Tag Archives: Pine Mountain Settlement School

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH Dis-ease

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series: Dancing in the Cabbage Patch 
Helen Hayes Wykle

DIS-EASE

TAGS: disease, rural health, WWI, Harlan County, Kentucky, hospitals, health, pandemics, Spanish Flu, mining camps,  COVID 19, coronavirus, typhoid, diphtheria, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, flu, measles, spinal meningitis, Harry Garfield, Frank J. Hays, UMW, United Mine Workers of America, Federal Fuel Administration Office


“Carrying sick person to railway. 18 Mile trail [to Laden], Pine Mountain, Ky. “[kingman_010a]

GETTING SICK IN THE MOUNTAINS OF EARLY EASTERN KENTUCKY

The Pine Mountain Valley is isolated. There is little to dispute this fact. It was extremely remote in 1913, the year the School came into being. Today, there are roads but the multiple circuitous routes and the distance from towns and a hospital (the nearest is in the town of Harlan 45 minutes away) continue to be dauntung and isolating.

The health of people who live in the valley and in the hollows that branch off from the deep Pine Mountain valley is, like so many rural areas of this nation, daily put at risk from limited access to health services. Formed by the steep north-slope ridge of the long Pine Mountain that sits atop the Cumberland Plateau, the valley is faced by a south slope that joins a sea of low mountains, mostly sparsely inhabited. In the Central Appalachians, a mountain is both a barrier and shelter, yet, almost everyone who has visited this geography agrees that the undulating landscape of mountains, valleys and hollows is beautiful, peaceful —- but not easily accessed. This forced isolation in paradise is both a curse and a blessing.

When Katherine Pettit left Hindman Settlement in Knott County near Christmas in 1912, she aimed to establish the Pine Mountain Settlement in nearby Harlan County. She was already familiar with the terrain, having trudged through it many times over the years visiting with mountain families and looking for “kivers” and seeking support for more educational opportunities for the local populations. She had developed a deep respect for the native intelligence of the mountain dwellers and for their craft skills and their self-sufficiency. Her search for “kivers” or coverlets, the handwoven craft of many families, was a personal passion. However, this will to collect woven and other crafts in the area was consistent with a personal tendency to isolate herself from the many changes coming with industrialization.

Pettit saw the changes instituted by railways, logging, and mining as a threat to a unique culture and people. She saw in the mountain people a promise for the sustainability of the heritage of the region. In many ways, she saw her role as an “emergency” worker for an underserved and endangered population; someone who would protect the culture while rapidly educating for the coming industrial change. She had witnessed disease, poor health choices, and a lack of educational opportunity devastate mountain communities. But high on her list of needs for the people in this isolated region was medical care and health education. The many diseases that were coming to the area with the growth in timbering, mining and general industrialization, the new railroads, and the growing movement away from the land, she found disturbing. The change would come. She did not doubt that. She believed that education could mitigate those rapid industrial changes, but she also believed a greater threat to the core culture and people of the Central Appalachians were the many diseases coming along with industrial change — particularly in new timbering and coal mining populations.

HINDMAN SETTLEMENT

The health issues of the region were growing when Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long came from Hindman Settlement to establish Pine Mountain Settlement in 1913. While Pettit and her staff were very familiar with the health issues of the region and had anticipated the increased threat of the coming railroad and growing lumbering and mining towns, they were constantly startled by the persistent primitive conditions in remote homes.

In 1914, the year following Pettit’s departure from Hindman, it suffered a major typhoid epidemic. While the cause, it was revealed, was not that the school was unclean or that nurses were not available to the school and community; it was an infrastructure problem. The School’s toilet system was poorly planned and constructed and had contaminated the water supply. The faulty toilet and water system was a problem that had been pointed out by the State Board of Health in 1912, but the rapid growth of the school and the many costs associated with its maintenance of educational programs were expensive. Further, the existing system was deemed adequate until the large remediation expense could be covered by Hindman’s budget. The operational budget dominated. Typhoid was the result.

The typhoid epidemic at Hindman sickened a third of the adults at the school and almost half of the boarding students. One student died. The failure of Hindman to identify infrastructure (water and toilet) inadequacies and to address them, resulted in both a “health and a pubic relations disaster” suggests the School’s historian, Jess Stoddart [Stoddart, Hindman …p.79]. The health crisis also created a deeper economic crisis for the school as revenues declined by 36%. By 1915 Hindman was questioning if they could continue to exist. Pettit was concerned about her previous school, but she was already at Pine Mountain shaping her own version of the model settlement school. She had brought with her one of Hindman’s most competent educators, Ethel de Long, and recruited other Hindman staff. She was now even more motivated to build a school and community resource that would address some of the short-comings she had seen at Hindman. Medical support and health education were primary building blocks in her plan.

PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT AND HEALTH PLANNING

Katherine Pettit was a seasoned and meticulous observer and actor on potential problems. She was determined to not repeat the infrastructure mistakes of Hindman in her plans for the new school at Pine Mountain. She placed health services at the center of her proposed programs for the new school and foregrounded health and safety for students and staff at the new school. The physical design of the campus was created with an eye to easy quarantine and she sought the assistance of engineers to advise on toilets and water within the first two years. In conversation with the newly appointed architect, Mary Rockwell Hook, she evaluated potential health issues and long-range growth. Hook, who was charged with the design of the new institution, was a skilled architect and one of the first women architects in the nation. The planning of Hook, Pettit and, co-director, Ethel de Long resulted in one of the nation’s most beautiful and well-planned rural settlement schools in the country.

Harriet Butler, nurse and Dr. Grace Huse with cat at Big Laurel. [X_099_workers_2497b_mod.jpg]

Health staffing was the important institutional insurance that Pettit immediately put into her planning at Pine Mountain. Part of this insurance plan was Harriet Butler, one of the first nurses at Hindman who was, like Pettit, a person committed to regional health. The insurance plan was a good one as Harriet Butler was also committed to the educational side of health which would produce the optimum long-term outcomes for the people in the remote region. While at Hindman, Harriet Butler and John Wesley Duke, who then served as Hindman’s physician, and also the county medical officer, instituted a vaccination program and gave lectures on various health issues to the community. These talks included how to establish good personal hygiene regimes but early-on provided the community with information on how to deal with contagious diseases. Butler had instituted many of these changes in health care at Hindman, but for her, the changes did not go far enough. Butler was an admirer of the work of Pettit and had been increasingly discouraged with the pace of health education at Hindman. She and others in the region wanted more health education engagement in the community and increased public awareness. Like Pettit, Harriet Butler was an energetic pragmatist like her friend Pettit. At Hindman the staff lamented in their newsletter, “… it seemed as if, however fast we run, we could never keep up with the pace she [Pettit] had set.” They did not realize that Butler would soon follow Pettit to the new school at Pine Mountain. The combination of the two dedicated and energetic pragmatists assured that progress would be rapid.

By 1918 Harriet Butler had made her decision to leave Hindman and by 1919, at the invitation of Pettit, she joined Dr. Grace Huse, a smart and energetic young physician from North Carolina hired by Pettit and de Long. The team of Pettit, de Long, Butler and Dr. Huse was dynamic and their progress was rapid. In essence the process of planning two new health centers associated with Pine Mountain and prospecting for building out to seven more facilities had been percolating since Hindman. Organizationally, Huse and Butler would head the Medical Settlement at Big Laurel and would consult on the development of the Line Fork Settlement in nearby Letcher County and would be medically available to the Settlement School at Pine Mountain. The Big Laurel and Linefork sites were to be created as satellite locations for Pine Mountain Settlement School and were to be focused on medical and health education and industrial training. The staff at both satellites would also work with the local one-room schools to improve their standard educational programs. All programs would be under the general direction of Kathrine Pettit whose base would remain at Pine Mountain Settlement School. The plan was a lofty one. The execution was sobering.

As a doctor and nurse, Harriet Butler and Dr. Huse were a superior pair. They were given the opportunity to build an important model program that Pettit hoped would be replicated in the surrounding counties. Their resulting model at Big Laurel was indeed exemplary but was crippled by cultural obstacles and by the economics of maintaining multiple sites and expenses. Reigned in quickly by the growing expenses, Pettit’s plan for seven new satellite settlements never materialized as exemplary models are expensive —-forward-thinking — but expensive. The cultural obstacles also did not dissolve readily and access to patients and traditional models of medical care were slow to change and could not be pushed.

