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DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH II – INTRODUCTION

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Blog: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – II

INTRODUCTION  –  GROWING FROM THE SOIL

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Land in the Southern Appalachians is precious soil. The people grow out of this soil as surely as plants take root and spring upward towards sun. The people grow strong to work the soil and they bend as the soil pulls their tired bodies back to lay in peace within it. Yet, the cycle is more a dance than a dirge. The dance is the dance so many children and adults have today forgotten. It is the jitterbug of stream-beds and the waltz of wind-blown mountain tops. It is the courtly movement through rows of cabbages and corn. It’s the balanced step-dance across a foot-log. It is a dance that educates for wholeness; the kind of wholeness often found in the rhythm of rural country sides.

Dancing in the cabbage patch was part of the early education at Pine Mountain Settlement School. It was not an education just for children. It was the exercise of everyone who marveled at the cycles of life and the bountiful bloom of new crops as they re-shaped flat field and high hill. It was and is all that is intuited in the fragile relationship with the land. A dance in the cabbage patch is an exercise in the nourishment of both body and soul. It is a solo dance made joyful by the sharing.

We can dance alone, or we can grow the patch together. At one time Pine Mountain raised over 10,000 heads of cabbage. Today, together, the cabbage patches are unlimited for us all if we can re-connect with the land.

“Dancing in the Cabbage Patch” is structured into a series of essays, or in the current jargon “Blogs,” that explore the land of Appalachia, farming, foodways, and the celebrations found in the unique Appalachian settlement school of Pine Mountain, now celebrating its 100th year.

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The foundation of Pine Mountain can be found in the early efforts of key visionaries in both the School and the community.  Some of these unique individuals are described in their BIOGRAPHY located in the PINE MOUNTAIN COLLECTIONS ARCHIVE. Some may be discovered in the many stories that have been told about this geographic region.

When William Creech gave his land so that Pine Mountain Settlement School could begin in 1913, he also gave to the School one of the most famous quotes associated with the institution. Katherine Pettit, a co-founder of the School, used this brief passage that was part of a longer letter by William Creech, when promoting the institution. It continues to resonate with many cultures and lives. Most all of Pettit’s successors at the School have found this quote to be foundational.

An Old Man’s Hope for the Children of the Kentucky Mountains

I don’t look after wealth for them. I look after the prosperity of our nation. I want all younguns taught to serve the livin’ God. Of course, they wont all do that, but they can have good and evil laid before them and they can choose which they will. I have heart and craving that our people may grow better. I have deeded my land to the Pine Mountain Settlement School to be used for school purposes as long as the Constitution of the United States stands. Hopin’ it may make a bright and intelligent people after I’m dead and gone.

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Uncle William and Aunt Sal stand in front of their old home while re-enacting their wedding picture. hook_007_mod.jpg

Uncle William and Aunt Sal donated  135*  acres of land for the Pine Mountain Settlement School. [*This acreage varies in the historical record and often includes the donation of other land from community and lumber and mining companies.] In this photograph the Creech couple re-enact their wedding in front of their original cabin home in 1917. The original “Aunt Sal’s Cabin” was relocated to the grounds of the Settlement School in 1926 and  is now a central landmark.

Katherine Pettit  (1868 -1938) was a Kentucky native.  She served as co-director at Pine Mountain Settlement School until her retirement in 1930. For the next five years she traveled throughout Harlan County urging farmers to adopt modern farming techniques.  In 1932, she visited South America. In that same year, she received the Sullivan Medallion from the Univ. of Kentucky as the outstanding citizen who of the state in that year. She died Sept. 3, 1938 at the age of sixty-eight.

Ethel de Long Zande  (1868 -1928), a New Jersey native and Smith College graduate, was recruited by Pettit to be the co-director of the School and to give academic guidance, fundraising and educational programming.  Pettit knew de Long’s work as she had served in a similar position at Hindman Settlement School where she worked with Pettit for two years. Ethel de Long provided basic education for children and training for mothers in health, cooking, and home care. She married Luigi Zande in 1918 and died much too early of cancer in 1928. Her short time at Pine Mountain left a lasting legacy.

