SALLY DIXON CREECH

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 4A: Pine Mountain Settlement School History – Creech Family
Series 09: Biography – Community, Guests, Visitors

SALLY DIXON CREECH

Sally Dixon Creech (Aunt Sal Creech)
Born 1866, Died 1925
Donor & Founder (with husband, William Creech Sr.)
Aunt Sal Creech at her small spinning wheel. [hook_album_2blk__010.jpg]

Aunt Sal Creech at her small spinning wheel. [hook_album_2blk__010.jpg]

Sally Dixon Creech was the wife of William Creech, a co-founder of Pine Mountain Settlement School. Miss Sally Dixon, later well-known and well-loved as Aunt Sal Creech, was the daughter of William and Mary (Gilliam) Dixon. Her parents were among those bold and rugged pioneers who carved homes out of the Kentucky wilderness, survived many hardships, and created a life and culture that became a colorful and important part of the nation’s history. 

Sally Dixon married William Creech Sr. and the two forged a life not very different from that of their pioneering parents. After years of hard work and prudent living, and with a vision of a better life for the mountain children through education, the couple donated the land on which the Pine Mountain Settlement School was founded and still stands today.

Their story begins when, three years after their marriage, William felt a need to find land that was more productive than his father’s acreage on which he’d been toiling. The young couple packed their meager household and their two or three babies on horses and moved to the 700 acres of “wild land” at the head of Greasy Creek that William planned to pay for through his own labor. During the first year of hard work clearing land, raising a crop, and building a log home, they also added another baby to their growing family. Surrounded by thick forest and working side by side with her husband at the many daily tasks involved in maintaining the new homestead, Sally Creech must have missed the people she knew in Poor Fork where she was raised.

The October 1925 issue of Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School, commemorating Sally’s death six months earlier, described William and Sally’s early life:

As her family grew, she wielded a firm hand to keep the children helping with the daily chores and to protect them and herself from the wild critters that lived among them.

Eventually, the family grew to a total of nine children: Absolom, Polly, William R., Nancy Ann, Henry C., Columbus, Rhoda, Martha (who died in infancy), and Joe.

"Aunt Happy (Aunt Sally Creech) and her 'Leastest' (Brit Wilder) [D2_06_rittenhouse_catherine025_mod]

“Aunt Happy (Aunt Sally Creech) and her ‘Leastest’ (Brit Wilder).” [D2_06_rittenhouse_catherine025_mod]

As other families moved into the area, “Uncle William,” as he was known, became a highly respected leader of the small isolated community, providing advice on crops and serving as an herbal doctor. While Aunt Sal tended the children and spun flax for cloth, Uncle William farmed the land, raising corn, rye, flax, and buckwheat. Over time, he also ran a general store, served as postmaster in Wharton (Perry County), Kentucky, and was responsible for getting a post office for an area that had none.

Believing strongly in the advantages of education for their people, Aunt Sal and Uncle William donated land to Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long for the building of Pine Mountain Settlement School, signing the deed in 1913. As they worked together to establish the School, the Creeches and the Misses Pettit and de Long became good friends, often visiting back and forth, joining in picnics, and exchanging gifts.

The 1925 Notes described Aunt Sal’s relish of life and love for her home, family, and visitors.

Everyone was welcome to share the fire, to eat, to stay all night….Her hands were never too full to set a meal of victuals out of hours, and table-full might follow table-full in her kitchen…The children played all over the yard, and chased the chickens and turkeys…the grown folks helped with the work or sat quiet as they chose….For every chunk of a boy or girl she had a special apple or a large piece of sweet-bread.

[S]he was incurably interested in people, and the whole countryside dropped in to see her whenever it could….No other woman was so widely known, so respected or beloved.

Once she philosophized a bit on learning and wisdom, ending with a never-to-be-forgotten summary of things. “Well, we ‘uns that caint read or write, we have a heap o’ time to think, and that’s the reason we know more than you all!”

She abhorred evil and dishonorable doings…but her large feeling for “folks” so transcended her moral judgment that it never estranged sinners from her.

Living in the woods, she was never indifferent to nature, and remembered with delight the “sanging” expeditions of her younger days, when a group of kinsfolk and neighbors would camp out a week at a time while they dug ginseng.

Even in her 70s, she would take off to search for medicinal herbs, pick berries or go “sapping” (for the juice of the young birch). It was a sight to see her stepping along, a trim figure with red kerchief tied over her head, walking stick in hand, keen, resourceful and gay, – and just a bit proud of her energy….

Standing in front of their original cabin

Aunt Sal and Uncle William Creech, in front of their original cabin, celebrating their golden wedding anniversary, 1916. [pmss00019.jpg]

To commemorate their 50th wedding anniversary in 1916, Aunt Sal took her wedding dress from the chest in which it was stored. It was described in 1925 PMSS Notes as:

…a soft flowered organdie set with dainty stitches, and well it had deserved the pains, for her father had sent for it clear to Lexington, an eighteen days’ trip. There it was, safe in the old chest while a family grew up in one room about it, ready for the golden wedding anniversary.

The Pine Mountain staff and students demonstrated their love and respect for Uncle William and Aunt Sal by helping them celebrate with fireworks and a cake with fifty candles. On that special day, a photograph was taken of William standing with Aunt Sal in her wedding dress, carrying a bouquet of flowers from the School’s garden.

