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DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI – POULTRY

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI 

POULTRY

CHICKEN ‘N DUMPLINGS

When dairy farming was no longer viable at Pine Mountain, the school farm returned to earlier farm ventures, including poultry. The raising of sheep was another bucolic adventure but the brief trial of raising  sheep placed too much stress on the local flora and available pasture-land. Further, complications with hoof disease from the constant damp fog and rain in the valley created ongoing health problems for the sheep. Though there are many pictures of sheep on farms in the valley in the early years, the number of sheep on local farms had dramatically declined by the 1940’s.  It is likely that hoof disease was part of the problem in maintaining sheep herds just as it was for the later sheep farming experiments at Pine Mountain School. But, two other issues worked against the raising of sheep.

Before turning to poultry as the main focus, the work with sheep was reviewed in full.  There were complications with hoof disease from the constant damp fog and rain in the valley created ongoing health problems for the sheep. Though there are many pictures of sheep on farms in the valley in the early years, the number of sheep on local farms had dramatically declined by the 1940’s.  It is likely that hoof disease was part of the problem in maintaining sheep herds just as it was for the later sheep farming experiments at Pine Mountain School. But, two other issues worked against the raising of sheep.  One, was the increasing institution of laws governing free-ranging livestock.  The fencing of sheep furthered the burden on local farm-land and promoted erosion of hillsides.  Secondly, the introduction of cheap commercial fabrics was rapidly reducing the need for wool and home weaving was no competition for the industrial mill.  Mountain sheep wool was notoriously full of brambles and dirt.  It had little market appeal as it was expensive to process. Sheep started to no longer be considered necessary farm animals in the view of local households and mutton was not high in the diet of the southern Appalachian, nor had it ever been. Sheep were, clearly,  not an option at Pine Mountain School.

Harriet Butler feeding chicken and chicks at iron pot cooker at Medical Settlement, Big Laurel. X_099_workers_2497_mod.jpg

Harriet Butler feeding chicken and chicks at iron pot cooker at Medical Settlement, Big Laurel. X_099_workers_2497_mod.jpg

Poultry, on the other hand, had and have a long and tenacious hold on Appalachian families.  At Pine Mountain School, poultry farming had always played a role in supplying the school with eggs and meat. Of all the farming initiatives, chickens proved to be the most continuous animal husbandry venture at the School.   This may have been due to the fact that chickens are relatively easy to manage and the yield in eggs over the life of the healthy hen can be considerable.   Even today fresh eggs from family chicken flocks are a part of many households in the Pine Mountain community.

There are some memorable images of staff workers with chickens that suggest that they were an integral part of the operation of the School at the very beginning and remained so through most of its history.  The same was true at the various satellite settlements near Pine Mountain.   The following photograph of the Big Laurel Medical Center nurse, Harriet Butler, feeding chickens from her split hickory basket at the Medical Settlement in Big Laurel, suggests the close attention given this food source.

Chickens tended by early staff. II_7_barn_275a

Chickens (White Leghorns) tended by early staff. II_7_barn_275a

The hen and her chicks feeding next to the large iron pot has a certain irony as these pots were often used to cook up a good chicken stew or chicken ‘n dumplings.   In the earliest years at Pine Mountain School and in the satellite settlements, the kitchens were outdoors, or partly outdoors.  The staff cooked in large iron kettles such as the one seen above.  Generally rigged on a tripod or from a trestle, the heavy pot could be used to feed large groups and served as a kind of “crock-pot” that could slow cook food and tenderize that extra tough rooster. Chicken ‘n dumplings was a popular meal prepared in these large communal pots. Not all iron pots were equal, however. It would not eat well to follow soap-making with chicken ‘n dumplings.

HOUSING THE FLOCK

Poultry farming at Pine Mountain had many levels of sophistication.  From the beginning, the School maintained a large flock of chickens for both eggs and for chicken ‘n dumplings, and other poultry related meals.  At first, only fences protected the flock and staff were given the responsibility of maintaining the flock and watching after their welfare, particularly attacks by predators — of which there were many including fox, great-horned owls, weasels, and bobcats.

Later, chicken houses kept the flock safe from fox and other marauders and like the Ayrshire herd, the flock was expanded. Various chicken breeds were favored over others for their egg production or for their meat quality, just as cows were sorted out for their milk quantity or its butter-fat content.

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Chicken House. c. late 1930’s early 40’s. Note rockwork.

While milk was considered the most important food in the diet of the Appalachian family, eggs made a close second.  It was for a reason.  Milk and eggs came from herds and flocks that were  relatively easy and inexpensive to maintain if food could be found.  It was also possible to grow the cow to a herd with the help of a bull and the small flock of chickens could produce the next generation of egg-layers with a little help from a rooster. A mountain family could often make-do with one good cow and a small flock of chickens.  The two staples, milk and eggs also provided a sound source of protein for a minimum cost among mountain families.

[From an early staff letter. n.d, probably c. 1914 or 1916]

“This spring we have at last a herd of cows and a dairy. Two weeks ago our six new cows and bull, all Jerseys, were sent up from the Bluegrass, and today we had our first dessert made entirely of milk and eggs, we have a large chicken house and two incubators and have raised fifty-six chickens from the first batch.   Two hundred more Leghorns are to come in from the out­side world, and we think that by the end of the summer we will have 400 chickens.  One worker devotes all her time to the care of the poultry and she has the most intelligent assistance from one of our older boys, age 15.”

While this may not be the “milk and eggs recipe” referred to in the worker’s notes, the following recipe is one that was favored by later Home Economics  classes.

May 1935, as recorded in The Pine Cone. 

