“The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life. “ – Plato
The history of school in Cumberland County is hard to track. Education came in many forms and ways, especially in the beginning.
With farms and homesteads being scattered throughout the county, school was very hard to organize. The Civil War made it nearly impossible, but no one can deny that attempts were made. Wesley and Eliza Stone donated land in the third district for a school house in 1879, at that time 651 people over 10 years of age could not read or write. Multiple similar attempts to hold school were made by teachers and preachers, but more often than not, they only lasted a few months.
In 1873 the Tennessee State Legislature made it so that schools received state aid for at least 5 months of the year. Each district from Woody to Vandever held a school. There were also a couple private schools: Professor Silby’s Grassy Cove and Webster Academy at Crossville. Both private schools charged $1 per month for each student.
The American Missionary Association came to Crossville in 1888 and built the Congressional Church which also held a free school from September to December. If students wanted to continue school from January to June, tuition was charged. Students were also eligible for teaching certificates if they completed the schooling through the 10th grade. S.C. Cline was the first to graduate and to receive his teaching certificate. He went on to teach at the school.
James W. Dorton was elected superintendent in 1889 to report the facts to the public about local education. He made it known that while 1,192 kids were enrolled in school only 780 attended, and to make matters worse, 927 were not enrolled at all.
The land for Pleasant Hill Academy was donated by Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Frey in 1873. Some of the first teachers were Mr. Judson and Mattie Lundy. The school was also funded by the American Missionary Association. The Academy was the only one to offer advanced education in all grades and was sought after by many in the community. In 1947 the association sold the academy and land to Cumberland County so that Pleasant Hill School could be built. Pleasant Hill Academy has a unique history all its own. I encourage you to read Dr. Wharton’s, Doctor Woman of the Cumberlands.
Changes came in 1907 to education in Cumberland County. First one school board was formed, and then in 1908 a county high school was established. It was built where the old court house had burned and Reverend Frank March was placed as principal. Miss Hall and Miss Rose were the first teachers.
The Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Church established Cumberland Mountain School in 1921. This was a private boarding school. Minister Robert Hall founded the school with liberal and vocational arts in mind. The school building still stands and is located off of Old Jamestown Highway.
Homestead School was built as a part of the “New Deal” presented by President Roosevelt in 1932. It held school for all ages. Until Cumberland County High School was built, students attended higher grades here. The school is still standing today as Homestead Elementary. Its history, like Pleasant Hill’s, is extensive. The Tower houses a museum dedicated to the Cumberland Homesteads and its unique story.
The building we know today as the Justice Center was once a school. It was built after a year of debate in 1930. At the time high school students were attending school at the small building across from the Courthouse. The new Cumberland County High School held its first year of classes beginning on August 22, 1930 as home of the Red Devils. By the late 50s the high school was becoming overcrowded and was no longer fitting demands of a growing community.
Total enrollment in Cumberland County Schools from 1955-56 was 5,093. The county held three high schools: Homestead, Cumberland, and Pleasant Hill. There were 25 elementary schools: Alloway, Bakers, Big Lick, Cline, Crab Orchard, Crossville, Pineview, Dorton, Grassy Cove, Hale’s Chapel, Homestead, Jewett, Lantana, Linary, Mayland, Moulders, Oak Hill, Ozone, Pleasant Hill, Pomona, Rinnie, Slate Springs, Tabor, Woody, and Midway.
In 1962 Cumberland County became home of the Jets and the three high schools came together as one on Stanley Street. This was the biggest change the Cumberland County School system had ever seen and was one big step in the right direction. The old high school became Cumberland Elementary School housing grades six through eight.
A new junior high school named after Glenn L. Martin was built in 1976 across the street from Cumberland County High School. Mr. Martin had been superintendent from 1952 to 1960.
Throughout the 70s and 80s much renovation was done to various elementary schools, and a point of emphasis was put on education. North Cumberland Elementary was built to replace Rinnie, Tabor, and Woody school. This was an effort to improve standard and remove deficiencies in learning. The same was done in Pleasant Hill by renovating the elementary school to add more classrooms. Each Superintendent made their mark and encouraged students to learn and prepare themselves for life after school. By the late 80s many Crossville students were going on to earn degrees from Tennessee Technological University.
Cumberland County Schools 1985-86: Crab Orchard Elementary, Crossville Elementary, Cumberland County High School, Homestead Elementary, Martin Junior High, North Cumberland Elementary, Pine View Elementary, Pleasant Hill Elementary, and South Cumberland Elementary. Total enrollment was 5,613 students and 290 teachers.
In the early 2000s overcrowding was once again a problem. Stone Elementary had already opened 1999 but a new high school was needed. With a growing town and population Cumberland County decides to open Stone Memorial. With the land being donated by Mr. Roy Stone, the home of the Panthers, opened on Cook Road, and rivalry began in 2006.
Today Cumberland County holds: The Phoenix School, Crab Orchard Elementary, Frank P. Brown Elementary, Glenn Martin Elementary, Homestead Elementary, North Cumberland Elementary, Pine View Elementary, Pleasant Hill Elementary, South Cumberland Elementary, Stone Elementary, Stone Memorial High School, and Cumberland County High School. There are roughly 6,800 students enrolled in 2022.
- Cumberland County Tennessee 1956-1986, Helen Bullard Krechniak
- Cumberland County’s First Hundred Years, Bullard Krechniak
- The Way It Was Crossville Cumberland County, Bryan Stanley