Accession Number: 47
John C. Campbell Folk School Records
Selected Records, 1923-1983
Selected Photographs, c. 1925-1985
3.3 linear ft.
Part A - Selected Documents
Series I - Board and Corporation
Meetings, Minutes and Reports, 1925-69
Series II - Directors’ Office Files.
Series III - Scrapbooks and Publications, 1952-82
Part B - Selected Photographs,
Series I - Brochures and News
Releases, c. 1970-83
Series II - General File, c. 1925-1983
Series III - Betty Denash Photograph Albums c. 1930-1950
Series IV - Larry Pontier Prints c.1980
Series V - Doris Ulmann Copy Prints and Copy Negatives
Access and Use
Provenance: The John C. Campbell Folk School collection
was compiled by the Settlement Institutions of Appalachia / Berea
College Research Resources Project (1979-1986), and funded by
the Appalachian Fund and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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.Selected
John C. Campbell Folk School photographs were collected, organized,
and reproduced by Project staff in 1986.
Access: 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.
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. 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
Preferred Citation: Either "John C. Campbell Folk School
Records, Berea College Special Collections & Archives, Berea, Ky," when
documents are cited, or "John C Campbell Folk School Photographic
Collection, Berea College Special Collections & Archives, Berea,
Ky," when images are used.
Related Berea College Archives
- Howard A. Kester papers, 1923-1972 Edited by Edward M. Wayland.
- Howard A. Kester papers, 1923-1972. Edited by Edward M. Wayland.
- The Appalachian Photographs of Doris Ulmann
Other Related Archives
Southern Historical Collection, Manuscripts Department Library, University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- John Charles and Olive Dame Campbell Papers (#3800).
- John C. Campbell Folk School Records, 1928-1988 (#5040)
The 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
John C. Campbell was born in Laporte, Indiana, in 1867. He was raised in Wisconsin
and graduated from Andover Academy in 1888, Williams College in 1892, and Andover
Seminary in 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; the couple spent 1907-1908 in Scotland
and Sicily. During his stay in Europe Campbell learned of the Russell Sage
Foundation, and after his return he approached the organization with a proposal
to study the function of church and privately supported schools in the southern
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
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 with 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, black-smithing,
enameling, leatherworking, and pottery. Annual events include Folk-Dance Week,
Little Folk School for children, and the Fall Arts, Crafts, and Music Festival.
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