What was lasting in these initial programs were the myriad new ideas that the experiments introduced into the communities, albeit slowly. The ideas of Butler, Huse, Pettit, and others who took on the health challenge, were positively contagious even as a slow contagion. If it had not been for problems of the economy of scale, and a reliable revenue stream, the ideas of these women might have lasted much longer and adjusted to the in-coming industrial era. Many of the earlier programs and ideas did, however, persist in the later work of other visionaries such as Mary Breckenridge and her internationally recognized Frontier Nursing Service.

WORLD WAR I – “THE GREAT WAR”

By the spring of 1916, another kind of health threat loomed; World War I. Thousands of Appalachians served in this war, and Kentucky had more volunteers in the fight than any other state. Many men and women died in the merciless war and thousands came home with deep wounds both physical and psychological. New diseases also took their toll. Women from Appalachia were eager to join the war effort and quickly drained local resources. Women’s work early in the war as Canteen workers, Red Cross nurses and workers in France and other locations was vital to soldier’s health and morale. Later in the war women held key positions in the hospitals established to care for the sick and wounded both abroad and in the United States. Many of these women were also pulled from the Appalachian region. [See: Brumfield, Nick, The Forgotten Nurses of Appalachia’s Spanish Flu, March 17, 2020. xpatalachians.com]

In addition to health concerns, the Great War also brought on enormous economic concerns. A coal shortage emerged as industry ramped up its steel operations while the domestic supply of fuel for heating and electricity, and for ship and rail transportation stretched the uncoordinated and competitive supply system to a breaking point. In 1917 President Woodrow Wilson asked Dr. Harry Garfield to serve as the Director of a new Federal Fuel Administration and charged him to develop a plan for dealing with fuel shortages, particularly coal. By 1918 Garfield, the son of former President James Garfield came from the Presidency of Williams College to his new federal position. Harry Garfield had a direct connection to the coalfields of Appalachia. He had served on multiple boards that had coal interests, revitalized communities in which he lived, and negotiated many thorny labor settlements as a lawyer. Of important interest to the Eastern Kentucky region and the bituminous coal fields, his daughter, Lucretia Garfield briefly worked for Pine Mountain Settlement School in Harlan County, Kentucky as a community worker in its evolving health and education programs — arriving in 1918. It is clear that she also worked for her father and served as his eyes and ears for local issues, particularly in the important and growing Harlan County coal mines. Unfortunately, her correspondence from Pine Mountain is not available, but likely would be very revealing.

In May of 1918 Frank J. Hays President of the Executive Board of the United Mine Workers of America while meeting in Indianapolis, drafted a letter to Dr. Harry Garfield declaring that the coal production of the country was

“… far below the nations’ lowest possible estimated requirements, and that because of enforced idleness, miners who through their various organizations pledged their full support and co-operation to the fuel administration, are being forced to leave the mines in the industrial centers, where the car shortage [train coal -cars] shows no sign of improving.”

Coal Mining Review May 1, 1918, p. 4

The “forced idleness” was not just in the industrial center delivery points, but affected all coal-related industry, specifically mining of coal in the coalfields. The labor stoppage impacted most of the 500,000 mine workers. Further, the labor shortages brought about by the departure of foreign workers who had flocked to the new mining operations. The growing and severe economic hardship and pressure on the miners and their families in the Appalachian coalfields and coalfields began to be felt and noticed across the country. The “forced idleness” referred to in Hays’ letter reflected the practice of arbitrary pricing of coal that had to be negotiated. The negotiation process then idled workers while lengthy negotiations took place between operators and buyers. The price of coal was never consistent. With no pay coming in for miners while negotiations were underway, the workers could not take care of their union dues, and more importantly their health needs and debts. Many men left mining and those who stayed did so at great peril.

It was a tenuous and fragile economic existence for miners in 1918 and by May it had reached a crisis. There was no clear path as the world began to teeter on the edge of a health disaster. Hays, the UMW President asked Harry Garfield to help the union negotiate the minefield of rogue operators and the growing disregard for the lives of the mining workforce. Garfield set to work, but the journey quickly became more complex than just negotiating labor contracts.

In May of 1918, the War had ended but the residue was just catching up. Following the war, as if the ravages of battle had not taken the lives of enough Appalachians, another threat was building; that of economic instability and an enormous mining workforce weakened by unattended health issues and poor morale.

In 2008 the CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy) at the University of Minnesota drafted a paper on the crucial preparedness gaps in the United States where electricity and the coal supply meet. The paper asks,

What’s the link between pandemic influenza, electricity, and the coal supply chain? And why should anyone care?

Osterholm, Michael, PhD, MSPH, Nicholas S. Kelley, MSHP, CIDRAP REPORT; Pandemic Influenza, Electricity, and the Coal Supply Chain: Addressing Crucial Preparedness Gaps in the United States, Nov. 2008. CIDRAP, University of Minnisota. [ACCESSED May 30, 2020] https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/sites/default/files/public/downloads/cidrap_coal_report.pdf

The CIDRAP researchers had done their homework and there was good reason to care at the time — as there was in 1918. Today, coal is still crucial and particularly to many underdeveloped countries that depend on supply coming from the U.S., but, the demand for coal in this country is steeply decreasing while the country and the world is deeply dependent on electricity. All the threats cited in the CIDRAP report were present in 2008 and in 1918 and many remain today and are potentially deadly if not addressed.

In 1917 when Dr. Harry Garfield assumed his leadership role in the new Federal Fuel Administration office, his role was vital to the survival of mining and miners but he had not yet encountered the other deadly threat —- a pandemic. Neither he nor the miners could imagine this even greater threat; a mysterious virus — deadly and with no cure. Popularly called the “Spanish Flu” because it was believed to have originated in Spain, the new threat created a storm of suspicion and exaggeration. The name “Spanish Flu” was, first of all, not accurate, but then news traveled slowly in August of 1918.

“Spanish Flu” did not originate in Spain, but its path of death was real with any name attached to it. In reality, the disease first appeared in the army barracks of the United States. The “Spanish” name had come quickly on the heels of an announcement that King Alfonso of Spain had come down with an unknown and untreatable flu or “la grippe.” The King’s illness was widely reported in news throughout the world. The “Spanish Flu”, then became the common name for what was not a “flu” but an H1N1 virus that had its origin in birds. Like the current disease, COVID 19, the “Spanish Flu” was a coronavirus with pandemic written all over it. The virus rapidly spread throughout the world in a manner similar to the current COVID 19 virus and also an earlier epidemic called the Black Death that killed 50 million Europeans in the Middle Ages or some 60% of Europe’s population at the time. The Black Death’s vector, or spreading agent was rats and fleas and it was not the first such outbreak through the earlier centuries.

The common practice of giving pandemic viruses easily recognized names is all too common, but it does little to describe the medical devestation such a virus wreaks on the populations of the world. Today we have linked COVID 19 with China where it apparently first appeared. China did not invent the scourage and blame will not take away its power. Linkage of the 1918 virus with Spain and the current association of COVID 19 with China do little to stop the spread of such virulent diseases. The Black Death described the color of the corpse when affected by the bubonic plague. That is perhaps as personal as “naming” can get.

Camp Funston, Emergency Hospital. Otis Historical Archives, National Museum of Health and Medicine / Public domain

Most historic accounts point to the first identification of the 1918 virus in U.S. military personnel. A recent (2005) paper suggests that the first cases were in New York, but a more accepted historic origin was thought to be in Haskill County, Kansas at an Army Camp called Funston. The two H1N1 virus strains , 1918-19 and 2020, are linked by their similarity. There was and is no known medical intervention that will halt the progression of the disease. Like the COVID 19 virus now rampant across the world, the 1918 virus was resistant to treatment and no known vaccinations were on-hand to stop the pandemic. As soldiers and nurses and immigrating Europeans flooded into the United States at the end of World War I, the extensive and busy railway system carried the multitudes of persons back and forth across the country. The 1918 virus exploded in the army barracks, in the cities, and eventually in most corners of America. In Appalachia, the mining communities were the first to be devastated.

