Janice Holt Giles (1905-1979) has more to say about the Brethren in Christ than any other novelist or popular writer; in fact, she stands alone. Her 25 books, written from 1950 to 1975, sold four million copies in her lifetime, and some remain in print and have recently attracted renewed interest. Primarily noted for her historical fiction about the Western frontier, she is also noted for novels and memoirs set in her adopted state of Kentucky. Of these, four describe or characterize the Brethren in Christ at varying length and another three mention or make allusions to them. One novel, Tara’s Healing, virtually glorifies the Brethren in Christ throughout. (See Appendix for editions and synopses of these seven books and for summaries of their Brethren in Christ content.)
This article presents Giles’s portrayal of the Brethren in Christ in detail, including all references to their doctrine and practice in all the books where they appear. It notes the general tone and accuracy of her observations, and it also discusses the personal connections Giles had with the Brethren in Christ Church and members and the Kentucky mission staff. “White Caps,” the local nickname derived from the women’s head coverings, is used interchangeably with the denomination’s proper name when referring to the group in Kentucky.
The article also surveys all the printed statements about the Brethren in Christ generated in response to Giles’s writings, plus a smattering of some reactions by the Brethren in Christ themselves. Finally, it attempts an assessment of the influence Giles has had on public perception of the denomination, and along the way, it presents a bit of literary criticism and some indication of her place in American literature.
Part 1. Background and Context
Before looking at the texts, it will be helpful to consider the milieu: Adair County and its religion in the late 1940s, what the Brethren in Christ and Giles were doing there, Giles’s personal religion, her Brethren in Christ connections, and the context for her writing the books with Brethren in Christ content.
Northern Adair County, Kentucky, ca. 1950
The setting for all Giles’s books which include the Brethren in Christ is the northern end of Adair County, situated in south central Kentucky. This is the knobby ridge country in the western foothills of the Cumberland Plateau, 150 miles west of the Appalachian Mountains proper but nevertheless part of them. Bisected by the upper Green River, the terrain largely consists of steep hills and hollows which, from its first settlement around 1800, conspired to turn its Anglo/Scotch-Irish people into a cultural enclave sticking to the old customs and ways of living.
When Giles began to write, the isolated area was just beginning to make the transition from its frontier heritage to assimilation with post-World War II America. Families were raised on small farms, the one cash crop being tobacco, restricted often to a one-acre allotment generating only $700 to $1,000 (40 Acres and No Mule, 72). Hunting and fishing and some sawmilling helped along. One gravel road—the others dusty dirt or impassable mud—connected the area to the nearest town, Columbia, twenty miles south. Only one household in thirty possessed a car or truck; houses lacked plumbing; electric power had just arrived in 1949; telephones did not come until 1961.
While not the mountaineers of eastern Kentucky, the ridge people nevertheless possessed the traits, mores, and norms of Southern Appalachia. Insular and suspicious of outsiders and their foolish ways, they clung to the old ways and maintained strong family and clan ties. Education was usually limited to the one-room schools; few children went beyond eighth grade, and the illiteracy rate was high. All this began to change as men went off to the war and then returned with a wider knowledge of the world, and as others and their families migrated to northern industrial cities.
A deeply felt, home-grown sort of religion had long played a dominant part in ridge culture. Typical of the Appalachian region, the settlers were largely nonconformist sectarians. They were influenced by ideas that developed in their long isolation from established religion and were then strongly swayed by the “Bible only,” anti-denominational convictions that grew out of the great Kentucky Revival (1799-1805) and the Restoration Movement.
By mid-twentieth century, the prevailing religious mode was fundamentalist, emotional, and revivalist, but not necessarily charismatic. Core beliefs included personal salvation through a mystical conversion experience, baptism by immersion, and the Bible as the inerrant and literal directive for all personal action. Denominations were shunned, and yet the ridge area north of Columbia was dotted with thirty-seven diverse churches and chapels, all small and as independent as possible. Sheltered therein as well as in schoolhouses were various Baptist groups, Methodists, the Church of God, the Church of Christ, two sorts of the Christian Church, Holy Rollers, United Brethren, and (formerly) a black congregation.
The Brethren in Christ in Kentucky
As will be discussed more fully in connection with Giles’s statements about their history, the Brethren in Christ more or less stumbled into Kentucky by divine accident. A Brethren in Christ man from Ohio happened to visit Adair County in 1918 and judged it spiritually needy. Tent meetings were held the next summer, and then Sunday schools and church services in schoolhouses. The first mission station was established in Garlin in 1923 and the work expanded in the following twenty-five years to cover all the northern part of the county, an area of roughly 13 by 24 miles.
In 1949 and 1950, the nine members of the mission staff were active in eleven communities, providing nine weekly preaching services, nine Sunday schools, eight vacation Bible schools, nine revival meetings, weekly prayer meetings, numerous funerals and weddings, many medical treatments, and in the course of a year, some 1,500 home visits. Attendances were consistently large (400 in the Sunday schools in 1949-1950; 366 in the Bible schools) and many people came to faith (77 professions in the Bible schools; 34 conversions in the revivals). But despite all this dedicated outreach, the congregations did not swell proportionally; total church membership remained very small, mostly in the 75-85 range, including mission staff.
