Tag Archives: education

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Salamanders

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Environmental Education

SALAMANDERS at Pine Mountain Settlement School

Plethedon cinereus. Red-backed Salamander
[Brian Gratwicke [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)] Wikimedia Commons

TAGS:  salamanders, green salamander, Pine Mountain Settlement School, Clifford H. Pope, Harlan County, Kentucky, Plethdons, Plethodon Aneides aeneus, Greasy Creek, Limestone Creek, 1928 , ecological life histories, chestnut trees, ecological history, eggs, hibernation, salamander aggression, red-backed salamanders,


The salamanders of Pine Mountain Settlement School are some of its most fascinating residents and like the School, they have an engaging history —- one that has captured the attention of herpetologists through the years.

In 1928 Clifford H. Pope a herpetologist and conservationist with the American Museum of Natural History engaged in a field study of salamanders from the mountains of North Carolina to the Cumberland Plateau of Kentucky. His study was far-ranging and one segment took place at Pine Mountain Settlement School in Harlan County, Kentucky. Funded by the Douglas Burden Research Fund, Pope was at the School for the purpose of a field study to determine the relationships of four species of the genus Plethdon — P. glutinosus, P. shermani, P. jordani, and P. metcalfi. The focus of Pope’s work at Pine Mountain was a species within the Plethdontidae family, known as Aneides aeneus. Also called the “green salamander,” it is today a rare lungless salamander seldom encountered in the region.

The Plethdon salamander genus

Green salamander from Breaks Interstate Park
[Brian Gratwicke [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) ]Wikipedia

In his published research in American Museum Novitates, No. 306, April 14, 1928, he noted the hospitality he received at the School from “Mrs. Ethel de Long Zande and her colleagues who made me feel very much at home while collecting …” Pope was at Pine Mountain Settlement for five days, from July 20th until the 25th and a return for one day on the 28th. He was assisted in his search for salamanders by a Pine Mountain student, Evans Compton. Evans, a thirteen-year-old, was familiar with the local terrain and acted as an assistant in the collection of the salamanders.

The salamander search is described in Clifford Pope’s notes from his field diary:

July 20. We hunted for part of the afternoon on the School grounds just below the reservfoir in damp, thick woods and found one specien inside of a large, decayed log.

July 21. during the morning we hunted in the forest along the Laden Trail, a wagon road that crosses Pine Mountain about a mile southwest of the School, and found five specimens (A.M.N.H. Nos. 25583-25587) as follows:
(a) a small one under the very loose bark of a solid log lying beside the road. Only a little bark remained on the log;
(b) two small ones under the bark of a limb of a large, prostrate water oak. The log was solid and the specimens were about five feet above the ground;
(c) one more under the very loose bark of a large, prostrate, solid, chestnut log lying by the road;
(d) the fifth under the bark of a large, solid, prostrate log embedded in a thicket above the road.

A long unt in the afternoon, along the base of Pine Mountian about a mile northeast of the School, netted only one specimen. It was taken on the edge of a clump of scrub trees under the bark of a solid section of a log lying in a dry, overgrown pasture. The log was exposed to the sun.

July 22. Our morning’s search was fruitless but in the afternoon we found one specimen a mile below the School near Greasy Creek under the bark of a section of a solid water oak lying exposed to the sun in an area devestated by lumbermen and another (A.M.N.H. No. 25589) under the remaining loose bark of a solid, prostrate log also well exposed and lying in the same devestated area.

July 23. Hunting in the forest near the base of Pine Mountain about two miles southwest of the School we found four specimens (A.M.N.H. Nos. 25590-25593), the first two under the loose, decaying bark on the upper side of a huge, prostrate chestnut log and the last under the loose bark of another fallen chestnut tree four or five feet in diameter and not far from the first. Both logs were solid.
The third specimen was found with a batch of fourteen eggs ina prostrate water-oak limb eight feet long and one foot in diameter. The eggs were in a long, shallow cavity one to three inches wide by one deep and near one end of the limb. Much of the bark was missing and the log, though still solid, had a thin layer of decayed wood under the bark where the eggs were found. The cavity was on the side of the log and so the eggs, though virtually suspended, actually rested against the cavity’s bottom or the side of the log.

[Discussion of egg cache]

July 24. During a long half-day’s search we found only one specimen (A.M.N.H. No. 25594). It ws taken in the forest near the base of Pine Mountain some two miles southwest of the School under the very loose, decaying bark of a chestnut limb or small tree barely a foot in diameter leaning against other trees. The salamander was aout five feet above the forest floor.

July 25. It was not until this date that we really found the true habitat of A. aeneus. On this day our first three hours netted twelve specimens and yet we hunted just where we had worked before with little result. Searchig in the forest along the Laden Trail we found:
(a) one at the base of Pine Mountian under the very loose bark of a solid chestnut stump five feet high and ten inches in diameter;
(b) six or seven more not far away under the very loose bark of a solid white walnut limb some twelve fee long and eight inches in diameter lying near a strea in heavy shade with one end propped against small trees and the other resting on the ground;
(c) two more only twenty feet away on a solid, poplar log placed much as the white walnut just described;
(d) two more under the bark of the end branches of a large, solid, basswood log lying in a tangle of weeds and bushes about halfway up Pine Mountain, three to four feet above the forest floor;
(e) two more under the bark of a large, solid chestnut limb lying across a fallen tree; and finally,
(f) four more under the bark of a large, solid, maple log lying near the road about halfway up the mountain.

July 28. In about an hour’s hunting alone in the woods between the School and the reservoir I found five specimens:
(a) two of which were under the loose bark of a slender, solid, chestnut log leaning against some living trees;
(b) one more three feet from the ground under the loose bark of a small, solid stump about four feet high; and finally,
(c) two more, one large and one small four to five feet from the ground under the loose bark of an upright, dead white walnut tree still quite solid and only four to six inches in diameter.

Aneides aeneus,then lives under the loose bark of dead trees.

Pope, p. 8

HABITAT

It is interesting that Pope’s assessment that the habitat of the Aneides aeneus was “under the loose bark of dead trees.” This has been questioned to some degree by more recent articles that suggest the preferred habitat of many green salamanders is indeed in some cases under the loose bark of dead trees in arboreal areas but they are also regularly found in the crevices of rocks. For example, a 1952 article by Robert E. Gordon, a Naturalist at the Highlands Biological Station in North Carolina managed by the Biology Department of the University of Georgia, Athens, he describes crevices to be the preferred habitat. The abstract of Gordon’s study states

Limestone Creek, Pine Mountain Settlement School. Photo by HWykle. [P1130801.jpg]

In eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia and adjacent portions of Tennessee Aneides aeneus is found to occur in an arboreal or arboreal-rock crevice habitat. Its habitat in all other portions of its range is chiefly rock crevices. The region of arboreal habitat coincides with the undifferentiated mixed mesophytic forest [of Emma Lucy] Braun,] while the rock habitat generally occurs in regions of segregated forests of the mixed mesophytic type. 

Robert E. Gordon. The American Midland Naturalist Vol. 47, No. 3 (May, 1952), pp. 666-701

While Pope focused on the arboreal habitat, he seems to have had some difficulty identifying the names of trees in his field notes and relied on the information given by one of Pine Mountain’s students. He says

Unfortunately, only the popular names of the trees on which my series were taken can be given though these may be relied upon because they were verified by an advanced student of the Settlement School.

12 examples were living in chestnut
8 or 9 examples were living on white walnut
5 examples were living on water oak
4 examples were living on maple
2 examples were living on poplar
2 examples were living on basswood
1 example was living on pine
1 example was living in a decayed log

Three additional specimens were found on logs which I failed to identify. The names of at least two of these undetermined logs would be included in the above list. The great number of fallen chestnuts on Pine Mountain mayaccount for their heading the list.

Pope, p. 8

While salamanders have the reputation of being indestructible — going through fire and not being burned, etc., today their numbers are on the decline. In the mid-1970’s the Aneides aeneus that Pope and other found fascinating, started to experience a decline and some call it a population collapse in many of it common ranges. Those who have been monitoring the main 7 green salamander populations have documented “… a 98% decline in relative abundance since 1970.” The decline is remarkably rapid and a novel agent is suspected. Some agents under consideration are climate change, epidemic disease, and over-collecting by pet enthusiasts. [See: Corser, Jeffrey D. “Decline of disjunct green salamander (Aneides aeneus) populations in the southern Appalachians,” Biological Conservation 97(1):119-126.

SEE ALSO:

CLIFFORD POPE Salamanders

EE STREAM ECOLOGY Hop-Scotch 

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Earth Day and Mary Rogers

Pine Mountain Settlement School
DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH
Earth Day and Mary Rogers

EARTH DAY


A year has passed since the the hopeful first blog was written — an homage to the gentle Pine Mountain Settlement School environmentalist, Mary Rogers and to Earth Day. Today we should be joining in celebrating the 50th year of EARTH DAY and enjoying the successes Mary and others such as Greta Thunberg in waking the world to the dangers lurking in our bad habits. Yet, here we are not joined in celebration but distanced from one another and fearful of the world around us — seen and unseen. Last year seems eons ago as we look out on an entire planet on the edge of an apocalyptic invasion of COVID 19, and echoes of war fill our press, and vast lands are ravaged by fire, drought, and flood. We are still questioning our over-use of resources and what they have given to our quality of life on this earth, while our plastic fills our oceans. We are engaged in a fragmented battle with a virus that shouts the message that our relationship with the world is out of balance. It is on that note that this former post is re-posted with the hope that we will continue to move forward, pushed by this new threat to the world that Mary wanted for us all. Pine Mountain will not retreat from the environmental challenges before us. We will continue to remind the legacy that has always been a part of the mission of the School. For the sake of humanity, we encourage you to join us in the tasks before us; face the challenges and actually work toward solutions that will change our future to one that works for all of us, not just a few. “Some things never change ,” but sometimes they do, because we believe that we are all in this together.

March 21. It was the time of Equinox when night and day are of equal length and when the earth seems to hesitate in its spin as it slips into the longer communion with the sun. In 1983, March 21 had already been changed to April 22 as the universal “Earth Day.” Even earlier, Mary Rogers had set the idea of “Earth Day” firmly in her mind. On March 21, 1983, Mary Rogers slipped into her “sub specie aeternitatis” [Latin for “under the aspect of eternity”] Earthbound, we can know little of her eternity but we have often imagined that it is an exquisite balance of time and space which recognizes the temporal but is not bound to its limits. This is not a story of that enigma eternity but it is a glimpse into part of Mary Rogers’ journey in the temporal world and the wise environmental and spiritual messages she left with those she touched.

NASA/ GSFC/ NOAA/ USGS [Public domain]

The earth swirling with life and framed by the vast blackness of deep space is an iconic image with which we are now quite familiar. The enigma of suspension, the sheer beauty of our home, and the scale of that home in the vast universe is arresting. Suspended in eternity, we are charged to protect this vibrant home. Perhaps this is why the image of planet earth suspended in space has become the symbol of Earth Day. The image reminds us of our fragile existence in an unknown but expanding universe. How remarkable it is that we can now hold that enormous image in our mind’s eye and wonder at it blueness, its roundness, its surface teeming with life — our life. Mary was, without doubt, entranced by that remarkable image that holds all of earth’s humanity, but more often she was exploring small things; the universe of small life on that shimmering globe. In her diary notes, “Small Things with a Message,” she tells us

MILKWEED PODS

I love milkweed pods. The perfectly overlapped red brown seeds. The gloriously silky plumes, to feel which is one of the great tactile joys of life. Then comes the moment when it all boils up from the pod and flies off into the air —- pure beauty.

