STAPLETON REPORT 1930 – January. “At Christmas we found the country covered …”

Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton
Line Fork 1927 – 1947
REPORT – January 1930 “At Christmas we found the country covered with a thick white blanket of snow …”
TRANSCRIPTION Courtesy of Gretchen Rasch, great-granddaughter of the Stapletons:


Dear Friends:-

At Christmas, we found all the country covered with a thick white blanket of snow. The evergreens were so lovely it seemed quite unnecessary to have any further decorations – but in the schoolrooms it was quite different and the trees were trimmed in the usual way with candles, tinsel, holly wreaths and bells. The program of songs and readings explaining why these objects are used in celebrating the Birth day of our King, Jesus our Savior, was much enjoyed. One pupil read the part of Paganism, another that of Christianity and groups of children took the part of ornaments as they placed them on the tree. Then the gifts sent by several groups of friends and individuals were distributed from a huge red stocking which I had carried down and up the Fork on Bess while Mr S carried the boxes of apples, oranges and raisins on Swallow. The teachers Mr and Mrs Holbrook supplied the candy in neat little chimney boxes. Santa himself did not appear this year but the Christmas spirits told how Santa’s work was done in cottage, palace and orphan homes. Mr Holbrook gave a genial talk at each school assuring the children and their parents that he had not seen any better-looking children in Letcher County and he has been teaching for seventeen years. The two – Mr and Mrs Holbrook are unique in that they came up on Line Fork as substitute teachers, the former ones having been obliged to resign for incompetency. One of the trustees told them they would make better policemen than teachers. After an interim of two weeks Mr & Mrs Holbrook were found and they brought their three little folk with them. Jackie, 4½ years, going to Coyle Branch with his father, while Henrietta went to Bear Branch with the mother, and Jimmie stayed at the farm where they all boarded with Sara Jane who assisted at so many of my baby parties. Just now they are arranging to have a house by themselves. They are Line Fork young people some twenty miles below here and so far have made good use of their opportunities. Mr H was in France during the war. Mrs H is much younger and is still working for her permanent teacher’s certificate so will go to Normal school as soon as this school closes at the end of February  Her husband’s parents will care for the children then. Mr H’s school will continue on into March.

One of our neighbors – Johnny, father of Rita – had dug two hundred bushels of coal to pay the doctor’s bill and then borrowed four dollars to pay a pressing debt. Finally when some pretty weather allowed for working Mr S gave him a job to pay it and earn a little more for himself – splitting wood, boxing up Swallow’s stall – our pole barn being very open – tidying up the low stone walls that outline the gardens and lawn around the Cabin &c. One day we asked him to bring his mule to drag logs down the mountain for Neely to use as fuel as she was quite worn out trying to get wood. The mule had been a gift from Jason. One day Johnny saw the mule grazing by the roadside and asked Jason if it was his. Jason replied, “Yes but I don’t want he as there aint’ no fodder for he” and then “If you want he I give he to you. He good mule. If you take he and afterwards sell he for twenty-five dollars I not come to you and say give me a part for he”. Johnny related the above with great gusto. He then said “May gave me a bridle, the old man [meaning his father] gave the hames [sic] and Mr S a halter”. So I said it must be a combination mule. Jason saw him hauling wood for Neely (they are not yet on speaking terms) and rather resented the mule working for Neely. But Johnny fixed it up by saying “The mule is working for me and I am working for Mr Stapleton”.

John had been having “jawache” for a long time and was forced to go to Cumberland to a dentist, and, because the negro dentist was the only sober one there, he went to him. He is well trained and has a very neat and attractive office in a tiny brick building all by itself.

It has been too cold and frozen to do any more digging so Johnny is splitting palings to fence in some land of his own. He has about five acres and has recently sold a half acre to a younger brother for fifty dollars on which to build a house for his newly acquired wife and in order to pay for it he tried unsuccessfully to beg a load from the Cabin.

