Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel
Pine Mountain Settlement School acknowledges the generous support they have received to make this important MARGUERITE BUTLER BIDSTRUP oral history, taken by Terry Thorp, a former Berea College student, available to the public.
We are especially appreciative of David Millstone, coordinator of the Square Dance History Project www.SquareDanceHistory.org who first notified us of the existence of this interview and Berea Archivist, Harry Rice, who cleared the way to use the 1972 Terry Thorp interview which resides in the Berea College Archive. We indebted, too, to historian Anna Shearhouse who spent serious hours transcribing the oral history. We also acknowledge the important work of archivist David Brose and the John C. Campbell Folk School in this rich first-hand account of Marguerite’s work at Pine Mountain (1914-1922) and at John C. Campbell Folk School (1922- ????).
All of this discovery would not have happened were it not for the conscientious donation of Marguerite’s audio tape by John Ramsay, dancer and folklorist, to David Millstone and Peter Rogers who made sure we were all doing the same dance.
If we have somewhere missed a step or have not acknowledged a key contributor to this offering, we would like to be soundly nudged!
To fully understand the significance of Marguerite Butler’s work with Appalachian music and dance and the importance of this interview to that history, a visit to the Square Dance History Project www.SquareDanceHistory.org will greatly enhance the context.
Ramsay, John. “John Ramsay – Set Running. A Southern Folk Dance.” Square Dance History Project. http://www.squaredancehistory.org/items/show/590 (accessed 2014-08-04). Internet resource.
Yates, Mike. “Cecil Sharp in America: Collecting in the Appalachians.” http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/sharp.htm (accessed 2014-08-04). Internet resource.
MARGUERITE BUTLER BIDSTRUP ORAL HISTORY
TT: Terry Thorp
MB: Marguerite Butler Bidstrup
[We have made only minor editing corrections to the original transcription for clarity and have enclosed our edits in [brackets].
Department of Special Collections and Archives
Appalachian Oral History Collection SAA 59
Interviewee: Marguerite Bidstrup
Interviewer: Terry Thorp
Date: January 21, 1972
Two Audio Cassette Tapes
Transcribed by Anna Shearouse
John C. Campbell Folk School
Begin Side A AC-448-020-A
TT: Marguerite Bidstrup tells of her first experience in the mountains at the Pine Mountain Settlement School in Harlan County, Kentucky.
MB: When I was in high school in Cincinnati, Ohio, where my family lived, I heard at the Presbyterian church, a Mr. Webb, tell of his experience at (inaudible),Tennessee. I think this was the first time my interest was really aroused in our Southern Appalachians, because I never forgot some of the things he said that day. Then again, during college days I became interested in the southern mountains, and with Frances Jewell, who was a year ahead of me and later married the president of the University of Kentucky. We together discussed the mountains of Kentucky and how we would like to see the Hindman Settlement School, which had been going for a number of years then; it was started about the turn of the century. But that never worked out.
But then the summer of my junior year, a very, very close friend went to Kansas City to visit another classmate, Emily Hook. And there she met her sister Mary Rockwell, who had graduated from Wellesley and was an architect, and Mary told of a school that was soon to be started in Harlan County at the headwaters of Greasy Creek where Isaacs Run and Solomon Branch come together. Mary was to be the architect for all the buildings at this new school. And she and Miss Pettit and Ethel de Long and Miss Davis, the nurse, walked the fifty miles from Hindman to Pine Mountain.
Mary was full of the beauty of the country and the prospect of developing this new school. And when my friend, Ethel McCullough, came back and told me, she said “We knew this would just be the place that you would want to go.” So I immediately wrote Miss Pettit, Miss Katherine Pettit, whose home was in Lexington, Kentucky, and told her I had one more year at Vassar and then I would be interested to come down to this new school if they could use me. And I immediately had a reply. They would gladly welcome me. So I think I was one of the few who my senior year knew what I was going to do the following year.
And the following summer, following a house party in the Berkshires and a house party in Maine, I headed for the mountains of Kentucky. It was to the amusement of all my friends that I was told that Will Lewis would meet me at Dillon, if you could call it a station. Nothing but a signboard at the top of two poles. But I traveled on three different trains to just cross the state of Kentucky, because Harlan County is in the extreme southeastern part, and there Will Lewis met me with his horse or mule – I’ve really forgotten which – and took me over to the school. Lunch was over by the time I got there, so a tray was brought to my room. I was to live in Big Log House, which had just been finished. The school had just been started the year before, in April, and the important part was to have it all fenced and be ready for a dairy herd, be ready for poultry and be ready to carry on a rural experiment beside the actual school itself, public classroom. I didn’t know what this was in a bowl, this white, fluffy…later I found it was butter. A butter that certainly lacked much butterfat.
But after I finished my lunch, I immediately went downstairs. They were staining the tables for the dining room, the room later to be used as a guest sleeping room. There was one large round table and a small round table and I stained the small round table. Then Miss Pettit said Becky Mae and Docia’s hair should be washed. So I washed Becky Mae and Docia’s hair. And then Miss Pettit had some lovely hand-woven flax curtains, but she had just the material, so I began measuring the material and hemming those curtains for her room. This was my first afternoon.
That night being Saturday, I was told that there would be a set running on the front porch of Big Log. This was the custom. Every Saturday night the young men from down Greasy came riding up on their nags, and on the front porch of Big Log, we ran a set, sometimes called a set running, sometimes you say you’re gonna run a set. I had never seen anything like it before. I had been to a camp down in Indiana and done square dancing at night on a platform, but the figures were entirely different from this; the whole pattern of the dance was different. We all made a big circle (called it an oval many times; it depended how many there were there). Oh, I must say, before the dance began, Miss Pettit, who always sat on the very edge of the porch where the steps came up, asked all the men to please hand over their guns. And they were put into the living room. And of course to me that was very exciting, because I wasn’t used to having a partner carrying a gun!
The first couple, the lead-out man was the caller. And he didn’t try to be funny, as later I found so many callers in other parts of this country tried to be funny as they called. But Oscar simply gave the direction, what you should do, and he with his partner led out and danced with a second couple, then with the third couple, then the fourth and the fifth, all around the set. And when he finished, however many couples there were, if there were six or seven or eight couples, then a little promenade was called. It was a very simple figure, the little promenade. But that was danced. And then the second couple led out. Oscar did the calling for all. Now while this calling was going on, all the dancers in their places were patting, not noisily but with rhythm, and clapping. At the end of figure two, there was a little promenade, and so forth. Then it went on.
Some of the figures that we danced were hands-four, shoot the owl, the wild goose chase, box the gnat, oh, one that I can’t remember now; it’s always done with…(tape noise). “Old Dan Tucker” was one of the favorites, and to that we always sang. Another one we sang was, and this one, it was in a circle and every man put his right arm over his left shoulder and held one couple behind so we were a tiny, tiny little circle, and we sang “Killiecranky is my song/I sing and dance it all day long/from my elbow to my toe/how much further can I go?” That was another one of the favorites. At the very end, it would end with a grand promenade. And many times, to just go through the various figures, each couple sharing, took an hour to an hour and ten minutes. So many times the whole Saturday evening was taken with doing just two sets. That was all, and always the figures could be a little varied, but we didn’t have too many figures; it was very simple. That was a regular Saturday night custom.