In a number of ways, the Brethren in Christ fit in well with the southern Appalachian religious culture: comfortable with small congregations, non-liturgical, fervent in preaching and worship, given to revivals and tent meetings. Especially compatible was their adherence to the Bible as supreme authority for faith and life, a sober concern for personal holiness, and an emphasis on heartfelt conversion and salvation. Good working relations were established with the American Sunday School Union, some Methodists, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
But, as shall be examined as we look at Giles’s text, the Brethren in Christ also carried along a few things that fit the culture badly: peculiarities in dress, opposition to tobacco, and the doctrine of nonresistance. Even without these particular obstacles, fitting in would have been difficult on two other (unavoidable) counts. First, they constituted—and had the forbidden attributes of—a denomination. Second, they were new, from the outside, and their peculiar nonconforming practices made the newness all the worse. Membership therefore remained low at the time Giles wrote of them.
Even so, the Brethren in Christ were respected by many for their integrity and their service to the community. According to a cherished pronouncement by Aaron E. Pyles (1921-2009), an influential businessman and political figure in Adair and Taylor counties: “If it hadn’t been for strict regulating, the Brethren in Christ would have owned three counties.” Esther Ebersole, a Kentucky mission veteran (1944-55), recalls hearing a similar statement: “If it hadn’t been for tobacco and the covering, the Brethren in Christ would have swept the county.”
Janice Holt Giles in Kentucky
A native of western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, Giles came to make her life and career in Brethren in Christ territory by a romantic and unlikely route. With her 14-year-old daughter, she first moved to Kentucky in 1939 to direct religious education at the First Christian Church of Frankfort, which proved an unhappy place for a divorcée. In September 1941 she became secretary to the dean of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Louisville, and it was a bus ride from there that changed her life, for also boarding that bus, in Bowling Green on July 12, 1943, was Henry Giles, a young soldier returning to Texas from his home in Adair County. Over the next 48 hours they hit it off, and over the next two years, while Henry slogged it out with the 491st Engineer Combat Battalion in France and Belgium, an epistolary romance grew. They were married on October 11, 1945, the same day Henry arrived back in Louisville after his discharge.
Janice continued her work at the seminary, and Henry got his GED and worked as a machinist at International Harvester until their precipitous move, on May 30, 1949, to a 42-acre farm on Giles Ridge. Selling the farm in December 1951, they moved back to Louisville, and then in March 1953, tried farming again for another two years on a larger place down the road from the first. Finally admitting defeat and disgust, they sold out and moved to town (Columbia and Campbellsville), but loving the country, they moved once again, in May 1957, to the base of Giles Ridge, built their (eventually) comfortable log house at Spout Springs, and lived there until her death in 1979 and his in 1986.
Janice first visited Giles Ridge in July 1944 to meet Henry’s family. According to her own accounts and his letters from the front, she was warmly received, and for her part, she took an immediate liking to the countryside and was fascinated by the people. When Janice and Henry moved to the ridge, she desired to make it home and at first mingled with her neighbors, but because of her speech, clothes, city ways, and especially her writing (40 Acres, 57), she was considered “quare” and always an outsider. People put up with her questions but were not always pleased. She was “not appreciated by most of the hill people,” “just tolerated” by her Kentucky relations and the ridge people; although “Janice knew the neighbors,” “she was not great as a local mixer.” She maintained friendly relations, but having “very little in common with her neighbors socially or intellectually,” few if any were real friends.
Giles was interested in her neighbors as long as they supplied her with writing material; after that, not so much, and after she began writing seriously, she had to sequester herself. “Quare” and unfriendly indeed! In the first five years, when writing her ridge books, she was critical and outspoken of the poverty, illiteracy, and unprogressive ways of the ridge. This is reflected especially in Miss Willie (1951) and 40 Acres and No Mule (1952). “Over long slow years,” she grew in understanding of and love for the hill country, and in some ways became Appalachian herself, although, she acknowledges, she never became fully integrated and the Southwest remained her spiritual home (40 Acres, 1-2).
When considering what Giles says about the Brethren in Christ, we will be better able to judge her understanding and fairness if we know something about her religious views at the time of writing. She was reticent about her personal beliefs and spirituality, but we can get some idea of their tenor from her religious training and the totality of her writings.
Giles was grounded in evangelical orthodoxy and the basic doctrines of sin, repentance, forgiveness, salvation, and Christian living. She knew the Bible well enough to make many quotes and allusions, and she knew the words, both the hopeful and the hard-hitting, of many gospel songs. She was baptized in and primarily shaped by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)—the faith of her parents and one staunch Campbellite grandmother. Important to her adult spiritual formation, at age 28, was the warmhearted training she received at Pulaski Heights Christian Church (Little Rock) under the leading of Joseph Boone Hunter, later prominent in struggles against school segregation and McCarthyism.
