces tried to get her to come and live with them but she wouldn’t do it and lived right along in the same old house. Then when she got so old she couldn’t keer for herself, her great-niece came to live with her.

“Then when her time came to die, when she was ninety-four, she told her niece to open the little old chest atter she was dead and if her white flax wedding dress wasn’t too yellow to let her wear that, and if it was too yellow to put her blue linsey-woolsey dress on top. And all these years she carried in her hand a money pus [purse] and she told them to be sure to burry that with her without opening hit, but as it had been norrated around that she’d lots of money in the pus, her nephew was afraid to burry it with her for fear someone would dig hit up, but there wasn’t nothing in it but her marriage license.”

(Aunt Nance died in 1898)



One day Mrs. Fields came in from Line Fork saying she had been made trustee of the school, and the men over ther all said no woman could have a good school but she was bound to see if she could. she took a turn of corn down to the mill the day before and the men were all there trying to find out if she could read and write. Of course, she said, she didn’t know a letter in the book but she wasn’t going to let them see that. She said they tried to get her to hire old Boby Jones for a teacher. They said he’d been a -teachin’ for fifty years and never failed yet to have a good school because he took a bunch of switches at the beginning of the year and gave ’em all a good whipping. But she said she wasn’t “preparing for war but for larnin’.” she said, “I always said if ever I have a chance I aim to give a powerful lick for education and now my chance, hit’s come, and I aim to give it by having a good school, but you’ve got to larn me and show me how. You know thar was another feller like me once who said if ever he had a chance he aimed to give a powerful lick for education, and his chance, hit come too, for he freed the negroes. I was thinkin’ as I come along who that man was … was it Columbo?



“I spent one month riding through the mountains once, thirty and forty miles in a day, and with me was a very attractive young girl who always wore a red shirtwaist. Whenever one of the mountain men came along, he always like to ride by the side of this young girl in the red shirtwaist. One time a nice young man rode up and went along beside her. He said, ‘Be you married?’ and when she said ‘no’, ‘Well,’ he said, ‘You know that’s queer; you know, I haint married nuther, and you’re the first person I ever seed I’d like to marry. Don’t you think you could marry me?’ And when she said she had already promised somebody else, he said, ‘Well, I wish you would think about me because I have a nice two-room log cabin up here on the mountain side and a well in the front yard with a weeping willow over it, and I just know you couldn’t be no better fixed nowhar.'”



“The people said I went around the world to see if it was round or not and when I came back and said it was, they said I was a ‘pure infidel.’ One cold, bleak November morning at seven o’clock a man sent for me to come downstairs to see him on the porch. He said he didn’t have time to wait, that he had already come seven miles to have me tell him about the round world. After asking many questions he went away saying he was coming back to talk about it again. He met someone on the road who asked him if Miss Pettit had convinced him the world was round. He said, ‘No indeed, but she took so much peace and satisfaction in thinking it was round that he didn’t want to disabuse her mind.'”



Miss Pettit one time had to sleep in a bed with a girl whose hair was very long and very obviously full of lice. Miss Pettit tried to persuade her to cut off the hair, which was really quite beautiful. The girl refused, however, saying, “The Bible says as how her hair is a woman’s glory, and it’s not right for a woman to cut off her glory.”



The first Chad Nolan was a boy of thirteen years, playing on a ship off the coast of Ireland. The first thing he knew the ship had set sail and was way out in the ocean. Of course, the captain would not go back for him and when he landed in Virginia at Virginia Beach he was bound out for four years to pay for his passage over. When the time was up some people passed by who were going to North Carolina and he went with them. After he had married there and had six children, Daniel Boone came along with a great crowd going to the lowland of Kentucky. Mr. Nolan took his family and started with them. When they got to Pineville “where Pine Mountain break in two and the Cumberland river flows through” they camped. They always had to go in crowds then because of the Indians. Just as soon as they stopped the oldest boy, Chad Nolan, scared up a b’ar, and he started up the Cumberland River atter it. He didn’t come back that night, he didn’t come back the next day or the next night. The people didn’t dare to wait any longer for they were afraid of the Indians, and they had to go all together for that same reason. After they had settled in the lowlands and had lived there for many years one of the boys took a notion that he’d go back to this place and follow the river to see if he could find what become of his brother. When [he got] away up the river to its head, he found his brother all settled and married with his family and his first question was, “Did you catch the ba’r?” (The boy had found other settlers there and had married a white girl.)



At Line fork one Christmas, a nativity play was being given, with various neighbors composing the cast. On the night of the dress rehearsal everything went off beautifully, but on the night of the play itself, not a shepherd, a wise man, or an angel, not Mary or Joseph appeared. They had all been taken by the revenue officers.



Uncle William said of Cutshin once that “it’s the needin’est and the lostest place in the world.”



Steve Gilbert lived ten miles from Glen Eden School. He rode ten miles each way a day on a white mule. He lived on the head of Hell Creek, came down Devil’s Creek, across the headwaters of Bloody, and down Bear Branch to the North Fork of the Kentucky River.



When Aunt Sal [Dixon Creech] married, when she was sixteen and Uncle William [Creech] was eighteen, everybody come to help with the log-raising. As soon as they got the house up and moved in they planted the garden, and he told her she’d better go and buy a hoe to be ready to hoe it. She told him she’d buy two hoes, that she never expected to go to the garden or field alone. As she, a quaint old woman, was telling this, he looked up and said, “She always was a mighty resolute little gal, and she’s kept it up.” She said every day she went out to see if the beans were up and when they ready to hoe, she got the hoe and told him to come on. But he said he had to go over to his father’s and to the mill where he had left a turn of corn to be ground at the water mill. She went on to the garden and after a while he came with the turn of corn, but went in the house and didn’t come out. When she went to see why, as soon as she got to the door and could smell the liquor, she knew it was because he’d had too much of his father’s apple brandy.

Then she said, “I just sot down and studied hit all out as to what I was aimin’ to do. I knew that I wasn’t aimin’ to live such a life as I had seen my grandmother live with my drunken grandfather and my mother lived with my drunken father. so I grabbed my sunbonnet and went and got into the boat and poled myself across to where his father and others lived and I told them just to come with me, I had somethin’ to give them. We were all very solemn and serious and when we got to the door and there he was still a-sittin’ with his head still on the stand table, I said, ‘Thar’s your boy. You fetched him up that way and you can just take him home and keep him. I don’t aim to have nothin’ more to do with him.’ You know, I was feeling might bad cause we had loved each other ever since we were chunks of chaps. And he said, ‘Won’t you try me one more time?’ and I said, ‘Well, I’ll try you just one more time if you will lift your hand and promise that you will never touch another drap of liquor.’ And he haint, from that day to this.” And from where he was sitting Uncle William said, “Yes, but Sal gets her toddy every day!”



We used to lend a great many books to our neighbors, one of whom began reading the encyclopedia, volume by volume. I said one day that when he finished reading all the volumes he’d know everything, to which he replied, “Law, Miss Pettit, a body couldn’t book up all I don’t know.”


See Also ALICE COBB Biography