Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Students
Series 19: STUDENTS
Polly Turner, Student, 1923-1934
Ollie Turner, Student, 1922-?
Polly Turner Harris (1914-1994)


09_2458 Alice Miniard, Polly Turner, Polly Wilder, Elizabeth Mitchell. [098_IX_students_09_2458_001.jpg]

TAGS: Polly Turner, students, Polly Turner Harris, Ollie Turner, Dr. Alfreda Withington, tonsillectomies, Ethel de Long Zande, Mrs. Susan E. Turner, Fireside Industries, Evelyn K. Wells, Berea College Academy, scholarships, Tusculum College, English Country Dancing, Glyn Morris

POLLY TURNER Student 1923-1934

This is a story about Polly Turner’s years as a student at Pine Mountain Settlement School (PMSS). It is also a story about her sister Ollie Turner, who looked after her sister Polly’s education as well as the schooling of at least two of her other sisters. And about the School that attended to the well-being of students as well as their education, recognizing that learning could not progress without good mental and physical health.

The correspondence in Polly’s student files, located in the PMSS Collection, indicates that on a number of occasions PMSS staff dealt with Polly’s health issues. In several 1926 letters, Ethel de Long Zande, the School’s director, encouraged Polly’s mother to grant permission for Polly’s tonsillectomy to be performed by a doctor in the School’s Infirmary. At another time, Dr. Alfreda Withington, after examining Polly, recommended “corrective exercises” for her posture under Nurse Marian Purbrick’s supervision. Withington also arranged to fit her with proper shoes for her painful foot.

The School was also aware of her family’s needs, knowing that Polly’s mother was a widow who was caring for at least seven other children still at home plus a grandson and Polly’s grandfather who was in his 90s. In 1927, Mrs. Zande offered “a bundle of some things” for her little sisters and worked to find places for two of them, Emily and Sevilla, in a school in Blackey, Kentucky, when Pine Mountain could not take them. 

Letters in the PMSS Archives concerning Polly show that, throughout the years that Polly attended the School, staff continued to see that Polly was able to stay in school.

POLLY TURNER Student: Her Sister Ollie 

Ollie Turner, born c. 1911, was three years older than her sister Polly. She was a student at Pine Mountain from 1922 to 19(??). Later, she attended school in Berea (possibly at Berea College’s Academy), but in 1927 she wrote to Mrs. Zande that she was working the Fireside Industries in Berea, instead, to help with her finances. It was she who asked Mrs. Zande to accept her two sisters at PMSS, offering to pay what she could for their entry.

In the same letter, Ollie stated she would also pay Polly’s debts for tuition and entrance fee. And by June 1927, Polly’s debts were paid in full. Mrs. Zande thanked her, writing that “I am always glad when a child can be relieved from the feeling of hopelessness it has when it takes too many weeks to work off a debt.”

Later, according to the 1930 U.S. Census, Ollie, age 19, was living at home and helping to support the family by “teaching in a rural school.”

In March of 1930, Ollie wrote to Angela Melville, PMSS Associate Director, asking her advice on whether Polly was ready to attend Berea Academy next year, explaining her situation:

If I teach again this fall I can help her, but my teachers would like for me to stay here [in Berea] all year next year and graduate. However, I am afraid I can’t be here all next year. I would rather have Polly come as to stay myself.

Excerpt from letter to Angela Melville, PMSS, from Polly Turner, March 31, 1930.

Both Miss Melville and Katherine Pettit, the School’s director, agreed that Polly should complete her high school work at Berea Academy. They felt that, after seven or eight years at Pine Mountain, Polly would benefit from a different environment and larger classes. Melville then wrote to Dean W.J. Baird at Berea College, asking him to obtain a scholarship for Polly Turner. “She has been at Pine Mountain since January 1923…. She is quite poetic and sensitive and is in many ways an interesting child if she could be awakened. …” If Polly had a scholarship, then Ollie could stay at Berea and graduate this year, they explained.

Despite the efforts of the Pine Mountain staff, they were not able to obtain funding for Polly’s schooling. The business manager at Berea College responded that the Academy had no scholarships for students who had not yet been registered at the school for one year. Besides, the Academy was already overcrowded. Evidently, Ollie’s dream of Polly attending Berea Academy was not realized.

POLLY TURNER Student: At Pine Mountain  

Besides her studies and work assignments at Pine Mountain, Polly also enjoyed several extra-curricular activities at the School. One of them was serving as a reporter in 1932 for the School’s student publication, The Pine Cone.

Her writing abilities and poetic talents were evidenced by her articles and poems in The Pine Cone. She contributed two articles to the April 1933 issue. One of them, titled “The Hospital,” told of the six weeks she spent working in the Infirmary, assisting Nurse Mrs. Lexine Baird. She described the pleasure she derived from her camaraderie with staff and visitors and from sitting by the patients’ bedsides, reading to them and telling stories. While in 12th grade, she wrote several articles and poems for the April 1934 and May 1934 issues of Pine Cone.

