Educational Development of Ashe County, North Carolina
by Alfred Burman Hurt
The Purpose of this study is to show the growth and development of education in Ashe County from its Earliest beginning up to the present time. Since an interpretation of the conditions of any period can be morn intelligently made If there is a clear understanding of the historical conditions preceding the period, the first chapter of this study is devoted to the geographical and historical conditions of the county. The second chanter deals with the progress of education in the county prior to and including the Civil War period. It shows that the public school system had become reasonably well established in Ashe County during the period immediately proceeding the Civil War. The public school system appears to have suffered complete destruction during the latter period of the war and did not regain the status it had previously attained until many years later as is shown in chapter three. Chapter four deals with the period extending from 1900 to 1920. The educational revival in the state, which characterized this period had little immediate effect on the educational conditions in Ashe County. The present educational conditions are pointed out in chapter five. Although some substantial progress has been attained, the school system of the county is in many respects below the standards reached by the state. The final chapter contains some recommendations as to the lines of future development that appear necessary in order that a creditable school system may be established in Ashe County.
Although the facts given in this discussion and their interpretation may at times appear to be colored by a spirit of pessimism, an endeavor has been made to reveal the educational conditions as they actually exist. The material for this study has been gathered from the reports of the State Superintendents of Public Instruction, from the Public School laws of Berth Carolina, from the minutes of the Ashe County Board of Education from county newspapers, and from various other sources who writer feels greatly obligated to Dr. Edgar W. Knight, Professor of Educational History in the University of North Carolina, who has offered suggestions and has been the source of inspiration that has made this study possible.
Ashe County is located in the extreme northeastern part of North Carolina. It is bounded on the east by Allegheny and Wilkes counties, on the south by Wilkes and Watauga counties, on the west by Tennessee, and on the north by Virginia. The area of the county is 273,230 acres, or 427 square miles.1 The county is situated between the crest of the Blue Ridge on the Southeast and that of the Stone mountain on the west. It is characterized by numerous nigh mountains, with steep slopes and hills, and narrow valleys intervening. The average elevation of to county is between 3,000 and 3,500 feet. The North Fork and South Fork of New River form two drainage basins which are separated by a water-shed extending irregularly through the county, from Bald Mountain to the junction of the forks, which is near the Virginia line. Owing to the elevation of Ashe County, the winters are usually severe. Frequent snowfalls often cover the ground fox several days at a time, and frosts which occur late in the spring and early in the fall often do considerable damage to the crops.
Very little is known concerning the early history of Ashe County-who the settlers were, whence they came, or whether any of their descendants are still living in the county. Hunters, no doubt, had passed through this territory during the first half of the eighteenth century, but the first visitors mentioned by authentic records were Bishop Spangenberg and his party. The following is a record of this visit:
December 3, 1752. From a name on a river in an old Indian field, which is either the heed or branch of New river, which flows through North Carolina to Virginia and into the Mississippi River. Here we have at length arrived after a very toilsome journey over fearful mountains and dangerous cliffs .... Fact of the way we had to crawl on hands and feet; sometimes we had to take the baggage and saddles and the horses and drag them up the mountains ....while they trembled and quivered like leaves.
Arrived at the top at last, we saw hundreds of mountain peaks all around us, presenting s spectacle like ocean waves in a storm ....We scrambled down to a creek so full of rocks that we could not possibly cross it. On both sides wets such precipitous banks that scarcely a man, and certainly no horse could climb them. We scrambled down to the water, dragged ourselves along the mountain and before night came into a large plain.
This caused rejoining for man and beasts. We pitched camp, but scarcely had we finished when each a wind storm burst upon us that we could scarcely protect ourselves against it. I cannot remember that I have ever in winter anywhere encountered so hard or so cold a wind. The ground was soon covered with snow ankle deep and the water froze before ore us aside the fire. Our people became thoroughly disheartened. Our horses would certainly perish and we with them. The next day we had fine sunshine, and then warmer nights, though yet they were horribly cold. Then we went to examine the land, and large part of it is already cleared and there long grass abounds and this is all bottom.
Three creeks flow together here and make a considerable river which flows into the Ohio according to the best knowledge of our hunters. We surveyed. this land and took up 5,400 acres in our lines.
This survey lies about fifteen miles from the Virginia line as we saw the Meadow mountain and judged it to be about twenty miles distant. This mountain lies about five miles from the line between Virginia and Forth Carolina.2
As to the exact location of the camp and the survey to which the Bishop refers, Arthur, in his History of Watauga County, says that the three forks of the New River. near Boone, Grassy Creek, and the Old Fields at the mouth of Gap Creek, each has characteristics similar to those described by Bishop Spangenberg. It is generally conceded however, that the Old Fields at the mouth of Gap Creek, which is ten miles south of Jefferson, is where Spangenburg pitched camp and laid claim to the surrounding country.
Probably the most nearly authentic statements relating to the early conditions in Ashe County are found in the following letter written by T. McGimsey to T. Henderson, Editor of the Star, Raleigh, North Carolina. This letter was written May 3, 1811, in response to an inquiry sent to the various counties of the state in 1810, asking if a detailed account of the conditions in these counties for publication in the Star, and is as follows;
With pleasure I received your letter of the 30th March 1810 in which you request me to give an account of the local situation in Ashe County &c. I hope that you will pardon me for not transmitting it sooner.
In the common intercourse or human life nothing is more interesting to mankind thin a familiar acquaintance with each other. If any communication herein contained will in the smallest degree be of service to you or any of my fellow citizens it will more than amply reward my attention.
The tract of country called Ashe County was first settled in the year 1755. Capt. Jno Cox informs me he recollects when there was but two or three Hunters Cabbens from the Lead Mines to the Head of Watauga.
The face of the country is clothed with learge and hefty timber of Black walnut Sugar tree Magnolia poplar Buck eye oak & Hickory and chestnut & spruce pins in some planes clover strawberrys & Blue Grass are natural to grow everywhere Cranberrys also in grass plenty. As that country has always been plenty of game the first settlers who lived hero far the purpose of Hooting were much oppressed by the Indians in particular by the Shawnees & Cherokees until the end of the late war. Since they have no incursion on theca parts, or stlments. The main water courses are the New River on the head of the Great Canoway & its auxilery Branches flowing from the Blue Ridge Stone mt & iron mt. The country abounds with mines and minerals those cheifly worked are Iron to salt petre there are at present five sites of good iron works in the county of Ashe Great store of mine have lately been found there which is thought to contain great counties of silver and lead. The people of Ashe country send to market Cattle Sheep. Butter Cheese tallow beeswax venison hams Deerskins & ginseng to the amt of upwards of thirty thousand dollars yearly.
People in that county improve more is Religion they the study of the arts & sicences but it is hoped more pains will noon be taken to improve youth in the one as weal as in the other
I am Sir
With sentiments of due respect Yours &c
N.B. The land is Ashe county sells from five dollars to five cants an acre.3
The statement in the above letter that the Indians had made no intrusion into the settlements since the late war appears to be sustained by the provisions of a treaty of which the following is an account:
In 1777 at Long Island in the Holston, a treaty was concluded. with the Middle and Upper Cherokee by which they ceded all their territory seat of the Blue Ridge, and on the Watauga, Nolichucky, Upper Holston and New Rivers.4
This ceded territory included all of the present territory of Ashe County. The statement as to the first settlement having been made in 1755 appears from a consideration of other events and records credible, Evidently, there were no white settlers in this section at the time of Spangenberg's visit in 1752, for, although he states in a letter written from Edenton; " toward the western mountains there were plenty of people who had come from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania,"5 he gives no record in his detailed diary of having actually met with white settlers beyound the Blue Ridge.
The Northwestern Herald, published at Jefferson, North Carolina,in the issue of October 14,1923 gives the following information collected from various sources relative to the early history of Ashe county:
In the year 1761 Wm. Wallens, Wm. McLean, and David Hilton, citizens of Montgomery County, Virginia, came to what is now the Helton Greek section of Ashe County on a hunting and exploring expedition. They had a camp somewhere on that creek. After spending the winter of that year there they returned home, but a year later they came bank with their families and began a settlement.
Colonel Benjamin Cleveland, who won renown in the battle of King's Mountain, was among the earliest landowners of the county, though he never lived there. Draper gives the following account:
Some thirty-five miles from his home on the Yadkin, and some twenty northwest of Wilkesboro, and in the southeastern part of the present county of Ashe, was a well known locality, mostly on the northern bank of the South Fork of New River, called the "Old Fields",which at some previous period was, probably, the quiet home of a wandering tribe of Cherokees. These "Old Fields" belonged to Colonel Clevelend, and served—in peaceful times—for a grazing region.6
As Draper relates, it was on a visit to Jesse Duncan, his tenant at the "Old Fields", in 1781, that Cleveland was captured by the Tories under the leadership of William Riddle, but was later recaptured by his friends at Riddles Knob-a name given the mountain from this incident.
As to the extraction of these early settlers in Ashe County, the Scotch Irish seem so have dominated. Roosevelt7 refers to the great number of immigrants who were moving into these mountains. He states that they were mostly Presbyterians from Scotland and Ireland. Only rarely did Catholics and Episcopalians settle in the mountain regions. It might be added that so far as the Catholics are concerned the fact still remains true, for, according to the information of the writer, there are no Catholics living in Ashe County to-day. There is probably no region in our entire country that contains less foreign blood-s fact explained by the inaccessibility of those regions and the desire of the foreigner to settle in the towns and cities. Roosevelt refers to the people of this section as being of the purest Anglo-Saxon blood.
As to legal formation, Ashe County was the second to be carved out of the territory best of the Blue Ridge, Buncombe being the first, the sot establishing the county of Ashe is the shortest on record.8 It was passed in 1799, and reads as follows: "All that part of the county of Wilkes lying west of the extreme height of the Appalachian mountains shall be, and the same is hereby erected into a separate and distinct county by the name of Ashe". There was a later act fixing permanently the dividing line between Ashe and Buncombe counties, the same to begin at the, "Yadkin Spring, and thence along the extreme height of the Blue Ridge to the head spring of the flat Top fork of Elk Creek, thence dawn the meanders of the said creek to the Tennessee line."9 Ashe County was named in honor of Samuel Ashe, who was a short time before the erection of this county governor of North Carolina. Samuel Ashe was born in 1725. He was an educated man. and a lawyer by profession. The proceedings of Committee of Safety and the Journals of the Provincial Congress from 1774 to 1776 attest his firmness and patriotism, He was eminently conspicuous in the Council and Cabinent in conducting the affairs of the state. He was ono of the first three Judges of the state, in 1777, and. governor in 1795.
