yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

From Lillye Younger, The History of Decatur County Past and Present (Southhaven, MS: Carter Printing Company, 1978).
Special thanks to Constance Collett for permission to make these web pages.

In Memory of Lillye Washburn Younger 1912-1998.

Decatur County Schools

Chapter VII

Efforts to establish a system of public education throughout the state of Tennessee before the Civil War failed. There was not enough interest among those who could establish such a system. When the war came, even private schools closed their doors. The men and boys marched off to the war. The old men, women and children, who remained behind, were hard pressed to find food and clothing. There was neither time nor money for school.

Conditions didn't improve after the war was over. There was no money for schools, Yet there were people who insisted that there must be schools.

Brownlow's Radicals showed much interest in public education. In 1867, the Legislature created the office of the state superintendent of public instruction. In 1873 counties could have School Superintendents if they chose. It also voted a small tax on property and a 25 cent poll tax for school purposes. County Superintendents and school boards were appointed also. Schools were to be opened wherever buildings were available. The taxes were too small to support many schools.

John Eaton was selected as the first State Superintendent. A former officer in the Union Army, Eaton met bitter resentment. He could not expect much cooperation from the ex-Confederates. The situation grew even worse when Eaton made it clear that Negro children as well as white children, were to be educated at public expense, though in separate schools. If this were true, the ex-Confederates resolved, then they were not in favor of public education.

The United States census of 1870 gave a bad report of the development of education. The percentage of illiteracy was increasing. If this condition continued, Tennessee would became the most backward state within the Union. They resolved to increase their efforts in favor of public education, and they made it.

The Legislature was once again under control of the Democrats. There were no Yankees holding state offices. These Confederates loved their state dearly. The 1873 Legislature could be called the "Fathers of public education". They passed a law re-establishing a permanent school fund of more than $2,000,000. The interest from this fund was to be spent for school purposes. Also, a small school tax on property was imposed. A poll tax was introduced where each man was to pay one dollar poll tax. People were willing to pay heavy taxes for the support of schools. Despite the fact there were private schools, the important point was that children whose parents had no money to pay to expensive private schools, would be able to receive an education in public schools.

By 1900 a number of counties had established high schools. In 1909 four normal schools were established for the training of teachers. Memphis, Murfreesboro, Johnson City and Nashville were chosen as sites for these new institutions.

Prospective teachers were encouraged to enroll in these schools and learn how to teach before they began to teach. Higher standards were now set for both teachers as well as schools. More difficult examinations were required of those who wanted certificates to teach. Prior to this era, an eighth grade certificate enabled a person to teach. Also, a State Examination enabled a person to teach if they made the grade.

Due to overcrowded schools, needed repairs on old school buildings and the need for better transportation, conditions again grew bad. At this time, the State came to the aid when a sales tax was passed in 1947 and the majority of the income was marked for public education.[1]

Free schools opened in Decatur County in 1869 with J.W. Morgan serving as School Superintendent. The Scholastic population from six to twenty years of age was 1198 male whites and 1123 female whites with 159 male blacks and 301 female blacks.[2]

There were thirty-four (34) civil District School Directors in the county. They were D. L. Lancaster, J. J. Lancaster, N. Turnbo, E. M. Crain Lewis Kindle, W. D. Wyatt, C. Roberts, 5K. Gill, Morris Veal, W.L. Louis, H.G. Woodard, M. M. Ward, D.C. Perry, J.C. Graves, W. S. Swafford, W.W. Liles, M. Joy, J. S. Bagby, S. J. Outery, Willie Smothers, H. C. Cagle, D.C. Kennedy, J. H. Fry, Green Munger, F.M. Morgan, George Morgan, A. Jones, Wm. Holland, A. N. Allen, Stephen Creasy, SW. Riggs, E. D. Bostic, T. W. McMurry and Samuel Hancock of Decaturville.

Decatur County schools were organized while it was a part of Perry County. Early schools were labeled Academies and Universities. The Academy of Perryville was built in 1821 of logs, with yellow poplar paneling and ceiling. It was located in the center of Perryville. It was later made into a dwelling house and more rooms were added. It became the home of the late B. F. Striegle; however, the structure was torn down in the late 1950's .[3]

Earlier schools dotted the panarama of the county in the rural areas. A school listed along the first in the county was at Decaturville and is included in the county seat chapter.

One of the first school buildings to be erected in Decatur County was Mt. Tabor School. It was constructed of logs, a one room building located two miles south of Parsons on the old Decaturville road.

It too, was used as a church-school combination in pioneer days. The Southern Methodist Church occupied the building and an early pastor of this church was Rev. Frank Morris. Services were discontinued in 1922 and the building continued to be used as a school.[4]

Among teachers who have taught at Mt. Tabor are Sam Duck, J.C. Duck, Mrs. Naomi Jones, Mrs. Lelia Conder, Mrs. Ray Bloodworth, Mrs. Pike Vise Johnson, Miss Thelma Odle, Vesta Morris, Roy Duck, Eunice Gooch and Cora Gooch.

It was in the late 1930's that the school faded away and students were bussed into Parsons where they attended Parsons City School. At one time the Parsons Lions expressed a desire to reconstruct the school building but to date no action has been taken.

Another early institution of learning was Lunsford School, located three and one half (3-1/2) miles east of Parsons between the Iron Hill and Hopewell communities.

It was a one-room frame structure perhaps 20 x 30 feet and was used exclusively for a school. Here grades started at the primer and were taught through the eighth grade. One teacher taught all grades. Even in those days they had some drop-outs while others seeking higher learning, came to Parsons University to complete their education.

The school term was convenient to the farming community which it served. It was a five month term, with two and one half (2-1/2) months in the summer and two and one half (2-1/2) months in the winter between planting and harvesting.

