Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Students/Staff
Series 19: STUDENTS
Charlsie Vaughn, Student  (1939-1942)
Assistant Nurse (Summer 1947)
Charlsie Vaughn Stearly (1925-2018)


“Charlsie – ’40 P.M.” Charlsie Vaughn, seated beside the Swimming Pool at Pine Mountain Settlement School, 1940. Submitted to the Ruth Shuler Dieter Appreciation Album (Part I) by Bill Dawn. [pmss_schuler_mem_011_cropped.jpg]

TAGS: Charlsie Vaughn, Charlsie Vaughn George, Charlsie Vaughn Stearly, students, nurses, Grace Rood, H.R.S. Benjamin, rural medicine, flu epidemic, Infirmary, Johns Hopkins Hospital, The Institute of Living, Louisville General Hospital, Lincoln Memorial University, PMSS Homecoming


Student, 1939-1942
Assistant Nurse, April-July 1947

PMSS Application

When Charlsie applied for a place as a student at Pine Mountain in January of 1940, she was asked in the application, “Why do you want to come to Pine Mountain?” She answered, “Because I wish to be better prepared for the future.” Her first application in December 1939, on a form prepared by the Alliance for the Guidance of Rural Youth (formerly the Southern Women’s Educational Alliance), stated “To make a better preparation for my future.”

She was entering Pine Mountain Settlement as a Junior, after a difficult early life following the death of her father, Ed Vaughn. When she was five, the family was unsettled and she attended Grace Nettleton Home in Harrogate, Tennessee, for a brief time.) She had an older sister, Athelene, who had already finished high school.

When asked in the application what she imagined her future occupation might be, she listed either an Athletic Coach (at her stepfather Floyd Qualls’ encouragement) or a Reporter. She also declared in her application that she would prefer to live in a town and not a city, for in a town “you have a better chance to build yourself up in a town and can make friends, while in a city you don’t know your next door neighbor.”

Her home in Pansy, Harlan County, was a small rural community where the family had a garden and close neighbors. However, the family was again coming apart as her mother shared in a letter to Pine Mountain Settlement School in November of 1939, written from Woodway, Virginia:

… I can’t make it over here. I am not in very good health. I did have my girls at Grace Nettleton at Harrogate, Tenn. until Miss Jackson left and then I had to take them out as I have always tried to keep them at home, and the rules changed and all girls [who] had a home couldn’t enter. I married again and but couldn’t make a go off it, I would like to get them in a good school and they want to work as much of their way as possible…

Letter to PMSS from Mary E. Vaughn, Woodway, VA, November 1939.

Her Studies at PMSS

Unfortunately, Pine Mountain Settlement School had no vacancies in 1939 and Charlsie had to wait until the 1940 school year to gain admission. By then her sister had graduated from the local school system. In January of 1940 Pine Mountain received a letter from Charlsie, who was now almost 15. She declares in the letter that she enjoys basketball but says “… that some people don’t advise basketball for girls but I don’t think there is any harm in it , do you?” She continues stating her interest in History, English, and Algebra … But, My! I never could get Algebra.”

The correspondence continued until August of 1940, when Charlsie received a letter from Malcom Arny, the School Counselor, telling her that she has been accepted and that the school is was “anxious to have you as a student here.”

Her self-evaluation letters home, required of every student at the end of each semester, were lengthy and focused and very telling. She wrote in May of 1940:

At the first of the year when I came over here, I hadn’t made up my mind as to what I would make my vocation. Now I have finally decided. I think I made my decision when I started going out in the community with Dr. Van. I am going to be a nurse.

Charlsie Vaughn‘s letter to her parents, May 22, 1941.

Thus, even as a boarding student at Pine Mountain Settlement School, Charlsie Vaughn knew what she wanted to do with her life. After Dr. Van departed the School, Charlsie continued to focus her ambition. She became an assistant to Grace M. Rood, R.N., the head nurse at the School’s Infirmary. The training from Grace Rood, a Johns Hopkins trained nurse, was exceptional. After graduating from PMSS in May 1942, Charlsie quickly became a registered nurse, a profession she engaged for the next 50 years.

Other Student Activities

Besides her studies as a PMSS student and working alongside Miss Rood in the Infirmary, Charlsie found time to join in other campus activities. She followed another strong interest and served as a reporter for The Pine Cone, the School’s student publication, in 1941 and 1942. Also, she played a part in the 1940 production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta H.M.S. Pinafore. As part of the December 1941 celebrations at the School, she was among two pairs of “lords and ladies” who danced the Christmas minuet in the partially finished Laurel House II. A later example of the stately dance may be seen below.  