CHOCOLATE PUDDING

3         cups of milk
1          cup of sugar
3         teaspoons of cocoa
1/8     teaspoon of salt
7 1/2  Tablespoons of flour
1/2     teaspoon flavoring
1         egg may be used

Heat the milk in the top of a double boiler.  Have water in the lower kettle under the milk.  In a bowl mix the sugar, cocoa, salt and flour until thoroughly mixed.  When the milk is scalding hot add  slowly to the ingredients in the bowl stirring all the time.  Return it to the double boiler, stir while it thickens for about 10 minutes.  Then let it cook 20 minutes more.  If the egg is to be added add some of the  chocolate mixture to the beaten egg.  When mixed return to double boiler to cook two minutes.  Remove from fire.  Let cool slightly and add flavoring.  Serve with cream.


The Rhode Island White , now an endangered breed and few now existing, enjoyed wide-spread popularity in the 1920’s and 30’s for the  abundant white eggs produced by the flocks. Similar to the Wyandotte, the Rhode Island White was bred from the  White Wyandotte, the Partridge Cochin and the Rose Comb White Leghorn.  Like the Leghorns it was a robust chicken but was prized for its high egg production as well as its full-bodied meat. In 1922 it was  admitted to the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection when the national conference convened in Knoxville, Tennessee. Many mountain families and farmers were introduced to it at that time.

However, with the industrialization of chicken farming, many breeds were sidelined in preference for a few rapidly growing hybrids particularly the popular Rhode Island Red chicken. The Rhode Island White slowly slipped from memory.  Today the Livestock Conservancy has instituted a movement to recognize “Heritage Chickens” and counts the Rhode Island White among some three-dozen species facing extinction. Today the population of Rhode Island Whites is less than 3000 according to the Livestock Conservancy. Rhode Island Reds could take over the chicken kingdom in just a few cock-sdoodle-do’s.

All this discussion of the merits of chickens was not missed on Katherine Pettit in1932 and she cried fowl to Glyn Morris who had taken over as the new Director of the School and rankled at the proliferation of Rhode Island Reds.  Apparently Pettit followed the future of chicken breeds quite differently from the farmer and from Morris and more in line with the growing trend in the larger market.  Quickly, Morris wrote to the President of the Board regarding the rationale for retaining the older breed and laid out the argument  — and Miss Pettit’s preference.

May 15, 1932

Mr. Darwin D. Martin
Martin Trust Building
Buffalo, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Martin: 

In regards to Miss Pettit’s discussion against White Leghorn hens, I should like to say this:  we have hens primarily for the purpose of producing eggs.  White Leghorns have been developed for egg laying. The Rhode Island Reds that were here when I came weren’t worth the room they were taking. There is a difference in the weight of these two classes of hens, but not near enough to warrant keeping Rhode Island Reds in order to have a little more meat when they are finally killed. 

The White Leghorns have been laying without a break since December.  Reds would have broken long ago. 

Sincerely, 

Glyn Morris

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Yet, by the middle of the 1940’s when the School attempted to make the poultry farm commercially productive it was already out of step with the growing industrial cycle of poultry farming.  Too late for small-scale poultry markets and too small to compete with the growing number of large scale operations that began to supply markets throughout the country, Pine Mountain’s poultry farm efforts were not successful on a scale that could recover costs.  The possibility of moving poultry farming into a commercial realm had been discussed many times as a means to save the School farm, but the timing, the times, the law and the market were not in the School’s favor.

Even when the farm turned to egg production for commercial purposes it struggled.  Like sheep farming, and like other farming practices in the remote valley, the commercial production of eggs, proved to be too complicated in the new tightly controlled egg markets. Transportation to market and the competition of the market and government regulations created additional costs and burdens on the operation of a large-scale chicken farm.  By 1953, the poultry farming initiative had run its course. It was challenged by too many obstacles and was clearly faltering.

Poultry farming for meat had become even more daunting than for eggs as the rules and regulations surrounding the slaughter of meat or even the sale of live chickens was increasingly bureaucratic regulated for health standards that required additional equipment and manpower. Small operations found themselves squeezed out of the market.  The larger poultry farms could produce eggs more cheaply through mechanized means and the costly regulations that limited the sale of poultry meat through the open market through complicated and expensive federal and state laws could be absorbed by larger poultry operations.  The new markets and burdensome regulations were part of the “new” agriculture in the State and there was little room even for entrepreneurs to have a go at the rapidly changing commodity market.  The new market was the end of Pine Mountain’s sale of poultry meat and eventually to its sale of eggs, as well.

For some, the end of the chicken yard could not have come fast enough.  Anyone who has had any long-standing relationship with a chicken yard knows that roosters come with most flocks as they were used to selectively fertilized eggs that hatched out the new flocks.  Often aggressive, these rulers of the roost, the “rooster,” made a trip to the chicken yard a frightening experience.   Flogging of intruders was common and generally tolerated to a point but excessive aggression could easily find the rooster in a savory Sunday stew — though seldom was it bragged that the meal was “Rooster ‘n Dumplings as roosters were not known to be the tender type.

POULTRY – SELECTIVE  BREEDING

In 1935 the breeding of chickens was an important topic in the industrial training program of the boarding school.  Here Students learned about the health of the flock, its comparative worth as a meat, about best egg breeds and how to kill and butcher a chicken.  The following is an excerpt from The Pine Cone, May 1935, written by a student.

“One of the most fascinating problems connected with poultry management is the problem of breeding…

Some of the fundamental factors to consider are as follows; (1) Breed only pure bred birds  (if possible) of  a well-established breed…. (2) Breed only from heavy producers. These are the birds that molt late in the fall.   They are easily recognized by their healthy appearance and active dispositions.  They are alert, bright eyed, red combed and go singing happily far afield in search of food.  Upon closer examination of the toe-nails will be found to be worn; the vent large, pale light pink, or upon long extra heavy production, bluish white , soft and moist;  the color faded or blacked from the eye ring, ear lobes, beak and shanks of the Mediterranean class, such as Leghorn and Minorcas; the pelvis bones long, thin, pliable and wide apart.  These are the two bones located on either side of the vent.  The egg must pass between these bones when it is laid.  Consequently with increased production, there is an increased distance between these bones.  There is also considerable distance between these bones and the keel or breast bone; the comb is smooth, full bright red in color, and has a waxy appearance. (3) Breed from mature birds both male and female. (4) Breed from birds with good appetites and with large well-formed bodies …”

White Leghorn chickens  were good as a meat source, but as an egg producer, they excelled.  The breed is known to produce from 250 to 300 eggs per year.  This high production was a significant contribution to Pine Mountain’s breakfast and other menus.