A part of the original area of the county was cut off in 1849 in forming Watauga County, and in 1859 another part was separated and formed into Alleghany County.
The following explains the first provision for the erecting of public buildings in the recently created county:
Be it enacted that Nathan Hortan, John Bowers, and Jefferson Talliafaro be, and they are hereby appointed commissioners for fixing on a proper place .t or near the center of said county , whereon to erect the public buildings for the said county; the duties of which appointment they or a majority of them are requested to execute as soon as possible after the passing of this sat; but until the court house shelf be erected, or some convenient place fiat on by the commissioners aforesaid, the court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, for the said county of Ashe, shall be held in the house of Jacob Huntsinger.
Be it further enacted that George Koons, Nathan Parten, and John Cox be, and they are hereby appointed commissioners for the purpose of erecting the public buildings for. the said county of Ashe, at such places as may be fixt on for that purpose.
Be it further enacted that s tax of one shilling on every poll, and a tax of four pence on every hundred auras of land in said county of Ashe, shall be levied and collected for your one thousand eight hundred by the sheriff or collector or public taxes; and the name, shall be accounted for to the said commissioners heroin laic named, or s majority of them, under the same restrictions and regulations as sheriffs are subject to in the collection of public taxes.10
The place for the erection of the courthouse was selected, and according the moat authentic information was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, and not, as he might infer alter the commissioner who chanced to have the same name. The brat courthouse was erected of hewn logs, and is supposed to have bean located on what is now known as Main Street. The first fail was also built of lobs, and according to Arthur, was the second fail to be constructed west of the Blue Ridge. We have no records showing the extent to which this jail was used, but other methods of punishment besides confinement in prison were resorted to, as the following indicates:
State vs. Carter Whittington indicted for perjury.
Fined 10 pounds, and the said Carter Whittington to stand in the pillory for one hour, at the expiration of which time both his earn be out off and entirely severed from his head, and chat his ears so out off be nailed to the pillory by the officers and there till the setting of the sun, and that the sheriff of this county carry this judgement immediately into execution, and the said Carter Whittington be confined until the fine and fees are paid.11
The greatest undeveloped natural resource of Ashe County is the immense amount of magnetite iron ore on the waters of the North Fork of New River, and in Grassy Creek, Walnut Hill, Helton, and horse Creek townships, although. much tasting and prospecting has been done during the last thirty-five years to determine the quality and. amount of these ores, only recently have their economic value and importance been realized. The New diver or Ballou lend is an almost continuous solid ore vain for a distance of about twelve miles. Ore from this vein won first prize at the Paris Exposition.
The Ore Knob Copper Mine, which was worked extensively several years ago was reopened about 1915, but was soon closed, probably, because of transportation facilities--the nearest railroad being ten miles distance. While Ashe County possesses these valuable ore deposits, due to the lack of their development. the chief assets of the county are the fertile fields, and ideal climate, the latter of which is recently being capitalized. There are various mineral springs in this county, the most famous of which are the Bromide Arsenic, and Radium Springs. These are nationally known, and with the coming of gaol roads are drawing visitors from all part of the United States.
Until within recent years the Blue Ridge which forma the eastern boundary of the county all along the way from Glendale Springs to Deep Gap, has boon a barrier separating the county from the commonwealth to which it belongs. Most of the trade relations were with Virginia and Tennessee. Thus the cognomen, "Lost Province" applied. to sane by the people east of the Blue Ridge hued some truth to back its application.
A real effort to connect the county with the rest of the state was made aeon after tea advent of the twentieth century, In the memorable political campaign of 1900 when Charles B. Aycock rode a horse drawn vehicle across the Blue Ridge into Ashe, he saw the wonderful scenery, looked. upon the fertile valleys and grass clad hills, became acquainted with the fine citizenship, and pledged that upon his election the county should have a road letting her out to the commonwealth to which she belonged.
In the early years of his administration a bill was passed by the General Assembly to send convicts to help grade a road across the Blue Ridge. Stock was sold to citizens on both aides of the mountain. The Wilkesboro-Jefferson turnpike came into existence, which turned the people out in a fashion, and let a .few from the outside some in. But the flood of 1916 demonstrated more clearly than even the snows and mud of many winters had done that thin turnpike was not an all weather road. After the flood there was no turnpike, and Ashe was lost again.
The first railroad was built into the county in 1914. It came from Virginia, and placed the people more than ever in connection with the states to the north and west. However, during the road building program, began under the administration Governor Morrison, highway #68 was built across the Blue midge into Ashe, and the county was reclaimed. There are now three other state highways traversing the county, and furnishing an outlet into Virginia and Tennessee.
Beginning about 1920 the county undertook a road building program, during which approximately $1,500,000 in bonds were issued. Due to the high prices at which contracts were let for the construction of these roads, and the fact that most of tile county projects were later taken over by the stars as s part of her building program, only small retsina have been realized from the investment of this hugs sum, without any industries, and only 40.61 miles ox railroad valued at $1,012,000, there is little to tax except farms and homes. The tax rate in 1929 is $1.87 for the whole county, with the additional rata of 10 to 30 cents in the special school tax districts. The economy program which characterizes the whole state at this time appears to have unusual emphasis in Ashe County. The schools are suffering as a result of this economy program. Ashe County ranks 98th with the other counties of the state in the school expenditures per inhabitant, and 97th, in school efficiency. The school buildings era usually inadequate and poorly equipped, with little hope of immediate improvement.
Among the religious denominations in Ashe the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Christians, Dunkards, and Lutherans dominate. Narrow sectarianism often prevail, the broader and more profound principles of religion frequently being subservient to narrow church dogma Many of the communities have too many churches, there should be a closer union of the denominations, less religious strife, and a united support. Under present conditions, the majority of the churches cannot, or at least, do not support their ministers, who having to speed much of their time making a living, have little opportunity left for ministering to the spiritual needs of the people. The solution of this situation appears to be in the organization of community churches which through a unity of effort and support would be able to maintain a better educated and efficient ministry.
A brief survey of the trend of population in Ashe County may be seen from the following:
Trend of Population Year White Slaves Free
1800 2783 85 55 1810 3694 147 5 1820 4335 250 40 1830 5393 492 102 1840 6991 497 59 1850 8096 595 86 1860 7425 391 142 1870 8991 – 582 1880 14437 – – 1890 15628 – – 1900 19581 – – 1910 19074 – – 1920 20499 – 50912
As will be seen from the above the negro population in ache has never been large, and has remained rather uniform since 1830. The rapid increase in the white population from 1870 to 1880 is possibly duo to the fact, at least in part, that Ashe suffered little directly from the Reconstruction period, which made the county attractive for those who had suffered from the greater evils of the Reconstruction. According to Hardison it was during this period that Ashe County began to make considerable progress in agricultural lines. He says:
A few good plows had been introduced as early as 1872, but these ware exceptions. Before this time nearly all of the farm implements used in the county were home made, the iron bring taken from the mines within the county. The cutting and shocking of corn was practiced for the first time in 1882, and it was about the same time that wheat graying over the entire county began. The first grain drill was introduced in 1894. Scarcely any commercial fertilizers were used prior to 1891.13
The chief crops in Ashe are corn, wheat, oats, rye, potatoes, and hay. However, the raising of sheep and beef cattle has been the main dependence of the farmers for a cash income. The 1925 tax books show 20,117 cattle and 14,325 sheep in the county.
It is probable that the production of poultry and eggs is now bringing into the county more money than either sheep or cattle.
Although there era real possibilities in fruit culture, there are at present only few commercial orchards. Dairying on a commercial scale is coming into existence. In 1926 the Kraft Phoenix Cheese Company established a plant at West Jefferson. Trucks for milk delivery are sent daily into the various parts or the county, and as a result the cash income of the farmers is being augmented.
Jefferson, the county sect o: Ashe County, is only s small village, and until recently was decreasing is population. During the Civil tear it was larger than Asheville at that time. In 1890 it had a population 413, in 1900 it had decreased to 230, and in 1910 to 184. The population at present is probably slightly more than 200. Jefferson has one bank, a standard high school, one garage, one filling station, and four general stores.
The largest town in Ashe is West Jefferson, which is located two miles from Jefferson, and clime into existence wits the coming of the railroad in 1914. The population of West Jefferson is slightly less than 1,000. west Jefferson has one bank, one standard high school, two garages, cheese plant, and a few modern stores. Tree town has installed an excellent system of water works, which cost $50,000. At the present a public light plant is in operation in nest Jefferson, and is also extending its lines so as to furnish light and power to the neighboring communities.
The only other towns of any importance is Lansing, located on the railroad twelve miles west of West Jefferson. Lancing with a population of about 800, has a standard high school, and the usual number of stores and accessories that characterize a small mountain town without industries.
In comparison with the other counties of the state, Ashe ranks as follows:14
Ashe County Rankings Rank Category 7 In farm tenancy, 1925 87 In white public school graduates, 1927 65 In tax rate, 1928 99 In federal income tax, 1926 95 In instructional service cost per pupil, 1927 98 In rural school expenditures, 1927 97 In inhabitants per motor car, 1925 92 In rural school libraries, 1927 16 In cost of operating school buses, per bus, 1927 27 In cost of operating school buses, per pupil, 1927 81 In school attendance, 1927 94 In rural white graded schools, 1927 28 In county and school indebtedness, 1926 97 In college enrollment, 1924 95 In number of inhabitants per motor car, 1927 97 In school efficiency, 1926 3 In meat and milk units per farm, 1925 90 In taxable wealth per inhabitant, 1925 91 In scholarship of rural white teachers 88 In average length of term of rural white schools, 1925 93 In value of white rural school property, 1926 82 In bank resources per inhabitant. 1925 99 In reading eight leading national magazines 7 In white farm ownership. 1920 76 In illiterate native white women twenty-one years old and over, 1920 69 In illiterate native white males twenty-one years old and over, 1920
- Hardison and Perkins, Soil Survey of Ashe County.