I was holding one once and could hardly bear it that I was alone and there was no one to share it with. But God saw it. It was his and he made it and he must have loved to see it — and he let me share that joy.


—- Mary Rogers. Seed Thoughts, 1990. “Small Things With a Message”
LITTLE BROWN JUG

The little brown jug is one of the least attractive flowers in the woods, and hardly anyone sees it as it is hidden beneath dead leaves. You have to clear them off to find it. When you find it its only appeal is its oddity. Its color is drab, the color of red and green mixed together — muddy. It is closed. Its three blunt lobes are the only opening on the small fleshy bottle of the flower. But take a knife and cut it open. It is lined with a rich dark red velvet like an expensive jewel box, and set in the box is a jewel like a tiara with its whitish stamens and anthers. Beautiful! What is the point of this beauty? Few people ever see it. Even the pollinating insects grope around in the dark. What a waste! There are millions of beauties even in this world which are never seen by man, but their creator knows them and has joy in them.


—- Mary Rogers. Seed Thoughts, 1990. “Small Things With a Message”
Fungus. Just one of the small things that carries a universe of beauty within. [Photo: H.Wykle]
EARTH DAY BEGINNINGS

The first Earth Day according to many records was conceived by John McConnell, Jr. a peace activist and a Pentecostal from Southern California. McConnell, Jr., born on March 21, 1915, in Davis City, IA. He was the son of a itinerate doctor and was raised in the deeply religious ethic of the family that held to the idea of service to others. McConnell, Jr.’s early job working for a corporation that produced plastics caused him to question his responsibility to the earth and was the beginning of a long journey that sought to call-out actions that endangered the planet and the many lives that shared it. He initiated the idea of “Earth Day.”

It was through the eloquent advocacy of McConnell, Jr. for an Earth Day that the idea found its way onto the 1970 agenda of the National UNESCO conference in San Francisco in 1970. Through McConnell and others, his initial proposal was given serious consideration and an Earth Day Proclamation by the city of San Francisco was made. The date chosen for the celebration of this first “Earth Day” and organized by McConnell, was March 21, 1970. The day was also McConnell’s birthday. The event captured the imagination of many and large celebrations were held in San Diego and in New York, as well. McConnell had opened the milkweed’s pod and the silky plumes were loosed to the winds and the seeds began to grow.

Mary Rogers was, no doubt, encouraged by the work of McConnell, but she had a long head-start on the idea of Earth Day. To her mind, her every day had been an “Earth Day” and the seeds of her journey had been planted early in her life. When she helped to organize the first formal educational offerings at Pine Mountain Settlement School in 1972, it was just ten years after the publication of Rachel Carson‘s groundbreaking Silent Spring (1962), a book that was of profound interest to Mary. Carson’s work was in many ways the beginning of the environmental education movement.

Following McConnell’s launch on March 21, came an official proclamation from Washington that echoed the sentiments of McConnell but that put a national urgency to McConnell’s idea and that shifted the celebratory date from March 21 to April 22. This date shift was initiated by Senator Gaylord Nelson, an environmentalist from Wisconsin who believed that the new date would allow schools to map their instruction more closely with school calendars throughout the country. The new date would also allow time to work through the national bureaucracy which would fix the event in the national calendar. It would be a bi-partisan effort. Democratic Senator, Gaylord Nelson, with the assistance of Pete McCloskey, a Republican Congressman from California, jointly announced a national “Earth Day” for 1970, and for the successive years. Nelson and McCloskey then recruited Harvard scholar, Denis Hayes as the coordinator of the new Earth Day and charged him with the process of creating an annual “national teach-in on the environment” throughout the country.

LARGEST SECULAR CELEBRATION ON EARTH

In 1970, the April 22 designation of a national Earth Day resulted in massive national demonstrations for the environment and by the end of the year, it had spawned a bi-partisan creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and the Endangered Species Acts. The interest and cooperation did not stop at the national level. Denis Hayes built on the national Earth Day planning and went on to found the even larger “Earth Day Network” which was expanded to over 180 nations and garnered the endorsement of the General Assembly of the United Nations. The International Mother Earth Day still remains the earth’s largest secular celebration.

Under President Jimmy Carter, Denis Hayes would later become the head of the Solar Energy Research Institute (1977) (now, National Renewable Energy Laboratory) By 2016 the Federal appropriations for renewable energy resources reflected the national attention to the environment with increased appropriations in solar energy, wind energy, biomass, and biorefinery systems, hydrogen technology, geothermal technology, and water power. Today, those initiatives continue to struggle forward. [Yesterday, April 21, 2020 the price of oil fell below 0.] We still continue to celebrate but our memories don’t always find partners in our actions.

SEED THOUGHTS

Mary’s reflections in Seed Thoughts

Each one of us comes into the world beautifully crafted to give light — maybe as candles or lamps, with wick and fuel, maybe as electric bulbs with the outer container to hold the filament or gas, and we are trying to improve on these by making them make [a] more effective use of the power.

The power: all the candles, lamps and light bulbs in the world are so much clutter unless they are ignited, and if they are damaged through improper use the only thing to do with them is to dump them in the trash. …

— Mary Rogers. Seed Thoughts. “Ye Are the Light of the World”

While the annual efforts of Pine Mountain in building their Environmental Education Program (EE) were modest, they were timely, and over the 47 years from 1972 forward, Pine Mountain has touched the lives of some 3000 students and teachers annually. The history of environmental education at Pine Mountain Settlement reveals an ever-evolving program and commitment. But, the mission is persistent. The reach of the program is extraordinary. The lives of students, teachers, and other adults have been close to 144,000 over the years of the Environmental Education Program (EE). The longevity of the program speaks to the need for such programs in the schools and the outcomes speak to our future on this small blue globe, called earth.

Stream ecology class. Environmental education class – St. Francis School at PMSS

Mary was never comfortable being called the center of the programming for Pine Mountain’s environmental education, as many skilled EE educators came and went, particularly Afton Garrison, Ben, and Pat Begley and others. But no one will contest Mary’s central role in the formation of the program at Pine Mountain. Her work and that of those at the School provided the first model of environmental education in the State of Kentucky. Her self-taught inspiration and knowledge were recognized in 1988 by the Kentucky Association of Environmental Education which presented Mary and he colleague Afton Garrison their coveted award for excellence in the environmental education field. In 2015, Dr. Melinda Wilder, who sits on the Pine Mountain Board of Trustees was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kentucky Association of Environmental Education for her dedication to many of Mary’s aspirations.

The wisdom of Mary may also be found in the creation of the Green Book, the early manual of instruction for the Environmental Education Program at Pine Mountain. It continues to be the underlying structural tool for the ongoing Pine Mountain program. Though major changes have occurred in the standard course of instruction mandated by Kentucky schools, the early work of Pine Mountain helped to guide the restructuring of the state curriculum in the sciences. Going forward, Mary and her successors have continued their advocacy for the environment and have gained new voices and teachers. In her lifetime Mary was a legend, a resource that was incomparable. With her death in 1993, a profound presence and resource went away but not very far.

At the end of her life, following a diagnosis of cancer, Mary looked back at her notes and her diary of written reflections. The brief thoughts reveal moments of illumination and doubt and deep spirituality. Only a few of these notes of inspiration are shared here. A large number of her thoughts are, no doubt carried in the minds of those whose lives were touched by her instruction. The notes, titled, “Seed Thoughts” speak of the important revelations that can come at any point in life and that she compared to seeds that grow. As she gathered her many notes to create Seed Thoughts she advised that she selected the ideas that seemed to stick most firmly to her memories and which she “nourished”. She says modestly of those memories

Now, in 1990, I find my mind getting more boring to live with, less tuned in to joy, my memory losing its clarity, my powers of expression somehow blunted, but I want to record some of the incidents which have stood by me as truth… instances I have used in talks given in various places, …These incidents are seeds. Seeds are lovely little things, full of potential, but to realize that potential they must be planted, take root, receive nourishment and grow … to their full richness and glory.

— Mary Rogers, Seed Thoughts, 1990.
EE Staff – [left to right] Scott Matthies, Mary Rogers, Afton Garrison, Steve ?, Cami Hamilton, David Siegenthaler (Director). c. 1980 & 1981. [X_100_workers_2604_mod.jpg]

For those who knew Mary, it would be difficult to describe anything that she said as “boring.” She shared her enormous wealth of environmental information with such sincerity and conviction and a beautiful British accent that even the most hardened skeptics were often swayed and the rapt attention given her reflections on nature could be found across all age ranges. She left hundreds, if not thousands as friends of the earth. Her heartfelt will to bring her audience into her focused spiritual realm was not a hard-sell proselytizing, yet it left few untouched by the spirituality of nature’s offering. By sharing her wealth of knowledge with the many, many children and adults who passed through the Environmental Education (EE) program, —-what she envisioned and fostered at Pine Mountain Settlement School was also a lesson in labor, love, and sacrifice. The many years that Mary gave to the Environmental Education Program was unpaid service. Late in life, she struggled with the idea of service and what it means to share one’s gifts for free. Nature’s gifts are also free, she rationalized. The foundational ideas and inspiration flowed freely from both sources. Her life was also a lesson in values. The environment is not an unlimited free resource, nor are people. Nature and people often come with hidden costs. Educational programming and days, such as Earth Day remind us of our responsibility to give back. To be educated in the stewardship of this precious and fragile life on the great blue planet that freely gives us so very much.

I receive so much in food and housing and care, — but money? How wonderful it would be if like the monks we felt we could live without having to be reimbursed with money. I have a strong inner sense that so many of the evils of the world would be weeded out if people could live their lives for the service they can give for the love of God, and not for higher pay.

Has one the faith to say, “I don’t want a salary.” It seems so lacking in faith not to, and yet getting old may be very expensive if one becomes unable to work, and has to have constant care. One doesn’t want to foist the responsibility for the time spent in care and the money spent on care onto anyone else, yet if one can’t live one’s testimony it is not a testimony, and if one doesn’t believe God is faithful one is faithless. How much should we save for our old age?

—Mary Rogers. Seed Thoughts, “Our Lady Poverty”. “Absolute Poverty”
SIMILITUDES

In February of 1992, Mary was given a book by Phillip Keller, As the Tree Grows (1966). It is as Mary described it is a “similitude.” She says of the Keller work, “He uses the symbols differently but it is a splendid “similitude”. How the living tree and the living person is sustained. Many points amplify what I have already written …” She follows that with her own similitude

In spite of the fact that a few plants still stick with the old way of extracting shreds of energy from the rocks, yet most living things, from the amoeba to the whale, from the algae to the giant redwood, from microorganism to man, all live, grow and function by virtue of the energy the sun supplies through the medium of the plants. We people are only able to grow, to think, to move by virtue of the sunlight collected and stored by the leaves of plants. We are built, we operate by virtue of the sun’s energy present in every part of our bodies. Our coal, our oil, the energies after which we scrabble among the fossil rocks, come from the same source. We wouldn’t need to agonize over our supplies of coal and oil, fossils holding on to their living energy if we could turn to the sun directly, for it is still shining today and every day. More energy reaches us from the sun than we could possibly use.

Often we hunt for spiritual energy from among the fossilized doctrines from the past, and ignore the vast available source of spiritual power with which we are, as it were, bombarded every second of every day, and bleat sadly because we are powerless.