Giles began teaching Sunday school, and that led to a six-year period of work in religious education (1934-1939)—first as secretary and religious education director at Pulaski Heights, then director of children’s work for the Arkansas-Louisiana Board of Missions, and finally, that unwelcoming year in Frankfort. In all these positions, her work included teaching, training teachers, and writing curriculum materials and articles. She apparently enjoyed most of this church-related employment, and in Around Our House (57) she particularly remembers training teachers as “fascinating and interesting work.” It was most likely during the year after Frankfort that she studied to convert to Roman Catholicism but then gave it up as too legalistic.
In September 1941, Giles became secretary/assistant to the dean of the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, Lewis J. Sherrill (1892-1957), a leading scholar in Christian education and the role of psychology in theological discourse. During the second year of the seven and a half she worked with him, Dr. Sherrill lost his vision to macular dystrophy, and she “became his reading eyes and, under his tutelage, his most trusted researcher” (Around Our House, 40). Working closely with him on his last four books, she later said, was like doing graduate research and was for her a time of “great mental and spiritual nourishment.” During these years, she took special Saturday courses at the College of the Bible in Lexington, and most likely during this same period, became a Presbyterian (Around Our House, 32).
In practice, Giles was not much given to piety or outward religious display, but she sometimes reveals, in conventional ways, a strong personal faith in God. In her autobiographical writings she sometimes refers to God and the Lord (but not to Jesus or Christ), prays in times of crisis (but not for every need), and expresses thanks for God’s gifts of health, family, and writing. Attendance at special services of the local black church is reported, and in the 1950s, at least, she was known to attend the Columbia Presbyterian Church (USA) “quite a little.” Regarding manner of worship, her novels make very clear her strong aversion to emotional spectacle. By ridge and Brethren in Christ standards, she followed worldly ways, but nothing worse than smoking or drinking.
Overriding all of this, and enunciated in all her works where religion is touched upon, are certain strong themes, and beliefs often surface which reflect the core of her religious outlook and philosophy of living. Among these are God as loving rather than condemning, the basic goodness of life and humanity, the necessity of self-reliance, and the importance of keeping faith with the land, family, and tradition. Above all, and reiterated most often, is her adamant conviction that every individual has the right to his or her own belief system and the responsibility of living up to it. As Becky in Miss Willie says of a young woman’s risky conversion to a strange, unacceptable sect: “[E]ver’body is bound to believe accordin’ to their lights. . . . Ifen Irma holds with the faith, an’ holds hard an’ strong, then I’d say it ain’t nobody’s business but her’n!” (147).
Miss Willie, a solid Presbyterian who speaks for Giles, finds these words wise and true. In several other novels, Giles puts similar words into the mouths of other positive and sensible characters who also speak for her. As we shall see, this principle finds its way even into the novel lauding the Brethren in Christ, and, long after, it sways her final assessment of them.
Connections with the Brethren in Christ
Judging by private letters and her early published works, Giles’s personal connections with the Brethren in Christ were limited but entirely positive on her part. In her first year on the ridge, she came often to church services (without Henry), in large part, apparently, to gather material for her writing. When she moved on from books about the ridge, her interest in the Brethren in Christ dropped off and church attendance with it. After the love feast (see below), Helen Dohner noted, “We never could get her to another one of our services.” Nevertheless, when the cornerstone of Knifley Chapel was laid in 1957, Giles attended the ceremony and gave a large check to the building fund.
Giles’s most ready source of knowledge about the Brethren in Christ was her husband, Henry (1916-1986). Born and bred on the ridge, he served as her primary source for all the ridge lore in the six non-historical books set there or nearby. During her first year on the ridge, she “was so eager to learn that she followed him everywhere he went,” absorbing everything about the ridge that he let fall from his mouth (Around Our House, 35). Wade Hall, Giles’s chief proponent, says of Henry’s influence, “He provided her with literary material, subjects, themes and history; and he shared with her his state, his region, his community, his people, his folklife and his language.”
Henry was raised in the traditional Christian way of the hill country. The family church, a mile up the road from their home, was the Caldwell Chapel Church, which accommodated the travelling preachers of various evangelical faiths. Among these was the Church of God (Anderson), to which Henry’s family laid claim. As a very young man, Henry served as song leader for several years at the home church and sometimes at others, and known for his fervency, he was once thought a likely minister.
According to Edgar Giles (see below), Henry attended a Brethren in Christ church before joining the Army, led singing and prayer meetings, and knew the doctrines and practices. During a short visit to his home in 1986 by Edgar, Elam Dohner (see next paragraph), and myself, Henry vaguely acknowledged such involvements along with Edgar, and he specifically recalled participating in singing school. Dohner, in a separate interview the same day, stated that Henry and Edgar would pray by the hour in the woods, a story presumably told him by Edgar. Helen Dohner stated flatly that Henry was converted under Brethren in Christ preaching but later fell away. Judging by his letters (Hello, Janice), his journal (The G.I. Journal of Sergeant Giles), and the Gileses’ memoirs, Henry as an adult was no more religious than the average G.I. or typical ridge man. In any case, by the time Janice met him, Henry had shed all Brethren in Christ proclivities.
