After, or even before, I published Sisters in Song, I realized I only saw and covered the tip of the iceberg. Since then, other fantastic women have come to my attention. One of them is Kate Peters Sturgill. I found out about her existence at a Bluegrass church service several months ago. As always, I keep looking for new hymn-writers and I’m not disappointed. Friends keep me supplied.
Kate was born and raised in the mountain country near Norton, Wise County, Virginia. Her father was a foreman on the railroad and her mother came from a long line of singers from Wise County. She learned to play the organ at age seven and the guitar while a teenager. She played in a string band with her brothers in 1914 and 1915, then played with other local groups. During the depression, she worked on a WPA project organizing music programs and teaching guitar. After our country got out of the depression and the war, she broadcast twice weekly on a local radio station performing religious and sentimental songs. In the fifties, she helped her cousin, A.P. Carter, collect traditional songs from the local mountains. She died in 1975, but her talent lives on in an annual festival, the Dock Boggs and Kate Peters Sturgill Festival in Norton Virginia sponsored in part by the University of Virginia at Wise. “Deep Settled Peace” was written in 1926. The music is classically Bluegrass, and I find the lyrics more mature than would ordinarily be expected from a woman who was probably in her mid-twenties. Perhaps it was the hard-scrabble life of Appalachia that forced her outlook. The song can be found in the album “Barefoot Boy With Boots On” and you can also search online to hear it performed. My sister found a performance by Jody Nelson, a self professed bluegrassman on YouTube.