Appalachia Profiles of Mountain People

Fred O. Scroggs

Remember back in May when I was prowling through somebody’s things? (if you missed it-you can click here to read it)

Several months ago, Pap called to tell me a story he had heard while loafing down at Clay’s Corner. It was a very interesting story. He said he thought Clay had got the old tale from somebody at the folk school. I asked David Brose, Folklorist for the John C. Campbell Folk School, if he knew about the story. He did, and he most graciously invited me to visit their archives and read the story for myself. The boxes I prowled through that day belonged to Fred O. Scroggs. I never knew Fred O.-but I’ve heard about him my whole life. Over the years, the story of how he wooed Olive Campbell and Margurite Butler to build their folk school here in Brasstown has become a fairy tale of sorts to most native Brasstonians.

For a history buff like me, Fred O.’s boxes were fascinating: they held interviews with Civil War Veterans; they told stories of real life events. Some funny, some sad that happened here, and they held credit ledgers from Fred O.’s store. I poured over every entry hoping to see the name of a person I had known until finally I did-Clate Mason.

In those boxes I found several things I wanted to share with my Blind Pig readers, but first I wanted you to know who Fred O. Scroggs was. There are numerous pieces written regarding Fred O.’s relationship to the folk school, but I wanted a fresh perspective. I wanted to hear a native Brasstonian’s take on Fred O. Scroggs. Lucky for me, and you, I found exactly what I wanted. Take a few minutes to read David Anderson’s thoughts and memories of Fred O. Scroggs. I think you’ll enjoy it.

John C Campbell Folk School - Fred O Scroggs
Fred O. Scroggs-photo provided by the John C. Campbell Folk School


Fred O., A Dependable Anchor in a Small Community

By: David C. Anderson

It appears to me that it is often the case that a person’s contribution to a community is not often recognized or appreciated until after that individual has departed the scene.

I am speaking primarily about small communities and more particularly about the Village of Brasstown, the place where I was born and raised.

If you think about it for a minute, it becomes fairly obvious that most families or communities have a person who perhaps unknowingly acts as the anchor for the entire unit. When this anchor is cut away for any reason the entire family or community begins to drift away much like a boat that is cut away from the mooring. There is (or was) a person in every small community, long before the days of all the magical things like computers, telephones and such gadgets, that were regularly called upon to help solve everyday problems or situations for their friends or neighbors.

I believe Fred O. Scroggs was such an anchor for the small settlement of Brasstown.

I don’t pretend to say that I knew this man from everyday perspective, but I can say that as a small boy growing up in Brasstown I came in contact with him from time to time. These contacts with Fred O. as well as numerous other old timers usually took place on Saturday mornings at the general store, or across U.S. Highway 64 at Bass Arrants mill house. Both of these establishments were also located dead in the center of Brasstown.

Stories are still floating around Brasstown about Fred O.’s contribution toward locating the Campbell Folk School on several hundred acres of Scroggs family land. Several reports have him participating in some of the first meetings with Olive Campbell and Margurite Butler, the co-founders of the school, and as the story goes when they mentioned that the proposed school was to be patterned after the Danish Folk School model, it is said that Fred O. promptly gave a lengthy dissertation outlining his familiarity with the Danish school model. This might be the case? However, it is a fact that he took a big hand in forming some of the community organizations in Brasstown in the early 1920s and was heavily involved in community affairs well into the late 1950s.

Fred O., I sincerely believe, was a good neighbor. I remember very well the time in the early 1950s when as a small boy, my father, Cline Anderson, and I walked to Fred O.’s house on Settawig Road to see if Fred O. could be hired to wire our house for electricity. Electric utility lines were just being installed in some of the coves and the folks in Anderson Cove were anxious to be part of this modern convenience.

The deal was made, and within a week or so Fred O. and Walter Arrant came by and began wiring our house for electricity. I don’t remember just how long the two of them worked, but I know it was several days. My mother would make a good country dinner for the two of them each day. (lunch was called dinner back then) I didn’t find out until many years later, when my dad mentioned it to me, that neither Fred O. nor Walter Arrant would take payment for their work. I always felt that there was really no greater service to ones neighbor than to offer ones talent for nothing more than a heartfelt ‘thank you’ and a hearty meal.

From this point on I always had a greater respect for Fred O. and his numerous other contributions to his community, and more than that, to his neighbors who were in need of his talents.

I remember Fred O. as a lean man, slightly short in stature, who walked with a smooth gait and with a slight lean to the right. It’s been a day or two and I could be wrong about whether the lean was to the right or the left…. none the less, in my minds eye I can still see him walking along the road there in Brasstown in such a fashion.

