DARWIN D. MARTIN 1916 Correspondence

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 05: Board of Trustees
Series 09: Biography
Darwin D. Martin

DARWIN D. MARTIN 1916 Correspondence with William Martin at PMSS

TAGS: William Martin, Darwin D. Martin, Board of Trustees, Ethel de Long, Katherine Pettit, Uncle William Creech, Aunt Sally Creech, Luigi Zande, schools, education, Southern Appalachians, Buffalo NY, Frank Lloyd Wright, Atlanta GA, Oak Park IL, Chicago IL, Old Laurel House, Big Log, Far House, Sawmill, Little House in the Woods, trains, catamounts, hospitality, health, dentistry, children, schools, Wellesley College, Smith College, John Lewis, politics, President Woodrow Wilson

XII Helen de Long Photograph Album

XII Helen de Long Photograph Album. Uncle William Creech and Ethel de Long. [pmss3169_mod.jpg]


If I could have a full larder insured and nothing particular to do I would certainly enjoy a long vacation underthese mountains. Go and see for yourself. What a place it would be to rest, providing Miss De Long was off the job! 
— Excerpt from William Martin’s letter to his brother, Darwin D. Martin, 1916

On June 17, 2017, Pine Mountain Settlement School received a most interesting letter. The letter was from the Martins but this family was not related to the Martins of Martin’s Fork, nor the cousins of Jack Martin or David Martin, students at the School. This was another Martin family in Hingham, Massachusetts, far away from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. These Martins, Darwin D. Martin and William E. Martin, played a pivotal role in the very earliest years of the Pine Mountain Settlement School.

The Martin story has been greatly expanded by the generosity of William’s grand-daughters and Darwin’s grand-nieces, Judith Martin Mehring (granddaughter of William Martin) and Janna Oddleifson (the younger sister of Judith), who have shared this letter with Pine Mountain Settlement School.

This letter was among the many surprises that just startle and leave one incredulous regarding the early history of the Settlement School. Were there not testimony to the actual events described in the William E. Martin Letter, (see below) many would not find the events credible.


William E. Martin was the brother of Darwin D. Martin, a man of historic proportions, who rose from the streets of New York selling, or “slinging” soap, to become one of the highest paid executives in the country. What is little known, however, is how important the brother’s success story was to the success of Pine Mountain Settlement School.

Darwin D. Martin started selling soap at the age of 13 in New York City and as he and his brother became more successful over the years, Darwin decided to go to the source, the soap company of Larkin Company in Buffalo, New York. There he met a remarkable mentor in Elbert Hubbard, an important figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement, and the two shaped the company into an enormously successful mail-order business.

Darwin D. Martin’s remarkable accomplishments made possible the success of so many students at Pine Mountain Settlement School …. not by selling soap, but by selling ideas in the remote mountains of Eastern Kentucky. The story of Darwin D. Martin and his importance and contributions to Pine Mountain Settlement School may be read here.

The building that Darwin D. Martin, acting as Corporate Secretary, helped to build for Larkin Company in Buffalo, New York, contains a series of fourteen sets of three inspiration words carved into its façade between the building’s support piers. Though the building no longer stands, the ideas that were generated on that building, and in that building, live on. Some of those ideas were: GENEROSITY ALTRUISM SACRIFICE, INTEGRITY LOYALTY FIDELITY, IMAGINATION JUDGEMENT INITIATIVE, INTELLIGENCE ENTHUSIASM CONTROL, CO-OPERATION ECONOMY INDUSTRY. At Pine Mountain, one cannot help but be reminded of the words carved on the stones that were on the face of the Mary Sinclair Burkham Memorial School House II at Pine Mountain Settlement: HUMANITY, TRUTH, HONESTY, SELF-CONTROL. Could there be a connection to the Martins? Were these part of the lessons the Martin brothers had already learned and wanted to pass along? Did Darwin D. Martin suggest them? Did the student suggest them?

