Hutchins Library
Special Collections & Archives
Guide to the Red Bird Mission Records

Accession Number: 44
Red Bird Mission Records
Selected Records 1921-1981
Selected Photographs 1920-1985
Online Catalog Record (BANC)

Series Description
Part A: Selected Records
   Series I
   Series II
   Series III
      Subseries IIIa
      Subseries IIIb
      Subseries IIIc
   Series IV
   Series V
Part B: Selected Photographs

Access and Use:

Provenance: Red Bird Mission records were collected and organized in 1982. Those having administrative, legal or historical value were microfilmed at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives and all then returned to the Mission. The resultant microfilm master negative is owned by Berea College. A user copy is available for researchers. Selected photographs were also organized and copied. The copy negatives and a set of copy prints are owned by Berea College. A second set of copy prints and all originals were returned to Red Bird Mission.
Copyright: Berea College does not own the copyright for the manuscripts or printed documents included in this microfilm edition. Therefore, it is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish from the Red Bird Mission or its successors and assigns. Permission has been granted by Red Bird Mission for Berea College to reproduce all or part of the school's photographs and to 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.
Preferred Citation: The proper credit line for all of the above uses shall be, "Red Bird Mission Records, Berea College Special Collections & Archives, Berea, Ky."

Overview of the Collection

These are selected records and photographs documenting the extensive religious, educational, and health programming conducted by Red Bird Mission in adjoining portions of Knox, Clay, Leslie, Harlan, and Bell counties, Kentucky. This collection was compiled during the late 1970s and early 1980s by the Settlement Institutions of Appalachia / Berea College Research Resources Project, which was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The project's purpose was to organize and preserve the original records and photographs of the Settlement Institutions of Appalachia (SIA) and to copy those of historical value to form a central research collection at Berea College.

Related Berea College Archives

Henderson Settlement School Records, 1925-1984, SAA 49


The Board of Missions of the mid-western based Evangelical Church began considering eastern Kentucky's Red Bird River region for a home mission project in 1919. On the recommendation of Rev. William Buyers, a Presbyterian minister from Hyden, Leslie County, Kentucky, a Board-appointed committee visited the area and found that residents were receptive to the idea of a mission. The first Mission worship service was held in a tiny schoolhouse at Beverly in Bell County on May 29, 1921. The Rev. B.H. Niebel preached to over100 people who had come walking or on horseback.

Educational efforts soon got underway with the arrival of two teachers, from Pennsylvania and Illinois respectively. Perhaps the most tangible initial help provided by the Mission was in the form of cash. Seventy-five cents a day was paid to each community worker who helped saw logs and build a residence for the Mission's first superintendent, Rev. John J. DeWall. A school building serving 100 grade school children and six high school students was in place by 1922. Also that year the Mission Board approved plans for a dormitory, four additional workers, and a nurse. Later Dr. Harlan Heim, a graduate of Cornell Medical School, arrived and by 1928 a hospital had been built.

The Mission's efforts at Beverly attracted interest from surrounding communities. The result was a complex, widespread organization that by the 1980s included 21 churches, an accredited K-12 school, an early childhood development program, a hospital, an outpatient clinic, a craft sales outlet, a used clothing store, and a summer work camp program. Over the years Mission staff have also actively cooperated with government and private agency efforts in promoting economic development and affordable housing.

Series Description
14 Manuscript Boxes

Series I Historical Studies and Publications, c.1922-81 Reels 1-2

This series consists of materials, mostly published, detailing Mission people and programs.

Series II Annual Council Meetings, Minutes and Reports, 1921-1975 Reels 2-4

The annual Mission Workers Council meetings are documented in minutes and reports of the superintendent, Mission department heads, standing committees, and out-station staff.

Series III Red Bird Mission Directors' Office Files, 1946-81 Reels 12-17, 5-9

This series consists of the non-current administrative and vital records found in the office of Edward Ehresman, director of Red Bird Mission Incorporated (1973-1980s).

Series IV Red Bird Missionary Conference Director's Files, Reels 17-22

This series consists of the Mission's non-current administrative files found in the office of Joseph Davis, Director of the Red Bird Missionary Conference (1977 to present).

Series V Red Bird Mission Hospital Office Files, 1927-77 Boxes 9-11

This series consists of the non-current administrative and operational records found in the office of Douglas Webb, Mission Hospital Administrator (1977 to 1981ff).

Part B Selected Photographs Boxes 5-11

This series consists of 698 images which provide visual documentation of Red Bird Mission from the 1920s through the mid 1980’s.

Home > Special Collections & Archives > Southern Appalachian Archives