ON THE TABLE

The following recipe found in the May 1935  issue of The Pine Cone  was used in the Home Economics Practice House fare.

SCALLOPED EGGS

6          hard cooked eggs
1          cup bread crumbs
2 Tbs   butter or chopped chicken [fat].
1 1/2    cooked material  [see below]
3          cups milk
6 Tbs   flour
4 1/2 T butter
3 tsp    salt

The cooked material may be spaghetti, potatoes, ground ham, cracker crumbs, flaked fish …   Arrange the sliced eggs and other material in layers in an oiled baking dish.  Pour the white sauce over the mixture, cover with crumbs and dot with the first amount of butter given and brown in a moderate oven.  Serve in the baking dish.

To make the white sauce, melt the fat in a pan, add flour, mix well and add milk, stirring as it thickens. Add salt.


The Second World War also put severe limits on poultry farming, as many of the young men who worked on the farm at Pine Mountain went to war, and the local chicken stock was reduced due to rampant diseases that killed many of the brood at the School and in the surrounding community.  The disease, probably coccidiodosis, possibly parasites, such as worms, or mites, were all common in chickens of the era and particularly in flocks that were tightly confined.  Any of these diseases can cause a wasting of the chicken and most of the diseases remained in the soil for some time.  The parasites and coccidiodosis can only be combated by cleaning and removing the chickens and their houses. Severe cold or heat can slow the progression of some of the diseases, but such severe cold can also kill the flock.  Permethrin, an unhealthy chemical solution and quick lime were used effectively for a while at Pine Mountain, but mites and other parasites continued to persist in the flock and thrive in the damp mountain environment and in the confinement of the chicken-houses. Raising chickens in quantity required diligence.

Though maintenance of the flock was difficult at Pine Mountain it  soon became clear that chickens were one staple that would keep the school eating during the difficult war years and pursuit of a remedy to the chicken disease should be sought.  In the March 1943, Pine Cone, the following article appeared:

“CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS TO BE SERVED ONCE AGAIN”

“With meat rationing and rising prices on eggs, Pine Mountain is going to purchase five hundred baby chicks. 

The school is getting ready to make room for five hundred baby chicks  which will be bought [as] soon as their new house has been constructed.  Blue-prints have already been drawn for the brooder house which will be twelve by fourteen feet. 

It will be located on the north side of the road [the road to Line Fork] near where the other chicken house used to be.

In another five to ten weeks, a larger house will be built to make more room for them as they grow larger.  In the meantime, the students should not grow impatient, for it is just  a streak of luck to have chickens again. In the three preceding years it was impossible to have them because of a disease which kills them, and which remains in the soil for several years afterwards. “

hayes_IMAG0147_cropedWhile the stories abound regarding the Ayrshire herd and the acquisition and maintenance of the herd, the nurturing of chicken flocks at Pine Mountain is also well covered.  Also, in the community if one asks a mountain family about chickens, the stories, abound.  The rooster that terrified the children with his long spurs and fierce territorial aggression ;  the slippery slopes of the chicken yard after a rain ; the particular way the grandmother wrung the neck of the chicken or how she chopped off its head ; the smell of wet chickens in their yard in the heat of summer ; the night the fox found the chicken house ; how the skunk stole chicken eggs ; why crows steal eggs ; the black snake in the chicken nest, and more.

Following the brief attempts to resurrect large-scale farming at Pine Mountain through sheep and poultry, the Pine Mountain board in 1951 called for a thorough analysis of the farm at the school. The so-called Chang study, “Whither Pine Mountain,” while not centered on the farm aloneaddressed industrialization and the issues of the farm head-on.

During the Morris and later the Benjamin years, the margins of profit for the farm were small, but the educational value of farm practice supported the farm program and the two Directors put their energy behind the farm efforts. Too, both Morris and Benjamin had been raised on a farm and knew the issues associated with managing a farm and the discipline that was required to maintain a well-run farm-school.  Both realized the farm’s educational value. Morris clearly wanted to retain the farm program, but also began to have his doubts regarding the financial viability of the program as the School struggled to maintain a boarding school and compete with the growth of local schools for students. By the end of H.R.S. Benjamin’s tenure, the financial picture at the School had changed markedly and the educational programs had shifted to non-residential programming which eliminated the farm work-force. The Trustees called in several consultants, and evaluated the costs of the farm operation against the sustainability of the School.  The 1951 Fu Liang Chang Survey of PMSS , particularly, signaled an end to farming as it had once been exercised at the School. The economics of the Study indicated a downward spiral for small scale farming in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky and elsewhere in the nation. Pine Mountain’s demonstration work was not enough the bring new and effective farming methods to the mountains. Geography and efficiency were clearly at odds and more clearly the farm was in trouble as a model for few in the community could afford to invest in the machinery to maintain comparable farming methods.

Chang wrote:

The School farm has been facing an acute problem of labor since 1949, moving from over-supply to scarcity through the change from a boarding high school to a consolidated primary school. It was compelled to purchase a number of items of labor-saving machinery to run the farm. It has gradually changed its management with major emphasis as a practicing farm to that of a community testing and demonstration farm, with not a great deal of success so far. The subsistence farmers feel that the school can well afford to purchase the equipment which would not suit their farms of a few acres apiece. This has kept further apart the school farm and the subsistence farms of the community. It seems that the problem before the school farm is how to break down its agricultural improvement program into many small projects, some of which will meet the needs of the subsistence farms and the supplementary farms of wage-earners, and how, in cooperation with the county agent and the community organizer (after one is installed), 4-H Clubs and other rural organizations, to “sell” these projects to the community. Unless this is done, the school farm will remain a model farm, but not a community demonstration farm with the purpose of raising the standard of living of the people. 