The building was erected by the people in the community and the name derived from the Lunsford family of the Miles Lunsford clan. Among the early families were the Abe Lunsford, John Lunsfords and Bed Lunsfords.[5]

K.K. Houston taught at the school in 1910. The school was nicknamed "Seed Tick Chapel". There were around 40 students at this time from the primer through the eighth grade.[6]

Other early teachers of the school were Bob Long, Arthur Spencer, Will Raney and Hurst Jennings.

The building was destroyed by fire in 1914 and it was never replaced. Students attended school at Hopewell School.

Jeanette School building burned around 1926 and was never rebuilt. Students were bused to Parsons School.[7]

 Ed Walker was school bus driver at Jeanette at this time and transported students to Parsons.

Rocky Springs school was built on the land owned by Green Miller. The date of the erection is unknown however, Silas Miller, son of Green Miller, attended the school there and he is now eighty years of age.

Located three and one half miles north of Jeanette, the first building was a one room boxed building. This building was torn down and a new building erected in 1929. Mrs. Faye Jordan Dailey taught the first two years of the new school. Other teachers who taught were Dora McMurry, Beulah Anderson, Maude Morgan, Hurst Jennings, Marlin Dodd, Lerah Jordan Rains, Joe Quinn, Barbara Bowman, Camilla Odle, Olis Quinn, George Mays, Sam B. Baker, Lounell Rainey, Ola Smith, Ireland Oxford, Ottis Dodd, Edward Hearington and Mary Inman.

When the country schools went down, this school closed its doors and Mr. & Mrs. Edwin Gibson bought the building and remodeled it for their home and they are now living here.[8]

The first school in Parsons was a one room 40 x 60 feet, frame building, located at the corner of Tennessee Avenue and Fifth Street, at the present site of the G.L. Coiwick home.

The building, constructed by Ollie and Ike Bucker, had a petition dividing the beginners and the older students. A stage graced the west end of the building where school plays and other entertainment were presented.[9]

The first teacher was Doss Gossett of Sugar Tree. Among the subjects he taught to the students from the primer to the eighth grades were reading, writing, spelling and grammar. On Friday afternoons a "Spelling Match" was on the agenda and only the best spellers stayed "Head". Those who remained at the head of the group received "Head Marks".

Fashion in those early days was quite different from today's fashions. The girls wore black cotton stockings, laced or button high top shoes and ankle length dresses.

Discipline was also of a different tune. The teachers punished by thumping the students on the head as well as the "Peach Tree Tea" which was a lashing with a peach tree limb.

The heating system was a cast iron school room heater, with a door in the front and eyes on top. The boys' chore was to keep the fires going during the long winter months. Hallie Adair was the chief firebuilder since he lived across the street from the building. At this time, Mr. Rufe Landrum of Trenton was the teacher.

Of course they had no running water, only a water bucket and dipper. Water was carried from the well of Mr. and Mrs. Jim Adair's home. Germs had no place in the very early days. Everyone, including the teacher, drank out of the same dipper as it was passed around.

School terms were short in those days. There were three months in the summer and three months in the winter. Each student had to pa a small fee to attend school. Teachers' salaries were quite low, but they were dedicated to their profession. Sometimes tuitions were paid in wood for the stove or even produce for the teacher.

The highlight of the year was at Christinastime. The boys went to the woods and cut the tallest cedar tree down which had a prominent place on the stage. It usually touched the ceiling. Decorations included homemade items, such as popcorn strung around its boughs, red berries from the shrubs and later candles were added.[10]

Gifts were tied to the limbs rather than placing them beneath the tree. Santa always made his appearance and gave out gifts. Many a little first grader, called primmer then, heart almost burst with excitement and joy as he went up for the gift from the very hands of Old Santa.

Some of the early students who attended here were Mrs. Vada Arnold Warden, Carl Partin, K.K. Houston, Robert Burke, and Ruby Arnold Jennings. K.K. Houston was acclaimed as the smartest student in the class. When the group was stumped on a problem, it was always K.K. who solved it.

An interesting incident which occurred at the little pioneer school was the day the professor joined the boys game of swinging on the tall saplings and got caught in the wrong position and the tree had to be cut to release him. Time books were one hour late this day. He was a Professor Sawyer.[11]

In 1892 there were sixty pupils which one teacher taught. Among the early students were Hugh Bryant, Nola Ivy, Stella Moran, Beadle Houston, Stella Bryant, Exie Morgan, Lela Bryant, Eskew Arnold, John Thomas, Don Partin, Hallie Adair, Jim Smith, Fred Gooch, Thomas Wilson, Exie Houston, Eula Bryant, Luke Houston, Maude Warden, Thelma Morgan, Clyde Fonville, Houston Partin, Addle Steed, Addle Fonville, Vada Warden, Ada Partin, Anna Fonville, Thelma Morgan, Addle Houston, Waiter Partin, Elsie Morgan, Cora Bussell, Maggie Warden, Nettie Winston, Cora Lewis, John Steed, Anna Lewis, Arthur Partin, Carl Partin, K.K. (Kenney) Houston, Earlene Bryant, Granville Hays, Annie Winston, Bob Winston, Martha Houston, Maude Houston, Jim Morgan, Anna Parsons, Gurry Myracle, Will Jackson, Bud Jackson, Edna Mays, Orman Butler, Hugh Butler, Jess Houston, Will Butler and Ruby Arnold Jennings. The teacher at this time was Doss Gossett. Of this list there are only four living today, Carl Partin, Ruby Arnold Jennings, Parsons, Houston Partin Pascagoula, Miss. and Luke Houston, Bruceton.

This school building burned 1905 and the school resumed at the Masonic Hall, which was located at that time, at the corner of Tennessee Avenue and Second Street.[12]

The first school at Bath Springs was a log structure located just across from the present Dr. B.M. Brooks home. It was constructed during Civil War days. George Brooks taught here.[13]

In 1913 the building was torn down and a yellow pine school building erected about 50 feet from the present Bath Springs Baptist Church. It was used as a school-church combination until in 1929 when Three Way School was built.

