Guide to the Virgil Sturgill Papers and Audiovisual Materials, 1919 - 1985, undated

Summary Information

Title: Virgil Sturgill Papers and Audiovisual Materials, 1919 - 1985, undated
Collection: AC.208
Extent: 6.0 linear feet (4 boxes, 1 half-size manuscript box, 4 short manuscript boxes, 1 CD box, 2 shoeboxes, 1 oversize folder)

Virgil Sturgill Papers and Audiovisual Materials is a collection of Sturgill's forty-nine daily diaries dating from 1919 to 1951, and audiovisual materials in various formats. A folk song singer and friend of Cratis Williams and Jesse Stuart, Sturgill provides insight into his daily life during the first half of the twentieth century and beliefs, such as service in World War I, domestic life, and his reactions to World War II and the Korean Conflict.

Creator: Sturgill, Virgil, 1897-1981

Biographical/Historical Note

Virgil Sturgill was born in 1897 in Carter County, Kentucky. After his mother Polly Burris Sturgill died in 1914, Sturgill's father moved to Idaho leaving his children with family members. In 1914, Sturgill began teaching at 17 years old. He moved to Oklahoma in 1915 and attended East Central State Normal School. In 1918, he enlisted in the Navy in Oklahoma City. While in the Navy, he worked in the Hospital Corp and attended Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. After leaving the Navy, Sturgill studied at Berea College and University of Kentucky and worked as a teacher and coach.

In 1932, he married Ruth Virginia Norton (b. ~1911) and they had two sons, Jack and Lee. He taught English, debate and acted as the Director of Athletics at Ashland High School in the 1930s and early 1940s. In 1943 to 1946, Sturgill worked as assistant director of the American Red Cross in Camp Blanding, Florida. In 1945, Sturgill discusses his divorce and subsequent remarriage to his wife. During their brief divorce, Ruth moved back to Ashland to live with her parents. Ruth and Sturgill reunited within one year of divorce. In the late 1940s and 1950s, Sturgill worked at the Veterans Hospital in Oteen, North Carolina. He was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, Ashland (Kentucky) Chapter No. 119. Sturgill supported his sister Olive financially for eight years.

A ballad singer and dulcimer player, he was also a friend of Cratis Williams. His performances were recorded in "Southern mountain folksongs and ballads" (1955) and "Bury me beneath the willow a treasury of southern mountain folksongs and ballads" (1950s). Eastern Kentucky University contains his collection, "Summer in Kentucky and other poems" (1928).

Scope and Contents

An abbreviated history of most of Virgil Sturgill's adult life can be found in his forty-nine daily dairies found in this collection. They feature his family life, including mother, in-laws, wife and sons, siblings, and domestic events and struggles. It includes his friendship with Jesse Stuart, Red Cross and other jobs, his Lodge activities, and her USO dances. He also gives details of his divorce and remarriage, house hunting, coaching and sports games, and his children's activities.

The Folk Music series includes typed and handwritten versions of ballads, some with multiple versions. There are professional and home-produced phonograph recordings of John Jacob Niles and Bascom Lamar Lunsford, among others including interviews with Jesse Stuart. Most of the phonographs are in poor condition, and these will be digitized only upon request.

Samples of his college course note-taking are also found in Series I.

Most of the books and journals with this collection have been cataloged and placed in Appalachian Closed Collection.


This collection has been divided into two series: Series I: Diaries and School-related Papers/Notes, and Series II: Folk Music. In Series I, the diaries are arranged chronologically with any clippings found inside the diaries photocopied and filed chronologically in legal folders.

In Series II, the ballad lyrics are arranged alphabetically by title, with his personal mementos arranged by title. The phonograph recordings are in one box, to be digitized upon request. The reel-to-reel tapes have been arranged by date and digitized with user and archival CD made and stored with the rest of this collection.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for use in the Dougherty Reading Room without restrictions. An appointment for research is recommended. The Dougherty Reading Room is located on the 4th floor of Belk Library in Special Collections.

Acquisitions Information

Virgil Sturgill donated this collection to the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection. This collection was opened to the public on 4 December 2003.

