Log In| View Cart (0)
Browse: Collections Digital Content Subjects Creators Record Groups

Council of Southern Mountains Records



Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Organizational and Administrative Records

General Correspondence

Annual Conference Records

Financial Records

Funding Agencies

Commission Records

Community Action Program (CAP)

Mountain Life & Work

Urban Migrant Project

Reference Materials


Oversize Items

Contact us about this collection

Council of Southern Mountains Records, 1912-1970 | Berea College Special Collections and Archives Catalog

Printer-friendly Printer-friendly | Email Us Contact Us About This Collection

Collection Overview

Title: Council of Southern Mountains Records, 1912-1970Add to your cart.

Primary Creator: Council of the Southern Mountains.

Extent: 288.0 MS boxes


The CSM Papers are arranged by Series and Sub-series, with a total size of 288 Manuscript Boxes, encompassing 115 linear feet.  Correspondence and other administrative materials are generally arranged in chronological order, in order to establish some sense of original order.  Projects and reference materials are generally in alphabetical order by topic.

The collection is arranged in series as follows:

Series 1: Organizational and Administrative Records, 1915-1970

Series 2: General Correspondence, 1957-1970

Series 3: Annual Conference Records, 1912-1974

Series 4: Financial Records, 1923-1970

Series 5: Funding Agencies, 1952-1970

Series 6: Commission Records, 1926-1972

Series 7: Community Action Program (CAP) Materials, 1946-1970

Series 8: Mountain Life & Work, 1925-1970

Series 9: Urban Migrants, 1935-1970

Series 10: Reference Materials, 1913-1970

Series 11: Photographs

Series 12: Oversized Materials

Processing Notes to Researchers

I. Correspondence Organization: Series 2

As pre-1970 correspondence material was integrated into the collection in 2007, it became clear that consistency within the original order of the correspondence began to break down as the structure and leadership of the organization changed in the late 1960s.  As expected with any significant staff turnover or organizational growth period, filing changes and inconsistencies increased.  These filing differences became especially apparent from 1967 forward.  Furthermore, as new material was integrated, it was found that office copies retained and filed in this section were meeting up with the carbon copies that had been retained in other divisions, commissions, or office files elsewhere.  It seems that the correspondence found in Series II from the original deposit were the files maintained by the Executive and administration of the Council, and the papers being integrated from the second deposit where those from other staff scattered throughout the organization. (This is seen in the method by which the administration files have names written along the right hand margin of each item).  The original order maintained during the original processing of the collection holds up, and has been maintained as much as possible, despite inconsistencies.  It was necessary, however, to attempt to place integrated items into a system that varied.  Therefore, the researcher should be aware of the following filing methods in the original order:

1. Sometimes material was filed according to the last name of the receiving correspondent, other times by the sending correspondent.  2. Some items are filed under the last name of the correspondent, other times by the name of the company or organization which they represented.  3. Sometimes items had been filed by CSM employee name referenced in the materials, or CCed, or interested in the topic discussed, rather than by sender or receiver.  4. Married female correspondents are often filed with their husband’s materials and/or under their husband’s name.  5. Correspondence also appears throughout the collection in other Series and may or may not be duplicated in the Master or General Correspondence files.  Please be aware that these filing methods vary depending on the year.

In other words, it is necessary for the researcher to check correspondence files in multiple locations in order to get a comprehensive view.  It is important to keep in mind that these were working files, and although a simple and logical filing system was in place, the mental organization of the person(s) using them influenced where items were ultimately stored.

II. Comparison to Previous Finding Aid

Although 30 additional boxes of materials were added to the collection in 2007, the original processing method allowed for large amounts of space inside of many boxes.  Therefore, after integration and consolidation of the collection, the final result actually reduced the number of manuscript boxes in the collection.  The basic organization of the collection remains essentially intact, with the largest changes being the separation of Series 7: Projects into three separate series, and the consolidation of Series 8: Miscellaneous and Series 9: Newspaper Clippings into one series now called Series 10: Reference Materials.  Copies of the old finding aid are available in the Special Collections Reading Room for reference purposes.  No additional materials were added to the collection when the finding aid was updated in 2016.