I remember him as having a cigarette in his hand most of the time.

Once while visiting his rock shop there at his home place on Settawig Road he went to great lengths to describe and demonstrate to this small boy how it was possible to make a perfectly round marble by using a hollow pipe and a piece of rock. I dreamed of how nice it would be for a boy to have a fist full of custom made marbles in the pockets of his dirty blue jeans.

I remember once while hanging out in Queter Caldwell’s store here in Brasstown, Fred O. was studying a cigarette display with a picture of man’s face. He was describing that no matter from which angle you viewed the photo the eyes seemed to be looking directly at you. He certainly paid attention to detail. He was right. I tried it. It worked.

The question has arisen as to when Fred O. began his detailed interviews with the then surviving Veterans of the American Civil War and detailing other events that he counted worthy of mention. The dates listed on many of his writings are from the early to mid 1920s. Based on his interest in history and as is displayed in his printed work, it appears that he was keenly aware of the importance of preserving the personal stories of the Civil War Veterans as well as the documentation of other events that were taking place in his present time. We are all richly blessed by his undertaking, for through his work we are placed in the presence and in the lives of individuals that would otherwise be lost forever.

In later years I became part owner of the Rockhounders Building that still stands here in Brasstown. The exterior of the chimney is laid up with blue and white Marble and the inside of the chimney is veneered with dozens of examples of minerals from this area as well as other areas of the country. Each item displayed is marked with a metal pin with a number corresponding to a master list describing each item laid up and displayed in the rockwork.

Guess who? You guessed it! Fred O. was one of the folks responsible for this piece of art.

Perhaps it would be a consolation to some of us to know that just maybe after we have long since passed from the scene that someone would take time to mention our name in an unsolicited tribute to our better character. Perhaps by sharing these few insights about Fred O. someone might have a better insight to the varied talents of this man.

It seems in some sense, that of the innumerable facets of one’s life whether simple notes such as these would have any significant bearing on the whole? At the very least we can continue to debate whether or not Fred O. leaned to the right or to the left as he walked along the road here in Brasstown. The other small items I have pointed out are as I remember them.




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  • Reply
    Jennie Scroggs Ienzer
    February 21, 2015 at 10:47 am

    A tear came to my eye as I read this post about my Grandfather. I am proud of my family and my heritage.
    Jennie Scroggs Ienzer
    Nice, France

  • Reply
    August 4, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    John-so good to hear from you. Im glad you enjoyed the post about your Father. And thank you for adding more information regarding his life.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    John Scroggs
    August 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Of Fred O. and Mae Scroggs’ ten children, only two of us remain;
    my sister Wanda Scroggs Hampton born in 1929 and myself, John Campbell (JC) Scroggs born in 1933.
    I provided a lot of the Brasstown History to the Campbell Folk School from documents my parents had saved. Our Dad was a very progressive fellow for his time. He graduated from Youn Harris College and was a school teacher in his early adult hood. Thanks to all you folks that have posted your positive comments. Our branch of the Scroggs Family Tree is just about finished.

  • Reply
    Molly Seaver
    July 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    For those interested in this time period the Clay County Historical and Arts Council :Old Jail Museum” located in Hayesville, NC has a large collection of photographs taken by Gideon Laney during the 20s – 40s in the Sweetwater and Brasstown sections of Clay County. One of my favorites is a picture of David Anderson’s sister Charlene when she was just a little girl. She is now a great grandmother.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2011 at 10:26 am

    What an interesting person he was. Toiling along doing what he loved to do not knowing that he would be so respected and remembered in his small part of the world.

  • Reply
    Steve Smith
    July 25, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Sadly, Ellie Wilson passed from this earthly realm on Sept. 2, 2010. Her family and many Folk School and community friends attended her funeral. Her son, Danny Wilson, works for the Buildings and Grounds department at the Folk School.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    July 25, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Thanks for another wonderful post..Thank you David for writing it..I wonder if Mr. Scroggs ever realized the impact his interest would have on the community.
    I am late commenting today since I have been going thru volumes of books. Finally deciding to part with,..some I sold I regret selling, early Shakespeare, poets from the late 1800’s.. Most of these belonged to a long since retired English professor at Vanderbilt. Sold off by a member of her family years after her death. I’ve had them about 15 years, boxes of them. She evidently was an expert of English literature. I can’t put these books down, reading all her notes for study in the sidebars of the books, specific quotes noted for emphasis, etc.. I wonder how many young lives she influenced with her vast knowledge. Even though they belong to me now, I feel like I am “snooping” reading into a part of her life.
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    July 24, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    You’re one of a kind! And I mean
    that in a ‘thank you’ sort of way.
    Also to David Anderson’s history
    of the John C. Cambell Folk School. I never knew the origins
    of the school or the generosity
    of Fred O’Scroggs. To me this is
    another of the attractions that
    the Blind Pig and the Acorn brings
    to us each day, Life in Appalachia… Ken

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    July 24, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Thanks for the story- I can’t wait to read your treasures!

