Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
yellow school buses are running and students gather in
classrooms at Blairsville’s primary, elementary, middle and high
schools and at
Woody Gap School
in Suches. Two locations now mark the
public education arenas of Union County
Administrators, teachers, students and parents are anticipating good
from the 2004-2005 school year now beginning, with “no child left
the major motto for operation. Learning
will be promoted with the latest innovations to entice and motivate
A brief review of education in Union County
can only elicit the old evaluation of “We’ve come a long way” since the
days of public education.
was formed in 1832. In 1833, a year
later, the Georgia Legislature permitted Union County
to take a census in order to determine the potential school population
portion of the tax funds that should be devoted to education. That census report was released in 1834 as
the first census of the county. The
legislature approved a school for the county to be known as the Blairsville Academy.
A sum of $335 was set aside in 1835 designated for the academy. It was incorporated in 1836.
Records show that the first trustees of the Blairsville Academy
were John Sanders, Richard
Holden, John Butt, Jr., Moss Anderson and Thomas Collins.
Even though established in part by the
$335.00 in tax monies, the school was also sponsored by churches of the
Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian denominations in the county. The academy went along rather well for a
time, but eventually dispersed because of differences in how to operate
Also in those early years of the
1830’s, one-room schools were provided in certain areas of the county,
Blairsville Academy was not accessible for students who lived in the
districts unless they could go to Blairsville and board in homes to
school. Some of the one-room schools
were held in log church buildings with someone in the community who
the teacher’s certification test (mainly with an ability to “cipher”—do
arithmetic--- and who had adequate facility in penmanship, reading and
spelling) to head the school. If no
church buildings were available for the one-teacher community schools,
might have been held in the home of a concerned citizen of the
neighboring children going to that home, paying a small fee, and being
instructed. At most, instruction periods
were only for a maximum of four months per year, much of that arranged
periods of farm work.
In 1880 and 1881, two schools were
operated in Union
County that were
supplemented by funds from the George Peabody Foundation.
In 1882 a boarding school at Blairsville
began operations. This may have been a
resumption of the earlier academy incorporated in 1836.
Records are incomplete on School
Commissioners (as the chief administrative officer was called before
1875) and School Superintendents.
However, the following names and their approximate terms of
been preserved: Before 1888, Thomas Butt
served as Superintendent of Union County Schools. Others
following him and their approximate
terms of service were Frank Duncan, 1888; A. V. Clement, 1896; C. S.
1900; T. L. Patterson, 1912.
John B. Black who served as Ordinary
of Union County showed in his February 19, 1865 report that 1,000 children
between the ages of 6 and 18
were enrolled in Union County Schools.
Eight schools were operating, with five male teachers and three
teachers in employment. The academy was
in session in 1865, but no specific enrollment for that school was
given. This report, coming near the end of
War, is somewhat amazing in its scope and shows that, despite the
the war years, Union
managed to provide educational opportunities in eight schools for 1,000
In 1916, an extensive visit to Union County
and a survey of its scattered schools was made by M. L. Duggan, Rural
Agent for Georgia. He signed his report on October 15, 1916. In future articles, I will pinpoint some of
the highlights of his 1916 report.
Within his report was an appeal for free textbooks for the
children. It was item # 6 in his
“Much of the funds paid for
maintenance of the public schools is being wasted because so many of
children are unsupplied or poorly supplied with necessary text books. We would, therefore, recommend (if the local
school tax is adopted) that necessary text books for the first four
supplied (loaned) to all children. This
can now be done under the recent Yeoman’s Bill.”
Mr. Duggan ended his report with this
appeal: “We submit the bulletin to those
interested in the better education of ALL
of the children of the county with the earnest hope that each will be
to make serious efforts and considerable sacrifices to that end. The future of the county depends directly
upon the character of its public schools.
Better public schools and better public roads are the prime
needs of the
county, and the attainment of either will powerfully accelerate the
accomplishment of the other. With
general interest in the welfare of the children.
-M. L. Duggan.”
From 1916 to 2004, eighty-eight years
have passed—over eight decades of progress on working at the weaknesses
Duggan cited in his 1916 report. Since Union County
was formed in 1832, there have been 172 years of upward struggle. Today the county has a school system of which
citizens can be justifiably proud.
Progress has not been easy, nor has it come without “serious
May 2004-2005 begin with high hopes
and noble purposes for present-day Union County
Jones; published August 5, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Jones is a retired educator,
freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA
Updated September 8, 2008
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