Mary Rockwell Hook was recruited to Pine Mountain to serve as the lead architect for the buildings and the grounds of the school.  Her work represents one of the first instances of women’s work in the architectural profession.  As one of the first group of women to graduate from the school of architecture in the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, her work has earned the School recognition as a National Historic Landmark. The architecture, like the people grew up out of the land and it always runs as a sub-text throughout all that is Pine Mountain Settlement School.

“Uncle” and “Aunt” were generally not designations of familial relationship, but were titles of respect and endearment in the Pine Mountain community.  Following his donation of land for the school in 1913, Uncle William only lived six more years, until 1918.  Aunt Sal lived on until 1925. It was their generous donation of land, their advocacy and their vision that made the school on the headwaters of the Kentucky River, a reality.  When Uncle William and Aunt Sal gave the land they did so with the intent to create a school and they sought out the two remarkable women who became the new Settlement’s directors, Pettit and de Long.

In Pettit and de Long the Creeches found a congruence of goals and vision. Pettit and de Long took the educational challenge of Uncle William to heart. Katherine Pettit, a member of the Lexington Federation of Women’s Clubs, had, with May Stone, founded Hindman Settlement School in 1900, and knew what she wanted in a school.  Perhaps more importantly, she knew where she wanted a school.   Ethel de Long , who had worked for many years as an educator  with Pettit at Hindman, was a pragmatic and articulate program creator. Like Pettit, she, too,had a profound attachment to the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

The Creeches, Pettit,  de Long, and Hook as well as others in the Pine Mountain community were a productive and dynamic combination.  The quick formation of an Advisory Board provided the outside oversight, funding and professional support needed to grow the institution. The founders of 1913 gave the school a solid foundation on which it would grow and flourish.  And, grow it did.  In 2013 the school celebrated its one-hundredth year as an educational institution confirming the promise and the wisdom of those early planners.

Mary Rogers, wife of Burton Rogers, School Director (1949-1983), and founder of the Environmental Education program at the School, wrote a  “Story of Pine Mountain Settlement School” for the School’s 50th Anniversary.

Mary Blagdon Rogers
Mary Blagdon Rogers

It covers the history of the institution from 1913-1983.  In her brief narrative history, illustrated with her own delicate drawings, is an eloquent statement regarding the early years of the institution and the founder’s plans for the School.  She says of Pettit and the School

” She [Pettit] had a deep love for the people, and concern for their needs.  At Hindman she had already translated the work of Jane Addams and the urban settlement movement into a rural idiom.  Now, her thoughts were turning to more isolated, as yet un-served, areas of the mountains.

 Traditional schooling was a part of her plan, but she envisaged also a settlement serving a whole community in its economic, health and cultural development.  A settlement would not attempt to substitute an outside culture for the indigenous.  It would try to strengthen people’s faith in their own heritage, making use of both the mountain environment and their unique traditions as media for learning.  It would help people to retain a secure sense of their own worth as human beings. 

 The new school must have sufficient acreage to supply the bulk of its own needs.  It must be less dependent on the slow, unreliable transportation of supplies by ox wagon through almost roadless country.

Education was foremost in the mind of  Uncle William, and education was at the center of the mission of the two women co-founders of the institution, and all three agreed that this education must be a pragmatic education. It must give the children of the school not only ‘book larnin’, but it must also give them “education for life.” Uncle William described this “education for life” as an understanding of farming practice and a respect for the land that would combine with traditional educational practice. Only then could the total education of the person occur.

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Head, hand and heart at work in this early carpentry project by a student of the school.

Throughout the one-hundred year history of the School, the adherence to an agrarian focus is central to the understanding Pine Mountain’s “education for life.”  The pragmatic work engaged by all who passed through the School, emphasized education as a life-long process and one for which they, alone, were responsible. “Education for life” demanded mindfulness throughout every day. Participation in farming, food preparation, community celebration, woodworking, environmental field work and more, were also anchored in a classroom experience.  Even today, this hybrid approach solidified by hands-on learning experiences, has proven to be one of the most effective learning strategies, .

An “education for life” is what the poet and writer Wendell Berry described in his thoughtful series of essays, A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural, (1970, 1972),  He calls it a kind of “local life aware of itself.” He asserts that this “regionalism is the awareness that local life is intricately dependent, [not just ] for its quality but also for its continuance, upon local knowledge.”  Berry dedicated his small book of essays to Ann and Harry Caudill, two Eastern Kentucky locals from Whitesburg, Kentucky, who were intensely aware of their place in the land and who educated us all on the fragility of Appalachian land in Night Comes to the Cumberlands (1962), a book, in the words of Steward Udall, that is the “story of land failure and the failure of men.”