- Diary of Bishop Spangenberg, in the Colonial Records, vol. V
- Thomas Henderson Letter Book,1810-1811.
- Connor, R. D. W., Colonial Revolutionary Periods, pp. 406-407.
- Colonial Records, Volume V, p. 1311.
- Draper, L. S., King’s Mountain and its Heroes, p. 437.
- Roosevelt, Theodore, The Winning of the West, volume 1, p.137
- Public Laws of North Carolina, 1799, p.17.
- Arthur, History of Western North Carolina, p.159.
- Public laws of North Carolina, 1799, p. 17.
- Record of Ashe County Court, March term 1809.
- Census Reports of the United States Government.
- Hardison and Perkins, Soil purvey of Ashe County.
- Files of the Rural Social Sciences Department of the University of North Carolina.
Education prior to the Civil War
There is very little authentic information concerning the early schools in Ashe County. The first settlement was not made until 1755, and there ware evidently no systematic attempts to promote education in this section prior to the Revolutionary War. In fact if the diary of David Woods, which furnished the basis of information for a series of articles in the Northwestern Herald, Jefferson, North Carolina, is reliable, a few schools were "kept" as early as 1784. The substance of one of these articles is as follows:
Most of the incidents about the early schools of this county hers in related era taken from the Notes and Diary of avid Woods, who was himself a schoolmaster, and kept school as ha terms it, and seems to have taken much interest in the schools and matters pertaining thereto. At the time he writes, which was in the period between 1784 and 1790. There were no schools so far as known before the earlier date, although, no doubt, in some instances parents may have instructed their children in the mysteries of letter and figures. In the summer of 1784, four schools were kept in what is now Ashe County, one on Grassy Creek, one on Helton, one somewhere up the North Fork, probably near Creston, and the fourth on Beaver Creek. Education seems to have been progressing, for five years later-in 1759 the schools were maintained at places as Follows: Grassy Creek, Helton, two up North Fork, one on Naked Creek, one on Beaver Creek, one near Crumpler, and two others tits location of which is uncertain.
The schools of that time were only kept open in the summer, or in fairly warm weather for a very obvious reason. When a school was decided on a place would beg selected, posts about ten feet high, with poles across the top on which bark peeled from trees was laid as protection from rain, the sides and ends were open. This is David Woods description of the first school house on Nathan's Creek. David Eggers description of the first school house on Cove Creek, Watauga County is very similar. For seats for the pupils two large logs would be placed lengthwise, at the sides and an the top of these at right angles would be placed smaller logs on which the pupils,or as they wets then called scholars sat.15
The salaries of the teachers of thin period were very small and were paid by various methods, as the following excerpt shows:
There being no public school system, the schools had to be maintained by the subscription at: patrons and even then only the better and more fortunate classes were able to support a school at that time, meager as the pay of a schoolmaster of that day seems now. David Woods who taught a six months school at Nathan's Creek in the summer of 1789 has kept in his diary what he received for that service w-hion is, as follows: 37 shillings-in Virginia money about four dollars and seventy five cents, 5 deer hams, 2 bear skins, 4½ yards of woolen cloth, and 1 cooking pot.16
During this early period boys and young men often underwent great hardships to obtain an education, as is illustrated by the following account:
About the year 1792 there were living on Grassy Creek and Helton three boys, George Wagg, John Patterson, Samuel Perkins, who were very eager for an education. At that time there was a high school, or academy at the Old Glade Presbyterian church in Washington County, Virginia, and the three boys determined at any coat to avail themselves of its opportunities. They would. leave home about midnight on Monday mornings walking the distance of thirty miles, reaching the school about nine o'clock, taking food enough along to last the week.
Saturday evening they would walk the distance bank to get the next week s supplies, returning to the school on Monday morning.-gor shelter during the week they built a rude camp in the woods near the school.17
The following account illustrates the usual qualifications for a teacher and also the methods of teaching in Ashe County during this early period:
The qualifications of a teacher of that time were quite different from what they are today. He was supposed to be a careen of dignified appearance and sedateness, and for that reason nearly ell of the early teachers were men past forty years of age, a female teacher was not to be thought of. If he happened to be the possessor of a long tailed coat and flowing beard his chance of securing a school were greatly enhanced. It is related that a man corning into this section at that time could not get a position as teacher because he was under thirty years of age.
As to the methods of teaching, the scholars usually name to school without books. The teacher would have a spelling book, a primary reader, and some kind of arithmetic to the end of simple division. This area the equipment ovary teacher had to have when he opened school in the morning. The boys were seated in a row cad ha would start teaching the one at the head for about five minutes, then he would pass to the next buy and so on down the line, returning to the head and repeating the exercises. While he was engaged with one boy the others sat waiting. As schools then usually lasted from sunrise to sunset the teacher could pass down the lire several times in the course of the day. If a boy showed dullness the teacher when quitting him would usually stride him along the side of the head and admonish him to do better next time. This is David Woods description of instruction during those early days.18
These accounts of the educational conditions in Ashe County, supposed to be based largely on the Notes and Diary of David Woods are not verified by the diary since it is not at this time available, but the incidents herein related appear to be typical of the country as a whole at this time and are probably very accurate accounts of the conditions in Ashe, which at that time was a part of Wilkes County. At least, in the absence of more authentic records, they have some value.
On account of the thinly-settled nature of the county and the mountain barriers which tended to keep the people isolated, schools were necessarily few and poorly supported. T. McGimsey, in his letter of 1812, quote; in full in chapter one, mentions the fact that the people in that county improve more in religion than in the arts and sciences, and ends by expressing the hope that more pains will soon be taken to improve the youth in the one as well as in the other. As late as 1823 Ashe County had no resident practicing attorney, physician, notary, public, academy, or newspaper".19 There are no records to indicate that there was ever established in Ashe county an academy typical of such institutions in other parts of the state.
If the United States census of 1840 tells the whole story concerning the number of schools in Ashe county at that time, very little was tiding accomplished. This census shows two primary and common schools in the county with an enrollment of forty-eight. The United states census of 150 reports 1,476 as attending school, but gives no data as to the number of schools. These statistics evidently apply only to the public schools of the county, and do not include private schools, which must have been in operation in the county at that time. If the enrollment given above represents the number of pupils the number of pupils in the public schools, considerable progress seams to have bean made under the school law of 1839. The provisions of this law made it possible to supplement local initiative by giving forty dollars to each school district that would raise by local taxation the sum of twenty dollars, There appears to have been a sentiment in Ashe County antagonistic to raising this amount by local taxation, for the records show that in the House of Commons James M. Nye voted in she affirmative on an amendment to the proposed scheme that the Literary Fund be apportioned to the counties, even though the counties refuse to levy a tax.20 There is no evidence that Ashe county ever levied a local- tax for schools prior to 1858, for this is the first year in which these is an available report shoving the amount of money for school purposes in the hands of the officials. This amount greatly exceeds the apportionment received from the Literary Fund.
The local support for 1858 was evidently a result of the law passed by the legislature in 1857 making it compulsory that a tax be levied by each county for school purposes. The law reads as follows:
The court of pleas and quarter sessions of every county, a majority of the justices being present, shall levy in the same manner as other county taxes are now levied which shall not be less than one-half of the estimated amount to be received by the said county for that year from the Literary Find.21
The legislative document of 1842-1843 shows Ashe County entitled to $1,505.70 from the Literary Fund, and the county was ordered to be paid $596.10, September,1841; $511.72, March,1842; $397.88, September,1842. A statement in the same document showing the operations under the act to "Establish Common Schools'' gives no report for Ashe County, therefore we do not know the manner in which these funds were used. A total of $1,021.25 was distributed fox the year 1844, but no report was made by the chairman of the Board of Superintendents to the Literary Board. According to the legislative document of 1850-51 Ashe County received $660.05 from the Litirary Fund in 1848, $545 in 1849, and $444 in 1850; but as before no reports were made to the Literary Board.
The greatest defect in the school system was its lack of s directing head-a state superintendent of schools who would have general supervision of the whole system; require a performance of duty on the part of local officials; and secure an organization and standardization of the whole school work. The performance of duty and even the interpretation of the law was too much in the hands of the local authorities. It was not operated as a part of the state administrative machinery. It parries the idea of local government to the extreme.22
The need for a directing head in the school system was especially important in counties such as Ashe,where the people were generally poor and felt less interest in education than the wealthier classes. They were usually more conservative, more suspicious, and leas ambitious.
On the bill providing for the appointment of a superintendent of schools Bower, who was a member of the legislative body from Ashe, voted in the negative.23 In the House of Commons B. C. Callaway from Ashe voted in the negative on a bill to provide for the education of teachers.24 If the votes of these men were representative of the public sentiment in Ashe County, there is revealed a general feeling of complacency as to the educational system. The office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction was, however created in 1852, and Calvin H. Wiley was appointed as the first superintendent. "Under his administration Conditions so improved that at the outbreak of the war in 1861 the state laid, just claim to educational leadership in the entire Southern States. This was accomplished largely through the resourcefulness versatility, and indefatigable toil of the superintendent."25
According to the report of Wiley, in 1853, Ashe county was divided into thirty-six districts, and a school was reported as having been taught in each district. The whole number of children reported in the thirty-six districts was 2,078, with an attendance of 1,055. The average length of the school term was 2 17/18 months. The salary ranged from $9 to $15 a month.26 The report of 1857 shows that the number of districts had increased to eighty-six and that schools were in fifty-six districts. The whole number of children reported for these districts was 4,226, with an attendance of 2,490. Fifty-six teachers were licensed for this year-two of whom were females. Since the number of teachers corresponds to the number of schools open, it appears that each school was conducted by one teacher. The average length of the school term for this year was 2 2/3 months. John Reeves was chairman of the Board of Superintendents.27
The number of districts by 1858 had increased. to ninety-three, in fifty-eight of which schools were taught. The number of children reported for this year was 4,371, with an attendance of 2,223. The average length of the school term was 2 2/3 months, with an average salary of $17 a month. The first statement as to the financial condition of the schools appeared during the yew 1858. The report showed in the hands of the chairman of the Board of Superintendents $3,725.14 of which $2,388.15 was spent for the operation of the schools, leaving a balance of $1,336.99.28
Although the number of districts had decreased to seventy-one by 1860, the number of districts in which schools were taught had increased to sixty-one. The number of children taught during this year vas 2,398, The length of the school term was three months-the auaregs for the state during this year was 3 2/3 months.29 As will be seen from these reports, the number of schools taught in Ashe County during 1860 and also the length of the school term exceeded those of any previous year for which reports were made.
