School Days: Early Education in Henderson County

deskThe 2012 multi room exhibit “School Days” displayed how our public educational system has grown from the first school in Mills River in 1797 to fifty one schools in 1900 to the consolidation of 1931. Extensive research awaited visitors in the eight school binders, by Bill Barnwell, that documented the beginnings of education in Henderson County.

The Bo Thomas Room presented a one room schoolhouse in conjunction with “School Days” in The Champion Hills Room. This classroom recreation is indicative of schoolhouses that doubled as churches from 1850 to 1930. In early schools, each child owned a book-sized writing slate encased in a wood frame. This was used for practicing script. Students scratched the slate with a cylinder rock such as soapstone. They did not preserve any of their work, therefore memorization was emphasized.

benchChildren sat on long benches made by the parents. By the 1880’s, children sat at individual desks with younger children at the front of the room. All desks faced the front toward the teacher who was the sole source of instruction and discipline in the classroom.


Most one-room schoolhouses had a potbelly stove. The benefit of this type of stove was that it burned many types of fuel – wood, coal, corncobs, straw and cow chips. Farmers usually provided fuel for the stove.

organThis original pump organ is from the Holly Springs Union Chapel/School. Reverend J.F. & Emily Woodfin granted three acres to the Holly Springs community in 1878 for the construction of a school/church building. Baptist, Methodist & Presbyterian churches had permission to conduct non-denominational services. The organ was used for music studies but was the last priority behind reading, grammar, spelling, penmanship, arithmetic, recitation & elocution, history, geography, physiology & health.

Education timeline

This exhibit in the Champion Hills Club Room was made possible through the extensive research of Bill Barnwell, Educational Historian. Mr. Barnwell began teaching in 1957, then moved to the Central Office in 1968 as an Administrator. He served on the County School Board in both 1989 & 1998. In 1999, he began 11 years of service as a consultant for elementary school construction. Come in and browse one of his eight school research binders.

Education artifacts 240.jpg

The exhibit opened in conjunction with the 100th anniversary celebration of the Rosa Edwards School. The event took place at the former school building, now the offices of the Henderson County Board of Public Education, at noon in the board room at 414 Fourth Ave. W. Originally named the Fourth Avenue School, the building was renamed in 1936 for Principal Rosa Edwards, who died in 1932. Edwards served Henderson County’s schools for 21 years as teacher and a principal.