Today as we move rapidly toward ecological and social disruptions, the need to remind ourselves of our responsibility to an “education for life” is even more critical.  The education at Pine Mountain has always served in this capacity.  Pine Mountain Settlement School is a site that educates for life and that is committed to the literacy of historical community and how that history informs the living community. This education, both formal and informal, is essential to tying together the land and the people in a fundamental and sustainable eco-system.

“Twenty years ago [1912] Kentucky ranked fortieth in Education among the states of the Union;  today she is still fortieth,” reported the Kentucky Education Commission after a two-year study made of education in schools and colleges in the Commonwealth from 1932 to 1934.  This was the pre-Depression era and it raised desperate appeals for ideas and help with a school system ravaged by a growing economic crisis.   As part of their 1932 study, the state surveyed the students whose lives they were charged to improve. Pine Mountain was visited and queried about educational needs and programs.   The surveyors found no shortage of students who were willing to closely critique their school and to make recommendations to their surveyors.  Remarkably, the surveyors listened.  The educational journeys described by the students served as a model for planning a new course for education within the state.

In 2010 Kentucky’s ranking in a national survey was 34th in the nation.  In two years the state jumped 24 places in the Quality Counts annual report as recorded in Education Week magazine. In 2013 the state ranked an amazing 10th in the national rankings for K-12 education.  Something is working. Attention to rural youth is part of the success.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/01/10/2471228/kentucky-ranks-10th-in-national.html#storylink=cpy

The rural youth guidance institute, called the Pine Mountain Institute, begun by director, Glyn Morris, in 1934 became known throughout the country as a progressive and successful educational model.  The Pine Mountain students were “educated for life” and the Depression years in Appalachia and at  Pine Mountain Settlement School provided some of the best lessons for that education. The 1930s had many teaching moments that few who experienced them, forgot — student or teacher.

The school still stands as a model for educators who want to “educate for life.”  Today, particularly in the field of environmental education, Pine Mountain continues to lead the way in the state of Kentucky across all age groups.  Today it educates across the generations with adult programming, and promotes education as a life-long learning process.  A brief 1934 article for The Pine Cone, a school paper written by Pine Mountain students, reflects on the state’s campaign to reform education for its students. It demonstrates how the students actively engaged their educational planning process in the 1930’s:

A somewhat unusual feature of this campaign was the enlisting of the services and sympathies of the students themselves by the state. The generous response of the Pine Mountain students to this appeal for comments was characteristic of the sense of community promoted at the school.  The school, started twenty-one years earlier gave to the children a willingness to give of their energies that the cause of education may be advanced.  They described the influence of Pine Mountain as a real education that “will help us work a little more skillfully, think a little more clearly and act a little more kindly.”

The exploration of farming, food and celebrations at Pine Mountain Settlement School found in this series of essays has been written by one of Pine Mountain’s  children, the daughter of one of the School’s farmers.   The essays are offered as a contribution to the history of the institution and are filtered through the writer’s perspective. There are many other perspectives.

The photographs of rural life taken by various photographers, during the long history of the school also found in this essay, are derived from a life lived close to the land.  Within the faces of the students, the workers, and community families, especially in the children, can be found wonder, stubbornness, joy, fear, defiance, pride, and hope.  In some of the personal narratives captured in letters, documents and  autobiographies and now located in the Pine Mountain Settlement School collection the many perspectives may be studied. In these often very personal reflections can be found a mountainside of deep wisdom, peace,

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humility, despair, determination, hope, anger, but, especially, joy.  Some who view the photographs or read the workers letters about the community will only see the poverty and possibly the exploitation of “outsiders.”  That is not what the school was or is about and that is not what the archive ultimately reveals.

The author  John Berger reminds us in And our faces, my heart, as brief as photos (Berger, 1984)  that time and space are inseparable but that we must be careful that we give so much to the historical projection of time. “…it is,” he argues, “space not time that hides consequences from us.” It is “up Cutshin and down Greasy,”  and “between Hel-fer-Sartin and Kingdom Come,” and Boston and Turkey Neck Bend, that we arrange our critical perspective.