One of the schools of higher learning in Decatur County was the Parsons University. The red brick structure, located on West Third Street, behind the present Parsons Elementary School, was built in 1908 by private stock holders for $5,000. Shares were sold for $1 each and ran from $25 to $100. They were non-redeemable.[14]

Civic minded citizens of Parsons helped solicit funds to build the place of learning which replaced the first school in Parsons.

Included in the new school building were two large rooms, a music room and office downstairs, with the auditorium and stage and two dressing rooms upstairs.

The cornerstone of the University has been preserved by Mrs. H.L. Townsend, Sr. and is placed in her front yard. It reads "Parsons University" on the front in three inch letters. "Founded September 11,1908'' and printed on the opposite side reads "Building committee, H.A. Long, L.H. Burke, Joe Jennings, who also named the school "Parsons University".

Teachers were paid according to the number of students that attended. It was a subscription school where each pupil paid tuition. The higher grade students paid $2.50 a month, while lower grade students had to pay $1.50 tuition each month.

 Students from nearby counties attended the Parsons University. They were Ken Whitwell, Claude Middleton and Ollie Alexander of Beardstown who attended and boarded with Mrs. Laura Wheat as well as the professor, Jim Wheat. Several from Decaturville also attended the school here under the tutoring of Jim Wheat.

Subjects taught under his tutoring were equivalent to first year college.[15]

The school became an official high school, supported by State and County funds in 1915. There were no more tuition charges.

To those who recall this school, a prank on Halloween Eve, looms uppermost in their mind when the school is mentioned. A bunch of buys caught a milch cow, belonging to Arthur Evans and carried her upstairs and planted her in the auditorium. The thoughtful youngsters carried a bale of hay up for her meals. Early the next morning, Mr. Evans went out to milk "Ole Betsy" and to his dismay, she had disappeared. He immediately began calling her and finally she answered with a low pathetic bawl, yet he couldn't hear her. After much anxiety and inquiries, he discovered her new abode, the second story of Parsons University which was called Parsons High School by this time. He carried his milk pail upstairs and milked her; however it took quite sometime to remove her from the building so school could be resumed.

Another outstanding prank was when students wired up a contraption which would ring the bell, that the teacher rang just prior to his touch. This became very amusing; however, the teacher, C.A. Palmer, never let on despite the fact he was dismayed and couldn't figure it out.[16]

In 1923, the far-sighted citizens of the town glimpsed the inadequacy of the small building and increased the facilities more than double to accomodate the growing need.

Minutes of meeting of Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the Town of Parsons dated June 7, 1923, reveals the transaction concerning the addition to Parsons University.

Present were W.H. Neely, Mayor. Aldermen, John F. Houston, J.J. Odle, J.D. Porter and Hobart Goff.

Minutes read thus: "The question of the construction of the annex and reparis to the present school building having been discussed and a contract to be executed by and between the Town of Parsons and L.H. Nale, having been read in open sessions, upon motion made by J.J. Odle which was duly seconded, put and carried by a vote of three in favor of the adoption and one vote against adoptions, the following ordinance or resolution was passed. ‘Be it ordained by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of Parsons that whereas the present school building in the town of Parsons is too small and the building and school facilities are inadequate to meet the needs of the children attending school and desiring to attend school in the town of Parsons, and whereas there has been presented for the action of this Board a contract to be executed by and between the town of Parsons and L.H. Nale for the construction of an addition to and repairs to the present school buildings which contract also provided for, a Board of Inspectors, the town of Parsons execute the contract with L.H. Nale which contract has been read in open meeting and that it authorizes its Mayor to take all steps necessary for the proper execution there of for the purpose of binding the Town of Parsons and the Mayor shall sign the said contract and that the same be attested and the seal of the corporation be affixed by the recorder and that a copy of the contract be filed in the record of the board.

"Be it further ordained by the board of Mayor and Aldermen of Parsons that T.P. Bateman, AR. Evans and R.M. Brown be and they are hereby appointed as a Board of Inspectors to have supervision of the construction of the work in accordance with the terms of the contract with L.H. Nale and thereupon the meeting adjourned. GD. Long, Recorder."

A.G. Hufstedler, Joe Wheat, R.M. Brown were sworn in by Mayor W.H. Neely as school board member in the June 7, 1923 minutes.

July 6, 1923 W.D. Colwick, J.H. Jordan and Jerry Barnett were appointed School Board of Education.[17]

The extension was built by a $15,000 bond issue to the back of the former building.[18] Included in the building was a nice auditorium with a stage and comfortable opera chairs and the entire upstairs was used for class rooms.

October 15, 1923 an ordinance was issued by the Board of Mayor and Alderman as follows: "That bonds in the amount of $15,000 be issued and sold for the purpose of erecting and equipping a school building in the said town. Said bonds shall be dated Oct. 1, 1923 and shall be in the denomination of $1,000 each and numbered from 1 to 15 inclusive. Shall bear interest at the rate of 6% payable semi-annually on the 1st days of April and October of each year. Both principal and interest shall be payable at the Chemical National Bank, New York, N.Y. and said bonds shall mature without option of prior payment as follows, $5,000 Oct. 1,1933, $5,000 Oct. 1,1938, $5,000 Oct. 1,1943."

On June 19, 1928 a special meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in Parsons, a motion was carried that a committee be appointed "To draft plans and specification for a gymnasium for the school building, plans to be submitted to this board for approval and bids requested for all interested in contracting to do the work." J.M. Rushing, Alderman, seconded the motion and the Mayor appointed Dr. A.G. Hufstedler, G.C. Pollard, L.H. Carrington, J.L. Davis and J.O. Partin to serve on the committee.[19]

In a special meeting dated July 9, 1928, J.L. Davis and J.C. Partin submitted plans for the gymnasium which were approved by the board for approval.

At the August 7,1928 meeting $2500 of 6% interest bearing warrants were authorized for the purpose of constructing a gymnasium on the Parsons School ground according to plans adopted. Appointed to assist in the sale of warrants were J.F. Houston, A.G. Hufstedler and J.C. Long.

