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John C. Campbell Folk School Records, 1923-1985



Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Selected Records

Selected Photographs

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John C. Campbell Folk School Records, 1923-1985 | Berea College Special Collections and Archives Catalog

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Collection Overview

Title: John C. Campbell Folk School Records, 1923-1985Add to your cart.

Primary Creator: John C. Campbell Folk School.

Extent: 3.0 Linear Feet. More info below.


The collection is arranged in two parts and further arranged in series as follows:

Part A: Selected Records, 1923-1983       7 Reels of Microfilm - Boxes 1-2

Series 1: Board and Corporation Meetings, Minutes and Reports, 1925-69 (Reels 1-2)

Series 2: Directors’ Office Files. 1923-1969 (Reels 2-6)

Series 3: Scrapbooks and Publications, 1952-82 (Reels 6-7)

Part B: Selected Photographs, c. 1925-1985          1913 Photo-reproductions - Boxes 3-17

Arranged by primary subject

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern -- Social life and customs -- Pictorial works., Appalachian Region, Southern -- Social life and customs., Appalachians (People) --  Appalachian Region, Southern --  Pictorial works., Bidstrup, Georg -- Archival resources, Bidstrup, Marguerite -- Archival resources, Campbell, John C. (John Charles) --1867-1919, Campbell, Olive D. (Olive Dame) -- 1882-1954, Education -- Appalachian Region, Southern., Education -- North Carolina., Handicraft -- Appalachian Region, Southern., John C. Campbell Folk School., North Carolina -- Pictorial works.

Languages: English


The John C. Campbell Folk School was founded at Brasstown, North Carolina in 1925 by Olive Dame Campbell to further the educational and social vision of her late husband, John C. Campbell. Starting with an old farmhouse and a log barn, it rapidly expanded to include a farm, dairy, forestry program, forge, and a crafts and recreation program. Based on the Danish approach of linking the culture of work with that of books, its purpose was to build and enrich rural life through adult education.

John C. Campbell was born in Laporte, Indiana, in 1867.  He was raised in Wisconsin and graduated from Andover Academy in 1888, Williams College 1892, and Andover Seminary 1895.  While in Seminary he became in­terested in the southern mountains and following graduation, chose a teaching posi­tion at Cullman Academy, Joppa, Alabama.  He later taught a year at Pleasant Hill Academy (Tennessee) and then served a seven-year stint as president of Piedmont College, Demarest, Georgia.  In 1907 Mr. Campbell married Olive Dame and spent 1907-1908 in Scotland and Sicily.  During his stay in Europe he learned of the Russell Sage Foundation and after his return approached the organization with a proposal to study the function of church and privately supported schools in the mountains.

Campbell spent 1908-1912 traveling extensively throughout the mountain south as an in­vestigator for the Sage Foundation, visiting schools and contacting the organiza­tions that supported them.  In 1913 the Southern Highland Division of the Russell Sage Foundation was opened in Asheville, N.C., with Mr. Campbell as Secretary. Campbell’s efforts also led to the beginning that year of the Southern Mountains Worker's Conference (later to become the Council of the Southern Mountains).  This conference brought together educational and religious workers to share concerns and develop co-operative program efforts.

Campbell continued as the Conference’s executive secretary until his death in 1919. Mrs. Campbell replaced her husband and continued as executive secretary until 1928. She also completed his unfinished book on Appalachian life and published it posthumously in 1921 as The Southern High­lander and His Homeland.

Olive Campbell shared her husband’s view that traditional education sent its best graduates out of the mountains and was therefore but another element of colonization.  She was also committed to the idea that “There is a native culture in the mountains that has been too much ignored.”

With the assistance of Marguerite Butler, a Vassar graduate from Cincinnati who had taught at Kentucky’s Pine Mountain Settlement School, Mrs. Campbell set out in 1922 on a fifteen-month study of Denmark’s adult education programs that utilized folk schools and cooperatives. Upon their return, Miss Butler and Mrs. Campbell commenced a five-state search for a community that would accept and nurture an innovative school. A Pine Mountain colleague of Marguerite Butler’s, Ruth Metcalf, suggested North Carolina’s Cherokee County as a possible site. Miss Butler traveled to Murphy, the county, seat, and was soon visited by Fred and Luce Scroggs of Brasstown. They told Butler that they “wanted a school that would not just make teachers and preachers, but one that would help the country.”

