Museum Collections 

Saturday, October 10, 2020, 11:44

"We can diffuse the blessings of education and become a virtuous if not a great people. I wish the State University were located in Raleigh, for I do not believe in that kind of education which is obtained in cloisters. The manners of boys should be attended to as well as their morals. The society of the city of Williamsburg, Virginia, is said to have been the most polished in America, and its college, William and Mary, has turned out more celebrated men than any other institution within my knowledge." (Nathaniel Macon, in North Carolina Constitutional Convention, 1835.)

 

Over the last two hundred years, education in Macon County has shifted from single room log subscription schools to the districts we know today. Why this is by no means a complete account of the history of education in Macon County – it is as comprehensive as available records allow. From decades of Franklin High yearbooks to models of original school houses, the Historical Museum's collection of education history in Macon County is extensive. 

Franklin Area

Education in Franklin dates back to the 1840s when a private school existed in Franklin. Around 1849 a private academy for boys was established in the county followed by a Methodist “Young Ladies Academy” which opened in 1854.

The first semi-public school wasn’t established in Macon County until 1875 when the Masons opened part of their lodge on Church Street up for free public education three months out of the year. The remainder months the building served as a subscription schools.

Over the years additional private schools came and went – a Methodist academy in 1888 at the site of the Franklin Terrace Hotel, The St. Agnes School for the girls in 1890 located behind the present Episcopal church on Church Street, and even a teachers’ institute in 1885 which was conducted in the summer months at the Courthouse.

The Teacher Course was instrumental in supplying teachers to rural Macon County. After a summer course in teacher training, a high school graduate could teach – usually in normal schools located in churches and other small buildings.

At the beginning of 1900 – teacher salaries ranged from $20 to $40 a month and the county superintendent was paid $2 a day.

The first brick school building for a high school was constructed in 1910 on a lot between the present Franklin High School and the gym. The school was destroyed in a fire in 1919. A temporary wooden frame building was used until 1923 when a new high school was constructed. That school also burned in 1954.

A grammar school was first built in 1926 and houses 75 high school students and around 250 elementary students. A four-room annex was added in 1948 – today this building houses East Franklin Elementary School.

The use of public transportation came to Macon County in 1927 when school buses began transporting high school students from smaller schools to the high school. A modern 22 room high school building, with a cafeteria, library, and office facilities was built in 1952. A gymnasium was added in 1955 and the building still houses Franklin High School today.

Cartoogechaye Area

The first records of a school in the Cartoogechaye area of the county was known as the Mulberry School. After the Mulberry School came the first Privet School. The second Privet School was built in 1897. Around the same time the Privet School was used in Cartoogechaye, the Conley School was also in operation.

The county’s history of school consolidation dates back to the 1900’s when the Privet School and Conley School was consolidated into the Crawford School – which was weather-boarded and included a cast iron wood stove for heating – something schools prior lacked. 

Highlands and Nantahala

Public Education in Highlands varied over the years – with faint records dating back to 1906. When funding was available and weather permitted, school would be held.

The present Nantahala School was first used in 1951, but before that, the oldest known school in the Nantahala area was the Aquone School, which was located at one time on Rocky Branch. The school was moved to Aquone in late 1885 – an area that is now covered by the Nantahala Lake. The last school term was held at the Aquone School in 1940-41 – the same time the construction of the Nantahala Dam began. Other schools in Nantahala included Kyle School and Mustered Grounds. The Kyle School – also known as the White Oak Flat, was a one-room log building that started sometime before 1880. A new school was built in 1885 and was under the leadership of Beaureguard Dalton, a teacher from Cowee. By 1906, school in Nantahala was expanded from just three months long to an entire year. School terms were often held in churches, in buildings, and even in Henry Wood’s store before a two-story building was constructed in 1910.

Union Area

September 16, 2020 marked the 163 anniversary of the deed made by John Sellers, which made it possible for the Union School to be constructed. The deed outlined plans for a school and church on a two acres property. The one room log building was erected and given the name Union – after the union of the school and church.

By the time Union was constructed, it was the 32nd district school of Macon County. The original building was torn down in 1893 and replaced by a one-room white painted frame building. By 1904 the building was expanded to include an additional room. In 1914 an entirely new building was constructed after the old one was torn down. The new building housed three rooms before an annex was added to allow Union to serve a combination of elementary and junior high school students.

The first lunchroom for public education was constructed in 1936 with the help of the Works Progress Administration. Union School was the first school to use the lunchroom, with other schools to follow quickly thereafter. The process to provide lunch was difficult and made through community donations of old wood stoves and pots and pans. Students often helped to carry water in from a well or spring and each student brought their own plate and spoon from home. Students paid 5 cents for lunch, often paid for with produce from their family gardens.