While Henry was Janice’s handiest source of Brethren in Christ information, her foremost and most reliable source was the Dohners, Helen M. (1906-1998) and especially Elam O. (1910-1991), the new mission superintendent of the Kentucky field. They arrived on August 1, 1949, just two months after Giles moved to the ridge, and although they lived seven miles across the river at Ella, they became closer friends to her than did any of her neighbors.
About five weeks after the Dohners arrived, Giles asked if she and Henry could call on them at the Fairview parsonage. It was a fortuitous meeting, occurring just before The Enduring Hills went to press, just as she finished Miss Willie, and several months before she began Tara’s Healing, the book in which the Brethren in Christ are featured most prominently. According to Elam and Helen, Giles quickly realized then that the Brethren in Christ could not be lumped with native “hillbilly” religion. When Elam showed her one of his new orders of service for the Millerfields church, Giles was impressed with the quality of the printing and the selection of hymns. As vividly remembered by the Dohners thirty-five years later, Giles put her face in her hands and said, “Oh, you will hate me when you read my books!” Her perception of this small group suddenly escaped the stereotype of hill religion, and the literary fate of the Brethren in Christ bumped up a notch.
The warm and lasting friendship that followed this first visit was in large part driven by commonality in age and background, for as different as they were, both parties were outsiders from off the ridge and far better educated than any of their neighbors. The Dohners were Beulah College grads, and Giles had taken several college courses, was well read, and had all that research experience for Dr. Sherrill at the seminary. With no one else like them to talk to, “she was always glad to see us,” said the Dohners; they were often at the Gileses’ home and had open access to them. Janice had long talks with Elam, says Esther Ebersole, and Annie Giles (see below) also recalled Janice having talks with Brother Dohner about Brethren in Christ things. When Janice began to work on Tara’s Healing, it was the Dohners who supplied her with the Constitution-Doctrine, By-Laws and Rituals and other church literature.
Something of the warmth of the friendship can be seen in Giles’s letters to the Dohners around the time of a two-month breakup of her marriage in the fall of 1951 (see below). Writing from her daughter’s home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she thanks the Dohners for their letter and prayers and expresses confidence that the Lord will soon bring Henry and herself together again. As part of the reconciliation, Henry conceded to sell the 42-acre farm, and Elam lent a hand by serving as clerk at the public sale on December 21. Reunited with Henry in Louisville, she writes gratefully of answers to her prayers “and those of other good friends like you, who have had us on their hearts.”
Giles’s third major connection to the Brethren in Christ was Edgar Giles (1914-1988) and his wife, Anna Roberts Giles (1910-2004). Edgar was licensed as a minister in 1934 by the Home Mission Board, appointed to the Spout Springs mission pastorate in August 1944, and finally ordained on October 7, 1945, by bishop Wilber Snider, chairman of the Home Mission Board. During the years Janice was writing her early novels, Edgar variously pastored the Spout Springs, Knifley, Fairfield, and Millerfields churches. Until his death, he then continued to serve as pastor and evangelist among the Adair churches, as well as new churches in Tennessee and Virginia.
If Elam was her main source for doctrine of the Brethren in Christ, Edgar was arguably her main model for how they lived out their faith (see below.) A first cousin of Henry’s, two years older and apparently a favorite, Edgar was often close at hand for Janice to observe. She found him an admirable character. As a bi-vocational minister, he worked at various trades around the ridge, and in late 1949 Janice and Henry had him wire their house. “He did a nice job” for a third of what a city electrician would have charged, writes Janice, “and it was a privilege to have him in our home” (40 Acres, 226). He also served as the auctioneer when they sold the 42-acre farm. Later, when both Giles couples were living at Spout Springs, there was neighborly visiting. Annie Giles claimed that Janice was closer to her than to any other Brethren in Christ woman, Annie being sympathetic to her while other hill people were not.
Janice and Henry have much to say about Edgar in A Little Better than Plumb (1963), their book about building their log house at Spout Springs in 1957-58. Edgar had recently built his own house a quarter mile just across the fields (Around Our House, 204), and he was pulled into their project. He dismantled and hauled sets of logs from abandoned structures and helped build the rock chimney, construct the walls, and plumb the web of pipes, for all of which work he is gratefully credited. He is referred to in the book a total of thirty-three times (all but twice by name), is the subject of several wry anecdotes (106, 108-9, 129-30), and is twice quoted directly. In these pages Edgar is never identified as a White Cap, but it is clear that both Henry and Janice were fond of this capable, likable Brethren in Christ fellow. Edgar is also named (once) in Around Our House, but again without connecting him to the Brethren in Christ.
