The History of the Ransom School House

The historic Ransom School House, built c1840, is located at 717 North Academy Street, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Sisters Eliza (1859-1935) and Belle (1869-1927) owned and operated “Miss Eliza Ransom’s Private School” from 1907 and operated until 1930.  It was a private elementary school that met daily from 8AM to 3PM Monday through Friday at 717 North Academy Street.  This was also the home of Miss Eliza and Miss Belle Ransom.  The monthly tuition to attend the school was $8.00.  The school enrollment never exceeded twelve students.

The school served to educate many outstanding alumni.  Among these were:

  • Dr. James Cason, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkley
  • Dr. Robert Miles, an eminent surgeon in Memphis, Tennessee, who perfected a unique and minimally invasive heart surgery procedure which was ultimately used to treat President Gerald Ford’
  • Local successful businessmen Robert S. Overall and his brother William A. Overall who owned the Overall Bros. & Co. that specialized in coal and lime
  • Dr. Bart N. White and Dr. Matt Murfree, physicians of local impact
  • Whitney Steagall, attorney and Judge of Rutherford County
  • Bill Patterson, whose father owned the Red Cedar Bucket Factory
  • George Parrish, a well-known writer and journalist for the local newspaper and later wrote for the Atlanta Constitution and Chattanooga Times
  • C.B. Arnette, local historian and businessman who traveled to European countries to acquire antiques for his successful Antique Auction House which he founded in 1956.

Three pages of Webster’s Dictionary were assigned daily.  Tardiness and disciplinary infractions were punished by detention, during which students were required to memorize ten lines of poetry for each offense; the difficulty of the required memorization was determined by the severity of the offense.

The date of construction of the original brick building is c1840., as determined by Michael T. Gavin, preservation specialist for the Center of Historic Preservation, Middle Tennessee State University.  The architect/builder is unknown but possibly a member of the Maney or Lytle families.  Unfortunately, early deed and tax records were destroyed by a fire in the late 19th century.

Interestingly, a Tennessee white cane thicket survives in the left rear corner, planted by Miss Ransom, the school teacher, and provided within its confines an outside privy.

The Ransom family has deep roots in Rutherford County, Tennessee.  The family arrived in Rutherford County in the late 18th century, and one of the first Ransom’s to live in Tennessee was Richard Payne Ransom.  His wife, Kezziah Portis, gave birth to Athel Ransom on March 31, 1979.  Athelson married Elizabeth Clark on December 8, 1823, and had a son named Robert Newton Ransom on August 31, 1824.  At the age of 30, Robert Ransom married Isabella S. Huggins on December 13, 1854, and later had ten children including Eliza and Belle Ransom, founders of the Ransom School.

The Ransom family name figures prominently in the early development of Rutherford County.  Richard and James A. Ransom developed the Eagleville to Salem Turnpike that caused the Eagleville area to become part of Rutherford County.  Medicus J. Ransom, M.D., pioneered rehabilitative practices in the mid-1800s.  Local business and industry development in post-Reconstruction Rutherford County was led in part by the cotton gin, lumber operations, slaughter houses and mills of the Ransom family.  In recent years, the philanthropy of the Random descendants has been key in the development of the Children’s Discovery Center, the Read to Succeed project, multiple gifts to Middle Tennessee State University and other community support projects.

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