Date Acquired: 04/24/1970

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern -- Economic conditions., Appalachian Region, Southern -- Religion., Appalachian Region, Southern -- Social conditions., Ayer, Perley, Campbell, John C. (John Charles) --1867-1919, Campbell, Olive D. (Olive Dame) -- 1882-1954, Charities., Economic assistance, Domestic -- Law and legislation -- United States., Education -- Appalachian Region, Southern., Federal aid to regional planning -- Appalachian Region, Southern, Jones, Loyal -- 1928-, Medical care -- Appalachian Region, Southern., Mountain Life and Work, Nonprofit organizations -- Appalachian Region, Southern., Public health -- Appalachian Region, Southern., Recreation -- Appalachian Region, Southern., Rural-urban migration -- Appalachian Region., Social Action -- Appalachian Region, Southern., Social service -- Appalachian Region, Southern.

Languages: English


The Council of the Southern Mountains (CSM) 1912-1989, began as a gathering of various citizens and mountain missionaries working in relative isolation throughout Appalachia, which created a forum for the sharing of ideas, experiences and inspiration.  The Council grew and changed over time into an organization that promoted cooperation among private, government, and religious organizations in southern Appalachia and served as a key factor in bringing the issues and experiences of Appalachia into the national consciousness through publications and outreach programs in education, health, job training, and environmental issues.

The Council of the Southern Mountains (originally Conference of Southern Mountain Workers) was formed in 1912 as the result of fact-finding travels during 1908-1909 by John C. and Olive Dame Campbell, under sponsorship of New York’s Russell Sage Foundation.

The Campbells concluded that there was a pressing need to bring southern Appalachian mission workers together to share ideas, experiences and enthusiasms. An exploratory organizational meeting in Atlanta drew 137 persons. This response encouraged the participants to establish a formal organization and to plan an annual meeting which served as the organization’s core. The Council had no regular funding in the beginning. Instead, each year the Russell Sage Foundation underwrote conference general expenses, with those attending paying their own way. John C. Campbell was the central figure in maintaining the Council until his death in 1919. Olive Dame Campbell then became Executive Secretary and served until 1928, when she left to focus all her energies on establishing the John C. Campbell Folk School at Brasstown, North Carolina.

Helen Dingman, of the Berea College Sociology Department, succeeded Mrs. Campbell. She was already editor for the Council’s Magazine Mountain Life & Work, which the Council had taken over from Berea College in 1929. Miss Dingman remained part-time Executive Secretary until 1942, assisted by two part-time staff persons.  The group’s name was changed to the Council of Southern Mountain Workers in 1944, and finally to the Council of the Southern Mountains in 1954.

From the Council’s 1912 founding until 1949, its primary activity was planning and conducting the annual conferences. The work of the Board of Directors was mainly to find funding and speakers for those events. Board membership during these years was composed of representatives of church mission boards, colleges, and settlement schools.

The conferences brought hundreds of people together and served as forums for discussion of problems and solutions. They also provided the impetus for smaller groups to cooperate in mounting a variety of projects not directly related to the Council. One such spin-off was the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild, a cooperative established in 1929 as a marketing outlet for mountain craftspeople.

The Council membership combined a wealth of knowledge and practical experience. This resulted in it being called on by the United States Department of Agriculture to act as advisor in conducting a pioneer study of the Appalachian south. Published in 1935, this study’s results became the standard reference work on the area for many years. The Council also helped implement the Mountain Folk Festival in 1935 and the related Christmas Country-Dance School at Berea College in 1939.

In response to its developing year-round undertakings, the Council’s Board in 1939 for the first time appointed standing committees (later called commissions). These were in the areas of health, recreation, education, and spiritual life. The Council also worked closely with benevolent organizations, such as the Sigma Phi Gamma Sorority, to establish social and economic service programs.

The Council’s already delicate financial health was threatened further when funding dollars became particularly scarce during the 1940s. Frustration and years of seeing worthy projects going underfunded lead to shrinking membership rolls. Financial support from both Berea College and the Sage Foundation stopped in 1949. The Council office was moved from Berea to Asheville, North Carolina, where it shared space with the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild. A new executive secretary was needed and the original intention of the Board was to appoint a person to see the Council through to its expected demise.