In 1952 the Maple Springs School house was consolidated to Union School. Maple Springs was one of the first consolidated schools in the county – around 1030 the two-teacher school of North Skeenah and the one teacher school of South Skeenah were consolidated to come Maple Springs School. 100 years prior to Maple Springs, around 1880, a new log school building was built near present day Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. In 1920 a new frame building was erected a the same location and modern equipment was installed.

The present day Union School was completed in 1952 after land was purchased from J.W. Addington and opened with three teachers and around 80 students. Shortly after the new building opened, the Otto school was consolidated into the Union School. 

Otto Area

The first school house in Otto was built right after the Civil War in 1865 – a spot where three other small schools had been located during the pioneer period. All schools were made from logs and with the help of the people who lived in the community. Around 1898 the schools known as Otto and Tesenta were consolidated and a school house was built between the two areas. In 1910 the schools separated and houses students in Otto until 1932 when the school burned down. By 1933, a new two-room school was built, which is the Otto Elementary School that still stands today, although no longer serving as a school.

The final Otto school was built in 1941 and had 10 classrooms – one of which also served as a lunchroom. In 1957 schools on that end of the county were consolidated and included the smaller schools, Otto, Mulberry, Betty’s Creek, Mountain View, Academy, Hickory Knoll, Lower Tesenta, and Upper Tesenta, the Otto Elementary School became Macon County’s first consolidated school in the same year that the building was completed.

Otto was the first elementary school in Macon County to become accredited – gaining the recognition in 1953.

Cowee Area

The Elmore School was built in the Cowee Valley of Macon County around 1830. Records have been lost over the years, but at some point, the school became known as The Caler School. Some records show that a single room log school once stood where Cowee Baptist Church now stands with other schools located near Snow Hill and Rickman Creek Cove. A large school was later constructed in Cowee and named the Peabody School – near the present day Snow Hill Cemetery. The school was a private school – costing $1 a month per pupil – and houses elementary and high school students for about three months during the year. Another school was built on land donated by T.C. Bryson and was a weather-boarded elementary and high school. The school was moved to its current location in 1941 and was constructed with native stone and consolidated schools included Cowee, Oak Grove, Tellico, Morgan, Rose Creek, Liberty, and Harmony.

Cullasaja Area

Cullasaja School  was opened in 1949 and included the consolidation of Mashburn Branch, Higdonville, Gold Mine, Pine Grove, and Salem Schools. A school that once stood in Ellijay had already been consolidated with Higdonville Bethel with Franklin, Buck Creek with Salem, and Walnut Creek with Pine Grove.

The first school in the Cullasaja community was built in 1880 and was a one-room frame building until 1895 when it was moved about one fourth of a mile. In 1952 the Macon County Board of Commissioners provided $7,000 to the school system to build a lunchroom at Cullasaja School.

African American Schools

History shows that there existed a strong black presence in public education even though the population was not large in Macon County. While one room log cabin schools existed in various communities in the early 1800s for white students, early schools also existed in various communities for black students. Following the separate but equal ruling, schools were established for black children by the government. One report during the 1870-71 NC legislative session book indicates a delay in providing a building for black students in the Mill Shoal Community and the intention to remedy the need as soon as possible.

History also shows another black school located in Cowee, which employed a single teacher, Mrs. S.C. Anderson, a white lady. Having a white teacher for black students may seem unusual, but in Macon County white teachers taught in black schools until qualified black teachers became available.

The two teacher Chapel School in Franklin received appropriations earmarked in the legislative budget from 1922-23 and was constructed for a total cost of $3,000 to serve as the main school for African Americans in Macon County. During the 1940-41 school term, 21 high school students, 122 elementary students were enrolled with an ADM of 16/110. In 1935036 there were 113 elementary students and four teachers. Principal R.B. Watts worked with D.B. Barber, Emma S. England, and Beluah Martin during the term. By the 1940s, the Chapel School, which now serves as the Macon County Board of Education Central Office, was the only black school in Macon County.

History also shows another black school located in Cowee, which employed a single teacher, Mrs. S.C. Anderson, a white lady. Having a white teacher for black students may seem unusual, but in Macon County white teachers taught in black schools until qualified black teachers became available.

The two teacher Chapel School in Franklin received appropriations earmarked in the legislative budget from 1922-23 and was constructed for a total cost of $3,000 to serve as the main school for African Americans in Macon County. During the 1940-41 school term, 21 high school students, 122 elementary students were enrolled with an ADM of 16/110. In 1935036 there were 113 elementary students and four teachers. Principal R.B. Watts worked with D.B. Barber, Emma S. England, and Beluah Martin during the term. By the 1940s, the Chapel School, which now serves as the Macon County Board of Education  Central Office, was the only black school in Macon County.

 To see photos from the museum's collection on education, visit The Macon County Historical Museum's Facebook Page.


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