Bradley Academy, 1806-1884

BRADLEY ACADEMY 1806-1884 was first located near Colonel Rucker’s place and the present Veterans Administration Hospital on the east side of Lebanon Pike about four miles north of Murfreesboro. By 1811, BRADLEY ACADEMY had moved to Murfreesboro to a site northeast of the 1918 BRADLEY SCHOOL building on South Academy Street. It was on land given by Murfree heirs for a white school.

The Tennessee State Legislature established the school to comply with conditions of the Compact of 1806 that all Revolutionary War grants be satisfied and that an academy be supported in each county of the state. BRADLEY ACADEMY was named for the Bradley family who owned land given as a Revolutionary War grant and who operated a race track.

On October 22, 1818, Henry Trott paid Isaac Hilliard $613 for lot number five, containing two or three acres, on the east side of Academy Street and the north side of Short Street. It was a lot “near or on which the 1811 log cabin stood.” On June 13, 1820, Randall McGavock bought lot number five at auction for $33, and on September 20, 1837, Randall McGavock sold the lot to the Trustees of BRADLEY ACADEMY for $75. It was the same lot that had been formerly owned by Isaac Hilliard, deceased.

On January 1, 1839, Henderson Yoakum, authorized agent of the school, sold to John S. Russwurme for $330 a parcel bounded by M. B. Murfree and William Gilliam, the same “piece of land conveyed by F. N. W. Burton and formerly used by the Academy.”

It is assumed that this deed may refer to the first site of the ACADEMY in Murfreesboro. The property was no longer needed after lot number five had been purchased.

This was the first attempt at organized education in Rutherford County.

Original members of the Board of Trustees were Joseph Dixon, John R. Bedford, John Thompson, Sr., William P. Anderson, and Robert Smith. Later ones were Thomas Rucker, Robert Bedford, Frederick Barfield, James Maney, William Lytle, William Dickinson, William Yandell, and Edmond Jones.

The 1806 and 1811 schoolhouses were log cabins. In 1827, the Academy Commissioners “authorized . . . a lottery to raise $5,000 for erecting buildings . . . .” During the Civil War the school was a two-storied log structure. By 1878 an L-shaped building labeled “Male Free School” appeared on the Beers Map.

Among the teachers were: in 1811, Dr. Robert Henderson, a Presbyterian minister from Maury County, who reportedly gave exhausting examinations to his students and climaxed the year with plays and speeches; and in 1813, Rev. Samuel P. Black, who had been a Revolutionary soldier with a land grant home near Walter Hill Black’s Crossroads. On October 18, 1834, the Board of Trustees appointed Benjamin Barlow as superintendent.

Early students were: James K. Polk, who came in 1813 from Columbia and supposedly boarded at the William Lytle home; Sara Childress and her sister, who were tutored by Reverend Black Sara later married James K. Polk; and John Bell.

Two of Bradley Academy’s most famous students: 11th President of the United States, James K. Polk (left), and U.S. presidential candidate, John Bell (right).

Lotteries and funds from the Congressional Land Grant of 1806 supplemented the school income. It was hoped that the lottery of 1827 would provide “a library and philosophical apparatus.” In 1834, room and board for students in nearby homes was $18 to $24 per session. In addition, parents supplied the school with wood for heat.

In 1836, the building was used by the community and by religious groups. In 1848, the Trustees of UNION UNIVERSITY were given permission to use BRADLEY ACADEMY as their locale for as long as the school remained in Murfreesboro. UNION used BRADLEY ACADEMY only from 1848-1853.

During the Civil War the building was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. At some time after the Civil War, the school became part of the City School System. It was in existence in 1875 as a free school for males. In 1884, BRADLEY ACADEMY became BRADLEY SCHOOL BLACK.

SOURCES: Deed Book L, p. 464; Book 0, p. 153; Book W, p. 561; Book Z, p. 394. *C. C. Sims, ed., History of Rutherford County Sims, 1947 , p. 147. *Gene Sloan, “Union University,” The Daily News Journal Accent, May 28, 1978. Mutual Realty and Loan Co., Handbook of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, Tennessee Home Journal Print., 1922, p. 35. Jim Fry, “Bradley Academy,” The Daily News-Journal, Aug. 17, 1975. “Frow Chips,” v. 10, no.7, April 14, 1980. *Homer Pittard, “Holloway School Has Steady Growth,” Nov. 13, 1963, p. 25. Laura E. Barnes, “Bradley Academy and Black Elementary Education in Murfreesboro,” a paper for an MTSU class under Dr. David Rowe 1985.

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