Now one reason why they could do it at Pine Mountain – it had not been possible at some of the other schools, for instance at Hindman, which had been started by Miss Pettit around the turn of the century – is because of the established church and the prejudice against dancing. But it happened at Pine Mountain there was no established church. And so the dancing was permitted. I never heard a word of prejudice about it. But Miss Pettit was always present, and if she saw the men, during the evening, slip out too many times to their nags, which were tied to trees at the back, she knew they were going out there for a reason, and so she called goodnight and the dancing ended. And we’d hear the men going snapping their guns, and going riding around the three pine trees and headed for down Greasy. So in the eight years that I was there, we never had any difficulty. And there was never any prejudice.
There was no organized church for it to have come from the church, but no prejudice in the community whatsoever. I was surprised when I found in how many places they could not do it because the preacher felt, and not only the preacher but the good citizens who had joined the church, that dancing was a sin. Likewise, a fiddle, playing the fiddle was a sin. That was the instrument of the devil! And although we never used a fiddle…I don’t know of anyone there who played a fiddle. It was just not necessary. It was fine to have it, not necessary, because it meant whenever there was a bean stringing, which in around August and September was a very popular occupation, a family would have beans that covered a whole sheet and they wanted the beans strung – by stringing, I mean threading them on a string, hanging them up in the sun to dry, so they could be used in the winter. They were called shucky beans. And they said there’d be a bean stringing at such-and-such a home. Well of course we would all, no matter if it was 3-4-5 mile walk, we would all head down for it, because when the beans were strung…there wasn’t room in the house to dance; we would hang a lantern on the porch and dance out in the yard. And in the mountains, very differently than you’ll find today, the yards were always swept clean. They were bare. It was the dirt you saw. They were afraid to have any planting near the house because of snakes.
Now, I was fortunate enough to have been at Pine Mountain when Cecil Sharp and Maude Karpeles crossed over the mountain one day, stopped by the office. Very quietly; they just walked over the mountain. Cecil Sharp of course is the great English authority on the folk song and the folk dance. And he hadn’t seen the running set anyplace. He had been collecting folk songs for a number of months in this country in some of the mountain states and also in the east. He had been told by various church schools and various individuals he wouldn’t be interested in it, it was uncouth, it was vulgar. But to his surprise one night, a dance was planned, not on the porch of Big Log but on the terrace at the back of Far House and nothing hung on the terrace but one lantern to light the way, and Pine Mountain rose straight behind Far House, and there was a moon over that which emphasized the picture.
No fotched-on person (and I was fotched-on) could share in that dancing; they were all the people who had been born and raised and lived in that part of the country. And they went through the figures and did the running set for Cecil Sharp. I never saw anyone more excited. He was so excited, he said (and afterward he has written) that the air fairly pulsated with the rhythm – although remember there was no music. But the way the caller called and the dancers clapped and patted, they fitted right into the pattern. And he knew right off that he had found something older than anything he had known in England. Now Cecil Sharp later saw this dance done in several other places in Kentucky and other places it was always done four couples in a square. But he himself wrote that no place was it done in the same and as beautiful a form as it was at the Pine Mountain School.
During Cecil Sharp’s stay at Pine Mountain, with him was his secretary, Maude Karpeles, who had accompanied him on all his voyage in America. Cecil Sharp taught eight staff members – I happened to be one of the eight staff members – three of the Playford dances. We danced on the side porch of Laurel House following the noontime meal. And those three dances were Black Nag, Gathering Peascods, and Rufty-Tufty. Later Mrs. Starrel came down to visit, and Mrs. Starrel was president of the Girl Scouts at one time, and Mrs. Starrel owned the camp where the Country Dance Society held their annual camp, their training course. And Mrs. Starrel taught us a number of dances; the only one I can remember now was Hunston House. The English dances were foreign to our young people and they were foreign to us. Later we had individuals come in who taught – Winnie Christiansen came, and she taught us a number of the dances. But with these dances, it wasn’t as easy to get up on the spur of the moment and dance as it was with the running set, so we usually at any special occasion ran the set. It was the favorite of everyone.
Then not only was Cecil Sharp interested in the dance, but he was also very much interested in the song. He was very surprised when he came back to England after spending a number of years in Australia when he realized that most of the songs sung in the schools in England were of German origin, not their own English song, and he knew something must be wrong, that they’re bound to be their own English songs. And so Cecil Sharp started out to find some of the old English songs, which he knew must have existed. He tried everyplace. Finally he discovered the only people who knew those songs were people past 70 years of age. Many times old men in the old men’s home, old folks’ home of some kind, no younger people and no children. And he felt somewhere there must be this English song saved. Little did he realize he would have to go as far as the Southern Appalachian mountains to find English folk songs – older, many of them older than any version of the English folk song found in England. And he said himself, “You don’t know what a feeling it gives a Britisher to find in another country they’re your own songs, older than the ones that you have.” And I know he said one time, “Why, here in the mountains all ages sang, children, all ages sang.” And he wanted a song one day from a woman, and she couldn’t quite remember it, and she said, “Now if I was just driving the cattle home I could remember that song.” They sang as they worked, and they connected certain songs with work.
So Cecil Sharp had found two things in the mountains. He had found the running set, and he had found the folk song older than anything in England. Cecil Sharp had many times wished that he had been born a few centuries earlier, when the English folk song was the common expression of old and young. But the folk song collecting in England was practically finished when Cecil Sharp was trying to find out about the song. And in going to the Southern Appalachians, it was just as though he had found an England of one or two centuries ago. Now, while he was so interested in this song, I want to tell of Olive Dame Campbell who was born near Boston and all her life had been interested in music. Her mother was very musical; a music club was named after her mother. And Olive Dame Campbell and her husband were traveling through the mountains of Kentucky because John Campbell perhaps did more in a complete understanding of how the mountains were settled, the various nationalities of the people, the routes they traveled, and so forth than anyone else living. And his book The Southern Highlander and his Homeland is the story that tells that. Mrs. Campbell was with him as he was journeying through the mountains visiting schools, because he had found at one school in Alabama a young girl by the name of Myrtle crying at noon. And he asked Myrtle what was the trouble. And she just said, “What is happening? All the men, a man that I would want to marry, are leaving here. What is there left for me but to have my folks take care of me, or for me to marry someone I don’t want to? You had better left me in my ignorance.” Mr. Campbell never forgot Myrtle saying. And he later, when he was at Pleasant Hill Academy on the plateau of Tennessee, he was reminded again and again of Myrtle saying, and again at Piedmont College, Demorest, Georgia, where he was president of a small junior college under the Congregational Church Board. And he decided he could no longer go on, because he saw what he was doing was helping the brighter boy escape his home community, leaving that community the poorer for it. And the boy had gone to the outside, to a new world. So Mr. Campbell wanted to find out what was happening at the other schools. He had been at the three schools in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia; he wanted to find out if the same thing was happening, or had happened at schools like the Hindman Settlement School and the Pine Mountain School and Berea College.