We may never know the answer to those questions. But, the story of the Martins is a story worth telling and it is an amazing one. It is a story that is inextricable from the early history of Pine Mountain Settlement School and one that helps to shed light on the critical ten-year relationship of the School with Darwin D. Martin, one of its most formidable Trustees. 


In 2017 Pine Mountain Settlement School received a letter from two of Darwin D. Martin’s grand-nieces, the granddaughters of William Martin. One-hundred-one years earlier in 1916 their father, William Martin, mailed a letter from Kentucky where he had just visited Pine Mountain Settlement School. He reported back to his brother, Darwin, who apparently had not yet visited the School but was a supporter. 

Darwin D. Martin, (1865-1935) Photo: Wikipedia Free Media Repository. Accessed 2021-05-2

Darwin D. Martin, Board of Trustees, Pine Mountain Settlement School. Executive of the Larkin Company, Buffalo, NY, and Chicago, IL, c. 1916. [Darwin_D._Martin_wikipedia_photo.jpg]

Dear Jeannie Crane [PMSS Secretary]:

I am at last able to get off the William Martin 1916 letter about his visit to the School [Pine Mountain Settlement School].

Attached are extracts from the letter written in 1916 by my grandfather, William E. Martin of Oak Park, Illinois, to his brother, Darwin Martin of Buffalo, New York. Darwin was an early supporter of the Pine Mountain Settlement School, and William, on a business trip south decided to stop in and see the school for himself.

The letter tells of his stay in Harlan and his visit to the school. I have taken out some personal unrelated information, but have included everything regarding his visit to the school and anecdotes about the area. They wrote long letters in those days!

It may be of interest to you to know that both Darwin and William were interesting people in their own right. The State of New York has purchased and restored the Martin Home in Buffalo New York which was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is now open to the public and can be seen on the internet. William also had a house designed by Wright in Oak Park.

I hope this will be of interest to your archivist. I think you will find it a fun read as it gives such a vivid picture of the Schools early days and the people involved.

All best,

Judith Martin Mehring (granddaughter of William Martin)
anna Oddleifson (my younger sister)

BIBLIOGRAPHY: DARWIN D. MARTIN 1916 Correspondence with William Martin at PMSS

Books of interest which have many references to both Darwin and William Martin:

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House by Jack Quinan

Many Masks: A Life of Frank Lloyd Wright by Brendan Gill

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan…references to William

TRANSCRIPTION: DARWIN D. MARTIN 1916 Correspondence with William Martin at PMSS

[The following text has been slightly edited.]


Chicago, Nov. 22, 1916

DDM: (Darwin D. Martin)

“Huh! Ive been somewhere you aint been, and you couldnt guess either.

I arrived about 2:30 P.M., Sunday at Pine Mountain, Kentucky. How did it happen?

Well, I went to Alabama Tuesday eve after voting for Wilson (sorry I did). I wanted to see some of the South after transacting my business. I figured that I could go [to] Pine Mt. located in a part of Kentucky I always have wanted to see, stay over Sunday and reach Chi [Chicago] Tuesday, but I didnt make it for I did not arrive home until Thursday A.M. I didnt have their address with me but remembered Pine Mt. and Harlan Co. so I spent part of Friday at Atlanta, the prettiest southern (or northern) city I ever saw. It is a gem. Left Atlanta early Saturday A.M., reached Harlan 7:00 P.M., changed cars twice. R.R. men from Corkin [sic, Corbin], Ky., all know of Pine Mt. School and of Ladyde Long [Ethel de Long Zande ]. Yes, Sah, and is that where you all wants to go? You will have to go to Harlan and stay over night, take the train about 11:00 A.M. for Dillon and then get a mule to take you over the mountain.” I changed cars at Pineville for Harlen [sic], population in 1910 – 650, today a bustling city of 4,000.

Leaving Atlanta at 7:00 A.M. Saturday for Pine Mt. the ride thru the mountains from Knoxville, Tenn., is wonderful; one would believe it to be impossible to wind a railroad around these mountains without coming out upon itself in various places like a snake coils.

