John C. Campbell Folk School

The John C. Campbell Folk School, also referred to as "The Folk School" is located in Brasstown, North Carolina, along the Cherokee County and Clay line. The school was founded to nurture and preserve the folk arts of the Appalachian Mountains, it is a non-profit adult educational organization based on non-competitive learning. Founded in 1925, the Folk School's motto is "I sing behind the plow".

John C. Campbell Folk School Historic District
Mill House at John C. Campbell Folk School
LocationOff U.S. Route 64, Brasstown, North Carolina
Coordinates35°02′14″N 83°57′52″W
NRHP reference #83001839[1]
Added to NRHPAugust 22, 1983

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a national historic district in 1983.[1] The district encompasses 19 contributing buildings. Notable buildings include the Farm House (pre-1925), Keith House (1926-1928), Log House Museum (19th century, 1926), Mill House (1928), (Former) Milking Barn (now Clay Spencer Blacksmith Shop, c. 1930), Hay Barn (1931), Tower House (1933), Rock House (c. 1932), and Hill House (c. 1932).[2]

The Folk School has week-long and weekend classes year-round in traditional and contemporary arts, including blacksmithing, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography, storytelling and writing. The school campus includes a history museum, craft shop, nature trails, lodging, campground, and cafeteria. The school also holds a regular concert series and community dances. The Folk School engages the community through a variety of dance teams including: Magic Rapper, StiX in the Mud Border Morris, Dame's Rocket Northwest Clog, Rural Felicity Garland, and the JCCFS Cloggers.

History of the Folk School

After spending eighteen months traveling between Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, visiting local schools along the way, Olive Dame Campbell and her colleague Marguerite Butler, began forming the John C. Campbell Folk School in 1925 in Brasstown, North Carolina.[3] This folk high school or folkehøjskole, was dedicated to her late husband, John C. Campbell and was based on the Danish Folk School style of non competitive education, where no grades were given. Instead, students and teachers formed a community that worked together to help each other advance in various crafts such as blacksmithing.

John C. Campbell, (1867–1919) was an American educator and reformer noted for his survey of social conditions in the southern Appalachia. He was born in Indiana and raised in Wisconsin; he studied education and theology in New England.

At the turn of the century, the Southern Appalachian region of the United States was viewed as being in need of educational and social missions. Recently married to Olive Dame of Massachusetts, John undertook a fact-finding survey of social conditions in the mountains in 1908-1909. The Campbells outfitted a wagon as a traveling home and studied mountain life from Georgia to West Virginia.

While John interviewed farmers about their agricultural practices, Olive collected Appalachian ballads and studied the handicrafts of the mountain people. Both were hopeful that the quality of life could be improved by education, and in turn, wanted to preserve and share with the rest of the world the crafts, techniques and tools that the people of the area used in everyday life.

The Folkehøjskole (folk high school) had long been a force in the rural life of Denmark. These schools for life helped transform the Danish countryside into a vibrant, creative force. The Campbells talked of establishing such a school in the rural southern United States as an alternative to the higher-education facilities that drew young people away from the family farm.

Several locations were under consideration for the experimental school. On an exploratory trip, Miss Butler discussed the idea with Fred O. Scroggs, Brasstown's local storekeeper, saying that she would be back in a few weeks to determine if area residents had any interest in the idea. When she returned, it was to a meeting of over 200 people at the local church. The people of far west North Carolina enthusiastically pledged labor, building materials and other support.[4]


Community Events

Music Events

Community Contra and Square Dances and Dance Workshops

Blacksmith and Fine Craft Auction

Shape Note Singing

Fall Festival

Holiday Events

Class types offered

Craft classes include: Basketry; Carpentry; Glass beadmaking; Blacksmithing; Bookbinding; Broom Making; Dollmaking; Dyeing; Felt Making; Furniture Making; Lace; Leather; Metalwork; Needlework; Quilting; Rugs; Sewing; Soap Making; Spinning; Weaving; Woodturning; and Woodworking

Art classes include: Calligraphy; Clay; Drawing; Enameling; Glass; Jewelry; Kaleidoscopes; Knitting; Marbling; Mosaics; Painting; Paper Arts; Photography; Printmaking; Sculpture; and Woodcarving.

Other types of classes include: Baking; Cooking; Dance; Folklore; Gardening; Genealogy; Music; Nature Studies; Storytelling; Arborsculpture; and Writing.

See also


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. Michael Tesh Southern (September 1982). "John C. Campbell Folk School Historic District" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
  3. Archived July 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  4. "J.C.Campbell School". Retrieved 2012-04-24.
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