  • Reply
    July 24, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    “There is (or was) a person in every small community, long before the days of all the magical things like computers, telephones and such gadgets, that were regularly called upon to help solve everyday problems or situations for their friends or neighbors.”
    Isn’t it a shame life is seldom like that anymore. For instance, the other day I was watching tv, and a commercial came on about an mini-van that had tv screens for each seat in the vehicle except the driver’s. The gig was that it would keep the kids occupied, and thus, off the nerves of the also riding in the car adults in the car – the adults who gave birth to them.
    I found myself thinking how sad it was children weren’t just watching the sights go by outside the car’s window. I wonder if we are raising folks who won’t notice what’s going on around them unless it comes up on a little screen. Sad!
    I think we’re also raising a generation who have no idea who their neighbors are. When they need help in the future, I wonder if they’ll be smart enough to know who to go to that they can count on, and sadder still, I wonder if they’re will be anyone out there to help them – anyone except a bunch of strangers who live right next door. Sad!
    These electronic gizmos may be making the world smaller, or bigger, depending upon how you look on it, but I don’t think they’re making the world much better than it was in the old days when one’s dearest friends lived right next door and could be counted on for everything from a cuppa coffee to advice to life-giving aid in an emergency. Very sad!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Helen G.
    July 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I just wanted to tell you, Tipper, how wonderful it is for you to keep the stories and tales alive for the next generation. If we don’t know where we are from we often lose our way to where we should be going. I love history and am much better about reading it than collecting the stories about it so I just wanted to tell you how much you are appreciated.
    Thanks again for the wonderful stories you dig up and share with all of us.

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    July 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Tipper: Another wonderful post! A book you may have read is entitled “My Journey to Appalachia” A Year at the Folk School by Eleanor Lambert Wilson (2004) Eleanor lives in Brasstown (maybe still yet?) and I had the pleasure of visiting with her – in her home there at Brasstown. The JOHN C. CAMPBELL FOLK SCHOOL was 16 years old and Eleanor was 22 the year she came from Maine to Murphy! I will send you a picture of ‘Ellie’ and her house in Brasstown with a brief bio.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 24, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    What a thought filled story. Thanks you, David, for sharing your memories of Fred O. and thank you, Tipper, for your never ending ideas about our Appalachian Heritage.
    I’ve never heard of Fred O. before I guess because Brasstown is not my home, but I will remember him forever because David took the time to share with us.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    July 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I really enjoyed reading about Fred O. Scroggs. He appears to have had an amazing impact on the community. Most people like that are simply doing what they think is right and many probably gave no thought about being remembered by future generations. It is wonderful when the do get recognized for their impact.
    He must have been quite a man.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 24, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Tipper–I would certainly concur with Anderson’s suggestion that one individual (or maybe a handful of individuals) are the heart and soul of small mountain communities–the glue which holds them together. I don’t think that is quite as much the case today as it once was, but to no small degree it still remains true.
    When I was a boy growing up in Bryson City, for example, our next door neighbor, Stanley W. Black, was a man cut in that mold. He was the local banker (his bank made it through the Depression, a testament to his foresight and frugality), a pillar of the Presbyterian Church, a civic leader, and more. His wife founded the local library (it bears her name Marianna Black), they built the fellowship hall at the Presbyterian Church, he held various local offices, and one of their children, Dr. Ellen Black Winston, may well be the most eminent person ever to come out of Swain County (served in both the Kennedy and Johson administrations in a sub-cabinent position).
    Another man of similar stature was Dr. Kelly Bennett–a progenitor of the Park, tireless advocate for the Blue Ridge Parkway, local druggist, politician (state represetative and senator), noted Rotary Club member, first-rate photographer, etc.
    I’m sure most of your readers, at least those fortunate enough to have small town roots or live in small towns, know of similar individuals.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    July 24, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Little treasures … voices from the past. Living on and being heard anew! What a wonderful world where we have that opportunity to hear these gems. Thanks to people for sharing, people like Fred… AND you!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 24, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for sharing the story. It is so amazing to me that such a small community was able to draw such a prestigious school. All communities need a Fred O. Scroggs.

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