The Board selected Perley F. Ayer to fill this role in 1951. A rural sociologist from New Hampshire, then teaching at Berea College, Ayer proved to be anything but a caretaker. Instead he set off on an energetic fifteen-year tenure that resulted in the Council becoming the largest and most significant social organization in the southern mountains by the mid-1960s. As executive secretary (later, executive director), Ayer was guided by a philosophy based on faith in people and the desirability of give-and-take discussions at all levels. He saw the Council as the champion of no one cause or group, but as a forum where differing or even opposing sides could come together and create positive change. Under Ayer’s leadership, the annual conferences increased in size and importance. For instance, the 47th Annual Conference, held in 1959, brought together 300 leaders from all of the southern Appalachian states plus observers from other states and foreign countries. Between annual conferences, regular state level meetings developed in Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina. His energetic idealism attracted many people to the Council’s service. One of these was Loyal Jones, a young Berea College graduate, who Ayer hired as his assistant in 1958, and who would eventually succeed Ayer as executive director in 1966.

In the years before 1960, Council health, recreation, education, and spiritual life commissions were actively working on regional problems, often in cooperation with existing state and local agencies.  Examples of these efforts include children’s dental programs in Virginia, maternal and infant care programs in Kentucky, and adult education classes in Tennessee.

In 1959 the Council sponsored the first of what would be ten annual workshops on the problems of Appalachian migrants to urban areas. The workshops were aimed at city service professionals, especially those in health care, social service and law enforcement. The workshops sought to inform these people about what made Appalachians different and how to deal with these differences so as to reduce tension and a lack of understanding that was growing on both sides. A later corollary to this program was the establishment in 1963 of the Council’s Chicago Office, the aim of which was to provide migrants with information about coping with city life and a place where they could get together with their friends.

The focusing of national attention on the problems of Appalachia during the early 1960s brought the Council to the attention of the federal government. Its long association with the region made it a logical source for federal agencies to turn to for information about the region, suggestions for corrective measures, and eventually leadership in implementing federally funded programs. The Council was an important resource for the President’s 1964 Appalachian Regional Study, which resulted in the establishment of the Appalachian Regional Commission.  The year 1964 was an outstanding growth year, with the size of Council staff, budget, and numbers of activities more than doubling. By 1965, the Council’s staff had grown four-fold.  However, with foundation and federal funding came pressure to alter the Council’s working philosophy. Its traditional consultative approach to coordinating had to transition into a new role of program implementation and accompanying bureaucratic intricacies.  The addition of new talent, highly educated social advocates and program implementation staff, while navigating required government accounting and operating procedures both increased the level of passion and complicated administration, priorities, and decision-making.

By the end of the 1960s, changes in leadership and the expansion of the Council staff greatly impacted not only operations and internal stability, but also the philosophical underpinnings of the Council during a pivotal time in its history.  The 1960s national debate over how to best achieve social change was represented in microcosm among Council staff and membership. Throughout its early history the Council had represented a middle way that sought compromise between opposite views and “a reform strategy based upon a consensus of regional opinion,” a concept that crystallized under the direction of Executive Director Perley F. Ayer and his “partnership ideal”.  Increasingly, some perceived that a growing number of younger staff opposed the idea of compromise and eventually anti-establishment minded staff demanded that a stand be taken. The earliest manifestation of this was the Appalachian Volunteer exit.

The Appalachian Volunteers was one of the first federally funded programs the Council undertook. In 1964 an initial group of young people from colleges in the north and south spent vacation time in the mountains, repairing and painting schoolhouses and assisting in teaching and playground activities. The project’s early results were impressive enough to win a major funding increase for program expansion. However, the Appalachian Volunteers staff left the Council in May of 1966. They incorporated in Bristol, Virginia, as a non-profit organization and were approved to receive the federal funds originally allocated to the Council. Remaining federal funds allowed the Council to continue promoting the establishment of community action programs for the Office of Economic Opportunity and on-the-job training and other manpower projects for the United States Department of Labor.

In December 1968, Perley F. Ayer, Executive Director from 1951-1967 and ideological backbone of the Council, died suddenly.  The resulting leadership vacuum and subsequent organizational changes further highlighted the larger shift taking place within the structure of the council.

Growing tensions between old and new ideas led to particularly passionate debates among Council members at the 1969 and 1970 annual conferences. At the 1969 conference, an amendment to the by-laws established the commission form of organization and required 51% of the Board of Commissioners to be drawn from the ranks of the region’s poor within three years. The resulting atmosphere of conflict led to the resignations of many of the Council’s older members. The 1970 conference capped the changes of the previous year with the adoption of a resolution that the resources of Appalachia should be placed under democratic public control. Believing this resolve to constitute a socialistic or even communist stance, many additional members resigned.