The agricultural essence of the unique rural community on the north side of Pine Mountain as explored through the lives of those who worked at Pine Mountain Settlement School and those who lived near-by in the community, is as relevant today as it was when the first vision was shaped by the founders.  The words of those who knew and know the land best are sprinkled throughout the following narratives, but it’s the photographs, the images of land and people that most vividly detail the agrarian evolution of the community. These are pictures in which education is in a constant reciprocal stream.  In photograph and text the interactive life along the Pine Mountain range and at the Pine Mountain Settlement School is a reassertion of geographies of hope and finding a personal space in our society.

Pine Mountain Settlement School today continues to be an experiment in rural settlement school practice as well as a model environmental education school. As the School celebrates 100 years,  the community celebrates with the School  — people and place and an unwavering relationship to the land and to the lessons that may be learned from a close association with geography in all its variants.  People and place, student and land, farmer, ecologist and mountainside, are all tied to an educational vision and mission. Today, in the school’s programs and in its “education for life” the evolving vision and mission remains fresh and inspiring. No matter where one enters the narrative about the School, the general aim is clear.  It is to create critical minds and a sensitive eyes when looking at how seasons pass,  space evolves, and lives come and pass in the valley.  It is a narrative that is both sequential and simultaneous, history and historical.

Today, as our polemics are animated by ideological conflict, we often lose our close touch with both time and space.  History melts into a sea of irrationality and speed and  often only surfaces to support some argument or political position. We tend to forget in the rush of our lives that there are many more generations to inspire, and many more lessons to learn and many more stories to tell of our unique place in time and space.  Many of those lessons are found in our historical archives, while others may be found on a hike to Jack’s Gap where the expanse of mountains stretches like a troubled sea, green and brown with surface mining, but fragrant with fresh pine and vibrant with sunrise and sunset.

As we all reach for improvement in the quality of our lives, there are many reminders in the stories and images from Pine Mountain that tell us, like Uncle William,  that life does not need the accumulation of wealth, so much as it requires the nurturing of the wealth that surrounds us all. As we look backward with intelligence at the 100 years of Pine Mountain Settlement School, we will hopefully be better prepared to move forward with inspiration and intention to a vital future wherever that future may find each of us. I suspect Uncle William is smiling as his dream unfolds.

GO TO:  DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH III – PLACE

BACK:  DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH I – ABOUT

CHRISTMAS AT PINE MOUNTAIN 1915 & 1917

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 16: Special and Annual Events

Contents

Christmas 1915

Evelyn Wells ; Ethel de Long ; opened packages ; filled stockings ; trimmed the house ; delivered trees to neighbors, Aunt Sis Shell, Aunt Polly Day, Aunt Sal ; Santa played by Mr. Zande ; hung stockings ; children received gifts ; trimmed tree in House in the Woods ; snowed ; pageant of carols ; manger scene ; Bettie Cornett as Mary ; visit by Santa ; arrival of drunken visitors ; dinner before fireplace at Far House ; arrival of Christmas mail ; mule ride across mountain ;

Christmas 1917

no longer drinking and shooting at Christmas ; preference for simple gifts from nature as delivered by neighbors ; letter from Santa mandating good behavior ; birthday cake from Santa ; children delivered baby Christmas trees to neighbors ; [comments on narrow views in narratives and missions of settlement workers, balanced by their good works ; fine line between “work” and “production”] ; Nativity Scene ; visit by Santa ; need for donations ;


Transcriptions

Christmas 1915

*From the notes of Evelyn Wells, derived from letters of staff at Pine Mountain Settlement School. The author is unknown but is possibly Ethel de Long who served as Housemother at Far House in 1915. The use of “Aunt” or “Uncle” is used frequently as an acknowledgement of respect and friendship and not as a familial kinship.

