Heritage/History Lifestyle

History Feature: The Mother of Mountain Craft ~ Frances Louisa Goodrich

Allanstand Cottage Industries. Photo by Chelsea Lane Photography and courtesy of the Southern Highland Craft Guild

By Lauren Stepp

According to Janet Wiseman, education director of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, Frances Louisa Goodrich (1856-1944) was many things.

She was an artist. She was a social activist. She was a Presbyterian missionary. She was a strong businessperson. But above all, Goodrich was the mother of the mountain craft movement.

In 1890, Goodrich moved from New York to Asheville to volunteer at Riceville’s College Hill School. Two years later, she moved 12 miles north to establish a small mission community in Brittain’s Cove. It was there, “out of pure goodwill,” that a neighbor gave Goodrich a 40-year-old coverlet woven in the Double Bowknot pattern.

Frances Louisa Goodrich on her pony Cherokee. Photos courtesy of the Southern Highland Craft Guild

According to Goodrich’s 1931 memoir, Mountain Homespun, the blanket was “golden brown on a cream-colored background.” The brown fabric had been dyed with chestnut oak and “was as fine a color as the day it was finished.”

“When Frances Goodrich saw the skill level and beauty of the work, she asked if there were any people still weaving coverlets in the area,” says Wiseman. “She knew if she could find women who wanted to learn to weave the coverlets, she would find a market and bring much-needed income into the community.”

Though hand-weaving was fading, locals directed Goodrich to an elder who still practiced the old ways. From there, Goodrich rode her pony, Cherokee, to remote corners of Western North Carolina and “bought looms, found teachers and students, gathered materials, chose weaving drafts and started production,” says Wiseman.

In the coming years, women wove fabric into smaller decorative pieces. Though these textiles were primarily sold as mail-order products, Goodrich soon founded a craft shop in an old cabin on the Buncombe Turnpike. Known as Allanstand Cottage Industries, the store became a place where passersby could purchase quilts as well as brooms, baskets, wooden furniture and hooked rugs.

Needless to say, Goodrich sparked a craft revolution. But she didn’t do it alone. In 1930, other visionaries like Olive Dame Campbell (an American folklorist and founder of the John C. Campbell Folk School) and Mary Martin Sloop (founder of Crossnore School) came together to create the Southern Highland Craft Guild.

“These founders were dedicated to helping the citizens of the Southern Appalachians and saving the handcraft traditions,” says Wiseman. “By forming a Guild, they created an umbrella organization and pooled their resources to be stronger and more effective in their mission.”

Equally devoted to the cause, Goodrich donated Allanstand Cottage Industries to the newly formed Guild in 1931. For the next 18 years, the shop was the Guild’s only source of income, says Wiseman.

Today, Allanstand Cottage Industries is located inside the Folk Art Center and is considered the oldest craft store in the country. It’s a place where visitors can purchase everything from maple spoons to corn shuck dolls. Of course, there are quilts, too. That’s all thanks to Goodrich.

“She is still remembered and revered,” says Wiseman. “She accomplished a lot in her life, but was credited as being a humble and friendly person and kind to all. What more can we aspire to?”

The Folk Art Center is located at Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. For more information, see SouthernHighlandGuild.org.

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