Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff
Marguerite Butler, Staff 1914-1922
Matguerite Butler Bidstrup (1892-1982)


Marguerite Butler. [X_099_workers_2511_mod.jpg]


Teacher, Housemother, Superintendent of
Extension Work, Fundraiser 1914-1922

TAGS: Marguerite Butler, PMSS staff, education, Mary Rockwell Hook, smallpox, Evelyn Wells, Frances Lavender, Celia Cathcart, Mr. Roettinger, Creech Family, Schoolhouse fire, Katherine Pettit, Mary Angela Melville, Ethel Zande, extension work, fundraising, Olive Dame Campbell, folk dance and music, Denmark folk studies, Cecil Sharp, John C. Campbell Folk School

Marguerite Butler, a young woman from Cincinnati, Ohio, and a recent graduate of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, arrived at Pine Mountain Settlement School on August 13, 1914, with plans to teach for two years, unaware of the hard-won successes, heartwarming relationships, as well as tragic events she would experience. Miss Butler, however, had all the attributes required to deal with both the good and the adverse times that she encountered in the eight years she finally spent at the School. Pat McNelley described Miss Butler in The First 40 Years: John C. Campbell Folk School as follows:

 …[S]he had abundant use for all the Sociology and Economics she had learned at college, plus all the natural resources of her dynamic personality. At that time roads were trails, in and out of creeks and often the creek bed itself; third grade was the top class at Pine Mountain…. Her inherent ability as an organizer, her untouched gift as a leader, were put to work. This was a job that required tireless physical energy….


Miss Butler arrived during the earliest years of the School, when construction of only two permanent buildings had been completed – Big Log and Old Log – and 28 to 38 children boarded at the School (plus 15 who lived in nearby homes). The following accounts were recorded in letters to her mother, father, and sister Jeannette, which she often signed as “Muggins.”



1969-70 MARGUERITE BUTLER Letters to Mary and Burton Rogers


Marguerite’s first Pine Mountain teaching assignments were history and geography to elementary grade students, arithmetic to first graders, and private tutoring for older students. At first, the third and fourth grades were the highest level necessary. It took several years to add an eighth grade and a graduating class.

She accepted no pay the first school year, because, as she wrote, she felt the School had too desperate a need for money. In the second year, she received $25 a month and “thought I was rich. I only wanted to cover [my] expenses and be independent.”

Another young teacher, MargaretPeggy’ Watts, roomed with Miss Butler in Big Log , a house where Katherine Pettit, a cooking instructor, three teen-aged “mountain girls,” and two children also lived. It was a house that she described as “the most attractive” and “the cleanest one I have ever seen…for every morning the girls sweep and dust it from top to top.”

Assuring her mother, “Yes, you see, we do put on style even if we are in the mountains,” she enthusiastically told of furniture made by the boys at the School; handwoven curtains, rugs, and baskets; an immense fireplace with an antique clock on the mantle and bookcases on each side; and windows that “open out…like French ones!” However, when the building’s “sleeping porch” was needed for guests, the two women moved to a tent in which Mary Rockwell (Hook), the architect of the School’s buildings and campus, was staying.

(left to right) Evelyn K. Wells, Marguerite Butler, Edith Canterbury

(left to right) Evelyn K. Wells, Marguerite Butler, Edith Canterbury. [pmss_photo_MOD_wells_butler_canterbury-2.jpg]

The teaching position at the School, she soon discovered, also included bathing the children, putting them to bed, tracking them down when they missed school, and administering smallpox vaccinations. She became attached to her “family” of children, delighting in their progress, not only in academics, but in learning the basics of personal care. Various teachers, visitors, and people in community became dear friends of hers, including Evelyn Wells, Frances Lavender, Celia Cathcart, Mr. Roettinger and his daughter Elizabeth, and the Creech family members, particularly “Aunt Sal,” who felt that Miss Butler was “like [one of] her own children.”

In a 1969 letter to Mary Rogers, wife of Director Burton Rogers, Miss Butler fondly reminisces about those days: “How many suppers at Delia’s and Aunt Sal’s!! I especially enjoyed the old folks, but then I loved the children too and felt very close to some my own age….” After re-reading the letters of her youth and reliving the Pine Mountain experience, she stated that “Again I realize how much Aunt Sal, Uncle William, Delia, Henry, [all Creeches] etc. meant to me.”

