John C. Campbell Mill House

The old Millhouse on the campus of John C. Campbell Folk School was built by Leon Deschamps in 1935. The history of the school is the topic of the book “Craft & Community,” by Anna Fariello, who will be at City Lights Bookstore at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23.

In her book “Craft & Community,” author Anna Fariello presents the early history of Western North Carolina’s John C. Campbell Folk School. Founded in 1925, the school was a dream of John and Olive Campbell, who toured the Southern Appalachians in an effort to chronicle its people and their culture.

During a decade of travel, the Campbells visited schools and churches, exploring rural education, uplift work and religion. Their work was guided by the Social Gospel, a doctrine that challenged congregations to actively demonstrate their faith through works of charity and service.

In the far western corner of North Carolina, the small community of Brasstown was eager for a school. Community support was evident when more than 200 people showed up for a meeting at the Little Brasstown Baptist Church.

The people asked themselves, “What do we have to offer?” and answered, “Land, labor, material and folks.” More than 100 community members, mostly farmers, donated everything from flower bulbs to farmland.

The first students arrived at the John C. Campbell Folk School in 1927 and students have been filling the school ever since.

During the school’s first Handwork Week in 1928, local women arrived to card and spin wool from the school’s sheep. Within a year, as the Great Depression hit, the folk school and other regional organizations – including the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild and Penland School of Handicrafts – encouraged the home production of items that could bring much needed income to local families.

Anna Fariello became interested in the folk school while doing research for a presentation at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 1993, the Year of American Craft.

City Lights Bookstore in Sylva will host Fariello for a reading and book signing of “Craft & Community” at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23. The event is free and open to the public