So Mr. Campbell made a study, started to travel about the country. And one of their first nights at Hindman – it took them two days in a jolt wagon to go from Jackson to Hindman – Miss Pettit who was then still at Hindman, Miss Pettit asked Mrs. Campbell if she would like to hear “Barbara Allen.” And she seemed a bit lukewarm about it, because she had been raised on “Barbara Allen.” But “Barbara Allen” in a printed version in a music book. And she said this young girl sat down by the fire and began to sing, and Mrs. Campbell was completely lost. It affected her in just the same way as Myrtle’s statement had affected Mr. Campbell. She never was the same person again. She realized that here was something – there were other variants of these songs of true beauty, very different, that were going to be lost forever. So Mrs. Campbell began right then, she took down that version; it was an extremely difficult one, but a beautiful one, a “Barbary Allen” which is perhaps one of the most popular ballads.
A ballad is something that tells a story. It’s a tragic story, but somehow tragedy goes with life, and many of the ballads were very tragic. Mrs. Campbell went on collecting. Every place she went, she was listening for folk songs, for ballads, jotting them down. She didn’t have any tape recorder, she didn’t have any secretary who could shorthand take down the words as Mr. Sharp could take down the notes. The local people said he made little chicken marks on the paper. And Maud Karpeles could take shorthand the words. But Mrs. Campbell nevertheless got the best she could, and then went back to check it to make sure that it was correct. She had collected about 38-40 songs. She had heard of Louise Wyman and Harold Brockway who had recently been to Kentucky conducting folk ballads, and she had read of Cecil Sharp; she had known of what Cecil Sharp had done in England and what he had tried to find in this country. So with a little notebook under her arm, she travelled all the way from Ashville to Lincoln, Massachusetts to see Mrs. Starrel at whose home Cecil Sharp was a guest. And she was greatly impressed because when she went through the terrace, there was a great tree in the center of the terrace.
She was greeted by Mrs. Starrel, who said “Don’t stay over 15 minutes, because Mr. Sharp has asthma and gout and he’s not feeling very well; he’s a very difficult patient.” Well, that wasn’t very encouraging for someone who had traveled a good many miles from North Carolina. But she went in and there Cecil Sharp sat in a high-backed carved chair, a lap board in front of him, and she put her little collection down. He asked her how she did it, and she told him well, she had them sing and she made notes and jotted it down the best she could and as soon as she could get to a little organ (there were no pianos), if she could get back to the person, the singer, she went back and checked on it. And Mr. Sharp replied “I suppose you realize that’s a very unscientific way.” But nevertheless he began turning the pages and turning the pages, and he got more excited by the minute. And at the end of 45 minutes, Mrs. Starrel arrived expecting to find her guest exhausted, and instead he’d forgotten his asthma, he’s forgotten his gout. He said in the months he’d been in this country, it was the only real thing that had been brought to him and he was too excited about it. So a lifelong friendship was started with that meeting. And Mr. and Mrs. Campbell’s home at that time was in Asheville, North Carolina, and their home became his headquarters. And they planned where he should go, and from there they routed him out through the mountains to the surrounding schools, many of them as I say were church schools, independent schools, or individuals – any place where he could get a song.
I was fortunate enough to be with Mrs. Campbell in England the year before Cecil Sharp’s death, and I heard him tell the group – it was at the English, I don’t know whether they called it the English course; there were about 300 students and a fairly large staff. And I heard him tell there of his experience in collecting other songs in the United States, and I saw there the result of the set running, of his learning the set running, because he had come to this country and found it. He had gone back to England and taught it. And this the last night of the summer course, the staff were going to do the set running.
After a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Campbell in 1916, Cecil Sharp wrote, “To me it is quite wonderful that anyone so little in touch with any work of the kind that has been done elsewhere should have set herself such a high standard and in effect reached it. She has just the combination of scientific and artistic spirit which work of this kind needs if it is to be of any use to posterity. What she has so far accomplished of great value, but I gather that it is after all only the beginning. The field that has yielded what she has harvested much be a very rich one and its exploration must be thoroughly done as soon as possible, for I gathered from her that the present conditions are rapidly undermining and destroying the tradition.”
Mrs. Campbell always set a very high standard for whatever she did, and as long as she lived, folk song played an important part in her life. She never missed an opportunity to hear another version; she never missed an opportunity to not only hear it but to take it down, and the first book published jointly, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, by Olive Dame Campbell and Cecil Sharp, I prize very much. That has many tunes that Mrs. Campbell collected in her early days. And even at the time of her death, folk songs instead of hymns were sung at the service.
Now, I’ve left out some things that it’s terrible to have left out.
[Side B of AC-CT-448-020-A is blank.]
Begin Side A AC-CT-448-020-B
[This tape largely consists of Marguerite Bidstrup and another unknown person (Terry Thorp?) going through photographs and commenting on each. It is fragmented with many stops and starts.]
MB: (Tape begins mid-sentence) …at the farm, and as we’re cleaning the farm. It’s one of the nicest of the farms, up on Little Brasstown, and that was his home, Hugh Stalcup. They had one…I’m trying to think. Only had one daughter and she had one son, Red Porter-Rapier, who sang, but he didn’t sing the songs that his grandfather knew. He sang over the radio. Red Stalcup sang very poor songs; Hugh Stalcup, a folk singer. He sang a very poor quality of a song. Now Hugh Stalcup, this one, he sang…do we have songs of all time? “Well, who’s gonna shoe your pretty little foot/who’s gonna glove your hand/who’s gonna kiss those red ruby lips/when I’m in a far-off land?” He sang that folk song, but he was one of the very fine citizens.
TT: He has character in his face.
MB: Oh he has, he has.
(Unknown voice): I’ll copy that address down, Marguerite.
MB: Red Rapier. Val, see… [tape jumps]
MB: Now, the grand…“Seven Joys of Mary”…its right down here. Did you find it there? Let’s see if it lists. Well, they’re different versions, you see, because Mrs. Campbell was chairman the first edition and then later we cut some out and had another edition. Let me see if I can tell, now… [tape jumps] This one is bound to be here, “The Seven Joys of Mary,” at least I hope it is. Well… [tape jumps] Tom Barnett, and he is the grandfather of Irene Scroggs, whose husband has just taken over the store, and he lived on Peachtree. He was a very fine character, a very fine person. And sometimes in our Christmas play, just at a certain place in the play, instead of the chorus – we had a chorus of men and women’s voices and we had purple robes and scarlet capes and caps and so forth – he would stand and sing that song.
TT: And he was a fiddler too? Seeing that he had a fiddle in his hand.
MB: Yes, he had a fiddle in his hand, but he wasn’t especially noted as a fiddler. He was noted more as this. His uncle Abe Green…now he doesn’t sing; I don’t know why this is among singers. I’ve never known of Uncle Abe Green to sing a song.
