More Sounds from the Walls

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week Thirty

Hello, everyone. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Oak Grove. I am a two room school building in the Sharps Chapel area of Union County. Let me tell you a little more about myself.
Last week my “scribe” Ronnie Mincey wrote an article about me, detailing pertinent points of my history for school year 1932-1933. He submitted that article to Mr. Aaron Russell for his next Historic Union County magazine. As of this date that magazine is at the printer, and Mr. Russell says he plans to publish that article on this website after the magazine is published. You will have to read that article to find out about my school year 1932-1933.
In this article, Dr. Mincey records events mainly from my school term 1934-1935. His main source for information is the old registers on file at the Union County Board of Education’s Central Office, as was discussed in the previous article. I consider them my “diaries,” and Dr. Mincey has found them fascinating and wishes to share some of their information with you.
Thanks to those registers, my memories are recorded. In 1932-33, my teachers were Mr. and Mrs. H. E. and Duetta Anderson, who lived in the Sharps Chapel community. You must remember I am speaking to you from “The Great Beyond”, what some of you might now consider “the dim, dark past”. I led you to believe from the previous article H. E. and Duetta were married, but since then Dr. Mincey has conducted a little research.
In Bonnie Heiskell Peters’ book Union County Schoolday Memories: A Pictorial History of Union County Elementary Schools from the Mid-1800s to the 1960s (published in 1999), there is a picture on page 295 of H. E. and Belvia Ousley Anderson, identified as teachers at Rush Strong and Stiner’s Ridge Schools. There is another picture of Mr. Anderson (though not as clear) on page 311 captioned “A Sharps Chapel Group on their Way to Union County High School”, date not listed. The group is standing in front of a bus with “Union County High School” written on the side. Mr. Anderson is listed on page 333 of Ms. Peters’ book as having taught at Oak Grove again in 1940-1941, at Rush Strong from 1933-1935 and at Union (date not listed).
Belvia Ousley Anderson is photographed on page 25 as a student at Big Springs School (circa 1916). She is included on page 18 in a long list of teachers who taught at Big Sinks School and on page 209 is mentioned as having taught at Oak Grove with Maggie Stiner Walker in the early 1920s. A picture on page 274 shows the old Rush Strong Schoolhouse in Lead Mine Bend before the Norris Dam Project in which teachers Edgar (H. E.?) and Belvia Anderson are pictured on the lawn. On page 333 in Ms. Peters’ book, Belvia Ousley Anderson is listed as having taught at Oak Grove in 1932-1933 and at Rush Strong in 1934-1935 and 1938-1940.
Duetta Anderson is only listed one time in Ms. Peters’ book as having taught at Capps Creek in 1935-1936 and at Rush Strong from 1936-1938 and “1956-37” (this is obviously a typographical error in Ms. Peters’ book—Dr. Mincey thinks the date is 1936-1937, though it could also be 1956-1957).
Too many years and too many Andersons have passed for me to be sure of family relations. Any reader who can provide further information to Dr. Mincey will be appreciated.
My teachers in the old Oak Grove building for the school term August 7, 1933 to March 16, 1934 were Mary Irwin and Nelson Chesney.
Ms. Peters’ book has a picture of a Mary Irwin who was a student at Loyston Junior High School from 1926-1927; there is a picture of the Loyston Junior High School tenth grade from 1934-1935 that also has a Mary Irwin. As Mary Irwin is listed on page 341 as a teacher at Oak Grove from 1933-1935, the first picture would seem to be the Mary Irwin in question. A Mary Irwin Chesney is listed on page 4 of The Last Echo: A Pictorial History of Horace Maynard High School, Maynardville, Tennessee (Including Historical Data to 1997) as a contributor to the research for this excellent volume compiled and edited by Kathleen George Graves and Lois Campbell Hartsell. Mary Irwin is identified on page 28 of The Last Echo as a member of the Horace Maynard High School graduating class of 1928 and as teacher at Horace Maynard High School in 1936.
The Last Echo lists Nelson Chesney as a member of the Horace Maynard High School class of 1929. Page 18 lists Mr. Chesney as a Horace Maynard High faculty member from 1942-1943 and as principal in 1944. Ms. Peters’ book contains photographs on pages 33 and 34 that include Nelson Chesney as a student at Brock School in 1920 and 1927-1928. He is pictured on page 106 as an attendee of a singing school held at the old Hubbs Grove School (date not provided). Another picture on page 282 shows Nelson Chesney as teacher at Shady Grove School in 1935. On page 336 of her book, Ms. Peters lists William Nelson Chesney as a teacher at the following schools and terms: Union (1932-1933); Oak Grove (1933-1935); Rush Strong (1934-1935, 1940-1941); Shady Grove (1935-1937, 1950, 1953); and Hickory Valley (1937-1938).
In 1933-1934 at Oak Grove, Ms. Irwin taught 62 students in Primer through fourth grade (15 were retained or “held back”). Mr. Chesney taught 52 students in fifth through eighth grades (14 were retained).
There were four students who lived two and one half miles away, the farthest recorded distance from the school for any pupil. These students most likely walked five miles per day, round-trip, just to attend.
For the 1933-34 school term, Ms. Irwin was paid $85.00 per month, and Mr. Chesney $62.50 (his salary increased the following school term to $77.50 per month).
Mr. Chesney noted my original date of construction in his “Teacher’s Annual Property Report” as 1895. The ratio of my glass area to floor area as a whole was 1:11. Though there had been no toilet facilities the previous school year, Mr. Nelson noted in his report that one “insanitary toilet” was provided. Mr. Chesney listed the value of my building and heating plant as $200 (a $50 increase from the prior year) and the grounds as $100 (also a $50 increase from the previous year).
Mr. Chesney reported that my school library had four (4) books valued as a whole at $2, none added or lost during the school year. No books had been secured from circulating libraries. Neither Mr. Chesney nor Ms. Irwin were married, and neither lived in the Sharps Chapel community. Mr. Chesney listed the cost of his room and board as $10 per month, Ms. Irwin as $12.
In his 1934-1935 register, Mr. Nelson noted there was no playground equipment, though he valued (instructional?) equipment at $100. Inside the back cover of that same register, Mr. Nelson noted, “Two waterbuckets, two dippers, two coal buckets, one shovel, one broom, and the door key were left at Issac Shoffner’s. Erasers left in loft. Practically no coal left.” Mr. Nelson penciled a note on the front cover: “Sorry I held out on you so long, but I hadn’t been home and didn’t know you wanted it at once until today. Been ready for some time, but I was just waiting until I [cam] home. Hope it get in in time. Yours, N. I will get a notary to ‘John Henry’ it when I come out.” The register remains unnotarized to this day.
It doesn’t seem that conditions improved at Oak Grove very much from 1932 through 1935, but brighter days were on the horizon. Times were going to get better for both me and the students I housed, and for future generations of Sharps Chapel citizens. Next week I’ll share how this happened.

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