When Elsie Ripley Clapp first toured the ruined coal camps of Scotts Run WV, they were dangerous places. Children were dying and so were the adults. No, not dangerous like the gun massacre in Uvalde TX.

In Great Depression Era Scotts Run, no one had thousands of dollars to spend on expensive weapons of war + ammo. Even bullets for a squirrel gun were at a premium. So was the squirrel meat. Everyone was starving and perishing the old fashioned way. TB, scurvy, rickets, pellagra, typhoid, pneumonia, hunger. Slow and lethal.

Elsie Clapp came from the social and economic class of people responsible for this carnage. What she saw came as no surprise.

She knew that the Gilded Age had made their millions off the backs of laboring miners and then simply walked away once the plunder was complete. She knew this but she did not accept it. It was wrong and it could be remediated. And so she set about creating a Community School.

Snow Ice Shoeless Search For A Chunk Of Coal

There could be no Community School without living-breathing inhabitants. And conditions had been allowed to get so bad that the area most closely resembled a war zone full of 4,000-5,000 skeletal humans on their very last leg. President Hoover had been sitting on a fund of money originally designated for feeding Belgian and French children post WWI.

At long last the war relief money was ultimately handed over to Alice Davis, Nadia Danilevsky and Clarence Pickett with the American Friends Service Committee. Food rations and fuel for warmth and cooking was the first order of business. Clapp described seeing scrawny children playing in stinky, sulphur-ridden puddles by the side of the road. She walked into a long, corrugated-iron shed with #7 painted on the roof. Down the length of the shed were small cots. A wood stove was at one end and a jerry-rigged shower at the other. A young woman with an ancient air about her, bent over and toothless, introduced Elsie to the improvised, rudimentary Nursery School. “We bathes ‘em. We feeds ‘em and we sleeps ‘em,” she proudly announced. This constituted a beginning at the center of oblivion.