Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff
Dorothy Nace: Secretary, Teacher, Publicity 1944-1957
Dorothy Nace Tharp (c. 1918 – ?)

Dorothy Nace and Margaret Nace. Dorothy Nace and Margaret Nace working on crafts. [X_100_workers_2590a_mod.jpg]

TAGS: Dorothy Nace (Tharpe), Margaret Nace (Starbuck), folk tales, folk songs, folk dancing, Berea College, hand-loom weaving, teachers, Harriette Howard, Edna Spinney, hospital, gardening, secretaries, bookkeepers, L&N Railroad, John A. Lewis, post offices, rural electrification, logging trails,  public relations, students, Infirmary, day schools, preschool education


Secretary & Bookkeeper, June 1944-1949
Teacher, 3rd & 4th Grades, 1949
Publicity, 1950 – July 1957

One of the highlights of Dorothy A. Nace’s life, according to her autobiography, was the time she spent at Pine Mountain Settlement School, from 1944 through 1957. Even during her retirement in the 1990s, she continued to promote Pine Mountain’s art and culture by presenting programs on Southern Mountain folk tales and songs to schools and other organizations in the area of Roberts, Wisconsin, where she lived at the time.

DOROTHY NACE: Before Pine Mountain

Dorothy Nace and her sister, Margaret, were born in Pennsylvania in c. 1918. They were the last of four children born to Edwin Allen Nace (1880-1957) and Ida Margaret Roeder (1882-1981). Both parents were from Pennsylvania German families. At the time of Dorothy’s birth, her father was teaching high school math in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Beginning in 1920 the family lived near Cleveland, Ohio, where Edwin Nace worked for the Cleveland Public School system and where the children grew up.

Dorothy and Margaret were educated in the Cleveland Public School System and each of them earned a BS in Education at Western Reserve University in Cleveland. After two years of teaching, Dorothy and Margaret were required to work toward a Master’s Degree in education during their summers. They heard about a highly regarded artisan program at Berea (Kentucky) College from a friend and, lured by the promise of adventure in a new place, attended Berea’s hand-loom weaving classes for four weeks in 1942.

The following summer, when they returned for advanced classes in teaching weaving, the sisters learned about Pine Mountain Settlement School from their teacher, Harriette Howard, who was a former student at the School, and a classmate, Edna Spinney, originally a PMSS housemother. Hearing that the School was “heaven on earth” was enough for the sisters to want to see the campus for themselves. Dorothy recalls their visit:

School was not in session, but students were there, earning their school fees. Boys did farm work and repairs; girls cleaned and worked in the kitchen or in the small hospital. When beans and tomatoes came in from the fields by the bushel, staff, students, and visitors helped can them into half-gallon jars. We sat under the trees behind the kitchen, peeling tomatoes or ‘busting’ beans and had a great time. 

We went home determined that Pine Mountain must be a part of our future.

Because Margaret and Dorothy held degrees in primary education they were not qualified to teach Pine Mountain’s high school students. Instead they applied for work as secretary and bookkeeper at the School and were accepted. “We were paid $75.00 a month and our room and board. In June of 1944 we left to begin our new life.”

DOROTHY NACE: At Pine Mountain

Traveling from Ohio by bus, then on the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) train, they arrived in Harlan County.

We left the train at Putney, a small sawmill town. There John A. Lewis met the train and took mail sacks across the mountain to several post offices. Riding in the cab or in back on the mail sacks was a common way for visitors or staff to get to the school. Even after 24 hours of exhausting travel, we didn’t mind riding in the back, but John A’s conversation was so entertaining it was more fun to ride with him [in the cab of his truck].

The sisters arrived at a time when the rural electric associations had moved through and greatly improved life in the area, but the main road to and from the School was still a logging trail winding over the mountain. A 1996 article about her life, published in The Shopper (Roberts, Wisconsin), records Dorothy’s memories:

…the school was 20 miles from the nearest town with no real road leading to it. But it was supported by a large group of people all the way from Massachusetts to Florida to Kansas City. There was a certain romantic appeal about the area at the time, with a unique quality that people relished, and they were interested in helping out.

Eventually, Dorothy’s secretarial position grew to include public relations work for the School. She traveled Kentucky and other states, giving presentations and raising money on behalf of the School. At each gathering, she described the credentials of Pine Mountain teachers, the beauty of the School’s natural environment, and the students who not only attended classes, but also worked on the farm and in the hospital and kitchen that were located on site. The November 1950 issue of Notes of Pine Mountain Settlement School  describes her activity:

Miss Dorothy Nace is traveling about telling the story of Pine Mountain. She has a set of colorful Kodachrome slides which make her story more vivid. After Christmas she plans in one northern trip to visit Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Muncie. Later she is visiting Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort and other points in Kentucky.

Miss Nace has prepared a set of 40 slides for lending to groups which she cannot visit personally. These slides have with them a manuscript which tells their story. They are available without any charge but return postage. If you are interested in having a Pine Mountain speaker at your club or small home gathering, or if you would like to borrow the slides, Miss Nace will be pleased to hear from you.

Dorothy’s favorite extracurricular activity was the Saturday night folk dances at Pine Mountain. They reminded her of the English country dancing classes she attended, taught by Olive Whitworth as part of her early elementary school gym program. In her autobiography, she wrote, “…When I was on the staff at Pine Mountain School, that [folk dance] was our major social activity. It was my great love and one of the only physical activities in which I excelled.”

