Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff
Horace E. McSwain, Farmer during PMSS’s earliest years
Horace Edison McSwain (1891-1951)


10_ 2468 Horace McSwain, farmer, & unknown person, 1915. [098_IX_students_10_2468_001.jpg]


TAGS: Horace E. McSwain, Mary McSwain, farmers, farming, Chad Lewis, Hubert Hadley, Agriculture Extension Services

Horace E. McSwain was the farmer at Pine Mountain during its earliest years. His work was highly respected by Katherine Pettit whose passion was the farm at Pine Mountain School. Many improvements of the land at Pine Mountain can be attributed to Mr. McSwain, as well as the surrounding forest and the early work at the sawmill at the school. Following the departure of Mr. McSwain was a long line of successors but none that compared to him in the view of Pettit.

Horace E. McSwain was born on March 6, 1891, in Earl, North Carolina. He attended Berea College in Kentucky where he studied agriculture. It was from Berea that Mr. McSwain was recruited to Pine Mountain by Katherine Pettit.

HORACE E. McSWAIN: After Pine Mountain

Following Pine Mountain, McSwain served for a short time with the Kentucky Agricultural Extension Service and then moved on to Virginia where he became the farm agent for Charlotte County. In 1942 he was made a District Agent which included Charlotte County and became widely known for his expertise in all things agricultural. In October of 1947, he became the Assistant District Director of Extension Services in Charlotte district, located in south central Virginia.

McSwain was a Mason and a member of the American Society of Agronomy. Among his peers, he was a member of the Epsilon Sigma Phi, the honorary Extension Service Fraternity and was widely recognized in the profession.

In December of 1929, Mr. McSwain typed the following letter to Katherine Pettit on stationery of the “Charlotte County National Farm Loan Association, Charlotte Court House, Virginia.” In it he outlined his life since leaving the School years earlier:

Dec. 30, 1929

My dear Miss Pettit

The lovely picture of the “Church House” [Pine Mountain Chapel] and your message came this A.M. It is certainly good to hear from you again.

My family are all well except head colds. Have had a quiet Christmas, snow came on 22nd and is partly on yet. This is the first white Xmas we have had since we moved here. Have very little snow. My boys are fine one is 13 last May and in the first year High School, 5 feet ten inches and weighs 150 lbs. The other one is 11 past and in 5th grade. Mary has had a rather hard time for the past two or nearly three years. Her mother and father had to break up housekeeping and so came to us in early [19]27. Her mother was sick, and an invalid so to speak until last Jan 11th she died of Flu. Mr. Clayton and all of our family had the flu at the same time. Mr. Clayton getting out on Feb. 5th and we sent him to Florida with one of the boys to recuperate. He came back a few months later is is with us again. We are glad to have him as Mary was the baby girl and he does just what she says. He is not very strong and his health must be watched continually as he has had pneumonia three time [sic] within the last 15 years. The only time I have been in KY. since 1928 [?] was for about 12 hours when I took Mrs. Clayton to Hebron for burial.

We have a little farm of 98 1/2 acres. 3 cows, 15 hogs, a heifer, two mules, and a horse, some chickens, nice orchard that we set 8 years ago, live a mile from town or village as the population is less than 300. I am still County Agent and starting in on my eleventh year here.

If possible we plan to motor to Ky. next year in August. We will probably drive through S.W. Virginia through Wise, Va., and Middleburg [Middlesborough ?], Ky. thru to Berea. Please sometime give me directions as to how to reach Pine Mountain from some point on an auto road. We want to visit Pine Mountain on the first trip we make back.

In same mail, I am sending you an old booklet of Charlotte County gotten up nearly 25 years ago, also a Bulletin of which I am responsible for, as it is mostly my work.

Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
I am,

Yours sincerely,

Horace E. McSwain

On March 11, 1930, Miss Pettit responded to Mr. McSwain and describes how he should go about getting to Pine Mountain on his proposed trip to the School in August.