—Mary Rogers. Seed Thoughts, Similitudes – The Sun
Forest at Pine Mountain Settlement School. [Photo: H.Wykle]

Her close friend, Milly Mahoney, teacher and educational leader at the settlement school, described her friend in a talk she gave in October 1998, to the local chapter of the D.A.R. , shortly after Mary’s passing. She quoted some of the many tributes to Mary by her co-workers and her students. For example, a former anonymous staff member of the EE team said, “I never could seem to find the detail, wealth and wonder in a rock, a seed or a flower that Mary could see and illuminate so beautifully with her reverent description and exclamations.”

Few who met Mary will ever forget the messages that Mary drew from the natural environment — this author, included. She drew from a deep well of joy and excitement that never ran dry and that was fed by her deep love of nature and her spirituality. For her, there was an inseparable relationship between ecology and spirituality and it was presented with deeply held conviction. Her spiritual nature was no doubt spawned by her early life as the daughter of a Vicar of the Church of England in the small town of Greenham in Berkshire, England, but it was nurtured by the Eden she found in the Pine Mountain Valley, a location that continues to inspire awe and a sense of wonder and reverence in those who spend time there.

Mary Rogers working with Environmental Education program at Pine Mountain. X_100_workers_2669_mod.jpg

When Mary described the Environmental Education Program in one of the brochures sent out by the School, she quoted from Thomas Merton, “… to help visitors come to see and respect the visible creation which mirrors the glory and the perfection of the invisible God.” Many of those visitors took that advice to heart and one wrote


Observation, a sense of wonder, a measure of understanding, and hopefully love for the created world may spring from such experiences. A sense of wonder is easier to transmit than pure information and in the long-run is probably the most important thing learned.”

—Anon

Sharing excerpts from Mary Rogers “Seed Thoughts” on this Earth Day, 2019, [2020] we continue the efforts of Pine Mountain to engage a broader audience, fire the imagination, and to remind our friends that decisions regarding the environment have consequences for our fragile and endangered planet and for us. [COVID 19 is our giant wake-up to how rapidly our lives can change] Another gentle reminder is found in an example taken from Mary’s Seed Thoughts and one that she dates to her early childhood. It demonstrates how early she came to her environmentalism and how deeply implanted her connection to the environment remained throughout her life.

THE WILD ROSE
A rose in front of Old Log at Pine Mt. Settlement [Photo: H.Wykle]

THE WILD ROSE

There were not many “pretty” walks round Little Common in Sussex (near Bexhill). We spent summer holidays there at our grandparents’ for many years. At home we were used to roving at will over our Common at Greenham in Berkshire, with its distant views of the Hampshire downs and its heather and gorse expanses with their marshy gullies and surrounding farms and woodlands. We found the Sussex countryside drab, but we were used to going for walks, and one summer when I was 7 or 8 we went for a walk to the “High Woods”, with our governess and our aunt.

I recall it as one of those grey days when nothing looks interesting. As we went along a lane between hedges I stepped to the ditch line to look at a wild rose, pale pink and delicate with its golden heart of stamens. As I looked into its face I found myself repeating lines of a poem I loved ….

Oh, no man knows through what wild centuries roves back the rose.” [Nor forward]

Suddenly time disappeared and I seemed to be looking down the vistas of eternity.

That moment has stayed with me, and when I later read that Brother Lawrence‘s tree had been a deep experience for him, I recalled my rose. When I saw it the first time I consciously realized that all of time and space experienced as everyday time was unreal compared to this experience. A new dimension was to be with me and stay for the rest of my life. Yes, we were living in the temporal, but nothing can be limited by time. That consciousness has never left me.

I couldn’t put it into words at the time and didn’t want to. It was personal and interior but all-pervading.

— Mary Rogers. Seed Thoughts. “The Wild Rose”

ALL THAT’S PAST

Very old are the woods;
And the buds that break
Out of the brier’s boughs,
When March winds wake,
So old with their beauty are —
Oh, no man knows
Through what wild centuries
Roves back the rose. [and forward]
Very old are the brooks;
And the rills that rise
Where snow sleeps cold beneath
The azure skies
Sing such a history
Of come and gone,
Their every drop is as wise
As Solomon.

Very old are we men;
Our dreams are tales
Told in dim Eden
By Eve’s nightingales;
We wake and whisper awhile,
But the day gone by,
Silence and sleep like fields of aramanth lie


Walter de la Mare. “All That’s Past” from The Listeners and Other Poems 1912
Road to Big Log with sheep shed to left and 'Lady' headed home.  [Photo: H. Wykle]
Road to Big Log house where Mary Rogers spent much of her life, with sheep shed to left and ‘Lady’ headed home. [Photo: H. Wykle]

H. Wykle
Easter Sunday
April 21, 2019

Updated
Wednesday
April 21, 2020

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

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

TAGS: Katherine Pettit ; Ethel de Long ; Pine Mountain Settlement School farm ; farming ; sustainable agriculture ; William Creech ; Mary Rockwell Hook ; Evelyn K. Wells ; Margaret McCutchen ; creek farmers ; farmers ; Greasy Creek ; Isaac’s Creek ; soil analysis ; livestock ; Ayrshire cows ; poultry ; grazing ; farm managers ; Marguerite Butler ; Farmer’s Cooperative ; University of Kentucky ; Kentucky State University ; Fitzhugh Lane ; Horace D McSwain ; Mr. Baugh ; Gertrude Lansing ; Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Doughtery ; Mr. Morrison ; Boone Callahan ; Harriet Bradner ; Fannie Gilbert ; William Browning ; Louise Will Browning ; Peder Moeller ; Oscar Kneller ; silo ; Darwin D. Martin ; Brit Wilder ; irrigation ;

CLEARING THE LAND

Farming the land. Ploughing with mule.

Farmer and Mule. Series VII-52 Children & Classes. [elem_006.jpg]

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. 

The progressive ideas of the early founders was not missed on visitors to the School.  Margaret McCutchen, a visitor to the School in 1914 and writes:

“The first intimation I had of the School was the foot-log over Greasy, carefully flattened on top by well-placed stepping stones.  Here I met with my second surprise, (the first was the beauty of the place) that about this school, only an infant in the wilderness, everything was so ship-shape.  Good fences, substantial gates, roads, hitching posts, mounting blocks, the straight furrows of the ploughed fields and even rows of garden patches, wood-boxes on the porches, coat pegs by the doors, and the picturesque stone tool-house to protect the tools and farm implements — all these spell to me in large letters one of the chief articles in the constitution of the school, ORDER.”

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View of the school grounds c. 1913-14. Old Log sits at what is now the entrance to the school. The foot-bridge Miss McCutcheon traversed is just opposite the cabin and crosses Isaac’s Creek where it becomes Greasy Creek, the headwaters of the great Kentucky River.

The school’s early years required some clearing of forested land and the re-preparation of older fields cleared by the earliest settlers.  In the above view of one corner of the school campus, the land is just being prepared for farming.  Efforts to straighten Isaac’s Creek [also known as Isaac’s Run] and to construct a bridge can be seen.  Old Log cabin, the first permanent dwelling on  the school grounds is seen to the left in the photograph.  Moved to the site for early housing of staff, the structure still welcomes all who visit the school.  Today it is the site of the school’s gift shop.]

CREEK FARMERS

A view down the long Pine Mountain valley in the first decade of the twentieth-century would have revealed the steep hillside farming often practiced in the Pine Mountain valley and the surrounding valleys.  In the narrow valleys such as that running beneath the long Pine Mountain spine, the community farmers used as much of their land as they were able to physically cultivate. Often the farms stretched far up the mountainside in a series of random terraces, often following natural contours of the land. The school claims to have introduced terracing but it was also introduced by livestock continually navigating the steep hillsides and by the constant planting and cultivating of corn rows that horizontally followed the contours of the hills.  Each year the farmers often advanced up the mountain in search of  rich soil as their crops depleted the soil. It was arduous work.

005a P. Roettinger Album. "Country [?] Looking from Uncle John's toward the School."

005a P. Roettinger Album. “Country [?] Looking from Uncle John’s toward the School.”

While much farming in the Pine Mountain valley was on the sides of the mountain, the practice of farming in the area was often called “creek farming” and the farmers as “creek farmers.” The narrow strip of bottomland in the eastern Kentucky valleys led to this description in the 1960’s of those who farmed the region. The term was broadened to include the entire family and meant those families who lived only a stone’s throw from the streams of the region. In the small hollow that led into the valley, this geography was often accurate, but the broad slopes of the valley often meant that the farm was much more than a “stone’s throw” from the creek.

Because the developing transportation system often shared the same meandering creek path or sometimes the creek bed itself, the land that could be farmed was further reduced and families headed for the hills.  This form of subsistence farming, a more common term than “creek farmers”, and the confined transportation corridors, led to the development in the valleys of a kind of continuous and uniformly distributed series of small “centers.”  The so-called “Mouth of Big Laurel” is one such nuclear community.  The Pine Mountain valley and most near-by valleys followed this pattern of development common to eastern Kentucky.

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View of the Big Laurel Community in the second decade of the 20th century. From the Kendall Bassett Album, pmss001_bas010.jpg.

GREASY CREEK

Greasy Creek, a large and stony stream that has its headwaters at the School where Isaac’s Creek flows into Shell Creek, is the largest stream in the immediate area of Pine Mountain.  It was supposedly named for the grease of a bear that was killed near the stream. The clear water in the early years supported a variety of aquatic life including abundant bass, brim, and other common stream fish. I was one of the favorite fishing streams in the area and an important source of food for many families. It also served as a water-way to float log rafts down river to mill during Spring-tide. Today, it is slowly recovering from mining intrusions over the years that have left sections of the stream severely polluted and with diminished aquatic life — with consequential degradation of the entire stream.

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The Big Laurel community on the headwaters of Greasy Creek soon became an important outpost for Pine Mountain Settlement School.  As the location for the first of a half-dozen outposts proposed by Katherine Pettit, Big Laurel Medical Settlement was situated on a hill overlooking Greasy Creek and the wide bottom-land created at the meeting of  Big Laurel Creek and Greasy Creek.

During the early years of the School and before, every piece of land was precious and was often cultivated to the top of the ridges.  This extensive cultivation may be clearly seen in the following photograph taken in the first decade of the twentieth century.  What appears as terracing is often the result of cattle and farm animals paths that horizontally negotiate the steep hill-sides.  Greasy Creek flows in the center of the photograph of this country of “Creek farmers.”

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FARM CONSULTANTS

Pettit realized that education would be needed to change local farming practices that were both labor intensive and not sustainable. Following the first consultation regarding the layout of the School and two years after the founding in 1913, Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long in 1915 again brought consultants from Kentucky State University [University of Kentucky] to the School to hold a “Farmer’s Institute.” It was open to the full community and brought participants from along the valley and hollows surrounding the school.

