Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Community Residents, Workers
Series 19: Students

Pine Mountain Valley Community Resident

TAGS: Elhannon Murphy Nolan; E.M. Nolan; Elhanon Nolan; Elhannan Nolan; Pine Mountain Settlement School; Nolan Family Reunion; Harlan County, Kentucky; teachers; postmasters; merchants; death certificates; Sarah Jane Shell, Dillard Metcalf; Allene Nolan Metcalf; Katherine Pettit; Ethel De Long Zande; Intermountain Coal & Lumber Company; Ann M. Metcalf; Nolan Farmhouse; Blanch Nolan; obituaries 

Elhannon Murphy Nolan: BIOGRAPHY

The Nolan Family is one of the oldest families in eastern Kentucky. Their annual reunion is generally held at Pine Mountain Settlement School. Among the most prominent members of the family was Elhannon Murphy Nolan (1862-1941), well-known in Harlan County as teacher, postmaster and merchant.

E.M. Nolan Family: [seated, left to rt] E.M. (Elhanon Murphy), daughter Blanch, wife Sarah Jane, daughter Allene; [standing] son Kenneth. C. 1910. [pmss_nolan_em_family-Edited.jpg]

“In our family oral history, he went by his initials of E.M.,” according to Cora L. Richardson, the great-great-granddaughter of Elhannon Murphy Nolan. “But I am very sure that different folks that knew him would probably speak of him with a different name, e.g.: Elhanon, Elhanon Murphy or El….” among other variations of his name. The name “Elhannon” appears on his death certificate [see Gallery] and is the form that is used in this story.

(While researching the Nolan Family, the surname Nolan was also found to be spelled in various ways, such as Nolen and Nolin. At times, it could not be determined whether these surnames belonged to unrelated families or are misspellings of the same family name. In those cases, the information was not used for this biography.)

Elhannon Nolan was born on February 7, 1862, to Samuel L. Nolan, a farmer, (1853-1882) and Mary Louise “Polly” (Creech) Nolan (1838-1919). Elhannon had two older siblings, Lafayette and Martha, and one younger brother, John G. Nolan.

Elhannon Murphy Nolan: HIS MARRIAGE

On February 19, 1885, when Elhannon was 23, he married 16-year-old Sarah Jane Shell (1868-1963) in Harlan County, Kentucky. Her parents were John D. Shell and Mary Elizabeth (Nolan) Shell (1848-1927). [See Gallery.]

Cora Richardson recalls “Pa,” her grandfather Dillard Metcalf, telling the following story:

…[W]hen [Elhannon] and Granny were first married, they didn’t have a place to live so he cleaned out the chicken coop that was E.M.’s and he said it was attached to the store and this is where they lived when they were first married. From looking at the photos [below] and from what he said, I believe the little room to the left is the old chicken coop where they lived.

Elhannon’s marriage certificate indicates that Elhannon was following in his father’s footsteps as a farmer. But Elhannon must have had different aspirations and skills as he eventually became a teacher,  merchant and postmaster. Cora Richardson remembers her “Granny” Allene describing her father, Elhannon, as:

…adventurous and lik[ing] to try new things. As he would hear of new or new and improved things he would try to find the opportunity to order these new things to stock in his store for himself or others in the community to have the opportunity to see and/or to have.

Elhannon’s obituary in the Harlan Enterprise, January 1941, [see image and transcription below] provides further details:

…educated as a young man in Barbourville at the school which later became Union College. He was a teacher for a number of years in the school system of Harlan County. He held membership in the Christian church for more than forty years and was a member of Nolan Lodge of Free Masons [since 1908].

According to Cora Richardson, the Nolans first lived at Pine Mountain, Kentucky, located in Harlan County. Around 1907 they moved to land they owned on Cutshin Creek at Dry Hill in Leslie County. They lived there until just after 1912. They returned to Pine Mountain at the time Katherine Pettit started meeting with William Creech about the school being built at Pine Mountain. 

Elhannon Murphy Nolan: PMSS CONNECTIONS

The PMSS Collections contain Elhannon’s 1912 letters (#005 and #020) to Katherine Pettit and Rev. Lewis Lyttle. Sent from Dry Hill, Kentucky, his letters provided advice concerning the purchase of 100 acres of land from John D. Shell (Elhannon’s father-in-law) on which to build the future Pine Mountain Settlement School.