As the war in Europe heated up, the coal mines in the Appalachians were frantically mining anthracite coal to supply the need for manufacturing iron for the war and bituminous coal for ships and trains and home heating. In the East, anthracite coal mining was generally centered in Pennsylvania, while bituminous coal was almost exclusively mined in the coalfields of West Virginia and Kentucky. While delivering coal and coke for the war effort, and supplying home heating and electrical needs, shipments of millions of tons of coal crisscrossed the country’s rails and new railroads were created and new laborers flooded in to fill the labor gap. The demand for miners and down-stream workers was enormous and miners came from all areas of the country and from Europe and Mexico and other locations looking for work. But work was demanding and often dependent on an operator’s negotiation of pricing and cars to carry the coal.

Following the common story that the flu spread in the United States with the return of soldiers from the war, the first instance of the disease in Kentucky was reported in September of 1918. The first appearance of the disease had occurred just the month before. In Kentucky the infection has been blamed on a train carrying troops from Texas which stopped at Bowling Green where several army soldiers who were carriers of the disease got off the train and then transmitted the disease to local people in Bowling Green. From there the disease exploded in the regional population and promptly moved into the mountains of Kentucky through the very mobile mining population.

With no vaccines to slow its progression, the world-wide pandemic took hold of the tightly packed and transient mining camps of Appalachia in the late Fall of 1918 and began a deadly march on the lives and livelihood of miners and their families. World-wide the virus left a long trail of death. In 1918 the world population was about 1.8 billion of which an estimated 50 million deaths occurred. That would be approximately 2.7% of the world population. The higher estimate of 50 million deaths would suggest the 1918 virus killed 2.7% of the world population. Though the exact number and percentages are not fully known.

While an exact number count of deaths cannot be tallied, it is known that the death toll in WWI was smaller than the 1918-19 pandemic human toll. Across the country, with the devastation of WWI, still fresh in their minds, the people now found themselves facing an enemy even more frightening than guns and bombs and mustard gas; more frightening than the epidemics of typhoid, diphtheria, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, mumps, whooping cough, and more. The new disease, created dis-ease and fear as it had no face and its weapons were new, stealthy, and deadly.

The 1918 world-wide pandemic lasted until the early summer of 1919 and while short-lived, it is estimated to have infected over 500 million people, approximately one-third of the world’s population. Of this infected population, some 50,000,000 or more died of the virus, or, according to other data gatherers, some 3%-5% of the world’s population. No matter the incomprehensible numbers, Appalachians soon found that the world was smaller than they had imagined and that they were not as isolated as most in the Appalachian region believed to be the case.

COAL TOWNS AND THE 1918 PANDEMIC

Appalachia in 1918, was both fortunate and unfortunate with regard to the influenza pandemic. Kentucky death estimates are believed to be in the range of 14,000 deaths, though the exact number will never be known. The death registers of funeral homes often listed the cause of death as pneumonia but the course of the disease which resembles the current respiratory distress path of COVID 19 is often defined as a type of pneumonia. While the death records are difficult to untangle, they tell an unfortunate story that centers on the devastating toll the 1918-19 virus took on the crowded mining towns in the coalfields of Appalachia. The fortunate story is in the remote hollows and the sparsely populated agrarian or subsistence farming valleys of the region. There the story is one of social distancing.

Today we are looking at race and ethnicity in our data tracking of the COVID 19 deaths. In 1918-19 there was no consistent account kept of the race and ethnicity of miners and families. The Immigration Act had just passed in 1917 which required a literacy test for immigrants from the southern and eastern European groups, that aroused suspicion as the war in Europe heated up. Author Mina Carson tells us in her well-researched book Settlement Folk: Social Thought and the American Settlement Movement 1885-1930, (1990) that when the U.S. entered the war, “new legislation was proposed to coerce ‘100% Americanism’ by eradicating all signs of immigrants’ lingering loyalties to their native countries. The National Federation of Settlements was opposed to this government action suggesting that such an action would breed “misunderstanding and bitterness.”

Mary McDowell, a Kentuckian and leader in the Settlement Movement was a friend of Pine Mountain Settlement School’s Director, Katherine Pettit. McDowell’s co-worker, and Settlement Movement leader, Mary Simkhovitch, and many others in the movement opposed the use of such terms as “Americanization” and instead aimed for what they called “transnationalism” or the concept of a “new kind of nation of many peoples ‘whom God hath made of one blood.'” [Carson, p.159] This sentiment was to be heard often from Berea College, a Kentucky school founded in 1855, and a long-time advocate for the people of Appalachia as well as the world. The college motto: God hath made of one blood all peoples of the earth (Acts 17:26)” Is remarkably close the transnationalists.

Pine Mountain Settlement did not enter into this “transnationalism” debate directly, but later history demonstrates that many within the School who had served as missionaries or medical workers abroad understood the threat of coerced acculturation and its possible potential for ethnic cleansing such as that seen in Armenia. [See: Edith Cold, English Teacher]. The program at the School and its mountain founder William Creech strongly evidenced the commitment to “peoples acrost’ the seas.” [See Uncle William’s Reasons]

In 1914 when WWI began, many of the miners in the coalfields were immigrants. They had hired-on in the booming years in the coalfields of the Appalachian mountains. Many immigrants came just for this economic opportunity. However, as more and more countries in Europe were pulled into the growing European war, many immigrants fled the War. Yet, many were pulled by patriotism back to their country of origin. The need to fight the war in their homelands was a noble action, but the impact on mining in the American coal fields was devastating as miners headed “home” and new immigrants headed for the cities.

By 1917 those immigrant miners who chose to remain in the United States and who fought with the American Expeditionary Forces numbered near one million. Also by 1917 many foreign-born males were required by law to register between June 5, 1917 and September 12, 1918 with the government. Most of the foreign males required to register were from the following countries

NATIONALITYNUMBERPER CENT
Austria-Hungry751,21219.38
German Empire158,80904.09
Turkey 81,60802.10
Bulgaria 19,87300.52
TOTAL ENEMY ALIEN MALES1,011,50226.38
Holden, Arthur C. The Settlement Idea A Vision of Social Justice, New York: McMillian, 1922. Appendix p. 197

From numbers compiled from the Foreign Language Information Service of the American Red Cross, it is also known that nearly one million immigrants from the following groups joined the American Expeditionary Forces to fight in the Great War

NATIONALITYNUMBER KILLED
Italian300,0004,000
Jewish250,0003,500
Polish170,000?
Czechoslovak125,0002,000
Greek 60,000?
Lithuanian 35,000500
Jugoslav 20,000?
Russian 20,000?
Ukrainian 18,000500
Hungarian 7,000200
TOTAL985,000
Holden, Arthur C. The Settlement Idea A Vision of Social Justice, New York: McMillian, 1922. Appendix p. 198

German immigrants of German birth were not listed but were estimated to comprise between 10-15% of the American Expeditionary Forces according to the War Department. Males engaged in mining between the ages of 18 -45 comprised a significant proportion of the figures on the two tables. Interestingly, mention is not made in these statistics of the large number of Mexican miners who were engaged to fill vacancies in the mining operations. In 1919 this brief note appeared in the Mining Weekly stating

No more permits for the importation of Mexican labor, which has been used to considerable extent by bituminous coal operators recently, will be granted, the Labor Department announces, and permits already granted will be void after January 15. Mexicans permitted to enter the country temporarily for war work will be “repatriated gradually,” but there is no intention to deport such laborers.

Mining Weekly, 1919.

President Wilson’s announcement of “no more permits,” had been misinterpreted and there was great fear that deportation would start immediately. The enormous contributions of immigrants during the years of the Great War and during the Spanish Flu epidemic are seldom recognized but they often made the difference in maintaining both economic productivity and security and bolstering the American Expeditionary Forces.