Miss Butler often wrote as well about the beauty of the surroundings, picnicking, moonlit nights, visiting Jack’s Gap, wildflowers, flowering trees, and taking the children on field trips. She enjoyed the campus’s laurel, rhododendron, and English ivy which she helped plant.

Not all events were happy ones, but instead tested her ability to respond appropriately, adapt, and persevere. In April 1915, she helped fight a forest fire on the mountain and in 1919 fought the fatal Burkham School House fire. She wrote her opinion of the murder of a School worker [Laura Parsons] and about an acquaintance who died as a result of a moonshiners’ feud. She attended to several students injured in accidents and assisted with the burial of Celia Creech’s child.

By 1919 two more buildings were under way: the Office and the second Burkham SchoolhouseAt this time, Miss Butler was given the job of supervising the work on the proposed settlement extension at LINE FORK. She was charged to improve on a temporary log house at Line Fork, near Gilley, Kentucky, six miles north of the main Pine Mountain campus and to establish the plan for construction of permanent housing. Line Fork was proposed as the second of the nine [some records say seven] satellite settlements that Pettit and de Long proposed to be associated with the central Pine Mountain Settlement. The crude Cabin at Line Fork was for the earliest teachers, industrial workers, and nurses that were to staff the extension centers. She then supervised the construction of a permanent Cabin [The Cabin] and participated in teaching sewing classes. She performed these tasks so well that Miss Pettit, Mary Angela Melville, and Ethel Zande decided to appoint her superintendent of all extension work in 1920.


In her last years at Pine Mountain she also provided assistance as an extension worker. She was the supervisor of eleven one-room schools that had then been assigned to the Harlan County Superintendent of Schools. Her work involved visiting the schools on horseback, often staying away one or two nights before returning home.

Also in 1920, Miss Butler spoke before the fiscal court to procure money for the proposed Laden Trail road from the railroad station at Laden to Pine Mountain and on to Big Laurel and in 1921 was sent on a speaking tour to various Ohio cities and Chicago to raise money for the road and the School. She wrote an article about school work for the School’s newsletter, Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School [1920], became Deputy Commissioner of the Girl Scouts, and also taught Sunday School.

In a letter to Mary Rogers in 1969, she explained that from 1917 through 1922 her one-room schools operated for only five months, having to close in the fall for “foddering,” a family farming practice, and ending at Christmas due to the difficulties of winter travel. So, she relates, Sunday School “lasted 2-3 hours to help take the place of school.”

Click on image for full view.

A private school working with County schools was so unusual for the time that Miss Butler was invited to speak about her work at a 1919 Conference of Southern Mountain Workers. While there, she met Olive Dame Campbell whose interest in education and folk culture overlapped her own.

The Pine Mountain Notes, February 1923:

Miss Marguerite Butler, our extension worker, is on leave for a year’s study of the folk schools of Denmark. She is working there with Mrs. John C. Campbell, widow of the late head of the Southern Highland Division of the Russell Sage Foundation, and author of the “The Southern Highlander and His Homeland.” Miss Butler expects to bring back many helpful ideas for her extension work in connection with the country schools.

MARGUERITE BUTLER: Studying  Scandinavian Folk School Models

Three years after Mrs. Campbell’s husband, John C. Campbell died suddenly in 1919, Miss Butler was invited to join Olive Dame Campbell on an extended visit and training in the Danish folk school model. The year’s study in Denmark of the dances, games, and structure of Danish folk schools was transforming for both women. The two women spent another two months in England and Ireland to learn about the adult education movement there. In England, Miss Butler visited with folklorist Cecil Sharp (who had, in turn, visited Pine Mountain) at his folk dance school.

Her college newspaper the Vassar Miscellany News, Volume VII, Number 48, 28 April 1923, noted her work with Pine Mountain and her interest in the Scandinavian adult education model stimulated by her study in Denmark. “Adult education” in the Scandinavian model referred to the education of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 in schools that originated in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. According to the Vassar College article, Marguerite wanted to “learn how the Scandinavian idea can be applied to the southern highlands.” The paper noted that “Miss Butler is studying the work of six schools, which have been carefully selected with a view to primitive conditions. She is also studying the cooperative movement in the highly developed democracies of the north.”