Processing Information

Processed by Ashley Taylor, Kristi Harris, Rosemary Ulrey, Kathryn Staley, 4 December 2003; Encoded by Kathryn Staley, Rachel Critzer, Rosemary Ulrey, 11 July 2005; Reprocessed by Anita Elliott, February-March 2014. This collection was reprocessed as part of a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The grant funded extensive processing of the backlog within the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection between 2012 and 2014.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], AC.208: Virgil Sturgill Papers and Audiovisual Materials, W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA.

Container List

Series I: Diaries and School-related Papers/Notes, 1919-1951, undated 

Series Description

Series I: Diaries and School-related Papers/Notes contains forty-nine diaries, dating from 1919 to 1951, written by Virgil Sturgill, arranged in chronological order, with copies made of articles tucked within individual diaries. Sturgill discusses world and domestic events. He included programs, newspaper clippings, world and personal life events, and his sons' report cards.

  Box Folder

Volume 1: Sturgill lives in San Francisco, California, leaves military, begins teaching in Oregon, July 15, 1919-July 13, 1920 

1 1

Volume 2: Sturgill courting Ruth Newton, July 16-September 27, 1920 

1 2

Volume 2: A Sailor's Log of Newport, Rhode Island, with typed Table of Contents, gives overview of life, Summer 1919-1942 

1 3

Volume 3: College freshman on football team, September 29-December 27, 1920 

1 4

Volume 4: Work with a doctor in hospital, December 28, 1920-July 17, 1921 

1 5

Volume 5: College life, teaching school, coaching football and parents' farm, July 18, 1921-January 21, 1922 

1 6

Volume 6: Zelda, home remedy, weather reports, January 22-August 11, 1922 

1 7

Volume 7: Visit to Yellowstone Park, August 12-27, 1922 

1 8

Volume 8: American Falls from Pocatello, Idaho, includes words of songs, August 27-September 1922 

1 9

Volume 9: Sturgill dates Dorothy, October 19-his proposal is turned down, includes correspondence (legal folder), September 20, 1922-January 6, 1923 

3 1

Volume 10: April 1st-his 26th birthday, lives in Pocatello, Idaho, describes school events, dates Ruth, January 6-June 1, 1923 

1 10

Volume 11: Sturgill in Berea and Greenup, Kentucky, Decoration Day, dating May Neese, Summer 1923 

1 11

Volume 12: Reactions to county fair, World Series, classes, August 21, 1923-January 14, 1924 

1 12

Volume 13: Odd Fellows Hall, Woodrow Wilson dies, undergraduate at University of Kentucky, January 15, 1923-June 25, 1924 

1 13

Volume 14: Sturgill is ineligible to vote, actors' lifestyle, Holiness church, September family visits, July 27-October 29, 1924 

1 14

Volume 15: Tuberculosis, descriptions of football and basketball games, anti-dancing, October 30, 1924-March 1, 1925 

1 15

Volume 16: Takes first degree of Knights of Pythias Lodge, receives third degree of Pythianism from Portsmouth team, March 2-April 27, 1925 

1 16

Volume 17: Visits Greenup, Kentucky, Holiness Church, attends University of Kentucky summer school, receives bid for fraternity, April 28-July 8, 1925 

1 17

Volume 18: Break-up with Peggy, self-pity, dating others, July 9-September 17, 1925 

1 18

Volume 19: Football practice, still dating multiple girls, attends movies a lot, October 17, 1925-January 17, 1926 

1 19

Volume 20: Begins teaching in Ashland, Kentucky, attends Bob Jones revival, January 18-September 24, 1926 

1 20

Volume 21: Pritchard High School Football team photographs and newspaper clippings, female basketball team photographs, Sturgill is Director of Athletics at high school (legal folder), 1927-1928 

3 2

Diary 1930: Sturgill vacations in San Francisco, California, Summer 1930 

1 21

Volume 21-1933: Diary begins with Virgil married to Ruth, descriptive walks past old woman, Legion meetings, becomes Worthy Patron of the Order of the Eastern Star, Great Depression discussion, August 21-October 1, 1933 

