The Richard Chase Papers
Richard Chase (1904-1988) was an American folklorist renowned in his field during his lifetime. He published nationally popular anthologies of stories, songs, and dances. Little was known about his personal life, but a collection of letters from Chase to Dean Trivette (1946-1989) in Appalachian State University’s Special Collections enhances our understanding by illuminating their close relationship. Profound memories of their time together in Watauga County motivated Chase to pursue Trivette despite time and circumstance.
The two met in 1958 when Chase traveled to interview Trivette’s uncle, Claud Proffitt, in Meat Camp when Trivette was just twelve years old. Chase developed a close relationship with the family and established a mountain retreat center, King’s X, in nearby Rominger the same year. Chase and Trivette ultimately developed a romantic relationship. Early correspondence suggests that mutual feelings were communicated prior to Trivette's move to Berea College while Trivette was still a teenager, but lack of evidence prevents us from establishing an official timeline. Even so, we can reasonably speculate that these origins were likely inappropriate. Rather than romanticizing this period, we seek to understand how Chase's own romanticization of the time he spent with Trivette at King's X influenced over two decades of communication.
Correspondence picked up after Trivette left for Berea College in 1965. As the only letter from Trivette to Chase in the Collections, this letter reveals much about Trivette. Here, we see the student as a dreamer, artist, and academic. It is implied that Chase encouraged the development of these qualities, which the two had likely bonded over. Despite the origins of their relationship, it is clear that Trivette, as an adult, returned Chase’s feelings. The two were not in an exclusive relationship, however, as Trivette openly described a new “boy” that he liked but must ignore to avoid being outed.