By 1953, farming on a large scale at the school came to a close with the departure of the farmer. As there were no educational programs to benefit from the maintenance of a large farm practice and pressure from the Board to engage diverse small projects was not producing results as labor was fragmented.  The reliable labor in the form of community students and other salaried workers from the community was not in the institution’s budget. The last rooster had crowed. The farm and the poultry operation was forced to close down and much of the farm machinery and implements were sold to raise revenue for the school.  In 1953 the farm manager, William Hayes, left the School for employment with the Kentucky Division of Forestry at Putney, across the mountain from the School. where his knowledge of the land set the course for another career.

CHICKEN N’ DUMPLINGS AGAIN

Always a central part of any home-coming, chicken n’ dumplings is a recipe with many variations. “Slickers” or “Puffers” no matter, they are all consumed with gusto.

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Pine Mountain student, Patsy Hall Martin, class of 1945, can still produce a rib-sticking dumpling at the age of near 90.


See also: CHICKEN HOUSES

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

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IX – DIETICIANS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH X – IN THE DINING ROOM, MANNERS & ETIQUITTE 

 

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DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV FARMING THE LAND – EARLY YEARS 1913-1930

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV
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 DMcSwain ; 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

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, 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.]

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A very early view of the Pine Mountain Settlement. The distant house is Old Log with the “Indian Cliff” behind. The field in the foreground is in front of what is now the Chapel.

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 bottom land 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.

pmss001_bas007_mod

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.”

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 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 train-
ing 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 Dame Olive Campbell in 1922. She maintained a lively correspondence with Katherine Pettit following her departure from Pine Mountain and much conversation 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 interim director, Evelyn Wells until Glyn Morris could come as the 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 work place. 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 reference to the “hardsurfacing” 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 he 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 car loads. 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 a relatively small amount to 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 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 life style 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 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 potential of families in the garden,

Loren Eisely 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 – 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

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IX – DIETICIANS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH X – IN THE DINING ROOM, MANNERS & ETIQUITTE 

 

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DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY I – Early Years

Pine Mountain Settlement School
DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V

FARM & DAIRY I – EARLY YEARS 1913-1930

Katherine Pettit imagined that one of the most beneficial programs at the school would be to establish a herd of cows to supply milk, cream and butter for the school.

Barn. View of flank.

Barn. View of flank. Constructed in 1915.

With the assistance of Philip Roettinger, a Trustee from Cincinnati, who raised $500 dollars, a barn was constructed in 1915 and some so-called “mountain-scrub” cows were purchased as a starter herd.  These were largely Guernsey’s.  But, in 1916 an attempt was made to be more selective regarding the breed of cow and four cows and a bull were purchased for the school.

norton_062

Mrs. Burns, farm manager and friend (?) and one of the “scrub” cows first milked at the School. New barn, behind.

This early breed was not satisfactory in the environment and by 1920 the school had shifted to two Holsteins and a bull.  This breed also proved to not be satisfactory and Pettit then consulted with the Kentucky Experimental Station at Quicksand and with the Harlan County Extension agent,  Mr. Robert Harrison.  They both believed the Ayrshire breed might be best suited to the mountainous area and to the school needs.   While the school sorted out the cow problems, they maintained a mixed herd of Jerseys Holsteins and Ayrshires.

Miss Elizabeth C. Hench, also a Board member,  was the leader in the campaign for the development of the Ayrshire herd and her correspondence and fund-raising efforts comprise some of the most amusing and creative fund-raising campaigns the school has ever mounted.

Some of the Hench correspondence and her witty story of Ayrshires at Pine Mountain follow:

AYRSHIRES – THE JOYFUL HERD

The Joy Stock Company, Limited, came to Pine Mountain in 1921 with two heifers, Joy and Delight.  The third heifer, Joyce, arrived in August 1927.  While the backside of this cow may not look so joyful, the arrival of Joyce on August 9, 1927, was both a joyous and a be-deviling occasion.  The bovines did not come in mass, but in increments as they could be afforded.  The Joy Stock Company and Ruth Hench, secretary of the Board of Trustees, were the force behind the practice of dairying at the School. For years Miss Hench maintained a lively correspondence with donors to grow the herd and to keep the herd fed.

The arrival of the third Ayrshire, Cavalier’s Ruth III, familiarly known as “Joyce”,  is described by Miss Hench and by  the Assistant Director, Mrs. Zande in a series of delightful exchanges.

“JOYCE, THE NEW AYRSHIRE HEIFER, arrived at Pine Mountain on the afternoon of August 9.  She was purchased at the Spring City Stock farm of Waukesha, Wisconsin. She is a registered heifer due to calf about October 10. The sire of this heifer is among the best of the breed, and her dam produced 12,007

pounds of milk in 300 days, milking as high as 82 pounds per day. Her registered name is, Cavalier’s Ruth III, but her nickname at Pine Mountain is’ Joyce’.”

Mrs. Zande responded to Miss Hench’s new purchase:

“Your letter reminds me of a phrase Dr. Osler used over and over in his life —— ‘The angel troubling the pool”. 

Miss Hench continued,

“Joyce has temperament and horns. She didn’t enjoy her train trip from Wisconsin (and she came EXPRESS),  “refused to be led over the mountain peacefully from Putney, six men could do nothing with her, and she was finally crated up again and brought over in the log train. Brit Wilder, Uncle William’s grandson, and Mr. Browning, the farmer, were both in attendance. A large reception committee awaited her Tuesday but like all famous people she disappointed us and arrived later than she was scheduled.”