1 22

Volume 22-1933-34: Teaching, financial support of sister Olive is problematic, money problems, discussion of his first date with Ruth on February 11, 1932, October 2, 1933-January 1, 1934 

1 23

Loose Articles from Diary 1934 with Address List, 1934 

3 3

Diary 1935: January 18-first mention of Ruth being pregnant, January 23-Jack born with difficult delivery, social life and the darling baby, 1935 

1 25

Loose Articles from Diary 1935, 1935 

3 4

Diary 1936: Several articles copied from diary, Virgil wrote letters to his son Jack on back pages, 1936 

1 26

Loose Articles from Diary 1936, 1936 

3 5

Diary 1937: Family visits, flooding in area, Jack is growing, helped with Christmas pageant, Amelia Earhart is still lost, 1937 

1 27

Loose Articles from Diary 1937, 1937 

3 6

Diary 1938: Methodist Episcopal Church North and South unite congregations, job searches, Montana train wreck, Hitler and Chamberlain compromise, 1938 

2 1

Loose Articles from Diary 1938, 1938 

3 7

Diary 1939: Financial straits, new baby Lee, World War II news, 1939 

2 2

Loose Articles from Diary 1939, 1939 

3 8

Diary 1940: Meets Jesse Owens, school and Legion activities, World War II speculations and news, January 1-July 8, 1940 

2 3

Loose Articles from Diary 1940, 1940 

3 9

Diary 1940-41: Sturgill's family moves, son Jack's first day of school, Reds win World Series, wife Ruth's first white hair, July 9, 1940-January 15, 1941 

2 4

Loose Articles from Diary 1940-41, 1940-1941 

3 10

Diary 1941-1: Lee Burris Sturgill "wrote" in front cover, 44th birthday, son Jack's 6th birthday, Ruth begins job in tea room, family moves again, financial woes, January 16-August 31, 1941 

2 5

Loose Articles from 1941-1, January 16-August 1941 

3 11

Diary 1941-2 and Loose Articles: Yankees win World Series, son Jack's report card (in loose articles folder), photograph of young soldier, went to Senate to hear Winston Churchill in person, September 2-December 29, 1941 

3 12

Diary 1941-1942: Birthday party for Jack, Legion news, move again, December 30, 1941-March 27, 1942 

3 13

Diary 1942-1 and Loose Articles: 45th birthday, parade for Army Day, Red Cross presentation of Rigoletto, summer sells World Books, March 28-June 20, 1942 

3 14

Diary 1942-2 and Loose Articles: Friend Windsor Morris visits, selling encyclopedias, Jack sells parsley door-to-door, hot summer, financial woes again, program for Poage Lodge no. 325, June 21-September 9, 1942 

3 15

Diary 1942-3 and Loose Articles: Two Commencement invitations, Poage Lodge no. 325 program, war news, Ruth on radio program with Pat Vincent, got job with Red Cross, September 10-November 25, 1942 

3 16

Diary 1942-1943 and Loose Articles: Visit with Jesse and Diane Stuart and daughter Jessica, basketball program, remembering Pearl Harbor, visit to Walter Reed Hospital, November 26, 1942-January 18, 1943 

3 17

Diary 1943-1 and Loose Articles: At Fort Eustis, Virginia and Fort Meade, Maryland American Red Cross, 46th birthday, concentration camp story, January 19-June 19, 1943 

4 1

Diary 1943-2: Working at Red Cross job, visit New York City, notes about several cases, descriptions of nature's beauty, Mussolini is ousted, enjoys LIFE magazine, June 20-July 29, 1943 

4 2

Diary 1943-3 and Loose Articles: Drawing of a house, brochure for a Visit to Kenmore in August, Lee's 4th birthday, telegram to Sturgill from wife Ruth, move to Camp Blanding, Starke, Florida, page with time, date, place, etc. when Sturgills were married, July 30, 1943-January 1, 1944  