TT: Now that one that I’ll need to change to a different…that should be in the…
MB: He’s a citizen, Uncle Abe Green – it’s up here, it’s up here, it’s on here. Uncle Abe Green, Brasstown.
TT: This should go in this one, then – “Local Close Friends.”
MB: That’s right, that should go right there. That should go right there. That’s right. I’m still troubled why I can’t find that – we didn’t have that recorded of… Amos Curtis, “Down in Yon Forest.” Now he lived up Green Cove and it was a beautiful version, we’ll see if we can find it. And here he is, Amos Curtis. He lived just about two miles, two miles and a quarter from here. I don’t know whether it’s recorded in here or not, but… It isn’t? Hmm. (sings) “Down in yon (inaudible)/Sing May queen, May sing Mary/His coverlid over with purple and pall/Sing all good men for the newborn baby.”
TT: Oh, that’s a good song!
MB: And I had gone to…Vassar was my college, and I had gone there at commencement time, and they had a custom then that on the Sunday night at commencement time, they had…the college choir sang some of the favorite Easter and Christmas carols. And of course I went to it, and I heard a version. I’d never heard the carol before, “Down in Yon Forest.” Not the one that I just sang, that he sang. And I went down to New York from there and I bought it at G. Schirmer. You’ll find it over in the closet right now, over in the school in (inaudible)’s closet, the version that I bought, an English version. And when I came back, I found that this local version had been found here while I was away.
TT: While you were away? And you came back…
MB: Uh-huh, and found this local version. But I think it’s a beautiful thing. Let’s see; I’ve forgotten how the…in fact that might be among the carols. This doesn’t need to be here because that had the paper, but that’s settled. But that’s his, his name, Uncle…yes, published by Schirmer. Here, Amos Curtis, “Down in Yon Forest,” “Green Love.” There is an English version published by Schirmer, see there. And here is…
TT: Was that one, was unmarked?
MB: Oh, I think this is Ed Teems, the fiddler. Well, he wasn’t too much of a fiddler, or too much of a…he was some, a half-brother or something of Ruf Teems, Ben Teems’ father. But he didn’t…now here is Hugh Stalcup. He is the one. I think it’s better to emphasize the ones who… Hugh Stalcup, a folksinger, ‘The Devil’s Questions.’” That’s one of the earliest. Mrs. Campbell considered him a fine singer. Bright Rapier married his daughter. Bright’s Porter Rapier’s grandson. Porter Rapier was the one I told you they called “Red” Rapier – sang over the radio, but didn’t sing good songs, unfortunately. Now you’ve seen Bright Rapier, you’ve seen his other (inaudible). What he sang was (sings) “Oh, who answers my questions well/sing ninety-nine and ninety/dum dum dum dum (hums) weavering bonny/Oh half the words of these, you forget them you don’t sing them” (Laughs)
TT: The Devil’s Questions, if you would?
MB: The Devil’s Questions, 52. Let’s see if this is his version or another version. No, this is Richard (inaudible)’s version; he didn’t put in here his version, you see. The second time, Mrs. Campbell was not the…Edna Ritchey, Raina McClain, Richard Chasen, Marie Marble…Mrs. Campbell wasn’t here the second time it was done. (sings) “If you can’t answer my questions nine/sing ninety-nine and ninety/oh, you’re not called your one of nine/and you’re not the weaver’s bonny/Not the weaver’s bonny.” Now that isn’t the way…this is the way we sang it, not the way this is written here. And the weaver’s bonny really meant the weaver’s…the lassie that helped the weaver. And some would sing it the weavering bonny. (sings) “Oh what is higher than the trees/sing ninety-nine and ninety/and what is deeper than the sea/you’re not the weaver’s bonny./Oh, heaven is higher than the tree/and hell is deeper than the sea” It goes on, and it’s one of the earliest form of ballads, these question and answer things, one of the very earliest forms. And this is one reason why Mrs. Campbell felt that he would…now here’s the cuckoo one. Now if you’ve cut that off, I wish you’d go out in my table drawer right there in the hall and get the…
Now this is the one who sang “The Cuckoo,” and she was a very strong character. And she lived in Cherokee County.
TT: This is Evelyn’s grandmother?
MB: Evelyn’s grandmother. Her daughter was Evelyn’s mother and birth mother and so forth. And there she is.
TT: That picture is just beautiful.
MB: And see what we’ve written about her… “Granny Smith, a folksinger, grandmother of Burton Douglas Smith, Evelyn Smith Lee, version of ‘The Cuckoo.’” There are many versions of “The Cuckoo.” Now Mrs. Campbell always said that Evelyn, she was a person of strong character and Mrs. Campbell always said that she thought that…of course, as these songs were sung and handed down, naturally they were changed as different people…and she always felt that Granny Smith, this last verse, “If I am forsaken I will not be forsworn/And he’s fully mistaken if he thinks I will mourn/For I’ll get myself in some higher degree/And I’ll walk as light by him as he can by me.”
TT: And she said that she wrote…?
MB: No, she thinks so, because it’s, you don’t find it often in “The Cuckoo.” And she thinks that was Granny’s own character came out in this. Now, she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know. You can just think these things, you know.
I wish…there was just some little ditty that she sang. She was a remarkable woman, very strong character. In fact a whole play…
“Granny Hatchett.” A new play, every year Mrs. Campbell worked out…you’re not taking this down, are you? Every year Mrs. Campbell worked out a play, based on folk material, and this, there were three generations: the Grandmother, and Neddie Woodard took the part of Granny Hatchett; and the daughter and the granddaughter. And the main character, of course, was Granny Hatchett. And what Granny Hatchett, what a young woman in her time had to have and what was just necessary, and Mrs. Campbell took that little play to Asheville, to a library meeting and gave it at the Grove Park Inn in the theater in the circle in the center, with just these three characters, and they said it went over beautifully.
TT: Golly, I think there are pictures of that, even.
MB: Well, it’s somewhere that…and I was trying to find some of the things that Granny Hatchett said at that time, because she was such a…but I’d have to look through this. You better cut that off.
Douglas Smith’s grandmother, April 22, 1934, when she sang songs for Jack Niles and he sang for her. He sang one of Hugh Stalcup’s, which she thought was only a part of a love song. Hugh Stalcup was too good a Christian to sing love songs.
MB: But that wasn’t what I was trying to find. I was trying to find some of her comments about…
…Hatchett, when I gave her the wool jacket with a card, “For Granny Hatchett from Granny Matthews.” That was Mrs. Mortimer Matthews, who was on our board of directors. And it was her family who were one of the founders of the Proctor and Gamble soap company. ‘And Granny said “Laws, ain’t that pretty!” It was a little jacket she had knit for her. “They won’t be no danger of me a-gettin’ cold now. The poor, old, good thing. I just thought a lot of her. I just learned her some new stitches.” She taught her some stitches in… “I tried to learn her and her daughter too, the day they was there.” Then she put on the jacket and came to the office to show Mrs. Campbell. “Hain’t I fine? Dressy lookin’, ain’t it?”’
