Seminary School (Smyrna), 1859-1961

The former Smyrna Seminary School, 1985

SEMINARY SCHOOL 1859-1961 was first known as STEWART’S CREEK MALE AND FEMALE SEMINARY. On March 2, 1859, Robert Cooke deeded four acres of land on the southeast corner of his property to Trustees Benjamin Batey, Leonard Davis, I.R. Peebles, Luckett Davis, James W. Morton, and Alfred Ross and reserved one equal interest for himself.

On April 26, 1873, John B. Batey, executor of the estate of Ben Batey, Sr., deceased, deeded ten acres of land for a school and a church. The site of the school, then called STEWART’S CREEK SEMINARY, is shown on the 1878 Beers Map as are also the names of Robert Cooke and J.B. Batey.

The location of the school is now on the west side of the Seminary Road near the intersection of the Almaville Road.

Smyrna Seminary School, 1885

The first schoolhouse was a one-room structure used both before and after the Civil War. A picture of the second school taken in 1885 shows a clapboard building with a wood-shingled roof and shuttered windows. Two front doors are sheltered by a narrow porch. In 1913 the building was destroyed by a storm and was replaced by a two-room, L-shaped structure with a front porch. In 1928 the school burned but was rebuilt soon afterward. The last school was a frame building with a recessed doorway. It had two large rooms divided by folding doors, two cloak rooms, and on the south side a kitchen opening to a side porch. In later years the Community Club installed running water with a wash basin in each of the two classrooms.

Mitch Peebles was the teacher in 1885. Among the other teachers were Maggie Jordan Batey, Mattie Simpson, Jennie Hooper, Leila Osborn, Annie Ross, Remina Wood, Warmuth Peebles, Mae Gregory Peebles, Frances Lisenby, Louise Coleman, Kathleen and Clara Harris, Lucille Ross Goodman, Nellie Malone Parsley, Dora Thompson, Jessie Lee, Elizabeth Everett Lowry, Frances Dement Elmore, Elizabeth Hoover Hughey, Thomas Houston Carter, Stella Gwynn, Altie Northcott, Maggie J. Lowe who boarded with Mrs. J.B. Batey, Maggie Floyd, Lee Munsey, Ruby Woods, Clara Romine, and Elizabeth
Davis Sallee.

Smyrna Seminary School, 1916

Students included James B. Frazier, Governor of Tennessee in 1903 who appointed Seymour A. Mynders as the first professional educator to theoffice of State Superintendent of Public Instruction; Judge John E. Richardson; Major James D. Richardson; Allen C. Davis, who in 1980 was with the State Department in Washington.

In 1890, County Superintendent James P. Nelson said, “We have some of the best schools in the state in our county: . . . Stewart’s Creek Seminary . . . .”

Early on the morning after a wind storm in 1913, Jack, Mildred, and Jessie Lee, all three, rode their one mare to school as usual. They were to find on their arrival that the building had been destroyed. For years afterwards, both teachers and students feared tornadoes.

Smyrna Seminary School, 1921

Frances Dement Elrod remembers that Mrs. Warmuth Peebles always kept on hand for such an emergency several boards, nails, and a hammer. One day when the sky became very dark and the wind began to blow, Mr. Peebles ordered all students to get under their desks. Mrs. Peebles thereupon nailed the boards over the west door. The well house was blown over but the schoolhouse remained intact.

Frances D. Elrod also remembers that Warmuth Peebles emphasized two things in particular: mental arithmetic and good health habits including the drinking of milk. He himself brought for his lunch each day a container of milk fresh from the cow. He cooled the milk in a bucket of water. He also kept on the stove a water bucket with a faucet so that the students could wash their hands before they ate.

The Church of Christ in the community had its beginning in the school just prior to the Civil War. During the war, the school building was used as a hospital by Dr. H. Joseph Warmuth. For a period of three months, Watt
Bennett also taught a private school here.

The school closed in 1961. The building and rectangular lot adjoining Stewart’s Creek Church of Christ were sold on May 26, 1962 by the Rutherford County School Commission to Ellis McGowan. The schoolhouse was converted into a beautiful home with five bedrooms. The property has changed hands, but the building is still standing in 1986.

SOURCES: Deed Book 10, p. 316; Book 19, p. 211; Book 148, p. 135. Hoover, pp. 26, 269. *Gene Sloan, “Dreams Come True,” The Daily News Journal Accent, June 26, Much of the material was supplied by Mildred Lee Davis, Maggie Jordan Batey, and Mrs. J. B. Batey, Sr. “Seminary School First Used as Hospital,” The Daily News Journal, Nov. 9, 1948, p. 4. Tennessee. Department of Public Instruction. Annual Report 1890 Nashville: Marshall and Bruce, 1891, p. 160. *Frances Dement Elrod, b. Dec. 6, 1914, a student in grades one through eight, and a teacher at two different times. Her family moved into the house of Dr. H. Joseph Warmuth when she was three years
old. *Louise Hilliard. *Nellie Malone Parsley.

Comments are closed.