MARGUERITE BUTLER: John C. Campbell Folk School

When Marguerite returned to the States in 1924, she was recruited by Mrs. Campbell to assist in founding of the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC, named in honor of Mrs. Campbell’s late husband and based on the Danish model for folk schools the two had studied in 1923. In 1928 she returned to her alma mater, Vassar College as a guest speaker to the Curriculum Committee to describe her Scandinavian experience and the work she engaged at Pine Mountain and was currently doing at the John C. Campbell Folk School. Her talk, “The Danish Folk School and its Application to American Life,” was arranged by two Vassar students who had spent their summer in North Carolina. Marguerite addressed the need for a progressive education that focused on engaging the student rather than imparting knowledge. She certainly was the expert on “hands-on.” [Vassar Miscellany News, Volume XIII, Number 7, 20 October 1928.]

Pine Mountain lamented the loss of Miss Butler as one of their workers in the May 1924 Pine Mountain Notes:

We are losing this spring, with deep regret, several members of the old guard. Miss Marguerite Butler has been with us off and on for nine years, first as teacher, then as extension worker. Last year she spent in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, studying their folk high schools, and has come home to promote the cause of adult education in the mountains. With whatever splendid work she associates herself, we shall always be proud and grateful for the years when she belonged to Pine Mountain.

In 1926 Georg Bidstrup from Denmark was hired by the North Carolina folk school to manage the farm and instruct folk dancing. In 1936 he and Marguerite married and, together, their interest in folk dancing flourished. Mrs. Campbell was the school’s director until her retirement in 1946 and Miss Butler acted as treasurer and assistant director at various times, and served on the school’s board. Georg Bidstrup became director of the John C. Campbell Folk School in 1952.

As of 1969, Mrs. Bidstrup was living on Bidstrup Acres in Brasstown, NC. In 1970 Georg and Marguerite Butler Bidstrup were the first recipients of the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award – presented by the North Carolina Folklore Society to persons who have in special ways contributed to the appreciation, continuation, or study of North Carolina folk traditions. The Bidstrups were honored as folk dance teachers, festival organizers, and administrators of the John C. Campbell Folk School.


Marguerite Butler Bidstrup was born on February 14, 1892, and died in April 1982. Her grave is located in the Little Brasstown Baptist Cemetery, Cherokee County, Murphy, NC. She left four acres of land near the John C. Campbell Folk School to Gus and Maggie Masters, teachers of enameling and co-directors at the school in the 1970s.

In her 1966 book, The First 40 Years: John C. Campbell Folk School, Pat McNelley wrote this fitting praise of Marguerite Bidstrup:

…[S]he has shared her wealth of experience as an administrator and teacher, her love of the folk ways and dances, and has steadfastly maintained her confidence and respect for the stalwart character of the people of Appalachia.


Title Marguerite Butler
Alt. Title Marguerite Butler Bidstrup
Creator Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY
Alt. Creator Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt
Subject Keyword Marguerite Butler ; Marguerite Butler Bidstrup ; Pine
Mountain Settlement School ; education ; educators ;
Vassar College ; Pat McNelley ; Big Log ; Old Log ;
Peggy Watts ; Mary Rockwell Hook ; smallpox ; Evelyn
Wells ; Frances Lavender ; Celia Cathcart ; Mr.
Roettinger ; Elizabeth Roettinger ; Creech Family ;
Aunt Sal Creech ; Uncle William Creech Sr. ; Delia
Creech ; Mary Rogers ; Henry Creech ; Jack’s Gap ;
Schoolhouse fire ; Office ; Line Fork ; Katherine Pettit ;
Mary Angela Melville ; Ethel Zande ; extension work ;
fundraising ; Girl Scouts ; Notes ; Sunday School ;
Conference of Southern Mountain Workers ; Olive
Dame Campbell ; John C. Campbell ; folk culture ; folk
dance ; Denmark folk studies ; Denmark folk schools ;
adult education in England and Ireland ; Cecil Sharp ;
folk dance schools ; Georg Bidstrup ; John C. Campbell
Folk School : Brasstown, NC ; folk dancing ; Brown-Hudson
Folklore Award ; North Carolina Folklore Society ; Murphy,
NC ; schools ; settlement schools ; Appalachian music ;
Appalachian dance ; Gus and Maggie Masters ; Mountain
Life & Work ; Harlan County, KY ; Poughkeepsie, NY ;
Cincinnati, OH ; Ohio ; Chicago, IL ; Denmark ; England ;
Ireland ; Berea (KY) College ; Berea, KY ;
Subject LCSH Bidstrup, Marguerite Butler, — 1892 – 1982.
Women — Southern States — History.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.)
— History.
Educators — Biography.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Rural schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Schools — Appalachian Region.
Folk dance music — Appalachian Region.
Folk dancing — Danish.
Date 2007-07-26
Publisher Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY
Contributor n/a
Type Collections ; text ; image ;
Format Original and copies of documents and correspondence in
file folders in filing cabinet ; photograph album(s)
Source Series  09: Staff/Personnel
Language English
Relation Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School
Collections, Series  09: Staff/Personnel
1892 – 1982
Harlan County, KY ; Poughkeepsie, NY ; Cincinnati, OH ;
Ohio ; Chicago, IL ; Denmark ; England ; Ireland ; Brasstown,
NC ; Murphy, NC ; Berea, KY :
Rights Any display, publication or public use must credit
the Pine Mountain Settlement School.
Copyright retained by the creators of certain items
in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated
by United States copyright law.
Donor n/a
Description Core documents, correspondence, writings and
administrative papers created by or addressed to
[full name]; clippings, photographs, publications,
illustrations by or about [full name].
Acquisition n/d
Citation “[Identification of Item],” [Collection Name] [Series
Number, if applicable]. Pine Mountain Settlement
School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain
Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.
Processed By Jack Spadaro ; Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;
Last Updated 2007-07-29 hhw ; 2009-11-03 aae ; 2014-05-24 hhw ;
2014-06-05 hhw ; 2014-08-09 hhw ; 2019-11-19 aae ; 2022-09-29  aae ;
Bidstrup, Georg, Marguerite Bidstrup, and Raymond
McLain. Folk Dances, Brought from Denmark. Brasstown,
NC: Stephens Press, 1951. Print.