Aside from Edgar, the Dohners, and Henry, Janice appears to have had no other substantial sources for her knowledge about the Brethren in Christ, although she would have observed closely the nurses at the clinic and every other White Cap she encountered. According to Annie Giles, she had no Brethren in Christ neighbors until moving to Spout Springs, six years after writing the books in which White Caps appear. Once, in October 1950, the Dohners took retired California bishop J. Harry Wagaman to meet the Gileses. And once that same year, Esther Ebersole and Dortha Dohner (visiting her brother) were invited to the Giles home for a game of Scrabble. Esther and Henry won.
Writing the books with Brethren in Christ content
There remains one more stratum of background to consider before examining what Giles actually wrote about the Brethren in Christ: the context of her life and writing career at the time she did the writing. Such, of course, affected the content and tone and the quality of her work.
Giles began her writing career at the age of 42, partly out of a desire to write, but mostly out of financial necessity. Before that, when working in religious education, she had written many lessons, programs, worship services, articles, dramatizations, and poetry for Sunday schools and adult and youth church magazines.45 She had also submitted for publication a short book (1945) about her “darling daughter,” whom she raised as a single parent, first virtually and then actually,  and she had written, on commission, a short congregational history (1948).
The turning point toward committed writing came fourteen months after marrying Henry and realizing that, for his personal survival, they would eventually have to leave Louisville and move to the ridge. There she would need a source of income as well as something stimulating to replace city life and professional work (Around Our House, 93-94). So when, in December 1947, Westminster Press announced an award of $8,000 for original fiction, Janice and Henry got serious about writing a novel about the ridge. Together they worked out a plot, but it was Janice who plugged away at it for ninety nights and then, having lost the contest, worked the next two years with the fiction editor, Olga Edmond, to make it publishable.
Once done with her apprenticeship and until she turned to her first historical novel, Giles wrote at breakneck speed. In less than three years—between September 1948 and June 1951—she wrote four novels, a memoir, four short stories, and three magazine pieces. Miss Willie was two-thirds done when Giles moved to the ridge and it was completed there by the end of November 1949. With Olga Edmond, she began planning Tara’s Healing in January 1950 and finished the first version on October 3. Immediately after, in three months, she breezily wrote 40 Acres and No Mule, the ridge memoir, and right after that she churned out Hill Man, a steamy tale published under a pseudonym.
But before turning to Tara’s Healing, between September and December 1949, Giles drafted yet another novel, Harbin’s Ridge. This novel is of interest to us partly because of its Brethren in Christ content (two paragraphs, discussed later), but more because of its curious history of publication. For in the process Giles more or less established her career as a capable writer and at the same time deprived herself, and perhaps the Brethren in Christ, of some excellent press.
The tantalizing history begins in August 1949 with a moonshine story she heard from a visiting deputy sheriff. Giles adapted the tale into “The Sheriff Went to Cincinnati” and entered it in the annual short story contest sponsored by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine—but under Henry’s name. Her story won first place and was printed in the March 1951 issue, and the magazine’s publisher asked Henry to try a full-length novel. Adapting another ridge tale and persisting with Henry’s name, Janice then wrote Harbin’s Ridge. Little, Brown turned it down, but Paul R. Reynolds, Inc., the old and respected literary agency, to which Janice was just then applying, was much impressed with “Henry’s” work and Janice’s potential. Both Gileses were accepted as clients and Janice thus found competent hands for all her future writing until the firm closed in 1974. Giles was grateful and proud to be so represented and soon developed a trusting friendship with Reynolds’s partner, Oliver Swan (1904-1988).
What happened next could have greatly grown her reputation and reading public. Swan submitted Harbin’s Ridge to Houghton Mifflin, and their noted editor, Paul Brooks (1909-1998), enthusiastically received it. Glamour magazine then selected Henry as one of twelve outstanding first novelists and, in the September 1951 issue, with vignette and photograph, spread him alongside Thomas Styron and J. D. Salinger! Had she used her own name instead, who knows what renown she might have received? What she did gain was a major publisher for the rest of her career and a happy working relationship with Paul Brooks. As for the Brethren in Christ, who knows what greater attention might have been given to the real author’s next book, Tara’s Healing (published only nine weeks later), and what greater notice might have come to the denomination?
Neither her agent nor her readers could have suspected it, but Giles produced this proliferation of books amidst crushing personal circumstances. These she purposely omitted or reconfigured in the accounts she wrote for publisher notes, for Writer’s Digest, and most notably, in 40 Acres and No Mule. But often she wrote in great physical discomfort, and in the beginning of her career, in great emotional distress as well.
For most of her adult life, Giles was plagued with a dread of debt and financial insecurity, and this gave her bad nerves, ulcers, throat constrictions, and other serious physical problems. Her worries came with her first marriage, at age 18, to a failing and incompatible alcoholic and then, after their separation, as a divorced woman raising a teenage daughter. Wedding a soldier eleven years younger, a ridgerunner from a hardscrabble farm, known only by way of a bus ride and wartime love letters, was not the surest path to financial security. Early on she saw that her income would always be crucial to their economic survival. But then, contrary to her fiscal principles and intuitions, they wiped out her savings to buy a run-down 42-acre ridge farm for an eventual move sometime in the distant future. Before a month had passed, however, when Henry’s plant finally closed after several strikes and when Janice developed ulcers, Henry summarily moved them to the ridge, with no prospect of income except a one-acre tobacco allotment and her nascent writing.