The Scroggs gave thirty acres and soon an adjoining sixty-acre farm with a house was purchased. The townspeople, all 100 of them, drew up a legal pledge and donated firewood, building stone, shrubs, trees, telephone poles, over $800 in cash, and thousands of days of free labor.

Rather than giving grades and degrees, the school emphasized practical skills of home and farm management blended with reinforcing pride in local culture, especially its music and craft heritage.  The school was also active in promoting cooperative community efforts such as Mountain Valley Creamery, Craft Guild, Men and Women's clubs, and a Credit Union for farm improvement.

In the 1950s and 1960s numerous new projects were undertaken, including a literacy program and the growing of experimental trellis tomatoes. More recent projects include a model campground, memorial gardens, stone houses of Danish influence, and student internship programs.

Today the Folk School continues as a center for education and cultural enrichment. It is the site of weekly community dances and lectures on subjects as varied as bee keeping and alternative energy sources. Major year-round learning opportunities include intensive two-week courses in weaving, woodworking, blacksmithing, enameling, leatherworking, and pottery.  Annual events include Folk-Dance Week, Little Folk School for children, and the Fall Arts, Crafts, and Music Festival.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The collection consists of records and photographs documenting the history and work of the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina.

Subject/Index Terms

Appalachian Region, Southern -- Social life and customs -- Pictorial works.
Appalachian Region, Southern -- Social life and customs.
Appalachians (People) --  Appalachian Region, Southern --  Pictorial works.
Bidstrup, Georg -- Archival resources
Bidstrup, Marguerite -- Archival resources
Campbell, John C. (John Charles) --1867-1919
Campbell, Olive D. (Olive Dame) -- 1882-1954
Education -- Appalachian Region, Southern.
Education -- North Carolina.
Handicraft -- Appalachian Region, Southern.
John C. Campbell Folk School.
North Carolina -- Pictorial works.

Administrative Information

Repository: Berea College Special Collections and Archives Catalog

Alternate Extent Statement: 17 boxes

Access Restrictions:

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

Regarding records contained in the collection: The records of the John C. Campbell Folk School were collected and organized 1982-1983 by Project staff and then microfilmed at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. The microfilm master negative is owned by Berea College. A use copy is available in Hutchins Library’s Archives and Special Collections Department.  Because Berea College does not own the copyright for the manuscripts or printed documents included in this microfilm edition, it is the responsibility of the researcher to secure permission to publish from the John C. Campbell Folk School or its successors and assigns.  Due to the personal information they contain, some records such as student and personnel records may be RESTRICTED.

Regarding photographs in the collection: Selected John C. Campbell Folk School photographs were collected, organized, and reproduced by Project staff in 1986. The copy negatives    and a set of copy prints are owned by Berea College and are available in Hutchins Library’s Special Collections and Archives Department.

Use Restrictions: Berea College has permission to reproduce all or part of the school’s photographs, use them in slide or film presentations, display them, or loan them for displays, and to allow their use by researchers for reproduction and publication.  The proper credit line for all of these uses shall be, “John C. Campbell Folk School Photographic Collection, Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives.” Records and photographs can be accessed through the Reading Room, Berea College Special Collections and Archives, Hutchins Library, Berea College.

Acquisition Method: The John C. Campbell Folk School collection was compiled and processed by the Settlement Institutions of Appalachia / Berea College Research Resources Project (1979-1986) funded by the Appalachian Fund and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Related Materials:

Related Collections and References at Berea College Hutchins Library

John C. Campbell Folk School Collection, 1909-1981

Howard A. Kester papers, 1923-1972 microfilm Edited by Edward M. Wayland. Call number 141.

Howard A. Kester papers, 1923-1972. Edited by Edward M. Wayland. MT 016.92 K42

The Appalachian Portraits of Doris Ulmann.

Preferred Citation: [Object identification], John C. Campbell Folk School Records, Berea College Special Collections & Archives, Berea, KY.