The ninth annual report for the school year 1861-62, showed $4,509.93 in the hands of the chairman of the board of Superintendents, with disbursements amounting to only $1,894.13, leaving a balance of $2,615.80.30 Although the funds for this year exceeded those for 1858 the only previous year for which the amount of money in the possession of the chairman of the Board of Superintendents is reported-the disbursements indicate that the progress made during recent years was not being maintained. Wiley's report for 1863 - the last one made during the war-contains no information relative to the condition of the schools in Ashe county, There appear to be no county records that indicate what was done in the way of maintaining schools during the latter part of the war, but the general opinion seams to prevail among the older people of the county that there were few, if any schools open during this period. The situation was yell described by Wiley in his report for 1863:
The present generation does not need to be told that it was hard to keep up a general educational system during the year 1863; the character of the times and the nature of the obstacles interposed to moral progress of every kind are well understood. Considering the trials through which the country is passing,.ve are prepared to hear without surprise of the temporary suspension of enterprises with which our best hopes are bound up.31
Wiley's last report was made in January 1866. Although it contained but little information as to the condition of the schools, it was full of recommendations as to how the educational system of the state could be kept alive.
- Northwestern Herald, Jefferson, North Carolina, Apri1, 17, 1924
- Ibid., March 27, 1924
- Northwestern Herald, Jefferson, North Carolina, April 17,1924.
- Ibid., April 27,1924.
- North Carolina Register, 1823.
- Journal, House of Commons, 1839, p. 507.
- Public School Laws of North Carolina, 1857.
- Brammlett, Popular Education in worth Carolina from 1815 to 1860.
- Journal of the Senate,1852, p.206.
- Journal of the House of Commons, 1852, p. 455,
- Knight, Edgar W, Public Education in North Carolina, p,160.
- Annual Report of the State Superintendent of Schools, 1854.
- Ibid., 1857.
- Annual Report of the State Superintendent of common schools. 1860.
- Ibid., 1862.
- Annual Report of Superintendent of Schools, 1863.
Educational Development from the Civil War to 1900
The prospects for the revival of educational interest in dabs County after the Civil War were not very promising. The Literary Find, which through the efforts of Wiley, had been kept largely intact during the War, was now for true most rare lost Governor Worth in commenting on the situation in the state at this time makes tile following statement:
Since a few years immediately succeeding the Revolution of 17'76, there has been no time when public schools were so mush needed as at the present time. The School Districts laid off, with the school houses an them, exist all over the state, but war swept away the means which long years had accumulated. for paying the teachers. For the immediate revival of these schools this Board can do nothing. By the proper management of the swamp lands, it is hoped that another fund can. be created. In the meantime if the schools are to be revived, the wisdom of your honorable body must devise the means of sustaining them.32
It thus appears that there was no immediate source from which to draw funds for the adequate support of a school system. While it is true that a lava was emoted by the legislature in 1866 permitting tae justices of the county courts to authorise and collect a tax for the support of common schools, the people whose resources had been largely exhausted during the war were not enthusiastic about adopting such a permissive measure.
There still existed, however, much interact in education in the state as is partly revealed by the two legislative acts of 1866-67.One of these ants provided that towns and cities should establish public school systems "to be supported by taxes collacted for or corporation purposes." The other required county courts "to appoint county superintendents similar to those in service before the war, and to serve under the same rules and regulations."33 These acts, being the product of the native whites, show the determination of the people to re-build the schools of the state. "But for the plan of congressional Reconstruction, which set in immediately, the history of education in north Carolina would be n different story.34
In accordance with the congressional plan a constitution convention was called... which meet in January, 1868. The personnel of this body was unlike that of any former assemblage ever seen in any southern state; it was dominated by negroes and radicals. The greatest fight in the convention appears to have been made in regard to the education of the two races. The conservatives made efforts to have a clause in the constitution providing separate schools for tile whites and blacks. The constitution, finally passed by the convention, was ratified by the people without reference as to separate schools for the tyro races; however, very liberal provisions fog education were made by the new constitution as the following will show:
Sec. 2. The General Assembly, at its first session under thin constitution, shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of public schools, wherein tuition shall be free of charge to all children of the state between the ages of six and twenty-one years.
Sec. 3. Each county of the state shall be divided. into a convenient number of districts, in which one or more public schools shall be maintained, at least four months in every year; and if the said Commissioners of any county shall fail to comply with the aforesaid requirements of this section, they shall be liable to indictment.35
In accordance with the provisions of the constitution the General Assembly in 1869 passed a school law more mandatory in its relation to school support than former legislation. There ware among the provisions of this now school law (1) a definitely prescribed school term of four months, (2) a provision for general school tax, (3) a prescribed scores of study. (4) provision for the appointment of a county examiner with well defined duties, As to the operation of this new school law, Ashley recommended that the funds for the first year be expended on a few good schools rather than on many poor or indifferent schools.
It is far better, and more economical, to employ a few able, well qualified teachers at good living wages, than many poor teachers at small wages. It is infinitely wiser, more for the public good, that a fate children should be correctly, instructed than that many should be erroneously and viciously taught. It is batter for the system of education new organizing, that thane should be a few good, rather than many poor schools. To give it a successful source the system must have a good beginning.36
It will be noted that this sentiment was expressed by Dr. Joseph Caldwell in his letter on education in 1832, and it appears to be a rather well-established and sound policy in the founding or public school systems.
As to the educational conditions in Ashe County immediately after the war, the records seem to indicate that the only provisions for schools were made through private efforts. Mrs. Mary Sutherland, who now lives at Sutherland, recently told me that in 1866 she taught the first boyhood of her home after the war. She further states that tuition was collected from the pupils and no part of her salary was received from public funds.
The first official report after the war of educational conditions in Ashe County appeared in 1869. It contains the following brief statement: "Fifty school houses, condition bad. Apportionment of public funds, $1,915.50."37 It appears, however, from the report of J. W. Todd, who had been appointed the first county examiner under the law of 1869, that the school funds for 1868 were not used, and that no public schools were in operation during that year. The report of Mr. Todd is as follows:
Jefferson, August 2. There have been opened in this county since October 1, 1869, four public schools, all of which were for white children. The number of children (white) attending public schools in this county since October 1, 1869, has been 150. Average amount a month paid teachers, first grade $20; second grade $17. Remarks: Preparations are being made to open schools in all of the townships this fall.38
The following abstracts from the annual reports of school committees in 1870 state the conditions in two townships in Ashe County.
Chestnut fall-whole. number of youth between six and twenty-one years of age actually residing in the township is 465. No school houses reported and no schools reported. Township failed to levy tax. Committee, E..J. Smith, and E. D. Grear.
Horse Creek-whole number of youth between the age of six and twenty-one years of age actually residing in the district is 329. Whole number of school houses 2, which are old log houses and much needing repairs. Committee, William A. Greene, and Junius Dunn.39
Names of the following teachers era reported fur Ashe County in 1870:
North Fork Township: Eleck McEwen
Piney Creek: William Brooks, and Edward Barker;
Staggs Creek: H. Squire.
It seems very probable that these were the only public school teachers employed in the county during 1870, for the report of the estate Superintendent of Schools for that year shows only sixty-eight males and. sixty-six females attending school and s total expenditure of $132 for teachers' salaries. The same report reveals a high rate of Illiteracy, for out of a total population of 9,573 there were 3,380 ten years old and over who could not read and write. When we consider that the negro population, which tends to keep the rate of illiteracy high, consisted of only 582, the situation appears all the more serious.
The anticipations of examiner Todd as expressed in his report of 1870 that preparations were being made to open schools in all the districts in tire fall were not realized.; or, if so, most of the schools users temporarily closed, for the Report of the State Superintendent of Schools in 1872 shows that only sixty-two pupils had attended school in Ashe County since 1870. The Report of the State Superintendent for 1893 indicates that considerable improvement had been made in the school system, for during that year fifty white schools here in operation with an attendance of 1,921 from a total school population of 3,652. This report shows also that $2,294.78 was spent for the operation of the white schools during this year, and $14 for the operation of the colored schools.
The following is a complete statistical report as to the condition of the schools in dens for the year 1874:
1874 Educational Conditions Category Value Funds expended $2,552.25 Number of children (white) 3,818 Number of children (colored) 255 Number public schools (white) 63 Number public schools (colored) 3 Number of children in school (white) 2,854 Number of children in school (colored.) 110 Teachers approved (white) 60 m. 5 f.m. 65 Teachers approved (colored) 3 m. 340
If this report is compared with the one for the previous year, it will be seen that a slight improvement was made In the educational conditions. The number of white schools had increased. from fifty to sixty; colored schools from one to three. The attendance of write children had increased from 1,921 in 1873 to 2,854 in 1874. The 120 colored children enrolled in 1874, when compared with the nineteen enrolled in 1873, indicate a considerable advancement in the educational provisions for the negroes.
The Reconstruction period in North Carolina came to an end in 1876,during which period many important changes were made which tended toward an improvement or the educational system of the state. Following those years remarkable enthusiasm for public education was manifested by such men as E. A. Alderman, W. H. Page, and Charles McIver.
The thoughtful men of the time knew that the fortunes and prosperity of the mouth could be restored only by school systems adapted to the changed conditions; they understood that the industrial development of the South and her religious and social development all depended on the general education of the people. The beginning had to be made in poverty and discouragement and in the face of numerous difficulties which tested the hope of a people already threatened with despair.41
Probably the moat keenly felt weakness in the public school system of the state at this time was the lack of call prepared teachers. Governor Vance in transmitting a message to the legislature in 1877 said:
It is impossible to have an effective public school system without providing for the training of teachers. The blind cannot lead the blind. Mere literary attainments are not sufficient to make its possessor a successful teacher. There must be added the ability to influence the young and to communicate knowledge. There must be a mastery of the best modes of conducting schools, and bringing out the latent possibilities, intellectual and moral of the pupils nature ------The schools in which this gaining is conducted, called normal colleges or normal schools have been found by experience to be the moat efficient agents in raising up a body of teachers who infuse, new life and vigor into the public schools.