Miss Hench replied to Mrs. Zande’s concerns that not enough study had been given to the raising of cows:

DEAR MILK-GIVERS …

” So, one week-end at Berea, I borrowed four text books from the professor of cowology and immersed myself in the subject. I learned that the Ayrshire cow hails from Bobbie Burns’ shire, which lies two thousand feet above sea—level where the winters are cold. In 1800 the farmers began to improve their wild stock by cross—breeding. Now, whether for hillside climbing or nibbling short grass, the Ayrshire leads all breeds of dairy cows. They are largely white, brindled with color from deep red, seal brown, to a clear cherry red. Like the Scotch owners they are sometimes headstrong, forceful, and willing to assert themselves. But they have long graceful horns and they are stylish in appearance. The milk is not as abundant as that of the Holstein, nor as rich in butterfat as that of the Jersey arid Guernsey, but they are suited to conditions at Pine Mountain. So, if I have troubled the pool, I hope I have quieted the wavelets.”

Miss Pettit responded in her typical diplomatic style:

“We are so grateful to the Joy Stock Company….   I have always wanted you to know how thankful I am for the intelligent interest of all of you in this most important department…When Mrs. Burns, the dairy woman, returns, she will win Joyce’s heart by her gentleness, kindness, and care.”

The Ayrshires stayed and multiplied.

Miss Hench reports in 1929:

“Dear Milk-Givers:

     54 thrills were what I had in 1928 from the gifts to the Joy Stock Company, Limited.

1928  .   .  .   ….    $320.10

Grand total  ….   $2474.00

     Joyce had 1098 meals, three extra ones on February 29. She, being a cow, ruminated but did not thrill.  

     There are no marathons in our barn yard. So this is a fitting time to reproduce a letter used 6 years ago, a letter often asked for. It is a bona fida production of a Kentucky mountaineer:

‘Dear sir

I got your letter asken for a list of my assets and liabilities now i told you wen i sent in that order that i was keeping a restarent and not a general store and i dont keep such things as assets and liabilities on hand and besides if i did it aint none of your dam bisiness how much monie have i got no how.  They was a feller noseing around here yesterday wot said as how his name was r g dun & companie and he asked me how much money did i have and i kicked him clear into the middle of next Sunday.  i tell you i wont have no meddlin in my business i am as good as any man and a dam site bettern som if you dont want to sell me them goods wy go to hell. please answer by next mail.

Your fren,  jake’

Miss Hench writes:

“My books are open to your inspection. Joyce’s board is paid knee-deep in June. Her new calf is named Rejoice.  As our cow is doing her best, I know we shall match her endeavor.

     From one who is no coward,

     Elizabeth”

The herd continued to grow and  when Joyce’s third calf was born it was named ‘Overjoy’ to which Hench replied, “When that series of names is exhausted, what next?”  

Even during the Great Depression of the 30s the supporters of the Joy Stock Co.  were generous.  Miss Hench’s appeal to donors while clever and light, was not without reflection on the serious economic conditions in the country.

dodd_A_035_mod

From Miss Hench to her donors:

Financial Center January, 1931

Dear Heirs and Assigns of the Original Cow Company:

     44 stockholders during 1930 A.D. (Acute Depression) contributed $275.00 to the support of Joyce at the Pine Mountain Settlement School. That brings the grand total since 1920 up to $3027. I thank you all, the —whole company of 124 strong.

     … Some of you have received notice that your contributions would be applied to a new Milk Boom at the Barn,  I have $189.05 for that fund. When winter comes and the boys cannot work out of doors, then, under the direction of the Woodworking teacher (a former Pine Mountain boy) and the new Danish farmer, we shall enlarge one room of the Barn, install a stove, a hot water tank, and a sink in which to scald the buckets and pans.  We shall have also a cooling machine to make our milk bacteria free by dropping it to 34 degrees within an hour after milking it.

     A happy New Year to all of you and the wish that 1931 may mean the return of the good old times.

Elizabeth

The times did not change and as the Depression deepened. Miss Hench ruminates:

January, 1932

Dear Partner in our kine undertakings:

 During the year 1931 people became acquainted with a new phrase – new low level. But this was not true of the Joy Stock Company, Limited. We received $200, better by several dollars than our early holdings.

 Since we are in the cow business, we must look to cows for our theme. It is quiet contentment.  In the past, our ancestors, always cow owners, evolved two proverbs:

(l) Contented is the heart that thinks like a cow.
(2) It is a bawling cow that misses its calf the least.”   

In a recent novel by a popular Scotch author there is this significant passage:

“No, I am not a pessimist. But I haven’t been through bad enough times to justify me in being an optimist. . . To declare oneself an optimist, without having been down into the pit and out on the other side, looks rather like bragging.”

 So it becomes us to be quiet, even if we cannot be contented.

 I saw our cows in October when I went to the Pine Mountain Settlement School for the biennial meeting of the Board of Trustees. You will be sorry to learn that we have heard the last bellow of Joyce. I gave a check to cover her board through December 31, 1931. After that we shall forget her and feed our new cow,      REJOICE, whom we bought October 26th for $150, plus hauling $25. =$175. She is a fine big Ayrshire and I am certain you would love her too. It is now up to you and to me to see that she has daily food. As all four of her stomachs are larger than those of Joy, Delight, and Joyce, she will therefore require more food and hay.

Your friend who usually has a cow in tow,

Elizabeth

Another addition to the farm came in 1928 when the school was able to purchase a second-hand truck.  With funding secured by Darwin D. Martin,  Chairman of the Board of Trustees in 1928 the school was now able to be more efficient with many tasks.  Ethel de Long Zande wrote to Martin to thank him for the gift and said:

[IMAGE:  Copy of letter]  Left: Letter from Ethel de Long Zande to Darwin D. Martin, (March 6, 1928) thanking him for his help in securing a much needed truck for the farm.]

