Saturday, October 1, 2011

Caney Creek "Indian and Hillbilly Civilization" School: The Disgrace of Alice Geddes Lloyd

Caney Creek "Civilization" School or the Disgrace of Alice Geddes Lloyd

Done in honor of and dedicated to Pap-Paw aka Ed Cornwell


Inspiration and transcriptions from the originals

Lyn Fawn Cornwell


Dwight Collins
“Alice Lloyd College is a private, four-year, liberal arts, co-educational college, located in Pippa Passes, Knott Co.  Kentucky, in the central Appalachian Mountains. Since its inception, the purpose of the institution has been to provide education of the highest quality to deserving Appalachian Students.”
The Miracle on Caney Creek

is the official story of how Alice Lloyd College came into existence.

Go back in time with me – will you?

"It’s the turn of the century – the early 1900s – in Eastern Kentucky and the Appalachian Mountains. Coal mines dot the landscape, logging has stripped the trees from the mountainsides. The once glorious natural beauty of Appalachia is bleak and dreary.

Then, a miracle happened.

In 1916, a woman from “up north” came to Eastern Kentucky. Alice Lloyd. She was educated – a Boston newspaper woman. But, she wasn’t well and had come here to spend her last six months in a warmer climate.

On Caney Creek – near the head of the hollow – Abisha Johnson lived with his house-full of children. Abisha heard that Mrs. Lloyd was educated, so he called on her and asked her to come over the mountain to Caney Creek to teach his children. In return, he promised to build her a cabin and let her live on his land.

Alice Lloyd brought hope. She taught the children – and the parents, too. She saw the potential – “The leaders are here!” was her motto.

She wrote to friends up north and asked for books, supplies – and volunteers! And, help came."

The above is what is written on the College website today.

The following is what was written from Alice Lloyd to her financial supporters back east during the founding of the Caney Creek School.

Excerpt from the original Mission Statement of Caney Creek School“

“The Three I’s; Isolation, Ignorance, Inter-marriage and the Three D’s; Degeneration; mental and physical, Disease and Death.

When a race of people in ISOLATION, led by IGNORANCE, has been marrying its own double and twisted cousins for a century, it is not any wonder that a single strain had deteriorated into producing as its sole asset to the nation. A 28 year old idiot, blinded by red sore eyes, stiffened into a perpetual fit by congenital handicaps. It is needless to explain how DEGENERATION, mental and physical has been produced through such conditions.”

The Miracle on Caney Creek is a lie, a white-wash of the disgrace that was Caney Creek School, and the failed attempt at social engineering by a scion of a wealthy Boston family.  Alice Lloyd College has been an asset to the community for many years now, but that was not always the case.
Alice Geddes Lloyd brought her incoherent notions of mountain folk, Indians, and education from Chauncey Hall, a preparatory school in Boston, and her one year at Radcliffe College, to the hills of Knott Co. Ky. She caused enormous damage to the children and the families of the children who were forcibly kept at her “boarding school”.
Below is an excerpt about the conditions and the arrogant, racist attitudes of The Caney Creek School:

 taken from the original document

Philanthropy and Antagonism: Kentucky Mountain Schools in the 1920’s,
by Nancy Forderhause Eastern Kentucky University

Alice Lloyd’s Caney Creek School was on the verge of being closed for “ramshackled” buildings “falling down the side of the hill in a disorganized way that reminds you of the most squalid mining town”. Officials from other schools in the area wondered about the presence of unsanitary privy conditions, inadequate access to a pure water supply and lack of typhoid inoculations. One account described the educational program as “Billy Sunday on education.” (Sunday was a professional baseball player turned “frenetic” evangelist. Despite questions about his income, no scandal ever touched Sunday)

Pine Mountain School records abound with examples of the other local school officials’ distrust of Alice Lloyd, whom they described as “sincere, but emotionally unstable.”
 The only “Miracle on Caney Creek” is that the school was never closed for gross violation of moral and ethical standards, and no one was ever arrested for keeping children against their will in deplorable conditions that should never have been allowed to exist. For a school that now  claims higher education as its goal, it is both disingenuous and unethical for Alice Lloyd College to deny its racist, abusive and discriminatory past.

“It really amounts to exploitation of the children such as we wouldn’t expose our own children to and it takes a child a long time to get over even a little publicity.” Ethel DeLong Zande . Pine Mountain School

After Alice Lloyd had been in the mountains for a year, she prepared and circulated a report entitled ‘Constructive Plans for 1917.’ Lloyd described the plight of the mountaineers in very unflattering terms. For example, a typical description of mountain life from this report described Caney Creek inhabitants in this way;

“Each year not having the incentive of marching with an advancing civilization,~~~~~~~ , have no regular habits and live more akin to hibernating animals than 20th century human beings.”
The school’s treatment of the children was deplorable and worse. In the deep woods of Knott Co. Kentucky, Alice Lloyd was allowed to rule her own kingdom as she and her mother saw fit. They sometimes forced enrollment of disenfranchised children, all the while taking money from unsuspecting philanthropic families back east and using it to their own ends, to suit their own ideas, with little spent on the children’s environment or education.

These transgressions have long since ceased, but the children who suffered this abomination should never be forgotten. The Administration of Alice Lloyd College should come clean about how the institution was begun. They should list the children who were practically abducted from their homes,  apologize publicly to their descendants in writing, and make amends insofar as possible, just as the United States has apologized for slavery. The College should admit the true story of Alice Lloyd and her school, and how that school evolved to become a local institution. Their honorable course is to set a moral example, and show the world that although it was not so from its inception, the College is now indeed an institution for higher learning.



  1. I read a book about Alice Loyd and Caney Creek School when I was in high school. During the sixties we were made very aware of the missed opportunities that children raised in isolated areas faced. Being a child of the mountains, (mother from the Ozarks and father from Appalachian), I was interested in ways to impove life for myself and kids like me. At the time I viewed Alice Lloyd as a heroine of mountain children. My uncle had attended Berea College back in the late thirties and forties. He came home with a view that good change was the result of education. That poor children could be learn this lesson at Pippa Passe where surely, "God was in His Heaven making everything right for the world" was such an inspiration to me. Amazing how wrong, what should be right, turned out to be. Perhaps Wordsworth meant something entirely different when he talked about his Pippa Passe. Wordsworth's "God's in heaven" couldn't see the wrong hidden in the shadowed mountain valley where Caney Creek College became a self-serving mean growing flower that only bloomed in the face of someone else's misery.

  2. Alice is my husbands great aunt and the woman from which his mother is named after, as well as our daughter. I find this article of opinion hysterical! Knowing that Alice's family married into a family from Runnels Creek, she without a doubt was a hill's woman herself. Being built upon Humanity and Equality, then allowing wrong doings is incompetence. Melungeon=slavery=underground railroad=abolitionist=all family. I've been taught fact not fiction. The knowledge of Pippa Passes cooking is power and the Craft is a simple legacy of being taught when to teach the next step. I Love my extended family and their big hearts are on the verge of extinction, but not if God is in it.