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selection is taken from the notes of Evelyn Wells for her History of Pine Mountain Settlement School 1913 -1928 (unpublished).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