Belvie and Deltie Hall came to see the Doctor the other morning. Their uncle Jim had recently returned from St Joseph’s hospital in Louisville where he had an operation for appendicitis and Deltie had a suspicious pain in her side. I gave her some advice and told her to stay at home the next day. Mr S was at the school the next day and saw Belvie who reported that Deltie was no better so I went over to their place some two miles distant thru the forest almost the entire way. Hi the father makes splint bottom chairs and other bits of furniture. Frank the son has made some twenty toys – hickory splint bottom chairs for the Xmas trade and Hi made a bedstead of walnut. I found the entire family gathered in the living room – three double beds, a newly acquired wardrobe and victrola. This last came over the mountain by wagon to the Cabin a month ago. Hi and Frank carried it home over the ridge slung on a pole. Sara’s (Hi’s wife) sister, Hannah, with daughter Eliza and granddaughter Addie, were there all sitting on one side of a bed as there were too few chairs to accommodate everybody.

The next day I went up Jake’s creek to see Orrie who had been to the Cabin a week before for medicine. Now I called to see how she was getting on. She had been much better for a few days. Then she had to go foraging for coal while her father-in-law stayed in the house and nussed the baby. Why hadn’t he gone? The neighbors laughing say “That Dick would sit and freeze to death before he would pack coal”. Not quite as bad as that I reckon but at this time he wouldn’t, so Orrie rode the mule a mile to the coal bank where a quantity of coal had been taken out and after filling two pokes with it she loaded them on to the mule and walked back. She had another heart spell and was in a faint for some hours. I had warned Dick that she must not get wood for a month or two but he wouldn’t, and her brother, a young man, wouldn’t, so she had made the effort to keep her babes from freezing. Some families are helpful to their relatives, then again they are quite heartless.

In my last letter I wrote about Mallie and her baby going to St Joseph’s Infirmary. They were well cared for and convalescing nicely when she received an appealing letter from a neighbour telling that her mother was very ill and wouldn’t she come back as soon as possible. Mallie said she quite intended to do, as she had promised until then, but that shook her resolution as she thought of nothing except getting back, forgetting the difficulties of the thirty miles to her father’s house. She just came on to Cumberland, stayed there the day and night with an acquaintance, caught a ride on the wagon over the mountain carrying goods to a store on Line Fork. Here another night was spent and the next day she walked four miles to Martha Lewis’ and spent the night there. Sunday afternoon Rosa Lewis helped her carry the baby the remaining two miles to the Cabin. I was too astonished for words and Mallie was made to see her mistake. But what could I do but take her in and care for her like an erring daughter. The baby had recovered from his running ears but was on edge of a bad cold. I made her write to the friend who had urged her return and wait for an answer. It has not come yet but the weather has been very cold so I am glad she cannot go until her father comes for her; in fact I am still hoping to send her to the House of Mercy so she will have a real chance to get well. She knows the Lord’s prayer and joins us in repeating it. Says she learned that in school and a few hymns which she croons to baby. The child is learning to go to sleep by himself only I have to hold him on the bed having no crib. He has always slept cuddled in her arms until they went to the hospital and there he must sleep when she goes home. —- If she had only stopped in Lexington!

Yesterday Bert came with another dozen eggs her small son had gathered and had been saving toward a new overall and jacket. He brought the first two dozen himself. Then the hogs got all the nests and ate the eggs for a few days. But Lawrence told them they could not “lay” in the corn house anymore and asked his Pap to help him shut up the holes.

Mary Belle came for some baby flannel I had ordered for her. She wanted to order a complete layette so she wouldn’t have to make them but they had no money so she was persuaded to make them as this is her first baby. I will cut out one of each little garment for her then she can use it for a pattern and cut the rest for herself. It is her husband who has bought the half acre from his brother Johnny. They are occupying a house belonging to his older brother Carter, sharing it with his married sister Mary, who helped so long at the Cabin. She has passed her job on to Rosie Belle and then later wanted it back but Rosie is having her chance now and is doing well. It means so much to them to have the money. Mary had the Cabin loom and we tried to get her to make a business of using it but for that she claimed she hadn’t time. A few days ago Nancy Holbrook Cornett asked for the loom and her husband brought it to his house on a sled. It had to be taken down but he was able to put it up again and now Nancy is practicing on some odds and ends of wool for a blanket then she hopes to being doing something worthwhile like a Mary Simmons coverlet. A sister in law has learned and will teach her. While visiting her sick little boy Homer, three years January 3rd, Nancy complained that he never had any warm underwear and she hoped she could help earn enough to buy him some. As he is one of my babies I made him a little birthday dress a year ago and he remembered it and said to his mother “I hope Mrs Stape will bring me a shirt this year”. He wears little overalls now. I made a smock from an old warm flannel skirt and he brightened up from his fever and reached out for the “shirt”. Then he pushed it away to his mother. He was terribly dirty and as we discussed the possibilities of “neumonia fever”, the father who was holding the little fellow by the fire remarked that it would be a good thing to give him a bath. It is needless to say that the doctor agreed with him.