The recommendations of Governor Vance wore net without results, for the legislature of 1877 enacted two laws of vital importance for the development of the school system. One of these lays provided for the establishment of normal schools, and tile other gave towns the authority to raise extra funds for school purposes.
Although the end of the Reconstruction period marked the beginning of the restoration of public confidence and a renewed and rare enthusiasm for public education, the results were not immediate in Ashe County, as the State superintendent's Report for 1877 indicated. During this year sixty-Pour schools were in operation with an enrollment of 2,771. The total disbursements for schools amounted to42 $2,178.91. This report, both as to the number of pupils enrolled and as to the amount of funds expended, shows a worse condition than existed in 1874. But as stated in a previous chapter the isolation of Ashe from the rest of the state and the small negro population subjected it less than most other sections of the state to the perils of the Reconstruction period. For the souse reasons the restoration of conservative rule in the state had fewer immediate results on the conditions in Ashe County.
The following is a statistical report of the educational conditions in Ashe for the year 1879:
Ashe 1879 Educational Conditions Category Value Number of school districts (white) 105 Number of school districts (colored) 6 Number of school houses (white) 31 Number of school houses (colored) — Number of schools (white) 76 Number of schools (colored) 7 Children of school age (white) 5,153 Children of school age (colored) 232 Children attending (white) 2,862 Children attending (colored) 153 Average attendance (white) 1,610 Average attendance (colored) 110 Value of school property (white) $1,707 Value of school property (colored) —– Average monthly salary $15.40 Disbursements $3,345.5343
This report shows that of the 105 white districts only thirty-three had buildings. More then half of the schools for thin year ware evidently taught in private houses. It is also interesting to note that, although only $3,345.33 was spent for public schools in the county for the year 1879, this exceeded by $1,638.33 the value of the school property. An examination of the report further reveals that only 31 per cent of the white children were in average daily attendance.
A very complete and authentic record of the school at Jefferson for the year 1879-80 is found in the school register kept by John B. Hands, teacher for that year. The school committee consisted of Quincy F. Neal, Nathan H. Waugh, and George W. Reeves The following subjects were taught: Webster's Speller, McGuffey's Readers, Davie's Mathematics (including algebra) Mitchell's Geography, Smith and Bullion's Grammar, Adam's Latin Grammar, Holme's History, and New Testament. The school term was five months in length with the monthly salary ranging from $5.00 for the first month to $19.25 for the fourth month, the amount received being based on the monthly enrollment.44
Mr. William Perkins, who now resides at Warrensville, North Carolina, relates that about 1881 Professor J.P. Marlin assisted by a Professor Lawrence conducted at Jefferson a school in which French, Latin through Virgil, Greek, and algebra were taught. The school at Jefferson appears to be the first in the county in which those secondary subjects ware given. There is at least some effort toward a vertical extension of the school system manifesting itself during this period.
The County Board of Education, in accordance with the law enacted by the General Assembly in 1881, abolishing the office of county examiner and providing for the "County Superintendent of Public Instruction" met the first Monday in August and elected Quincy F. Neal to fill this newly created office. Fits salary was fixed by law at $3.00 a day, provided this amount did not exceed 5 per cent of the funds due the county.45 The legislature of 1883, however, relieved the superintendent from the duty of inspecting the schools and reduced his salary to $2.00 a day.
As an illustration of the small amount of tuna the superintendent devoted to the schools of the county the following excerpt is given: "Ordered by the Board of education that the treasurer pay to Q. F. Neal six dollars for two days service for the month of February to the 8th. of March, 1882."46 Many other similar statements in the Minutes of the County Board of Education indicate that this excerpt shows about the average time that the superintendent devoted to his office during this period.
Some interest in local taxation as an aid to public schools was being manifested at this time as the following shows:
The petition of J. F. Greear and nine other white voters of school district number 3, Peak Creak township, Ashe County, North Carolina asking the County Commissioners to appoint a day for holding an election in said school district under the provisions of "an act to provide-for local assessment in aid of public schools" is received, and it is ordered by the Board that publication or notice be made in accordance with law.47
There is nothing in the Minutes of the Board of Education to indicate whether the district referred to voted the local tax.
A good indication that the public schools ware not meeting the educational demands of the people in dabs County is the large number of private schools that sprang up during the eighties and nineties. The number of such institutions reported in 1890 with the names of the principals and enrollments is as follows:
1890 Private Schools School Principal Enrollment Jefferson Academy E. F. Wakefield 60 Beaver Creek Academy Jno. C. McEwen 70 Creston Academy B. P. Grigsby 50 Sutherland Seminary Wm. A. Wilson 60 Graybeals Chapel Cicero Graybeal 55 Helton Academy D. P. Hurley 5048
Sutherland Seminary was probably the most popular and widely advertised of these private institutions. This school came into prominence about 1885 under the leadership of J. C. McEwen from Nashville, Tennessee. Students came from many parts of Western North Carolina as well as from Virginia and Tennessee among the students who attended this school were Spencer Blackburn, who later became United States Congressman, William R. Lovill, attorney at Boone, and William A. Wilson, who fox many years has been a missionary in Japan. The school began to decline after the departure of McEwen, and by 11396 had become an ordinary public school. At this time Mr. H. Jones became principal end reorganized the school with s teaching force of four. Under his administration the school made wonderful progress, the students coming from as far East as Iredell County, North Carolina, from as far North as Carroll County, Virginia, and from as far West as Tennessee. The enrollment averaged about 175, of which at least forty were boarding students. The graduates were admitted without examination to Trinity College, Emory and Henry College, and the University of North Carolina. This was the only school in Ashe County preparing students for college. The students were allowed to advance as rapidly as they were able, there being no grades and no classifications.49
During the nineties a Mr. Kirk conducted at Nathan's Creek a school that way of more than local interest and importance. Many boarding students attended this school. An interesting feature of this institution was a music department probably the first in connection with a school in Ashe County. This department did its part in the preparation of the "exhibition", as it was called., which marked the end of each session and gave much publicity to the school. The people yet relate how men, women, and children came for many miles, often from across the mountains, camping on the way, that they might attend this two days' "exhibition", and went away thrilled with such entertainment as they seldom had opportunity to hear. This school, however, was or short duration. There is an increased. importance attached to these schools, and their extended patronage is all the more significantly as one recalls the extreme isolation which characterized this county at that time.
In response to an inquiry in 1898 from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction as to the educational conditions in Ashe County, Superintendent J. W. Jones reported as follows:
I am sorry to say that vie have no teachers' association in our county. We organized one two years ago, but the teachers took so little interest that we had to abandon it.
We had a teachers institute during the peat summer, conducted by President Charles D. McIver, and enrolled thirty-sight teachers, and every one who entered seemed well pleased. with the work done, and went away, I am sure, determined to do better work in the future than in the past.
Our public schools seem to be looking up considerably, but they are not what they ought by any means.
There seems to be a greater interest manifested in education than ever before and. I am confidant the people will vote the specie school tax in soma of the townships in this county next year.50
Ashe County has had nine county superintendents of schools in the order of their appointment as follows: Quincy F. Neal, Reverend Ambrose Weaver, George W. Bower, Minter Blevins, J. W. Jones, W. H. Jones, J. O. Goodman, C. M. Dickson, J. O. Goodman (reappointed) and R. E. L. Plummer.
This chapter so far contains a detailed study of the educational conditions is Ashe County from the Civil Year to 1880 in so far as the available reports permit. Same study has bean included concerning from 1880 to 1900, especially in regard to private educational efforts. Since a detailed study of each year's work is hardly necessary for the latter period, the remaining discussion will be based on five-year periods.
Comparative Statistics from 1880 to 1900
Summary of Receipts Category 1880 1885 1890 1895 1900 State and County Poll tax $2012.18 $2839.00 $2,888.83 $3,571.41 $3,375.82 Property Tax 888.97 1,591.00 1,585.62 1,992.68 2,632.31 Fines, Forfeitures, and Penalties 235.00 137.00 100.27 143.23 187.34 State Treasurer – – 320.15 462.35 1,081.22 Other Sources – – 9.00 12.00 – Liquor Licenses – 83.13 19.19 – – Balance from Last Report 259.07 1,151.50 1,354.77 1,512.00 – Total $3,388.22 $5,802.25 $6,277.84 6,181.77 7,845.51 Disbursements Category 1880 1885 1890 1895 1900 Paid White Teachers $2,565.61 $3,865.43 $4,101.52 $5,294.07 $3,809.19 Paid Colored Teachers 186.16 243.60 226.01 177.65 101.61 Paid for Houses and Sites (colored) – 3.75 – 13.95 – Paid for Houses and Sites (white) 211.35 512.95 195.50 420.18 – Paid County Superintendent – 69.50 140.07 198.00 75.00 Paid Treasurer’s Commission 79.46 116.26 129.83 – – Paid for Institutes – – 64.80 – – Paid for expenses of County Board of Education – 5.00 – 18.00 54.20 Paid mileage per diem of County Board of Ed. – 41.30 65.20 89.00 – Paid Other Purposes – .70 10.00 150.44 3.46 Total $3.042.58 $4,904.49 $4,932.73 $6,484.92 $4,124.43 Balance on Hand 345.65 897.74 1,345.11 – 3,124.08 Census 6 to 21 Year White Colored Total 1880 5152 232 5384 1885 5887 347 6224 1890 6237 309 6546 1895 6445 299 6743 1900 7175 315 7490 Enrollment Year White Colored Total 1880 2687 205 2892 1885 3745 260 3878 1890 4336 110 4446 1895 3993 134 4127 1900 4571 95 4666 Average Attendance Year White Colored Total 1880 1714 153 1876 1885 1938 88 2026 1890 2576 26 2601 1895 2116 90 2206 1900 2524 70 2594 Average Length of School Term Year White Colored County Average State Average County Average State Average 1880 8 10 – – 1885 11 12 11 11.75 1890 10 11.85 8 11.81 1895 10.3 12.81 9 11.85 1900 12.75 14.66 8.20 13.07 Number of Teachers Year White Colored Male Female Total Male Female Total 1880 24 2 26 2 – 2 1885 48 5 53 2 4- 4 1890 52 4 56 4 2 6 1895 86 3 89 5 1 6 1900 58 12 70 2 2 4 Average Monthly Salary – White White Year County Average State Average Male Female Male Female 1880 $14.84 – $21.91 – 1885 18.00 – – – 1890 19.00 $16.00 25.80 22.95 1895 19.00 $17.00 23.14 20.91 1900 20.92 21.43 26.18 23.40 Average Monthly Salary – Colored Colored Year County Average State Average Male Female Male Female 1880 – – – – 1885 $15.50 – – – 1890 17.00 14.00 $22.72 $20.36 1895 15.00 15.00 23.14 20.91 1900 16.66 15.00 21.14 19.82 Number of School Districts Year White Colored Total 1880 105 6 111 1885 94 6 100 1890 96 8 104 1895 99 8 107 1900 103 10 113 Number of School Houses Year White Colored Total 1880 31 – 31 1885 60 2 62 1890 90 (35 log) 5 (5 log) 95 1895 80 (26 log) 6 (1 log) 86 1900 74 (24 log) 6 (2 log) 80 Number of Schools Taught Year White Colored Total 1880 77 8 85 1885 78 6 84 1890 91 8 99 1895 85 6 91 1900 89 5 94 Value of School Property Year White Colored Total 1880 $3,636.00 – $3,636.00 1885 $6480.00 100.00 $6580.00 1890 9,000.00 200.00 9,200.00 1895 9,850.00 270.00 10,120.00 1900 9,873.00 245.00 10,118.00
These comparative statistics for the public school system of Ashe county from 1880 to 1900 reveal some very interesting facts. It will be observed that the total receipts of the county for educational purposes increased from, $6,088,22 in 1880 to $6,277.84 in 1890. In 1095 the total receipts amounted to $6,181.77, which represents a alight decrease from the amount spent in 1880. The moat significant foot in connection with these comparative figures of the total receipts and disbursements is that, although the available funds for 1900 were $7,845.51, the total expenditures amounted to only $4,124.43. As will be observed from the foregoing tables this represents the smallest amount disbursed for educational purposes during any of the periods for which statistics are tabulated with the exception of the year 1880. The fact that Ashe County agent less for schools in 1900 than for those previous periods indicates that the county had not yet caught the spirit of the educational revival which began to be felt in the state at this time.