According to student files in the PMSS Collections and the 1920 U.S. Census, Allene Nolan, Elhannon’s daughter, had attended Pine Mountain Settlement School in the 1920s. Allene worked as a housemaid for Mrs. Ethel de Long Zande while attending the School. Her husband, Dillard Metcalf, a railroad policeman, also attended PMSS. He helped build the rail tracks for Intermountain Coal & Lumber Company that crossed the School’s property. Cora Richardson wrote:

I can remember that my “Granny” [Allene] always spoke about PMSS with enthusiasm and thankfulness for all it taught her and for the opportunities that it provided for the families there at Pine Mountain.

PMSS student files also indicate that Allene and Dillard’s daughter, Ann M. Metcalf (“Annie,” born 1930), began attending PMSS in September 1946 as a junior and graduated in 1947.


The Lodge and Store up Isaac’s Creek. The first location of Pine Mountain Settlement School schoolrooms. Selected Exhibit.[misc_exhibit_023.jpg]

According to a story recorded by Alice Cobb, the upstairs of E.M. Nolan’s house was the original home of Pine Mountain School. Evelyn K. Wells describes the early days of the School:

We did not wait for a schoolhouse to begin teaching; the House in the Woods took care of the children till snowfall until 1918, when they were distributed in the living room of various cottages; or the first three years at the Masonic Lodge over Mr. Nolan’s store.

The Nolan Lodge of Free Masons, No. 806, to which E.M. Nolan belonged, was purportedly one of the oldest lodges in Kentucky. Located close to Pine Mountain School, many members had ties with the School.

Elhannon Murphy Nolan: THE NOLAN FARMHOUSE

When Cora Richardson and her mother visited Pine Mountain Settlement School in 2017, she was shown a photo of the Nolan Farmhouse by the School’s office manager, Jeannie Crain:

 In the photo [above] on the left-hand side is the Nolan Farmhouse. One of the stories my Granny said she remembered was that her family always would have people that would board at their home with them. One of the boarders they had was an older man that would sit on the porch and smoke his pipe. She said that the porch was up off the ground and there was room under this porch for them to have storage and they would store clothes and other items there. When their house caught on fire and burned down they believed that man had been sitting on the porch and changed the tobacco in his pipe and let the ashes fall down through the cracks in the porch and land on those clothes which then caught the house on fire and it burned down. Back to the house in the photo, we are not sure if this is the house before or after the house fire but it is nice finding this and to know that it is one of the homes they lived in.

Elhannon Murphy Nolan: HIS FAMILY

Elhannon and Sarah Jane eventually had 7 children:

Henry M. Nolan (1886-1902)

Kenneth Dunbar Nolan (1893-1934; married Alice Anderson. They had 8 children: Georgia Lee, Amanda, Alberto, Leon [married Grace Bowling], Marlow H., Marcella Nolan Boggs, Clyne, Milburn Joe.)

Blanch Nolan (1902-1921)

Allene Nolan (1905-1992; married Dillard Metcalf. They had 5 children: Lily Mae Metcalf Hayes 1926-1986, Annie Marie Metcalf Long 1930-2001, Bonnie Lynn Metcalf Johnson 1935-2009, David Hunt Metcalf 1940-2012 and Sara Elizabeth Metcalf Richardson 1944-  . Sara was called “Sarie” by her father who “always told her she was named after five grandmothers” according to Cora Anderson, Sara’s daughter. Dillard and Allene also raised Jepp “Strawberry” Scearce Metcalf 1925-2005. Jepp’s birth parents were Winfield Scott Scearce and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Nolan 1888-1932. Dillard was the son of Lizzie and her first husband, William Metcalf.)

Hazel Nolan (1909-2010; married Pearl M. Shell and had 2 children: Nina Ruth Shell Nolan and Jack Nolan Shell.)

Otto Patterson Nolan (Married Redia Scearse. They had 4 children: Lois Scearse Alley, Faye Scearse Cheek, Gerald and Harold D.)

Delbert B. Nolan (Married Bodie Anderson and had 3 children.)