Darwin D. Martin was a Vice President of Larkin & Co., a catalog order company centered in Buffalo, New York.  Martin served on the Pine Mountain Board of Trustees through most of the late 1920s  and was an active supporter of the School and its programs, contributing consultation and many items of critical importance for operation.

Martin was one of the wealthiest executives in the country in the 1920s, and the primary benefactor for the architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  Personally responsible for financial support of nearly 15 of Wright’s building projects, mainly Tailesian, he had Wright design his own Martin family complex in Buffalo in 1902-1909. A difficult childhood prompted him to gather his family around him in a series of homes.  The compex is one of the most outstanding examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Prairie Style” architecture.

While there is no evidence that Martin had his hand in the architectural planning of Pine Mountain, his connections were available to Mary Rockwell Hook, Pine Mountain’s architect.  As his health deteriorated in the late 1920s Martin resigned the Board.  He died in 1935 following the loss of his entire fortune in  the Crash of 1932.

 

March 6, 1926

[Ethel de Long Zande writes to Miss Frances Lavender, a former worker, living in Pasadena, California. and provides further details on the truck.]

“We have a Ford truck! It has been about the only topic of conversation since its arrival last Thursday, and mouths still drop open when it heaves in sight. And Luigi comes home every noon and tells me how much more it has gotten done in the mornlng, with the pride of a parent  whose child has just proven to be a brilliant success. He says it has already paid for itself.  We got it  through Harlan, a second-hand one. The new models were heavier than we wanted. This one had been

in use only six months, and seemed to be exactly what we wanted. It was  $65O.OO when new, and we paid for it with extra repair parts and tires,  $357.OO. We think it may be well to spend another hundred on it some time soon and install double gears for our hills. The price for the time of the mechanic who came with it to show Luigi how to take care of it, we have not yet received. , ,”

As indicated in the letter, this truck was a critical piece of equipment for the school allowing the farm to operate without mules and horses for many operations.  Further, it allowed for the transport of materials across the new Laden Trail road from the near-by town of Harlan.

[IMAGE:  Truck and workers in front of the Tool Shed, c. 1926]

[IMAGE: Ethel de Long Zande and her companion dog.]

Ethel de Long Zande only lived two years beyond 1926.  By April of 1928 she was dead after a courageous battle with breast cancer.  True to her character, she worked until the last weeks of her illness.

In the obituary notice prepared by Evelyn Wells  that appeared in the New York Times, April 5, 1928, the following is excerpted:

“…On the day of Mrs. Zande’s funeral, daffodils she had planted were in bloom in the Pine Mountain valley, but snow on the heights did not keep her friends, old and young, some with babes in arms, from crossing steep trails to honor her.  …. She was laid to rest on a little rise of ground where the view encompasses the valley she loved.

In this day, when so many of those who have had large opportunities are increasingly crowding into the great urban centers to use their gifts, it is well that we pause and pay tribute to this woman of rare talents, who rejoiced in devoting them to an under-privileged people in a remote mountain section.”

The following tribute from Philippians 4:8, is on an engraved plaque in the Pine Mountain chapel.

“… whatever things are true, 
whatever things are honest, 
whatever things are just, 
whatever things are pure, 
whatever things are lovely, 
whatever things are of good report; 
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, 
think on these things.”

Following the death of Ethel de Long, Miss Angela Melville was appointed interim Co-Director with Katherine Pettit. Meville served from 1928 to 1930.  Like her predecessors, she was a strong supporter of the dairy farm but unlike Katherine Pettit she rarely engaged the day-to-day,  Her expertise resided not in her humor or her hands-on, but in her understanding of farming and economics.

On July 20, 1928, a printed notice from the Pine Mountain Settlement School announced that the School’s board of trustees had, on April 29 of that year,

” … invited Miss Angela Melville to become associate director of Pine Mountain Settlement School, beginning August 1, assuming sole charge of the academic department and of the office and fiscal promotion of the school, all of which had the devoted care of the late Mrs. Ethel deLong Zande.”

Miss Melville was equal in authority with then director, Katherine Pettit (1913 – 1930), but with the specific areas of responsibility listed in the announcement.

Miss Melville had come from the Cooperative Bureau for Women Teachers in New York, where she had been director for the previous three years. Before that, she worked for two years with the National Credit Union Extension Bureau, organizing both industrial and rural credit unions in many U.S. states.

She had also worked a short time with the Brasstown Savings and Loan Association in North Carolina, and came highly recommended by Marguerite Butler who wrote of her in her article “The Brasstown Savings and Loan Association” in the July 1926 issue of Mountain Life & Work (vol. 2, no. 2, page 42).

She believed in the credit union, and having lived as a member of our community for several months, believed in the success of one here. Not only were every one of us filled with her enthusiasm and interest, but also made to realize the duties, responsibilities and detail of work involved in such an association.

Before Miss Melville’s appointment as associate director of PMSS, she had an earlier connection with the School. From 1916 to 1920, she organized the office and as a speaker raised funds for the School’s endowment which supported the School programs, including the farm and the Line Fork Settlement and Big Laurel Medical Settlement.

According to Darwin D. Martin, President of the Board, in the same announcement:

“Her admiration for Uncle William Creech, the founder of the school, her intimacy with its ideals, her acquaintance with you, our friends outside the mountains, and her knowledge and love of the mountains themselves, have all helped to fit her for her work here and make her the unanimous choice of the Board of Trustees.”


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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

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IX – DIETICIANS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH X – IN THE DINING ROOM, MANNERS & ETIQUITTE 

 

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DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH II – INTRODUCTION

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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.

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DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH I – ABOUT

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Blog:  DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH

ABOUT
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Dancing in the Cabbage Patch is a blog that was named for the photograph seen above.  It is a personal reflection on the history of one of the oldest and remaining settlement schools in eastern Kentucky.