MB: And again, Granny Hatchett: ‘“I just love to be a-farming, just to be out a-seein’ things growin’ and being in the good air and sunshine. It’s medicine for me!” Then, on November 26 in ’35, Granny Hatchett came to tell the group of Pioneer Days in the section…we had a man come, a grove, Mr. Carringer, to tell of the life from the pioneer days from the point of view of the man and Granny Hatchett from the woman. She arrived just as we were beginning morning song. It was a cold drive, and so we led her to a rocker near the radiator. It was in the living room at Keith House, and we didn’t have a fire there because the room was full with chairs. And Granny said “I ain’t used to these here blind fireplaces.” And then we sang the carols and she volunteered to sing one. “Hain’t that what you call ‘The Birds that Sing in the Night,’ speaking of carols?” And she started when she discovered Mrs. Campbell’s bobbed hair, and such a delightful chuckle of approval as she smoothed it. “Hit’s the handiest way though, hain’t it?” Then she decided how women used to fix their hair, in a big roll over stuffed black calico. When they curled it, they put it in shucks (corn shucks). “I got a cousin who went to milk on a Saturday night and she scared the cows near to death. It made little horns sticking out on the side. There’s glory in short hair, same as in long, and a body can keep it a heap cleaner. I like short hair. I think it’s healthy and nice.”’
TT: And she’s the same lady who was out in the garden?
MB: She’s the one who was out in the garden and said “I don’t think there’s any better place…” I probably have that down here. “…to die than in a garden.”
(Continuing with reading) “Everybody thought they had to sleep on a feather bed the year round; mighty nigh sweat their selves to death. We kept a big gang of geese for the feathers. You had to have a feather bed. If you didn’t, you weren’t worth a cent. At Christmas we had some walnuts and some apples, and sometimes Mother let us make a little syrup candy. No one knew what Easter meant. We dyed our eggs with yellow root. People didn’t know no better than eatin’ eggs and never got sick, but my brother did. Girls weren’t supposed to have much education. No, the boys had to have education. They didn’t think of the women or the little ones about our teachin’ them something new every day. We put in sixty yards of sheets and pillowcases. I wove eight yards and a half in one day, but that’s all the days; I hurried. That’s the most I ever wove in a day. I told ‘em, I just had been a-workin’ all my life (and I have). I’ve done every kind of outside work but ditchin’. I’ve done plowing and hoeing corn and sawing wood. I’ve done every kind of outside work.
The first year we stayed at Grandpa’s house and lived in the kitchen. Then we bought a bit of land. You can guess what a time we had trying to get that paid for. There wasn’t a rail on the place or nothin’, just an old piney field. The house wasn’t sealed, just boxed up. In 1891 we got in debt and oh laws, we just had the worst time. A girl got a cow and a saddle, maybe a pig, with the cow and the calf. When I went to school, I never got into my shoes until Christmas. Our school just lasted three months and the teacher got $25 a month. I wore homemade shoes until I was old enough to go with the boys. Speaking of hoop skirts, I’ve been ashamed of them things ever since I wore ‘em. My poppy saw ‘em wearing those old things in South America. Speakin’ of Ned’s homemade trousers…” She told how they were made like overalls with a bib. “They used to call them ‘fall doors pants.’” Well, I don’t think you want any more of that.
TT: That book’s like gold, you know.
MB: Well, she goes on for pages here, the pioneer farming. She says “Speakin’ of pioneer farming, every few years a new field was cleared. Just killed it as dead in three or four years. And the rain’d come, and water’d run down those furrows. They’d plow right after. Then when they’d get dry, you could break it with a hammer.” See, that’s why this fall erosion was so bad all through here, you see. Because then all the topsoil would get washed down to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Well, that seems to be… But it was on Granny Hatchett’s conversation they wrote that play, on her conversation. But she was a remarkable person. No one ever said anything ill of the Hatchett family. I can’t think of her…as well as I know, if she walked in this room right now, the daughter…outstanding weaver. She belonged to our Southern Highland Handicraft Guild. She has Granny Hatchett’s loom and is weaving on Granny Hatchett’s loom now. (Inaudible)
TT: Now, this is local, local Brasstown?
MB: Oh, this is the one we said, this is Uncle Abe Green. He’s…I don’t know if you know Carolyn; Tommy Anderson is a…” Uncle Abe Green lived right up here, just about at the Green Cove Church, it’s written on there. But he’s not a folksinger in any way.
TT: A lot of “B”s.
MB: If not, we’ll have to pick out a few of… Oh, it is – Wanda Scroggs. This is Blanche’s younger sister, Wanda Scroggs.
TT: Aww, look at the spinning wheel…
MB: Of course, that was just a toy spinning wheel. She grew up in this community; she’s living now either near Hazelwood or Waynesville in that area, she’s living. Here she is again, with Nancy Sue Waldrop, in the museum, looking out of the museum window at one of the old folks.
TT: That was a beautiful picture.
MB: This is Nancy Sue, her daughter, she is the wife of Bert.
TT: Oh, yeah!
MB: Nancy wasn’t all that she should’ve been…now here’s Oscar’s mother, and Uncle Abe Green’s Aunt Cindy Green, and they’re using a cotton gin there. Mrs. John Cantrell and Aunt Mindy Curtis. They raised their cotton and they’re using a cotton gin now.
TT: Was that at their house?
MB: That was at one of their…I don’t know whether it was…now, I wasn’t there the day that was taken. I was with Doris Ulmann when some of these were taken, but I wasn’t there the day that was taken.
TT: These were taken in the 1930s?
MB: They were in the early 1930s, around ’32, ’33, ’34, around in there, about that time, yes. And that’s right up at Green Cove. I’ll put a thing on here; let’s see who this is now. Oh, this is Mr. Donaldson, Granny Donaldson’s husband. Has to be Granny Donaldson’s husband, yes. She’s the one who did the animal blankets. And poor husband, he’s just known as Granny Donaldson’s husband! (Laughs.) You know what I mean about the animal blankets?
TT: Uh, with the pictures of the animals on them? Forms and… There’s one up there, they have it over in (inaudible).
MB: Yes, well, I had one up, I think in the hall upstairs. I had one; I gave it to one of Granny Donaldson’s grandchildren. Oh, this is Aunt Mindy Curtis. This is Uncle Mindy Curtis’s, that was in the…(inaudible). There, Carolyn and Tommy.
TT: Did Doris Ulmann usually have someone from the community go with her? Because I don’t see how she could have, you know, get these people to pose…?
MB: Oh yes, this is a good one to add in. This is at Green Cove; that house isn’t standing now, I’m sorry to say. Her husband is the one who sang “Down in Yon Forest.” Here’s her husband. Well, Doris, everybody knew her; she even could take pictures, and we have them somewhere, even took pictures in the Baptist Sunday School, in the church.
