Preserving Midland’s Past

March 27, 1977, Gene Sloan, The Daily News Journal

By Gene Sloan, Rutherford County Archivist

Schools in the Midland (Middleton) area in the southwestern section of Rutherford County have records and some remarkably well preserved photographs that cover more than 100 years.

There is a record that John D. Smith was operating a school in the community prior to his death from fever in 1870.

Ultimately, Midland was the location of a school that included the earlier schools at McBride (the Toe Mail School), Rock Springs, Gravel Hill, Oak Grove and Campground.

Midway Academy was a flourishing school in 1885, operating from late July until about Thanksgiving a four month ‘fall term’ and another shorter ‘spring session’.

Excerpts from the 14th District School Board records from 1897 to 1899 reveal some interesting sidelights on operating costs. Teachers salaries ranged from a minimum of $600 a month. The average teacher pay was about $25 a month.

There must have been much writing on the blackboards. Four school under control of the 14th District used 68 boxes of Crayons from 1897 through 1899. Oak Grove School received 15 boxes at one time for which its account was debited for $1.12 (and one half cent!).

Midland received four boxes of crayons at 7.5 cents a box on three occasions. Ninety cents was paid for ‘two buckets and two dippers’ – illustrative of the affluence accorded a two teacher school. The two brooms for the same session amounted to 20 cents. For some reason the Board spent 85 cents for an ax handle, a nickle for nails and 20 cents for a rope.

J.W. Jamison spent three years in the late 19th century as a teacher at Midland. This tour of duty resulted in a romance and marriage to Carrie Turner, a Midland belle.

Other teachers during this period included Hattie Bryant, Jim Webb, Mary Haynes and Daisy Williams.

The Midland School building of those years was a two room frame building with four gables and high narrow windows. The school boasted a lean-to type ‘music room’ at the rear.

Pictures of students attending the Midland School from 1902 to 1912 reflect many interesting sidelights of changes that occurred during the first decade of the 20th century in school dress and activity.

There were 51 students in the 1902 picture. The smaller boys and girls were shy of shoes or stockings. A few of the younger boys and the majority of the older boys wore suspenders. The younger girls had luxuriant hair, hanging loosely almost to the waist. Older girls wore their hair in a roll round the crown with a top knot. Two boys in the picture were proudly displaying their dogs – but no little lambs that might have followed Mary – are visible. Sam Arnett was the teacher.

The Midway Academy of 1904 had 65 students with W.R. Shelton as principal and Miss Daisy Williams as assistant. W.B. Holden, James Rowland and J.M. Williams were listed as school officials.

By 1905 the school population had grown to more than 70 students. Lena Cheek and Clarence Butts were the teachers. In this, as in other school pictures of the era, visitors had come to school for picture making day. The dress of the students in this picture was more formal. many of the older boys wore coats and ties. The girls hair style had changed to a more severe, swept back appearance.

Bare feet on the smaller children was still apparent in the 1912 photograph. The girls wore hair ribbons and longer skirts. The teachers of 1912 were identified as Ellen Brown and Bobbie Lee Poplin.

In 1948 the Midland Community Club was organized. The first project was the building of a new school house. A building committee of James I. Williams, chairman Edgar B. Haskins and James V. Threet set about the problem of implementing the Club proposal.

Three acres of land was purchase for $600 with funds raised by the Community Club. An additional $625 was realized from the sale of the old building.

The Rutherford County Court appropriated $8,000 to be funded from the ‘overage sales tax’. The County Highway Department donated rock for the foundation.

Men in the community pledged a total of 200 free working days for labor and 42 men from a trade school came to spend a day laying concrete blocks.

The school building was opened in 1949. There was large classroom that doubled as an auditorium, a classroom for the lower grades, a music room, a well equipped kitchen, rest rooms and gas heating.

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