William Creech died in 1918, two years after the anniversary, During her later years Aunt Sal lived in a “comfortable plank house” that sat in front of the old log house she started in as a “young pioneer mother, where all her children had been raised….” The old house consisted of one “room where a bed stood in each of the three corners and a great old loom in the fourth.” Aunt Sal felt this was just fine for raising her “young ‘uns right and not spile ’em.”

Aunt Sal had been housebound for a year before her death. “[W]e missed that staunch old weather-beaten figure on the porch where she had peeled so many apples and strung so many beans.”

On April 1, 1925, Aunt Sal died at the age of 78. The October 1925 Notes recorded the day of her burial in these words:

…[T]the lovely old face so serene and beautiful when death had smoothed away its weariness, with the red silk kerchief tied as usual over her head, the decorous black dress and white apron, laid away long ago for her burial….laid in the decent, home-made coffin,….the procession of beloved kinsfolk and friends that went up the hill with the bearers, to lay her beside Uncle William.

Bill Dawn, in the 1979 Homecoming Reports of the Pine Mountain Association of Alumni & Friends recalls, as a student in the 1920s, helping Luigi Zande build a coffin for Aunt Sal. He described it as made of yellow poplar, trimmed in walnut and lined with cotton padding and black satin.

Aunt Sal's Cabin before restoration

Aunt Sal’s Cabin before restoration. [pmss3197mod.jpg]

The log cabin that was Uncle William and Aunt Sal’s pioneer home was given to the School by the Creech family along the original household furnishings, including his handmade furniture and her hand-woven blankets, coverlets, and clothing. The Creech Cabin was relocated to the campus in 1926 and remains there to this day as a memorial and interpretive museum.

Aunt Sal had a wry sense of humor and, like many mountain women, she also had a good repertoire of mountain ballads. One ballad, “Aunt Sal’s Song,” the composition attributed to her, was a song that was a favorite at the School and was performed at many concerts given by students at the institution. The words to the song follow:

Sally Creech. [melv_II_album_080_mod.jpg]

Sally Creech. [melv_II_album_080_mod.jpg]

 AUNT SAL’S SONG

1 A gentleman came to our house, he would
not tell his name,
I knew he came a-courting, although he
were ashamed,
O, although he were ashamed.

2 He moved his chair up to my side, his fancy
pleased me well,
I thought the spirit moved him some hand-
some tale to tell.

3 0, there he sat the livelong night, and never 
a word did say, 
With many a sigh and bitter groan he oft- 
times wished for day. 

4 The chickens they begun to crow, and day-
light did appear.
How d’ye do, good morning, Sir, I’m glad to
see you here.

5 He was weary of the livelong night, he was
weary of his life;
If this is what you call courting, boys, I’ll
never take a wife.

6 And when he goes in company, the girls
all laugh for sport,
Saying, Yonder goes that ding-dang fool
that don’t know how to court,
O, that don’t know how to court.


GALLERY: SALLY DIXON CREECH

 


See Also:

PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL SONG BALLADS AND OTHER SONGS” 1923

UNCLE WILLIAM” CREECH
CREECH FAMILY
AUNT SAL’S CABIN [CREECH CABIN]

Title

Sally Dixon Creech

Alt. Title

Aunt Sal Creech

Identifier

 Permalink: https://pinemountainsettlement.net/?page_id=6890

Creator

Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Aunt Sal Creech ; Sally (Dixon) Creech ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; William Creech ; “Uncle William” Creech ; pioneers ; wilderness ; William Dixon ; Mary (Gilliam) Dixon ; Greasy Creek ; Poor Fork ; Absolom Creech ; Polly Creech ; William R. Creech ; Nancy Ann Creech ; Henry C. Creech ; Columbus Creech ; Rhoda Creech ; Martha Creech ; Joe Creech ; spinning ; farming ; herbal doctors ; general store ; postmasters; education ; Katherine Pettit ; Ethel de Long ; ginseng ; medicinal herbs ; sapping ; golden wedding anniversary ; organie ; staff ; students ; fireworks ; weaving ; burial ; Creech family ; museum ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Wharton (Perry County), KY ; Lexington, KY ;

Subject LCSH

Creech, Sally (Dixon), — March 15, 1866 – April 1, 1925.
Creech Sr., William, — 1845 – 1918.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.

Date

2014-02-11

Publisher

Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Contributor

n/a

Type

Collections ; text ; image ;

Format

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

Source

Series 4a: Pine Mountain Settlement School History – Creech Family ; Series 22: Community, Guests, Visitors.

Language

English

Relation

Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 4a: Pine Mountain Settlement School History – Creech Family and Series 22: Community, Guests, Visitors.

Coverage Temporal

1846 – 1925

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Wharton (Perry County), KY ; Lexington, KY ;

Rights

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.

Donor

n/a

Description

Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Sally Dixon Creech ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Sally Dixon Creech ;

Acquisition

n/d

Citation

“[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

2014-02-11 aae ; 2015-11-12 hhw ; 2016-03-05 aae ; 2017-11-28 aae ;

Bibliography

Sources

Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Pine Mountain Settlement Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain, KY. 11 (October 1925): 1 – 3. Internet resource.

Wells, Evelyn KA Record of Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, Harlan County, Kentucky. Pine Mountain, KY: Pine Mountain Settlement School Archives, 1928. Archival material.

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