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Katherine Jackson French Ballad Collection

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: BCA 0005-SAA 004

Scope and Contents

This collection comprises the ballads Katherine Jackson French collected in the early 20th century from Kentucky mountain residents and Berea students. In addition to collecting ballads, French researched variants of the ballads and included these variants for comparison with the newly collected versions in a manuscript she hoped to publish. The collection also includes correspondence with Berea College President Frost and others interested in her project.   Notes, an article, photographs, and biographical information are also included in the collection.


  • created: 1909-1916


Conditions Governing Access

Records and photographs can be accessed through the Reading Room, Berea College Special Collections and Archives, Hutchins Library, Berea College.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions placed on this collection other than federal copyright regulations.


1.00 ms_boxes (8 folders)

Language of Materials



Katherine Jackson French was influenced to collect mountain ballads through friends who had attended a lecture—in 1905—at which two instructors from Berea College, Kentucky, spoke about the uncollected ballads in the mountains of Kentucky.  She was writing her dissertation at Columbia University at the time and she delayed investigating the matter of collecting mountain ballads until 1909 when she returned to London, Kentucky, to attend her mother who was ill. On at least two occasions in the period 1909-1910, she visited Kentucky where she collected songs and ballads from the mountain people, the students at Berea College, and the townspeople of Berea.  The appendix to this guide contains an alphabetical listing of the names of the singers from whom French obtained the ballads. In the fall of 1910, French corresponded with Berea College’s president, William Frost, requesting his assistance in publishing the ballad collection—offering to donate any royalties to the college—and forwarded a copy of the ballad manuscript to him.  The manuscript was never published and she retrieved it from President Frost in 1915, to use for a lecture she presented at Corbin, Kentucky’s Cumberland Valley Teachers’ Association meeting in the same year.  She retained possession of the ballads until Elisabeth Peck, college historian, approached French by letter and obtained the collection as a centennial gift for the college. Married in 1911 to William F. French, she mothered one child, a daughter.  Katherine French lectured on English literature from 1919 to 1937 at the Women’s Department Club in Shreveport, Louisiana, and became professor of English at Centenary College in 1924.  She wrote a book on Pennsylvania history, authored several articles related to her field of study, and retired in 1948.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged in series as follows:

Series 1: Correspondence and Miscellaneous Notes

Series 2: Ballad Manuscripts

Series 3: Manuscript of “A Fortnight in Ballad Country”

Series 4: Biographical Material

Source of Acquisition

The ballads in the Katherine Jackson French collection were given to Berea College in the early 1950’s as a centennial gift by Ms. French.

Other Descriptive Information

Index to Ballad Singers (credited with assisting French):

Ambrose, Nathan; Berea, KY

Baker, Mrs. James; Madison County, KY

Banks, Lucy; Madison County, KY

Begley, Martha; Leslie County, KY

Combs, Bettie; Berea, KY

Combs, Jennie; Berea, KY

Cornett, Jane; Knox County, KY

Green, Margaret; Perry County, KY

Green, Margaret Combs; Knott County, KY

Hackney, Ruth; Letcher County, KY

Honicutt, Eliza; Laurel County, KY

Huff, Olive; Berea, KY

Huff, Mrs. Ollie; Berea, KY

Maize, Ellen; Knox County, KY

Napier, Lizane; Leslie County, KY

Smith, Jane; Laurel County, KY

Smith, Jane; Leslie County, KY

Collection Number: BCA 0005 SAA 004

Processing Information

The finding aid was updated in January 2016.

Archon Finding Aid Title
Description rules
Other Unmapped
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Berea College Special Collections and Archives Repository

Hutchins Library
100 Campus Drive
Berea Kentucky 40404 US