Founded in 1913, Pine Mountain Settlement School is located in the mountains of eastern Kentucky in Harlan County.  It is one of several rural settlement schools influenced by the urban settlement movement that flourished in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth. The push in the mountains for “Community work,” following the Reconstruction era, brought many ideas and workers from the urban settlement houses and centers to the largely decentralized agrarian communities of the Southern Appalachians.  In the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia a robust rural settlement school movement took hold at the beginning of the twentieth-century.

A region of ridges and hollows, the long chain of mountains that comprise the Southern Appalachians were rich in natural resources but during the early twentieth-century the people who had settled the area were believed to be outside the accelerating industrial development of the country’s major cities.  Eastern Kentucky, in particular, lagged in development in many areas; social, economic, educational, and industrial skills. One of the objectives of the rural settlement movement in the Appalachians was to provide industrial training for people tucked away in the most remote corners of the region.

Supported by the early rural settlement movement, programs were initiated to ease the rural communities into the mainstream of America’s burgeoning industrialization but paradoxically the same movement sought to retain the isolation of the culture from  the perceived social ills of rapacious and rapid mechanization.   Workers in the early settlement schools danced an uneven course between unfamiliar cultural patterns and their own adaptation of a perceived culture that only needed to be “awakened.” The communities around the rural settlements of eastern Kentucky danced the “Running Set”, a fast-paced, energetic dance that generally had only the human voice to call out the moves.  It was a dance that echoed their lives.  Recreation had to be experienced quickly, guided by visual and auditory direction, for the patterns that shaped the lives of the mountain people was the seasonal life of subsistence farming.

Many of the workers who came to the isolated valleys and hollows promoted the isolation as a salvation from the evils of the industrial world by adopting a modified Arts and Craft Movement ethos. Others found a better balance through the introduction of many of the tenants of Progressive education, particularly through programs of civic-minded industrial training combined with a standard educational framework.  Pine Mountain Settlement School in these early years, charted a course somewhere between the two extremes.

In the region, many social service agencies, as well as church and charitable organizations developed institutions modeled on the early urban settlement movement, where plans were proposed to guide the area out of poverty and illiteracy by becoming a progressive presence in the community. Of these institutions Pine Mountain Settlement School, a uniquely non-sectarian institution introduced a powerful settlement school model for rural education and service that still inspires and is remarkably fresh when compared to contemporary trends in education and social services whether urban or rural.

The following  topical essays contained in “Dancing in the Cabbage Patch,” is a personal journey and is not written to reflect the views of the current institution but to trace through personal reflection some of the highlights of Pine Mountain Settlement School during its 100 year history.

FORWARD

Perhaps overly romantic and nostalgic, the words “pastoral” and “buccolic” have often been used to describe Pine Mountain Settlement School. These words are most frequently used in the description of farm lands. Yet, in eastern Kentucky, generally, the farmland has often been described in disparaging terms, particularly by visitors to the region. Why this difference? The answers are complex.

The general perception of the land that comprises Pine Mountain Settlement School, in fact, stands in direct contrast to the observations of many of those who have written about Eastern Kentucky. The descriptive adjectives used for many Appalachian farms and sometimes its people, often read “ravaged,” “un-cultivated,” “disorganized,” “unkempt,” “scraggly,” “impoverished,” dirty, and other pejoratives that disparage any perception of beauty. Why is Pine Mountain “buccolic”, “lovely”, “peaceful”, “Shangrila”, “natures majestic garden” and on and on? Again, the answers are complex.

Farming practice has always been central to the life of the Pine Mountain Settlement School and its surrounding communities.  The planning of the school was built upon the desire of William Creech to teach good farming practice as well as to educate students in a standard educational curriculum. He saw these two objectives as joined in a reverence for the land and its people.

Farming at the School has a very long history and one that has been integrated into most every program of the institution through the course of its one-hundred years. While it has never been strictly a “farm school” it has had a long association with the production of food for the body and mind.  nature and nurture have always found a partnership at the school and were and are regularly celebrated in a variety of ways.

Like farming, celebratory events also  play an integral role in the history of Pine Mountain School. Like the cycles of agricultural life, community celebrations help to establish the ebb and flow of life at the School and in the community. Many annual events such as Fair Day , celebrated in the Fall, or the Nativity Play at Christmas, May Day in the Spring, or the school’s former annual Spring Dogwood Breakfast, all have their origins in a celebration of the seasons and are generally accompanied by food or by displays of the produce of farming.

Pageants and plays are remembered fondly by many students who attended the school and many of these memories were or are associated with agrarian practice or with some foodway.

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May Day c 1920 – young children dressed in greenery for the celebration.

Whether performed for entertainment, for educating, or for the celebration of special people, event, time or place, events at the School provided an opportunity for a connection with both the past and the future of the institution. In the surrounding community past and present are equally revered but future rarely intruded into daily community conversation. But like dreams, the future was held close like some shining city on the hill. Today, the community of promise seems even further away and celebrations have been steadily declining.

Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Robin Hood’s adventures, the Mikado, HMS Pinafore, the Cooperative Store skits, the Kangawa play, Halloween, the carrying in of the Yule Log, the simple dialog of the Nativity Play — all gave early students the opportunity to don costumes and assume other personalities and to imagine themselves in other lives, other countries and other times. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace …” was found written on the wall of a humble mountain cabin.  It is a quote from the Bible, but it is also a well-known quote from the annual Nativity Play at Pine Mountain.

The early institutional celebrations allowed the staff workers to gather and renew their friendships on the campus or were celebrations that brought the school and the community together in cooperative celebration. What was carried away could be life-changing.

The PHOTOGRAPHS from Pine Mountain document and celebrate many of the events at the School and the community while also capturing some of the most compelling images of institutional and community life in early rural Appalachia.  There are intimate portraits of Appalachian families at work and at play. There are scrapbooks by settlement school workers who gathered their visual memories and left them for the school to ponder their aggregation.  There are official collections of promotional photographs that sought to convey a particular image of the institution for calendars and brochures.  There are many overlaps and duplicates in the images across the many collections.  Sharing was always part of Pine Mountain’s culture. And, there are many months and years of lives in the photographs and mementos gathered in the collections, scrapbooks, travelogues, and albums.  The images also capture the essence of the School as it grew and changed.

