Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography
Bessie V. Gaunt: Staff Member 1921-1928
(Bookkeeper, Secretary and Housemother)


TAGS: Bessie V. Gaunt Correspondence ; Pine Mountain Settlement School: Harlan County, KY; Ethel de Long Zande; Luigi Zande; Alberto Zande; Helena Zande; Maude Holbrook; Bessie Gaunt; Angela Melville; Al Smith; Gertrude Bell; Asheville, NC; Hingman, MA; Chicago, IL; cats;



Bessie V. Gaunt Correspondence begins with the following letter which she wrote to Ethel de Long Zande in May of 1921 inquiring about a position of secretary at the School. She described her experience as follows:

Dear Mrs. Zande:

Through Miss Mabel Sidelinger I have learned something of your school. I understand that you may be able to use a bookkeeper and stenographer.

Have high school and some normal school training as well as business training. Have had experience with General school supply concerns where I had charge of two departments; Teacher’s Agency and Rural School Libraries.

Following this period of four years, I entered the office of the Michigan Baptist Convention where for four years I was bookkeeper and secretary to the General Superintendent. The next year new places were made for the work and I was given charge of all bookkeeping and funds.

For your information, I might state that in this office, all educational and institutional work for the Baptist churches of the state, was directed. It was also the office for the collection of all missionary money fro the Baptist churches.

Feeling the need of a good rest, I resigned and came to Springfield for the winter.

Am enclosing some recommendations which may be of assistance to you. I might add that Mr. Hudson was the successor of Dr. Lake in the Michigan office when Dr. Lake accepted a pastorate in this city.

If you are at liberty or care to enter into communication with me, I shall be glad to hear from you.


Bessie Gaunt

After considerable correspondence and after agreeing with Mrs. Zande to accept the position at the School, Bessie wrote to the School on July 4th that she had reconsidered and would not be taking the position. She replied, in part:

On giving the matter further thought and consulting with friends in this city and relatives at home in Michigan, I decided that it was not best to make a change until I had been in this part of the country long enough to really appreciate it. Possibly sometime in the future, I may be able to be of assistance to you if you should continue to wish it.

On July 8, Ethel de Long Zande wrote a curt letter regretting that she had not heard from Miss Gaunt sooner, as another “promising applicant’ had been turned down for the position. Apparently, she also made another offer to Gaunt, because on August 14 Bessie wrote to the School saying that she had reconsidered and would take the position.


Following this initial appointment, Bessie Gaunt maintained an off and on relationship with Pine Mountain employment. She continued a very active correspondence with the friends she made at the School, particularly with Ethel de Long Zande and Miss Sidelinger who was her housemate for a time.

In August of 1922 she was coaxed back to Pine Mountain by Ethel de Long Zande when the bookkeeper and secretary Miss Darracott who had been at the School for a year, resigned. She was again assigned to share a house with Miss Sidelinger.

By 1928 Bessie had again left Pine Mountain and Evelyn K. Wells wrote what appears to be a recommendation of another position for her describing Miss Gaunt in the following manner:

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. He breadth of interest of a 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.” EKW

Miss Wells followed that glowing account of Bessie’s housemothering skills with the following account of her bookkeeping and secretarial skills:

Miss Bessie V. Gaunt was bookkeeper 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 n 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 bookkeeping questions that have come up. Her personal qualifications make her a most pleasant and valuable member of an office staff.


Following her departure from Pine Mountain Bessie Gaunt continued to be an advocate for the School and is recorded as late as 1930 as a speaker at the P.T.A. meeting in La Grange, Illinois, in a fund-raising effort for the School. She is a testimony to the indelible mark that the School made on so many of its staff and to the substantial contributions that those staff made to the School.

See Also: BESSIE V. GAUNT Biography