TT: Well, that’s really something! She must’ve been a person that the people felt they could depend…
MB: Oh yes, they did. This is Mrs. Adams, Frederick Adams’ mother, a great active member of the Women’s Club. She lived up Little Brasstown. It’s their place that the Corell‘s bought and live in now. Now when this covers it…we really don’t need this because this is…these are the…and this is, looks like another picture of Wanda, little Wanda…I think it’s awkward to have this, it just complicates it. That’s Wanda, can keep those for another…
TT: Wanda Scroggs?
MB: And could say if we want…I don’t have a pen here; oh yes I do, right here…
…daughter of May and Fred O. Wanda is now married and living…we had the other picture of her with the little…
Well, here’s J.O. Penland. Now here is J.O. Penland, and he…oh dear; I think this is just extra things, see what I mean? Keep those for another that don’t have…J.O. Penland, and we have here “Farmer and (inaudible)” I think we should also say “Member of local advisory committee.” He was interested in everything that went on in the community. His son Hollis lives in the community now. One daughter lives over the line in Georgia and one daughter lives down in…he is the one, J.O. Penland, that hearth broom right there, he’d make the handles for it. And his wife did the…but he was just one of the most substantial citizens of the community, and he, together with Fred O. Scroggs and Mrs. Carrie Clayton, Mrs. Bill Clayton, were the three members of our local advisory committee. And Mrs. Campbell and I talked over everything with them. Now here’s Mercer Scroggs, a son of Fred O. and May, Mercer Scroggs. Say that, Mercer Scroggs.
TT: He was this man’s son?
MB: No, no, this here’s a Penland.
TT: That’s Penland?
MB: Son of Fred O. – this is Blanche’s brother. Fred O. and May Scroggs. See, in that family there were ten children, five boys and five girls. Girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy right down the line.
TT: That’s a rare thing!
MB: Now here’s another family entirely. The Coker family. And they didn’t live up on Little Brasstown too long; then they moved up above Hayesville. Cora Coker. There’s nothing special I don’t think; her father was…daughter of Henry Carringer; he was a very substantial citizen. Cora Coker. Now here’s Luce Scroggs himself, Uncle Luce Scroggs himself, Fred O’s father. Uncle Luce Scroggs. I don’t know why we didn’t put a little bit more down here. Father of Fred O; that’s Blanche’s grandfather, you see. …school as his son. Are you gonna make that out?
TT: Um-hum. It’s good that you have that.
MB: He was one of the ones who was enormously interested in the museum, Uncle Luce Scroggs. And every day he’d be over there, because the museum was built from two log houses, one in Clay County and one in Cherokee.
TT: That’s what I had wondered about! I see they brought them and set them up over here.
MB: And Mrs. Scroggs; here’s his wife, Aunt Lillie Scroggs. Lillie Scroggs. To many, Granny Scroggs. She thought that he should be home and getting the corn ready to take to mill and so forth, and he felt that it was much more important to do the museum. And really he was one of the live wires behind the museum, that we have that museum today. I don’t mean he was the sole person, but he…and he was present at every meeting that went on in the community. He was there, one of the first ones to set up like a committee to welcome people to come; he was always on hand.
Oh, this is one of the Donaldsons, Steve Donaldson. I wouldn’t say anything specially about these. A yoke of oxen, and you did have many at that time in the country. Here, let me do this, because that’s going to tear very soon if we don’t. And this is another one of Coker, Mrs. Coker. It’s when they lived up on Little Brasstown, before they moved up to Hayesville. Cora Coker. Nothing specially to be said. I think I did say daughter of, before I said a daughter of Henry Carringer. And this is another one of little Wanda Scroggs. I think it just sort of possessed…here’s one of Wanda Scroggs.
TT: Blanche’s sister?
MB: She was a very attractive youngster. Now here’s Mr. Bill Clayton. Bill Clayton. Many of them jokingly called him “our Abraham Lincoln.” Bill Clayton…
…was a cooperative organization; his wife was on the local advisory committee. But he was active in all (inaudible). Now here’s…this looks like Sam Carringer and two of his grandchildren. It is Sam Carringer and two of his grandchildren. They lived up in Little Brasstown. Now here is Mr. Bill Clayton, another picture of Bill Clayton. Now here’s the picture of the Sunday School.
Begin Side B AC-CT-448-020-B
MB: Oh no, this is at the store. Here’s Mr. Bill Clayton and Fred O. Scroggs at the store. This is really an important picture because… “Sons of Rest at Fred O. Scroggs’ store – Fred O. in the doorway; Ruf Teems left foreground; Bill Clayton on chair.” Bill Clayton on the chair. Ruf Teems left foreground. This is the bench that…yes. The bench is now at the…
TT: At Keith House.
MB: Yes. If you want to write anything else about it, you can. A man from Asheville came by and wanted to buy the bench for $50; thought it was a very, very, very old bench. And Fred O. said to him, “I can have a bench ready like that for you in a week anytime.”
TT: Doesn’t take long for it to get (inaudible)?
MB: One day. This is just the same Donaldson brothers. They were intrigued because they…here is Wanda and her brother Mercer. I must set it here. Mercer and Wanda Scroggs, yes. Here’s Wanda again. This just shows Wanda Scroggs, yes. One of the community girls. Now I think this must be in the Baptist Sunday School, I believe it must be. It is. This is in the Little Brasstown Baptist Sunday School; I don’t know whether it’s well to…I can’t…this is Bill Clayton and Henry Carringer and Sam Carringer and Bert Hogan and Jim Clayton, Mrs. Jim Clayton, who isn’t living now. I cannot place this person. I think I’d just rather say “Part of the adult Sunday School class,” unless I’ve listed them…front row…I did list them! “Standing: Virge Coker, Lee Coker…” I did list them! So I need to (inaudible). It was Mrs. Campbell taught the class, but the idea that they were willing to have Doris come in and take the picture was something.
TT: Uh-huh! That really was. And that was at the church?
MB: Oh yes, it was in the church. Here’s Bill Clayton and the two brothers, Henry and Sam Carringer. And they were all very active members of the Little Brasstown Baptist Church. Let me see…three members, I said, of the Baptist Sunday School. And here is Quentin Clayton. Quentin Clayton, Jim’s son, nothing special to be said about…
The person that I think I would write to now would be to Mr. and Mrs. Lionel Duff at Hindman, and they’re in charge of both Hindman and…
TT: It’s not Pine Mountain?
MB: No, no, no, no. It’s the school where Frankie was born. It’s the little two-room school, very unusual – Decoy! D-E-C-O-Y.
TT: I hadn’t heard of that one.