Marguerite Butler, an early worker at the school describes the Farmer’s Institute

Four splendid instructors from the Kentucky State University have been here for four days holding Farmers’ Institute. It is a splendid thing for this part of the country and you never saw such interest as the farmers showed. Last night one of the men said it was by far the best meeting he had ever had in Kentucky. Of course mothers, fathers and children came for miles around. Yesterday the school cooked dinner for all out in big black kettles in the open . The men killed a sheep Saturday for the great affair. The talks were splendid on the soil and care of it, proper kind of food and why, how to raise fruit trees and poultry, which are both easily but poorly done in the mountains. I enjoyed every single speech. Just about four yesterday afternoon we learned that there was a “meetin” down Greasy five miles. Of course we wanted to go, so in ten minutes one of the men and lady instructors, Peg, one of the older boys here and I started off. I bare back behind Miss Sweeny on her horse. We had wonderful fun and the ride at that time of evening was glorious. I stuck on, even when we galloped beautifully. One of the men invited us there for supper so he rode on ahead to prepare supper. They had made biscuit, stewed dumplin’s and chickens, sweet potatoes and all sorts of good things. These professors said it was one of the experiences of their life. We all walked down to meetin’ afterwards in the Little Log School. I succeeded in falling in the creek, so did Miss Sweeney, as we only had to cross one four times. You couldn’t possibly believe what a meetin’ is like unless you hear it with your own ears. I shall have much to tell you. After an exciting ride home over a black, rough road we got here at 10:15, no worse for the wear. [1914 Marguerite Butler Letters]

Miss Pettit’ s consultation and the broad sharing of the findings of the Institute gave not only the farm program at Pine Mountain its first leap forward. but jump-started the educational process for the local community.  Pettit believed that the farm was central to the success of the school and that it should be managed by progressive and trained farmers. Her plans were large and her enthusiasm was even greater when it came to farming at Pine Mountain. However, she found it difficult to match her vision with the succession of early school farmers whose early departure from this key position was almost as rapid as annual crop rotation,

Fitzhugh Lane, a young boy whom Pettit and de Long had brought with them from Hindman to help establish a garden and some subsistence farming, was the first farmer at Pine Mountain. He did not stay long and was never designated as “the farmer”.  He overlapped with the first designated farmer, Horace McSwain at the School He came in late 1913 but also quickly left in 1914.  McSwain was hired to also serve as the manager of the new saw-mill at Pine Mountain. The dual position was likely unmanageable as the rush to construct new buildings was cyclonic. The following note in a letter to the Board in 1913 describes the clearing of land and the multiple duties of many of the staff:

I wish you could know what important work has been done here through these last weeks. The coal bank has been made been made ready for the winter’s digging, according to the directions of Professor Easton and we are now making a road to it. We have had foot logs laid in many places over the Creek and have built a bridge that ought to last for two generations so that we may haul stone to the site of the school house. Miss Pettit has had charge of most important work In ditching the bottom lands. You will be interested to know why she had to give her time for this, instead of Mr. McSwain. He has had to be at the sawmill all the time, largely because he has not known what minute one of his hands would have to escape to the woods. You see this is not a conventional community and many of our best workers have indictments against them, for shooting, fighting, or even being mixed up in a murder case. Since this is the month when court convenes the men with indictments against them are all afraid the sheriffs may be after them….

Mr.[ ?] Baugh, whose full name has been lost to time, is listed as the designated farmer for the year of 1914. It is unclear whether he overlapped with McSwain or if his tenure as farmer was less than a year. He shows up on the staff listings simply as “Mr. Baugh”.   Harriet Bradner is listed for 1915 as a worker on the farm. Leon Deschamps, a Belgian émigré arrived in 1916, hired as the School’s Forester, farmer and teacher.  His tenure was to be the longest to date. He briefly left the School to serve in the Great War [WWI] but returned after a year and stayed until 1927.  During 1918 and 1919 another woman, Gertrude Lansing is listed as a farm worker, but was not the designated farmer. In 1919 Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Dougherty were hired to work on the farm and charged to pick up some of the responsibilities of Deschamps who was temporarily away.  Several staff who had other duties are also listed as farm workers during this time.  Edna Fawcett, for example worked as a teacher, a house mother, and on the farm from 1917 – 1919. Many other staff shared farm responsibilities from time to time.

FARM ASSETS AND LIABILITIES

By 1917 the assets and liabilities of the new school are listed as:

Assets:

The original 234 acres of land
125 acres recently given. (Mostly coal and timber)
A coal bank
A limestone cliff
A boundary of timber aggregating 600,000 ft.
A stone quarry
A maple sugar grove
Annual pledges to the amount of $1600.00
An unpolluted water supply
Three dwelling houses
One tool house
Two sanitary closets
Sawmill
Two mules
Two cows
One hog and two more promised
Chickens
Two collie pups

Liabilities:

$700.00 a month

FARMERS

 In 1920 Mr. William Browning came to the School as the farmer and stayed for seven years.  Later, in 1922-1924, Fannie Gilbert was assigned to work on the farm and assisted Browning. Until Browning, no farmer had lasted more than two years with the exception of Leon Deschamps, whose duties were spread among three positions (forester, farmer, teacher).   Miss Pettit’s agenda was a large one and the work to be completed was hard labor and long hours. Farming under Katherine Pettit also required considerable ingenuity and diplomacy in negotiating Pettit herself and the community skepticism of new farming practices. It is clear from the many staff letters that William Browning was a favorite with the women staff. He is described in many staff letters as quite attractive and charming, but someone who “needed to be taken care of.” One of the workers described Mr. Browning as a “buttonless man” who had difficulty keeping his wardrobe together.  It appears that many of the women at the school were eager to sew on buttons for the “buttonless man.” He soon took a wife and that ended the button competition.

Browning was also assisted by Leon Deschamps, a Belgian whose training as a forester allowed him to address both the silviculture and farming needs of the school. Browning and Deschamps overlapped from 1920 until 1927 when Deschamps left Pine Mountain.  Under the guidance of Browning and Deschamps, the farm had grown in productivity and, like the previous farm workers, these two farmers largely developed the land according to Miss Pettit’s plan. Deschamps, when he was left in charge of the farm largely followed the planning of Pettit and Browning but when he left in 1928 the direction of the farm went through a series of short-term farmers and some of Pettit practices and vision were set aside. A Mr. Morrison, of whom we know little, followed Deschamps and he was quickly followed by Mr. Boone Callahan who became one of the legendary members of the staff and who was also well known as a wood craftsman. Boone Callahan, one of the many Callahan Family children brought to the School in the very early years and Brit Wilder were among the first Students to come to Pine Mountain.  In the 1943 special edition of Notes, “Our Mountain Family,”  the contributions of Callahan and Wilder are noted

“…  since the days when they [Callahan and Wilder] cut “pretties” for Miss Pettit with their knives, they have never been far away from the life of the school. Boone had special training in agriculture at Berea and at Bradley Polytechnic Institute, and has been in charge of the carpentry department for years. He lives with his family at Farm House.  Brit is the truck driver and superintendent of the mine. He is the grandson of Uncle William, is married to a former Pine Mountain student and has a lovely home close to the school.”

Pettit was well read on farming practice and she never ceased her consultation with available experts in the field. During the 1920’s Katherine Pettit had been observing the agricultural progress at John C. Campbell Folk School under their new Danish farmer, George Bidstrup. The Scandinavian farmer, who had been hired to bring Danish farming practice to the Brasstown, North Carolina folk school. Bidstrup was charged to provide model farming for the Brasstown community and had enjoyed considerable success in farming in the North Carolina mountains.  Marguerite Butler, a Pine Mountain Settlement School worker who had left Pine Mountain to study in Denmark and had subsequently been recruited to John C. Campbell Folk School by Olive Dame Campbell in 1922. She maintained a lively correspondence with Katherine Pettit following her departure from Pine Mountain and many conversations centered on farming and gardening. Butler married George Bidstrup shortly after she arrived at Brasstown and she was eager to share what she had learned from him about farming with Pettit. When Butler married Bidstrup many local Brasstown practices were passed directly along to the Kentucky school. Intrigued by the Brasstown experiments in farming methods, Pettit went looking for her own Danish farmer and found Peder Moler. Inspired by what she saw at John C. Campbell, Pettit set about to bring the Danish farmer to Pine Mountain where he could introduce Danish agricultural methods to the subsistence farmers of the Pine Mountain Valley. Through Marguerite and her new husband, George Bidstrup, many Danish practices entered the Pine Mountain Settlement School farm program and many Pine Mountain practices were adopted by the community of the John C. Campbell Folk School.

While Pettit eagerly set about bringing the Danish farmer, Peder Moler, to the School, the immigration quotas of the late 1920’s slowed down the immigration process.  When the Danish farmer finally arrived at Pine Mountain in 1930, Katherine Pettit had just (late 1930) departed the School as Director and Hubert Hadley had just been hired for a brief year (1930-1931) and was followed by the interim director, Evelyn Wells until Glyn Morris could come as the new Director.  It was an unstable time at the School.

In late spring of 1930 the new Danish farmer, Peder Moler, immediately encountered a slew of challenges, not the least of which was resistance to any foreigner changing long-standing mountain subsistence farming methods.  As a “furriner” Moler persisted as best he could, and was from all accounts, an energetic and visionary farmer, but one who was “severe” in his demands. His tight “command” of the farm and his crews led to tensions in the workplace. Oscar Kneller, an amiable and seasoned farmer of the Appalachians was quickly hired in July of 1930 and was charged to help Moler. The two were, by all accounts, a good team and they produced record crops.  Cabbages and tomatoes were in abundant supply.  The surplus of cabbage was so great that it was still feeding the school “until Christmas the following winter.” [Wells, History, p. 26]

Moler and Kneller made many improvements to agricultural practice as well as the grounds of the School but events at the School soon slowed that progress.  On May Day in 1932, an unusual act of violence occurred on campus at Pine Mountain.  A disturbed young man came to campus, following an argument about a love triangle in the community.  He threatened a student with a gun and then killed him   Moler, who was present at the event, was very shaken by the confrontation and the shooting and the events following the murder.  Glyn Morris, the new School Director, hired in 1931, asked Moler to accompany him on the arduous hike across Pine mountain to the Big Black Mountain community to deliver the news of the young man’s death to the family. The emotional event, the anguish of the family and the memory of the violence and the cultural differences profoundly affected Moler and he decided to return to Denmark. His departure left Oscar Kneller singly in charge of the farm.

Kneller was an energetic worker and he immediately set about completing projects begun by Moler and enhancing them. One important project was the purchase of a silo for the barn.  The silo was expected to bring down farm costs, particularly for winter feed. Other projects included the further straightening of Isaac’s Creek, particularly in front of the Office and the completion of the pathway and steps to the Infirmary from the lower roadway.  In School documents, there is a reference to the “hard surfacing” of roads by Moler, This most likely is a reference to the use of gravel and particularly coal cinders which gave the roads protection in the winter freeze and thaws.  This practical road surfacing and re-use of coal burned in the campus furnaces was a practice Kneller continued.

Evelyn Wells, in her unpublished history of the School, describes at length the importance of the addition of the silo and Oscar Kneller‘s role in proving the worth of the new purchase

“Mr. Kneller’s project was the building and filling of the new silo. Up to this time all food for the cattle had been purchased and carried to the school in trucks from across the mountain, and it had been most expensive.  There was some disagreement over the building of the silo, but with Mr. Darwin D. Martin‘s backing the silo parts were bought, and in 1932 the farm boys and Mr. Kneller built the silo.  The first filling took several days and all the men workers helped the boys. Every evening the progress of the filling was announced in the dining room, and on the last night, when the fodder from the last field had been cut and brought up, the boys and men workers stayed on the job all night.  Early in the morning, just at daylight, the task was finished,  The silo lacked three rings of being filled, but all the corn was put away.

At the end of November 1931, the cost of the Dairy was $1140,08. At the end of November 1932, it cost $1471.80 which included the cost of the silo, cutter, and all incidental expenses of transportation and erection.  Ensilage lasted until the middle of March.  No hay was bought. The argument for building the silo was that it could be bought, built, filled and still we could come out at the end of the year with no more expense for the dairy than the year before, leaving the end of the year with the silo paid for. Hay had cost $200 a car plus freight from Putney. It usually was necessary to buy two or three carloads. Thus, there was a saving of about $600. In May 1932 dairy expense amounted to $2469.38.  In May 1933 it was only $ 1591.38, plus the cost of the silo $541.55. 

