Hindman Settlement School’s mission “to provide educational and service opportunities for the people of the mountains, while keeping them mindful of their heritage” has allowed it to evolve to meet the changing needs of the local community and region.
The Settlement School’s major work today includes educational programs that address critical needs of both youth and adults in the region, expand cultural awareness and serve as a bridge between past and future generations of Appalachian teachers, writers, storytellers, musicians and crafts people.
Hindman Settlement School was the first and most successful rural social settlement school in America. Established in 1902 by May Stone and Katherine Pettit at the forks of Troublesome Creek in Knott County, Kentucky, the school soon became a model center for education, health care and social services. Earning praise as “the best school in the mountains,” it not only transformed the community of Hindman, but also contributed significantly to regional progress. The school has played a vital role in preserving and promoting the literary and cultural heritage of southeastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia.
Although they both grew up in Kentucky, Stone and Pettit were part of a national political and social movement called Progressivism that began in the 1890s and continued until the First World War. The women visited and modeled Hindman Settlement School after urban settlement houses like Jane Addam’s Hull House in Chicago and Lillian Wald’s Henry Street Settlement in New York. They also visited settlement houses in Louisville and Tuskegee, AL. The “settlement idea,” was “for the social classes to know each other, to educate each other and to work together for the improvement of the neighborhood.” Katherine Pettit clearly endorsed this idea, stating their goal at Hindman was, “To learn all we can and teach all we can.”
Over time, the Settlement School transferred responsibilities for public health and community health education to public agencies. With the advent of public schools, the school again adapted itself to serve other needs identified by the community. Hindman Settlement School’s ability to learn from and adapt to changing circumstances has helped it survive when many other settlement schools failed.
Today, the school provides unique programs for children with learning differences, including the only full-time school in Appalachia for children with dyslexic characteristics. Through its Adult Education Program, Settlement School tutors have helped hundreds of adults learn to read and/or receive a General Equivalency Diploma (GED).
The Settlement School has earned a national reputation for supporting emerging writers from the region through its annual Appalachian Writers Workshop and it continues its historic celebration and promotion of folk arts, music and crafts through its annual Appalachian Family Folk Week and Marie Stewart Museum & Crafts Shop.
Since 1997, the Settlement School has been a key partner in the Hindman/Knott County Community Development Initiative. The Initiative has resulted in over $20 million in local projects and $10 million in infrastructure improvements. The Settlement School continues to be involved in implementing the Initiative’s 20-year strategic plan entitled “Using Our Heritage to Build Tomorrow’s Community.”
For more information about the Settlement School's rich history, see: Challenge and Change in Appalachia: The Story of Hindman Settlement School. Copyright © 2002 by Jess Stoddart. Copies of the book are available for purchase from the Marie Stewart Museum & Crafts Shop. Kentucky Educational Television has also produced a documentary about Appalachian Settlement Schools.
Hindman Settlement School founder, May Stone, was a first-generation member of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). According to May Stone's records, the DAR began supporting the Settlement School in 1904. In 1921, NSDAR approved Hindman Settlement School as a DAR school.
Hindman Settlement School continues to receive financial assistance from DAR chapters and members, including scholarships, material donations and genuine personal interest. The Settlement School has been fortunate to be one of only six schools in the United States with such a designation.