At a special meeting of the board of Mayor and Aldermen, dated August 18, 1928, J.P Bawcum, W.D. Malin and G.L. Wortham were appointed as a building committee and instructed to receive bids for the construction of a gymnasium.

At the meeting of the board, dated August 27, 1928, J.F. Houston reported the committee were unable to sell the warrants for the gymnasium. It was voted that an additional $2500 of 6% warrants be authorized, making a total of $5,000 all to be converted into bonds to be issued by the Town of Parsons improvement purposes.

At a special meeting held August 29, 1928, the Building Committee for the gymnasium reported they were unable to agree on the awarding of the contract for the construction of a gymnasium and wished to turn the matter back to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The Recorder, J.O. Partin, was instructed to go to Jackson to arrange for the sale of the $5,000 of warrants to secured money to construct the gymnasium.

At a meeting of September 10, 1928 the board moved to abolish all plans for the construction of the gym and that building committee be dismissed and all bids be rejected and a meeting called for Wednesday Night, September 12, for the purpose of considering an ordinance for issuing $5000 bonds with which to build the gym, motion carried.

Mayor J.J. Wesson and Dr. A.G. Hufstedler were named a committee to see about consolidations of schools.

In the July 27, 1929 minutes of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen it was voted that the town issue 6% interest bearing warrants for an amount not to exceed $2,000 for the construction of a gymnasium for the local school. Serving on the committee were J.C. Long, J.L. Davis, C.V. Maxwell, C.A. Palmer, J.C. Partin and Mayor J.J. Wesson.

Minutes of September 3,1929 reveal that the "Town of Parsons shall appropriate the sum of $3270 in warrants, the proceeds of which shall be used to construct a gymnasium, of a plan to be selected by the building committee."

It was further moved that warrants be issued to any person to whom the committee may effect sale.

The minutes of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of January 2,1930 concerning the gymnasium read thus: "That the town of Parsons assume payment of the lumber bill of Threadgill Brothers amounting to $1 120 and the steel bill of Kirby Williams Steel Works of $783 and pay the contractor of the gymnasium the balance due him under the contract after building has been accepted by the building committee."

R.L. Wallace was contractor for the erection of the gymnasium and in the minutes of January 7, 1930 it was voted to "issue warrant in favor of R.L. Wallace for $110.00, representing amount due him for extra work done on the gymnasium above the contract price.

 Included in the financial statement dated 1/1/31 on expenditures beside, the gymnasium is listed $2790.95 and Gymnasium Warrants $629. Listed in April 7,1931 minutes read the following: "It was voted to endorse any move made by the Board of Education of the Parsons Special High School District taken with a view of maintaining the Special District and the Parsons High School. Further to lend any needed financial assistance."

In 1948 a new high school was constructed in Parsons at 303 Hill Street. This brick building was used for a high school until 1965 when a consolidated High School was built. It is presently used as a Junior High School.[20]

In 1956 Parsons Elementary School was built on the campus of the former Parsons High School; however, in a different location, at 408 West Fourth Street. The one story brick structure now serves this area from grades one through four.[21]

Among those teachers who served Decatur County Schools in the early days were John Tinker, 1902-1905, Milt Houston, 1894-1896, Hyder Smith, date unknown, Mrs. Nattie Fisher, John Tucker, J.C. Duck, B.A. Tucker, Mrs. George Bell and John Mclllwain.[22]

Schools listed in the 1929 and 1930 Superintendent's annual Statistical Report in the county are as follows: Akins, Ballinger, Bear Creek, Bunches Chapel, Bath Springs, Beacon, Bible Hill, Cedar Grove, Cedar Hill, Center Hill, Cherry, Crawford, Cub Creek Hall, Center, Decaturville, Davis, Dunavant, Fairview, Gumdale, Garrett, Hall, Haney, Hog Creek, Hopewell, Hydro, Jeanette, Largo, Liberty, Lone Chestnut, Lunsford, Mt. Camel, Mt. Joy, Mt. Lebanon, Mt. Nebo, Mt. Oak, Mt. Tabor, McKendrie, New Cuba, Oak Grove, Old Center, Parsons, Peace Chapel, Perryville, Pleasant Grove, Pleasant Hill, Presley, Point Pleasant, Scotts Hill, Sardis Ridge, Smith Bottom, Shannons, Spence, Sugar Tree, Thurman, Unity, Union Hall, Walkers, White's Chapel, Yellow Springs, Young (Utah), Red Walnut and Rocky Hill.

School teachers listed in the 1929 and 1930 report are as follows: Aline Atkins, Edward Aaron, Grady Averett, Iris Adair, Nona Baker, Barbara Bowman, Hazel Bradford, Delia Butler, Guy Butler, Bessie Baker, Woodard Bartholomew, Onis Bowman, Argie Churchwell, Catherine Coble, Ulys Chumney, Beatrice Churchwell, Mary A. Cooper, Gretchen Craig, D.C. Crowder. Anna Crowder, Ruby Colwick, Josephine Duncan, Mary Stout Dunavant, B.C. Dailey, D.S. Duck, Roy L. Duck, J. W. Dunavant, J.H. Dunavant, J.C. Duck, A.D. Duck, Hazel Duck, Artie Duck, Gus Duck, Joe Duck, Pearl Duck, Flo Eason, Gray Evans, H.B. Evans, Grady Everett, Moddie Evans, Mattie Gibson, L. L. Green, Eva Hays, Hilda Houston, R. L. Haney, Argie Hendrix, K.K. Houston, Opal Haney, C.J. Holt, Marie Harrell, Vivian Holt, Willie Ingram, Dollie Ingram, Fay Jordan, Lerah Jordan, A.L. Jennings, Myrtle Johnson, Hobart Johnson, Louise Jennings, Johnnie Sue Jennings, H.L. Jones, Drew Kennedy, Guy Kennedy, Reba Lancaster, Zelma Long, H.L. Lady, Velma Loffin, O.R. Long, Clara Montgomery, Constance Moorelock, Nellie Maness, Grady Martin, Jack Moore, D.L. Murphy, Alvin Myracle, H.R. McKenney, Cecil Milam, Maude Marable, Ethel Meeks, P. H. Murphy, Molite Morelock, O.L. Marion, Sophia MalinTownsend, Mabel McKay, Mary McClannahon, Vesta Morris, Lena Parrish, Flynn Pickens, C.A. Palmer, Ira C. Powers, Laura Paschall, Joe Quinn, Carrie Renfroe, Allie Reynolds, Ernest Rains, Ethel Roberts, Jack Rushing, Gertrude Roberts, Ozella Sims, Narcie Smith, Sallie Spence, Nina Striegel, George Smith, Chester Stevens, Lela Stout, Willie Sue Smith, Geraldine Sansom, A.H. Sharp, Mary Sharp, Lola Smith, Estella Sharp, Allie M. Smith, Mabel Todd, Annie Townsend, A.C. Tarlton, Hobart Townsend, Raymond Townsend (1924), Jess Tucker, John Teague, A. M. Taylor, Wilburn Townsend, Beatrice Townsend Daniel (1924), Allie Mae Tinker, Naomi Walker, Mayme White, C.N. Welch, Louis Welch, P.W. Welch, G.L. Wortham, Jr., Dora Jane Wortham, A. D. White, Herbert White, Joe White, Minnie White, Annie White, Louise Welch, Mable Wright, Mamie White, E.L. Watson and Faustina Yarbro.