I wended my way wondering what my reception would be, coming unannounced as is always my way. Well, if any one knows Ladyde Long, they know how I was received, perhaps because I happened to be the brother of my brother whom I soon found was the best known man in the Valley…except perhaps Uncle William Creech. Every child from knee-high, up to the full grownknows him for one reason or another; the latest on account of a consignment of shoes that had just arrived the day before, a pair for almost every boy and girl, 70 or more in all. I had great difficulty in making some of the younger ones understand that I was on[ly] a brotherand not their benefactor.

The Harlan landlord had given me a lunch to take with me assuring me that I would be hungry before I could reach the School but I arrived with it and my appetite intact. But Miss de Long insisted that the table be prepared for me and I enjoyed as splendid a lunch as one could wish. Afterwards a walk thru the grounds and to the new Dining Hall [Laurel House I] was greatly enjoyed.

It was soon dark and after the smaller children had retired, some going as early as 6 oclock, those who dwell at yon housewith Miss de Long enjoyed fresh steaks that had been received by parcel post the day before. A pleasant evening was spent and I was informed that every one arose at 5:30 A.M., breakfast at 6 which I did not delay more than a minute of two.

Page 2 (William E. Martin letter, 1916)

I found the dining room crowded with the happiest looking groups of children that I ever have seen and the teachers too, all young ladies from Wellesley or Smith or some other well- known colleges, seemed just as well and happy as the children.

For breakfast we had liberal portions of oatmeal, creamed chicken, biscuits as good as you ever ate and coffee. Breakfast over, every child disappeared quickly to perform their allotted tasks, for here, every one from the youngest up, have certain work to do and all do it cheerfully.

I almost forgot to say that Sunday eve Miss de Long took me up the valley a half mile or more to see Uncle William and his faithful wife of over 50 years, golden wedding recently celebrated. We found them preparing the evening meal by the light of a fattypine stick, torch and because of companya kerosene lamp without a chimney was lighted. I was delighted that Miss de Long politely but firmly declined an invitation to remain to supper. Uncle William is 74 years old and is the founderof the School site, having procured and donated the land “to be used for school purposes as long as the Constitution of the United States shall stand,besides he is Post-Master, Storekeeper and with all, must handle several hundred dollars per year. By invitation of Miss de Long he came to the School early Monday morning and went over the property with us and into the coal mine, my first experience, and told us of how he had come to the country from fourteen miles away 40 years ago and bought 500 acres of land for $50.00 and for which it seemed he never would be able to pay. [Uncle William Creech, “A Short Sketch of My Life”] 

Any tenderfoot, or one who usually travels by auto, soon tires of the pace set by Miss de Long who, by the way, walked 14 miles after dark to Harlan over the mountains to take a train for New York and has walked over the mountain to Dillon in 45 minutes, a trip by mule taking 2 or 3 hours. (My pilot on my return trip, when talking of it said: “She cain walk a mule to death.) And fearing the fate of the mule I was glad Miss de Long suggested, shortly after 9 oclock, my returning to yon houseand rest until dinner time, which I did.

The School, held in an open air pavilion on the opposite side of the valley was in session and the children engaged in singing songs. Their voices floated across the valley and the words were almost as audible as they would have been right at hand. It was beautiful and charming and at noon when the children came trooping down in groups and squads made it all seem very theatrical.

House in the Woods, early open classroom. [I_2_early_days_123a.jpg]

After lunch or dinner Miss de Long proposed that we go horseback riding across, back of the next mountain, but we had not gone far when it was discovered that my horse had lost its shoes and we had to borrow a mule from a neighbor to finish our ride over steel trap roads down into the Little Laurel into Big Laurel Valleys.