Sadly, the lives of two of Elhannon’s children were cut short: Henry M. Nolan, his oldest child, died at the age of 15 or 16. He was recorded in the 1900 U.S. Census as a “farm laborer.” Blanch Nolan was born October 25, 1902, and died at the age of 18 on August 17, 1921, at Pine Mountain, Harlan Co., KY, of “acute dilatation of the heart” contributed by “mitral insufficiency.” The doctor who had been attending her was Grace Huse, M.D., of the Pine Mountain Settlement School. (See Gallery below.)

Cora Richardson, Blanch’s grandniece, wrote in Blanch’s memorial on www.findagrave.com, “She was so fair of skin, almost snow white and with the reddest, prettiest hair.” Both Henry and Blanch were buried in the Nolan Graveyard (also known as the Shell Cemetery).

Blanch Nolan in 6th(?) grade classroom, c. 1914. [pmss_nolan_blanch_classroom.jpg]

The names of several of Elhannon’s family members also appear in documents in the PMSS Collections:

John D. Shell, Elhannon’s father-in-law, who lived during the Civil War, was featured in the story of Rebel Rock, as told by Elhannon and recorded by Ethel S. Norton, a PMSS teacher in 1927.

Kenneth Nolan of Pine Mountain, KY, is listed as one of three members of the Local Advisory Board in the 1915 BROCHURE: “THE PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL IN THE MAKING.”

Otto Nolan’s residence, “where Cora Scearce was staying,” was “a short walk” from the one-room district school. ALICE COBB STORIES “Visit to the Harmon Turners, 1934.”

Otto Nolan’s children, Lois and Faye [later known as Faye Nolan Cheek] are listed as attending Sunday School in ALICE COBB STORIES “Handing Over Divide Sunday School…1937.”

Elhannon Murphy Nolan: HIS OBITUARY

Elhanon [sic] Nolan Dies At Loyall
Funeral Rites Today For Old Merchant

Elhanon M. Nolan, 79-year-old former merchant and rural post-master, and great-grandson of John Nolan, Revolutionary War soldier who was with General Washington at Valley Forge, died at his home at Loyal at 4 p. m. Friday after an illness of two years.

Mr. Nolan lived until four years ago at Pine Mountain. He was educated as a young man in Barbourville at the school which later became Union College. He was a teacher for a number of years in the school system of Harlan County. He held membership in the Christian church for more than forty years and was a member of Nolan Lodge of Free Masons.

He was the son of Samuel and Polly Nolan. He was married 56 years ago to Miss Jane Shell, the daughter of John Shell, who is still living at the age of 95.

Mr. Nolan was one of the country’s oldest pioneer citizens. He was widely known in the county.

The family of Mr. Nolan came to this section of Kentucky from Virginia with a land grant given to John Nolan after the Revolutionary War, and which included the site of the city of Middlesboro.

Survivors include his wife; two sons, Otto Nolan and Delbert Nolan, Pine Mountain; two daughters, Mrs. Pearl Shell and Mrs. Dillard Metcalf, Loyall; and 20 grandchildren.

Funeral services will be conducted from the Church of Christ, Loyall, today at 1 p. m., the Reverend Platt officiating. Burial will be made in the family cemetery at Pine Mountain. [Source: Harlan Enterprise, c. February 9, 1941; copy of clipping courtesy of Cora Richardson. See image in Gallery.]

Elhannon Murphy Nolan: TIMELINE

1862/02/07    Born
1870/07/16    1870 Census: Harlan Co, Dist. No. 5: Elhanan son of Samuel & Mary
near Solomon, Henry D, & John D Shell
1880/06/07    1880 Census: Harlan Co, M. Dist. 12?: Elhaning son of Samel & Mey (sic)
1885/02/19    Married Sarah Jane Shell
1889/12/16    deed from Henry D Shell (uncle) to E M Nolan (Bk O/Pg 2)
1890?/08/24    deed from E M Nolan to John D Shell (father) (V/ 48)
1900/06/18    1900 Census: District 4: Lower Poor Fork:
Elhannan M & Sarah J near John D Shell
c1907             moved to Dry Hill, KY (on Cutshin Creek
1908/03/17    deed E M Nolan to John D Shell (13/298)
1910/04/26    1910 Census: Leslie Co., Bull Cr Pct., Cutshin Ck:  Elhannan M & Jane S
1910/04/10    1910 Census: Lower Poor Fork District 3, Greasy Fork Public Road
Kenneth D Nolan (son) living with John D and Mary E Shell (parents)
1913               returned to Pine Mountain, KY
1920/01/16    1920 Census: Precinct 11, Jane
Kenneth and Alice listed next to Elhannan and near John D Shell
1922/03/11    deed Kenneth D Nolan (son) to E M Nolan (44/338) [later Pennington]
1928/11/01    deed E M Nolan to Alice Nolan(Pennington) (62/602)
1930/04/30    1930 Census: Mag. Dist. 4
Kenneth and Alice listed next to E M & Jane
c1937              moved to Loyall, KY
1938?/03/12    deed E M Nolan & J D Shell to H C Creech (80/294)
[1952 to Ch. Creech; 1957 to PMSS]
1940/04/06    1940 Census: Harlan Co, Mag. Dist. 1, Rio Vista, Ky:
Em & Sarah Jane plus John Shell (91)
1941/06/27    Died: Loyall, Ky.   Buried: Nolan Cemetery, Pine Mountain, Ky

