Society Info
Meeting Schedule
Recent additions
Surname Studies
County Maps
Local History
Membership Form


Each entry above is a link to the related article.
There is a link at the end of each article to return here.

Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal
September 12 and 19, 1937.

(Upper South Carolina Genealogy & History, Vol. 1, No. 2, page 37, Editor's Note: This article was compiled and written by members of the Spartanburg staff, one of four South Carolina units in the Federal Writer's project of the Works Progress administration. The research was done in connection with the South Carolina Guide Book..... )

The history of the first schools in Spartanburg county is so interlocking with the establishment of the first churches that it is difficult to determine from all available records the exact dates when the pioneer settlers organized their first schools. There are several of the early schools whose histories have been more or less definitely determined by a search of records, old newspaper files and personal interviews, but there are others of which little is known.

To the Presbyterian church must go the credit of establishment of the early schools. Presbyterians outnumbered members of other denominations in Spartanburg prior to the Revolution, and they were so deeply interested in the education of their children that they established schools almost as soon as they organized their first churches.

The relative decline of the Presbyterian Church following the Revolution, which was caused largely by many pastors leaving the pulpit to conduct schools. did not affect educational development in Spartanburg county. The germ that had been planted years before had already spread to other denominations. The Baptists, under the leadership of the Rev. John G. Landrum, established schools in their first churches. Methodists, filled with enthusiasm, organized schools in various sections of the county. What the Presbyterian had begun, other denominations continued until the public school system was established.

The "old field school" or "academy" played a conspicuous part in early education in Spartanburg county. Men who became distinguished on the bench, at the bar, in the political field and in the pulpit, received their education and impetus from the inspiration given them in the academy schools. These academies could boast of no handsome buildings or large equipment but only of their high standards of excellence. They were conducted by men of education and culture, and the students, thoroughly drilled in mathematics,languages and sciences, readily entered the nation's best colleges.

Top of Page


Among the teachers were Judge William Smith, James Bostick, the Rev. W.C. Davis, James Gilleland, the Golightlys, a Mr. Blundell, Matthew Evins and many others who followed at later dates. These men conducted schools in private homes in various sections of the county before the first buildings were erected for school purposes.

Judge Smith is one of the best known of the early teachers. He taught schools in private homes before he was appointed head of Rock Spring school which he conducted for a number of years. He received his education in Virginia and came to Spartanburg county while a young man. In later years, he became a learned jurist and was offered a seat on the bench of the United States Supreme Court by President Van Buren, which he declined to accept. At the time of his death in Alabama, about 1838, he is said to have owned 800 slaves in that state and Tennessee, where he amassed a considerable fortune after leaving Spartanburg county.

Top of Page


Little is known of the life of Mr. Blundell, who conducted several schools in the county. One of the most flourishing schools which he taught was located in the bend of the Enoree river near Anderson's bridge on the Greenville county side. The school was attended by many young men of both Greenville and Spartanburg counties, and among the graduates were the Kilgores of Greenville and the Deans of Spartanburg.

The Rev. W.C. Davis, a Presbyterian pastor, taught several schools in the county before he assumed the pastorate of Nazareth Presbyterian church in 1789. For the next five years, he conducted Minerva Academy, the oldest school in Spartanburg county.

Another early teacher of whom little is known was James Bostick, who had been a merchant in London but, failing in business, had come to America and supported himself by teaching. He conducted a school in the neighborhood of the Dean property on the Enoree river. In his "History of Spartanburg County" Landrum stated that Hosea J. Dean attended this school where "he gained an education, including a knowledge of Greek, Latin and the higher mathematics." Since Hosea Dean was born in 1806, this school must have been in operation about 1812 or 1815.

Top of Page


The earliest school in Spartanburg county was Minerva Academy, founded by the organizers of Nazareth Presbyterian church, one of the oldest churches in Spartanburg county. Although the school's history is somewhat obscured, there are certain known facts give it a prominent place in educational development in Spartanburg county. The exact date of its establishment is not known, but since the first pastors of Nazareth church conducted the school while serving as pastors of the church, it is believed that the academy was opened soon after the establishment of the church in 1765.

It was first called the Eustatie academy, and conducted for a number of years at Foster's meeting house. About 1785 a building was erected and the name changed to Minerva Academy.

In his "History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina," Howe stated that James Gilleland, Jr., taught school in Spartanburg county before he was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian church. Whether this school was Minerva academy can only be surmised, but it is known that he conducted the academy from 1802 to 1816, after he had been ordained a minister of the Presbyterian church and while serving as pastor of Nazareth church. The history also contains a letter from Dr. Sam B. Wilson, who, at one time, was professor of theology at Union seminary in Prince Edward county, Virginia, in which he stated that he attended this school along with Dr. John McElhaney, who later rose to prominence in the Presbyterian church in North and South Carolina.