Of course, a large amount of the land was given to ensilage and a relatively small amount to a truck garden.  But the bottom land was resting in clover since it was practically exhausted.  It was replaced with [a] vegetable garden between the creek and the tool house.  This record was made in the spring, and at that time a large number of cans of peas had been put away [number not given] the cabbage between 12,000 and 15,000 heads looked well, and corn covered the hill below the chapel.”  [Evelyn Wells, History, p. 26]

Crop rotation, another new farm practice, had also been introduced slowly to many local farmers by the school. Some already practiced this technique, having learned by close observation of their soils. The introduction of crop rotation helped to ensure more sustainable farmland for the School and for farmers in the community.  Under this practice, crops were given systematic rotation, i.e. cabbage fields were rotated annually with corn and corn with beans, and so on.  In fall corn shocks, fodder for animals, often dotted fields where the year before cabbage grew for the school’s extensive canning program. Under the gentle guidance of Oscar Kneller, the majority of the farmers in the area adopted the rotation practice and local crops began to thrive and steep hillsides began to heal and to suffer less erosion.

In a 1920’s editorial in the Jackson Times, the newspaper of Jackson, Kentucky, the editor ruminates that farming

….. for rich and poor, for city and country should stimulate idealism, purpose, action, responsibility, service, brotherhood, true patriotism. It should aim to make better citizens by making better men. And finally, it should recognize the fundamental education in the doing of the common tasks of every day—the education which only needs to be linked with an intelligent vision to make everyday life better and happier. This is our problem in the mountains.

The editor further asks

Is it a mountain problem alone?

Clearly by the 1920’s farming had taken on a role beyond just subsistence and had been integrated into the economic and educational dialogue.

The next farmer, whose history spans some 27 years at the School, was a product of this economic and educational mantra.  William Hayestrained by Oscar Kneller when he came to the School as a student in 1933 became a valuable member of the farming crew. In late 1938 when he graduated from the boarding school at Pine Mountain he became the next farmer for the School and was retained until 1953.  Glyn Morris, hired in 1931 as the Executive Director of the School, had a particular crusade to engage students in industrial training and to meet them where their strengths and interests intersected.  He found this in Bill Hayes and also in his appointment of the farm assistant, Brit Wilder, the grandson of William Creech, who had entered the school during its founding years as one of the youngest children ever admitted to the School. Hayes and Wilder were a productive team for many years.

The Hayes years were the longest tenure of any farmer at the School, stretching from 1938 until 1953.  This era will be covered in Dancing in the Cabbage Patch V- FARM & DAIRY – THE MORRIS YEARS.  Also see:  William Hayes.

FARMING AND LAND OWNERSHIP TODAY

Land ownership in Harlan County has changed very little over the years, but ownership of mineral rights has dramatically altered the idea of “ownership” and in some cases the pride that accompanies it.  As contracts continue to be drawn up for the new gas resources of the region it is not clear what this will mean for the relationship of future generations to their land, their water and their quality of life, but it is clear that the mountain garden will survive.  The transition from subsistence farming to mountain gardens reflects the shift in transportation, food availability, and lifestyle in the Southern Appalachians.

Today, many family lands remain ravaged or vulnerable to the continuing injustice of the Broad Form Deed or “mineral rights” which allows the taking of minerals from lands that were given over by a “broad-form” deed which allowed the owner of the mineral rights to indiscriminately remove their purchased “minerals”.  The practice of mountain-top removal is the most indiscriminate form of this “taking.” Unfortunately, the invasive mining practices of today could not be imagined by those who sold their mineral rights through these early broad-form deeds. The broad-form deed returned many families to tenant farmers as coal owners came and scraped off the surface of the farm to remove their mineral — much of this “taking” was bought for as little as a dollar an acre.  It was difficult to know in the pre-industrial eras that such easy money would later bring such hard lives.

The quality of rural life in Appalachia continues to shift as new means and practices of exploitation are discovered. The uneasy tenancy of the land in Appalachia has shifted the agricultural focus of many families.  Why work the land if it will be stolen away in future years? Why work the land if the grocery store is within driving distance?  Why work the land if there is no one who remembers how to manage seasonal crops?  Why work the land if the only seeds available are GMO altered and will not come back the following year? Why work the land when there is so much entertainment to divert creativity? The excuses for abandoning the land for local farming and gardening are many.  Hard times, however,  always seem to return families to their garden and farm. The current downturn in the economy has brought many families back to the land in eastern Kentucky and with that return, many have begun to realize the profit potential of truck gardening, specialized crops, and family savings and the human values growth potential of families in the garden,

Loren Eiseley in his small study of Francis Bacon, The Man Who Saw Through Time, (1961) said that Bacon understood

“…that we must distinguish between the normal course of nature, the wanderings of nature, which today we might associate with the emergence of the organically novel, and, finally, the “art” that man increasingly exerts upon nature and that results, in turn, in the innovations of his cultural world, another kind of hidden potential in the universe.”

I would argue that a dance is better than wandering and it seems that dancing works best with a partner.

GO TO:   

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  I – GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – ABOUT

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Farm and Dairy II Morris Years 1931-1941

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Blog: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V
FARM AND DAIRY II – THE MORRIS YEARS 1931-1941

ARRIVAL – LESSONS

108 Young boy and young Ayrshire calf.

When Glyn Morris came to Pine Mountain as Director in 1931 he was just twenty-six years old and a recent graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. The combination of theology and farming, while not new, took on a distinct character under Morris’ direction. When he arrived at Pine Mountain the environmental contrasts of urban and rural were stark, but Morris had been prepared.  Born in the village of Glyn Ceiriog, North Wales, Glyn Morris was no stranger to rural life, nor to farming, as his family farmed and quarried the stones of the region.  Morris was only four years old when he departed Wales with his parents for America. He was eight years old in 1913, the year Pine Mountain Settlement School was founded. When he arrived at Pine Mountain in 1931 he was 27 years old. His early years growing up on a farm were merged with his theological and educational training. He joined these skills with the pragmatic work of both farm and dairy already instituted at the School but not fully integrated into the curriculum.

In his autobiography Less Traveled Roads (1977) Morris describes his early years and the time he spent with his family first in Milford, Connecticut, then in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania where the  Morris family joined a Welch community. In his book he describes the milk route he ran for a local dairy, his time at  Albright College as a student counselor and a variety of other formative experiences, most notably as a camp counselor,  paper boy,  a steel mill jobber, and a master chorister. These many diverse experiences were brought into the mix of Pine Mountain and produced, through Morris, a remarkable experiment in education and in farming from 1931 until Morris’ departure from the school in 1942.

When Morris arrived to take on the Director role at Pine Mountains his youthful enthusiasm and his progressive educational views were not without their critics from the community as well as from the Board of Trustees. Over the years and following his departure to serve the war effort as an Army Chaplain in 1942,  the tide of public opinion washed over him. When he returned to the School he was not fully endorsed by the Board of Trustees to continue his role at the School.  

Criticism from the school’s Board of Trustees had been growing and several direct confrontations with members of the Board and with leaders in the community who had become increasingly conservative as the country’s involvement in the war grew, had caused him to re-think many of his fundamental values. Continuing with the School became increasingly difficult.  Part of the growing local conservatism was in response to a growing resistance in the community to anyone who might stand in the way of the coal economy or who might have Socialist tendencies that would lend support to striking coal miners and advocate a Union.  It Morris’ liberal political views that seemed to grate heavily against the increasingly conservative Board of Trustees of Pine Mountain. In fact, Morris had campaigned for Presidential candidate Norman Thomas, while Morris was a student at Union Theological Seminary.  Thomas, a Socialist, was a settlement house worker and a pacifist. He ran six consecutive campaigns for President from 1928 forwardNorman Thomas 1937.jpg, the year Morris supported him.

In 1928 Thomas lost the election to Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression followed but Morris continued to pay homage to Thomas’ early path of pacifism and socialism and his early connection to the Social Gospel movement.  As an articulate speaker, and as a Presbyterian minister, Thomas knew how to move his audience.He was a part of Morris’ early political and moral education and the residuals of this early education may be found in Morris’ first major conflict at the School as Director as described in his autobiography.

As Morris described the events in his autobiography, A Road Less Traveled, he tells us that the first year at the School he ran headlong into considerable local controversy in November of 1931 the year following the “Battle of Evarts,” a particularly deadly conflict between striking miners and local lawmen in the service of the local Coal Operator’s Association. New to the area, Morris did not yet have a grasp of the local politics and when he encountered a friend and classmate from Union Theological on the streets of Harlan he  invited him to Pine Mountain. Arnold Johnson, a member of the National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners (NCDPP) and after 1928 a member of the Communist Party, had been a classmate of Morris’ at Union Theological school and had joined the socialist movement that supported the growing unrest in the miner’s labor movement.  In 1931 he was arrested in Harlan County for his union efforts and his “Socialist-Communist” views.

Later the IWW Committee led by Theodore Dreiser and including John dos Passos, Edmund Wilson, and others, came to the coalfields of southeastern Kentucky, where they observed and took testimony from coal miners striking in the Harlan County Coal Wars. Johnson’s trip pre-dates this famous group of reporters but he was seen as an enemy of the coal industry and was known to be a union organizer in a cou ty that was increasingly inclined to Union organization. The coal strikes of the early 1930s had left Harlan county fractured politically and the deep and growing fear of Union organizers promoted by the coal operators and the deep conservative antipathy toward any form of Socialism or Communism placed Morris in an awkward position with regard to his classmate, Johnson.  Morris’  association with his theology classmate  Johnson, soon brought him into conflict with the infamous J.H. Blair, sheriff of Harlan County, who supported the Coal Operators Association.

Morris was summoned by Sheriff Blair to come to his office and account for his activities and for his friendship with Johnson and his associates and to show proof that he was not a Socialist or a Communist. Given the dangerous and complicated events surrounding the mine-workers, it was remarkable that Morris made his case with Blair, but he did so with the assistance of workers at the School and the community of Pine Mountain. His community helped him to understand the gravity of his friendship with Johnson and any actions shown in support of the miners. Morris used this early experience as a reminder over the course of the next ten years when navigating the complex cultural climate in Harlan County as a Director and as a citizen of of the progressive School and the fast moving political climate.

FARMING AND MORRIS

By 1931, the year Glyn Morris arrived at the school as Director, the farm was a central part of the education program. But, nationally,  farming was in trouble.  

Nationally, farming, particularly tenant farming in the South was under siege, but it demonstrated a strength born of the land. Unionization was on the rise and it was integrated — a signal of the bonding aspects of working with the land and. Farm tenancy and sharecropping was not common in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, but sharecroppers had long shared the other bond — poverty. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 was put forward to try to address the unbalanced privilege of large landholders. The Act soon prompted the formation of the Federal Farm Security Administration. While the FFSA was short-lived (abolished in 1946) it sent the right signals to small farms in its support of the small farmer and sharecroppers. Morris’s mentor, Norman Thomas, the Socialist organizer and graduate of Union Theological was instrumental in moving farmers toward a Union, but his greatest interest was with the unionization of miners associated with bituminous mining, the dominant industry in Harlan County in the early 1930s. The interests of the two men came together.

The Social Gospel had deep roots at Pine Mountain in the figure of Edward O. Guerrant, the influential minister and friend of the Pettit family. Norman Thomas’s foundation of rural settlement work, Social Gospel and Socialist leanings were shaped by the same mileu in which Morris was educated.  