Processing Information: The John C. Campbell Folk School collection was compiled and processed by the Settlement Institutions of Appalachia / Berea College Research Resources Project (1979-1986) funded by the Appalachian Fund and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The finding aid was created in 1986 and updated in November 2015.

Other Note: BCA 0047 SAA 047

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Part:

[Part A: Selected Records, 1923-1983],
[Part B: Selected Photographs, 1925-1985],

Part A: Selected Records, 1923-1983Add to your cart.

This part consists of non-current records dating primarily from 1925-1969. These 45 years of meeting minutes, audit and departmental reports, and publications comprise a rich body of information concerning the folk school’s philosophy, purpose, program and staff. Also included are pre-incorporation correspondence and meeting minutes (1923-24) and publications (1970- 1982) which document the Folk School’s more recent activities. A lamentable gap in the record is the lack of documentation on School directors, Dagnall Folger (1946-1949) and Howard Kester (1950-1951). (See Kester Papers Microfilm and printed guide, MT 016.92 K42)

The collection is divided into three series: 1. Board and Corporation Meetings, minutes and reports, 1925-1969; 2. Directors’ Office Files, 1923-1969; 3. Scrapbooks and publications, 1925- 1982.

Series 1: Board and Corporation Meetings, Minutes and Reports, 1925-1969Add to your cart.

In addition to the yearly meeting minutes and reports from Folk School directors, treasurers, and department heads, this series consists of copies of the Article of Incorporation and By-laws (1925), annual audit reports (1939-1969), and speeches, promotional writings, official reports, and journal articles (c. 1925-70). These records document the purpose and philosophy of the folk school, its finances, staff, and physical facilities. The minutes provide substantial information regarding the board and corporation membership and document decisions made by those bodies during the forty-five year period.

The reports for each year vary in quantity and quality and there are appreciable record gaps for the years covering 1946-1951. A group of speeches, reports, articles, and promotional writings includes the works of Olive Campbell, Marguerite Butler Bidstrup, and Georg Bidstrup and impressions and recollections of students and visitors. This series also includes local history and genealogical data along with personal reminiscences of area residents about family, work, school, religion, everyday life and habits. There are also recollections of the Civil War along with related artifacts including an 1854 bill of sale for a female slave. Series 1 is arranged by record type.

Reel 1Add to your cart.

Minutes and Reports, 1925-69

Reports of Examinations and Audit reports, 1936-41

Reel 2Add to your cart.

Reports of Examinations and Audit reports, 1942-69

Speeches and Reports, c. 1925-70

Local History and Genealogy (Data Collected 1930s)

Series 2: Directors’ Office Files, 1923-1969Add to your cart.
This series consists of office files pertaining to the administration of Olive Dame Campbell (1925- 1946) and Georg Bidstrup (1952-67) and part of John Ramsay’s (1967-1969). Included are correspondence, studies, and reports documenting daily operations, courses offered, and community work. The correspondence consists mostly of letters to and from students, staff, board members, donors, other schools, and state and federal agencies. There are farm reports (1927-1946) relating to buildings, livestock, produce and supplies. Receipt books (1932-1954) and time studies of carving output (1945-1946) give some insight into the workings of the crafts department. Also this series includes minutes and reports of the Brasstown Savings and Loan Association (1949-58), Mountain Valley Creamery, Mountain Valley Cooperative Inc. (1928-49), and Southern Highland Handicraft Guild (1960-65). This series is arranged according to two major chronological periods: 1923-66 and 1966-69. Guest books dating from 1925-69 are at the end of the series.
Reel 2Add to your cart.

Correspondence, 1923-48, n.d.

Correspondence A, 1923-63

Reel 3Add to your cart.


: A-T, 1925-63

: A-W, 1952-64

Brasstown Credit Union, Minutes and Reports, 1949-58

Council of the Southern Mountains, Minutes and Reports, 1953-66

Country Dance Society of America, Correspondence and Flyers, 1939-64

Crafts : Receipt Book (volumes 1 and 2), 1932-48

Reel 4Add to your cart.


