History of Wearwood
Wearwood Elementary School lies nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. This community school is located in Wears Valley, which is on scenic Highway 321, adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The school was started in 1907 by the Presbyterian Church of Knoxville as Wearwood Academy. By the spring of 1907, Wears Valley residents had been convinced by missionaries that an education was essential to males and females alike. Community residents made plans to accept the Presbyterian proposition for a new school building near the center of Wears Valley. Another citizen, W. B. Emert, gave one acre of land to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Cumberland Presbyterian Church, in cooperation with the Wears Valley residents, soon built a building with two classrooms, a cloakroom, and a library. Miss H. C. Dailey was the first teacher; she named this school “Wearwood Academy”.
The first year Miss Dailey and Myrtle Webb taught a winter term. By the fall of 1909, the county had been persuaded to pay one teacher, hiring Miss Mable Moore. Miss Moore worked at the Baptist Church each Sunday while Miss Dailey worked at the Methodist Church. These close ties to church, school, and community are still in evidence and contribute to the very family essence that prevails at Wearwood Elementary. On March 19, 1912, three pupils of Wears Valley received eighth grade certificates. In the early 1920’s, the Sevier County Board of Education bought the Wearwood Academy property from the Presbyterian Church of Knoxville and changed the school’s name to “Wearwood School”.
A few years after this purchase, school was taught five months at a time. Around 1925 or 1926, the school population became large enough to enable the county to build two new classrooms. Professor Mell Lawson, a former graduate of Wearwood and Maryville College, returned to Wearwood to teach. He and his wife taught some high school subjects including English, history, home economics, mathematics, and Latin. There were six students who took advantage of this opportunity. Graduation was not part of the program; however, they were prepared for high school.
November 8, 2004 was a special day for our fourth grade students. Mrs. Nelle Hatcher, a retired teacher from Wearwood, came to share her recollections of the school and of her life in this community. The following is a short compilation of Mrs. Hatcher’s memories.
Nelle’s grandmother was a little girl during the Civil War. Her grandmother remembers being in the kitchen making pies when a man in chains rushed in and said, “I’m sorry, but they’re going to catch me.” He drank the milk and egg mixture and ran off. She often wonders what happened to him. There was a cheese factory on Robinson Road started by a man from Wisconsin. He boarded at Mrs. Hatcher’s family home. The only means of transportation was horses as there were no cars in the Wears Valley area. Dr. Ogle and Dr. Huffman made house-calls. They would stay at a patient’s home until he or she was actually well. The local residents raised cotton, sheep, beef, chickens, and pork. All the food was grown locally. Cane was also produced and made into molasses.
Ms. Daily and Ms. Webb lived in half of the school building. They heated the building with a Franklin wood stove. Mrs. Hatcher taught two grades at Wearwood. There were five or six teachers each year. She had 46 students in her room. The children would bring their own lunch, or they brought ingredients, and Mrs. Hatcher would make vegetable soup. The children walked to school and bought their own textbooks. The girls wore dresses and the boys wore pants. They had pie suppers. The women made the pies, and the men bid on the pies. There were spelling bees. The children would bring an egg to barter for candy. Halloween was a time of great pranks. Outhouses were the main targets. They were usually toppled over. One year the outhouse was hoisted to the roof of the school.
The conclusion of Mrs. Hatcher’s chat with our students was a thought that is still reflected in the Wearwood Community. There was a depression, but no one in the valley was aware of it. No matter what is happening in the world, the Wearwood School and the Wears Valley Community will pull together and make education possible and pleasurable. Next in our history, an accredited junior school was established in 1935 and lasted for four years. Again in 1951, one classroom and a cafeteria were added to the building.
At the beginning of the 1952 school year, the county school board sent Professor Mell Lawson back to Wearwood, along with Mrs. Jim Hatcher, Mrs. Walter Ogle, Mrs. Ralph Patty, and Miss Callie Crowson. The school term was off to a good start with these very competent, hard-working, enthusiastic teachers. In November 1952, the dear old Wearwood School building burned. Classes were held at the Methodist Church and Valley View Baptist Church. The Wearwood School building was rebuilt and classes resumed at the present location in 1954.
Many things have changed since the first students arrived at Wearwood Academy in 1907. Our school and community have always appreciated and respected the rich heritage of Wears Valley. The Park Settlement School merged with Wearwood Elementary in the 1960s. This was a solidifying event for the community. As evidence of this transition, our custodian, Cling Reagan, brought his daughters to Wearwood Elementary even though he had attended the Park Settlement School. His daughter, Stella Ogle, remains at this school today as a custodian and a Junior League Basketball Coach. For generations, the school has served as a focal point of the community. The school is a place where the individual needs of each child have been recognized and addressed.