Mallie’s baby is making a terrible fuss because I insist on his staying in the baby box and amusing himself. Mallie tells him who would not let him cry so but she would hold him all the time and increase his helplessness.

Sudie, whose husband shot himself, is going about her work bravely. She said she would starve before she would do what some of the women whose husbands are in prison are doing. The very fact that she means to do right is helping her. A brother paid her taxes and helped her pay off a debt on the land. She rode over to Cumberland with Baby and as she had to stay overnight, Rosie Belle stays with the children when she is gone and her brother Henry helps the little boys chop the wood. I was surprised to see him or I could hardly have believed it, as he is not given to such exercise.

Mr S had a little experience with a kicking horse the other day. He went into the stall to bridle her for a guest, and the horse tried to show him her heels. He raced round at her head bumping against the side of the stall and escaped at the door without injury but so much racket was made that a passing neighbour rushed up to the stable and succeeded in getting the horse bridled.

So the angels are still on their job.

[signed] Sincerely yours
Mr S and the Doctor

[Date of Transcription: 2014-03-03]



Alt. Title

Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton Line Fork 1927 – 1947




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Ida Stapleton ; Rev. Robert Stapleton ; Line Fork Settlement ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Christmas ; evergreens ; schoolrooms ; decorations ; Paganism ; Christianity ; horses ; Mr. and Mrs. Holbrook ; teachers ; gifts ; chimney boxes ; Coyle Branch ; Jackie Holbrook ; Henrietta Holbrook ; Jimmie Holbrook ; Bear Branch ; World War I ; Normal School ; coal ; pole barn ; stone walls ; Cabin ; mules ; jawache ; dentists ; Belvie Hall ; Deltie Hall ; doctors ; St Joseph’s Hospital ; appendicitis ; hickory splint bottom chairs ; victrolas ; Jake’s creek ; Martha Lewis ; Rosa Lewis ; House of Mercy ; Lord’s prayer ; sewing ; Nancy Holbrook Cornett ; Mary Simmons coverlets ; weaving ; baby boxes ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Line Fork, KY ; Corbin, KY ; Pineville, KY ; Gilley, KY ; Hazard, KY ; Cornettsville , KY ; Letcher County, KY ; Cumberland, KY ; Louisville, KY ; Lexington, KY ;

Subject LCSH

Stapleton, Dr. Ida, — 1871 – 1946.
Stapleton, Rev. Robert, — 1866 – 1945.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Line Fork Medical Settlement (Gilley, KY) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural medicine — Kentucky –Letcher County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Rural health services — Appalachian Region. — History.




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY


Gretchen Rasch


Collections ; text ; image ;


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


Series 10: Built Environment ; Series 21A: Personal Narratives (Written) ; Series 09: Biography.




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 21A: Personal Narratives (Written) ; Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) ; Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) Library, Ida Stapleton Letters to Friends SC 462 ; Morris, Glyn. Less Traveled Roads. New York: Vantage Press, 1977.

Coverage Temporal

January 1930

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Line Fork, KY ; Corbin, KY ; Pineville, KY ; Gilley, KY ; Hazard, KY ; Cornettsville , KY ; Letcher County, KY ; Cumberland, KY ; Louisville, KY ; Lexington, 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 Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton ;




Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers, Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;

Last Updated

2013-12-03 hhw ; 2014-02-23 hhw ; 2014-03-05 aae ;



Pine Mountain Collections: Series 10: Built Environment, Series 21A: Personal Narratives (Written), and Series 09: Biography. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Archival materials.


Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) (accessed 2014-01-06). Internet resource.

Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) Library, Ida Stapleton Letters to Friends SC 462. (accessed 2014-01-06). Internet resource.

Morris, Glyn. Less Traveled Roads. New York: Vantage Press, 1977. Print.