 

The political ties of Morris came with a deep appreciation for farming and a strong sense for land stewardship as well as social justice. These persuasions had their roots in his early childhood and youth experiences in Pennsylvania and his training at Union Theological. He understood what farming could mean for the educational and spiritual life of the school and the health of the community. He acknowledged and embraced the agrarianism of Katherine Pettit and William Creech. He began to build on their vision by adding his own knowledge of contemporary farming practice, community organization and  scaled to the needs of the School to both political and social trends. Morris was a farmer, but he was first an educator, and obviously a increasing skilled politician.

STEWARDSHIP

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Caring for the poultry in the first decade of the School. melv_II_album_176_mod

Morris paid attention to the past and included the idea of stewardship in his educational package. In the earlier years the care of the school’s animals was everyone’s responsibility– a community endeavor.  The health of these collaborative and critical food producers helped the school to maintain its costs and to support the educational programs of the school.  Instruction in farm management was an early program at the School under Pettit and it was continued under Morris, albeit with refreshed agenda in the ten years of Morris’ tenure.

In the early days of the school the girls from Practice House [Country Cottage]  were charged with caring for a school cow and for processing the milk for the other students and staff. It was this idea that caught the collaborative imagination of Morris and dairying quickly became a major part in his educational reform.

In his autobiography, Less Traveled Roads (1977), written at the end of his rich life, Morris recalls his first week at the school :

“My immediate focus of interest was the garden and dairy, particularly the garden, with its 5000 cabbage plants, rows of Kentucky Wonder beans, and large patches of Swiss chard, potatoes, turnips, onions lettuce radishes, corn, and other seasonal vegetables for the summer table — all of which, when stored or canned, would provide a substantial part of our menu during the ensuing  school year.  …”  [Morris, Less Traveled …p. 49  ]

FARM AND THEOLOGY

At Union Theological Seminary Morris had concentrated his studies in a relatively new area of  theology and education called “Church and Community.”  It was a course of study more closely aligned with sociology than any other field of study offered at the institution and it included attention to rural farming practice.  Steeped in the theology of Paul Tillich (1886-1965) , Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), and the philosophy of Systematic Theology as expounded by William Adams Brown (1865–1943), the courses at Union prepared Morris well for the challenges of rural settlement life at Pine Mountain.  The three influential professors at Union left their mark on Morris and subsequently on the school and agriculture at Pine Mountain.  As described in his autobiography,Morris was enmeshed in the Seminary’s circles of influence and as a recent graduate he brought many of Union’s ideas to Pine Mountain. Soon he constructed a very progressive model for program management and for experiential education at the school. It would later prove to be a significant part of his legacy.

William Adams Brown, was an important idea generator for Morris.  Brown, the son of a prominent banking family in New York City and was one of the founders of Union Settlement, an urban settlement house in East Harlem that worked with inner-city immigrants. Union Settlement  was a progressive and well-run urban settlement house in the country’s largest city.   But New York was not Eastern Kentucky.  Testimony to Morris’ capacity to flex and a credit to his already rich lifetime experience, he crafted his rural knowledge with that of his urban mentors and with the other interns at Union Settlement and later Union Theological Seminary.

Brown’s influence was bolstered by the neo-orthodoxy of Reinhold Niebuhr and the existential theology of  Paul Tillich, two other influencers.  A  remarkably effective blend of  Union theology and philosophical education came together in the Morris vision for Pine Mountain Settlement School and its educational programs and is reflected throughout his direction of programs, including farming.

As a student at Union Morris chose the New York City Settlement House as his field-work experience. He was most likely instrumental along with his professors in getting an assignment as ‘Boy’s Worker’.  In this position he was charged with the management of the day to day work assignments of the boys in the settlement.  He wove into that daily experience the fundamental theology of Brown, who taught a course of study called Systematic Theology, focused on the core truths of Christian theology and the practical skills of work and not on the sectarian beliefs of any one religion or Biblical exegesis.  Morris added to that pragmatism his own experiences growing up on a farm and in an industrial laborer family.  Philosophically he took much from Brown’s much quoted book, Beliefs That Matter:  A Theology for Laymen (1928) which was a foundational work for liberal theologians, particularly those who had attended Union Theological Seminary.  Many of the Union Theological school graduates carried Brown’s ideas to core areas of social and theological practice in the United States. Morris’ classmate Myles Horton, founder of the Highlander Folk School, now in Newmarket, Tennessee was one of those who also pulled strongly from Brown and Niebuhr but the administration focus of the two was quite distinct.  Horton was more closely aligned to social justice and civil rights issues while Morris administered more from the center and more integrated with current social and economic norms.  In addition to Morris and his classmates, many later progressive leaders, such as Martin Luther King and others kept Brown’s systematic theology in the foreground of their life-practice and many helped shape critical civil rights reform in the country. While his community at Pine Mountain did not include individuals of color, Morris, was equally committed to raising up the people of the Central Appalachians. 

BARNYARDS

So, what do theology and philosophy have to do with cows?  As seen in the writing of both Elizabeth Hench and Glyn Morris — considerable. Morris believed that theology and philosophy were companions in the barn and on the farm and his progressive approach found many sympathizers and advocates in the staff, students, and for many years, the community at large. Today this agrarian theology and philosophy, so much a part of the Jeffersonian administration, still enters our farm language and lurks in our politics,  as in the recent farm metaphor by a former Majority Leader of the House

 I don’t want to leave my successor a dirty barn, … I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets there.” [Boehner, John  CBS’s Face the Nation, Sept. 27, 2015]

Those delegated to cleaning of the barn, monitoring the yard, minding the gates and styles, and keeping a watchful eye on all those animals whose home was the barn and the yard, gave many students the discipline to monitor and master other corners of their lives and interactions. The farm hardened the delicate and softened the braggard.

Barn. Early construction.

Barn. Early construction. Yard before stone collection and removal.

FARM AND THE PINE MOUNTAIN GUIDANCE INSTITUTE

The innovative ideas generated by Morris and his staff during the Boarding High School years soon received national attention. It is not overreaching to say that Pine Mountain had a lasting influence on farming and on education in the region. Lessons learned from Pine Mountain continue to inspire educators and school counselors in the region and even today as schools struggle to educate in a rough sea of social issues the hands-on model of Pine Mountain still rings true. Farm training, the co-op and classes in civics played significant roles in the educational models used at the School. The Rural Youth Guidance Institute,  instituted by Morris at Pine Mountain in his last three years at the settlement school was a model of institutional cooperation. Inspired by John Brewer’s Education as Guidance: An Examination Of The Possibilities of a Curriculum In Terms Of Life Activities, (1932) and O. Latham Hatcher’s work with The Southern Women’s Educational Alliance,  later called Alliance for Rural Youth, Morris established the Pine Mountain Institute.  The stated purpose as outlined in the institute handbook was “to increase our efficiency in helping Harlan County youth to find themselves; by surveying their needs and all possible resources for meeting those needs; by coordinating these resources in a concerted effort to accomplish the above objectives.” This cooperative guidance for regional schools lasted for three years and spawned a series of Rural Youth Guidance Institutes. In just three short years, it garnered national attention and several publications by Morris and by the noted Columbia University educator, Ruth Strang, who often served as a mentor and speaker for Morris’ Institute. The Morris initiated Pine Mountain Guidance Institute was continued after his departure from the School to join the ranks of men serving in WWII by the Harlan County School system.

After Morris left Pine Mountain to join the war effort in 1942 as a U.S. Army Chaplain, a modified Institute was continued under the guidance of Harlan County School System Superintendent James Cawood in Harlan.  The collaborative training conference was very pro-active in the reform of the local county schools. It is not surprising to find that the Pine Mountain Institute’s youth round table, a central part of the conference, was one of the earliest instances of racial integration in rural school initiatives. Black and white students sat around the same table trying to address local social issues long before those discussions finally brought integration to rural Southern classrooms. Jobs training, or industrial training and farming was always a part of the discussion.

John Brewer (1877-1950),  one of Morris’ mentors,  was a pioneer in the vocational guidance and counseling field but it was O. Latham Hatcher who gave Morris the connections he needed to move forward with the Pine Mountain Institute and who made the important connections between rural sociology and a pragmatic education such as farming.  The well-known educator and former head of the Southern Woman’s Educational Alliance was seventy years old when Morris first met her. O. Latham Hatcher was feisty. She carried a dynamic personality that comes across in her correspondence with Morris. 

O. LATHAM HATCHER, MORRIS, LITERACY, COOPERATIVES, ARTS AND FARMING 

Literacy, international education, the arts, theater, cooperative economics and mathematics, home economics, and farming and stewardship of the land were all a part of Hatcher’s interests and her interests paired well with Morris’.  The two merged their visions and their interests found their way into the integrated curriculum at Pine Mountain. It was a Progressive curriculum in the model of John Dewey but one that was well suited to the needs of the Settlement School and its service region.

For example, a program which combined the expertise of teacher Angela Melville and her interest in cooperatives, the entire tenth grade in the late 1930’s was built around the theme of cooperation.  This cooperation found a solid model in the idea of a “co-op” and the management by students of a Co-op store.  The idea spread and later became a model for local farmers in the valley who were looking for a means to market their produce.

The eleventh grade curriculum focused on field-work in the community and the students participated in formal study of Folkways  as well as engaging in pragmatic tasks such as home-repair and Pack-Horse libraries. While no grades were given for any of their courses, students were accepted at both Berea and the University of Kentucky. Their acceptance was based on the recommendations of Pine Mountain staff and the extensive portfolio of work, progress reports and recommendations maintained by the school for each student. Often these portfolios ran from 50 -100 pages of close observation by classroom and industrial instructors as well as housemothers and advisers.

Gladys Hill (right) with co-op students. (Source: Harmon Fdn stills)

Gladys Hill (right) with co-op students. (Source: Harmon Fdn stills)

The twelfth grade students were given college preparatory coursework if that was their desire and their aptitude and their courses in their final year were singularly academic in nature. It was an innovative curriculum that paved the way for able students to continue their work  in college if they chose to do so or chart a course for industrial work. For those students who were not inclined to college work, there were skills training classes and trade preparation such as mechanics, printmaking, dairying, and other farm skills.

College work was not the required outcome for students at Pine Mountain but it was rigorous enough to garner approval by the state of Kentucky.  During the Morris years the school was accredited by the State Department of Education based on an elaborate system of accountability for all areas of learning.

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Classroom instruction. Butchering meat.[harm_088]

While Morris prepared extensive reports for the Board of Trustees on the intellectual life of the students and the productivity of the staff, he never failed to integrate the educational value of the farm and the importance of this program to the institution. The farmer was included in classroom instruction and integration of current trades related to the farm were explored such as butchering, farmer’s cooperatives, poultry farming, dairying, etc..

APPRAISAL – COMING AND GOING

Morris’ farm-focus is found in his first bulletin addressed to the Board in December of 1931.  It reflects his close attention to detail and his hands-on approach to all activities of farm-life at the School.

“Since the meeting of the Board here, we have acquired four shoats from Mr. Kenneth Nolan, as payment for the children’s tuition here at school.  This addition gives us a total of six hogs, two large and four small.  We have about completed the construction of a modern hog house, design as recommended by the Extension Department Department of Agriculture, University of Kentucky.  This house is so constructed as to give the maximum of air and sunshine.  It has a concrete floor which can be washed  as often as desired.  This will mean that we will keep our hogs and their living quarters as clean as possible.  This project serves a two-fold purpose: that of raising some of our own meat, and as a demonstration of how hogs should be kept.

Another project which we are about to enter upon is that of remodeling our manure pit, which is at present very impracticable.  We are going to cut down some of the wall and add a liquid manure cistern, also construct a roof over the manure pit.  At current prices, our manure as fertilizer is worth over one thousand dollars a year, but if it is not kept in a manure pit, 50-5% of its value is wasted by being exposed to the elements.  Manure is a an almost perfect fertilizer, with the exception that in this section of the country we need more phosphorus.  With proper care, our solid and liquid manure should prove a more valuable asset than it has in the past.