Thus at the time of writing Tara’s Healing, Giles’s financial situation was dire and her living situation unpleasant and exhausting. From her comfortable Louisville apartment, they moved into a small shack of a house with no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and, at first, not even a well or an outhouse (40 Acres, 76-82). The ungraveled dirt road sometimes left them isolated, and in any case, Janice did not drive.
Far worse, Janice found herself painfully caught in another troubled marriage. In a long candid letter to Ollie Swan, her agent, she explained her unhappy situation:
For Henry [quickly] became a typical ‘ridge’ man . . . . At its best it isn’t too nice. At its worst it is extremely difficult. I think I could have taken his lack of niceness, his not shaving or bathing often, his reversion to a kind of uncouthness, but when it became evident that he was sinking into [an appalling] inertia . . . . I was almost desperate.
When the royalties for The Enduring Hills started coming, he spent all his time hunting and fishing and soon went through all the $10,000, for activities she felt were better left unknown. At best he was inconsiderate; at worst, capable of violence. Once when questioned about a long absence, he hurled the coffee table and a glass bowl across the room (A Little Better than Plumb, 5). Janice toiled with garden, canning, and tobacco crop, bearing all her grubbing and worry alone—far removed from family and old friends and not fitting in well with her new neighbors or Henry’s kin.
All this stress, worry, and drudgery inevitably caused emotional trauma and physical illnesses. By the time her fifth book was completed, she was hospitalized for two weeks, and after the sixth, she was laid up with “a lump in her throat” that for ten days prevented swallowing. While recuperating at her mother’s home in Arkansas, in November 1951, Janice gave up on the marriage and Henry fled with relief back to Kentucky, as he had once done before, two months after their wedding. They were reunited by January, both realizing they needed each other, and the marriage thereafter proved solid and congenial. Nevertheless, Janice continued to provide their financial security and to suffer that lump in her throat and other health problems.
During those first two difficult years on the ridge, Janice told Swan in that same long letter, she worked on her books with nothing but disparagement from Henry. He indeed provided her with a wealth of ridge country lore, but after The Enduring Hills lost the $8,000 contest, he washed his hands of the whole writing business. Although on the title page and in public statements, Janice gave him all due and undue credit,
Henry never had anything at all to do with the writing, was never interested in it except for the money, rarely read what I wrote or if he did laughed at it as tripe, and frequently made me feel I was a failure when a royalty check was small.
As time went on and Janice proved herself a successful author, he became much more supportive, but during the writing of Tara’s Healing he was decidedly not her literary ally.
Despite all her financial, physical, and marital troubles during those early years, exhausted and desperate as she was, writing for Giles was an escape and a pleasure. Excepting the first, all the ridge books, she says, just “rolled out, happily and easily,” “with so much joy and so little work,” that she felt guilty for taking the money (Around Our House, 38). In those early books she poured out both her fascination and distress with the strange things of her new surroundings. Tara’s Healing came at a low point. Although nowhere in letters or her published writing does she say so, it seems that the White Caps furnished her not only with fresh, colorful material but also with an appealing model for a happier way of living, one that sustained her innate optimistic faith in mankind and gave her hope for her own dismal situation.
 Elam and Helen Dohner, interview with the author, Grantham, PA, May 23, 1986. Hereafter cited without place; all cited interviews are with the author.
 For the fascinating history of the Kentucky Revival and its influence, see John B. Boles, The Great Revival, 1787-1805: The Origins of the Southern Evangelical Mind (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1972), reprinted as The Great Revival: Beginnings of the Bible Belt (1996). For an overview of churches ca. 1950, see Earl D. C. Brewer, “Religion and the Churches,” in The Southern Appalachian Region: A Survey, ed. Thomas R. Ford (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1962), 201-218.
 Counted on the U.S. Geological Survey 7.5-minute quadrangle topographic maps (based on 1951 photographs) for Cane Valley (1953), Knifley (1954), Dunnville (1953), Columbia (1954), and Montpelier (1953).
 In a jointly written book, Around Our House (pp. 135-136), Henry reports that a Negro meeting house once stood near his childhood home but that most of the “colored folks” moved across the river in the 1930s.
 “Kentucky Field,” Handbook of Missions: Foreign and Home (Brethren in Christ Church, 1947), 117. Hereafter referred to as Handbook of Missions.
 Numerous funerals performed for people in the community are reported in the Evangelical Visitor and Handbook of Missions, especially in the 1930s (e.g., Handbook, 1930, 22; 1937, 78). Esther Ebersole pointed out the frequency of funeral services and weddings in the 1950s (interview, Mechanicsburg, PA, April 28, 1986). All Ebersole interviews were conducted at Messiah Village; hereafter cited without place.