Music and dance, folk craft, mountain vernacular architecture, clothing, farm techniques and implements, food and food preparation, and many more themes may be found in the photographs taken over the life of the School.  Some of the most compelling images are those of the workers and students as they danced … and danced … and danced some more.pmss001_bas098As the educational programs changed and grew and as the current Environmental Education programs evolved, the photographs capture the shift in the scale of farming, the use of the land and the growing awareness of the preciousness of the natural environment.  In todays technological world this preciousness is even more compelling. The photographs are celebrations of the people as well as of the land.  Together, the land and the people provide what many call a “sense of place.”

Perhaps nowhere is the sense of place captured better, or traced more intimately than in the transition of food-ways at the institution.  Change may be observed in the narratives and the photographs when annual events were either down-sized or were, in some cases eliminated. The relationship between the land and the foodways of the people who shared the land may be clearly seen as food, events, and farming intermingle.

For example, May Day and Dogwood Breakfast, two spring-time events were eliminated from the annual calendar shortly after the closure of the boarding school in 1949.  After the closure of the boarding school the intimate community of the School began to fragment, as workers lived off-site, the tasks of the school became overwhelming with no students to crew the many jobs. The focus on agriculture declined. The many changes at the School reflected a shift in the general sense of community in both the central institution and also in the community at large. The numbers of staff at the school declined over the years and many workers came for short stays or had little knowledge or connection to the historical campus.  Foodways changed as more processed food was easily attainable and preparation of harvested food diminished.

In the community, the events in near-by urban centers such as Harlan, or other urban centers such as Hazard or Cumberland, or even distant Lexington, began to pull families away from the immediate community life of the Pine Mountain valley. kingman_092b The isolation of the region was dramatically altered by roads, particularly the first ROAD, Laden Trail, across Pine Mountain, which the Settlement School sponsored with Harlan County. New roads opened the region for an ebb and flow of new cultural ideas and life-styles. Soldiers returning from WWI  and especially WWII, shifted the cultural climate even more. Today, television and other media entertainment continue to contribute to the fracture of community cohesion. The reliance on immediate communication can be acutely felt at the school as visitors roam the campus for “hot-spots” to keep in cell-phone contact with family or business. 

With the full implementation of the Environmental Education program in the 1970s, older programs at the school shifted from a focus on hands-on agricultural management of the campus land resources to an educational understanding of the broader concepts of the total natural environment and its cooperative management.  Quickly, the new environmental consciousness of the 1960s and 1970s aligned with K-12 educational science standards found in the public school curricula and environmental education programs began to form. Pine Mountain School quickly realized the importance of its history and geography to the new environmental education movement and began to shape programs.  Pine Mountain saw its opportunity as a leader in the field of environmental education and was, in fact,  one of the first such programs in the state of Kentucky.  Today, the environmental program at the School remains a model of environmental education while keeping pace with the growing national environmentalism.

Whether “jitterbugging” in the local streams, or waltzing across a ridge-top, or learning to tango with a rapid thunderstorm, the dances with nature at the School are endless and sustainable.

PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTOGRAPHS have always been important to the School. What the photographers at Pine Mountain selected to photograph documents the change in the community as well as larger cultural shifts. While the photographs capture the essence of the lifestyle of the age, they also suggest the personal interest of the photographers as they experienced their cultural context. The visual record, the photograph and certainly the individuals in the photograph, capture what the local culture saw as it looked back at the many cameras and photographers. The tensions are almost palpable in the distance between camera, subject, and photographer.  Both palpable and frozen, the many images taken at the school and in the community graphically capture  photographer, image and subject as they instantly interact —  their gazes joined, the landscape stilled and quiet, a thousand questions unanswered — just as it is in one blink of life.

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Visitors from Viet Nam in the classroom at PMSS, 1950s. [pmss_0037]

Photographs are remarkable vehicles for primary source information and their visual content opens for the teacher, researcher and the viewer a variety of windows into other times and other lives. The potential contributions of Pine Mountain Settlement School’s photographs to Appalachian cultural research is extraordinary.

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Community family near PMSS. [Friends & Neighbors – VI-51 ]

Mary Rogers, wife of Burton Rogers, one of the Directors of the School, wrote in the “Preface” of the Pine Mountain Album – 1913-1963, prepared for the 50th anniversary of the School:

“Most of us are so busy trying to do what must be done today, and planning ahead to what needs to be done tomorrow that we have little time to look back to the things which happened yesterday. But we are celebrating an anniversary, the 50th anniversary of Pine Mountain Settlement School, and so we will turn to the past — get out the old album and look at the pictures.

It’s a funny thing, looking at old pictures. They don’t show the things that matter most: Uncle William’s craving that his people might grow better; Miss Pettit’s dedication to bringing help to the mountains; Mrs. Zande’s high standards and loving understanding of people; Mr. Morris’ dynamic energy; the different gifts brought by hundreds of workers over the years.

Nor do they show the important things in a student’s life: the moments of courage; the hours of service; the growth in understanding; the vivid enjoyment of life; the deepening love for a place and its people; and sometimes the realization that the source of all things is the Love of God. All the same, let’s look at the pictures, some faded and old-fashioned, but taken because someone wanted to “keep” something from the past, and let us try and read into them the things for which they stand.”
                                                                                            Mary Rogers, 1963

Another fifty years has just been added to the visual history of the School.  In 2013 Pine Mountain celebrated its 100th Anniversary. One-hundred years of “Dancing in the Cabbage Patch.”

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

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IX – DIETICIANS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH X – IN THE DINING ROOM, MANNERS & ETIQUETTE 

 

 

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