Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Students
Series 19: Students

JAMES STURGILL Student, September 1941 – October 1942

TAGS: James Sturgill, students, settlement schools, Hattie Sturgill, Margie Sturgill, school records, teachers, teacher reports, student application blanks, Arthur W. Dodd, Alice Joy Keith, Riley Sturgill, Nora (Baker) Sturgill, Sturgill Family

It took several months for James Sturgill to become comfortable with student life at Pine Mountain Settlement School, according to his school record. He was a good-natured fellow, but at first quiet and hesitant in his demeanor. However, as he gained familiarity and trust in his surroundings, he improved, as reported by the School’s principal, Arthur W. Dodd. In a letter dated December 29, 1941, Dodd wrote to James’ parents:

…[James] is slow now because he is growing fast and has had to get adjusted to many new ways of doing things. His teachers feel that he is improving in all of his studies except Science. He must resolve to improve his grade in this after Christmas. He never gives any trouble and is learning to be a good industrial worker.

Indeed, by May 1942, Alice Joy Keith, the science and geography teacher, reported that

James found himself and stepped right to the bat this semester. Was prompt and on the job in all work with picture post cards by states. Volunteered and helped make willow charcoal…. Did very well on geography games with the ‘white black board.’

James left school in October 1942 at the end of the first semester because his mother became ill. Therefore, he did not graduate from Pine Mountain Settlement School.

James Sturgill: HIS FAMILY & HOME LIFE

As with all of the Student Application Blanks that were submitted to Pine Mountain Settlement School and stored in the School’s archives, James’ application, completed on April 1, 1941, contains a wealth of information about who he was and how he and his family lived.

James Sturgill was born in Viper (Perry County), Kentucky, on October 9, 1926. His father, Riley Sturgill, was born in Perry County c. 1891, and worked as a farmer and roadbuilder and at a lumber company. His mother was Nora (Baker) Sturgill, born in 1906.

James had 4 brothers and 4 sisters. The two oldest sisters were Oma (deceased; born in c. 1918) and Zola (age 22), who was married and working as a housemaid in Hazard. Marjorie (“Margie,” 17) lived at home as of 1941 but had attended PMSS from 1939 to 1940. Hattie (18) was a boarding student at Pine Mountain (1938-1943). The brothers were Bernis (11), Merril (7), Roger (4) and Jackie Howard Sturgill (2).

The family rented 400 acres of land on which was grown corn, potatoes and beans. They had “5 head of stock.” The family lived in a 4-room log house that was heated by “grates” and lighted by kerosene. They got their water from a well.

James’ jobs at home were hoeing corn (with which he also earned a little money), getting wood and coal, and tending to the cow.

At the time of his application, James had just finished 8th grade at a school in Delphia, Kentucky, where he and his family lived at the time. Both James and his parents wished for him to stay in school through the 12th grade and then take 4 years in college. James’ interests were history and geography, and a future in carpentry and mechanics. james wrote that he preferred to live in the country rather than the city, because “you are free.”

Having discontinued his studies at Pine Mountain Settlement School, It is not recorded whether James’ dreams eventually came true. In any case, the time he spent at Pine Mountain “set his feet on firm ground,” as Alice Joy Keith concluded in her report of James’ progress.

See Also:

HATTIE STURGILL Correspondence

JAMES STURGILL Student Records – Password Protected
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.

MARGIE STURGILL Correspondence



James Sturgill




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

James Sturgill ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; students ; settlement schools ; Hattie Sturgill ; Margie Sturgill ; school records ; teachers ; teacher reports; student application blanks ; Arthur W. Dodd ; Alice Joy Keith ; Riley Sturgill ; Nora (Baker) Sturgill ; Sturgill Family ;

Subject LCSH

Sturgill, James, — 1928 – (?)
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.


2018-06-29 aae


Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.


Randall Moon, son of Hattie Sturgill.


Collections ; text ; image ;


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


Series 09: Biography – Students and Series 19: Students.




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

Coverage Temporal

1891 – 1942

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Delphia, KY ; Viper, KY ; Perry 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 James Sturgill ; clippings, photographs, books by or about James Sturgill ;




“[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

2021-06-04 aae ;



“James Sturgill.” DATABASE OF PMSS BOARDING SCHOOL STUDENTS, JAMES STURGILL CORRESPONDENCE. Series 09: Biography – Students and Series 19: Students. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

“Kentucky, Vital Record Indexes, 1911-1999,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKHJ-ZXXG : accessed 01 July 2018, James Sturgill, 09 Oct 1926; citing Birth, Perry, Kentucky, United States, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort. Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K7Y2-8GW : accessed 1 July 2018), James Sturgill in household of Riley Sturgill, Magisterial District 7, Perry, Kentucky, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 97-30, sheet 28A, line 17, family 396, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 1349. Internet resource.

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