: Receipt Book (volumes 3 and 4), 1932-48

: Receipt Notebook, Wood Carving, 1952

: Production Time Test and Interview Forms, 1945-46

Farm Reports, 1927-46

Farm Program Study, 1957

Financial Reports, 1946-64

Insurance Survey, 1952

Literacy Program, 1958-63

Little Folk School, 1954-64

Mountain Valley Creamery, Minutes and Reports, 1928-34

Mountain Valley Cooperative Inc., Minutes and Reports, 1935-49

Reel 5Add to your cart.

Recreational Extension Reports, 1936

Regional Mountain Folk Festivals, Reports, 1942-52

Southern Highland Handicraft Guild, Minutes and Reports, 1960-65

Veterans, Rural Life Course Curriculum, c. 1952

Woman’s Community Club, By-laws and Reports, c. 1928


: Conservation, 1947

: Resource Use, 1948

Correspondence, 1966-1969

Course Descriptions and Schedules, 1966-69

Special Projects, Tomato and Dairy, c. 1966-1970

Reel 6Add to your cart.

Personnel, 1966-69

Guest Books, 1925-69

Series 3: Scrapbooks and Publications, 1952-1982Add to your cart.
Scrapbooks and newspaper clippings are the most extensive records in this series. This material documents the folk school’s concerns and how they were translated into specific programs and presented to the public. Pamphlets and newsletters generated by folk school staff are also part of series 3. There are a few examples of pre1940s pamphlets and newsletters, but the majority date 1940-69. Important subjects covered include natural dying publications (collected mainly by Louise Pitman, crafts department head, c. 1930-45), folk dance and song publications (primarily the published efforts of Georg and Marguerite Bidstrup), and material on singing games and plays given at the folk school. The series is arranged by record format or by topic.
Reel 6Add to your cart.

Scrapbooks (4 volumes, oversized), 1925-76

Scrapbooks, 1954; 1920-69

Reel 7Add to your cart.

Scrapbooks, 1970-82

Newspaper Clippings and Serial Articles, 1925-69


The Blotter, 1940-49

Flyers, 1942-69

Pamphlets and Cards, 1926-48. n.d.

Price Listings, 1967-71

Brasstown Community Club Newsletters, 1954-55

“Making and Using Plant Dyes, Mountain Recipes,” c. 1916

Vegetable Dyeing: Louise Pitman, c. 1930s

“Vegetable Dyes,” Louise Pitman, c. 1930s

Natural Dyeing: Recipes and Notes, 1934, n.d.

Pitman File, Notes Re: Weaving

Natural Dyes and Dyeing Processes: Publications, 1916-51, n.d.

Natural Dyeing, Correspondence, 1930-61

“Natural Dye Receipts,” Given by Miss Pettit, December, 1909

The Katherine Petit Book of Vegetable Dyes, Wilmer Stone Vilner and H.E. Scrope Viner, 1946

Report on Indigo Experiments, Pine Mountain Kentucky, Edna H. Fawcett, September 15-October 1, 1925

Vegetable Dying, Mrs. Emma Conley, n.d.

Folk Dance Music Notebook, Margurite Bidstrup and others, n.d.

Folk Dances Brought from Denmark, Georg and Marguerite Bidstrup, 1951-1952

19 Folk Dances from Denmark, Georg & Marguerite Bidstrup, n.d.

The Folk School Songbook, pre-World War II

Ballads, Folk Songs, Jack Tales and Stories from North Carolina, collected by Lee Knight, 1978-80

Singing Games, Old and New, collected and translated by John C. Campbell folk School, 1933

Singing Games and Folk Dances, collected and translated by John C. Campbell Folk School, 1941

Three Folk Plays, produced at the John c. Campbell Folk School, n.d.

Ampleforth Plays, n.d. Christmas Plays and Songs, 1939, 1941. N.d.

Mummers Play, 1972, n.d.

Children of the Calendar, Carol Hartley, n.d.

Door Neighbors, n.d.

The Fust Class Mule, 1937

[Granny Pruett], n.d.

The Man Who Died at Twelve O’clock, Paul Green, n.d.

[Mountain Valley Cooperative], n.d.

Poke Sallet, n.d.

Shutting the Door, n.d.

Way of Attainment, n.d.

[Wedgewood], n.d.

Browse by Part:

[Part A: Selected Records, 1923-1983],
[Part B: Selected Photographs, 1925-1985],

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