AN EARLY HISTORY
Inspiration and a skeleton outline for this project was
taken from a small booklet published by the Claxton Community Club
and the Claxton Homemaker's Club in the fall of 1987. It was
researched by Hazel Crittenden Ball with sketches by Etta Floyd.
It was dedicated to Mrs. John (Nettie Cantrell) Bigham "A
who loved Claxton community and thought it important to preserve
it's history for future generations." Five Gospel Groups,
and a craft show were all enjoyed at the Claxton School building
Claxton is located in the south central section of McMinn Co.
on County Road 750 where 757 intersects.
It was named for J.P. Claxton, TN State Commissioner of
Edcation at the time. A couple influential school board members
helped get the school were Dawson McMahan and Bill Henderson.
Claxton was one of the first consolidated schools in the
county. It was sort of a community effort at it's construction.
Although the brick was hauled in on wagons the sand for the mortar
was hauled in locally. The local citizens of the community
skills and labor to complete the well deserved project. Meigs
Brewer, a local carpenter and saw miller, led in the supervision
of the local workers in it's construction.
Later the flat roof began to leak and a pitched roof was
added and the bell was moved from ground level to the bell tower
where it was also used to summons locals of any drastic occurrances
like a death, fire, etc.
There were about four large classrooms to start boasting
over 200 students. An opening day photo is available showing all
students from the feeder communities.
A huge auditorium and two small dressing rooms were added later
behind and on each side of the stage. Two other classrooms were
when the east wing was built. Overflow classes were always held
the auditorium around a pot bellied stove. Coal was used later in
classrooms as well. A dynamo was installed on the east side in a
separate little building before electricity was available. It was
also used at night time activities like pie suppers, singing schools,
and other community projects.
The first principal was a woman named Cora Cotter from Calhoun.
Other first teachers were Roy Calhoun, Johnny Watts,
"Cripple" Frank Rowland and Hattie Suttereth.
Johnny Watts, the last to survive, died a few years ago.
A zerox picture is available of these first teachers.
Also a [list] of most all of the teachers and principals is available.
A good description of this early school can be found from the
McMinn County Heritage Book, McMinn and It's People, family #358
John Bigham being interviewed by Cynthia Bigham:
"I was the basketball coach the first year Claxton won the
tournament. Who were some players on your teams? In 1926-27 the
players were Chester Lingerfelt, Wimp Barker, Brownie Clark, Jack
Smith, Lester Harris, Buster Clark and Olen Ware. The grammar
boys were Parker Rowland, Ralph Lattimore, C.A. Barker, Ted Carver,
Spence McDonald, Ted Long, J.K. Pickens, and Paul Lattimore.
Who were on the teams when you played? The first team was
in 1921-22. The coaches were Roy Calhoun and Frank Rowland.
The first year there was only one class of high schoolers.
graders were Des Bigham, Ott Harrison, Ross Reed, Charlie Perkins,
Hazel White, Hubert Partain, Ross Davis, and Spence Pickens. I was
still in elementary but they let me play with the 9th graders. What
about the next few years? Jim Millard was a player-coach. He would
play whenever we played a 4 year team.
Some of the other players were Lake Davis, Dovie Jenkins, Tom Carr,
Leonard Carver, John Smith, and Charles "Spoonie" Leslie.
Did you sing or know anyone who did or played an instrument?
Nearly everyone sang hymns in church. I was song leader at Jones
from 1956-80. Some of the old timers who sang were Tom and Frank
Rowland, Lawrence Shamblin, and Oscar Swafford.
Charlie Dodson and my brother Pooch played the fiddle.
Brisco Davis was good on the banjo."
ANOTHER COACH IN THE LATE '30'S WAS
CLARENCE "SHACK" ALLEN.
HIS STORY IS ALSO IN THE
McMINN CO HERITAGE BOOK; FAMILY # 305:
"I coached both boys and girls basketball. The uniforms were
quite ragged and ill fitting. One day about the end of school we
to McMinn High to play in the tournament. One of the boys didn't
a suit. I happened to have a bathing suit in my car so I sent for
and told him to put it on. When I arrived later the boy had somehow
his head through the jockey of the bathing suit using it as suspenders.
We still have a good laugh even now when some of my former students
come by to see me.
Another time Breezy Wynn, a former UT fullback, heard of our
athletic problems and gave us a good deal on some new uniforms of
he was affiliated. Those uniforms served for a couple decades! We
the tournament the three years I coached there."
Clarence died this summer at age 85.
Dillard Barnett was undoubtedly the longest serving principal
and coach of the school, famous for many tournament wins. Mention
should be made of the girls athletic abilities too. Both girls and
boys were exceptionally large for their age it seems which lent
many successful seasons.
The building was leased out to the Claxton Community Club
for several years while it still functioned, and used as a voting
place as well.
The building fell into disrepair after the demise of the club.
After several unsuccessful attempts at burning the building
vandals it finally succomed in the early '90's. A Volunteer Fire
and EMS was erected later carrying out other functions as voting
reunions and projects. Pictures of the school and it's activities
can be viewed in the fire hall.
Claxton has it's reunions on the Saturday closest to the 4th
of July every year. The early spirit of this prominent community
shows in the exhuberance of it's slowly demishing body.
It was a great school!!
By Bill Bigham.
Sources: Personal recollections of myself and other students,
the booklet "Claxton and the Surrounding Area."
This general merchandise two story building stood near
the South Liberty Baptist Church is now. It was painted yellow
a full front porch and a single front door.
Source: "Claxton and the Surrounding Area".