Page 3 (William E. Martin Letter 1916)

We had not gone far when we were ready to refresh ourselves with grape juice and sandwiches that Miss de Long had provided. … One needs to eat often when the exercise is so strenuous. Descending the mountain into Little Laurel we passed close to a mountain cabin. A boy and girl were gathering stove wood at the barn. When they saw the strangers coming down the road the boy skudded for the house to tell his mother that she might too see the strangers. The little girl about six years old, woman-like, remained to get a closer view. I called to her to come and get some candy of which I happened to have a few pieces left from our lunch. I asked if she liked candy. She said Yesand reached for what I offered and furtively looking to see if my hand would travel to my pocket for more and said thats all I have then she said thank youin the sweetest tones I ever heard from a child. She was a little beauty as nearly all these mountain children are and the women are real ladies and the men are gentlemen to meet.

The scenery was great, holly trees with their bright red berries and green leaves, studded the road side and we actually saw a wagon track in the road. What for a time looked like an auto track was soon discovered to be made by a sled.

It was dark at 5 oclock and we soon began to meet the workmen and women going home from their days work at the School, quite a procession, some on foot, some on mules, some riding double. Some of these people cover twelve miles twice a day, work 10 hours for $2.00 and less – perhaps the real carpenters got $2.50. The head laundress walks several miles for 75 cents per day. Let us hope that the School will soon be able to raise the standard of pay.

The evening was spent at The Big Log House, the special domain of Miss Pettit [Katherine Pettit] with a squadron of children who all wanted to know about my brother [Darwin D. Martin]. Miss Pettit is a very pleasant lady who went to the mountains 21 years ago to stay 2 weeks and is still there.

The new Dining Hall [Laurel House I] with kitchens and laundry is an imposing building. The dining room is about 60 ft. long by 30 ft. wide, the kitchen forming one wing and the laundry another, connected by covered passage leaving a hollow square in the center where there is a fountain and pool, making a charming picture. The ceiling of the dining hall goes to the roof with gallery running around one side and the ends to sleeping rooms. A large fire place was badly placed at one side and near the end of the room, but as the room has steam heat a more central location will perhaps not be regretted.

Kitchen in Old Laurel House. [pmss00017.jpg] 

The new superintendents cottage also in course of construction will be a valuable addition and, by the way, the superintendent, a Mr. Zanda [sic, Luigi Zande] from northern Italy, a type of Italian I have never met with before. He is a splendid athletic (6 ft. or more in height) appearing fellow, light complexion, jovial and kind-hearted. He blew inthe valley 3 years ago, liked it and stayed; the right man in the right place.

Page 4 (William E. Martin letter 1916)

The saw mill made the noise of the community and was very busy. The native carpenters produce some very creditable work and the schooling they are receiving will improve the standard of workmanship for years to come.

With the completion of the school house [Mary Sinclair Burkham School House I], for which the stone foundation is almost in, and the reservoir also under construction, not much will be needed to make this a complete school plant, worthy of a more populous community and with a highway that a Ford can travel, life will be well worth the living in such surroundings.

After all, these people and their conditions are almost duplicated in the Georgetown Hills in Madison County, N.Y. The people are not unlike except that the Kentuckians are more polite and take life easier and are more contented.

On my way back to the R.R. Station my escort, a 19 year old lad, said in reply to the question: I suppose you would not care to live in any other part of the country, where it is more level, etc?” “Well, I reckon, them that live out of the mountains dont live in the mountainsby which I was to understand that he did not consider that any one anywhere had anything on him and his kind, and do they?