During this twenty-year period the white school population increased 39 per cent and the enrollment 70 per cent, although the negro population slightly increased, there was an almost uniform decrease both in the enrollment and in the average attendance of negro children during this twenty-year period. In 1880 a little more than 50 per cent of the white children were in the public schools, with an average daily attendance of 66 per cent of the enrollment, which was 7 per cent less than the state average for that year. In 1900 about 63 per cent of the school population was enrolled with an average daily attendance of only 55 per cent of the total enrollment, which was 3 per cent lower than the state average for 1900.
The average length of the school term for the whites ranged from eight weeks in 1880 to 12.75 weeks in 1900, although this represents an increase of about 50 per cent in the length of the school term during this twenty-year period, it is interesting to observe that at no time does it equal the state average. The average length of the school term for the negroes decreased during this period, ranging from eleven weeks in 1885 to 8.20 weeks in 1900.
Salaries for white teachers steadily increased from $14.84 in 1880 to $20.92 in 1900. It is significant to note that in 1900 women teachers were paid $21.92 a month, which -was slightly more than the men teachers received for that year. As was true in the case of the average length of the school term, at no time during this period does the teachers' monthly salary for the county equal the average for the state.
The number of school houses for white ranges from thirty-one in 1880 to ninety in 7890. The number then decreases to seventy-four in 1900. It will be observed that the year 1890 represents the peak both in the number of school houses and in the number of schools taught. At no time during this period. did the number of school houses equal the number of schools taught. The number of school districts for whites totaled 105 in 1880; by 1885 the number had decreased to ninety-four. The remaining periods show a gradual increase in the number of districts.
Only two white women teachers were employed in the county in 1880. This number remained rather constant until 1900, when twelve women were employed in the public school system. The small number of women in the teaching profession in Ashe county is probably explained by the fact that at this period the chief duty of the teacher was often considered "keeping order", and the teacher's success was generally measured by the facility and frequency with which he used the rod . In the performance of these duties women were thought less efficient than men.
An examination of the data collected shows that Ashe County made little progress in her educational system during this twenty-year period. In some respects the conditions appear worse in 100 than during the earlier periods.
- Legislative Document, 1866-67.
- Knight, E.W., Public School Education in North Carolina, pp.224-25.
- School Laws of North Carolina, 1869.
- Ibid., April 27,1924.
- Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1869.
- Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1868.
- Ibid., 1870.
- Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1870.
- Report of State :superintendent of Schools, 1874.
- Knight, E. W., Public Education in North Carolina, p. 296.
- Report of State Superintendent of Public Instruction,1877.
- Report of State Superintendent of Public Instruction,1879.
- Public School Register for 1879-80 (in office of Ashe County superintendent of schools).
- Acts of the General Assembly, 1881, Chapter 200.
- Minutes of the Ashe county Board of Education, 1882.
- Minutes of the Ashe County Board of Education.
- Annual Report of the State Superintendent, 1890.
- This information was secured largely from W. H. Jones, principal of the school and later County Supt. of Schools.
- Report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1896-98.
Chapter IVh4>From 1900 to 1920
Although the beginning of the educational revival in North Carolina is closely associated with the beginning of the twentieth century, we should not overlook the fact that preparation for this great awakening was being made as early as the eighties when Charles D. Mclver and Edwin Alderman stumped the state in the interest of popular education. No doubt, much of the enthusiasm and spirit of this educational revival radiates from Walter Hines Page, a North Carolinian, who at that time was living in the North. At the invitation of Dr. McIver, who amid marry difficulties has established the State Normal college for women, page delivered an address at this institution in 1897, in which he used the phrase, "The Forgotten Man" This became tile slogan for the educational campaign, because "It summed up in a way, that a thousand speeches could never have done, the great purpose for which the best people in the state were striving."
The educational sentiment created by these men, the increased wealth, the elimination, of the negro from politics, and the suggestion of a provision in the constitution requiring a literacy test for voting, all tended to make the time ripe for an educational revival. Probably, most prominent among the leaders was Governor Charles B. Aycock who like an unending tornado, so full of energy, covered the entire state in behalf of its educational interests.
In this chapter an effort will be wade to indicate the results of this revival on the Educational conditions in she county between the years 1900 and 1920, attar giving a brief discussion of the general educational conditions in the county, comparative statistics are given for the five year intervals from 1905 to 1920 inclusive, followed by a brief interpretation of the facts revealed by these statistics.
The spirit and enthusiasm of this educational awakening in the state appears to have had little immediate effect on the conditions in Ashe. As late as 1905 only one district in the county had voted a special tax to supplement the public school tern. There were no rural libraries in the county before 1905. The following excerpt from the annual report of the Ashe County Superintendent of Schools for 1905 gives a general survey of the conditions at that time.
There is only one district in the county that has voted local tax to supplement their public school term. This is the Jefferson district. We have only six rural libraries in the county. They have all been taken this year. These libraries contain 500 volumes, and from the report of the librarians it is very evident that they are appreciated by the communities in which they are located.
The system of gradation adopted for the schools was put in operation this year. The schools have been made more efficient by this, and the rules and Regulations adopted by the Board of Education have made school government less difficult. I am glad to report that substantial progress has been made along all lines of educational work. More interest has been showing by the patrons, the enrollment was the largest, and the attendance was the best in the history of our schools. The old log school house has about disappeared from our county, and good substantial buildings are taking their place. We now have in the county nine school houses built after the state plan and five more in the progress of erection. During the year, township meetings have been held in each township in the county. Most of these meetings were well attended by both teachers and citizens, and much interest manifested.
One evidence of local interest in education is the number of districts which voted a special tax for school support. As the above statement indicates there was only one such district in 1905, but by 1912 the number had increased to five. Jefferson voted the special tax in 1903: North Fork, Ebenezer, and Helton Academy, in 1906; Mill Creek in 1912. The special tax consisted of a thirty cent levy in all of the districts except Ebenezer which voted a twenty cent levy.51 Seven local tax distracts are reported for the year 1920. Although this shows an increase of only two over the number reported for 1912, the tendency to-ward an increase in the number of local tax districts has been lessened by consolidation, but the amount of territory and the number of pupils residing within the districts may have been increased as the size of the units are enlarged by consolidation. That some efforts were being made toward consolidation is indicated by the decrease in the number of one-room schools from seventy-five in 1915 to fifty-eight in 1920.The number of schools reported as having two or more teachers in 1910 was eleven, but in 1920 there were thirty-three schools employing two teachers each; five employing three teachers and three employing four or more teachers.
Although the state passed a law in 1907 making provisions for the establishment of high schools, as late as 1916 only one such school was reported for Ashe County--the Helton High School with an enrollment of thirty-nine, and employing one teacher.52 The report for the next year, however, lists the following high schools: Grassy Creek, Helton, and West Jefferson.53
A brief explanation of some of the obstacles that have tended to prevent the rapid growth of the school system in Ashe County, and also an account of the progress in school building during the latter half of the period covered; by this chapter are contained in the following statement by Mr. C. M. Dickson on County Superintendent of Schools:
On account of the geography of the county we can do very little consolidation, but wherever possible we are consolidating.
When the state authorities learn that our schools run in zero weather; that the streams become unfordable in a very few minutes; that the snow drifts are often six to eight feet deep; that the streams are frequently frozen over; and that in consequence of these things that we have to visit most of these schools on horseback, they will be ready to be somewhat indulgent if our progress does not appear to be as "marked" as some of the more for fortunate counties.
We might further say that we have no Rural Supervisor, no Farm Demonstrator, no stenographer, nor help of any kind.
Notwithstanding these handicaps with two severe epidemics of "flu" and four years of war, we have built new and; put additions to 60 per sent of our school houses, or an average of six a year for the last ten years.
The further fact that we are paying road bonds and that the reaction in business that has none about considerably retards rapid progress along educational lines, yet we feel optimistic and are striving for greater things in the future.54
Although the obstacles referred to above have bean real problems in any attempt to build up a creditable system of schools in Ashe County, on account of the changed conditions that have recently occurred in the county, especially the facility with which the people are brought together because of the county and state system of highways, many of these former hinderances are no longer to be considered.
