Oak Hill School

Oak Hill School Class Photo 1920's

Oak Hill School no longer exists and very little is known of its history. The school was located in the Highway 58 area below Harrison in Hamilton County. The exact location and dates of its existence are unknown. According to an 1887-88 County School report, Oak Hill was one of two schools located in Harrison. To date, no records from this early Hamilton County school have been found.

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Oak Hill School Ball Team

Oak Hill School Ball Team 1920's 

Oak Hill School Class Photo

Class Photo 1920's

Photos submitted by Susan Kendall



An academy was established in Harrison in 1838.  Depending on the source this school was the Harrison Academy, Harrison Male Academy, Hamilton Academy, or the Hamilton Male and Female Academy.  It was operated by the State of Tennessee or the Harrison Masonic Lodge and was private, semi-private, or public. Possibly the school was all of these. Its charter was changed several times over the years.  On November 12, 1867, the Tennessee State Legislature passed an Act transferring control of the Harrison Male Academy to Masonic Lodge 114. Between 1867 and 1873, the academy became the Hamilton Male and Female Academy. The school was closed about 1890.

    In 1843, Ainsworth E. Blount, Chairman of the Common School Commission, bought a lot for a school and had a schoolhouse built. This seems to have been the only common school located in Harrison until near the end of the century. No evidence concerning the fate of this school is available. Possibilities are that the school was closed for lack of funds, it was destroyed during the War Between the States, or it was closed in 1870 when Harrison annexed to James County. It was certainly not operating in 1872.

    In January 1873, Assistant State Superintendent J. B. Killebrew reported to the General Assembly that there were no free schools in James County. The county had not levied a school tax and had no operating funds except the poll tax.

    The only school in Harrison at that time was the Hamilton Male and Female Academy. Within a few years, Hamilton County was operating schools in James County.

    We were unable to determine the date that Hamilton County established a school in Harrison. The 1887-88 county school report listed Harrison and Oak Hill as District Schools Nos. I and 2, respectively. Nothing in the report indicated that either school was newly established. Through 1909, Harrison was a one-room school.  Through 1937, eight grades were taught at the school.

    In the 1887-88 school year, Harrison School had 78 students and one teacher, Samuel Hixson.  The school was discontinued after that year. No reason is given for this action and no information is available concerning the arrangements which were made for the education of Harrison children. A state law permitted the transfer of students when such transfers were considered to be in the best interests of education. Oak Hill School continued operation.

    In 1892 Harrison School reopened with 39 students, one teacher, and a credit of $193.31.  Except for two years, 1937 to 1939, the school has remained in continuous operation since that time.

    The State Legislature in 1903 passed an Act making school districts co-extensive with civil districts. This Act changed Harrison's designation from District 27, School No. 1, to District 7, School No. 1.

    In the 1904-05 school year, Harrison had 80 students and 3 graduates: Jeff Bell, Lois Pearson, and Noah Pearson.

    Colonel Jesse Scalfe Thrasher, minister of the Baptist Church at Harrison during the early part of the century, printed Bible lessons and each year distributed them to the school children.

    On the night of April 29, 1909, a severe windstorm, exhibiting many characteristics of a tornado, struck Harrison and destroyed the school. The school's replacement was built on the banks of Harrison Creek at a cost of $1,800.00. Furniture and fixtures were $328.70. The new school contained two classrooms, one for first and second grades, and the other for third through eighth grades. The two teachers' combined salaries were $797.50. The custodian earned $31.25. The average cost per annum per student, based on average daily attendance, was $14.10. Eighty-seven students were enrolled for the first year of operation.

    In 1911, a third teacher was added to the faculty. In 1914, a principal was assigned to the school for the first time.  For approximately 30 years the principal taught classes in addition to administrative responsibilities.

    In 1915, the county board of education obtained a 3.1- acre tract of land on a hill overlooking Highway 58 and built a new brick school.  The school had three classrooms and an auditorium and was heated by a furnace. Earlier schools had been heated by wood stoves. The faculty the first year consisted of a principal and three teachers. The principal's salary was $85.00 a month. One teacher earned $60.00 a month and the other earned $30.00. Enrollment was 86.

    Enrollment exceeded 100 for the first time in 1924 with 116 students.

    In 1925, Hamilton County Schools were scored to determine their efficiency. Important points of the scorecards were site, building, service system, classrooms and special rooms. Under the system used, a completely modern school would have scored 1,000. Harrison scored 496. Scholastic achievement tests were also given all county students. Harrison students scored within the acceptable average in all areas and above the average in spelling.

    In September of 1926, the faculty was increased to one principal and three teachers.

    Three new classrooms and one teacher were added to the school in 1930. The estimated value of the school following this addition was $16,000. Enrollment for 1930-31 was 161. Through 1937, the school's faculty was a principal and four teachers. Enrollment reached 200 only once, during the 1935-36 school year.

The school had no cafeteria. During its final decade of existence, the PTA sponsored a hot lunch program. Twice a week parents made soup in iron kettles and delivered it to the foot of the hill. Students carried it up the hill and served it. Mrs. Rex Richey, parent, and Margaret Tims, student, participated in this project. Margaret now works in Harrison's cafeteria.

    For several years during the thirties, Mrs. Anna B. Lacey sponsored a school beautification project.  Harrison faculty and students planted shrubs and trees on the school grounds.

    In 1935, TVA surveyors arrived to assess Harrison property. They were not among the community's most welcome guests. TVA and the Hamilton County Board of Education reached an agreement for the purchase of Harrison School

property. TVA made plans to wreck the building, and the school board began casting about for schools to absorb the displaced students and teachers.  The school was closed in June 1937. The final year's enrollment was 192.

    After the last class, the school board began the task of removing furnishings from the building. On October 9, 1937, Mrs. Lacey, chairman of the school board, appealed to George Forbes, local board member, for assistance. It seems Harrison School patrons had chosen to ignore the proceedings. Mrs. Lacey wrote to Mr. Forbes:

    “There is a piano in the Harrison School that belongs to the Parent-Teachers.       It is necessary that we empty that building as quickly as possible, as the equipment that is left there is apt to be destroyed. We have been unable so far to get the community to say what might be done with the piano. I would like for you to talk to Mr. Wilson and get him to make a decision for the community of course, we would like to move it to one of the schools where the Harrison children are going, but whatever you work out will be satisfactory.”

    John E. Wilson arranged for the piano to be moved to Bess T. Shepherd. It is unknown whether he sought the opinions of other Harrison residents or whether he "made the decision for the community" as Mrs. Lacey suggested. Miss Marguerite Eblen remembers meeting a former student who was attending Bess T. Shepherd. The little girl greeted Miss Eblen with a hearty hug and, "Guess what, Miss Eblen! We've got our piano, the same one we had at Harrison!" Some Harrison students also went to Oak Hill School.

    If you row out on Chickamauga when the lake is low, you can see the foundation of the old school building. We hear it's a great fishing hole.

Fiftieth Anniversary and History of Harrison Elementary School - 1989