This week we have been sitting up half the night opening the packages that came in — a mixed bag! — and filling tarletan stockings with candy by the hundred (575 in all), and then the family stockings. School stopped on Wednesday, luckily, considering all that had to be done. We trimmed the whole house with laurel and hemlock — ropes, baskets and wreaths everywhere until it was like bringing in all outdoors, so fragrant and woodsy. Thursday afternoon we took the little Christmas trees to Aunt Sis Shell and Aunt Polly Day. We cut the trees along the way and trimmed them by the roadside, and then bore them to the houses, singing “Here we come a-wassailing,” as we arrived. What a picture the children made as we went through the yard at Aunt Polly’s — a yard for the pigs mostly — and into her one-room cabin where she sat coughing and moaning and trying to knit. She was quite cheered however by our visit, and was even moved to show interest in the things we brought her. People around here usually say nothing at all in acknowledgment of a present, though they are really very grateful. Aunt Polly’s daughter came in from milking as we were leaving and showed us her twelve-day-old baby, all done up in red flannel and quilts.

Friday the children took a tree up to Aunt Sal‘s, but didn’t go in, of course (quarantine) [smallpox]. Aunt Sal is almost ready to be released from quarantine, and we left the tree at the gate and she came out and got it. The day was so warm that we had our supper on the terrace by lantern light, and just as we were finishing, Santa Claus arrived with gifts for all the family, and the children were quite overcome. Santa was Mr. Zande, and very adequate in the role, though wordless. He had wanted to give everyone presents and I had stayed up till 12:30 the night before, tying them up, so I was quite surprised to get another gift from him — a handkerchief and a box of face powder. Likewise, gifts for Mrs. Light and Miss Lincoln.

Then we went in and had the big Christmas tree, and hung our stockings up — with the exception of two bad boys who had lost that privilege — such a sad time for them! Then the children — lucky things — went to bed and after fried eggs and bacon, cake and oranges, we went to work. Candy, hair-ribbons, knives, tops, books, dolls, aprons, shirts, awfully nice things, eight presents for every child, and stockings up for the two bad ones after they had gone to bed. All the house presents were put in Miss de Long’s stocking, nice toys and books and a beautiful doll. By one o’clock we were in bed and it had started to rain, and the next thing I knew the waifs were outside my window, — singing.

At six we lit the tree and the children came in to their stockings, and had a rapturous hour of it. But such rain — Just teeming! After breakfast, to the accompaniment of French harps — every child got one — I went up to the House in the Woods to trim the big tree, with Mr. Zande’s help, and some of the hands. One very nice box we’d had was a big collection of Christmas tree ornaments from Marshall Field’s, and we really achieved a lovely tree.

About 9:30 the rain turned to snow, which continued all day, piling up everywhere and absolutely transforming things. We didn’t have a big assemblage on account of the weather, only about 150, mostly men. They began to arrive very early, of course, and I set them all to work decorating.

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[Isaac’s Creek?] nace_1_078a.jpg

The exercises began at eleven with our pageant of carols, which was very lovely in its simplicity. Our manger scene, with Bettie Cornett in a purple veil bending over a manger constructed by Chester that morning, and the shepherds with crooks and gifts, and the Three Kings bearing staffs tied with holly, all against a background of laurel and snow, was beautiful. The little children were to play Old King Cole, but the King was overcome with embarrassment and began to cry, and it was fortunate that Santa appeared just then to distribute candy and snappers and balloons.

It’s such a shame that some unpleasant things interrupt all this gaiety — such as Alec Day, such a nice man, coming with several others as drunk as lords. But of course Christmas is their best time for drinking and shooting. One man at the school’s first Tree got up and made the following temperance speech: “Hit’s been put upon me to tell you fellers as how the school-women don’t want no drinking at their Tree. That’s mighty hard on us, but we’ll have our drams the day before and the day atter Christimas, and then we’ll have two Christmasses!”

We ate our dinner around the fire at Far House, and afterwards the children played with their new treasures and the grown-ups did nothing — a great treat. I was going to have a tea-party for the little girls so they could use their new dishes, but they’d really had enough done for them so the party is put off till some other long winter day.

It was a wonderful afternoon, with the snow piling up outside so quietly, and a fire within. We went to bed early, the children in a blissful state of mind. And after they were all in bed, the Christmas mail came in, a wonderful ending for us.

The next morning we slept late, and the sun was shining on the ridges across the valley, all snowy and bright. I crossed the mountain on a mule, a heavenly ride up through the silent woods, with the trees showering snow on me as I went along.

(This letter was written on the train from Harlan to Pineville, on my way out to “vacation.”)