The immigrant departures, internments, and injustices just as the war was ramping up and again as it was winding down and while the nation was faced with a pandemic are often overlooked, but there are many descendants in the Appalachian coalfields who still remember. The increasing demand for coal to fire the steel mills energized an economic emergency created by a labor shortage. Of those who left at the beginning of the war to fight for their countries, not so many returned to America at war’s end to resume work in the coalfields of Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania and, West Virginia. At first, this exodus was an economic catastrophe played out in a labor shortage but little has been made of those immigrants who left to fight as patriots in the Great War. There is no debate, however, that when the pandemic infection took hold in the coal camps, it did not look at race, ethnicity, or patriotism and the human and economic catastrophe escalated in scale and misery.

As the virus took hold in the tightly packed coal camps, the crisis in the coalfields was not blamed on foreigners or foreign infection but was recognized as a problem that was home-grown and familiar but was incomprehensible in scale. The rapid infection-point of the virus could be directly associated with poor hygiene, a distracted population, and the slow-to-act or greedy industrial elite. The infection blame point was more insidious and blame was rarely sought and infrequently handed over to political rivalry.

Strangely, when the disease swept through the camps, it did not target the weak but was particularly deadly to a population that was thought to be the healthiest. Adults between the ages of 20-40 years of age died in great numbers. Men with weakened lungs from coal dust were remarkably susceptible. An unusual number of young Caucasian women also seemed to be particularly vulnerable. The death toll of both sexes was enormous in the mining towns and camps of Eastern Kentucky. One observer noted that in one camp he visited there were coffins on nearly all the porches in the camp placed there for those struck down or waiting to die from the virus. Finding able-bodied men who could dig graves was also a major problem for production as the maintenance of a work schedule at the mining camp could not be maintained nor enforced. Miners in the affected camps were rapidly becoming sick or assisting with the burials of family or neighbors and family. These efforts took precedence over the mining. In addition to the squabbles regarding coal pricing instability, the coal economy began to further deteriorate.

The rapid burial practice in the rural areas of Kentucky also had another side-story. The push for quick internment created tracking issues as there were insufficient records being gathered in the time of crisis and assembling an exact number for those who contracted the virus and who died of the pandemic was difficult to pull together and target. Most authorities who have looked at the mortality data from the eastern coalfields doubt its cumulative totals. It is likely that the numbers that were finally put together and that are fixed in the historical record were well below the actual deaths that occurred during the 1918-1919 years.

Remarkably, while history has not recorded those difficult years in a comprehensive and efficient manner, it has quickly forgotten the lessons of the pandemic. While few families in the Eastern coalfields escaped the contagion and the harsh suddenness of death and loss of a loved one, the historical record for the region is very slim and warrants only a brief treatment in history books about the region.

HARLAN AND CONTAGION IN THE COAL CAMPS

In Harlan County, the coal camps were running enormous mining operations in the 1916’s and 1917’s. The imperative to supply the war effort continued to be extreme and men and machines were pushed to a breaking point when contracts were settled. There were coal operators who tried to strike a balance in the enormous demands placed on their operations and there were others who saw their profits soar and felt no obligation to share the accruing wealth with their workers — many of whom were foreign-born. But there were exceptions to the rule of most coal camps. The exceptions were largely those operations that were well funded by mega-corporations. For example, great care had been given to infrastructure at Inland Steel’s company town, Benham, and at the International Harvester’s coal camp at Lynch, and at a handful of other well-run camps. These camps set an example for a high level of sanitation, pay, and for their medical support.

These two towns in Harlan County, Benham, and Lynch, were models of health care, and, in later years when Pine Mountain encountered medical emergencies they could not meet, they often called on the physicians and services available in the two coal camps. In the 1918-19 pandemic, the numbers of dead at the efficiently managed towns and camps were not as great as those that failed the health needs of their populations. Still, mitigation of the new “flu” created failure after failure. The bottom line was that in the pandemic of 1918-1919, common protections and practice and skilled medical knowledge were sometimes not enough, especially in densely populated centers.

By 1932 many of the coal camps in Harlan County were still lagging behind in their commitment to health needs and the grave health needs and great disparity within the county of Harlan are clearly documented by the study of health needs conducted by Dr. Iva M. Miller for the Save the Children Foundation in the 1932 Health Survey of Harlan County, Kentucky —just 12 years following the pandemic.

The scenario of the entry of the 1918 pandemic into Harlan County can be traced from a record of one of the earliest coal towns of Appalachia, Kaymoor in West Virginia. It was here that the story of the contagion played out so cruelly and that under-scores the tragedy of close-living, inadequate hygiene, and managerial and economic insensitivity. It is a story that became all too familiar in the coal dominated economy of the Central Appalachians in the 1918’s – 1920’s. Many coal towns like those of Kaymoor became the vectors for the pandemic in the surrounding region.

Kaymoor was one of the first company coal towns. Belonging to Lo Moor Iron Company, the coalmining operation supplied its black gold to the pig iron plant of Lo Moor Company located near Clifton Forge, in Alleghany County, Virginia. Abiel Abbot Low, a wealthy investor, and owner of the Lo Moor Iron Company, was a board member of the C&O rail line which was the new and only access to the Lo Moor Iron company and to its rich iron deposits. Abiel Abbot Low owned four thousand acres of iron ore in Alleghany County, Virginia, and the associated rail line linked to the southern West Virginia coal country where he had purchased eleven-thousand acres of coal land in Fayette County, West Virginia. With his transportation system in place, he then proceeded to build out his empire by establishing a series of coal town communities. The cooperative communities, aggregated under the name Kaymoor were begun in 1899. A full description of the Kaymoor communities may be found in Crandall A. Shifflett’s informative and deeply researched book, Coal Towns: Life, Work, and Culture in Company Towns of Southern Appalachia, 1880-1960 (pp. 38-40).

When the Spanish Flu and other diseases came to Appalachia, the closely packed coal towns, such as those like Kaymoor, were the most vulnerable sources for infection. The Spanish Flu was not the first epidemic to strike Kaymoor. It was particularly suited for infection. First it was smallpox in 1904 which was addressed by the community physician by inoculation — but not for all. When the company realized that inoculation would cost $60,000.00 to include all in the community, they parceled out the shots to those who could afford to pay or were cronies. It was selfish and a deadly mistake. The epidemic took off. It quickly killed hundreds of miners and their families. When the Spanish Flu arrived there was no vaccine to quibble about and the Company, guided by the large fatality numbers in the smallpox epidemic, mandated what is now call “Social Distancing.” Shifflet tells us that there were

“… drastic curtailments of activity to prevent its spread. Schools were closed, the theater was shut down, only one customer at a time was allowed in the barber shops, and all public meetings were discouraged as company doctors at Kaymoor One ‘… worked day and night to prevent the inexorable spread of the deadliest influenza epidemic in American history.’ “

Shifflett [p.56] notes the following correspondence as his source: E.R. Price to Dr. Don J. Schleissmann, Public Health Service, series 7, box 17, Wheelwright Collection, King Library, University of Kentucky, Lexington.

Their efforts were, however, too late. It is interesting that the physicians of the day and even later historians initially blamed the Kaymoor pandemic infection on the water supply and the lack of adequate sewers, not realizing until too late that the main culprit was human contact. The failure to grasp the transmission process was at first not unusual, as there were so many diseases in the coal camps that were caused by poor hygiene and by inadequate water and sewage systems, like that seen earlier at Hindman School. But, while the new disease was not directly associated with personal hygiene its spread was eventually determined to be directly tied to a personal hygiene regime — especially hand-washing. So many of the diseases in Appalachian communities could be and were directly associated with poor personal hygiene and inadequate health education and poor medical support systems. But the Spanish Flu, like the current COVID 19 was unfamiliar and more elusive in its contagion process.

QUARANTINE AND PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL

Outside the coal camps and the towns and cities in Harlan County, associated with the mining of coal, the 1918 contagion found that it had to fight a myriad of stubborn obstacles. One of them was Katherine Pettit — a force to be reckoned with. She reported in a note to a Pine Mountain Board of Trustee member, Mrs. Morton, who lived in Lexington, Kentucky, that while the flu was all around Pine Mountain School, it [the School] was untouched. She writes

Dear Mrs. Morton,

It was so good of you to be anxious about us … We have no influenza now, though it is still around us. Three-hundred have died in Harlan County, I hear …

Pettit, Katherine. Letter to Mrs. Morton, PMSS Collections. [pettit_1918_007.jpg] November 13, 1918

As Katherine Pettit relayed in this note to Mrs. Morton, Pine Mountain was spared the ravages of the 1918 pandemic. If any reason may be pointed to, it would be that the School had practiced quarantine many times in the past.