During Dorothy’s last years at Pine Mountain, the School was converted into an elementary day school and she was able to teach the third and fourth-grade students who were bussed in from the surrounding countryside.


DOROTHY NACE: Marriage and Later Years

Both sisters met their future husbands during their years at Pine Mountain. Margaret married Robert Starbuck, a Quaker, who was hired in 1950 by the School as a maintenance worker and to work on the Tool House. The Starbucks lived in the Infirmary building. The family left the School in July 1953 for Salem, Ohio.

Dorothy Nace STAFF

Dorothy Nace. [X_100_workers_2590_mod.jpg]

Dorothy married Jac Lyndon Tharpe in 1955. One year after their marriage the couple left the School for Tennessee, where Jac earned a BA and MA at University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Dorothy ran Pennywise Press, a mail order business from home. Their next move was to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Jac studied for a PhD in Comparative Literature at Harvard University. By the late 1950s, they had two daughters.

Following her Pine Mountain years, many of Dorothy’s jobs were focused on preschool education. She also wrote books and columns and created hand-knit finger puppets that were demonstrated in 1969 at the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, DC.


Jac Lyndon Tharpe died on June 30, 1985. By 1990, Dorothy was living in Roberts, Wisconsin, near her daughter’s family.

On March 31, 2014, Pine Mountain received a donation of historical material related to Pine Mountain from Cecily Perry, one of two daughters of Dorothy Nace. She wrote in her letter to the School:

Her (Dorothy’s) years at Pine Mountain were among the happiest in my Mother’s life. My sister and I also have pleasant memories of visits made there during childhood years and to many friends she made there.

The Pine Mountain Settlement School is deeply appreciative of these Pine Mountain materials and the many years that Dorothy and Margaret gave to the School.

See Also:


DOROTHY NACE PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM II (individual photographs)


Dorothy Nace

Alt. Title

Dorothy A. Nace, Dorothy Nace Tharpe, Dorothy Tharpe




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Dorothy Nace (Tharpe) ; Margaret Nace (Starbuck) ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; folk tales ; folk songs ; folk dancing ; education ; Western Reserve University ; master’s degree ; Berea College ; hand-loom weaving ; teaching ; Harriette Howard ; Edna Spinney ; farm work ; kitchen ; hospital ; gardening ; canning ; secretaries ; bookkeepers ; L&N Railroad ; John A. Lewis ; post offices ; rural electrification ; logging trails ; The Shopper ; salaries ; public relations ; Kodachrome slides ; teachers ; students ; Olive Whitworth ; Robert Starbuck ; Quakers ; Infirmary ; Jac Lyndon Tharpe ; Harvard University ; day schools ; preschool education ; finger puppets ; Festival of American Folklife ; Smithsonian Institution ; Edwin Allen Nace ; Ida Margaret Roeder ; Pennsylvania Germans ; Cleveland Public Schools ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Cleveland, OH ; Berea, KY ; Putney, KY ; Roberts, WI ; Salem, OH ; Knoxville, TN ; Pennywise Press ; Cambridge, MA ; Washington, DC ; McKeesport, PA ;

Subject LCSH

Tharpe, Dorothy Nace, — c. 1920 – [?]
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.


2014-04-01 aae


Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY


The Families of Dorothy Nace Tharpe and Margaret Nace Starbuck


Collections ; text ; image ;


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


Series 09: BIOGRAPHY




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: BIOGRAPHY.

Coverage Temporal

1880 – 2002

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Cleveland, OH ; Berea, KY ; Putney, KY ; Roberts, WI ; Salem, OH ; Knoxville, TN ; Cambridge, MA ; Washington, DC ; McKeesport, PA ;


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 Dorothy Nace Tharpe and Margaret Nace Starbuck ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Dorothy Nace Tharpe and Margaret Nace Starbuck.

A recent donation (March 31, 2014) from Cecily Perry, daughter of Dorothy Nace, includes two large photograph albums ; correspondence ; framed photograph of Creech Family Home with original negative ; 1948 Graduating Class, 8 x 10 photograph ; impressions of school, 1949 ; various ephemera (calendars, promotional literature, Nativity Play,etc.) ; Pine Mountain diary ; folder with Creech Stories ; folder with Pine Mountain Memories ; folder “highly miscellaneous” ; 5 slides ;

Agreement and inventory list received.




“[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

2014-04-01 aae ; 2016-03-07 aae ; 2022-05-08 aae ; 2023-06-20 aae ;



An article (title n/a) about Dorothy Tharpe in The Shopper. Roberts, WI: 1996-Jan-24. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Archival material.

Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. (November 1950): p. 4. Internet resource.

“PMSS Staff Directory.” Series 09: BIOGRAPHY. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

Tharpe, Dorothy Nace. “End of the Road: A Summing Up.” Tharpe, 2002. Self-publication.

Tharpe, Dorothy Nace. “Autobiographical Ramblings – My Youth.” Roberts, WI: Tharpe, 2002. Self publication.

“United States Census, 1940,” index and images. FamilySearch (accessed 2014-Apr-02), Dorothy Nace in household of Edwig [sic] Nace, Ward 6, Cleveland City, Cleveland City, Cuyahoga, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 92-134, sheet 5A, family 94, NARA digital publication of T627, roll 3208. Internet resource.


Tharpe, Dorothy N. Handknit Finger Puppets: 14 Patterns. Hattiesburg, MS: Tharpe, 1973. Print.

Tharpe, Dorothy N. Roeders in the Hosensack Valley of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Roberts, WI: D.N. Tharpe, 2000. Print.

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