Christmas 1917

*The following description of Christmas is taken from a much quoted account of the 1917 Christmas at the School.

Dear Friend:

This letter is a Christmas reminiscence from Pine Mountain.

“Well, Christmas, hit used to be the rambangin’est, shootin’est, killin’est, chair-flingin’est day in the hull year till the school come, and now look what a pretty time we’ve had today. I didn’t know you could git so many folks together and have sich a peaceable time. I never did come to one of your Christmas trees before, but I seed you never had a killin’ at em yit. So I come this year.”

Not a chair was flung at Pine Mountain on Christmas, nor a dram drunk, and no one was killed! These are meaningful negatives to us at the ‘Back of Beyond,’ telling of something accomplished since that Christmas two year ago when we collected the pistols before the party began. But you ‘furriners,’ who have dwelt under the wig of peace, ‘since allus ago,’ can scarcely imagine how pretty a time the negatives made possible.

Our neighbors know that we like gifts of hemlock and holly and mistletoe better than any ‘fotched-on’ presents. So, for two weeks before Christmas, we were continually interrupted by visitors bringing us greens; — grey worn figures, honest, plain, kindly faces — what a glory they gained from the marvelous boughs of holly or the great bunches of mistletoe that somebody had ‘clomb a tree fer.’ The golden apples of the Hesperides could be give with no sweeter grace. Sometimes a neighbor brought us a gift of eggs, a rarity at Christmas when the hens ‘ain’t layin’ good,’ Sometimes honey just ‘robbed’ out of a bee-gum, and once it was a great bunch of gorgeous ‘feathers of the pea-fowl.’

Some ten days before Christmas, just at dusk, Santa Clause left a letter at our gate, full of kindly information about himself and his ways for the thirty or forty children who had never seen Christmas before. He not only laid stress on his well-known love of good behavior but went into particulars, writing: ‘I won’t bring any candy to little boys or girls who leave their nightgowns on the floor in the morning or don’t open their beds, or keep their noses clean.’ Our chattering little boys and girls discussed these commands from every angle and with whole-hearted faith. Much-desired ends were accomplished by Christmas magic.

One night reindeer bells were heard far off. Undoubtedly Santa Clause must be riding along the hill-tops hiding presents against Christmas Eve, when he could not possibly bring enough for all from the North Pole. The children, just dropping off to sleep in the dark of the sleeping porches, quivered with joy; but small William, six years old, remembered the least boy’s morning shortcomings. ‘Pleath, Santa Clause,’ he called out in the dark, ‘ecthcuse Cam just thith once for leavin’ hith nightgown on the floor. He won’t never do it again.’

A few nights later, when the bells were heard again as the children were undressing, little Green already in his pajamas, dashed across the room for his handkerchief. ‘Look out for your noses, fellers,’ he called, ‘thar’s Santa Claus.’ And then, with irreproachable nose tilted high he leaned against the window, hoping that Santa Claus would favorably note him.

One night, when we were all at supper, Santa Clause left a birthday cake for himself on the living room table. No other explanation could account for the mysterious frosted cake loaded with candles, and exclaiming on its top in red letters: ‘Merry Christmas!’ Every night the baby Christmas tree was lighted, when the children danced around it, singing Christmas songs and blowing kisses to it.

The day before Christmas each one of our four households carried its baby tree to some dear old neighbor’s. If you could know how those trees are cherished! Sometimes they are kept through a whole year, treasured as a joy even when the needles have dropped off. To one old lady, living three miles off at the backside of a mountain in a dark little windowless house, the children carried a window — a common barn sash left from our building operations. ‘Why,’ she said, ‘why, I wouldn’t take ten dollars for my window. I’ve had to set in the dark by the fire cold or windy days when the door had to be shut, and I couldn’t see nothin’. There haint much to see here, way off the road, at the head of the holler as we be but hit’s mighty lonesome in the dark on a winter’s day.’ Then, carrying her little window gently in her arms, she laid it on the bed in the one safe place in the room. ‘Lord. I wouldn’t take a nigger baby for my winder,’ she cried.

[Racist remarks such as this one, are all too commonly found in narratives of both the School and community in the early years of the Institution, as they were in much of the literature of the day. Reaching out to those in isolation — “… those that sit in darkness,” was perceived to be a critical mission of many workers in the settlement movement.