His eyes would shine when he would talk of his mountain sports, fox hunts, etc. He said: I would rather get into a fox chase than anything else in this world.Then the way he had of telling me that I was expected to pay for the trip they had made at my request, Monday morning showed his mountainbusiness ability. As I had only expected to stay overnight, until pressed to remain at least another day by the charming hostess, I had told the taxi-cabman to return for Monday and, of course, knew they would collect the extra trip, but he was not sure that I did and so he told of how many times they have gone over the mountains to bring people back, only to find, as in my case, that the time for departure had been delayed. Why,he says, I went once three days in succession to bring one man back and each time he would say, come again tomorrow,but of course, one good thing about it, they allus pay for the extra trip just as they had returned.When I assured him of my intention to pay as the only fair thing to do, he let the subject drop. I discovered that this young fellow who did not look well or strong was suffering terribly with bad teeth, a trouble that I surmise a great many of these people are suffering from on account of their remoteness from towns where there are no dentists. The right kind of a traveling dentist should do a good business in this country but they should be prepared to do the work that should done, whether the people could afford to pay or not. I suspect that bad teeth are responsible for more poor health than the celebrated hook worm.”

Corn and potatoes seem to be about all that farmers raise. There is no incentive to raise fruit, altho it is said to be a fine fruit country, because there is no way to get fruit to market. Sheep are a good asset but lambs have to be kept close to shelter until almost full grown on account

Page 5 (William Martin Letter, 1916)

of catamounts (wild cats). Chickens dont thrive for similar reasons, hawks, eagles, etc. Wild game is composed of brerrabbit, squirrels, partridges, pheasant, fox, wild geese and ducks and wild hogs.A wild hog would be a tame hogif he hadn’t got away to the woods before he was branded. Oh Yes! and possums but the days of bears and deer are over. Rattlesnakes and copperheads are still as numerous as they need be.

What a happy hunting groundthis must have been for Indians. Nature evidently intended this for their permanent abode. Its a wonder that they ever forgave white man for intruding here.

At Dolan [sic, Nolan] Station, there is one lone dwelling long occupied by the same family, Lewis, who with their kin own the valley. [John Lewis family?]

When I asked the old gentlemanwho was quite sociable, if two or three young men who were around the house were his sons, he replied: I reckon they be, anyway I ground their corn fer em til they were big enough to do it themselves.Later I saw one of his worn-out millstones lying in the road. It was about 20in diameter. No wonder he remembered so well his corn grinding days.

It was this same household that gave evidence of the approaching days when these people will have lost the social side of their nature for which they are noted. This is due to the encroachment of the railroad which, as one man said, had entirely runnedthe valley, the right of way having consumed nearly all of the level land.

It was a chilly day when we arrived at a railroad shanty, no shelter anywhere, and so everyone is tempted to enter the house for warmth. A man and wife with 3 small children came from somewhere to board the train and went in to the house to warm the baby when the hostesssaid, she guessed shed have to put up a sign and charge for the accommodation. This made the mountaineers angry and laying down fifty cents on the table remarked as they walked out that they didnt have to bum their way nowhere.After that I didnt dare venture going to the house altho it was also the Post Office and should have been at least semi-public.

Here is another interesting item. Uncle Williams wife [Aunt Sal] was undertaking to teach Miss De Long how to spin flax. After making a serious attempt with no apparent success, she finally remarked: Lawsa me, Miss Long, I reckon things are about evened up in this world, you have travelled all over and seen everything but I kin spin flax.

I was surprised to find that the election news of which I was the first to impart at Pine Mt. failed to arouse enthusiasm. Passing the store just before you reach the School, a group of men anxiously asked if I would please tell them about the election and I replied: Oh! Wilson got

Page 6 (William Martin letter, 1916)

there all rightexpecting them to hurrah! but instead they looked very glum. Later I learned that out of 100 votes in that precinctonly 3 voted for Wilson, so this part of Kentucky has no use for Democrats but could hardly exist without mules.

If I could have a full larder insured and nothing particular to do I would certainly enjoy a long vacation underthese mountains. Go and see for yourself. What a place it would be to rest, providing Miss De Long was off the job!

The stillnessof these valleys is so oppressivethat I could hardly hear, seemed to affect my ears. The sensation is almost like that of a Mammoth Cave. 

Yours truly,
WEM: [William E. Martin]

See Also:

DARWIN D. MARTIN Board – Biography

DARWIN D. MARTIN Correspondence Guide