We’ve seen a recent surge in popularity in the Foxfire series, with customers purchasing whole sets as well as copies of the scarce first editions, but these books are nothing new. For over 50 years, the students who produce Foxfire have been promoting and uplifting Appalachian culture and traditions through their community outreach and publications. Considered the classic series of simple living in America, Foxfire was at the forefront of homesteading before homesteading was cool. The publication was born not far from our Biblio offices – we’re nearly neighbors, both nestled into the southern Appalachian mountains.
If you’re not familiar with these titles, let us offer an introduction! It’s not too late to start your own collection of these awesome books of handcrafts and simple living.
History of Foxfire
Eliot Wigginton first came to the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School in Georgia as a young teacher in 1966. He struggled with motivating his English students until he guided them to start a magazine, which they named after the local fungus Foxfire. The students were tasked with interviewing friends, family members and elders in the community about the vanishing ways and culture of the southern Appalachian mountains. The magazine grew so popular that an anthology book was created in 1972 – The Foxfire Book.
Within the first month of publication, The Foxfire Book went through three printings and hit the New York Times bestseller list.
By 1974, royalties from the sale of the book allowed the school to purchase property in Mountain City, Georgia to create the Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center. Located on 106 acres in Rabun County Georgia, the center includes over 20 structures. Many of these structures are historic log cabins that were disassembled, moved to the property, and then rebuilt by students using traditional methods. Today, the museum is open for self-guided tours of the buildings along a winding walking trail. There is also a gift shop that offers local handmade crafts and lots and lots of books!
Rabun County High school went public in 1977 but the students continued the project, and still do today, producing two double-issues of The Foxfire Magazine each school year. Foxfire is a not-for-profit, educational and literary organization, with both a local mission of preserving and promoting Southern Appalachian culture and a national program of teacher training that is learner-centered and community-based.
In 1985, Elliot Wigginton, the founder of Foxfire, published Sometimes A Shining Moment: The Foxfire Experience, Twenty Years Teaching in a High School Classroom. This book was used in many teaching courses in the 1980s, and in 1989 he was awarded a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant. Wigginton, however, is no longer associated with the organization, willingly stepping away after pleading guilty to child molestation in 1992.
The Foxfire Series
The first 12 volumes of the Foxfire series, published by Anchor Books/Doubleday, has sold over 9 million copies.
The Foxfire Book (1972)
The first book, The Foxfire Book (1972), covered hog dressing, log cabin building, planting by the signs, faith healing, moonshining and so much more. It addressed the simple living skills without a mocking tone and brought respectability and dignity to the old ways of the mountains.
Foxfire 2 (1973)
Foxfire 2 (1973) includes folklore and ghost stories, midwife skills, burial customs, corn shuckins’, wagon making and ‘other affairs of plain living’.
Foxfire 3 (1975)
Foxfire 4 (1977) includes cheesemaking, gardening, fiddle making, berry buckets, sassafrass tea, and horse trading.
Foxfire 5 (1979)
Foxfire 5 (1979) includes lessons on ironmaking, blacksmithing, flintlock rifles, and bear hunting – just a little light reading!
Foxfire 6 (1980)
Foxfire 6 (1980) features lessons on shoemaking, wooden locks, musical instrument making, and over 100 toys and games.
Foxfire 7 (1982)
Foxfire 7 (1982) celebrates the spiritual heritage of the Appalachian region, with features on revivals and baptisms, snake handling, foot washing, gospel singing, faith healing, camp meetings and more about other traditions of mountain religious heritage.
Foxfire 8 (1984)
Foxfire 8 (1984) celebrates Southern folk pottery, and includes features on the Black community in Appalachia and tales of mule-swapping and chicken fighting.
Foxfire 9 (1986)
Foxfire 9 (1986) features some good stories about home cures, quilting, haint tales, general stores, a prayer rock and more on log cabins.
Foxfire 10 (1993)
Foxfire 11 (1994)
Foxfire 11 (1994) features essays on the use of wild plants, hunting stories, fishing, methods of preserving and cooking food, and more about ‘the old home place’.
Foxfire 12 (2004)
Foxfire 12 (2004) the last book in the series, featuring square dancing, Cherokee traditions, World War Veterans, and other crafts and personalities.
Special Foxfire Anniversary Volumes:
Foxfire: 25 Years (1991)
Other Foxfire Titles
The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery: Regional Memorabilia and Recipes was first published in 1984.
The Foxfire Book of Simple Living: Celebrating Fifty Years of Listenin’, Laughin’, and Learnin’ (2016)
You can also search for listings of Foxfire Magazine on our site – just type “Foxfire magazine” in the Title or Keyword space.
Amy C. Manikowski is a writer living in Asheville, NC.