FU LIANG CHANG Whither Pine Mountain? 1951

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 25: Case Studies, Reports, Surveys, Consultant Documents
Series 09: Guests, Visitors

FU LIANG CHANG Whither Pine Mountain? 1951
A Survey of Pine Mountain

The Fu Liang Chang Whither Pine Mountain, a Survey of Pine Mountain has been cited by many historians as the pivotal tool that transitioned Pine Mountain from a boarding school within a community to a school that was a part of a rapidly shifting community and nation.

The brief eleven-page survey conducted in December of 1951, was made at the request of Dr. Francis S. Hutchins, President of Berea College, and recently assigned President of the Pine Mountain Settlement School Board of Trustees. It was necessitated by the dire financial situation brought about by the closure of the boarding school and by the shift of educational program to the cooperative consolidated school or, more commonly known as the Community School.  The shift to the consolidated school model brought much-needed revenue to the settlement school from the Harlan County Board of Education.  Teacher’s salaries, bus drivers and bus maintenance, as well as rental income for the classroom space significantly eased the difficult transition period of the School.

Over the course of its one-hundred-year history, Pine Mountain has been studied and re-studied and then studied again. The mountain institution is a remarkable test-bed for sociology, history, environmental studies, economics, ethnology, linguistics, education, religion, and a multitude of other topics, generally focused on the many cultures found within the Southern Appalachian region and Harlan County, specifically.   Some have said of Pine Mountain Settlement School that it is “ever surprising in its surprises.” Especially say those who have made a deep dive into the archive at the settlement school.

While there have certainly been surprises over the years, the consistency of the School’s mission has remained remarkably intact. Uncle William Creech (1814-1918), the donor of the land, whose generosity and wisdom helped to shape the institution, set forward an idea that is timeless. It is a vision of a school that would serve the community, the nation and the world

“… I have heart and cravin’ that our people may grow better. I have deeded my land to be used for school purposes as long as the Constitution of the United States stands. Hopin’ it may make a bright and intelligent people after I’m dead and gone.”

Studies by outside agencies and also scholars have often served as a counterpoint to ideas of self, found in the local culture, and as a signifier of the local. These studies have been formal, as in this study, the so-called, 1951 Chang Survey, “Whither Pine Mountain,” and also the Roscoe Giffin Study conducted earlier in the summer of 1950. Both the Chang study and the Giffen study mark an important period of transition in the school; the years immediately following the closure of the boarding school.  Both studies were commissioned by Berea College, an affiliate of the rural settlement school following the 1949 closure of the boarding program. Berea’s affiliation with the School continues today with the many faculty and the college President serving on the Board of Trustees.

There have also been earlier and later studies of the institution; some formal and others not so much. These are found in scholarly research articles, personal autobiographies, and in the journalism of visitors and the travelogues of “passer-throughs,” and the diaries of staff “insiders.” Whatever the source, the studies and commentary provide rich windows into the life at the settlement school and into the surrounding community and offer counter=points to the Chang study.

The community under study in the Chang survey is the community covered by portions of five school districts in Harlan County that were consolidated at Pine Mountain in 1949, the year of the closure of the boarding school. The creation of the so-called “consolidated school”  consisting of the five district schools of  Creech, Little Laurel, Big Laurel, Divide and Incline also included, by virtue of geography and not “district”,  the community schools of Abner’s Branch and Turkey Fork.

In his brief but thorough survey, Chang evaluates the educational, medical and agricultural needs of the community served by Pine Mountain school. He builds on the more in-depth study of his colleague, Dr. Roscoe Giffin and like Giffin, he is quick to acknowledge the limiting aspects of the regional geography, particularly on the practices of subsistence farming. He cites the prior Giffin study that indicated “only about 450 acres or 10% of the land holdings of families were cultivated in 1949 by over 50% of the families with an average of less than 5 acres.”  In some ways it was the Ellen Churchill Semple model narrative of economic possibilities limited by nature, but to the Semple model, Chang added the limitations of the current (U.S.)  economic system. In his study Chang cited only limited feasible directions for those who dwelled in the area: mining, logging, manufacturing, trades or part-time farming, and development of logging and forest products.

What Cheng’s study generally recommended for the school was a pervasive communitarian point of view in all concerned parties. In this perspective, the Chang survey is little different in its conclusions from other similar earlier and later studies, finding teamwork to be at the center of the meaningful work of the institution and a community-centric approach to be critical to planning. Interestingly, like some of his predecessors, and like some historians in this twenty-first century, Chang saw the “rugged individualism” of the mountain pioneer to be a restraint on the cooperative development of the area and encourages a Christian values model as a starting point and as a model for scale.