See Also:





JOHN D. SHELL Biography


GALLERY: Elhannon Murphy Nolan


Elhannon Murphy Nolan

Alt. Title

E.M. Nolan ; Elhannon Nolan ; Elhanon Nolan ;




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Elhannon Murphy Nolan ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; E.M. Nolan ; Elhannon Nolan ; Elhanon Nolan ; Nolan Family Reunion ; Harlan County, KY ; teachers ; postmasters ; merchants ; death certificates ; Sarah Jane Shell , Dillard Metcalf ; Allene Nolan Metcalf ; Katherine Pettit ; Ethel De Long Zande  Intermountain Coal & Lumber Company ; Ann M. Metcalf ; Nolan Farmhouse ; Blanch Nolan ; obituaries ;

Subject LCSH

Nolan, Elhannon Murphy, — 1862-1941.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY


Cora L. Richardson, June 2018


Collections ; text ; image ;


Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet


Series 09: Biography – Community ; Series 09: Biography: Students ;




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: Biography – Community ; Series 09: Biography: Students.

Coverage Temporal

1838 – 1992

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Dry HIll, KY ; Leslie County, KY ; Barbourville, KY ; Virginia ; MIddlesboro, KY ; Loyall, 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.


Cora L. Richardson


Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Elhannon Murphy Nolan ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Elhannon Murphy Nolan ;




“[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

2018-07-08 aae ;



Cora Richardson (granddaughter of Allene and Dillard Metcalf), Corbin, KY, June 2018 via email correspondence.

Elhannon Nolan,” Series 09: Biography – Students & Community. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

“Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch  (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q29T-YXN2 : accessed 25 June 2018), Elhannan [sic] Murphy Nolan, 1941; Burial, Bledsoe, Harlan, Kentucky, United States of America, Nolan Cemetery; citing record ID 152200125, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com. Internet resource.

“Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch  (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2S9-Z4Q3accessed 25 June 2018), Henry Nolan, 1902; Burial, Bledsoe, Harlan, Kentucky, United States of America, Nolan Cemetery; citing record ID 153978643, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com. Internet resource.

“Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FW5W-Q5V : accessed 25 June 2018), Elhaunan [sic] M. Nolan and Sarah Jane Shell, 14 Feb 1885; citing, Harlan, Kentucky, United States, Madison County Courthouse, Richmond; FHL microfilm 1,876,465. Internet resource.

“Kentucky Death Records, 1911-1965,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NS4Y-H4G : accessed 25 June 2018), E.M. Nolan in entry for Blanch Nolan, 1921; citing Death, Pine Mountain, Harlan, Kentucky, United States, certificate, Office of Vital Statistics, Frankfort; FHL microfilm 1,943,745. Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch  (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M948-TT9 : accessed 26 June 2018), Henry M Nolen in household of Elhanan M Nolen [sic], Magisterial Districts 3-4, Upper Poor Fork, Lower Poor Fork, Harlan, Kentucky, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 51, sheet 13A, family 227, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,525. Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch   (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9R62-D3X?cc=1488411&wc=QZJP-5CN%3A1036472601%2C1038033801%2C1038207601%2C1589332492 : accessed 27 June 2018), Kentucky > Harlan > Jane > ED 96 > image 11 of 14; citing NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). Internet resource.

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