At this time, Executive Director Loyal Jones sought guidelines from the Board of Commissioners as to how the Council was to be run. With none forthcoming and no indication of support from the Board, he resigned soon after the 1970 conference and eventually became the director of a newly established Appalachian Center at Berea College.

Warren Wright, Julian Griggs, and Isaac Vanderpool formed a temporary leadership triumvirate. The funding base rapidly shrank as the Council became a crusading organization, more singularly focused on championing the rights of miners and the fight against strip-mining. The Council moved to Clintwood, Virginia in 1972 and maintained an active interest in many aspects of regional life. The organization broadened its focus beyond coal mining issues to include textile mill working conditions, and promotion of community and labor rights. Management by professional staff was replaced by a grassroots, cooperative structure. Publication of Mountain Life & Work continued on a monthly basis until the organization disbanded in 1989.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

This collection is comprised of the records (1912-1970) of the Council of the Southern Mountains including: organizational and administrative records, conference records, financial records, records of several CSM commissions, materials and papers of the Community Action Program, records of the CSM publication Mountain Life and Work, reference materials, and photographs.

Subject/Index Terms

Appalachian Region, Southern -- Economic conditions.
Appalachian Region, Southern -- Religion.
Appalachian Region, Southern -- Social conditions.
Ayer, Perley
Campbell, John C. (John Charles) --1867-1919
Campbell, Olive D. (Olive Dame) -- 1882-1954
Economic assistance, Domestic -- Law and legislation -- United States.
Education -- Appalachian Region, Southern.
Federal aid to regional planning -- Appalachian Region, Southern
Jones, Loyal -- 1928-
Medical care -- Appalachian Region, Southern.
Mountain Life and Work
Nonprofit organizations -- Appalachian Region, Southern.
Public health -- Appalachian Region, Southern.
Recreation -- Appalachian Region, Southern.
Rural-urban migration -- Appalachian Region.
Social Action -- Appalachian Region, Southern.
Social service -- Appalachian Region, Southern.

Administrative Information

Repository: Berea College Special Collections and Archives Catalog

Access Restrictions: Records and photographs can be accessed through the Reading Room, Berea College Special Collections and Archives, Hutchins Library, Berea College.

Use Restrictions: No restrictions exist on use of this collection by researchers except for personnel records and any material protected by federal copyright law.

Acquisition Method: The records of the Council of the Southern Mountains (CSM) 1912-1970 were given to Berea College via a resolution of the Council’s Board of Commissioners passed on April 24, 1970 during the Fifty-Eighth Annual Conference of the Council held at Junaluska, North Carolina.

Related Materials:

Berea College Special Collections & Archives

The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1970-1989

Appalachian Volunteers Collection

Records of the 1962 Southern Appalachian Region: A Survey

Other Institutions

John C. and Olive Dame Campbell Papers, The Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.

Southern Highland Division Papers, Russell Sage Foundation Archives, New York, New York.

Related Publications:

Kiffmeyer, Thomas J. “The Appalachian Volunteers: Fighting the War on Poverty in Kentucky, 1963-1970.” Thesis (MA) Eastern Kentucky University, 1988.

Kiffmeyer, Thomas J. “From Self-Help to Sedition: The Appalachian Volunteers: and the War on Poverty in eastern Kentucky, 1963-1970.” Thesis (Ph.D) University of Kentucky, 1998.

Messinger, Penny. Leading the Field of Mountain Work: the Conference of Southern Workers, 1913-1950. UMI Dissertations, 1998.

David Whisnant, “Controversy in God’s Grand Division: The Council of the Southern Mountains,” Appalachian Journal, Volume 2, Autumn, 1974, No. 1.

“More Controversy in God’s Grand Division: Communications to the Editor,” Appalachian Journal, Volume 2, Spring, 1975, No. 3.

Alfred H. Perrin, ed., Seeking a People Partnership - Challenges by Perley Ayer. 36 pages. 1969.

Preferred Citation: [Object identification], Council of the Southern Mountains (CSM) Records, 1912-1970, Berea College Special Collections & Archives, Berea, KY 40404

Processing Information:

Processing Notes

The preliminary sorting, arrangement and description of these records was accomplished over several years, spanning 1972 to 1978, by Mr. Alfred H. Perrin, President of the Friends of the Berea College Library and volunteer worker.  John McCleery and Loren Williams, student assistants, assisted Julia Miller, College Archivist, with final organization of the collection.  The collection opened for research in 1978.