The length of school term in 1929 and 1930 was 160 days and the salaries ranged from $990 to $2400 annually.

There were 1,795 students attending one teacher schools in 1929 and 317 students attending two teacher schools. The three or more teacher schools had an enrollment of 2,716. There were 53 one teacher schools, four two teacher schools and four three teacher or more schools. Four country schools consolidated in 1929.

The length of the school term in 1975 was 175 days and the average salaries $7,466 annually. There were 103 teachers serving in the county.

There were 2,108 students attending the five schools, Parsons Junior High, Parsons Elementary in Parsons, Riverside Consolidated High School, located half way between Parsons and Decaturville, Decaturville Elementary in Decaturville and Scotts Hill. However, only a small number of students at Scotts Hill are Decatur Countians since the county line runs through the middle of the school and both Henderson and Decatur Countians enroll here.[23]

Present members of the school board in 1976 are Hobart Townsend, Chairman, Zulas Coleman, Robert Bibbs, Guy Butler, Holland Kindle, Clint Brasher, and Alton Maners. These are elected by the County Court and serve seven years, after which one alternates each year. They can be re-elected. They do not represent the nine Civil Districts in the county but do represent various sections of the county.[24]

It was a "Red Letter Day" for Decatur County when Decaturville and Parsons High Schools united into one consolidated high school half way between the two towns on what was once known as the "Turn Pike".

The building was constructed by H.D. Pevahouse Construction Co. at a cost of $536,000 and was completed in time for the 1964-65 school term. It covers 77,000 square feet.

The building has nine classrooms and 20 teaching stations. The rooms are equipped for television sets. There are two commercial rooms, two Home Economic rooms, two waiting rooms, one room for a guidance teacher, a library, a study hall, lunch room, clinic, kitchen, freezer room and a laundry room.

It was through the efforts of the various clubs in the county as well as individuals that the school became a reality. Plans were formulated as early as 1963 for the consolidation of the high schools. The School Board voted favorable for the consolidations and it came to a vote by the citizens of the county and the consolidation won by 18 votes.[25]

The School building was said by various state officials to be the most modern high school building in the state west of Nashville at the time it was constructed.[26]

The curriculum offering increased about one-third, especially on vocational subjects, math and science. Among the partially state sponsored were Office Occupations, Distributive Education and Machine Shop.

There has been a gradual increase in the grades made by the Riverside students on standardized tests and college entrance tests from what had been made prior to consolidation.

The school has helped to bring the people in the county closer together, politically, and socially as well as encouraging new industry to come to the county.[27]

Harold Holmes was the first principal at Riverside High School. He came here from Obion County Central School in 1964 and served as basketball coach and taught drivers education at Parsons High School prior to coming to Riverside. He resigned at the end of his 1966 school term to accept a position with the State Department in the Vocational Technical Education Division Coordinator. He was succeeded by Mrs. Allie Mae Stevens, who served as the first Guidance Counselor at Riverside earlier.

Mrs. Stevens, long time Decatur County Educator, served as principal here during 66-67 and 67-68 school terms. She was succeeded by Mr. Edward Hearington who served as principal of Riverside from 1968 until 1972. Wayne Stanfill was elected principal in 1972-73 term and served as principal until 1976. Phillip Spence is serving as principal presently.

The first librarian at Riverside was Mrs. Hobart Johnson and she was followed by Mrs. Edith Taylor who is serving in this capacity at the present.

The first prom at the consolidated school was under the guidance of Dean Holbert, Advisor and the theme was "Ole Romantic South". There were around 250 who enjoyed the delightful evening including Decatur County School Board.

Decatur County School System received the first approved Title I Program in the state of Tennessee in 1966. Under this program, which was funded 100% by Federal money, fifty thousand ($50,000) worth of equipment and supplies were bought for the schools during the first two years. A reading Lab was set up at the elementary schools and a portable science lab for all the upper elementary schools was added. An Adult Welding and Small Appliance school was started at Parsons in 1965.

The State Department of Education approved some part-time Dental Hygienists in the county public schools. Decatur County was the first county approved due to the fact that the Decatur County Educational Department worked closer with them than any other county in the state.[28]

The first newspaper at Riverside was called the Riverside Journal and was under the supervision of Mrs. Alice H. Reid. It was published by the Journalism class and was co-edited by Jerry Butler and Gail Burton and the business manager was Sherry Townsend.