For those settlement workers in the rural Appalachians, a common belief was pervasive — that the people of Appalachia were of “pure Anglo-Saxon” stock and that they represented long-lost ancestors that could be “raised -up” through education and the re-introduction of traditional English and Scots-Irish rituals and traditions. Christmas, May Day, and other pageants and rituals were often used to re-introduce and to underscore the connection of the mountain people to their Anglo-Saxon heritage. This folk-heritage belief and crusade was attractive to many workers of the first part of the twentieth-century.

Today, in our multi-cultural world, such views are those of people “who sit in darkness”, no matter their education, wealth, or status. These narrow views do not, however, negate the well-meaning intentions and results of these early social service crusaders. The results of their good work in the areas of general education and health and health literacy were profound and lasting. The need for intervention was critical but the balancing act of social service and social engineer, was sometimes uneven.

The fine line between “work” as something irreplaceable and unique, and “production” as something that conforms to a common product, a nature or a production, is a very delicate process and one that continues at the School, even today. Letters, such as this one to ‘Friends’ of the School, had a broad appeal and kept programs alive at the School and helped to “produce” new ones as times dictated. Early letters to family and friends are far more candid than the letters to board members and supporters and often reflect personally held beliefs that stand in deep contrast to the mantras of settlement work and to the beliefs of the populations they served.

The social space in which these Christmas events took place is not a thing among many things or a product of some thing. It is its own set of knowledge that subsumes relationships and products and beliefs. It is a process that still continues as the School struggles to work with populations that are impoverished and illiterate and deep within the valleys and hollows of Appalachia but also works to reach all those “who sit in darkness” with regard to their environment, no matter if the source of that obscurity is in deeply rooted urban life-styles or in denial of climate change.]

The narrative continues:

Was this the sweetest incident of Christmas, the carrying of light to those that sit in darkness? Or was it the caroling of the boys at four o’clock in the morning, singing through the dark from house to house, “Hark, the herald angels sing,’ and ‘God rest you, merry gentlemen.’ To the small ones of course the dearest moment came when their stockings were handed to them, and they drew out barley candy and oranges, a French harp or a doll, — some trick the like of which had not come to their ken before. Table manners at breakfast were suspended while whistle and harps and laughter and ‘Christmas gift,’ perceptibly reduced our daily consumption of oatmeal.

Of course, there was a beautiful community tree, and how peaceable a time we had at it you already know from the first sentence of this letter. Some five hundred people came, among them an old lady sixty-nine years old, who had started before day to come clear across Pine Mountain. ‘I’ve never seed a tree,’ she said, ‘and I allowed thar mought be a pretty one the tree for an old woman sixty-nine years old, what had ever seed one.’

Silent and spell-bound, we all watched the progress of the beautiful Nativity Scene, which had the simplicity and sweetness of an early mystery play. Then Santa Clause came tramping through the woods. We hailed him with joy, we laughed at his jokes and we had a “big time” flinging confetti at him and blowing balloons in his honor. You, who treasure your Christmas ornaments from year to year with wise economy, do not blame us that we gave most of ours away to the mothers who looked so wistfully at the radiant wonders on the tree, and who carried the tinsel and the balls home to brighten lives and homes already too grey.

I cannot write you of all the bits of joy, that pieced together made Christmas so lovely a mosaic. It seemed to us that the wealth of beauty that centuries have given the Christmas festival was all flung into our laps. We want you to share with us the most beautiful Christmas we ever knew, and then we want you to share with us the shrinking of spirit we feel as we think of the months from April to August, when we go through the profoundest anxiety about money.

The School is too large now with its seventy children, to be kept in cold storage through the pleasant Spring and Summer, when givers forget that there are wolves howling at poor folks’ doors. Now, while it is cold and poverty seems bleakest, will you not help us to build up our annual income to carry us through the year? We want five hundred givers of one dollar a year, five hundred of two dollars a year, and five hundred who will give five dollars a year. If you are already a subscriber, won’t you try to find somebody who will fill out the enclosed card? We will tell them of our children, and not send merely a cold receipt. They shall hear of our six-year-old who wanted to ‘do somethin’ for his country’ with a penny he earned carrying kindling for twenty minutes in his play-time; or the little girl who wrote Santa Clause for two tooth-brushes — one for herself and one for her little sister at home.