This collection represented the first of two deposits of CSM records to Berea College.  CSM Records for 1970–1989, representing the second and final deposit of CSM Records, are also held at Berea College in the Southern Appalachian Archives (See SAA# 101 for more information).

Finding Aid Revision History: With the processing of the second deposit in 2006, under the direction of Project Archivist Laura Heller, over 30 additional boxes of material dated prior to 1970 were uncovered.  Over the course of 2007, Evan Robinson and Nora Hersey, student archives assistants, sorted and integrated these files into the existing collection.  Along with the assistance of additional student archives assistants Andria Creech, Jessica Higginbotham, and Harrison Levans, the integration, condensing, re-labeling, and re-arrangement of the entire collection was completed during Fall Term 2007 into January 2008 under the direction of Jaime M. Bradley, College Archivist.  The finding aid was updated in 2008 and 2016.

Other Note: Collection Identification: BCA 0002 SAA 001

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Organizational and Administrative Records, 1915-1975],
[Series 2: General Correspondence, 1957-1970],
[Series 3: Annual Conference Records, 1912-1974],
[Series 4: Financial Records, 1923-1970],
[Series 5: Funding Agencies, 1952-1970],
[Series 6: Commission Records, 1926-1972],
[Series 7: Community Action Program (CAP)],
[Series 8: Mountain Life & Work, 1925-1970],
[Series 9: Urban Migrant Project, Urban Affairs Commission and Workshops on the Urban Adjustment],
[Series 10: Reference Materials, 1928-1976],
[Series 11: Photographs],
[Series 12: Oversize Items],

Series 11: PhotographsAdd to your cart.
Various photographs found within the collection have been collected and consolidated in this small series.
Box 287Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Appalachian VolunteersAdd to your cart.
Folder 2: John C. CampbellAdd to your cart.
Folder 3: Clothing CenterAdd to your cart.
Folder 4: John Sherman Cooper (Kentucky U.S. Senator)Add to your cart.
Folder 5: Craft SnapshotsAdd to your cart.
Folder 6: CSM Conference GroupsAdd to your cart.
Folder 7: CSM BookstoreAdd to your cart.
Folder 8: CSM StaffAdd to your cart.
Folder 9: Helen DingmanAdd to your cart.
Folder 10: Guild of Artists and Craftsmen Train (Kentucky )Add to your cart.
Folder 11: Health CommissionAdd to your cart.
Folder 12: Macedonia CommunityAdd to your cart.
Folder 13: MiscellaneousAdd to your cart.
Folder 14: Urban WorkshopsAdd to your cart.
Folder 15: Urban Workshop ParticipantsAdd to your cart.
Folder 16: Dewey WoodAdd to your cart.
Folder 17: Mobile WorkshopAdd to your cart.
Folder 18: Writer's WorkshopAdd to your cart.
Folder 19: Workshop Participants, 1959-1968Add to your cart.
Folder 20: Mary Brewer, Mountain Life & Work, 1960-1964Add to your cart.
Folder 21: Clear Creek Furniture FactoryAdd to your cart.
Folder 22: From Overt Carroll FilesAdd to your cart.
Folder 23: Low Income Housing Project Land Examinations, 1965Add to your cart.
Folder 24: Chattanooga area Tourism printsAdd to your cart.
Folder 25: Miscellaneous photos from Mountain Life and Work, Mace Crandall filesAdd to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Organizational and Administrative Records, 1915-1975],
[Series 2: General Correspondence, 1957-1970],
[Series 3: Annual Conference Records, 1912-1974],
[Series 4: Financial Records, 1923-1970],
[Series 5: Funding Agencies, 1952-1970],
[Series 6: Commission Records, 1926-1972],
[Series 7: Community Action Program (CAP)],
[Series 8: Mountain Life & Work, 1925-1970],
[Series 9: Urban Migrant Project, Urban Affairs Commission and Workshops on the Urban Adjustment],
[Series 10: Reference Materials, 1928-1976],
[Series 11: Photographs],
[Series 12: Oversize Items],

Page Generated in: 0.45 seconds (using 250 queries).
Using 7.46MB of memory. (Peak of 7.77MB.)

Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-3 beta
Copyright ©2017 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Hosted by LibraryHost