In section III, part 6 “Team Work,” he summarizes the survey result

To be community-centric Pine Mountain Settlement School has to include in its planning different types of adult education without sacrificing the efficiency of its consolidated school. The belief is that education for children and for adults, as has been pointed out before, are complementary and mutually strengthening. The excellent teamwork among the staff members of the consolidated school will be further expanded and extended to the work with and for the community. While the community organizer will serve as the main transmission line between the community and the school, there are many other live wires connecting these two ends, through the children of the school, patients at the hospital and cooperators with and visitors to the farm and workshops. The members of the staff of Pine Mountain Settlement School will no longer be individual school teachers and specialized personnel in health, agriculture, woodwork, weaving and administration, but a team of purposeful community builders.  A team of twenty community builders following an integrated plan will accomplish many times more than what can be accomplished by twenty individual workers.  Through their different lines of service, they will present to the people of the community the same ideals and ideas of the Christian way of life, follow the same scale of Christian values and press forward towards the same goal of a prosperous, enlightened, and happy Christian community.  The teamwork of the whole staff rather than the brilliant work of any individual will carry the day in making Pine Mountain the community-centered school. 

The Cheng study is also a study aligned with its larger historical milieu. The United States was continuing its recovery from WWII and the economic, social and political shift in the U.S. was creating a rapid introspection.  Just four years later in 1955 the work of Richard Hofstadter, captured the rapid changes of the fist quarter of the 1950s.  His Pulitzer prize-winning book, The Age of Reform, was greeted by an audience that was eager to make sense of the many economic, social and environmental shifts going on in the country. Hofstadter’s assessment was very much in sync with that of Cheng’s sociological views, particularly his grasp of the impact of agrarian reforms.

While the consolidation of the Pine Mountain school with the Harlan County Schools system was an educational reform that was echoed in many parts of the country, the agricultural reforms across the land were also radically changing the landscape. The agrarian reforms were at work even in Appalachia and they took a substantial toll on the struggling settlement school farm.

In 1951 when Berea’s President Francis Hutchins assigned the study of Pine Mountain, to Fu-Liang Chang, he did so with some knowledge of Chang and his wife Louise.  Both Hutchins and Chang had attended Yale University. But, Chang graduated in 1915 and Hutchins not until 1933. The two had met earlier in the 1920’s, when they both held teaching positions at Yali, the Yale-in China program in Nanchang, China. Hutchins work at Yale in 1933 earned him the position of the director of Yaling in 1933.  Both Hutchins and his wife Louise and Fu-Liang Chang and his wife Louise were at Yaling when the Japanese invaded China and occupied the school. The situation at Yaling was horrific and the bonds that Hutchins and Chang shared were deep. The Japanese incursion that devastated Yali was horrific, but the Communist takeover in the late 1940s was even more difficult for the couple.

The Communist pressure on Chang grew in China and Fu-Lian and his wife left their homeland in 1949 when Chang was accepted into the Yale Divinity School.  In China, Fu-Liang’s career had focused on sociology, rural reconstruction, forestry, and botany. He held the position of the middle-school department at Yali hand Hutchin’s belief was that Chang’s skills and the many lessons learned in rural China could be adapted to rural Appalachia. Chang was enticed to come to Berea and given a place on the faculty of the college in 1951. For Chang the fit was perceived to be in keeping with his life’s mission, that of addressing rural poverty and the severe lack of resources that accompanied the poverty. The familiar academic environment at Berea and at Pine Mountain allowed Chang to use the skills he had gained from Yali and form Yale.

Chang also had direct connections to Pine Mountain, his Yali colleague, Burton Rogers, who had headed the Literature department at Yali had left China when the Japanese invaded, studied at Yale and was at Pine Mountain by 1942 as the school’s Principal, later becoming its Director.  Chang had both the credentials and the motivation for a study of Pine Mountain and there he also found friends and the perfect field work for a course he developed for Berea in the sociology department. The course, called Rural Reconstruction of Underdeveloped Areas, pulled many ideas from the students at the college whose homes were in the region, as well as the global ideas that Chang offered. Again, Pine Mountain had brought its lessons to those “acrost’ the sea” and the mutual sharing was the knowledge-base that helped to transition Pine Mountain into the new “Age of Reform.”



(1.)  Area and Population
(2.)  Natural Limitations and Human Adjustments


(1.)  Its Past Achievements
(2.)  Its Present Status


(1.)  Recognition of Existing Limitations
(2.)  Special Contributions of Pine Mountain Settlement School
(3.)  Community Organizer
(4.)  Suggested Fields of Organization for Community Service
(5.)  Concerning the Hospital and the School Farm
(6.)  Team Work