WALNUT GROVE, AT FORKS OF CLINCH, POWELL RIVERS, HAD ONE-ROOM FRAME SCHOOL THAT BURNED IN 1889
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
The early school system in Campbell County was second to none. At this time we shall venture into the long-gone community of Walnut Grove, and others, and their school structure.
The community of Walnut Grove was founded at the forks of the Clinch and Powell rivers. For years the school system at Walnut Grove was held in a one-room frame house. Nearby was located Chestnut Grove which held their classes in a one-room log structure. Walnut Grove's one-room frame structure went up in flames in 1889.
The M.E. Church was built in 1890 with the lower floor being used for education. Some of the teachers in this era were: Ada Morton, John Spangler, Dr. Silas Walker, Henry Irwin, E.E. Hill, Mary Merideth, Sallie Wood, John Spangler, Wayne Longmire, Cornelia Kelly Hurst, Mary Smith, H.M Ausmus, Edgar Smith, Thomas Willoughby, Jonah Shown, Dr. Lee Gentry, Lizzie Heatherly, Blaine Albright, Elmer Crutchfield, Robert Davis, Maggie Hill, and Cordie Merideth.
Mentioned among the early students were: Adron Grant, Hesemar Grant, Ethel Haggard, Harley Haggard, Ledie Haggard, Nannie Heatherly, Emily Jane Boshears, Brown Boshears, Flora Mozingo, Kate Mozingo, Eschar Lay, Signal Newport, Arthur Reed, Joe Reed, Cora Rollins, John Henry Rollins, Kitty Rollins, Oscar Spangler,Roy Reed, Irby Hutson, Nancy Catherine Heatherly, Mossie Heatherly, John Hill, Maggie Hill, Sarah Heatherly, Ada Heatherly, Ithel Heatherly, Francis Merideth, Oliver Merideth, Kelly Massengile, Hobart Sharp, Edgar Ridenour, Ada Ridenour, Artist Ridenour, Emma Spangler, John Thomas Spangler, Andrew Williams, Pena Foust, Mossie Kincaid, (Mrs. J. Will Taylor) and Sillous Spangler.
Some later students were: Ella Mills, Reuben Mills, Shan Mills, Jim Mills, Charles Walker, Leona Walker, Effie Walker, Maggie Walker, Roscoe Walker, Edna Stout, Arthur Stout, Jerome Stout, Edith Stout, Lois Stout, Estelle Stout, Laura Stout, Tessie Stout, Harriet Stout, Nora Irwin, Bash Irwin, Nora St. John, Edith Robbins, Catherine Crumley, Willie Weaver, Maggie Weaver, Stiner Brock, Stiner McCoy, Elmer Wilson, Dewey Dyke, Sprugeon Dyke, Clyde Rucker, Willie Ayers, Lizzie Ayers, Merritt Ayers, Leona Ayers, Carrie Ridenour, Obie Walters, Elva Lamb, J. Meade Bowman, Mattie Bowman, Frank Jones, Isaac Lovely, Minnie Wilson, Mossie Wilson, Bill Avis, Fred Avis, Kelly Pyle, Hobart Pyle, Ernest Pyle, Luther Hill, Ada Hill, Harley Hill, Louise Dossett, and Florence Dossett.
There were several academies, or tuition schools, for higher education in the vicinity. Among these was Hills Academy in Big Valley, Union County, which was operated by Powell Valley Seminary, a branch of Grants College at Athens, Tennessee. It was operated for 10 years with the boarding charge being $6 per pupil per month.
The Well Spring Academy, located in Powell Valley, Campbell County, was equal to a two-year college term. A board of trustees, selected or elected by the Methodist Church, operated this fine establishment. Requirements for the "elected" head of the school were a degree from a highly regarded university, with stipulations that he be a Methodist. Exceptions to this rule were Dr. W.L. Stooksbury and Dr. Silas A. Walker who were Baptists. Both of these men were highly successful. G.W. Morton, Sr., also taught at Well Spring with his sisters, Martha Jane, Cordie, Bertha, and Ethel attending school there. A branch of the church financed the Well Spring Academy; public funds were also used along with a small amount of tuition being charged each pupil.