 We are pleased to announce that yesterday one of our cows, Lucy, gave fifty -two pounds of milk (twenty-six)quarts).  At the present time the cows are giving more milk than we can consume in liquid form, and we are making the surplus into butter. ”  

Over the course of his tenure at the School farm-life in the country underwent a major shift as industrialization began to dominate farming throughout the country and as the realities of weather, drought, floods and other adversarial events eroded the farm program. In his 1937-1938 Annual Report to the Board of Trustees , just before leaving the school to join the war effort as a Chaplain in the Army, Morris described a recent assessment of the farm activity:

“A critical appraisal of crops for the past year is not encouraging.  The dairy continues to profit from the farm, but in the main the quantity of produce raised on the farm for school consumption during the winter was not sufficient to warrant the expenditure and effort involved.  Sufficient beans were canned to last all year — and sufficient potatoes grown, but other crops were not successful.  Approximately twenty acres are under cultivation.  The school possesses at the present time fourteen cows, two heifers, three calves, one bull, one hundred twenty-eight hens, and seven pigs.”     

In the 1936-37 years the financial statement of the school aggregated the farm under “Living” which included the subheadings of Salaries, Provisions, Dairy, Farm and Garden, Poultry, Kitchen, and Dining Room. The total expense of this aggregate for the year was $15,683.68.  The expenses associated with the educational programs were $8,324.05. These comparative figures suggest that “Living” was starting to pull substantial revenue from the educational programs side.  Educational costs were listed as:  Academic salaries and supplies; Domestic Science [Country Cottage] ; woodworking ; weaving ; printing ; automotive.  Administrative expenses were totaled at $5,708.58 and included the Director’s salary and travel expenses ; Office ; Endowment Fund [management] expenses ; and Publicity. Morris was a farmer, but he was first an educator.

William Hayes on new Farmall Tractor at PMSS, c. 1943.

Also, somewhere in the later reports was the purchase of a new Farmall tractor in 1946.  The old Ford tractor had been patched up for the last time and the many tasks of cultivating the land could not revert to horse and plow.  The new tractor was expensive but vital to the continuation of farming at the school.  It unfortunately came too late to save the future of farming at the school and in the region, though it was intended to off-set the intense human labor needed to maintain a growing farm.  While new developments in technology aided the farmer significantly, much of the new equipment and technology was beyond the finances of the small farmer. Small farms were slowly being eliminated as market forces, began to argue for farm conglomerates and mechanization of many farm tasks. Pine Mountain had no immunity to this national shift.

Though efforts were made to introduce new technologies into farming practice, all signs pointed to the closure of small-scale farming across the country. The farm and the Ayrshire dairy programs continued for a brief time but the farming model was changing to the larger agri-farm model. Educational models were also rapidly changing and the closure of the boarding school program in 1949 ended the student labor program and consequently the dairy labor force. This reduction in available labor was a strong indication that the program could not survive.  Further, the consolidation of the school with Harlan County Schools precluded the need for production of milk for the resident student population and signaled a new standardized educational curriculum. The herd of cows was finally sold in 1952. All these change agents forced the closure of the dairy farm as central program at the School in that year.

New regulations and increasing costs added to the woes of not just PIne Mountain, but to all small farms and farmers throughout the region during this period.  The dairy operation had no choice but to shut down as it was no longer economical to continue production of milk for sale as the new regulations, increased competition, and other regulatory restraints,  made production of milk for sale very difficult and expensive for farms the size of Pine Mountain. In 1920 there were no dairies in Harlan County. In 1924 there were 24, but by the 1940’s the number of dairies was radically cut and milk supplied to local facilities such as Chappell’s Dairy, was largely supplied by farms outside the county. The eras of agri-business were just emerging throughout the country and the shift in the family farm was rapidly changing how farming would persist over the next many eras.

By 1955 not only the dairy, but small farming, generally, at Pine Mountain was perceived to have run its course. The farmer, William Hayes, had left for other employment, the silo was sold, the need for silage no longer existed, and the farm machinery was idled for lack of able labor to run and to repair it. Pieces of equipment were slowly sold or discarded as the tools for farming and for the dairy fell into disrepair.  By 1955, the barn was largely empty except for storage of school lumber and some machinery. Some of the more remote fields had started to fill with the early saplings of a forest as many fields always in production and long tilled, had not seen a plough for years.  The so-called Deschamps field, above Old Log and the field below the old CCC cabin, behind Burkham School House II, were the first to be consumed by forest. Later, the field beside Practice House (Country Cottage) was let go and it quickly filled with saplings as the forest reclaimed its hillsides.

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Early view of hillside with Practice House field to top left on mountain.

Today there are only a few signs of the early and robust farm and many of the fields that supported those efforts.  The farming that won accolades for conservation and productivity can  not easily be discerned in the surroundings.  Today, only the stone walls of the milk-shed , its roof long ago fallen-in, may be found next to the barn, as an architectural reminder of the milk production years and the tool shed equipment rooms changed from farm equipment to lawn mowers and weed-eaters, and sporadic gardening.

DOCUMENTATION

The documentation of the history of the dairy farm is a rich collection at Pine Mountain. The documents give a graphic picture of the decisions made regarding the farm but the photographic history, also a form of documentation, is more difficult to read.  For example the “Master Pastureman” awards and long lists of milk production and quaint names of cows and the even more quaint and delightful letters and diaries of Elizabeth Hench, tell the dairy story in pictures, but to get the full story they must combine with the later documents. The archives tell the story of  the early era of dairy management at the school and the bounty of the fields in production.  Each year the annual reports and the bi-annual board reports followed the farming practices of the School. Maps, photographs and other media also capture the visual changes that accompanied the evolving story of farming at Pine Mountain School. Snippets of stories from students and staff who worked in the dairy and on the farm appear in the school newsletters and in personal recollections and letters and can be mapped to photographic material forming a richly documented history of small-scale farming.

For those interested in the evolution of subsistence farming, the Pine Mountain collections provide a rich body of research material. This blog is but one perspective gleaned from the records.

Overall, the closure of the Pine Mountain School dairy and the farm presents as a financially pragmatic action.  It was consistent with the rapid changes occurring throughout small farms in Appalachia following WWII.  As farmers struggled to re-position themselves in the new economy and the rapid development of  mega-food supply chains, many farmers reverted to subsistence farming and became miners to supplement their income. Transport and distribution became a topic of great concern across the country and though roads now penetrated the valley of Pine Mountain, the distance and time to market was considerable. Further, the closure Pine Mountain’s functional farm was directly tied to the closure of the boarding school, its training programs.The collapse of the ready supply of labor was a significant loss and played a major role in the demise of concentrated farming at the settlement school.

Even robust programs such as the McClure’s popular Farmer’s Federation cooperative in western North Carolina near Asheville, encountered increasing  pressures from transport to distribution. Most other settlement schools and mission schools that had supported farms had already either closed or had found new directions that did not include farming practice.  There were remarkable exceptions to these farm closures such as the Farm School, now Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, which persisted and continues in an amended educational form, today.  And, to a limited extent,  the farm at John C. Campbell Folk School, also in western North Carolina continued its farm program. The Berry School in Georgia has maintained a farming presence through to the present day, in part due to the large land-holdings of the institution. 

Many of the settlement institutions with functioning farms found ways to fiscally incorporate their farms into the educational process, such as work-study programs, or community programming, or agricultural courses but most had a continuous and ready  supply of labor. These examples speak to the sustainable and current remarkable resurgence of the farm in many educational milieus.  This is particularly seen in the developing “Farm to Table” programs and the “Grow Appalachia” programs at Berea College, which now partners with Pine Mountain Settlement School. Finding new pathways to incorporate farming into the new programs at Pine Mountain is ongoing and the future looks promising for a strong resurgence. But, that is another long and promising story.


GO TO:   

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – ABOUT

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  I – GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH II – INTRODUCTION

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH III – Place

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV  Farming the Land 1913-1930

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V  Farm & Dairy I Early Years

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V  Farm & Dairy II  Morris Years

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI  Poultry

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VII In the Garden

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VIII  In the Kitchen Pots and Pans

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IX Dieticians

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH X  In the Dining Room, Manners & Etiquette 

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Weaving at PMSS 1930s-1940s

Pine Mountain Settlement School
DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH
Weaving at PMSS 1930’s-1940s
Series:  By Topic – Arts & Crafts
Weaving

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Weaving at PMSS 1930s-1940s

MARGARET MOTTER AND THE COLONIAL COVERLET GUILD

Margaret Motter was a worker at Pine Mountain Settlement School in the 1920s and 30s and again in the 1940s. She served as Principal and teacher from 1928 until 1938, and as the Publicity Representative and Head of the English Department from 1946 until 1949.  She was a prolific writer and a clever and persuasive speaker.  Asociated with those skills, was her  importance to the School as a fund-raiser.  Many times she was asked to represent the Pine Mountain Settlement and to travel to distant cities to speak to special audiences that might find the programs at Pine Mountain worthy of support. Many times she managed to bring her favorite subject into the talk. In one instance she found the perfect audience for her interests and for those of Pine Mountain —the Colonial Coverlet Guild of Chicago, Illinois.

Weaving had long been one of Miss Motter’s favorite crafts and she found many ways to integrate comments on the weaving program at Pine Mountain into her public speaking tours.  When she shared her interests with the Colonial Coverlet Guild* in  Chicago, Illinois, where she spoke on November 10, 1948, it was clear that her enthusiasm captured her audience. Miss Motter enjoyed this talk and so did her audience.

To accompany the talk to some 80 members of the Guild, she brought along many of the coverlets and weaving samples from Pine Mountain.  She described the origins of the patterns, dyes, and some of the stories that came along with the individual pieces. She was able to build a picture of the community of mountain weavers. She described how for many years weaving was a household necessity for mountain families and how that skill had been adopted by the School as part of the curriculum to insure the continuation of the craft.  For many children in the community, weaving was even a new art as commercial fabrics began to dominate wardrobes by the turn of the century.

Motter emphasized how the art stayed with a number of the graduates from Pine Mountain and in some homes in the Pine Mountain valley, families established their own looms and weaving as a cottage industry to provide additional income for the family. Pine Mountain’s efforts to encourage weaving was shared by the organized cottage industry known as the Fireside Industries which broadly supported craft in the Appalachian mountains.

When Margaret Motter addressed the Colonial Coverlet Guild* she wrote out her talk in her unique abbreviated form and years later left Pine Mountain a copy of this talk and others, as well. Her talk is transcribed below.  Many of the abbreviations have been expanded in this version and individuals are identified, where known.  The talk is a window into weaving activity at the School and the role Miss Motter and others had in encouraging the continuation of this mountain traditional craft by integrating the craft into the Pine Mountain educational programs and offering it as a part of their Industrial Training program.  Further, the focus on weaving was melded to the social out-reach of the School and was used to engage the broader community and to stimulate the potential for economic independence for many women in the community. In many ways weaving and the values of the settlement movement were well paired.


TRANSCRIPTION OF MOTTER TALK

MESSAGE TO COLONIAL COVERLET GUILD
November 10th 1948
By Margaret Motter

Many of you are familiar I am sure with the institution and the dramatic beginnings of Pine Mountain Settlement School, but any sort of message about our school is incomplete without mentioning the name of William Creech, affectionately  known as “Uncle William.” Here was a man with a 3rd grade education but with great vision who dreamed for 30 years of a school which would “holp” his people.