We workers who for weeks last Summer faced the question of breaking up school and sending the children home and saw our bank account drop to one cent, feel that another such experience will put us in the class the preachers pray for, ‘those whose heads are abloomin’ fer the grave.’ Please help us find another Rock of Gibraltar, — an annual giver.

Sincerely yours,
Ethel de Long


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THANKSGIVING AT PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Thanksgiving Day

Excerpts from Narratives by Evelyn Wells and an Unknown Worker


 

THANKSGIVING DAY, NOVEMBER 1915

[*The following selection is taken from the notes of Evelyn Wells for her History of Pine Mountain Settlement School 1913 -1928 (unpublished).

A beautiful day. We started out with a nice breakfast party for the visitors from Hindman, at the Pole House, and by the time things were cleared up it was time to start up to the woods. What a procession: every child carrying some kind of bucket or pan of food. We established ourselves, some 60 strong, in a lovely glade about a mile from here which the children call the Fairy Forest, it’s so full of moss and soft grasses and pretty rocks and laurel. We had three big fires, one for the coffee, and two for the squirrels, which we toasted – roasted – on long sticks, while the children played in the woods. When the squirrels were done, we sat around and had pork, squirrel, sandwiches, jelly, pumpkin pie and coffee. It was so warm that we didn’t even need sweaters.

Then a very simple, lovely Thanksgiving Service. A hymn or two, and the story of the first Thanksgiving, told by Munroe, age 11, on the spur of the moment, very simply and dramatically. Then Miss de Long talked for a little while, using St. Francis’ Prayer to the Sun as a starting point. She certainly can touch and hold every kind of person, and there was nary a one of the sixty mountain people, children, or workers, that didn’t get much from what she said. We ended with “Come, ye thankful people, come”, and out in the woods I suddenly realized what the line, “Come to God’s own temple” meant, especially to people who have never been inside a church. Then the children sang “Under the Greenwood Tree”, some of them, a little way off, echoing the last line as if from another part of the forest. They call it the Robin Hood song.

Afterwards the little girls ran sets, and the boys had a shooting match with bows and arrows. The problem was to prevent Miss Cobb (of Hindman) from joining the party for Jack’s Gap, for she is delicate and won’t admit it. But finally Uncle William decoyed her away to show her some interesting trees, and we made our escape. Jack’s Gap is the most beautiful place in the world, and the lights and colors at this time of year are so soft. We got back to Miss Pettit‘s for supper – TURKEY – and a nice evening. The children sang ballads and Miss Pettit was in fine form, with many stories of the beginnings of Hindman and Pine Mountain. When I got back to Far House, there was another party going on. Several mountain young people, one of them with a banjo. They are perfectly content to sit and pick the whole evening the tunes that sound exactly alike.

When they sing to the banjo, there’s a long monotonous accompaniment and now and then a line of the ballad thrown in in a dreary nasal voice, and when the theme is thrilling as it usually is, you just sit on edge of your chair waiting to see what’s going to happen in the next line.

Friday afternoon we took the Hindman horses out for exercise. I rode the least “feisty” one, a nice little mare with a really stylish gait, and realized for the first time what bad nags I’d been riding. My, but I’d love to have a good horse at my disposal here, it makes riding a different thing.


By 1927 the School had institutionalized the celebration of Thanksgiving and many of the students also were accustomed to celebrating the day with their families. In this account by a worker at the School, a cultural tug of war is evident in the exchange that occurred on this holiday:

Thanksgiving morning one of our big boys asked if he could go home for the day. “You know I like to be with my folks,” he said, adding a second later, “but I like to be here too. I’d rather be here than at home.” Then, anxiously, so as not to have his meaning mistaken, “You know of course I like to see my folks, but you see my mother keeps house country-wise, and I like keeping house city-wise.” It was the only way the lad could think of to express his new views of order and cleanliness acquired since school began this fall!

Apparently the worker believed the School to be the purveyor of “city-ways” and that the city offered lessons in cleanliness and order that “country-ways” did not. The worker’s cultural tug of war seems as unresolved as was that of the student. [The name of the author is not known at this time.]


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