One Room Schools of Green River Township
The Green River School
Gone but Not Forgotten
None of us like to admit we are getting older but getting older is so much better than the alternative, right? The truth is, we are all growing older by the day. For many of us who are now labeled "boomers", we have now lived over half a century and have witnessed so much in our lifetime. Fifty years doesn't seem that long a period of time does it but when we have opportunity to look at photographs that are over 100 years old, we begin to put things into perspective unless we are talking to a Smart Alec 20 year old who views 35 years of age as being over the hill.
Local history is one of my interests and especially as I have reached mid-life. The nostalgia of bygone days and learning of the hardships endured by our forebears makes me appreciate the good life which I have enjoyed. Since I was a boy my ears "perked up" when listening to the adults talk about the days and their lives when they were carefree and young. Certainly, we all have been shaped by their experiences and our lives been made better in many ways by their experiences and the lessons passed down.
We have all enjoyed watching episodes of the Waltons on television and the passion of good old John Boy with his "yearn to learn" in that one room school near Walton Mountain or maybe even, we have become infatuated to The Little House on the Prairie and the stories about those school days. These make for great entertainment and the stories are mostly warm and fuzzy giving the impression those days were better than they actually were. Our parents and grandparents might tell a different tale.
Recently, I was asked to help do some research on the one room feeder schools in the area of Henderson County North Carolina where I live and have lived now for almost 65 years. I would be helping find information on the one room schools that ultimately were consolidated and became one school for our township. Tuxedo Elementary is where I went to school and it had its beginning in the mid to late 1920s. The one room feeder schools in the rural countryside soon closed and became only a memory in local history. Much of their existence has been lost to father time because few records are available that enables one to do adequate research. The people who attended these schools have mostly all passed to their eternal rewards, those few remaining are in their mid 80's or early 90's.
My dad attended a one room school in the Mount Olivet community only a few miles from the family farm. Dad passed away in 2003 but he had shared some of his school memories and often when we would pass the site of the old school he might tell us, "That's where I went to school when I was a boy and we hid our tobacco in a hollow tree, so the teacher wouldn't take it from us.That is the spring from which we we drank water" The Mount Olivet School closed and my dad attended Tuxedo a brief time only going to the 4th grade before quitting to help out on the farm. I learned recently students attended Mount Olivet from other communities much farther away and at least two walking up the mountain from the Crab Creek Valley a 5 mile walk to and from school.
"The students carried bag lunches or a metal pail to school in those days. Most took biscuits from home filled with good old country ham or some jelly to eat for lunch. They were self conscious at lunch time because of their biscuits when some of the more prominent had sandwiches made of "light bread." Another lady is quoted as having carried sugar biscuits in a lard bucket to school.
There were other schools nearby "as the crow flies" such as the Rock Creek School where my wife's mom attended until the 2nd grade. When this school closed, her father didn't think it prudent for her to attend the school in Tuxedo, about seven miles away in the cotton mill village. Other schools of the period were Double Spring's School, The Green River School, and a couple of others near the cotton mill village which were held in private homes. The school I have been asked to research is the Green River School. So far I have found out little about the school our county had leased for a period of 50 years from the Green River Baptist Church. The information I am getting are some of those personal stories about students rather than the actual education received at the school. These stories are interesting and represent memories that have lasted now for almost a century passed to others.
The Green River School was held near the Green River Baptist Church. Students walked to school from the nearby rural areas to attend classes. In those days some students walked longer distances and were never counted tardy even if they arrived towards mid-day. The Green River School had a well and at recess the older boys pumped the well handle for the younger students. Of course, there was always tomfoolery and the wise guy who would splash water from the pump spout on other students getting them all wet. The bullying usually ended in a fight. Sometimes siblings not yet in school would bring biscuits in a pail to their older brothers and sisters.
I remember my Grandma telling me that "them Staton boy's trapped and sold hides. They camed to school sometimes smelling of "polecats" and I have also heard that some boys from another family let loose a live skunk in the class room on one occasion. Now that is funny, I don't care who you are unless you just happened to be unlucky enough to get "sprayed" by a wild animal not seeking higher learning. On another occasion my Grandma's brother was hung in a tree by his overall gallows, seems bullying is nothing new.
At least on one occasion I have found documented in a book by a local Postmaster of the Flat Rock Post Office, Mr Lenoir Ray (now deceased), in his book Postmarks gives an account of the students at the Green River School being transported to our county seat in Hendersonville, North Carolina some 10 miles away in a company truck owned by Green River Incorporated (the original cotton mill in Tuxedo began by the Bell family and who were instrumental as teachers with Mrs Bell becoming the first Principal and in the administration of the school) to attend a movie. The movie was Cinderella and the year 1917 and the teacher responsible for taking the students to the movie was Joe Bell. This would have been an extra curricular activity and a real treat for the rural mountain kids no doubt talked about for months. If this is the same Joe Bell, he later along with his brother, Frank began operation two summer camps. Joe at Camp Arrowhead on Cabin Creek Road and Frank at Camp Mondamin in Tuxedo and on Lake Summit.
The Green River School was leased from Green River Baptist by the County Board of Education for a 50 year period and a building adjacent to the church property used for classes. When the school closed, the building was sold and moved to the property of the Beddingfield family and later refurbished adding beautiful area stone to complete the families dwelling. The house still stands and currently owned by the same family.
Teachers were not paid very well and often times might board with a family in the community. From what Ihave learned thus far, teachers were dedicated and even in a one room setting teaching all the various age groups and classes, the teacher's job was difficult. Students and parents respected these educators who never heard of teacher work days but experienced more than real work in their classrooms.
As I continue to work on this I am hoping to learn more and when we have finished, have an accurate documented work that will be preserved for others who may hold an interest in this areas history.