When he gave his land (all he had) [not quite!] he wrote some men in his un-lettered hand which we treasure. I want to give you the closing paragraph to remind you of the ever-recurring challenge from Uncle William to carry on —

“I don’t look for  wealth for them ….

So through the years Pine Mountain has been serving an isolated rural community as an extension, housing a secondary and a vocational high school and as a center of culture, and social and economic welfare.

Uncle William believed it was “better for folkes children to learn how to work with their hands…”  In following this advice of Uncle William Pine Mountain has had from the beginning what we call a work program. Pupils pay $10.00 – $15.00 month if they can afford it and work 2 1/2 hrs. per day and longer on Saturday.  This work program serves dual purpose.  Children are made to feel the value of the education that they are earning thru work.  [It] keeps [their] self respect, values and dignity of work itself and besides, through the work program the school is kept going. The children learn over a period of years and do all kinds of work connected with homemaking, farming and some trades or vocations.  All work is done under supervision and changed every 9 weeks.  Children have on [the] whole a fine attitude ….

“One thing I don’t like is learnin’ but I like what hit makes you be…….”  [?] [Comment by Brit Wilder one of the youngest students and the first to come to the school]

Now, a very popular part of our work program as well as an elective study during school hours is our weaving. I want to give you a few details about this department since you  have been good enough to share in making this department function.

Our weaving room has recently been enlarged and we have space for more looms and better looms.  We have by no means enough to meet the demand.  We have 9 looms and one small one owned by the teacher.  6 of these were made at Berea, one at Pine Mountain after the Berea Style — 5 of the looms are 40″ and 4 are 22″-24″.  Since 6 of the looms were at Pine Mountain before 1924, I guess it is not an understatement [page 3] to say they have not the latest improvements!

Weaving Room: Bess Taylor, Reba Blevins nace_1_061a.jpg

Weaving Room: Bess Taylor, Reba Blevins c. late 1940s. nace_1_061a.jpg

Our teacher informed me that a Swedish weaver told her we are doing very well indeed with the equipment we have.  So you can see as time goes on we shall need to replace these older looms with better ones and to purchase a pair of badly-needed scales [?] for the weaving room.

I have brought you some samples of weaving done by our girls. We use rags from feed-sacks which are dyed at the school and woven into rugs.  Old rayon stock and any kind of woven underwear can be transformed in the weaving room into lovely bags.  We have a neighbor who does some spinning for us and [the] other yarns we buy.

I mentioned that our weaving is very popular.  Some girls who learned to weave have been able to get a loom at home and have continued in their work.  Two of the senior girls have been especially interested “in weaving and confided in the teacher that they hope they’ll get a loom as a graduation gift from their home folks.  The girls love to weave a skirt to wear on May Day and have a chance to participate in the colorful “Weaver’s Dance”.

Weaving class in hand-woven skirts. Pearl Taylor, Ernestine Vitatoe, Bess Taylor, Jolene Lucas, Gladys Carroll, Reba Blevins, Margaret Slusher, Betty Huff -- 1946. nace_1_022b.jpg

Weaving class in hand-woven skirts. Pearl Taylor, Ernestine Vitatoe, Bess Taylor, Jolene Lucas, Gladys Carroll, Reba Blevins, Margaret Slusher, Betty Huff — 1946. nace_1_022b.jpg

"Glorishears" Morris Dance -- 1946. Shirley Holbrook and Delores Scott in lead. nace_1_021a.jpg

“Glorishears” Morris Dance — 1946. Shirley Holbrook and Delores Scott in lead.  nace_1_021a.jpg

Weaving does go on in some of the homes (as I mentioned), i.e., sample curtain [cur. ?] material [mat.?] woven by one of our neighbors. [The] Swedish pattern sells for $1.95 a yard.  I am reminded at this point of the way I happened to get one of my coverlets when I was at Pine Mountain in the fall of 1928.  In the office welcoming children as they arrived — In came last years student with a younger sister by hand and [a] coverlet over [the] other arm.  “I brung —–[?] “

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Della Hayes weaving at Pine Mountain. Probably in Old Log, c. 1940s.

That coverlet was definitely a home product, brown from walnut hulls and dusty rose from madder.  Just as lovely today as when I bought it and I love to think that little Della [Hayes] — now a successful nurse — had her start at Pine Mountain because her sister had learned to weave at our school and had a loom at home.

P1050096Walnut and madder dye weaving

[page 5] I am sure you are familiar with Dr. Allen Eaton’s book, Handmade in the Southern Mountains. [this should read, Allen H. Eaton. Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands], One of the colored illustrations shows a striped blanket that we call Pine Mountain Blanket #16. I have one of these made by a mountain woman who was taught to weave by our teacher — wool from her own sheep and vegetable dye used. This is the type of blanket we always use for our prophets in the Nativity Play.  You can see that the weaving even goes into something special like that.  *[Note: This same Pine Mountain Blanket #16 was used as a cover for the plaque which was un-veiled at the Pine Mountain Settlement School Centennial celebration in August 2013.]

P1050415

I say something special, Christmas at Pine Mountain is an occasion that one never forgets.  With our sacrificial meals for our Charity Fund now we’ll have something to share with others; with our appealing drama of lovely carols in [Laurel House] dining room while decorated with garlands, wreaths, and tree; with our gay Mummer’s Play ; with our charming Nativity Play in the Chapel, it is an occasion for happy activity — [a] genuine pleasure.  It has its effect upon children “Love and joy …” —“Hit’s peacefulest –” [Motter probably describes the change from the earlier celebrations of Christmas that were know for their liquor and guns.]

Boy's House Wassailers and Lords and Ladies -- 1946. [Good King Wenselaus ?] [In Laurel House] nace_1_025b.jpg

Boy’s House Wassailers and Lords and Ladies — 1946. [Good King Wenselaus ?] [In Laurel House] nace_1_025b.jpg

Your share in our work is indeed heartwarming to the staff and the trustees.  May we ask for your continued interest so that we may not fail to make Uncle William’s dream come true  — I don’t want hit to be for this local. only —-”  ——

*Swygert, Mrs. Luther M.  Heirlooms from Old Looms A Catalogue of Coverlets Owned By the Colonial Coverlet Guild of America and Its Members – R.R. Donnelley and Sons : 1940 (1955).


FIRESIDE INDUSTRIES

Through Pine Mountain’s efforts and the support of the broad-ranging Fireside Industries, a strong program of support for the Appalachian craft of weaving was developed and the practice was strongly revitalized in the 1930s and 40s. In many environments, during the 1930s and 1940s the idea of a “cottage industry” which is characterized by contracted work completed at home and then marketed through a central agency, was a developed and viable economic venture.  In the case of Pine Mountain, the idea was not new and was not exploited by the school so much for commercial reasons, but was incorporated into the educational program and into their primary goal of building “community.”

The idea of weaving at home was not unique to families in the Pine Mountain community but with Pine Mountain’s encouragement, it began to follow the model put forward by the Fireside Industries which flourished at centers such as Berea College, long a source of inspiration and support for the School’s weaving enterprises.

Pine Mountain’s interest was also shared by many other rural settlement schools in the region, particularly in the early settlements institutions in Western North Carolina.  What was unique at Pine Mountain was the early adoption of weaving and the measure of enthusiasm in the community for such work and the persistence of weaving as part of the educational program at the school.

Weaving has been an activity that has found a place at the School for over 100 years and more of its history. Through the enthusiasm of Katherine Pettit and her “kivers” and those like Margaret Motter, who followed her,  Pine Mountain has maintained it’s interest this this unique craft and in the long family traditions attached to weaving in the Central and Southern Appalachians. This long mountain family history led to the introduction of weaving and dying in the first decade of the school and maintained it through the years.

Katherine Pettit’s Dye Book written by Helen Wilmer Stone, a staff-member at Pine Mountain, is a classic in the genre of vegetable dying of fiber. Under Katherine Pettit, Helen Wilmer Stone, Margaret Motter, Florence Daniels, Abbie Winch Christensen, Becky May Huff, and  and others, weaving and spinning, and the use of native plants for dyes later found a place in the curriculum of the Pine Mountain and other schools as a vocational tract.  When a more normalized curriculum was mandated by public instructions guidelines, weaving still remained as an elective at many of these schools, and often as an after-school program. Yet, in most schools and in homes, weaving, by the late 1940’s  had gone away.  Few instructors could be found to maintain the craft in schools other than arts and crafts schools and the maintenance f the equipment was high.

Unlike many regions of the Central and Southern Appalachians in the 1940’s,  the Pine Mountain valley had not fully abandoned weaving in some households.  In many homes in the mountains, and in the Pine Mountain region particularly, many families still maintained their old looms and many of the unique patterns continued their persistance through many generations of family weavers.  Some of the old patterns can still be found in mountain homes scratched out on rolled strips of cloth or on long scrolls of paper.  Like some ancient runes, these patterns are family treasures.

https://pinemountainsettlement.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/fireside_indust_pg_002a_mod.jpg

https://pinemountainsettlement.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/fireside_indust_pg_002a_mod.jpg

What Pine Mountain brought to the Fireside Industries or the “cottage industry” model, was a renewal or revival of the long-standing culture of eager mountain weavers.  Margaret Motter moved this enthusiasm along by carrying examples of weaving with her on most every talk she gave outside the School.  Through Katherine Pettit’s early enthusiasm for collecting mountain “kivers” the attention to the beauty and skill of mountain weaving moved among the staff of the School like an aesthetic mantra.  Workers discovered in weaving a sophisticated and beautiful local craftsmanship that utilized skill, intelligence, and tenacity — qualities that the community weavers had in abundance.  The education that occurred between the workers and the community was mutual — and it continues to be mutual today, even as the “community” of Pine Mountain has continued to expanded outward to meet the demands of the industrial world and a more diverse public.


WEAVING IN 1949

A short piece written by Freshman student Mattie Mae Adams in the February 1949 PINE CONE, the student newsletter, describes a weaving experience at the School.  1949 was the last year the boarding school was in operation.

WEAVING

On my entrance to Pine Mountain I had a choice between science and weaving. I took weaving.  At first I was afraid to weave. I was afraid I would make a mistake. It seemed hard for me to remember all of the names of the parts of the loom, and it was still harder to wind a bobbin. But it didn’t take me long as I have Miss Christensen for a teacher.

She started me off on a rug that she had already started herself. Afterward, I thought I wanted to make one for myself. Now we have started on our May Day skirts, which are very difficult, because I get my threads crossed and have to take them out. Then I have to re-wind a bobbin. The next thing I know I’m using the wrong treadles or mending a broken heddle.  Broken threads are another difficulty.  I have just mended a broken thread when I discover a mistake which has to be taken out. Then I usually take out two to that four.

Now all of these things don’t happen every day; but when one happens it seems as if they all happen at once. Even in spite of these hard tasks, I am glad I made the choice of weaving. 

Mattie Mae Adams, Freshman


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Ccropped image of weaving held in the Katherine Pettit Collection in the Bodley-Bullock House, Bodley-Bullock House. Sorority House for Transylvania College. 200 Market St, Lexington, KY 40507.

SEE ALSO:

KATHERINE PETTIT – WEAVING

BECKY MAY HUFF

FLORENCE DANIELS

ABBIE WINCH CHRSTENSEN

HELEN WILMER STONE

KATHERINE PETTIT DYE BOOK

WEAVING at PMSS BEGINNINGS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH WEAVING AT PMSS 1930S-1940S

WEAVING DRAPER LOOM STUDIO

WEAVING AT PMSS SAMPLES I

WEAVING AT PMSS SAMPLES II