Local students returned to the classroom last week. Public schools have been a big part of Jackson County’s history, just as education topics have been important subjects throughout this newspaper’s 92 years.
Our county is presently home to Western Carolina University, Southwestern Community College and nine public schools – eight in the county school system and one charter. When Jackson was created in 1851 from portions of Macon and Haywood counties, it had only one school, which was located in Qualla community.
However, during the decades between Jackson’s founding and the present, almost 100 schools, with names ranging from A to Z (Addie to Zion Hill) have operated here. As is the case with the 80 or so post offices that have left their mark on our county, the names and dates of local schools make for interesting reading.
Turning to “The History of Jackson County,” first published by the Jackson County Historical Association in 1987, and reprinted with 2001’s Sesquicentennial Edition, we find the following information in “Appendix VI, Education.”
The list of superintendents of schools reads like a “Who’s Who” of early Jackson County. Names such as Keener, Terrell, Hampton, Allison, Wike, Cathey, Henson, Cope, Buchanan and Cowan still frequent this newspaper’s pages. Joseph Keener, who took office in 1853 was the first to hold the title. We don’t find early industrialist C.J. Harris, who funded construction of the Jackson County Courthouse and lent his name to the local hospital, but most other early leaders served a term or two.
Dillsboro founder William Allen Dills was superintendent in 1879, and Western Carolina University founder R.L. Madison held the job from 1919 until 1921. E.R. Hampton, superintendent in 1869, once owned most of the land where Sylva is now located; his daughter Mae gave the town its name by insisting that her father name the post office after his hired hand, then thought to be a “wayfaring Dane” named William Demetrius Sylva. We’ve since learned that William Sylva was not Danish and was in fact not named “Sylva,” (the correct spelling is “Selvey”) but that’s another story, and one we’ve already told in this space.
The names of Jackson County’s present and former public elementary and high schools almost span the alphabet – we find names that match up with every letter except “I” and “X.” To close this Cafe school history, we’ll list those names, in storybook order, and let them remind us of earlier times.
A is for Addie and Argura.
B is for Balsam, Balsam Grove, Barkers Creek, Bessie, Beta, Big Ridge, Blue Ridge, Blue Ridge Early College, Board Castle, Brasstown and Bryson.
C is for Camp Lab, Canada, Cane Creek, Caney Fork, Cashiers, Charleys Creek, Clayton, Colored Consolidated, Cowarts, Cullowhee, Cullowhee Mountain and Cullowhee Valley.
D is for Dark Ridge, Deets, Dillsboro, Dix Creek and Double Springs.
E is for East Fork and East LaPorte.
F is for Fairfield and Fairview.
G is for Gay, Glenville, Green Mountain and Greens Creek.
H is for Hamburg and Happy Valley.
J is for Jackson Academy, Jackson County Early College, Jackson County School of Alternatives and Johns Creek.
K is for Kilgore.
L is for Liberty and Log Cabin.
M is for McKee Training and Moses Creek.
N is for Norton.
O is for Oak Hill, Olivet and Oscar.
P is for Pilot Cove, Pine Creek, Pisgah Forest and Pleasant Grove.
Q is for Qualla, Qualla High and Quallatown.
R is for River Hill, River View, Rock Bridge and Rocky Hollow.
S is for Sadie Mountain, Savannah, Scotts Creek, Shoal Creek, Smokey Mountain, Smoky Mountain, Soco, Sols Creek, Speedwell, Summit Charter, Sylva, Sylva High and Sylva-Webster High.
T is for Tennessee (Tanasee) Gap and Tuckaseigee.
U is for Upper Barkers Creek.
V is for View Point.
W is for Wayehutta, Webster, Webster High, White Rock, Whiteside, Whittier, Willets, Wilmot and Wolf Creek.
Y is for Yellow Mountain.
Z is for Zion Hill.
Lynn Hotaling was editor of The Sylva Herald for 18 years, retiring in January 2016. She is the author of two books on local history.