Mrs. Reba Broyler served as the first school supervisor and she was followed by Ruah Robinson. Others who have served in order are Ruth Potts, Allie Mae Stevens, Ray Bloodworth, Otis Dodd, Billy Stevens, Allie Mae Stevens and the present school supervisor is Nancy Yarbro.[29]

Present Decatur County school officials, 1976, are as follows:[30]

B.J. Stevens, Superintendent
Nancy T. Yarbro, Supervisor
Robert Raney, Attendance
Pauline Phelps, Health Services
Jonetta Vise, Sp. Ed. Director
Elizabeth Dalton, Sp. Ed. Consultant
Douglas Vise, Adult Education
Evelyn Maxwell, Lunchroom Supv.
Rebecca Anglin, Secretary to Supt.
Linda Evans, Secretary to Supt.
Mary Jo Smith, Title I

Decatur County School Board Members:

H.L. Townsend, Sr., Chm.
Alton Maners
R. Holland Kindle
Robert Bibbs
Clint Brasher
Zulas Coleman
Guy Butler

Riverside High School:

J. Wayne Stanfill, Principal
Mack Chandler, Teacher
Henry Mobley, Teacher
Glenda Moore, Teacher
Andy Whitwell, Teacher
Bonita Horner, Teacher
Larry Barrett, Teacher
Bill Crosby, Teacher
Ronald Lackey, Teacher
Benny Howard, Teacher
Floyd Powers, Teacher
Michael Lee, Teacher
Charlie Conger, Teacher
Betty M. Camper, Teacher
Doris Ivey, Teacher
Henry Sanders, Teacher
Billy Vestal, Teacher
J.G. Brasher, Teacher
Wanda Townsend, Teacher
Ruth Carrington, Teacher
Jerry L. Ivey, Teacher
Nathan Boyd, Special Ed.
Philip Wilson, Teacher
Edith Taylor, Teacher
Alice Reid, Guidance Counselor
Willie G. Russell, Teacher
Carolyn Giles, Teacher

Parsons Elementary School:

Oakley Dean Holbert, Principal
SheIla Box, Kindergarten
Benita White, Kindergarten
Rebecca Webb, Kindergarten
Mary Howard, Kindergarten
Carol Belew, First
Pat Wentworth, First
Joann Carter, First
Sandra Scott, First
Willene Neeley, Second
Bonnie Goff, Second
Marie Howard, Second
Dannie Houston, Third
Joy Veazey, Third
Marianna Quinn, Third
Calla Fisher, Fourth
Thelma Kerley, Fourth
Janet Conrad, Fourth
LaVerne Tucker, Title I
Linda Page, Special Ed.

Parsons Jr. High:

Philip Spence, Principal
Eva R. Hays, Teacher
Carol Crosby, Teacher
Mary Linda Crosby, Teacher
Erba Jane Jordan, Teacher
Sandra Dodd, Teacher
Grafton Dodd, Teacher
Sandra Lackey, Teacher
Anita Thomison, Teacher
Ola Smith, Teacher
Bruce Benedict, Teacher
Joseph Fisher, Teacher
O'Neal Wallace, Teacher
Charles Quinn, Teacher
Jimmy Howard, Teacher
Ernest Morris, Teacher
Mary Ayers, Teacher

Decaturville Elementary School:

Weldon Pratt, Principal
Margaret Alexander, 7th & 8th
Sandra Steed, 7th & 8th
Dewey L. Britt, 7th & 8th
Richard Story, 7th & 8th
Danny Adkisson, 5th & 6th
Emal Keeton, 5th & 6th
Barbara Montgomery, 5th & 6th
Sarah Vise, 4th
Iris King 4th & 5th
Wanda Taylor 3rd
Lana Maness, 3rd
Beverly Boyd, 2nd
Michael Larkins, 2nd
Pauline Johnson, 1st
Delilah Myracle, 1st
Sherry Hall, Kindergarten
Carolyn Larkins, Kindergarten
Clara Millican, Librarian
Thelma Yarbro, Title I
Geneva Menzies, Title I
Kay Harrington, Special Ed.

Scotts Hill School:

Timothy Baker, Title I
James Carr, 7th & 8th
Thomas Eason, 7th, 8th, 10th, 12th
Mae Hancock, 4th
Ruth Anne Johnson, 6th
David Mitchell, 7th-12th
Eunice Shelby, 3rd
Rickey Sparks. 5th
Gail Stanfill, Kindergarten
Diane Vernon, Home Economics
Vicky Jones, Special Education

Financial Status began to hit the schools in Decatur County about 1927-28-29. Warrants were issued for the teacher's salary but were not backed up sufficiently by cash coming into the trustee's office. Due to multiple reasons, the main one being the depression, which struck in 1927 with full force, warrants had to be shaved or discounted about 20% to 25%.

Very few had enough money to buy up any considerable amount of these warrants; however, some did including J. K. Vise, Frank Houston Jim Chalk, Perry Thompson, Joe Jennings and others.[31]

In 1942 after the U.S. got into war and finances began to pile up, money from the state came into the county in sufficient quantities for school warrants to be paid off at full value at the trustee's office, under Superintendent, CA. Palmer.

Small schools were not consolidated until about 1950. As late as 1945, there were 41 schools in the county, mostly one teacher schools. Causes for the consolidation were low attendance at the schools and many families moved away to the city or up north to better paying jobs when the lean years arrived. According to the state, a certain number in attendance was required for a school to remain open. Also more prosperous families sent their children to town schools where they had better educational advantages.[32]

The hot lunch program was initiated in the county in the late 20's and has continued down to present days.

Prior to the day of School buses, students often walked miles to school. Some as many as four and one half, round trip. They enjoyed wading in the branches in the summer and walking in the snow in the winter.

Then after that open stock trucks were used to transport students. It had plank seats across the bed. Some had one long board on each side and one across the center of the bed and a canvas top.

