HISTORY OF BRICEVILLE SCHOOLS
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.
School was not my favorite subject in my younger years. But it was the most rewarding and exciting times of my life. While we’re on the subject of schools, we shall now take from the fine works of Marshall McGhee and Gene White and their book, “Briceville, the Town That Coal Built.” Our subject matter this week will be “History of Briceville Schools,” as taken from the Clinton-Courier News, 1964.” No doubt many of the readers of this column have attended these fine schools in the past. As I cannot improve on the writings of this article, I will record it as it was actually written.
The coal mining community of Briceville, located between the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains and Waldens Ridge in Anderson County section of East Tennessee, has a history of having six schools. Four of these schools were in operation at approximately the same period of time.
The first one to be constructed was during the 1800s. This building was made of logs and located on the Amon Moser property. Approximately 15 students attended the first school. Due to faulty construction and later overcrowded conditions, the building was torn down and replaced by a sturdy two-story four-room frame structure which housed grades one through eight, with a total of 125 students.
According to a date crudely carved on a corner stone rock belonging to Mrs. Amon Moser, this building was completed Oct. 1, 1903. Old timers of Briceville referred to this as the “Moser” or “Briceville” School in the “Lower End of Briceville.”
Within two miles of this school was the Negro school. Approximately 20 Negro children attended school here.
The Third school was located three miles south of the Negro building in a section of Briceville known as Minersville, so called because of the coal mines nearby. In later years the mines became known as Tennessee Mines; consequently, the school became known as the Tennessee School. The building was a one-room frame structure. Children living in the area attended school there. There were approximately 50 students in this school. It was a policy of the coal company that children attend the school nearest their homes or the mines where their fathers worked. This was perhaps the beginning of school zoning in Anderson County.
The fourth school was located near the Cumberlands in a section called Cross Mountain, known today as the “Air Base” road. The Cross Mountain Coal Company nearby kept the buildings and grounds in neat appearance. It was the largest of the four schools operating during this time. Some 75 students were enrolled. Due to the nearness of the coal mines, the white paint of the building was difficult to keep clean. The coal company painted it red and from that time, it was known as “The Little Red School House” in “Slatestone.”
During the period from the late 1800s until the middle 1920s, the schools were operated by the county seven months of the year. Coal mining companies operated them for two months, thus giving the youth of Briceville nine months of schooling a year. To do this, the coal miners had to pay 25 cents per month per child. This fee was strictly enforced and the children of any coal miners not paying the 25 cents were not allowed to attend school the last two months of the nine month term.
The surrounding coal miners were the main source of employment for the inhabitants of Briceville. As the mines progressed the community grew and the schools became overcrowded. The people of Briceville banded together and along with County officials, planned a larger school, In 1915 a new brick building was completed. All the other schools were consolidated into this one large eight-room building with modern plumbing, auditorium, home economics room, office, steam heat, and a large basement. The basement served as a rainy day play area. The youth of Briceville could complete the 10th grade in this school. A few of today’s residents of Briceville are graduates of this school.
As the years passed, Briceville continued to grow, spreading out from one hill to another. The coal mining industry attracted people from all sections of the United States. The school building of 1915 became overcrowded. Over 300 students were enrolled. The ninth graders were transported to Lake City High School and Briceville once became an elementary school. This brought relief to the overcrowded conditions for a few years. However, in 1928, four large rooms were added to the school in the form of another building located directly behind the existing structure. The building housed the first three grades and was commonly known as “The Little Building!” Enrollment soared at this time to almost 500 students.
With the changes in the world of education, the once modern Briceville School became outdated and inadequate in meeting the changing needs of its youth. The young people of Briceville were not being trained to meet the challenges of the modern trends of education.
During the period from the 1940s to the 1950s, the school building was in constant need of repairs. Time was beginning to show upon its face. The building was fast becoming a hazard to its occupants.
Once again the people of Briceville banded together and faced the County Board of Education with their needs of a sixth school building. After several months of consideration and cooperation in planning, along with re-channeling the nearby creek and the purchase of private properties, the old Briceville School building was demolished and a completely up-to-date modern day building was constructed in 1959. This structure is one of the most modern schools in Anderson County. It has 15 classrooms, housing Grades K-8, plus office, clinic, library, lunch room cafetorium, restrooms, showers, furnace rooms and closets. This school boasts the most modern teaching aids and equipment in all areas of it curriculum.
Briceville School has always been blessed with some of the best teachers in Anderson County. The students have excelled in many fields after they graduated. Briceville and vicinity schools had excellent students and also outstanding athletes. Today the school has less than 200 students with K-5 grades.
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