4 3

Diary 1944 and Loose Articles: Saw Joe Louis, boxer at Camp Blanding, 12th wedding anniversary, Lee bitten by dog, hurricane hits in October, telegram to Sturgill from wife Ruth, 1944 

4 4

Diary 1945 and Loose Articles: Letter to son Jack, dated 11/17/1945, Jack's 10th birthday, Ruth files for divorce then it is final, Roosevelt dies, Hitler's death confirmed, letters/notes in back covers, January 1-October 30, 1945 

4 5

Diary 1945-1947 and Loose Articles: Sturgills are remarried on December 26,1945-happy family again, job with veterans at Reynolds High School, White Shrine meetings, October 31, 1945-March 6, 1947 

4 6

Diary 1947-1948 and Loose Articles: Sturgill and son Jack spotted Boris Karloff at the Battery Park Hotel, Father-Son Banquet at church, Lee's 8th birthday, photographs of boys, son Jack's report card, financial problems, Jersey Joe Walcott’s autograph, Knights Pin, March 7, 1947-March 9, 1948 

4 7

Diary 1948-1949 and Loose Articles: Ruth's 37th birthday; First National Bank deposit slip for $500.00; business card of James E. Ellis, March 10-1948-February 13, 1949 

4 8

Diary 1949-1950 and Loose Articles: Attended State Folk Festival at UNC, Lee's 10th birthday, thank you note/postcard to Sturgill from Carl, Lee sees Gene Autry, mostly routine entries, February 14, 1949-April 1, 1950 

5 1

Diary 1950 and Loose Articles: Attended inauguration of Paul Reid, president of WCNC representing University of Kentucky, War in Korea,saw 'Unto those hills' with Jesse Stuart, preserved four-leaf clover, Aunt Alpha dies, April 1-October 7, 1950 

5 2

Diary 1950-1951 and Loose Articles: Sturgill sees television for the 1st time at YMCA, Korean War officially over, Ruth gets book-selling job, finances always in entries, debuted on WFMY Greensboro Television playing dulcimer, son Jack's 16th birthday, October 9, 1950-February 14, 1951 

5 3

Mental Tests, Berea College Summer School, by V.L. Sturgill, 1923 

5 4

Notes, Courses Taken at Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, 1919 

5 5

Series II: Folk Music, circa 1923-1985, undated 

Series Description

Series II: Folk Music contains many ballad lyrics, arranged alphabetically, several mementos Sturgill saved from events and visits, phonograph records, and reel-to-reel tapes of singings, interviews of Sturgill and other singers, and readings of ballads/stories. The reel-to-reels are digitized with user copies available.

