JELLICO'S EARLY SCHOOL SYSTEM
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas
This writer has been given
permission to use this material by the author, James Hayden Siler.
I will record it as was originally written. Dallas Bogan
The earliest schools in this section were
subscription schools. Some wandering scholar would open a two or three
months school to which students would come from miles around, paying
for their education.
After the Civil War there was a real growth in
the desire for good schooling in Whitley County . The most important subscription
school of the 1870's was the Boston Academy at Lot , which John Wilburn Siler
helped to start. Dr. William H. Nesbitt, who has been called the "Father
of Whitley County Education," came alone the first time to Lot from Pennsylvania
, and possibly originally from Canada . His wife and daughter later followed
him. He was a brilliant scholar, and fine teacher and many prominent Whitley
Countains "went to" him. He also taught at a school at Pleasant View
for a time. Mr. Charles Finely of Williamsburg has a set of Plutarch's lives
which Dr. Nesbitt gave him when he was a young student at Lot . Another of the
teachers at Lot was Prof. Napoleon Bonaparte Hays, who later became Attorney-General
of the State of Kentucky . Before teaching at Lot he had held large subscription
schools at Pineville, Barbourville, and Flat Lick. His first wife was an accomplished
musician, bringing to Lot with her piano, the first ever seen there. His second
wife was a Miss Hume, an expert French scholar. The Boston Academy was probably
equivalent to the first two years of high school. Included in the curriculum
were algebra, geometry, and French. The school was well-known and did a fine
work in its day. The late Governor Black of Kentucky , a native of Barbourville,
was once a student there. Another teacher at Lot was a Prof. McCleod. A brief
sketch of the foundings of the Williamsburg Academy , and the Williamsburg Institute
must be included because of the far reaching, influence of both schools, and
the fact that Cumberland College has sprang from the union of the two. In the
winter of 1878 Rev. A. A. Myers of Hillsdale, Michigan came to Berea College,
Ky., to visit his brother-in-law Prof. L. V.' Dodge. "He was a great evangelist
in the prime of life, full of zeal and courage, with a great love of mission
work, with a great vision of the possibilities in the mountains...He was a fine
scholar and had every quality needed to make a great evangelist. He chose rather
a field of hard labor, the Kentucky mountains." In January Rev. Myers came
to Williamsburg , and held a meeting of ten days. He left an organized body to
carry on the work, and went north and east raising money for the school he wished
to found at Williamsburg . The school was started in the spring of 1882, and
although supported by gifts from northern Congregationalists was always a non-sectarian
school. It was linked however closely with the First Congregational Church of
Williamsburg which Myers founded in 1878, and whose first building was dedicated
March 16, 1884 .
The Academy did a great work for education in
southeastern Kentucky . Its teachers were of the finest, and its curriculum broad
and varied. Many teachers were from Oberlin and Mt. Holyoke . Many fine musicians
served as members of the music faculty. For the last few years of its existence
it was known as the Highland Normal Junior College . It was sold to the Baptist
Williamsburg Institute in 1907.
Rev. Green Clay Smith and Rev. R. C. Nedaris were
instrumental in starting a Baptist school at Williamsburg , which opened its
doors January 7, 1889 as the Williamsburg Institute. E. E. Wood of Dennison College
, Ohio became president in the fall of 1890. The institute bought the Highland
Normal Junior College in 1907, and in 1913 the name was changed to Cumberland
College , which it holds to-day.
Rev. Myers was a man of fearless temperament.
He founded "mission" churches in Jellico and Corbin. His life was often
threatened by Jellico saloon-keepers whose hated he aroused by his courageous
denunciation of liquor. He was once wounded by a shot taken at him from ambush
by a saloon-keeper while he was returning to Williamsburg from Jellico.
The Congregational Church founded by Myers in
Jellico had a subscription school in connection with it, and this school was
probably the oldest in Jellico. Just when it was started is not certain, but
according to the American Missionary Association of New York it was started is
not certain, but according to the American Missionary Association of New York
it was mentioned in a report in their files in 1884. The first school was held
in a blacksmith's shop on the present site of Snyder's Fruit Market, and was
next moved into the new congregational Church building which occupied the present
site of the Dr. J. L. Rose house (corner Church St. , and Beever.)
The first teacher was a Prof. Lawrence who was
shot in 1886 by a man named Chandler because of some school difficulties with
Chandler 's children. Lawrence recovered from the wound. His wife also taught
school, and was a sister of Mrs. A.A. Myers of Williamsburg , and Prof. L. .
Dodge of Berea .
The school lasted until about 1900; unfortunately
dates for both the school and church are uncertain. Rev. Joel (?) Partridge (an
Oberlin graduate) was a teacher in the school for a time, as was his son Prof.
Ernest Partridge in the 1890's His daughter Mary Partridge went as a missionary
to China and was killed in the Boxer Uprising.
Prof. Elijah Franklin Disney was a teacher in
the school for several years, first coming in the fall of 1887 (probably.) He
later taught in the Jellico public school, and in the Williamsburg Academy and
Berea College Academy . Several of his children were born here, among whom are
Helen Disney, now a distinguished Congregational missionary in China .
The last teacher in the school was a Prof. Rugby,
a graduate of Cornell. He was forced to leave town because of a scandal, of implication
in which time has proved that he was utterly innocent.
Judge H.H. Tye had a school on the "Kentucky
Side" in the later 1880's. According to Mr. Jeremiah Smith early teachers
in the Jellico region were Perry Cross, Mrs. Harmon, Thomas Smith, and Mr. Neeley
(on Jellico Creek.)
The first public school in Jellico was the building
now known as the "Tannery hollow School House." It was built sometime
before 1890 and served until a new building was built in 1897 on the site of
the present school building ( South Main and Logan ). This was replaced in 1914-15
by another and larger building, which in turn burned in January, 1931, and was
replaced by the present building.
The County High School building on Florence Avenue
was erected in 1914, and a large addition completed in 1924. In 1938 a Home Economics
Practice house (including classrooms) was constructed. An Agricultural and manual
training building is also part of the plant.