The following pages give a brief statistical summary of the educational development of this period taken from the reports of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Total School Fund and Total Expenditure Year Receipts Disbursements Balance 1905 $14,302.32 $12,563.39 $1,738.93 1910 $17,418.55 $17,088.34 $330.21 1915 $36,241.08 $29,038.10 $7,202.98 1920 $71,956.20 57,810.22 14,145.98 School Population and Attendance Year White Colored School Census Enrollment Average Daily
School Census Enrollment Average Daily
1905 7150 5912 2854 275 248 173 1910 7166 5770 2154 275 248 182 1915 7158 5992 5880 85 80 53 1920 7228 5689 2955 198 131 24 Number of Teachers, Average Monthly Salary, & Length of School Term in Days Year White Colored Number of
Length of School
Term in Days
Length of School
Term in Days
1905 110 70 $24.73 10 70 $12.48 1910 110 68 33.16 10 60 15.83 1915 124 100 36.52 10 65 12.09 1920 159 129 – 6 65 – Number of School Houses, Number of Districts, and Value of School Houses Year White Colored Number of
1905 96 94 $12,975 10 10 $350 1910 95 93 $14,975 9 – 350 1915 100 100 $40,380 10 10 700 1920 100 100 $54,050 10 9 1900
The foregoing tables of statistics indicate a general trend of improvement in the educational situation in Ashe County, although in some respects the growth was not what might have been expected. The total expenditures for the county for school purposes increased from $12,563.39 in 1905 to $17,088.34 in 1910. This increase represents an annual increment of almost one thousand dollars .The expenditures increased from $17,088.34 in 1910 to $57,810.22 in 1920, which represents an average annual increase of about three thousand dollars. It is interesting to notice that there was a balance of $14,145.98 for the year 1920. This seems to indicate that the receipts for school purposes were increasing more rapidly than the school system was expanding as judged. by the total expenditures. One reason for the larger proportional increase in the total receipts and expenditures over the five year period, extending from 1915 was the passage by the General Assembly in 1918 of the act requiring a minimum school term of six months for the state, and provisions for greater state aid.
If we accept the general principle that attendance is in direct proportion to the efficiency of tire schools and the school system the results during the period under discussion were not as satisfactory as might be expected from an examination of the total receipts and. expenditures. There was only a slight change in the total school population during this period. The number reported for 1905 was 7150, which was only eight less than reported for the year 1915. In 1920 the number had reached 7228, an increase of only seventy during the five year interval. The following table shows the per cent of the school population enrolled and the per cent of enrolment in average daily attendance in compassion with the standards for the state. The facts to presented in this table were derived from the reports of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Per Cent of school Population enrolled and Average Daily Attendance Year Per Cent of school Population enrolled Average Daily Attendance County State County State 1905 82 69.2 48 59 1910 80 72.9 37 67.1 1915 83 77.4 64 69.8 1920 78 83.3 51 68.5
These tables reveal the rather interesting fact that the per cent of school population enrolled in the schools of Ashe County exceeded the state average for each period with the exception of 1920. Although the per cent of the school population enrolled in the schools of the state as a whole shows a uniform increase during this period, the reverse situation is true in Ashe. There were only 5689 children enrolled in the schools in 1920 as compared with 5912 in 1905, which is a decrease of 223, or 3.7 per cent. It will be seen that the per cent of school population enrolled in the schools of Ashe County in 1905 was 12.8 greater than the enrollment for the state during the same year, but in 1920 it was 5.3 per cent less than the state average. Probably, a better index as to the real situation is the per cent of the enrollment in average daily attendance. As the tables show, this at no time, during the period under discussion equals the state average. In 1910 only 37 per cent of the children enrolled in the schools wee in actual daily attendance, which represents only about 30 per cent of the total school population in the county. In 1920 about 40 per cent of the school population was in average daily attendance. An examination of the above tables shows that the percentage of negro school enrollment in average daily attendance was greatly reduced during this period. In 1920 only 17 per cent of the negro children enrollees in the schools was in average daily attendance as compared with 69 per cent in 1905. The low average daily attendance for these years was, no doubt an indictment against the efficiency of the school system. However, there were other factors that tended to deep the attendance low. The severity of the weather and the frequent impassable condition of the roads have made regular attendance in the schools difficult in these mountainous sections. It is probable that the increased school term may have kept the average daily attendance low. Many of the parents who felt it burdensome to send their children to the short term schools sent them more irregularily as the term became longer, the children dropping out of school early in the spring to assist in the work on the farm and in the home was a common occurrence. The lack of any organized effort to enforce the compulsory attendance law in Ashe has kept the attendance irregular.
The number of white teachers increased from 110 to 159 in 1920, or an increase of 44 per cent. The number of negro teachers :vas constant until 1920 when there was a decrease of 40 per cent. The length of the school term for the white schools increased from 70 days in 1905 to 129 days in 1920. This is an increase of 44 per cent. The length of the term in the negro schools in 1920 eras 7 per cant less than in 1905. The salary of the negro teachers was slightly less in 1915 than in 1905. During the same period the average monthly salary of the white teachers had increased from $24.73 to $36.52-an increase of 48 per cent. Although there is some evidence of improvement in the school system in the county during this period, still it is obvious that the pace kept by the state as a whole was not maintained.
Present Educational Conditions
In the preceding chapters an attempt has been made to show the educational development of Ashe County up to 1920. Although many details of the story have not been treated, the discussion has been sufficiently complete to show the general educational trend in the county. The educational enthusiasm that characterized the state at various times during the periods under discussion appears to have risen in Ashe County rather tardily. However, the previous discussions show that some real efforts were made of enrich and expand the school system of the state. The present chapter will attempt to point out the educational progress made in the county since 1920.
No efforts have been made to reorganize the schools in accordance with the general county wide plan. During the early part of this period, under the direction of Mr. R. E. L. Plummer, consolidation project was begun in the Greasy Creek community, the Virginia-Carolina High School forming the nucleus. Three small schools were abandoned and the students transported to the central school, one wagon being used is transporting the pupils in 1922-23. This appears to be the first attempt to transport pupils is Ashe county at public expense. The Virginia-Carolina High School has continued to grow, and at the present time (1929) employs fourteen teachers in all the departments. This school maintains teacher training, agricultural end domestic science departments, and in every respect is the largest school to the county.
Largely through the influence of Mr. R.E.L. Plummer another consolidation project is under way at Crumpler. The Fairview, Crumpler, and part of the Chestnut Hill schools have been consolidated, and a modern twelve room building constructed This school will open in 1929 with seven teachers. With the exception of the foregoing projects little has been done in the way of consolidation. West Jefferson High School is the second largest in the county. This school employs ten teachers in all the departments which at the present include domestic science and commercial courses. Lansing High School and the Jefferson High School are both on the accredited list, the former employing eight teachers and the latter six teachers. There are four accredited high schools maintained in the county Grassy Creek, West Jefferson, Jefferson, and Lansing, The following non-accredited. high schools are in operation: Helton, Bowie, Green Valley, Elkland, and Crumpler. The following tables show the rapid growth of high school enrollment and of high school graduates during the period under discussion:
Public High School Enrollment Year Amount 1920 99 1921 105 1922 147 1923 282 1924 242 1925 385 1926 580 1927 576 Eight year increase 477 Public High School Graduates Year Amount 1920 5 1921 11 1922 12 1923 37 1924 34 1925 33 1926 38 1927 73 Eight Year Increase 68
The tables show an increase of 481 percent in the high school enrollment, and an increase of 1360 percent in the number of graduates, Although this increase in the number of high school pupils enrolled is significant, still the number enrolled in 1927 is only about 8 percent of the total school enrollment of the county, as compared with 14.2 percent for the whole state.
All children of the county who desire to attend high school are permitted to go free of charge for the six months term provided by the state. Those students who do not live in the special tax school districts pay tuition for the extended term. According to the report of the Mate Educational Commission in 1927, there were the following special school tax districts in the county.
School Tax Districts District Rate Amount Bowie 30 $1,177.85 Elkland 20 463.71 Grassy Creek 30 1,034.95 Green Valley 20 250.25 Helton 20 463.00 Jefferson 20 720.22 Lansing 30 909.63 Oval 20 206.22 River View 20 549.72 Sutherland 20 518:11 West Jefferson 30 2,008.00 Total for the County 8,101.66
The above amount received from local ad valorem taxes represents only about 6.5 percent of the total receipts for the current school expense fund for 1927, as compared with 19.4 percent for the entire state. This snows that Ashe County is far behind the pane set by the state in supplementing state and county funds. It alas indicates that the only schooling received by the majority of the school children in she County is that provided by the constitutional six months term-there were seventy three six months’ schools in the county in 1927.
The total amount of revenue received for school purposes from all sources for the year 1920-27 was $131,70.41. This amount was derived from the following sources:
Revenue for Schools Category Amount State Funds $33,545.39 Poll Tax 4,191.00 Fines, Forfeitures, Penalities 1,537.97 Dog Tax 1,814.00 Other Sources 609.00 County Ad Valorem 62,506.01 Local Tax 8423.25 Rural Libraries 50.00 Temporary Loans 3,000:00 Total Income All Sources $131,767.41
In 1927 the county spent $129,061.01 for education. The disbursements and the amount spent for each item were as follows:
Educational Disbursements Category Amount Instructional Services $110,814.99 General Control 3,830.94 Operation of Plant 3,150.01 Maintenance of plant 1,39.05 Fixed Charges 30.00 Auxiliary Agencies 4,242.05 Capital Outlay Fund 2,9413.14 Debt Service Fund 2,666.83 Total $129,081.01
The above tables show that in 1927 Ashe County spent about 85 per cent of her school funds for instructional services, as compared with 76 per cent for the entire state. Although the expenditures of the county for instructional services were 9 per cent greater than for the state, still in the per capita its cost of instruction Ashe County ranked 99, in comparison with the other counties of the state. The per capita cost of instruction in Ashe County for 1925-26 was $14.54, as compared with $26.54 for the whole state.
Although the total disbursements for education in Ashe were 125 per cent more in 1927 than in 1920, still the county ranked 98 in total school expenditures, as compared with the other counties of the state, The par capita school expenditure for Ashe in 1927 was $19.13, as compared with the state average of $39.63.