One early truck driver in Decatur County was Clint Tuten who drove a truck-bus combination in 1929-1930. Serving as bus drivers 1920-30 were R.L. Rainey, Harbert Kelley, John Primm, M.L. Stephens, D.C. Crowder, Clyde Akins, Jeff Tucker, Clint Tuten, John Tolley and Bill Crawley.[33]

D. R. Price of Parsons drove the first school bus in the Hog Creek Community in 1933. It wasn't a shiny yellow bus like the modern-day type. It too, was a truck with a large top built over the bed. He transported students from Hog Creek, Sugar Tree and Spence Schools to Parsons High School. He also picked up students at Beacon and back tracked to Parsons. Furnishing his own school bus he received $40 a month in 1933.

Joe Jordan drove a school bus in 1935. His bus was hired to transport students from Spence Community to Parsons. He had quite a distance to cover and had only 18 students. He too, started out with a half-ton truck with an enclosed bed. Later he moved to Parsons and drove a regular school bus at a salary of $200 monthly. He had to furnish the school bus and carried 50 students, covering a territory of 30 miles daily.[34]

In the early days only students who had finished the eighth grade at the country school rode the bus to high school in town. Good roads hadn't spiraled here then and when the creeks would rise out of their banks, the buses couldn't cross.

When the school buses started rolling, it was not long until the little country schools were closed. It meant death to them. Parents living in the rural areas wanted their children to attend grammar school in town schools where they could have better advantages. Therefore, the attendance in the country schools decreased and they were closed by the State Department in conjunction with the Decatur County School Board.[35]

With the transition, the need for more school buses became apparent. Today, Decatur County has 23 school buses rolling every school day morning.

An early driver after buses became numerous was John Welch who drove a bus around 20 years. His route included Camp Ground, Mt. Zion, Davis Community, and the Brooxie Thomas road in the upper end of the county. He had 54 passengers and knew them all by name.

In 1964 school bus service was extended to the towns. Buses picked up students in Parsons and Decaturville. It took the load off of the mothers. In 1971, those picking up students in Parsons were James Duke who picked up 67 students in South Parsons every morning, J.W. Gibson, Coy Houston and Mike Riley who picked up students in other sections of town.[36]

In 1971 the bus drivers from Riverside Consolidated High School stacked up a very interesting safety record at the close of the year. They had been on the road for a total of 57 years without an accident. During this time, they who had driven 15 years had driven 586,500 miles, approximately 23-1/2 trips around the world. They had consumed 10,700 gallons of gas per year.

Drivers were John Welch, Ray Miller, Clyde Yarbro, Gardener West, R.L. Brasher, Mike Riley, Albert Kindle and Willie Tillman.

At this time, there was a safety school for Decatur County bus drivers from Nov. 15 through Nov. 18. This school was taught by a representative from the State Department of Education on Safety, under the Superintendent, Edward Hearington.

Other bus owners and operators of school buses were John Primm, Mac Vise, Jason Sims, E. E. Rhodes and Norm Rainey.

Decatur County Bus Owners 1975-76 are: Lanois Thomas, Ruth Wilson, Virgil Ray Box, 3 buses, J. Milford Myracle, Royce Houston, Ray Miller, Ralph Duncan, Charlie Coleman, Malcom Patterson, Fred Hughes, Dorothy Brasher, Melbourn Peavhouse, Walter J. Brasher, Lester Brasher, Adkins Maners and Tyrone Pulley.[37]

Mt. Nebo, located 15 miles south of Decaturville was another pioneer school, having been established shortly after Decatur became a county.

The building which was of logs, was used for both school and church. Some of those who taught here prior to 1928 were Mrs. Ernestine Tuten Keeton, Mrs. Jessie Akin Fisher, Steve Eason, Ben Lentz, Guy Butler, Andy Steele, Bertie Dailey, Henry McKinney and Mrs. Eula Martin Rogers.[38]

Another early school was Spence School. The first school was a church-school combination and it was located in the Spence Cumberland Presbyterian Church building. Later the church went down and a new school building was erected.

The land for the building was given by George Spence's family and this it received its name from him, It was located 12 miles north of Parsons.

It was a one room frame building as well as a one teacher's school. Grades from the primer through the eighth grade were taught here.

Some of the early teachers were Zoedie Cox Bell, Pearl Cox Tippet, Clifford Tubbs, Jack Moore, Ernest Higdon, Sallie Spence, and Mrs. Gray King.

During Mrs. King's term a school picture was made. Listed in the picture were Patterson Allen, Loddie Allen, Ruby Allen Boyd, Ressie Douglas Stokes, Rosie Spence Haynes, Georgie Spence, Melton Ballinger, Connie Harris, Felix Spence, Helen Webb Hughs, Myrtle Sanders Hill, Wilford Spence, Lynn Bawcum, Eulan Cox, Walter Mederist, Albert Cantrell, George Cantrell, Lorene Cantrell, Willie Ballinger, Zelmer Douglas, Dewey Douglas, Hurman Frazier, Jim Spence, Leon Franks, Thelma Sanders Franks, Irene Franks Coble, Mable Franks Green, Ruth Franks Jordan, Hallie Webb Hughs, Willie Frazier Odle, Bessie Frazier McAuley, Ellen Spence Modlin, Beady Sanders Bawcum, Sallie Spence and Mrs. Gray Ballinger King, teacher.[39]

In 1927 there were two high schools in Decatur County, Parsons and Decaturville. The county also paid 40% of the expense of operating the Scotts Hill High School.[40]

School teacher's retirement was started in the state in 1945. C.A. Palmer was serving as county superintendent of the Decatur County Schools. U.S. Yates, who had taught around 40 years, was one of the first to retire in the county. His retirement pay was $50 monthly.

