Tennessee Records Repository

Decatur Co. TN


From Lillye Younger, People of Action (Decatur County Printers, 1983).

Special thanks to Constance Collett and the estate of Lillye Younger for permission to make this web page.

Lillye Younger

The letter and article that follow were scanned from People of Action (1983), a book compiled from newspaper clippings. Source of the article is not given but it may have appeared in the Herald Gazette of Trenton, which occasionally printed other items by Mrs. Younger. The article dates circa 1967. Mrs. Younger died in 1998.

Dear Ester:

I read your newsy pictorial newspaper with much interest, having been reared in Gibson County, but moving away just after high school days.

I have just received a new Gibson County History and am reading it, with much excitement. I looked all the way through it for a history of Hickory Grove School but only found the account the Hickory Grove Baptist Church.

Being a former student of the school, which faded away so long ago, I have had the yen to write a short resume of the school for a number of years.

If genders enough interest in your news media, I hope to see it in your paper.

I am a correspondent to the Nashville Tennessean, write features for Grit and am a free lance feature writer for a number of magazines.

Lillye Younger

Hickory Grove School

By Lillye Younger, former Gibson Countian, new Decatur County Historian

The little two room school sat back from the "big road" and hickory trees dotted the panorama, giving the school name.

Driving out the Eaton Road, about four miles west of Trenton, one could see the little school house from afar. It's here that youngsters of the lets 1800's learned "readin, riting. and rithmetic," as the old song goes and "taught to the tune of the Hickory stick".

Running water was unheard of in those early days. A bucket and dipper in each room served the purpose.

Everyone drank out of the same dipper as it was passed around. Germs didn't play a very important part in those days.

The girls wore black cotton stockings, lace or button high top shoes and dresses down to the ankles in the pioneer days.

Discipline was of the non- nonsense variety. Peach tree limbs and "small" hickory sticks percolated with action without the fear of the teacher getting fired or causing a riot among students.

By 1900 the economy esculatad to the extent that a bluer school gave rise, replacing the little red school house. A four room weatherboarded school building was erected and painted a shiny white. Sliding doors opened up the three rooms, 5-6 th grade room, 7-8th grade room and 9-10th grade room. The first grade room was at the rear.

Plays were enacted on the stage which doubled for the two high school grades. This room was elevated two feet in height and caused the students to feel like they were really in "High" school. An L porch underscored students upon entering the building.

The highlight of the stage was when Ole Santa whisked in, riding in a T-Model and splitting the icy muddy roads into. Prior to his arrival, the "big boys" trounced on the tallest cedar tree in the forest and placed it center stage. Then it was the duty of the high school kids and teachers to adorn it with strung popcorn, pine cones, red berries etc. This was the day prior to rural electricity.

Gifts were tied to the cedar branches from top to bottom rather than placing them beneath, as the custom, which followed. It took quite a spell to deliver the gifts but Ole Santa was very nice and he helped.

As a youngster who started my academic schooling at Hickory Grove. I vividly recall my first glimpse of Ole Santa. I was looking out the window in the first grade room, my head hardly tall enough to look out, when all of a sudden the T-Model, chugged full with Santa, turned in the lane. Shrieks of joy filled the air by the first graders.

"A trip to the 1965 World Fair in New York didn't hold the thrill that equaled this first sight of Santa at Hickory Grove School in 1920."

However, that first year wasn't filled altogether with thrills.

HickoryGrove Baptist Church, located on the same ground ___ [3-4 lines unreadable] ___ with my grandmother, the late Mrs. Lizzie Washburn, who reared me. Students were allowed to attend services but not to leave school. Had it not been for the goodness of my first teacher, the late Mrs. Agnes Benthal, I would have tasted many a cup of "Hickory Tea."

Near the school was a small building used for the music room. It was here that students took piano lessons. One music teacher I recall was the late Mrs. Lister Kenton of Trenton. Later, due to the overflow of students, this room was converted into a class room.

In the early days the Useltons ran a general merchandise store just across the road from the school. Later they sold to Mr. Nick Ragsdale and he and his sons operated the grocery.

The first thing I ever bought on credit was an orange off the truck at the store. As a youngster of seven, I pit two and two together and decided if I told Mr. Ragsdale that my dad, the late Jean Wasburn, would pay for that orange, he would let me have it. It worked. From that day on the Washburn account esculated with entries including candy, apples, oranges and the like, not only for me bit for my classmates.

Among the families attending school when I attended were the Canadas, Reagors, Ragsdales, Bandys, Coopers, Walkers, Harris', Gibsons, Millingtons, Maya, Jettons and Elllotts.

Teachers of the yesteryears included Charles Washburn, who taught in the late 1800's, his three daughters, Annie Washburn, Mae Washburn, Sarah Washburn, a cousin, Hugh Washburn who served as principal in 1921, and I also recall Miss Lizzie Word, who also served as principal. Among the teachers I sat at the feet of were Houston Harwood, Willie Campbell, Mary Laster, Pet Pheman and Agnes Benthal.

We set at desks built for two and recited our lessons on a "Recitation Bench." Sometimes we had to stand in the corner or wear a "Dunce Cap," seated on a stool, when we misbehaved. I was fortunate to escape the cup of hickory tea.

No lunch programs were ___ [three lines unreadable] ___ sweet potatoes, fried fruit pies and the like. Oft time we swapped our food with classmates. Later loaf bread (unsliced) was ushered in and we graduated to sandwiches which was an improvement over cold biscuits.

Chapel exercises were also held each morning and to the youngsters, it was "something" to appear on the stage and take part in this exercise. Of course this was the day before the Supreme Court ruling.

Time for books was from eight til 12 with the exception of recess at 10 to 10:30. The afternoon session was from one til four with two to two-thirty excluded for recess.

School buses were only a dream and students walked to school except on rainy or snowy days. The highlight of the day was the walk home, through Osborne Lane, with youngsters of all age groups. Sometimes the boys had a fight or two and the girls got mixed up in it, but the mile walk was exciting and fun.

The little country school, which holds so many treasured memories, joined Napoleon and met its "Waterloo" also. It was torn away and Peabody High School in Trenton became our final institution of learning.

My dad, the late Jean Washburn, purchased the school building and constructed a big barn on their farm, thus giving way for the present Hickory Grove Baptist parsonage.

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