  Box Folder

Ballad Lyrics, A-C, undated 

5 6
  Box Folder

Abide with Me, 

1 1

Amazing Grace (four versions), 

The Ashland Tragedy (two), 

Ballad of Lord Bateman, 

On the Bank of the Ohio (two), 

Get Up and Bar the Door or Katy, Bar the Door (five-two versions), 

Barbara Allen, 

The Battle of New Orleans, 

Beautiful Brown Eyes (two), 

Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair (two), 

The Boll Weevil, 

The Boston Burglar (two), 

Blow Ye Winds of Morning, 

Bound For the Promise Land (two), 

Blue Tail Fly, 

The Braes O' Yarrow, 

The Butcher's Boy (two), 

Careless Love, 

Casey Jones (two), 

The Cat and the Fiddle, 

Charles Guiteau (three versions), 

Chicken McCraney Crow, 

Cindy (two), 

Clementine (1894 version), 

Rye Whiskey or Clinch Mountain, 

Come Friends Go With Me, 

Come My Love and Fare Ye Well, 

Cowboy's Lament, 

The Crawdad Song, 

Cripple Creek, 

The Cuckoo, 

Ballad Lyrics, D-G, undated 

5 7

Dark as a Dungeon, 

Darling Corey, 

Devilish Mary (two), 

Doney Song (four versions & letter), 

Down in the Valley or Birmingham Jail, 

Down in the Willow Garden, 

Drowsy Sleepers, 

The Dying Cowboy (three versions), 

East Virginia, 

(Come) Fair and Tender Ladies or Waly, waly, Love Be Bonny (1765 version), 

The Farmer's Curst Wife (four-Sturgill's version included), 

Flee As A Bird (two), 

Foggy, Foggy Dew, 

Frankie and Johnnie, 

French Board (1831 version), 

Frog Went A Courtin' (two), 

The Frozen Logger, 

Git Along Little Dogies (two), 

Go In and Out the Window (game instructions and song), 

Go ‘way From My Window (with addition), 

Goodman Comes Home or Three Nights, 

Good Ol' Mountain Dew, 

Greenfields (three with Sturgill's notes), 

Green Gravel (game instructions and two), 


Gypsy Davey (two), 

Ballad Lyrics, H-K, undated 

5 8

The Hangman, 


House Carpenter, 

I Know Where I'm Goin', 

I Love Little Willie, 

I will Arise and Go To Jesus (two), 

I'm Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad, 

I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes, 

In the Pines, 

Jackie Went A Sailin', 

Jessie James (two), 

Jim Crack Corn, 

John Hardy (two), 

John Henry, 

Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye, 

Johnny So Long At the Fair, 


Joseph Mary (The Cherry Tree Carol), 

Knoxville Girl, 

Ballad Lyrics, L-Q, 

5 9

Leatherwing Bat, 

Little Mohee (Indian Lass), 

London Bridge (two with notes), 

Lord Lovel (three), 

Lord Randal (four versions), 

Loving Nancy (or Coocoo Song), 

Mary Hamilton or The Four Marys (three), 

Methodist Pie, 

The Midnight Special (two), 

Mollie Malone or Cockies and Mussels (two versions), 

Mollie Vaughn, 

The Murder of Lottie Yates, 


My Days are Gliding Swiftly By, 1835 

My Parents Raised Me Tenderly, 

Needle's Eye, 

New River Train (with Needle's Eye included), 

The Orphan Girl, 

Old Dan Tucker (two with addition), 

Old King Cole 

Old Smoky, 

Old Time Religion, 

Ol' Joe Clark, 

On the Banks of the Ohio, 

Pearl Bryant, 

Peter Gray, 

Pretty Little Miss, 

The Pretty Mohee, 

Pretty Polly (two versions), 

The Prisoner's Song, 

Ballad Lyrics, R-W, 

Ram of Darby, 

Rolly Dru Dum or Lolly Too-Dum (two versions), 

The Rowan Country Crew, 

Rye Whiskey (two), 

Sally Goodin', 

Santa Anna, 

Seeds of Love (or The Willow Tree or Keep Your Garden Clean-two), 


Skip to My Lou (four and notes), 

Soldier and Lady (One Morning In May), 

The Soldier Boy, 

Sourwood Mountain (two versions), 

The Streets of Laredo (or The Dying Cowboy), 

Ten Thousand Miles, 

Texas Rangers (three), 

Turkey in the Straw, 

The Two Ravens (two), 

The Two Sisters (two), 

The Unclouded Day, 

Wabash Cannon Ball (two), 

The Wagoner's Lad, 

Waillie, Waillie, 

Wayfaring Stranger (two), 

Weeping Willow (two), 

Were You There (two), 

Wexford Girl, 

When I Can Read My Title Clear, 

When Johnny Comes Marching Home, 

Whistle Daughter, Whistle, 

Whoa Mule, 

The Wife of Usher's Well, 


Wreck of the Old Ninety Seven (fragment), 

Personal Published Mementos and Articles, 

  Box Folder

Advertisements for Books, Red Horse Hill by Sidney McCall, and South from Hell-fer-Sartin by Leonard W. Roberts, circa 1923 and 1964 

6 1

Program, American Folklore Society, Annual Meeting, Detroit, Michigan, December 27-29, 1963 

6 2

Americus Book Company Catalog, Americus, Georgia, no. 63, undated 

6 3

Articles from The Appalachian South, Hedy West, Songbird of the Appalachians, by Cratis Williams, and Southern Mountain Folk Tradition and the Folksong "Stars" Syndrome, featuring V.L. Sturgill, Summer 1965 