Christmas Minuet, c. 1940s. [christmas_1001.jpg]

The Pine Cone reported in its January 1941 issue that Charlsie was part of a group of Pine Mountain students and staff members who performed a series of English country dances at the Loyall (Kentucky) High School. 

The PMSS graduating class of 1942 was featured in that year’s May issue of the student literary publication, Conifer. In a listing of the seniors’ biographies, Charlsie was described as having come from Woodway, Virginia, and chiefly interested in nursing. She also enjoyed swimming and dancing as her hobbies. The biography continued:

“Her laugh is a ready chorus”

Charlsie came to us during her Junior year. Since then she has served on the Citizenship Committee and has worked at the Infirmary for three semesters, learning her chosen profession. Her classmates and teachers will long remember Charlsie’s radiant smile and cheerful disposition.


In January 1947, while studying nursing at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, Charlsie received a letter from the director of Pine Mountain Settlement School, H.R.S. Benjamin. He had heard from Miss Rood that Charlsie was willing to return to PMSS to assist in the Infirmary, replacing Miss Minnie Goodnow, who was leaving on April first. In return, the School would furnish maintenance (room and board without cost and limited laundry) at $90 per month. She agreed to accept their offer and to begin in April 1947 after finishing at Johns Hopkins and further studies at the Louisville General Hospital.

As soon as she arrived at Pine Mountain, her skills and training were put to a serious test by 30 patients sick with the flu. She continued assisting Miss Rood and Dr. Elizabeth Henderson in the Infirmary until July (or possibly August) 1947, when she left for a position with The Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut.

As part of Charlsie’s application for employment at The Institute of Living, the Associate Director of Nursing asked Director Benjamin for a statement regarding Charlsie’s abilities. Benjamin wrote that Charlsie had been a PMSS student who was “serious minded and a good worker.” She had graduated in spring 1947 from Louisville General Hospital and had passed the State Board examination. Her work experience included one year at Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, Tennessee. He concluded that Charlsie was “…a very good nurse. She possesses a pleasing personality, is dependable, and shows a good deal of initiative in her work…. We, personally, enjoy her very much.”

Soon after Charlsie Vaughn left Pine Mountain, Benjamin wrote to her expressing his “deep appreciation of your service here for nearly six months. It is hard to imagine what we should have done without your competent and cheerful help during this busy time.” 

CHARLSIE VAUGHN Student Staff: After Pine Mountain

Charlsie had an active life after Pine Mountain but did not forget about Pine Mountain Settlement School. She first attended a homecoming at Pine Mountain in 1983, perhaps because Grace M. Rood, R.N., her former supervisor and mentor, was designated the guest of honor by the PMSS Association of Alumni and Friends. Charlsie wrote a tribute to Miss Rood in the 1983 Homecoming newsletter in which she expressed her gratitude and respect for Rood, who had served in the Infirmary from 1937 to 1949 and was then 86 years old. A video captured her interview and interaction with Grace Rood and is part of the PMSS Collections.

One of Charlsie’s friends at Pine Mountain was Ruth Shuler (Dieter). In August 1984 the Association of Pine Mountain Alumni and Friends presented Ruth with an Appreciation Album containing letters, photos, and cards describing memories and expressing thanks for Ruth’s many years of dedication to the School. One of the letters was from Charlsie in which she wrote:

“Fond memories — During my years at Pine Mountain we had a lot of fun and meaningful experiences! The Nativity, meetings at Laurel House, Sunday evenings with the Morrises, folk singing, folk dancing! Homecoming last year was very special. We worked, laughed and sang all weekend!”



Charlsie Vaughn was born on February 24, 1925, in Pansy, Harlan County, Kentucky, to Mary Elizabeth (Fee) Vaughn and Edward Vaughn. She had one sibling, her sister Athelene. Sadly, when Charlsie was six years old, her father was shot and killed when he tried to arrest strikebreakers during a time of labor unrest at the coal mines. 

Consequently, her mother was on her own with two small children. Attempting to find ways to make a living, she ran general stores and boarding houses, moving from town to town. According to an obituary for Charlsie Vaughn Stearly: “During World War II, [Mary Elizabeth Vaughn] worked at the top secret Oak Ridge, Tennessee, facility as an ‘Atomic Girl,’ helping to develop the atom bomb.”

