In the late 1800s, the Progressive Movement was sweeping the industrialized cities of the North. One of the key features of this urban social and political reform movement was the creation of settlement houses and schools to meet the needs of economically deprived families.
Beginning in 1899, two intrepid young women, Katherine Pettit and May Stone, spent three summers in social settlement work in Kentucky at Camp Cedar Grove, Camp Industrial, and Sassafras Social Settlement. They became educational lamplighters in an area of eastern Kentucky where there was little opportunity for boys to get jobs and education was considered superfluous for girls, who often married at thirteen. Loaded with books, games, and a small portable organ, they proceeded to hold “school” for the people of the mountains. The activities of the summer camp were practical in nature—crafts, reading, singing, learning to make biscuits and bread.
In the summer of 1900 Stone and Pettit pitched their tents on the side of a hill overlooking the small village of Hindman, KY, the county seat of the newly created Knott County. When the summer ended, local leader Solomon Everage implored the two women, “quare fotched-on women from the level land,” to remain and establish a permanent industrial school in the Troublesome Creek area. “Fotched-on” women was a colloquialism peculiar to eastern Kentucky. It refers to women reformers–missionaries, nurses, and teachers–who came to work among the mountain people during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Solomon, age 80, watched the two women quietly for hours before he introduced himself to them, saying “Women my name is Solomon Everage. Some calls me the granddaddy of Troublesome. Since I was a little shirttail boy hoeing corn on the hillsides, I’ve looked up Troublesome and down Troublesome for someb’dy to come in and larn us sumpin. My chilehood pass and my manhood and now my head is abloomin’ for the grave and still nobody hain’t come. I groed up ignorant and mean. My offsprings wuss and my grands wusser and what my greats will be if something hain’t done to stop the meanness of their maneuvers, God only knows. When I heard the tale of you two women I walked the 22 miles across the ridges to search out the truth of it. I am now persuaded you are the ones I have looked for all my lifetime. Come over to Troublesome women and do for us what you are doing hyre.”
The pleas resonated with Stone and Pettit, and so, in the words of Stone, “… with little experience and less money, we started a school.” Thus, in 1902, at the forks of Troublesome Creek, the Hindman Settlement School was born.
“A Portrait of a Collaborative ARSI Team in Knott County, Kentucky” By Elizabeth Horsch at http://www.inverness-research.org/arsi/a10knottco.html
“History and Families-Knott County, Kentucky,” published by Turner Publishing Co., 1995, Paducah, KY
related post: “Educating the Melungeons”