Katherine Pettit writing to her sister “Min” on November 8, 1918, notes that

“…tomorrow Miss Gaines [Ruth Gaines], comes from Massachusetts, and Miss Parkinson from Kansas. They are all to be isolated in Miss Butler’s house up on the mountain until we are sure they haven’t brought influenza. And I am wishing you could come now, and do the same thing…”

Letter: Katherine Pettit to Mrs. Waller O. Bullock, 8 November, 1918. PMSS Archive. Pettit Correspondence 1918. [pettit_1918_009.jpg]

Evelyn Wells writing about the pandemic in 1928 in her RECORD OF PINE MOUNTAIN SCHOOL 1913-1928 remarked that

Quarantine of the School in the fall of 1918 prevented a single case of Spanish Influenza from breaking out, though neighbors, showing a low immunity, were ravaged This was a most effective lesson to everybody on the value of quarantine. We have not always been as fortunate in keeping out contagious diseases and measles (1920, Boys House needed to take care of the 40 cases), mumps (worst in 1926, when they overflowed to the Country Cottage) and whooping cough (1924) have been our worst epidemics. There have been two deaths from sickness, among the children of the School. In 1923 Harry Callahan died of spinal meningitis resulting from severe injuries to the head when he was thrown from a moving train, and in 1924, James Gilbert died, also of spinal meningitis. There has been a steady decrease in colds and minor epidemics as underweight children have been built up by extra milk, rest [and] other special care, which has reacted upon the[ir] physical vigor.”

Wells, Evelyn. Wells Record 11 PMSS Health 1913-1928. Unpublished early history of Pine Mountain School that includes an outline of health care at the School from 1914 to 1928.

As reported by staff member Evelyn Wells in December of 1918

“And, influenza everywhere, though no cases at the school yet. Only one or two children are going home for vacation. We are rigidly quarantined, an object lesson we hope for the whole countryside.

Wells, Evelyn. 1918 Excerpts from letters home. Decembre 19, 1918. [050-p.6]

Influenza, typhoid, diptheria, gun-shot wounds, snake bite, birthing babies, teaching children how to brush their teeth, wash their faces and hands, how not to hold the water dipper over the water bucket as they drank from it, teaching food preservation, food storage, how to bandage a wound, which herbs were harmful, which helpful …. the list is a long one in the diaries and letters of the nurses and doctors who worked in the two medical clinics that were managed by Pine Mountain Settlement. The first-hand accounts of treating a wide range of medical issues give some sense of the demands placed on those medical doctors and nurses who served the Pine Mountain Valley and beyond from the two clinics that were established to the east of the Pine Mountain Settlement School in Letcher County and to the west at Big Laurel on Greasy Creek. A Red Cross nurse, Frances Palmer, who had survived WWI and the 1918 pandemic came to Pine Mountain to assist with the development of two satellite health centers at the School in 1920.

FRANCES PALMER CONQUIST

Frances Palmer (Conquist) only stayed at Pine Mountain for six months before returning to Minnesota to be married. She was one of the first nurses to be placed in the new health settlement at Line Fork, in the neighboring county of Letcher. She describes an incident remembered from one of her tasks at the Line Fork Settlement which involved the removal of bullets from a young man caught up in a local feud. The Frances Palmer story is a short but revealing tale of a small Eastern Kentucky community at Line Fork and Frances Palmer’s lessons learned in the horrors of WWI in France. There, in the later years of the war along with 23,800 other Red Cross nurse volunteers, she treated soldiers injured by trench and gas warfare. These war injuries were some of the most ghastly of that merciless war. It was a new challenge and Frances Palmer was heroic and she excelled. In 1919, as a Red Cross nurse, she won a commendation from General Pershing for her “conspicuous service at Chateau-Thierry and at St. Mihiel”, two of the hospitals serving the most vicious battles fought by Americans serving in the war. She later worked in Coblenz, Germany as the war came to an end. There she again, she demonstrated her superior nursing skills while taking care of the multitude of gravely wounded and disabled soldiers. WWI was one of the most brutal wars in history. Frances Palmer lived it. When Frances returned home, it was to a country devastated by a pandemic but she volunteered to come to Eastern Kentucky to address another war that was being waged in Eastern Kentucky. A public health crisis that was evolving there and it had reached the attention of the nation. Experienced and in-experienced women workers looked to their own country and many came to the Central Appalachians..

Like Katherine Pettit, Frances Palmer was committed to serving the needs of the country’s health. A practical idealist, she had demonstrated that she could tolerate difficult environments and that she could do so at grave danger to herself and with courage that was commendable. Her service to the health of her country was a commitment made by so many other women serving in the Red Cross corps.

This is Frances Palmer’s brief account of one incident in her service to the Line Fork Settlement, a satellite health and education center near Pine Mountain Settlement School. A bullet-wounded young man …

It seems that several attempts had been made to “git” one of the young men of the community; and one Sunday night when he was alone in the store at Bear Branch [page 10] some one fired at him and filled his back and side full of shot. Word was soon brought to us, and Miss Dennis and I hurried to the store, where we found him lying on a cot. Most of the shots were superficial, but they were numerous. Nancy, who lives near the store, held the only light which was a miner’s lamp; and in the midst of first aid she fainted, and left me in the dark! Soon the light was burning again and after poor Nancy had had several dippers of water poured over her, she was ready to help again. I tried to persuade them to call a doctor, but they did not think it necessary.

For six or seven days the patient stayed at the store, as he lived some distance up the mountain side. Dressings were changed twice a day, and each time, more shot would be removed. When time came for him to go home, several of the boys cut two tamaracks, cleaned the trunks, and made a stretcher from a quilt and coats: they then carried him up the mountain to his cabin where he was confined to his cabin and bed for several weeks. Between his banjo and book and magazines from the settlement, time passed quickly until he was up and about again.

TO READ MORE: Frances Palmer Conquist, 1920, Line Fork Notebook, p. . Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections.

Another health tale from Frances Palmer.

On my way home from this place, I was called to see a “risen” [boil] on a girl’s arm. She had had it for weeks, and the poultices of red sumac root, or apple and vinegar, of lim [?] root and sweet milk, of buckeye bark and cornmeal, and of hot oatmeal, did not seem to help it. All I could do at this time was to show them how to use the hot salt packs and say I would return in the morning. The next day I applied glycerine and gauze dressings and was informed that they didn’t like the salt packs and had put Vick’s salve on. [When I came to apply] the third poultice I found the oatmeal poultice on again and was almost ready to give up. But the girl had lost so much sleep and was in such pain, that she finally consented to have it opened and glycerine applied again. The next visit found things as I had left them and the “risen” draining well with the patient free from pain.

Frances Palmer Conquist, 1920, Line Fork Notebook, p.4 . Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections.

Pine Mountain Settlement is remote. It was spared the rapid infection seen in the close living of the coal camps in Harlan County. This was because a quarantine was initiated. “A stay at home mandate.” The community of Pine Mountan Settlement reflects a history of valuing the quarantine of infected persons and all the health benefits that go along with it. Quarantine is now a medical necessity in a virulent epidemic. Pine Mountain is a remote community, but it is a disciplined community. The people know how to survive hard times. Social distancing has been the lifestyle in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky for most of its history. Social distancing is in many ways not a mandate but a social pride that people enjoy. Social distancing is a solitude and an independence not found easily in urban environs. Most of Harlan County is now a rural culture well-versed in survival and “make-do” though less so than in years past. But, what remains within the culture of the families of the area are the memories of hard-times and the “make-do” of parents, grandparents, and relatives. Rural America, generally carries this recent memory of the skills to survive hard-times. What is less certain is how the current pandemic will test those skills of rural America including Appalachia and how that divide — rural and urban — will be re-shaped by surviving this hard-time.