German immigrant, George Shutter, who migrated to Tennessee from Pennsylvania in the early 1800s, founded the Speedwell Academy, located in Caliborne County. The Academy was established in 1806 as Powell Valley Male Academy and was later named Speedwell Academy. The present building was built in 1827 using slave labor. General Zollicoffer, during the Civil War, used it as he prepared to take Cumberland Gap from Union forces. Both Union and Confederate troops later used it as a hospital. Soldiers used the weather vane for target practice.
William Nowell, John Vanbebber, James Renfro, William Robertson, and James Roddye, were the first trustees of the Speedwell Academy. John VanBebber, which was most likely his school of learning, helped this facility. At one time an education from this school was ranked with a college education. Here the young boys learned such things as law, Latin, math and other useful schooling for business purposes. Later, the Academy was used as a school for both boys and girls.
Irwin' Chapel was located in Union County. There was also an academy, store, and lodge across from Ernest Watkins' house (formerly the Stooksbury home). Alvis Stookbury's store was on the first floor and a school, lodge and post office called Forkvale were on the second floor.
A number of people that attended Stooksbury Lodge 602 were: Mattie Heatherly, Jerry Day, J. N. Newport, Rufus Jones, Ras Lindamood, Elbert Hill, George Ridenour, A. J. Heatherly, Joe Collins, John Albright, Frank Heatherly, Jim Smith, Marshall Heatherly, Joe Tiller, Henry Irwin, Alex Heatherly, Silas Walker, Betty Heatherly, Mrs. Woods, Mrs. Henry Irwin, Mrs. Marshall Heatherly, John Hill, Cora Heatherly, and Emma Ridenour Heatherly.
Walnut Grove was the first school in the area to accept adult education programs. The old "Blue Back Speller" was used, each word being first pronounced and then broken down into syllables. They consistently used an 'accent mark' over the vowels to show the pronunciation.
One or twice a year they would have a 'spelling bee' at night. All persons who participated would stand in a row, but were obliged to sit down when he or she misspelled a word. The person left standing at the end or the spelling bee was honored as the winner.
Arithmetic was one of the most accomplished subjects. Each day someone would stand before the class and recite the entire multiplication table; another would count from 1 to 100; a beginner would say the alphabet. Since several grades were in a room together, much learning was done by audio rather than visual means.
Many times the principal of the school would go to the home of a student and peek through the window to see if said student was doing his or her homework In all cases the lighting was utilized by candlelight or kerosene lamps.
An old saying during the early school days was "spare the rod and spoil the child." Sometimes a child was asked to sit in the corner with a 'dunce cap' on his head. The duty of a truant officer was to see that every child attended school. Many children such as the Isaac Irwin children had to walk three miles to school and three miles back....rain or shine!
John Ayres was the building contractor for the Walnut Grove schoolhouse with help from two other builders. The new building consisted of four classrooms, an auditorium with theater seats, a stage with large dressing rooms, a library, an office, a home economics room, and a cloakroom. The basketball court and johns were on the outside. Coal was stored in the basement.
Community and school activities were abundant. These events included box suppers, cake walks, literary society, plays, cantatas, musical programs, fiddlers' contests, ice cream suppers, and basketball games. Pie suppers were sometimes held with the auctioneer selling the pies to the highest bidders. A lady's boyfriend or husband generally purchased the pies and together they feasted on the delicacy.
School lunches usually included boiled corn, baked sweet potatoes, apples, pears, peaches, plum granites, chestnuts, sausages or ham and biscuits, stack cake, and fried pies.
The playgrounds were not abundantly equipped, but there were plenty of nice rocks to slide on, grapevines to swing on and to use for jumping the rope, and rails to use for seesawing.
Other games were croquet, tic-tac-toe, thimble, blind man's bluff, drop the handkerchief, tag, Kitty wants the corner, ride stick horses, wink, clap in and clap out, and ball over the house.
The school had no bell system within the building. The teacher rang a hand bell, and the students lined up in two lines and waited for permission to march to their rooms. Confusion reined when everybody wanted to be first in line, or when someone behind was pushing.
Perhaps some of Campbell County's senior citizens can remember when school and its many activities were most essential in their lives. This was a time of learning, discipline, and respect for one another.
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