In 1933, when the School students and staff presented the Gilbert and Sullivan’s two-act operetta, H.M.S. Pinafore, Polly sang in the Women’s Chorus.

At the end of Polly’s last school year at Pine Mountain, 1933-1934, a family member came to the rescue of Polly’s school debt. The husband of one of Polly’s older sisters who lived in Kingsport, Tennessee, paid in full Polly’s account for the term.

POLLY TURNER Student: After Pine Mountain

In December of 1934, several months after she graduated from Pine Mountain Settlement School, Polly was applying for admission to Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tennessee. By this time, Glyn Morris was the director at Pine Mountain. Hearing of the possibility that Polly could secure a scholarship by teaching country dancing, he wrote to Polly. In his letter, he assured her that she “had lots of experience, (dances) well, and should be able to teach many of the simple dances.” In addition, Morris offered to send Polly literature about English Country Dancing and to meet with her and discuss the matter more fully.

Two years later, Glyn Morris, wrote this positive reference for her: 

To Whom it May Concern: I have known Polly Turner for five years, and knew her as a student at Pine Mountain School for two years. During that time her character so far as I know has been above question. On examinations her honesty was apparent, and she was considered one of our most trustworthy students.

Letter “To Whom it May Concern” from Glyn Morris, December 3, 1936.


That is the point at which the correspondence ends in Polly’s file. The letters in Polly’s file indicated how fortunate she was throughout her eleven years at Pine Mountain. She had family and PMSS staff who appreciated her sensitive demeanor and recognized her potential.

Although Polly expressed enthusiasm for attending Tusculum in 1935, she had not forgotten Pine Mountain. In one of her letters to Morris, written in December of 1934, she wrote,

I miss P.M. more at Christmas time than any other time, because here, one doesn’t hear the beautiful Christmas carols, nor see handmade wreaths.

Excerpt from letter to Glyn Morris from Polly Turner, December 17, 1934.


Born in Kentucky on January 24, 1914, Polly lived with her family on a farm on Greasy Creek Road in Cutshin, Leslie County. Her parents were David Y. Turner (1855-1919) and Susan Ellen (Baker) Turner (1870-1957).

According to the 1930 U.S. Census, by the time she was 16 years old, her mother was a widow with eight children living at home. Among them were Polly, 16 years old, her sister Ollie, 19, and her two younger sisters, Sevilla, 14, and Emily, 15.

Polly married Acree Harris, Sr., in 1937. They had at least two sons, Acree, Jr., and James Earl, and three daughters, Betty, Margaret, and Ruth Ellen. Polly Turner died on November 26, 1994.

See Also:
POLLY TURNER Correspondence

POLLY TURNER Student Records (Password Protected)

NOTE: Images of the full set of student records are considered private material and are not generally publicly displayed. Their access may be provided on request, pending approval of Pine Mountain Settlement School and the archivist of the PMSS Collections. Contact the main PMSS Office for information.


Polly Turner

Alt. Title

Polly Turner Harris




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Polly Turner ; Polly Turner Harris ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; students, Ollie Turner : Dr. Alfreda Withington : tonsillectomies ; Ethel de Long Zande ; Mrs. Susan E. Turner ; Fireside Industries ; Evelyn K. Wells ; Berea College Academy, ; scholarships ; Tusculum College ; English Country Dancing ; Glyn Morris ;

Subject LCSH

Harris, Polly Turner, — 1914 – 1996.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.


2020-05-23 aae


Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY




Collections ; text ; image ;


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


Series 09: Biography ; Series 19: Students.




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: Biography and Series 19 Students.

Coverage Temporal

1855 – 1996

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Kingsport, TN ; Greeneville, TN ; Cutshin, Leslie County, 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 Polly Turner Harris ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Polly Turner Harris ; 




“[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

2024-02-01 aae ;



“Acree Harris, Jr.” Tribute Archive, Dowell & Martin Funeral Home. https://www.tributearchive.com/obituaries/1705050/Acree-Harris-Jr (accessed 22 May 2021). Internet resource.

Familysearch.org. Turner Family Tree. (https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/L8B5-ZN2) accessed 21 May 2021. Internet resource.

POLLY TURNER Correspondence.” Series 09: Biography. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XMXB-G3T : accessed 21 May 2021), Pollie (sic) Turner in household of Susan Turner, Cutshin, Leslie, Kentucky. (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002). Internet resource.

“Virginia, Marriage Certificates, 1936-1988,” database with images, FamilySearch  (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9TR-2CS?cc=2370234 : 22 May 2021), from “Virginia, Marriage Records, 1700-1850,” database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2012); citing Virginia Department of Health, Richmond. Internet resource.

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