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Swift delves deeper into the history of Johnson County education

Continuing from last week’s column, it became evident that although creating and sustaining public schools for the education of Tennessee’s citizens had many setbacks (especially lack of state tax support), Johnson County was one of the earliest counties in the state to levy taxes to enhance opportunities for children to get an education.

As I mentioned in last week’s column there were 67 elementary schools in Johnson County at some time before consolidation. The 67 schools and the districts where they were located follows:
Ackerson (1), Butler City (5), Brownlow (4), Bradley (5), Bethel (1), Bethel (7), Buntontown 10), Cold Springs (2), Crandul (8), Curd (3) Cowen (10), Donnelly (2), Doe Valley High School (7), Doe (7), Damascus (7), Dry Run (10), Dewey (7), Doeville (6), Dry Hill (5), Eureka (1), Fritts Curve (4), Fairview (1), Ford (10), Forge ((3), Garland (6), Glendale (9), Greenwood (3), Gregg (10), Harmon (8), Heath (3), Jordan’s Chapel (6), Laurel Bloomery (1), Laurel Springs (3), Meadows (10), Mountain City Grammar (2), Millington (5 or 6), Mouth of Doe (5), Neva (4), Valley Creek (1), Oak Grove (4), Pine Grove (4), Pine Orchard (6), Pleasant Valley (2), Riverview (10), Rock Springs (5), Roan Creek (5), Rainbow (2), Shady Flats (8), Shady Valley (8), Shouns Chapel (2), Shouns (2), Snyders Chapel (3), Snyders (10), Shingletown (1), Sinks (5), Sutherland (1), Sugar Grove (10), Taylors Valley (1), Trade (9), Union Valley (2), Wagner (4), Watauga (6), Winchester (8), Woods Hill (2), Walnut Grove (3), Wills (1), Wallace (9).

Some of us who are older will probably remember our days in one or more of those schools. My elementary school years were spent at Dewey Elementary School. The building was a frame structure consisting of two rooms made by closing a movable partition. The partition was often opened to accommodate the presenting of plays or programs. Fritts Curve Elementary has special meaning to me as my Uncle, Joe Swift, taught there for a time. He also taught at Shady Valley before going to the Philippine Island for eleven years to teach.

A Compulsory Attendance Law was passed in 1911 that required children from age 6 to age 17 to attend school. State Normal Schools were established in each grand division of the state to prepare teachers for the classroom. East Tennessee Normal School (Now East Tennessee State University) established in 1911 was one of them. In 1913 there were 45 elementary schools and 51 elementary teachers. The school term ran for five months. The year 1916 saw the first Johnson County High School basketball team. Thereafter, it became very competitive and it remains so today. In December of 1919 a steam boiler in the basement of the old high school exploded injuring several students and killing the janitor, Stacy McElyea. In 1922 a new high school building was completed and the Class of 1922 was the first to graduate with caps and gowns. The year 1926 was the year football came to JCHS. While the Depression Years were hard, some things occurred toward the advancement of education. The first consolidated school became a reality. Bus Transportation, The first supervisor of instruction, the Hot Lunch Program, and other innovations came about during the Depression.

Shady Valley Elementary School was the first consolidation attempted in the school system. Four schools, (Harmon, Winchester, Shady Flats and Crandul) were combined to create the school. All four schools were one-room schools and they were in terrible condition. This and other consolidations brought about better opportunities for the children of Johnson County.
A new high school plant was built in 1966. It was ready for occupancy in September of 1966. The dedication was held May 19, 1968. The Johnson County Vocational School and a school for grades seven and eight were completed. Construction started in March of 1975 and the two plants were ready for occupancy by the beginning of the school year 1976-1977.

Some information from the late R. D. Fritts’ book, “Development of education in Johnson County Tennessee” was used in this and last week’s column.