Washington County, Tennessee Public Schools, 1911-1916

Recently, we’ve cataloged several publications regarding education in Appalachia into our Special Collections,  which is our permanent collection of books and other printed materials. These materials can be found by searching ETSU’s library catalog (accessible by clicking here). A few of these newly cataloged publications include the Annual Reports of the Public Schools of Washington County, Tennessee for 1912, 1913, and 1916.

Annual Report for the Public Schools of Washington County, Tennessee
Annual Report for the Public Schools of Washington County, Tennessee

1911 was a big year for Washington County as it was the year the State Normal School (now East Tennessee State University) opened in Johnson City. For the Washington County Public Schools, this meant that its current teachers could enroll in classes, better educate themselves, and pass on a stronger education to their students:

State Normal School
State Normal School

The following statistics reflect the total amount of schools in Washington County and how the schools were segregated in 1913:

Washington County Schools Statistics, 1913

The 1913 Annual Report primarily focused on improving schools in the county. Improvements, as noted in the following excerpt, included building more outhouses, repairing cisterns, and providing more water containers. In addition, most of the floors were “well oiled” to eliminate “germ-laden dust so detrimental to the health of both teacher and pupil.”

Sanitary Conditions, Washington County Schools, 1913
Sanitary Conditions, Washington County Schools, 1913

Despite these improvements, E.S. DePew, the County Superintendent, made a plea to the public for more funds. DePew lamented,

“But many of our schoolhouses  are more poorly constructed and much less attractive than some men’s barns and smokehouses, and our teachers and children have as poor equipment with which to work as had the pioneer when he built his cabin in the shadow  of the forest…A dozen [schoolhouses] that should have been covered will be left with leaky roofs. Some that  should have been ground-walled will be left for the winter winds to sweep beneath. In many buildings the walls are bare and dingy, the paper is torn, the plaster is broken, the floor uneven, the heating unsatisfactory, the ventilation poor.”

To illustrate his point, the following image was included:

Unsanitary, Unsightly, Unequipped
Unsanitary, Unsightly, Unequipped

In addition to the annual reports, we have some photographs of Washington County students which date from 1913-1915. They can be found in the Mae Walker Collection.

Martha Wilder Public School, 1913 or 1914
Martha Wilder Public School, 1913 or 1914
Princeton School, Washington County, Tennessee, 6th Grade, 1915
Princeton School, Washington County, Tennessee, 6th Grade, 1915
Princeton School, Washington County, Tennessee, 10th Grade, 1915
Princeton School, Washington County, Tennessee, 10th Grade, 1915

Don’t the students look terribly elated to have their photograph taken?

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2 thoughts on “Washington County, Tennessee Public Schools, 1911-1916

  1. chadfredb

    Elaine Cantrell and I have done a lot of research on Washington County, TN Schools, Elaine has pictures of other schools that you listed above with names of people. She might be interested in copies of this article which I’ll send to her! She also might be a good person to contact about additional info!

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