6 4

Best Music On and Off Campus: Music Capitol News, Volume 1, no. 4, October-November 1963 

6 5

The Council of Southern Mountains Inc., Berea, Kentucky, undated 

6 6

Original Ballad, The Death of Lottie Yates, by Mary Saunders Ferrell, Charleston, West Virginia, 1974 

6 7

1968 Festival of American Folklife, the Smithsonian Institution, 1968 

6 8

Fiddler's Grove Inc., Union Grove, North Carolina, April 1971 

6 9

Flier, Virgil Sturgill featured at A Folk Fiesta, Baltimore, Maryland, undated 

6 10

Folk Music Festival in Hawaii: Folk Songs from Asia, the Pacific and America, 1965 

6 11

North Carolina Folklore, Volume 14 no. 2 (with notes), November 1966 

6 12

Pre-Publication Mailing for The Old-Time Fiddler's Repertory, compiled by R.P. Christenson, circa 1974 

6 13

Opry Country and Western Picture Book of the Stars, 1963 

6 14

Photographs, two black and white, small one -Virgil Sturgill, large one-unidentified, 1964, undated 

6 15

The South Carolina Musician, South Carolina Music Educators Association, October 1951 

6 16


  Box Folder

Fess Parker, Ballad of Davy Crockett and I Gave My Love, Columbia Records, undated 

7 1

Annadeene and J.P. Fraley, Wild Rose of the Mountain and Molly Darlin', Memory Records, undated 

7 2

Martha Irving and John Sholar, and Opportunity House Men's Chorus, Songs of Hendersonville, Greenville, South Carolina, Mark Five Records, undated 

7 3

John Jacob Niles sings Folk Songs of Christmas Volume 2, Camden, undated 

7 4

Johnny Williams and The Jokers, Dearest Darling and Long Black Veil, undated 

7 5

Billy Grammar, Chasing a Dream and Gotta Travel On, Monument Records, undated 

7 6

Boris Nikolic, Milo More Moje and A Ca Ne Bi, Jole, Jugoton, Yugoslavia, undated 

7 7

Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys, Knee Deep in Blue Grass (four songs), DECCA Records, undated 

7 8

Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Smokey Mt. Ballads, Folk Way Records and Service Corporation, New York, 1953 

7 9

Reel-to-reel Tapes, 

  Box Folder

Folk Songs (Sturgill) on John Dilline's Radio Program. Washington, D.C., circa 1958 

8 1

Singing on Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, Recorded by Virgil Sturgill, June 27, 1965 

8 2

Christmas Harmony, (unlabeled), 1965 

8 3

Interview with Virgil Sturgill with dulcimer, Traditional Music, Johns Hopkins University "Folk Music" station, Baltimore, Maryland, January 29, 1964 

8 4

Stuart and Kentucky Interview Part 1, June 1957 

9 1

Stuart and Kentucky Interview Part 2, Host, Cliff Gross, June 1957 

9 2

Interview with Jesse Stuart, May 28, 1957 

9 3

Interview with Virgil Sturgill, Baltimore, Maryland, April 1965 

9 4

Folk Music Selections, Virgil Sturgill, December 1958-February 1959 

10 1

"The Murder of Lottie Yates" by Mrs. Julia B. Kiser, June 1957 

10 2

"The Murder of Lottie Yates", Article prepared for the North Carolina Folk Lore Magazine with words and music of ballad, recorded by Virgil Sturgill, May 29, 1957 

10 3

On Sutton's Branch, Carter County, Kentucky, Nature Sounds, Summer 1957 

10 4

Julia B. Kaiser, "Murder of Lottie Yates" and Virgil Sturgill, "The Ashland Tragedy", June 29, 1957 

11 1

Senator Cooper, Kentucky with Guest Performer, Virgil Sturgill, "Barbara Allen" and "Farmers' Curst Wife", June 4, 1971 

11 2

User and Archival CD Copies of All Reel-to-reel Tapes, 1957-1985