 Home Mission Reports and Tabulated Report of the General Sunday School Board, Handbook of Missions, 1950. Similar reports can be found in all the Handbooks from the 1930s to early 1950s.
 Church Statistical Reports, General Conference Minutes. A newspaper article reports a total membership of 69 for eight of the congregations (Thomas V. Miller, “The White Caps: Religion and Life,” Louisville Courier-Journal Magazine, June 4, 1950, 8).
 Pyles was a prominent Baptist businessman from a large, influential Republican family (obituary of Aaron E. Pyles, http://www.columbiamagazine.com/index.php?sid=28865). Quoted by Elam Dohner, interview by author, Adair County, KY, August 1, 1986. All August 1986 interviews were conducted in Adair County; hereafter cited without place.
 Esther Ebersole, interviews, August 29, 2014 and May 18, 2015.
 The steep, parabola-shaped hill called “Giles Ridge” by the locals is not so named on official maps. The western side follows the Caldwell Ridge Road until it arcs over to the Ray Williams Road on Grace Ridge, so identified by the 1954 USGS Knifley Quadrangle map. In her first three novels, Giles dubs it “Piney Ridge” or simply “the ridge.”
 Quotes, in respective order: Ebersole, interview, April 28, 1986; Elam and Helen Dohner, interview, May 23, 1986; Edgar Giles, interview with the author, August 1, 1986; Elam Dohner to author, June 30, 1986, Dohner Papers, Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives, Grantham, PA (hereafter cited as Dohner Papers).
 Dianne Watkins Stuart, Janice Holt Giles: A Writer’s Life (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001), 115-116 (hereafter cited as Stuart).
 Giles writes a bit about her religious background in The Kinta Years (37-38).
 Joseph Boone Hunter (1886-1987), the founding pastor of Pulaski Heights (1927-1940) and a distinguished churchman, is remembered especially for his service to interned Japanese Americans during World War II, his work with Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine in the battle for school desegregation, and his run-in with the press and the FBI during the McCarthy era (“Joseph Boone Hunter (1886-1987),” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture,
 Stuart, 26-27.
 Stuart, 123, quoting a letter to Oliver Swan, summer 1957.
 Susan Schriver and C. Ellis Nelson, “Lewis Joseph Sherrill,” Talbot School of Theology: Christian Educators, http://www2. talbot.edu/ce20/educators/view.cfm?n=lewis_sherill.
 Stuart, 34-35.
 A Christian Church college, now Lexington Theological Seminary; James Goble, “A Lamp Burns Late on Giles Ridge,” Courier-Journal Magazine, June 18, 1950, 17.
 Giles writes about the “colored folks’ sacrificial [Christmas] feast” (Shady Grove, 163-164) and the August revival meeting held by “the colored people of our community” (Little Better than Plumb, 246). In Around Our House, Henry also writes about the Christmas service (159-161) and the August meetings (135-136).
 Elam Dohner, interview, August 1, 1986.
 Other novels in which Giles expresses her religious view through various characters: Plum Thicket (192), about religion and madness; The Believers (148, 167), about the Shakers; Johnny Osage (72), native American religion; The Great Adventure (122, 143), rough frontier religion; Act of Contrition (97-98), Roman Catholicism and divorce; Six-Horse Hitch (424), frontier religion; Run Me a River (89, 227, 258), broad-minded Christianity.
 Elam and Helen Dohner, interview, May 23, 1986; Elam Dohner, interview, August 1, 1986. Edgar and Annie Giles recalled that Janice came to church only once or twice, at Fairview and Knifley (interviews, August 1, 1986). Esther Ebersole could not recall that she ever came at all (interview with the author July 28, 1986).
 Helen Dohner, penciled notes, ca. 1955, Dohner Papers; interview, Mechanicsburg, PA, April 12, 1994 (hereafter cited without place).
 Allyne Friesen Isaac, “P. B. and Edna Friesen: Reminiscences of a Family,” Brethren in Christ History and Life 17, no. 1 (April 1994), 38.
 Wade Hall, “Some Remarks in Defense of Henry Giles,” in Celebrating Janice: Proceedings of The Giles Symposium, held at Campbellsville University, Campbellsville, Kentucky, May 17-18, 1991, ed. Clara L. Metzmeier for the Janice Holt Giles and Henry Giles Society (Nicholasville, KY: Wind Publications, 2005), 85. Hall, formerly chair of humanities at Bellarmine University, has written and edited several books about Kentucky and Appalachian literature.
 Henry Giles, Hello, Janice: The Wartime Letters of Henry Giles, ed. Dianne Watkins (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1992), 19.
 Stuart, 40.
 Edgar Giles, interview, August 1, 1986.
 Henry Giles, conversation, Spout Springs, Adair County, KY, August 1, 1986.
 Elam Dohner, interview, August 1, 1986. Related or not, Henry’s neighbor “Joe Spires said that he and others often heard him praying aloud while he was out in the woods” (Stuart, 40).
 Helen Dohner, interview, April 12, 1994.