Bidstrup, Marguerite. “19 Folk Dances from Denmark.”
Small stapled pamphlet with tunes and instructions for
each dance. Delaware, OH: Cooperative Recreation
Service, c. 1930. Print.

Bidstrup, Marguerite. “Ballad Collector (Olive D. Campbell)
Mountain Life & Work. 30 (August 1954): 23-29. Print.

Bidstrup, Marguerite. “Dancing in Denmark.” Mountain Life
& Work. 27 (Spring 1951): 36-38. Print.

Bidstrup, Marguerite. “To Denmark.” Olive D. Campbell
Memorial Issue of Mountain Life & Work. 30 (August 1954):
14-15. Print.

Butler, Marguerite, et al. Singing Games and Folk Dances.
Tobey Press, March 2007. Print.

“Craft Revival: Shaping Western North Carolina Past and
Present.” A project of Hunter Library at Western Carolina,
administered by the State Library of North Carolina and
NC ECHO: Exploring Cultural Heritage Online.

(accessed 2019-11-19). Internet resource.

Davis, Scott H., Brenda Hughes, Adam Alphin, Fred Story,
and Jan Davidson. Sing Behind the Plow: John C. Campbell
Folk School. Research Triangle Park, NC: UNC Center for
Public Television, 2007. John C. Campbell Folk School
documentary film.

Hunter Library digital collections, Western Carolina
University, Cullowhee, NC. https://wcudigitalcollection.
(accessed 2019-11-19). Internet resource.

McNelley, Pat. The First 40 Years: John C. Campbell Folk
School. Atlanta, GA: McNelley-Rudd, 1966. Print.

University of North Carolina at Asheville, D. Hiden Ramsey
Library, Special Collections/University Archives. Oral History
Register for Maggie Masters. Voices of Asheville Oral History
VOA/default_voa.html (accessed 2019-11-19). Internet resource.

Locations of Butler Bidstrup Papers
Berea College Hutchins Library, Special Collections & Archive,
Southern Appalachian Archives, Berea, KY:

John C. Campbell Folk School Records, series III, Box 1, #6.
M. B. Bidstrup corres., 1923-1966; Part A, Series I: Board and
Corporation Meetings, Minutes, and Reports 1925-1969, reels
1-2; Appalachian Oral History Collection, 1972-1973 SAA 59
[M. B. Bidstrup interviews].

Old Time Dance Conference Collection, ca 1930-1944; 1979-1990.
East Tennessee State University Archives of Appalachia, Johnson City,
TN. Contains a video taping of early film footage by Ms. Butler of
traditional Danish dance and Appalachian dance at John C. Campbell
Folk School, c. 1930-1944.

Southern Historical Collection, Manuscripts Dept Library, University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: John C. Campbell Folk School
Records, 1928–1988 (#5040).

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