The value of school property increased $199,850 or 369 per cent during the period from 1919 to 1927. This is a significant increase, but in comparison with the 582 per cent increase in the value of the school property for the state during the same period, shows up rather poorly. The State School Facts, published at Raleigh shows that in 1928 Ashe County ranked 99, in comparison with the other counties of the state as to the value of school property.
In 1925-26 Ashe County ranked 98 among the counties of the state in the number of one room schools-thirty-two such schools having bean reported in the county for that year. About 58 per cent of the pupils enrolled in the public schools of Ashe in 1925-26 were found in one and two teacher schools. When we consider the inefficiency of the instruction in these types of schools, together with the short school term, which in no case exceeds the minimum length fixed by the state, the disadvantage at which these children are placed is apparent. The average length of tape school term for the white children was only four days longer in 1927 than it was in 1921, the term that year being 124 days. The colored. children attended school 120 days in 1927 which was fifty-five days longer than they attended in 1921, still in no instance does the term in these colored schools exceed the constitutional six months’ term.
As stated elsewhere in this chapter little has been done in the way of consolidating the schools of this county. o statement, however, as to the growth of transportation o: pupils will indicate the tendency toward a more effective consolidation program. In 1922-23 only one wagon was used in the transportation of pupils but in 1925 there were five wagons and three motor trucks transporting pupils to four schools; in 1927 the county had a fleet of eleven trucks which made an average of sixty-six miles a day, transporting 387 pupils to five schools. Most of the pupils in the one, two, and three room schools walk, many walking two miles or more.
In 1927 the bonded indebtedness of the county was $1,445,000. None of the proceeds of these bonds was spent for school purposes. The total school indebtedness of the county in 1927 was only $9,000, or six-tenths of one per cent of the entire indebtedness of the county. The bulk of the resources from these bonds was spent for road construction, although a large part of the roads are still untouched, and during the winter era frequently are impassable. The heavy taxes incurred by these bonds, and the apparent lack of wisdom with which their proceeds wars spent, have made the people antagonistic toward the issuing of bonds or increasing the tax rate for the purpose of any form of public improvement. The County Commissioners have adopted a very conservative policy, which makes it difficult to execute a creditable school building program.
The following tables show the development of the county in the field of education during the period covered by this chapter.
Total Value of School Property Year Amount 1921 1922 1923 180,375 1924 248,000 1925 250,000 1926 260,000 1927 253,900 Five year increase $73,525 Total Public School Expenditures Year Amount 1921 $ 8,937.71 1922 90,755.77 1923 107,103.24 1924 106,616.03 1925 124,296.58 1926 130,846.21 1927 129,081,01 Seven year increase $39,709.30 Total Number of Teachers Employed Year Amount 1921 165 1922 168 1923 177 1924 176 1925 187 1926 190 1927 193 Seven Year Increase 28 Total Public School Enrollment Year Amount 1921 5810 1922 6279 1923 6308 1924 6559 1925 6742 1926 7153 1927 6609 Seven Year Increase 899 Average Daily Attendance Year Amount 1921 2979 1922 4298 1923 4323 1924 4544 1925 5148 1926 4975 1927 4766 Seven Year Increase 1787 Length of School Term in Days Year White Colored 1921 120 65 1922 120 60 1923 130 60 1924 149 117 1925 124 100 1926 149 120 1927 124 120 Seven Year Increase 4 55 Rank of Teachers in Scholarship Year Rank 1923 90 1924 90 1925 86 1926 91 1927 92 1928 97
In this study an attempt has been made to show the development of education in Ashe County from its earliest beginning to the present time. There appears to have been very little interest in education in the county during the ante-bellum period, with the exception of the period immediately preceding the war, at which time the educational conditions were as good as at any time thereafter prior to 1900. No great educational. movements appear to have their beginning in rural sections. The progress made in every phase of education in our country seems to have been made possible through the initiative of the city school systems, Ashe County is almost entirely a rural section, thus the spirit of cooperation which is necessarily characteristic of our larger towns has not been yell learned in this county, The people have maintained a rather conservative and complacent attitude in regard to their school system, not so much because of a lack of interest in the training of their children, as the need for a proper conception of what constitutes a creditable school system. The county is in immediate need of safer and better school buildings, equipment, supervision of instruction, better trained teachers, and richer courses of study.
Every child in Ashe County, no matter in what part of the county he lives, should have as good a chance in as good a school as the economic wealth of the whole county is able to provide. It is unjust and unfair to penalize a boy or girl within the county and deny him educational opportunities because he happens to live in a weaker district. There should be the same rate of taxes over the entire county, and every boy and girl 1n the county should be provided with adequate educational opportunities. The answer as to how these opportunities may be provided appears to be found in the consolidation of the small ineffective schools into larger and better organized school centers. Due to the geographical conditions it may be difficult to eliminate all of the one room schools in this county. There will, probably, be for a long while to coma isolated communities which must be served by the one room school, but with a properly and intelligently organized county wide plan of consolidation, these one room schools to an almost negligible number.
The West Jefferson and Jefferson schools, which are situated. within two miles of each other and connected by a splendid highway, should be consolidated. In 1928-29 the average high school attendance in the West Jefferson school was 109, and in the Jefferson school sixty-six. The territory which serves these two schools overlap, students passing by one school to attend the other; it thus appears to be poor economy for the county and an injustice to the children to operate two small, inefficient, poorly equipped high schools in such close proximity, when by means of consolidation creditable school with an enriched course of study could be operated.
A consolidation program should be worked out in the Helton township. The Helton High School, which is a two teacher, three year, non-standard. high school should be moved to a suitably location nearer the center of the district, and Little Helton, Chapel, Silas Creek, and landmark included in this consolidated center, in this ray a splendid standard school could be maintained instead of the small, poorly equipped ones that now exist.
A union school should be built in the Nathan’s Creek community, which should include the Dog Creek, Huckleberry, Scottsville, Nathan’s Creek, and possibly the Stony Flat and Friendship schools. On account of the state highway, which is in easy access to these schools, this consolidation could be easily effected. It has not been the purpose of this study to work out and suggest a complete consolidation program for Ashe County, but merely to indicate through the above exam the possibilities of such a program.
Prior to arty such project a scientific survey should be made and the plan worked out in the interests of all the children of the county, and not in accordance with the desires of a few influential citizens who may be moved by local or selfish interests. It is decidely better to delay final acting in such cases until a sane, logical program own be effected.
This consolidation would enable the schools to offer a richer and more varied course of study better suited to the needs of the children. The preceding statement might suggest question as to what are the needs of the children, and how are those needs to be best served. This intelligent directing, or discovering of the childrens’ interests and abilities through a sane program of educational guidance is one of the big problems which many of the schools have never touched; upon. The larger consolidated schools would be able to accomplish much more in the way of educational and vocational guidance than the small schools which with few exceptions are able to offer courses of study outside the traditional curriculum.
Some form of supervision should be provided for the Ashe County schools. The greatest safeguard that the county can set up for the effective expenditure of the public school money, and the securing of the proper instruction for the child, is to provide an effective system of supervision. No large business concern would employ hundreds of persons and set each of them running a machine entirely in accordance with his own notion of things. The proper administration of a school system is of infinitely more difficulty and importance than the management of an industry, although the tendency has bean to employ teachers and send them out each one to run a school in any way that her personal inclination and wisdom might direct. In view of the fact that the teachers of Ashe County rank so low in efficiency and scholarship, and that no organized program of supervision has ever been attempted by principals, superintendents, or supervisors, it appears that the setting up of some such program is one of the outstanding needs in the county.
There should be some provision by which the County Superintendent of Schools might keep in closer touch with his school system and. know more of its problems. The County Superintendents have, either from choice or necessity, used the greater part of their time in the details of office work which could have been done just as well, if not better, by 3n office girl at one-third the salary paid the superintendent. When a superintendent urea his time iii this manner he is neither able to formulate polices nor to direct intelligently the activities of all the educational forces of the county to the end that the work may be efficiently and economically done, which should be the chief function of a superintendent.
Although the state law provides for the compulsory attendance of pupils, very little effort has ever been made to enforce this statue in Ashe County. To the end tact all the children of this county may use the educational facilities provided, some provision should be made for the appointment of an attendance officer.
With a critical public opinion demanding economy, and the efficiency of the school system far below state standards, soma form of publicity campaign should be staged in the county in order that the people may have a clearer conception as to just where they stand educationally.
There is much truth in the philosophy that a people can have as good a school system as they desire, and there is little doubt that once the people of Ashe County understand the importance of the never and better typos of training, that they will make the sacrifice, if necessary, that their children may have the opportunity of developing every power within them and of utilizing every resource about them.
(There is no available school map of Ashe County)
Annual Report of the State Supervisor of Public high Schools, Raleigh, 1920 to 1926.
Annual Report of the Ashe County Superintendent of Schools, 1905.
Arthur, J. P. History of Western North Carolina, Raleigh, 1914.
Bramlett, A.L., Popular Education in North Carolina, 1815 to 1860. Master’s Thesis University of Chicago, 1917)
Colonial Records; Volume V.
Connor, A. D. W.,Colonial Revolutionary Periods, New York, 1919.
Draper, L. C. King’s Mountain and its Heroes, Cincinnati, 1881.
Federal Census 1800 to 1920.
Hardison and Perkins, Soil Survey of Ashe County, Washington, 1914.
Henderson, Thomas, Letter Book, Raleigh,1810-1811.
Journal of House of Commons, 1839, and 1852.
Journal of the Senate, 1852.
Knight. Edgar W. Public Education in North Carolina. Boston, 1916.
Mebane, Charles H. Educational Report 1896-98, Raleigh.
Minutes-Ashe County Board of Education, 1882 to 1927.
News and Observer, August 3, 1922, Charlotte.
Northwestern Herald, March 27, 1924, April 17, 1924, and April 27, 1924, Jefferson, North Carolina.
Public School Register of Asbe County for 1879-80, Jefferson, N.C.
Public Laws of North Carolina, 1799, and 1857.
Reports of State Superintendent of Common Schools, 1854 to 1927.
Record of Ashe County Court, March term, 1809.
Roosevelt, Theodore, Winning of the West, Vol 1., New York, 1905.
Rural Social Science, Files at the University of north Carolina, Chapel Hill.