 Elam and Helen Dohner, interview, May 23, 1986; repeated in essence by Elam on August 1, 1986 and by Helen on April 12, 1994.
 In addition to classes at the College of the Bible, Giles also took courses at Little Rock Junior College, Transylvania College, and the University of Arkansas, some by extension and correspondence (“A Collection of Janice Holt Giles Biographies,” Bulletin of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians 1, no. 2 (Spring 1965), 9, 13, 20, 22.
 Elam and Helen Dohner, interview, May 23, 1986.
 Ebersole, interviews, April 28, 1986 and March 28, 2014; Anna Giles, interview, August 1, 1986.
 Specifically, this was the 1941 final adoption edition of the 1937 Constitution-Doctrine, By-Laws and Rituals of the Brethren in Christ Church (Nappanee, IN: E. V. Publishing House), “Including amendments up to General Conference of 1946” (hereafter cited as Constitution-Doctrine).
 Sale bill for public sale of 42-acre farm and personal and farm property, December 21, 1951.
 Letters cited here are dated December 28, 1951, and February 8, 1952, respectively. These and five other typed letters, 1952-1967 (Dohner Papers) are in most cases addressed “Dear Friends.” Until 1956 they are signed “Sincerely, Janice H. Giles”; thereafter, “Affectionately [or Cordially], Janice.”
 Sale bill cited above.
 Anna Giles, interview, August 1, 1986.
 Confirmed by Elam and Helen Dohner, interview, May 23, 1986.
 Helen Dohner, interview, May 23, 1986; based on her diary.
 Ebersole, interview, April 28, 1986.
 The short book about Libby, “My Darling Daughter,” was revised several times over the years and finally laid to rest in 1973 (Stuart, 232).
 Giles researched and wrote The Glorious Heritage of the Warren Memorial Presbyterian Church (30 pp.) for the church’s centennial while working at the Louisville seminary.
 Giles saw the announcement in a mailing to the seminary (Hello, Janice, 226), but contrary to the impression she gives in Writer’s Digest, it was actually the second time Westminster was running its contest. No winner had been selected the previous year so the original prize was more than doubled (“Books-Authors,” New York Times, December 14, 1946).
 Giles recounts her struggle with this first book in several places and permutations: “Hill Writer,” Writer’s Digest, February 1951, 18-21; 40 Acres and No Mule, 139-41; “Autobiography,” Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 57, no. 1 (April 1959), 147-148; more truthfully in a letter to Oliver Swan, November 28, 1951 (Stuart, 78); also in her foreword to the second edition of The Enduring Hills (1971), 4-5. See also Stuart, 62, regarding Giles’s grateful credit to her editor.
 Dates of writing the short works are surmised from the magazine publication dates (Peoples Choice, Fall 1950; “Hill Writer;” Swan to Giles, October 13, 1949; November 9, 1950; February 16, 1951 and Giles to Swan, December 9, 1950, box 18, folder 1, Giles, Janice Holt, 1905-1979, MSS 39, Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green [hereafter cited as Giles MSS 39, WKU]).
 Stuart, 62.
 Originally submitted under Henry’s name, Hill Man was finally published in 1954 as a Pyramid Books paperback under the name John Garth. (Stuart, 70-72, 88).
 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March 1951, 63-78.
 Originally named Paul R. Reynolds and Son, the Boston agency was the oldest in the business, boasting such clients as George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Stephen Crane, and Willa Cather (Around Our House, 119). Among the authors Swan represented were Conrad Richter, Richard Wright, Morris West, Alex Hailey, and the estate of Henry James (Edwin McDowell, obituary of Oliver Swan, New York Times, February 24, 1988, http://www.nytimes.com/1988/02/24/obituaries/oliver-swan-83-literary-agent-with-eye-for-worthy-unknowns.html).
 Paul Brooks worked at Houghton Mifflin for forty years, served as editor-in-chief of the general book department for twenty-five, and dealt with such luminaries as Sir Winston Churchill, James Agee, Archibald MacLeish, and Rachel Carson (from Boston Globe obituary, December 9, 1989, https://www.highbeam.com/doc1P2-8517882.html).
 “Young Authors: Twelve Whose First Novels Make Their Appearance This Fall,” Glamour, September 1951, 202-205; preceded by Erskine Caldwell, “A Message to Young Authors,” 201, 263-265.
 For reasons unstated, Giles stopped driving around 1937 and did not resume until May 1957 (Little Better than Plumb, 223).
 Giles to Oliver Swan, November 28, 1951; quoted at length in Stuart, 76-79.
 The first separation was a month-long, one-sided walk-out even though relations had been pleasant (Stuart, 76-77).
 Same letter to Swan (Stuart, 78).
 Occasionally Henry filled in for Janice in her weekly column for the Campbellsville News-Journal, 1954-1956. Later he also wrote his own column for the Adair County News, 1957-1970, and several chapters for A Little Better than Plumb (1963).
Author: Michael R. Brown
Mike Brown served as a librarian at Messiah College from 1973-2006. He and his wife now live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where they attend Gehman Mennonite Church.