MB: Yes, well, children don’t stay there; it’s just a day school. And when Bud had been head of Hindman for about fifteen years and left this summer to go on the music staff at Berea, and Lionel and Frankie were put in charge at both the schools, Hindman and Decoy, which was Frankie’s old home…now, they’ve done really some quite remarkable things there at Decoy. Hindman was started about the turn of the century; now I’m saying this vaguely. About the turn of the century, but if you want particulars, there’s bound to be some literature that they can send you. A group of women from Louisville, Kentucky, and Lexington perhaps, but Kentucky anyway, the Bluegrass area, went up not to Hindman at all, but up to Hazard. And in a tent, had what you would call nowadays a vacation Bible school. And as I recall it, they were part of the Christian Temperance Union. And the Ritchies, Uncle Solomon Everetts Ritchie, walked miles from Hindman down to where the women were, to see if they wouldn’t come and start a school and help his people. And the next year, instead of going back to Hazard, they went to Hindman. And that original little log cabin in which he lived has been moved on the school grounds of Hindman and made into a little guest house. And Miss Pettit and May Stone were two of the heads, two women, and they were there from 1900-1913, and then in 1913, Miss Pettit and Miss Ethel de Long (who was a Smith College graduate), and Eve Newman, who was a secretary, left Hindman and went fifty miles to the north – excuse me, to the south – to begin Pine Mountain.
TT: So Hindman was really the first school, and they left it in charge of…
MB: Miss May Stone. And then she had Miss Ruth Huntington as her helper, and other people. And Miss Pettit and Ethel de Long began the Pine Mountain school at the headwaters of Greasy Creek – it’s where two little branches, Isaacs Run and Solomon’s Branch come together – and they began the Pine Mountain School. And at first, of course, it meant just clearing land and building fences; they didn’t have a cow, they didn’t have a chicken, they didn’t have any land fit for a garden, had to get land ready. There were no buildings.
TT: No buildings? Beautiful buildings there now, though.
MB: Yes, they built the Old Log House and the Little Log House, which for a time was used as a hospital, and an office building, and gradually built up quite an establishment at Pine Mountain. And Pine Mountain’s program has been changing through the years; at first, at the very beginning, the third grade was as high as they needed, because the children – that’s as far as they’d gone in school. And then they finally had the first graduating class from high school. And then they changed and I think Pine Mountain would have probably (inaudible) just when the changes came. They didn’t carry them through, I don’t think, the last two years of high school. I think they had to cross over the mountain whether they took them clear to Harlan town or not; I really don’t remember. I’d left there by that time, you see. I was down here. I don’t remember the year. But they’d been constantly trying to adjust to changing times.
Now the program is changing, and they are considering the whole environment and having workshops and so forth. The children who go to the day school, eventually (right now they still go to Pine Mountain) but eventually they won’t go to Pine Mountain through the first eight grades and a couple of years of high school; they will go about ten miles down the mountain to Green Hills School, which is more in the center of the educational district. Pine Mountain is right at the edge of the county, a few miles from Letcher County, and no consolidated school is ever put on the edge of a county. So it has to be…it’s the same as here. We had hoped when we came here, George had hoped – we had no consolidated schools then; they were all the one-room rural schools – that we could have a consolidated school down here at Brasstown and that he could work in gymnastics and various things with the young people. But they said no consolidated school was ever put on the edge of a county; it was put three or four or five miles into the county.
So Pine Mountain is changing its program, and this new consolidated school [Community School] is not ready yet, I do not believe, but they will be ready very soon to take about 300 children.
TT: I think they had some trouble in building…
MB: They had; they expected to be in it in August of this year and just three days before the school was to open, they found they weren’t ready and that Pine Mountain had two days to get ready for about between three and four hundred children. I think they had to serve lunch three times in order to give the children all a hot lunch.
TT: When did you come to Pine Mountain?
MB: In 1914.
TT: Had you just graduated?
TT: And you immediately went there to start work?
MB: Well, it was within a few weeks.
TT: And then your work expanded? You not only had to work there, you were in charge of schools all over…
MB: Well, at the beginning I was at Pine Mountain itself, and then I was asked to be in charge of the extension program and I worked at the first with thirteen one-room rural schools on the north side of Pine Mountain, and of course there were no roads; your road and your creek were the same. And two of the schools were 25 miles down Straight Creek, and that was just too far away, because the creek and the road were the same thing. So I asked if those two schools couldn’t be put in another educational district, because it was just over the mountain from Mawlins Creek, and I was cut down to 11 schools. Because I had to cross the mountain at Dillon to visit the school at Dillon. And I worked with 11 one-room rural schools.
TT: At the time when the settlement schools were set up, they were mainly so that children could come live there and go to school?
MB: Well, there were no other schools, you see. When the…the trouble was, in the mountain area, the roads were so very bad. There were no roads for many years, what you would call roads. So the children were going to go to school; they had to be somewhere where they could live nearby. And some of the children who came to the Pine Mountain School in the early days could walk in; not too far away, a mile or two miles in. But if they lived five or six miles away, that’d be pretty far to walk in every day.
TT: Every day!
MB: So the children lived at the school. And it meant that the school was not only the classroom work, but the labor was all a part of the school program too. You learned it by doing. Because some would be helping with the poultry, and some with the farm and some with the forest. They began to do various things with crafts, simple things of course with crafts and the library work. But it was a complete community program, you could say. Not complete, but trying to touch some of the life of people in the community nearby who could get in. And the little one-room rural schools gradually…oh, it was not until, let me see…it was not until 1951, I believe…I think it was ’51…that some of those schools were given up. And I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to bring the children together in any kind of a bus over some of the roads, but they did. They didn’t give up all eleven, but I think they gave up about seven of the schools and they brought the children into Pine Mountain every day.
TT: The rest of them?
MB: Yes. And they had a hot lunch, and of course with a better library service and classroom facilities and teachers and all, they could naturally put on a better program.
TT: Well, what part did these schools have in spreading the…in the recreation movement?
MB: They didn’t do anything in spreading the recreation movement, not the little one-room schools like that. What I tried to do with my little one-room schools – I wanted a place for the children to play, and if you know that part of Kentucky, it’s not like it is here, wider valleys. It’s very narrow valley and steep hillsides. It’s the Cumberland Plateau. And the plateau cut into many, many, many ridges through the erosion of wind and water. So the little schoolhouse might be just above the road or just below the road, with rocks all about.
MB: And first, if there was a man teacher, it was easier than if you had a woman teacher, because it was hard work. But I tried to combine things…just what to do. Lucretia Garfield, who was the granddaughter of ex-President Garfield, and the daughter of the ex-President of Williams College, spent a year at Pine Mountain and they all wanted to go with me around to visit with schools and she went on a two-day trip once and stayed overnight at Granny Cooper’s. And she couldn’t see how I knew what to do. She said “Some of these things that you’re doing are just the things we discussed.” She’d gone – after she graduated from Bryn Mawr – to a teachers’ college in New York for a year. And I said, “Well, you just did what it was inevitable to do.” For instance, it was very hard to have the children concentrate on a better school if the schoolhouse was so cold, and it was cold because there was no foundation under the school. The wind whistled under the house. And because hogs roamed under the house, and the hogs roaming under the house meant there were fleas, so if I could inspire the boys to clear a playground and to build a foundation, we cleared a playground, we got rid of the hogs and we made the house warmer.