March 11, 1930

My dear Mr. McSwain:

I was so glad to have such a good letter from you at Christmas time telling me all the things that I was so interested about and to know that you have your own farm is great. Is it not? I wish you could plan your trip to Pine Mountain early in the summer instead of August when I shall be here. You know I am leaving Pine Mountain late in June and shall be away in the far West for a long time. We have such a nice man, Mr. Hadley, to take charge of the school and of course, he will be glad to see you, but if you could come in May or June I would be glad.

You could motor trough Cumberland Gap and Middlesboro on up the Cumberland River to Laden where you could leave your car with Chad Lewis and walk across Pine Mountain to the school, or you cold stop at the logging town of Putney which is just before you get to Dunn and come across on the logging train. The trouble about that is that you have to wait all day for the train to start. However, when you get to Putney you could find out if the train would be leaving soon and you cold leave the car there, or you could motor from Big Stone Gap across Big Black [mountain] to Lynch and then n down Lynch to Laden. Don’t disappoint us.

I was so glad to have your picture. How much you look like your brother. I always think of you, when I see him come riding in to our little Nolan cottage wth the two mules. Just now we have got to get a new team. Ours is about worn out. Do you know where we could get a good team about for years old and about what they would cost? Are there any anywhere around you and is that too far away?

Faithfully yours,

Mr. H.E. McSwain
Charlotte County National
Farm Loan Association
Charlotte Court House, Va.



Horace Edison McSwain died of a heart attack following an automobile accident in Jesup, GA, on April 16, 1951. With him was his colleague, Mr. L. Dietrick, the Extension Services Director for the Charlotte District, who was also injured and hospitalized. Mr. McSwain’s son, Horace Clayton McSwain, a county agent in Lancaster County, was with him at the time of his death. Mr. McSwain was 60 years old.

OBITUARY – Source: Rappahannock Record, Volume 35th Year, Number 28, 19 April 1951 [Virginia]:

H. E. McSwain, 60-year-old assistant director of the Extension Service at Virginia Tech, died early Monday at Jesup, Ga., following a heart attack. Funeral rites were conducted at the Presbyterian Church at Charlotte Courthouse Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. McSwain and L. Dietrlck, extension director, had been hospitalized in Jesup since an automobile accident near there two weeks ago. Also with Mr. McSwain at the time of his death was his son, Horace Clayton McSwain, county agent in Lancaster County. 

Well-known in professional agricultural circles throughout the South, Mr. McSwain had been assistant director of the Extension Service since October 1947 and had been in charge of the county farm agent program. A native of Earl, N. C., and an agricultural graduate of Berea (Ky.) College, he served in the Kentucky Agricultural Extension Service for several years before he came to Virginia In 1910 [?] as farm agent in Charlotte County. He was made a district agent in 1942. He was a Mason, a member of the American Society of Agronomy and of Epsilon Sigma Phi, honorary extension fraternity.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Mary Clayton McSwain; two sons* Horace Clayton McSwain, of Kilmarnock, and William McSwaln, of Buckingham; a brother, Leo McSwain, of Supply, N. C., and three grandchildren.


Horace E. McSwain

Alt. Title

Horace McSwain ; H. E. McSwain ; Horace Edison McSwain ;




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Horace E. McSwain ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Mary McSwain ; farmers ; farming ; Chad Lewis ; Hubert Hadley ;

Subject LCSH

McSwain, Horace E. — March 6, 1891 – April 16, 1951.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Agriculture — Kentucky
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.


2017-07-08 hhw


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.




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

Coverage Temporal

1891 – 1951

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, 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 Horace E. McSwain ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Horace E. McSwain ;




“[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

2017-07-08 hhw ; 2024-01-24 aae ;


“Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch  (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVKN-PG34 : Accessed 11-July-2017), Horace Edison McSwain, 1951; Burial, Charlotte Court House, Charlotte, Virginia, United States of America, Evergreen Cemetery; citing record ID 39766249, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com.

“McSwain, Horace E. Series 09: Biography  – Staff. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

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