Retired teachers in Decatur County up to September 3, 1976 are as follows: N.A. Aaron, Mrs. Aline Atkins, Miss Barbara Bowman, Guy Butler, Mrs. Lelia Conder, B.C. Dailey, Mrs. Fay Dailey, Mrs. Catherine Day, Marlin Dodd, Otis Dodd. J.W. Dunavant, Mrs. Iris A. Evans, Mrs. Mattie Gibson, Mrs. Carrie Haney, R.L. Haney, Mrs. Clara M. Hardin, Mrs. Myrtle Hardin, Mrs. Louise Hendrix, Obie Hendrix, Miss Danny Houston, Mrs. Allie V. Johnson, Hobart Johnson, Mrs. Naomi Jones, Edward Hearington, Mrs. Emal Keeton, Mrs. Willie Gray King, Mrs. Opal Kelley, Guy Kennety, Mrs. Robbie Latta, Mrs. Faustina Mclllrath, Everett Mclllwain, Mrs. Opal McClure, Roy McPeake, Mrs. Bessie McDaniel, John Milam, Thomas J. Moore, Mrs. Pauline Orr, Miss Zelma McNeal, C.A. Palmer, Mrs. Lois Payne, Mrs. Kathleen Phillips, Mrs. Flynn Pickens, Joe Quinn, Olis Quinn, Mrs. Eula Rogers, Jack Rushing, Miss Sallie Spence, Mrs. Allie Mae Stevens, Mrs. Hobart Townsend, Sr., Mrs. Sophia Townsend, Mrs. Nellie Tuten, Mrs. Mayme Ward, Myracle Ward, Charlie Welch, Mrs. Hilda Welch, Louis Welch, Weldon Welch, Mrs. Raymond Weir, Lealon Wyatt, Mrs. Sue Boswell. Mrs. Pauline E. Nelson, Mrs. Delia Johnson, Mrs. Orville Tucker, Mrs. Mary Coiwick, Mrs. Maydell Evans, Miss Eva Hayes, S.F. Dobbins, Mrs. Ola Smith, Billy J. Stevens, E.C. Kennedy, Alvin Myracle, Mrs. Thelma Yarbro, A.L. Jennings, Mrs. Nattie Fisher, Mrs. George Bell, Mrs. Pearl Austin, Clyde Brown, George Mays and Miss Lola Pickens.[41]

Decatur County Superintendents

Among those who have served as School Superintendent were B.A. Tucker, 1891-93, W.H. McMillan, 1893-97, BA. Tucker 1889-1901, H.W. Long 1901-03, Jake Miller 1903 until 1907, Jim Wheat 1907 until 1909, George L. Wortham, Sr. 1911-1915, Perry Murphy 1915-1916, George L. Wortham, Sr. 1916-1922, Ray Holley, 1922-25. Holley was a Republican and the County Court was Democratic so this formed a tremendous tension between the two. The salary was $1200 when he took office but due to the fact that he stopped and ate a meal with some blacks from Shannonville, his popularity decreased and the salary was cut to $900. Despite the fact that he was elected by the largest vote up to that time, he resigned and continued his education. J.K. Vise 1925-1931, R.L. Haney 1931-35, K.K. Houston 1935-1939, W.C. White 1941, CA. Palmer 1941 until 1945, Jack Stevens 1945-1948, Guy Kennedy 1948 until 1960, Edward Hearington, 1960-68, Henry Evans 1968-69. Evans died while in office and he was succeeded by his wife, Mrs. Iris A. Evans who served from 1969 until 1970 when Billy Stevens was elected. He served from 1970 until 1976. Wayne Stanfill was elected in 1976 and is in office at the present. His office expires in 1980.

Rocky Springs School

Silas Miller is 80 years old and went to the old Rocky Springs School that was built on his father's, Green Miller, farm, It was a one room doubled boxed building in the 12th civil district of Decatur County, three and one half miles north of Jeanette, Tennessee. Silas was about 6 years old when he started to school. Some of his teachers were: Dora McMurry, Beulah Anderson, Maude Morgan and Hurst Jennings.

The old school house was torn down several years later. A new building was erected on the land now known as the Edwin Gibson farm in the 12th civil district that joins the Miller land.

The first two school years were taught in the new building in 1929-1931 by Miss Faye (Jordan) Dailey of Jeanette, Tennessee. These are the other teachers that taught in the later years; Marlin Dodd, Miss Lerah (Jordan) Rains, Joe Quinn, Miss Barbara Bowman, Miss Camilla Odle, Olis Quinn, George Mays, Sam B. Baker, Miss Lounell Rainey, Ola Smith, Irland Oxford, Ottis Dodd, Edward Harrington and Mary Inman.

After it ceased to be a school Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Gibson bought the building and remodled it for their home, and at this time are living in it.

  1. The Story of Tennessee publication 1952
  2. First report of Supt. John Eaton, Jr. Supt. Public instructions for State of Tennessee, 1869.
  3. Goodspeeds History of Tennessee and research of Jimmy Readey & Vernon Readey
  4. Mrs. Jessie Morris
  5. Cora Dixon
  6. K.K. Houston
  7. C.A. palmer
  8. Dorothy Taylor & Edna Miller
  9. Mrs. Vada Warden, among the first to attend school, personal interview
  10. Mrs. Vada Warden
  11. Related by Bob Burke, Ferrell, Pa, in letter to author 1967.
  12. Carl Partin 1976
  13. Martin Brooks, nephew of the teacher
  14. C. V. Maxwell
  15. Lewis Wheat
  16. Ralph Smith
  17. Mayors Ledger 6/7/23, City Hall page 34.
  18. Ibid
  19. Minute Book No. 3, Town of Parsons, City Hall
  20. Supt. Office, B.J. Stevens
  21. Ibid
  22. C.A. Palmer
  23. County Superintendent's Office
  24. Judge Hardin Smith
  25. Edward Hearington, County Supt. 1960
  26. Ibid
  27. Ibid
  28. Ibid
  29. CA. Palmer
  30. Administrative Staff, B.J. Stevens, C. Supt.
  31. CA. Palmer
  32. Ibid
  33. Parsons Newspaper Clipping Looking Backward
  34. Information from Driver
  35. C.A. Palmer
  36. Parsons News Leader, "Looking Backwards"
  37. Decatur County Board of School Linda Evans, Sec.
  38. J.L. Lancaster
  39. Mrs. Gray King
  40. Allie Mae Stevens
  41. Research by C.A. Palmer

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