Today, courage equal to that shown by Frances Palmer Conquist, is tbeing shown by many health professionals in this country, and by the many workers in Doctor’s Without Borders, workers for WHO, and a multitude of other health care providers here and abroad as they engage the hidden enemy of COVID 19. Today, when we social distance it is women and men like Frances Palmer and her cohorts that WE need to protect with masks and with respect. This is — and it should be — our contribution to this war against the hidden enemy, COVID 19. Wearing a mask and remembering that the six-feet needed for social distancing is our respect for quarantine and for each other. It is not too much to ask in “hard-times.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brumfield, Nick, The Forgotten Nurses of Appalachia’s Spanish Flu, March 17, 2020. xpatalachians.com

Emergency Hospital [Image] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Emergency_hospital_during_Influenza_epidemic,Camp_Funston,_Kansas-_NCP_1603.jpg [Accessed May 31, 2020]

Carson, Mina, Settlement Folk: Social Thought and the American Settlement Movement 1885-1930, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1990.

Coal Mining Review and Industrial Index , 1918, 1919 [google.com]

Conquist, Frances Palmer, Line Fork Notebook, n.d. [1918], Pine Mountain Settlement School Archive, Pine Mountain, KY.

Crandall A. Shifflett, Crandall A. Coal Towns: Life, Work, and Culture in Company Towns of Southern Appalachia, 1880-1960.

Garrett, Thomas A. Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic,
https://www.stlouisfed.org/~/media/files/pdfs/community-development/research-reports/pandemic_flu_report.pdf [Accessed May 10, 2020]

Holden, Arthur C. The Settlement Idea A Vision of Social Justice, New York: McMillian, 1922.

Osterholm, Michael, PhD, MSPH, Nicholas S. Kelley, MSHP, CIDRAP REPORT; Pandemic Influenza, Electricity, and the Coal Supply Chain: Addressing Crucial Preparedness Gaps in the United States, Nov. 2008. CIDRAP, University of Minnesota. [ACCESSED May 30, 2020] https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/sites/default/files/public/downloads/cidrap_coal_report.pdf

Wheelock, David C. What Can We Learn from the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-19 for Covid-19?, Economic Synopses 2020/05/18
https://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/economic-synopses/2020/05/18/what-can-we-learn-from-the-spanish-flu-pandemic-of-1918-19-for-covid-19

SEE ALSO:

KATHERINE PETTIT

1932  HEALTH SURVEY OF HARLAN COUNTY, KENTUCKY

EDITH COLD

 

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

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

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

CLEARING THE LAND

Farming the land. Ploughing with mule.

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

Planning for Pine Mountain was very deliberate and where land was involved, Katherine Pettit. co-founder of the School, was a keen observer and a diligent doer.  Of the two co-founders,  Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long, it was Pettit who assumed the lead responsibility for the land issues of the School. Under Pettit’s direction, the land was to support the school, but it was also to be a driving force in the school’s programs. In her vision the land would be a source for the agricultural, educational, physical, and emotional needs of the school.  The forests, gardens, planting fields, grazing fields, flower beds,  —- all received careful consideration under her watchful eye.  There is no doubt that the vision for the school’s physical site was always in Katherine Pettit’s mind’s eye but she also called on her excellent on-site help, particularly Uncle William Creech. If she didn’t find her answers in those close-by staff or in the community folk, she did not hesitate to seek outside consultation.

1913 opened with the first visit to the campus of one of the most important of those farm consultants, Miss Mary Rockwell, an architect from Kansas City,  Together, Pettit,  Ethel de Long, and Hook developed a plan for growth that centered on the topography of the land and the plan was followed, according to Evelyn Wells, (the first chronicler of the school’s history), very closely.  Every effort was made to build around the productivity of the land; to use what the land provided and what the topography suggested. Forest lumber, stone from the fields, native plants and flowers, local human and animal labor, native seeds for garden crops and other native resources were called into use.  All were considered important to the aesthetics and to the growth of the school and its environs.  The remote location demanded that the planners seek local solutions to many of their needs and that they model the best solutions if they were to be both practical and educational in their mission. But, this local focus did not mean the outside world was excluded. It was, in fact, tapped for all it could contribute.

While Mary Rockwell Hook was helping to develop a plan for the land and how the buildings would interact with the landscape, several other consultants were also called upon for direct assistance with farming. James Adoniram Burgess, who was the Superintendent of Construction of buildings, a woodworker and vocational instructor at Berea College,  starting in 1901, was well informed about construction and was heavily consulted by Pettit.  Pettit also consulted with the  Agricultural Department of State University (University of Kentucky), specifically J.H. Arnold, who had written extensively on factors necessary for a successful farm.  While Arnold’s focus was on the Blue Grass area of the state he had some sound recommendations for the business side of agriculture. In 1917 he co-wrote with W.D. NIcholls, USDA Bulletin No. 210 “Important Factors for Successful Farming in the Blue Grass Region of Kentucky.”  This unique partnering of Burgess and Arnold was evidently very productive.  Ethel de Long notes in her May 1913 Letter to Friends, that the consultants

… were here last week … to give us their advice on the best use of our land and the best disposal of the buildings we hope to have in the course of time. 

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

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

pmss001_bas035_mod

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

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

CREEK FARMERS

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

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

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

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

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

pmss001_bas010

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.”

pmss001_bas093_mod

FARM CONSULTANTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FARM ASSETS AND LIABILITIES

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

Assets:

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

Liabilities:

$700.00 a month

FARMERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The editor further asks

Is it a mountain problem alone?

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

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

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

FARMING AND LAND OWNERSHIP TODAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO TO:   

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  I – GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – ABOUT

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH I About

Pine Mountain Settlement School

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

BEGINNING

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,” reflect a personal journey and one 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 “bucolic” have often been used to describe Pine Mountain Settlement School. These words are most frequently used in the description of farmlands. 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,” “uncultivated,” “disorganized,” “unkempt,” “scraggly,” “impoverished,” dirty, and other pejoratives that disparage any perception of beauty. Why is Pine Mountain “bucolic”, “lovely”, “peaceful”, “Shangrila”, “natures majestic garden” and on and on? Again, the reflections are complex.

Farming practice has always been central to the life of the Pine Mountain Settlement School and its surrounding communities.  Planning for the school was built upon the desire of William Creech to teach good farming practice as well as to educate students in an educational curriculum consistent with that offered to youth in other parts of the country. He saw these two objectives as joined in a reverence for the land and its people and progressive in its experimentation.

Farming at the School has a very long history and one that has been integrated into almost every program of the institution for over one-hundred years. While Pine Mountain Settlement has never been strictly a “farm school” it has had a long association with the production of food that nurtures 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.

COMMUNITY CELEBRATION

Like farming, the celebratory events at the School play an integral role in the history of the institution. Like the cycles of agricultural life, community celebrations help to establish the ebb and flow of life at the School and map it to the rhythm of the community. Many annual events such as Community Fair Day, celebrated in the Fall and harvest time; the Nativity Play at Christmas marked the reflection afforded by winters seclusion;  May Day in the Spring and the school’s former annual Spring Dogwood Breakfast celebrated the rebirth of living things and the nurture they promise. All have their origins in a celebration of the seasons and are generally accompanied by food or by displays of the produce from local farming.

The celebrations, 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 a foodway, or agricultural rhythm. These events were also linked to long traditions that the workers romanticized and tied to Anglo-Saxon heritage, pioneer life, the Pilgrims, self-sufficiency, and a myriad of other partial truths.

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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, the festivities 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. Like dreams, the future was held close like some shining city on the hill or in the hereafter. Today, the community of promise seems even further away in conversation and practice as celebrations have steadily declined and as economic despair has increased.  The tightly woven fabric of the community began to tatter in the tangled ideals of the War on Poverty and in the reality of an economy that failed to diversify.

Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Robin Hood’s adventures, the Mikado, HMS Pinafore, the Cooperative Store skits, the Kanagawa 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 and were celebrations that brought the school and the community together in cooperative celebration. What was carried away would be or could be life-changing.

PHOTOGRAPHS AND PUBLICATIONS

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 scrapbooks, travelogues, and albums. The photographic 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 and publications that were created over the life of the School and shared within the institution and with the communit.ies of interest  Some of the most compelling images are those of the workers and students as they danced … and danced … and danced some more.pmss001_bas098

As the educational programs changed and grew and as the current Environmental Education programs evolved, the photographs and publications about the School 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 today’s technological world this preciousness is even more compelling. The photographs and publications 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.”

