Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 11: FARM and FARMING
1913 – present


Jess Patterson with back to the camera, middle. VII 63 Life Work Maintenance, Farm, Grounds. [VII_63_life_work_001-8.jpg]

TAGS: farm overview, farms, farming, farmland, farmers, Katherine Pettit, sowing, farm animals, Ayrshires, PMSS farm history, foodways, dairy, Boarding School farm, corn, sorghum, molasses, maple syrup, tree farming, forests, industrial training, farm bibliography, Mary Rockwell Hook, land use, Jess Patterson


FARMING at Pine Mountain

Planning for Pine Mountain was very deliberate and where land was involved, Katherine Pettit. co-founder of the School, was a keen observer and a diligent doer. Of the two co-founders, Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long, it was Pettit who assumed the lead responsibility for the land issues of the School. Under Pettit’s direction, the land was to support the School, but it was also to be a driving force in the school’s programs. In her vision the land would be a source for the agricultural, educational, physical, and emotional needs of the school. The forests, gardens, planting fields, grazing fields, flower beds, —- all received careful consideration under her watchful eye. There is no doubt that the vision for the school’s physical site was always in Katherine Pettit’s mind’s eye but she also called on her excellent on-site help, particularly Uncle William Creech. If she didn’t find her answers in those close-by staff or in the community folk, she did not hesitate to seek outside consultation.

1913 opened with the first visit to the campus of one of the most important of those farm consultants, Miss Mary Rockwell, an architect from Kansas City, Together, Pettit, Ethel de Long, and Hook developed a plan for growth that centered on the topography of the land and the plan was followed, according to Evelyn Wells, (the first chronicler of the school’s history), very closely. Every effort was made to build around the productivity of the land; to use what the land provided and what the topography suggested. Forest lumber, stone from the fields, native plants and flowers, local human and animal labor, native seeds for garden crops and other native resources were called into use. All were considered important to the aesthetics and to the growth of the school and its environs. The remote location demanded that the planners seek local solutions to many of their needs and that they model the best solutions if they were to be both practical and educational in their mission. But, this local focus did not mean the outside world was excluded. It was, in fact, tapped for all it could contribute.

While Mary Rockwell Hook was helping to develop a plan for the land and how the buildings would interact with the landscape, several other consultants were also called upon for direct assistance with farming. James Adoniram Burgess, who was the Superintendent of Construction of buildings, a woodworker and vocational instructor at Berea College, starting in 1901, was well informed about construction and was heavily consulted by Pettit. Pettit also consulted with the  Agricultural Department of State University (University of Kentucky), specifically J.H. Arnold, who had written extensively on factors necessary for a successful farm. While Arnold’s focus was on the Blue Grass area of the state he had some sound recommendations for the business side of agriculture. In 1917 he co-wrote with W.D. Nicholls, USDA Bulletin No. 210 “Important Factors for Successful Farming in the Blue Grass Region of Kentucky.” This unique partnering of Burgess and Arnold was evidently very productive. Ethel de Long notes in her May 1913 Letter to Friends, that the consultants

… were here last week … to give us their advice on the best use of our land and the best disposal of the buildings we hope to have in the course of time. …..

FOR EDUCATORS: (representative list)

For a broader perspective on early farming practice in Appalachia and across the country see the National Archives Catalog:

Publicity Files, 1936 – 1938 in the Records of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Record Group 114)

General Correspondence Files 1927-1951 in the Records of the Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine (Record Group 7)

Records of the Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics (Record Group 176) — See especially the Radio Broadcasts and the Correspondence and Cookbooks Related to Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes, 1931 – ca. 1954.


DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Farming the Land Early Years 1913-1930