BETHEL SCHOOL -1886 was in District 9, two or three hundred yards southeast of Bethel Church which was established in 1827 by Ebiezer McGowan. It is assumed that McGowan gave the land. The school was on the east side of Sulphur Springs Road in the Bethel community. The Methodist Church is shown on the 1878 Beers Map.
The school, built in a low swampy place, was of logs, hand-hewn, and put together by pins. The roof consisted of ribbed poles to which crude boards were fastened with cut nails. The building, which was about 18 x 20 feet, had puncheon floors, a front door and a few small windows on the sides. At the south end of the room was a fireplace, the chimney of which had a rock base with coping sticks and mud above. Seats were split logs supported by pegs. Water came from a hand-dug well nearby.
A rail fence separated the school yard from the surrounding property. When there were heavy rains, classes were held in the church. Eventually, because of the poor condition of the school, all classes were moved to the church in 1885-l886.
Among the teachers were Petty Henderson who was a blind man, Al McClain, Mary McQuilkin from Pennsylvania, Vinnie Burton, Alice Bruger, and old Professor Miller with a white beard.
Students remembered were Mrs. Mamie Adams and her sisters Fannie and Martha, and Jim Mullins.
Playground equipment consisted of a grape vine jumping rope, grape vine swings, home-made see-saws made from poles placed across stumps, and equipment for high jumping – two poles with limbs cut to hold a cross pole. The side of a ditch of one of the early roads was used for slides. Students were constantly warned not to go too far back on the place. There was a quicksand that would “swallow you up.”
BETHEL SCHOOL 1887-1950 was the first Bethel Church building, a little log building, which dated back to 1827. In 1887 a new church was built. The first church was deeded on October 9, 1889, to School Directors James W. Hunt, John W. Putman, and James E. Stockard by the Trustees of Bethel Church, T. G. Miles, D. J. Sanders, C. M. Miles, and T. A. Stockard. The land contained one-eighth acre.
On May 27, 1925, Lida B. Miles signed a deed to the Trustees of Bethel Church and School, George Walkup, C. M. Miles, Sr., and C. M. Stockard, for two additional acres of land. On September 25, 1928, the Trustees signed a deed transferring the school to the Rutherford County Board of Education.
When the church became the school, a well was dug north of the building. Heat was furnished by a pot-bellied stove with an added air drum. In 1905 a bored well was dug west of the school, and a room was added on the south side of the one-room building. In 1915 a third room was added on the west side and a stage was built on the north end of the north room. Sometime between 1921 and 1924 accordion doors were placed between the two rooms and larger windows were installed on the east side of the building. In 1925 a third room was added on the northwest corner of the original room.
Teachers at this second BETHEL SCHOOL were Ola Marlin in the one-room building; Moore Andrews, the first principal of the two-room school in 1905, with Nora Stockard as assistant; Mrs. Earl Robert, Mary Hall, and Lavada Bowling, the teachers in the three-room school in 1925. After some years BETHEL reverted to a two-teacher school.
An early student was Joe Rooker, who celebrated his one hundredth birthday on August 6, 1985. In 1926, Lum Gannon drove the first school bus. Other drivers were Robert Adams, Howard Whitley, and Ernest Tomberlain.
On May 1, 1950, Ernest C. Tomberlain and wife Mamie deeded four acres to the Rutherford County Board of Education for a new school. On August 17, 1950, the Rutherford County Board of Education deeded the abandoned school property to Trustees of Bethel Methodist Church, J. W. Taylor, B. T. Walkup, and P. M. Sanders. In the same year, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Young bought the old church and second school building. They sold the logs from the original one-room structure and built a home on Swamp Road from the rest of the lumber.
BETHEL SCHOOL 1950-1970 was erected across the road from the second school house, a part of which had stood for 132 years and had been in use as a school building for 63 years.
The new building was a three-room concrete block structure in modern style with modern equipment. It had hardwood floors, was heated by gas, lighted by electricity, and had large windows with Venetian blinds. The desks were comfortable. It was considered in the state to be a model plan for other rural schools. The school and the Community Club soon acquired playground equipment, a piano, water cooler, a deep freeze, radios, record players, records, two television sets, and a public address system.
The first teachers in this new school were Mrs. Ray Donnell, Mrs. Robert Lane, and Ann Swain.
The school had an active 4-H Club. The Bethel Community Club, which met in the school once a month, worked closely with the school as did also the Bethel Home Demonstration Club.
In addition to the teachers already named, an incomplete list of teachers of the three BETHEL SCHOOLS includes: Mary Knott, Edith Litterer, Ada Ewing Wendell, Myrtle Johns, George Rice, T. A. Jamison, Louise Gill, Ora Mae Bell, Gertrude Vaughn, Olie Mai Overall, H. E. Baker, Ella Tarpley, Herbert Wells, Anna Stockard, Alice Rooker, Gordon Davis, Elizabeth Smith, Bessie Setard, Fred DeLay, Mary Elizabeth Blankenship, Mary Kelton, Maggie Lee Knox Sanders, Gladys Jones, Clara Harris, Kathleen Harris, Estelle Tilford, Mary Frances Hooper Brandon, Ethel Womack, Kate Ashley, Annell Smith, Ruth Allen, Bessie Baskette, Sallie Dement, Myrtle Ball Hall, Mrs. T. G. Harris, Mrs. Russell, Mrs. Ruttman, Mamie Youree, Pauline Atkerson, Mrs. William Money, Mrs. Simon Glanton, Mrs. LeVoy Bivins, Mrs. Park Barrett, Richard Tune, and Sonya Sample.
When the school closed, the county rented the third BETHEL SCHOOL to the Jaycees for the Leanna Community Center.
SOURCES: Deed Book 32, pp. 410, 411; Book 69, p. 218; Book 73, p. 432; Book 107, p. 101; Book 106, p. 559. *Maggie Lee Knox Sanders, “Bethel” manuscript, 1980. She was assisted by *Bessie Baskette. Interviews,Nov. 7, 1985, with Gertrude Young who still lives in the house built from the lumber of the old church and second school; Nov. 15, 1985, with Charles Rooker, whose father, b. Aug. 6, 1885 and still living, was an early student; March 6, 1986, with Ernest C. Tomberlain.