Early Education in Pulaski County

Source: Southwest Times Newspaper 1939 Centential Edition

The very earliest schools were private schools conducted in the homes of the landowners
for their own children. Later, church organizations established the first schools in the area
prior to the public school systems that we know today. Draper's Valley Presbyterian Church
was built in 1832 and a two-room brick school was constructed on the east side of the church.
The public education actually came to Virginia in 1870 when Pulaski County became part of
that system. J.C. Cecil was the first superintendent of the Pulaski County Schools from
1870-1873 but the county school system did not take over all of the schools until 1905.

Sessions for early schools usually ran for 5 days per week for a term of five to six months.
Students attended from 8 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon with a lunch break and very few
other breaks. The purpose of going to school was to learn and then go home and work. Schools
did not observe holidays or snow days but instead worked their schedules around the physical
work that the children needed to do on the farm. Because of this schools usually were in session
from October 1 thru April 1.

All school furniture was local and hand made, children were responsible for helping the teacher
heat the building with fireplaces or stoves. Usually they only had one room and one teacher for
all grades. Lap boards, slate boards, chalk and pencils were about the only equipment used.
School days were routinely started with prayer, Bible reading and signing of hymns.

During the years of 1866-1876, school conditions became critical. Most families again began
teaching their children at home. A spare room would be turned into a classroom and a tutor hired
to teach. Sometimes several families would built a one room building in someone yard and hire a
tutor to teach the children of those families. Lots of the organized schools had to close.

Several schools have been in Draper. After the Christian and Methodist denomination split with
Old Harmony they built a church near the middle of Draper and a one room school about 1899-
1901. The Pulaski County School Board took over this school and the building was sold to C.O.
Harper for a mercantile store. The Pulaski School Board built a two room school down the road
and this later became the first school for blacks in the area.

In 1912 the Pulaski County School System built a nine-room brick school for grades one thru
eleven. The first graduating class had seven people. About 1922 the high school students from
Snowville were sent to Draper and in 1924 an addition was added to the school to accommodate
the elementary students from Graham, Oglesby, Delton, Shiloh, Hiwassee and Snowville.

In 1937 another addition was made to the school. In 1952 the Draper High School consolidated
with Dublin High School. In 1971 public kindergarten was added to the Draper school and today
it is an elementary school.

The following articles give what information that we have been able to find. There were other
schools that we have found little information on. Reed Creek School, Barrett Ridge School, Old
River School was later changed to Pilgrim Rest and Bethel Church School, Clark's Mill School
and John Howard School. The Oglesby Schools and the Kesling School are actually located in
Wythe county but served Pulaski area students as well.


AREA SCHOOLS

By 1900 there were fifty-four public schools buildings mostly one and two room schools, scattered throughout the county. Enrollment for the 1900-1901 session was 2,398 whites and 672 blacks. Schools continued to be segregated. Because public schools did not offer college preparatory courses, private schools continued to flourish. Schools could be found in such locations as near today's entrance to Claytor Lake State Park, Route 100 not far from Highland Road, Back Creek, New River, Belspring, Case Knife Road, Mt. Olivet, Ray's School on Brookmont Road, Route 11 just below Pulaski Community Hospital, Old Route 11 just before entering Wythe County, Mountain View, as well as more populated areas including Draper, Dublin, Snowville, Hiwassee and Pulaski. There were also schools called Millirons, Sassin (Poplar Hill), Back Creek, Highland, Parrott, Rockford, New River, Locust Grove, Chestnut Ridge, Shiloh, Graham (Draper), Dyer, Delton, Max Creek, Farris Mines, Forest Hill (Snowville), Simpkinstown, Cecil's Chapel, Burks Run, Boone, River View and Rich Hill. As of June 30, 1930 there were 46 school houses with an estimated value of nearly $400,000 and annual expenditures of more than $160,000 for the operations of schools in the county.

Source: SW Times, 1996

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