FOODWAYS

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 and wax and wane.

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 the more processed food was easily attainable and preparation of locally harvested food diminished.

In the community, the events in nearby 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 slowly but dramatically altered by roads, particularly THE ROAD, Laden Trail, across Pine Mountain, which the Settlement School sponsored with Harlan County and the State of Kentucky. Though the road was slow in its construction, it radically changed live in the isolated valley. 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. Film, television, and today multimedia and digital media and other entertainment and communication tools continue to contribute to the fracture of community cohesion. The reliance on immediate communication can now be acutely felt at the school as visitors roam the campus for “hot-spots” to keep in cell-phone contact with family, friends or business. Visitors often feel both in place and out-of-place … caught between past and future in the remote location.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMMING

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.  The farm became garden and the devolution to subsistence farming could not be missed on those who remembered the farming years. 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 evolve. Pine Mountain School quickly realized the importance of its history and geography to the new environmental movement and began to give formal shape to its educational program..  Pine Mountain saw its opportunity to be 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 programs at the School remain a model of environmental education while keeping pace with the growing national educational environmentalism and awareness. Global warming and other man-made environmental crises are giving special urgency to environmental education and not just to K-12. Throughout the world there is a growing struggle to find ways to address the complexity of environmental education for everyone.

Yet, Pine Mountain will always carry an environmental lesson. 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 have proven to be endless and sustainable and educational.

HEAD, HANDS, HEART AND EYES OF THE PHOTOGRAPH

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 are extraordinary. One has to wonder if the young boy in the photograph above might have ended up in Viet Nam in the 1970s and what would he remember of this early encounter?

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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 and more have now been added to the visual history of the School. Together, the photographs, the documents, the scrapbooks, the books and the vast natural and built environment of the school, form a rich educational classroom that is unexcelled in the Central Appalachians.  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 Weaving at PMSS Beginnings

WEAVING AT PMSS – BEGINNINGS

One might say that Pine Mountain was conceived among coverlets.  Weaving at Pine Mountain Settlement School certainly was encouraged by the re-discovery of the craft of coverlet weaving and the enthusiastic collecting of mountain weaving near the turn of the last century.  Katherine Pettit, founder of Pine Mountain Settlement School and earlier of Hindman Settlement School, was an avid collector of “kivers.”  Her interest in the exquisite craft of coverlet weaving kept her roaming the mountains in the early years of the twentieth century in search of new patterns and techniques.   It was the search for beautiful mountain “kivers” that kept Pettit journeying across the Eastern Kentucky region and eventually to the Pine Mountain valley in Harlan County, Kentucky.  There, in the long valley on the north side of the Pine Mountain she established one of the most unique of the Appalachian settlement schools.

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Neighbors in the Pine Mountain Valley with coverlet hanging behind mother, two children and dog. c. 1920s.

Pettit often traveled from Hindman in Knott County, where she had established her first school in the early years of the twentieth century.  Even before the founding of Hindman, in 1901, Pettit was into her third summer season in the eastern Kentucky mountains at a location known as “Sassafrass.” She and her adventuresome colleagues had already journeyed to many of the remote valleys and hollows of nearby Harlan, Perry and Letcher counties where she frequently came into contact with mountain weavers.  She soon began to search for coverlets to purchase and also found her interest in the craft gave her a sound introduction to many mountain families. While looking for homespun coverlets she soon discovered more than the coverlet.  She discovered the weavers and their humble but rich skills, their ancient culture, and their stoic resourcefulness. Theirs was a life-style that she would soon come to cherish, partially adopt and commit to “raising up.”

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A Pine Mountain neighbor with her spinning wheel. c. 1915.

In Harlan county she  found the distance from the rapidly industrializing world she desired and she expanded on her Hindman experiences.  She  rapidly reached out to her many contacts and built a rustic home and a school dedicated to serving the people of the remote Pine Mountain valley and nearby hollows. She did not, however become a recluse.

When she came to Pine Mountain in 1913, and with the help of William Creech and the families living in the valley, Pettit established a school founded on the principles of the more urban settlement houses found in Chicago, New York, Boston and other locations. She recruited educators and workers from those early urban settlement schools and women’s colleges and sowed the seeds of a progressive educational program.  What she created was a settlement school that adopted a unique response the urban settlement house ethos.  While weaving in the urban settlements had often depended on teaching weaving that was modeled on practices found in the Arts and Craft’s Movement and in Scandinavian models, Pettit’s models were already established in the mountains of Kentucky and other areas of the Southern Appalachians.   Weaving for Pettit and for the Pine Mountain community was an integral part of a response to the legacy of many families and the demands of a rural environment that was still in a pioneering and subsistence mode.

Beating flax using a wooden flax beater. Ethel de Long [?] X_099_workers_2527l_mod.jpg

Farming was the other foundational principle she integrated into the school’s core mission. Weaving and farming go together well and well they served Pine Mountain for many years.  Pettit’s interest and promotion of weaving pre-dates the important work of Eliza Calver Hall and her 1912, A Book of Hand-Woven Coverlets.  No doubt Pettit was strongly influenced by Hall’s book, which she owned, and the work of the weaver Anna Ernberg who had assumed the position of superintendent of Fireside Industries at Berea College, Kentucky in 1911, but she was embedded in the idea of weaving and settlement-work much earlier and had early connections with women who would later shape mountain weaving into an industry.

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Pettit made the Pine Mountain valley and the Settlement School her home and along with Ethel de Long, whom she had recruited away from Hindman Settlement School, she began to build the second of her schools in the region.  Pine Mountain soon became one of the most unique and viable of the Southern Appalachian rural settlement schools. In that school the sound of the batten, weaving away, has rarely ceased it’s tempo.

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At Pine Mountain Pettit and her staff did not live in isolation but challenged the people of the region to look beyond the walls of mountains surrounding their valley, to the flood of ideas, economies, and beliefs that would prepare the people of the region for the inevitable changes coming to the mountains.  Following the turn of the century, industrialization was moving ever closer to the Pine Mountain Valley and Pettit recognized the need to develop a marketing strategy for the mountain crafts to bring money into the area.  Weaving was part of her plan at “raising-up” the mountain people and she set about finding looms, building looms and establishing weaving as part of the school program.

0050b P. Roettinger Album. “Swinging flax. Aunt Sal and Lizzie [Elisabeth Roettinger on right.]” [roe_017a.jpg]

Founded in 1913, Pine Mountain is now celebrating its 100th year of existence.  Katherine Pettit retired from the School in 1936 but the school archive contains numerous directives, letters, invectives, and suggestions that show her connected to the School until her death in 1938. The models of education, farming, health-care, and civic responsibility that Pettit and others at the school provided the people of this long valley, to Eastern Kentucky and to the state, promised a rich future while preserving the best of the earlier cultural legacy. Weaving at Pine Mountain has had a continuous association with the school since it’s founding and today it continues to inspire ideas and pride in it weavers.

The beautiful homespun coverlets discovered by Pettit on her mountain rambles became a visual passion for Pettit and for others who saw them.  It is impossible not to have a deep appreciation for the skill and artistry of the craft of weaving and for the women and men who wove the exquisite and complicated patterns found in Pettit’s collection of coverlets. The mountain coverlet in all its complexity and subtle colors has a deep and extended history in the lives of mountain families with a weft that stretches back to Ireland and to Scotland, to France and to England.   The coverlet is a visual testimony to the people’s deep intelligence, creativity, and manual skills,  Often described as “asleep”, “apart”, “lazy”, “dull”, or worse, the early mountain weavers produced some of the most elegant and complex and extensive repertoires of coverlets.  The Pine Mountain archive has long been the keeper of much of the history that documents the exquisite legacy of weaving in the Kentucky mountains.

From booklets that detail vegetable dying, such as the Katherine Pettit Dye Book, to implements that can convey the tactile activity of the weaver’s art, to correspondence related to the marketing of mountain craft by novel cooperatives such as Fireside Industries , to the intimate stories of times spent in homes where weaving was done,  — the archives at the School are rich in weaving lore.