It was at The Institute of Living, a mental health center in Hartford, Connecticut, that Charlsie met her first husband, Nicholas George (1923-2002). They married in 1948 and eventually had five children: Tanya, Evan, Christopher, Niki, and Gregory. Charlsie and Nicholas moved several times in their early years together, first to Columbia, Missouri, where Nicholas completed his journalism degree at the University of Missouri and their first two children were born. Over a period of 15 years, they also lived in Waterloo, Iowa; Verona, New Jersey; and Montclair, New Jersey, where they settled for the next 17 years. In each of these locations, Charlsie always found work as a nurse, a profession that fulfilled her desire to help others. In the meantime, Nicholas George became “an innovative radio news editor and network manager” and ultimately the Managing Editor at ABC Radio News in New York City. (Source: New Jersey Hills Media Group, December 5, 2002.)

Charlsie and Nicholas George divorced in 1975. A year later, Charlsie married Wilson “Bill” Watters Stearly Jr., (1930-2003) a trust officer for Newark & Essex Bank in New Jersey for 28 years, then Union Trust in Branford, and also for Beasely Realty in Branfordbanks, all in Montclair, NJ. With the second marriage, Charlsie gained three stepdaughters, Betsy, Sally, and Annie. In 1980, the couple relocated to Branford, New Jersey, and eventually to North Branford where Bill died in 2003.

Charlsie Vaughn Stearly died on July 25, 2018, in Branford at the age of 93. The last line of her obituary suggested that: “Gifts in her memory can be made to The Pine Mountain Settlement School.”

See Also:
CHARLSIE VAUGHN Correspondence 1947
April – August

CHARLSIE VAUGHN Correspondence 1939-1946

CHARLSIE VAUGHN Student Records – Private
NOTE: Images of the full set of student records are considered private material and are not generally publicly displayed.
Their access may be provided on request, pending approval of Pine Mountain Settlement School and the archivist of the PMSS Collections.
Contact the main PMSS Office for information.



Charlsie Vaughn

Alt. Title

Charlsie Vaughn George ; Charlsie Vaughn Stearly ; Mrs. Nicholas George ; Mrs. Wilson Stearly ; Charlsie V. George ; Charlsie V. Stearly ; 




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Charlsie Vaughn ; Charlsie Vaughn George ; Charlsie Vaughn Stearly ; students ; medical ; nurses ; Grace Rood ; H.R.S. Benjamin ; hospitals ; diseases ; rural medicine ; flu epidemic ; Infirmary ; The Pine Cone ; H.M.S. Pinafore ; Christmas minuet ; English country dancing ; Conifer ; Johns Hopkins Hospital ; Minnie Goodnow ; Dr. Elizabeth Henderson ; The Institute of Living ; Louisville General Hospital ; Lincoln Memorial University ; PMSS Homecoming ; Nicholas George ; Mary Elizabeth (Fee) Vaughn ; Edward Vaughn ; WWII ; “Atomic Girls” ; Wilson “Bill” Watters Stearly Jr.

Subject LCSH

Vaughn, Charlsie, — 1925 – 2018.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Rural health services — Appalachian Region — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.


2021-06-05 aae


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/Students ; Series 19: Students ;




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: Biography – Staff/Students and Series 19: Students.

Coverage Temporal

1923 – 2018

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Woodway, VA ; Baltimore, MD ; Hartford, CT ; Harrogate, TN ; Pansy, KY ; Oak Ridge, TN ; Columbia, MO ; Waterloo, IA ; Verona, NJ ; Montclair, NJ ; Branford, NJ ; North Branford, NJ ; 


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 Charlsie Vaughn Stearly ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Charlsie Vaughn Stearly ;




“[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

2021-05-30 hhw ; 



CHARLSIE VAUGHN Correspondence ; ALUMNI RELATIONS 1983 Newsletter ; STUDENTS 1942 Graduating Class ; RUTH SHULER DIETER Appreciation Album (pages 34-34a) ; PINE CONE Index. Series 09: Biography – Staff/Students and Series 19: Students. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

“Charlsie Vaughn Stearly.”  – Includes photograph of Charlsie Vaughn Stearly. (Accessed 2021-04-28.) Internet resource.

“NIcholas George, 79, retired innovative radio news editor.” New Jersey Hills Media Group, December 5, 2002. (Accessed 2021-04-28.) Internet resource.

“Wilson (Bill) Watters Stearly, Jr.” Obituaries, The Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ, November 11, 2003. (Accessed 2021-04-28.) Internet resource.

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