All those things by the…then we needed more material. You couldn’t just have one little book, a primer book, and spend all day in the little primer book. So there were six educational divisions in the county; I had one of those educational divisions. And there were a number of men teachers. And they organized a debating group; we didn’t do this but probably once a month, I’m sure not any more often than that. And they would have a debate beside their subject, and would have what was called a box supper. And the parents, everybody would come and bring their box and have their box prettily decorated; no one knew whose it was, and the boxes were auctioned off, and there was supposed to be enough in the box for the man who bought the box plus the girl who brought them. And the money went into a fund. The county would match, dollar for dollar, everything that we made, to buy more books. And I would go along on my horse and carry boards, like for instance over there in the corner there, those shelves, well I would carry two or three shelves on the side of my horse.
MB: So at one end of the platform we had, we could put some bookshelves and have a place for these extra books, and gradually we bought extra books through this fund, was raised in that way. So we were trying to build up extra books, a little library service, and we were trying to have a playground and we were trying to make a more comfortable house to live in. Now that’s very simple, how it started. But one thing would lead to another, would lead to another.
TT: Because it needed so much.
MB: You just could see it. You just…no one told you, there was no written thing; each school was different. The problem of each school. And it depended entirely upon how interested the teacher was. If the teacher was interested, you could do a great deal. But you had to have the interest of the teacher.
MB: And it’s the same, I suppose, the world over. Some were very much interested and some, I don’t think, gave much thought from the time they closed the door until they opened the schoolhouse door the next morning. But you always had some that were very much interested and eager to take any suggestions and to move ahead.
Mr. Campbell, John C. Campbell, was very much interested in the Southern Appalachian area. He had been connected with three schools, one in northern Alabama, one on the plateau in Tennessee, and president of a small junior college in North Georgia. And he felt so keenly that what he was doing was perhaps not helping the area as much as helping the individual, especially the boys to leave the area that he resigned as president of Piedmont College and he made a study of the Southern Appalachian area, which takes in about nine states. People don’t realize that northern Mississippi and Alabama are part of the Appalachian area, not the Deep South. They’re both, but the northern part is part of the Appalachian area. And Mr. Campbell made this study and Mrs. Campbell made it with him, and everybody felt that their problem was unique; no one else had a problem like their problem, was different from anyone else’s. And he felt it was nothing but a rural problem, some more intensely rural than other. And he felt the thing to do was to make it possible to have a meeting to get people together, the heads of schools…
TT: From all over the area…
MB: …the heads of church boards from the whole area, the various church denominations. There were 14 different denominations working in the mountain area. And the first meeting was held in Atlanta in 1912 and the next meeting was held in Knoxville. That was much more central to the Southern Appalachian area than Atlanta. And the meeting was held once a year; it usually began on Tuesday and ended Thursday afternoon. And out of that council later grew the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild.
TT: Because it just couldn’t encompass everything…?
MB: Well, there had been a meeting perhaps every other year on crafts, one session, but crafts is a big subject and you couldn’t carry it. And Mrs. Campbell herself felt very keenly it was so important – a few centers were doing crafts; Berea was, Pine Mountain was, Hindman was, but felt it was really important enough to have a whole program devoted to the craft organization. It was through Mrs. Campbell’s efforts that funds were raised and a study was made of the Southern Highland area, and a grant was given, and out of that study grew the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild. And that began with nine charter members.
TT: Just nine?
MB: Just nine charter members. And I really am not certain today how many…a number of years ago I know there were 500.
TT: I’m sure there are.
MB: And I think it’s the largest handicraft guild in the United States today. And out of the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild…not exactly out of it. But side by side grew the recreation movement. And you can say although the John C. Campbell Folk School was a very small center, it had a great influence on the whole Southern Appalachian area in both the field of crafts and recreation. The use of the folk recreation. And from the very beginning up at Brasstown, we emphasized the folk songs and the play party games. We had to be very careful using the word “dancing” because of the prejudice. But Pine Mountain had emphasized the dancing from the beginning. They realized that the traditional dancing, called there the set running, was a very old thing. And in fact when Cecil Sharp came to the mountains and saw it himself in 1917, he said it was an older form of dancing than existed in England at that time.
MB: And there was no trouble at Pine Mountain doing it because there was no established church there then. And also because Miss Pettit was so wise. She was present; sat on the edge of Big Log House porch every Saturday night we ran sets, and if she saw the young men going out too many times to their nags, she knew they were going out to their whiskey bottles. And she would simply say “Goodnight” and the evening would end. So there was no trouble. So trouble was avoided.
Now Hindman was in a county seat, and they couldn’t do it at Hindman. And when they finally built a little recreation house high up on a steep hill above the Sullivan Settlement Houses, they built it as high up as they could, so it would be very hard for the drunks to get up that hill and spoil their recreation. But it was slower for them to get started at Hindman because of that.
TT: Because it was a center and…
MB: Because it was a center and because there was established church, and because with the dancing came the drinking, and following drinking, people would get excited and there’d apt to be some trouble. And people felt that the dancing was the cause of it, when the trouble was really, it was the drinking. And so when we began at Brasstown, I think at the very beginning, we went a little too fast. And then we slowed down and began nothing but the Danish Grand March or simple little play party games, so that we could carry our community along with us. Because we felt it was very important to work together, to play together. And every community meeting we had, as soon as we had our…we didn’t have any big enough room for the first couple of years; we only had our farmhouse living room which was 15 by 15 feet, but we’d have as many as 65-70 people in that room, where you were limited to what you could do.
You could sing and you could have talks, but when we dedicated the community room in 1927, then we could have larger groups. But always with our larger groups, we always had a speaker. Older people wanted a speaker. Maybe he was the principal of the school; maybe he was the principal of the county system of education; maybe he was a preacher from Murphy; maybe he was a guest, but we had a speaker and always did a lot of singing, and ended with some active games. As I said, very simple games, maybe nothing but just skipping, walking, marching, but at least moving to rhythm and moving to music. And having a feeling that there was nothing wrong in doing this; they were just responding in a natural way to… And some people called it singing games, some people called them play party games. But in many parts of the United States, this was found. People objected to the fiddle; they called the fiddle the instrument of the devil. But if you moved and sang the words, it was all right.
TT: Yeah, then it was okay.
MB: That was all right. And I know one young boy in this community, before we came here, had made a fiddle out of a cigar box. And his father found it and smashed it to pieces, because he didn’t approve. So you just had to go slowly. You had to try to carry your community with you. And in that way I think the Folk School was the prime mover in the recreation movement, because people came here from other schools and saw the fun our young people were having, and we started in 1930 with what we called a short course, bringing people from other schools here. Heads of the school, ministers, heads of the physical education department, women’s – not students; teachers, staff. And for seven or eight years, no students came, they were all faculty and older people. And then we began to have the students come and share it too, and then followed our first festival at Berea in 1935, was our first folk festival at Berea, in which we gathered the young people in from the various schools over the Southern Highlands. So you can say both in the handcraft movement and in the recreation movement, they went side by side, and they both, I think it’s perfectly fair to say, got their impetus from the Folk School and went up from here. Because we were interested in seeing that we believed in it, and seeing that part of the program.
TT: Thank you very much.
Go to MARGUERITE BUTLER (Biography)
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