Shortly before Katherine Pettit died she left some of her weaving collections to Pine Mountain Settlement School but donated the bulk of her collection in May of 1936 to the Bradford Club of Lexington, Kentucky.  Eventually, this large collection found its way into the holdings of Transylvania College by way of the historic home owned by the college, the Bodley-Bullock House, and under the care of the Junior League.

The Bullock’s were Pettit’s family. The home was obviously an active intellectual scene, filled with books and art, enjoyed by the patriarch, Waller O. Bullock, his wife, and children. Bullock, a physician and a sculptor, knew well the education of joining head and hand and heart, and no doubt passed that along to his children, one of whom was Clara, the mother of Katherine Pettit.  The home, located adjacent to one of Lexington’s most impressive parks, Gratz Park,  is surrounded by the homes of Lexington’s creative and intellectual elite, such as Henry Clay, the early entrepreneur William Gratz,  John Wesley Hunt, the first millionaire west of the Alleghenies,  and others.

 

Many of Pettit’s coverlets and textile fragments in both the Pine Mountain collection and the Bodley-Bullock collection have, in some cases,  histories that go back some 200 years.  Some have stories, and others have their provenance waiting to be discovered by researchers.  But, all have a visual presence that cannot be denied and names that suggest ties with life in the family, region, and country as well as hints of ancient balladry and dance in the British Isles.

For example a beautiful peach and vanilla coverlet with a pattern called “Kentucky Winding Blades” in the Lexington collection, has the following attached note:

“This coverlet was made by Granny Stallard who was 110 years old when she died about 20 years ago [note:1936].  She sent this with a number of other coverlets and blankets with her great, great grandchildren to the Pine Mountain Settlement School to pay for their tuition.  she said that most of these were made when she was in the “rise of her bloom” — sixteen years old.”

Another textile, un-named, a very worn and modified blanket/shawl has a badly damaged note that reads:

“This shawl was willed to … Uncle Enoch Combs, when he was a young man, not quite 20. [When he was] starting [for war] his sweetheart Nancy St … him and gave him this shawl [to ….] him.  She told him to f… [when the] war was over.  This he [did ?] … Uncle Enoch wore the shawl [until he was] an old man with long white [hair].”

Even this fragmented note tells of a very precious warp that is woven with the weft of memories; love, and loss and return and loss, again.  So many of the weavings of Appalachia have these stories. They speak to what Eliza Calvert Hall calls the “Time Spirit” in her important 1912 book, The Book of Handwoven Coverlets. [1]  The “time spirit” is found in that object that cannot be handled without recalling the life of the past. Many of the names of the coverlets speak to the past times.  Stories, such as “Young Lady’s Perplexiuty,” [sic] “Lonley Heart,” “Youth and Beauty,” “Catch Me If You Can,” and “Lasting Beauty.”   “… the rise of her bloom”  is a mountain colloquial reference to the early adolescence of girls as it was often in early these years that girls began to learn to weave and to assemble their house-hold textiles for later marriage and their own homes.  It can quickly be deduced that coverlets were often seen as the dowry of young girls.  Certainly, they were the offerings that she carried into her marriage in her “Hope Chest”.

Eliza Calvert Hall has pointed out that the naming of coverlet patterns is a very imprecise practice. She says, ” … a design may have one name in North Carolina another in Kentucky, another in Tennessee, and still another in Virginia as if it were a criminal fleeing from justice.”

Enoch Combs [the same as mentioned earlier] and his wife Mary were a childless couple who lived at Sassafras, near Hindman.  They were the hosts for a group of young women who came to the third and final summer camp in Knott county prior to the establishment of Hindman Settlement by Pettit and Stone.  Katherine Pettit, of Lexington; Mary E. McCartney, of Louisville;  May Stone, of Louisville;  and Rae M. McNab, also of Louisville, traveled into what had become familiar, but still, very rugged mountains of eastern Kentucky.   Their summer school at Sassafrass in 1901 was the last of a series of summer camps that were established to serve the literacy-poor hollows in Knott County. The success of these summer camps and the enthusiasm of Pettit and Stone led them to the foundation of a permanent school at Hindman in the following year.

The life of the Combs family and their skills at weaving were captured in a small album of photographs belonging to Katherine Pettit which she titled “Sassafrass 1901.”   In the small and fragile album, held in the Pine Mountain archive, members of the family and a young lady who was living with the Combs’ are shown shearing their sheep, washing the wool, drying the wool, picking and carding, dying the “hanks”,  and finally spinning the wool to be placed on spindles.  The images freeze this valuable pioneer process in time and allow the viewer to understand the many complex tasks associated with the manufacture of textile in the Appalachians.

FLAX

The processing of wool is just one of the complex tasks involved with Appalachian textiles.  There is another even more arduous series of processes associated with the flax plant. When Katherine Pettit came to Pine Mountain she met “Aunt” Sally Creech. In Aunt Sal she had one of the finest weavers and spinners as an accomplice in her search for “kivers.”  But, she also had a consummate teacher.  Aunt Sal was the wife of William Creech, the farmer whose vision of a school caught the imagination of Pettit and whose land formed the basis of the physical site for the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Uncle William grew flax and harvested it to process linen thread.  Katherine Pettit provided him with the seeds.

“‘Aunt Sal Creech – retting flax.” [nace_II_album_059.jpg]

The elaborate process of turning flax into thread was a process learned by many of the Appalachian families whose origins reached back to an Ulster-Scot ancestry. Many of the people of the Southern Appalachians had this ancestry. Ulster, in Ireland, was a center of linen production in Europe and many of the immigrants brought their knowledge of flax farming and linen creation to the New World. It continued as a viable occupation for the many Scots-Irish-English-French-Cherokee-German and African American families who lived deep in the Appalachian mountains.

At Pine Mountain, farmers who maintained subsistance farms in the small valley and hollows and on the steep slopes near the School sometimes found ways to extend their incomes by engaging in flax farming.  Flax was one of the crops that could be turned to income.  But, by the turn of the twentieth-century few of these resourceful farmers remained. Pine Mountain was fortunate that some of these flax farmers had passed down their knowledge in the family and there were families that were still growing and weaving with flax.

William Creech supervising the pulling of flax. [floral_III_020_mod.jpg]

When Pettit arrived in the valley she met families with names like Creech, Boggs, Turner, Couch, Combs, Coots, Day, Hall, and more, suggesting that the population was heavily indebted to England in its origins. A study of family names could shed light on possible English or Irish or Scotch origins of textile practice, but unlike tracing ballads or dances, or pageants, the trail for textile arts is not well developed. English families migrated to all areas of the British Isles but it is well-known that many Scots migrated to Ulster where they took up the practice of flax farming and production.  However the practice arrived in the Appalachians, the production of linen thread, an enormously labor intensive and complex process was passed along to Uncle William and Aunt Sal.  They knew the processes but the depth of their knowledge is difficult to determine.  Just how their processes compared to European practice invites further study.

Certainly Uncle William saw an opportunity to pursue his farming interests and to combine this with the practice of weaving, an art his wife Sally knew well.  Labor in the nearby school was available to him but he also had a sincere desire to improve the production of farmland, to educate, generally, and he, like Aunt Sal, was a consummate teacher.  It is also clear that he shared these interests in flax farming with Katherine Pettit.

The raising of flax and its processing for the weaving of linen cloth is another long weaving story. It is evident, however, that farming and weaving and education all make good partners. Whether, wool, flax, or cotton, “Summer Weave”, “Snail’s Trail,” or “Virgil”, or “Longfellow”, the threads come together.  It is true that the partnership of farming and weaving can be found repeated throughout the world, but the patterns derived from those partnerships are as diverse as the cultures that created them. Pine Mountain’s contributions to a weaving history are many and the contributions of Appalachia have their roots firmly planted in the long histories the earliest families brought to the region whether European, African, American Indian, or South American, or other cultures. There is strong evidence of cultural mixing in both practice and patterns and the research field waits for those who want a rich research project.

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CRAFT WORKSHOPS AT PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL

For a schedule of events at the school , see:

http://www.pinemountainsettlementschool.com/events.php