Dr. Ramsey, in his "History of South Carolina," stated that Minerva academy and Rock Spring school were the only two schools in existence in Spartanburg county in 1800. Another proof of the early existence of Minerva academy and Rock Spring school can be found in a letter from Thomas J. Moore to J.B.O. Landrum, author of Landrum's "History of Spartanburg County," in which Mr. Moore stated (March 15, 1899) that his grandmother told him the graduates of these two schools readily entered the colleges of the nation without further training. As examples, the letter stated that William Barry graduated from Minerva academy, attended college in Kentucky and was appointed postmaster general under President Andrew Jackson in 1828. The letter also stated that Dr. Andrew Barry Moore studied at Minerva and Rock Spring school, graduated from Dickinson college, Carlisle, Pa., in 1795, and returned to Spartanburg county to practice medicine. Since these two men completed their college educations at early dates, it is evident that Minerva academy and Rock Spring school were in existence several years prior to 1800.

Top of Page


The exact site of Minerva academy has never been definitely determined although Mr. Moore stated in his letter that his grandmother pointed out a site to him on the old Saluda Gap road three miles north of Moore which she said she had been told was the original location of the school. It must have been in operation until about 1816 or 1820, since it is known that Colonel Thomas Brockman, of Greenville, received his education at Minerva academy.

Top of Page


Rock Spring school, which was located about one-half mile north of Moore on the left of the Saluda Gap road, is probably the second oldest school in Spartanburg county. The exact date of its establishment in not known, but proof of its early existence can be found in the records of the Rev. W.C. Davis, who mentioned the "classical school of high standards being conducted at Rock Spring" while he was teaching at Minerva academy from 1789 to 1794. In his "History of South Carolina," Dr. Ramsey mentioned the school being in existence in 1800.

It was patronized by the Moores, Barrys, Crooks, Means and other pioneer settlers in that vicinity. The names of the teachers are not known except Judge William Smith, Jonathan Hadden, one named Thurkill who taught at an early date, and H.W.D. Alexander, who taught from 1846 to 1847, when the school became extinct.

Top of Page


Little is known of the early history of Bethel academy at Woodruff except that it was organized by the founders of Bethel Baptist church soon after the church was established in 1787. Early church records show that the school was operated in the church building by a "Master Lindsay," but it is evident that the school was not in continuous operation.

From 1805, it was operated only at intervals until its extinction at the beginning of the Civil War. Dr. John Dean conducted the school in 1851 and M.D. Kennedy in 1852.

Among the early patrons were Joseph Woodruff, Robert Page, William Clayton, Zachariah Lanford, Phillip Pilgrim, Jonas Brewton, Chaney Lanford, John Leatherwood, Jared Drummond, Thomas Woodruff and other early settlers of that section.

Top of Page


Like other early schools in Spartanburg county, the history of Poplar Springs academy is somewhat obscured. The school was last located an the old Presbyterian camp-meeting site at Poplar Springs, and it was in existence as early as 1816, since it is known that Major William Hoy and Captain David Anderson attended the school during that year. In later years, the school presumably replaced Minerva academy, because its teachers were also preachers at Nazareth church.

The school was not operated continuously, for James Anderson, a patron of the school, attended Flint Hill academy for a while in 1833 until the Rev. J.L. Kennedy reopened Poplar Springs academy. Mr. Kennedy was succeeded in 1838 by James Dickson, who taught until 1841.

Other teachers included George W. Broyles, of Tennessee; B.F. Winslow, of Vermont; H.M. Anderson, and the Rev. Z.L. Holmes, who also served as pastor of Nazareth for several years.

The school was closed in 1859 when the Reidville Female college and the Male High school opened. The original building has been replaced by the modern Poplar Springs school building.

Top of Page


One of the early schools whose graduates gained renown in the business and professional world was a private academy operated by Matthew P. Evins. It was located on Crim's Place on the Tyger river and later moved to the C.A. Barry property. From all available records, it must have been in existence from about 1815 to 1850. It was said that Matthew Evins was not a college graduate but that he possessed the ability and personality to inspire his pupils to become deeply interested in their search for education.

Among the graduates were Hosea Dean, Martin Crook, Pinckney Miller, Crawford and Sam Snoddy, Enoree James Anderson, David Anderson, C.P. Sullivan, who was the first honor graduate of the South Carolina college; Dr. James Sullivan, Dr. James Harrison and Joseph Choice, all of Greenville; Jefferson Choice, of Spartanburg; General Ira Wofford, who gained fame in Georgia as one of the state's outstanding politicians, and Anthony Jefferson Pearson, a young Presbyterian minister, who gained prominence in the Presbyterian church although he died just two years after he had been ordained a minister.

Matthew Evins died in 1861, but he had closed his school a few years before this date because of ill health.

Top of Page


Fort Prince academy, located near the site of Fort Prince about four miles north of Fairforest on the old Blackstock road, was established in 1805, but it was not operated continuously. Dr. Oliver Chapman conducted the school from 1845 to 1850, but it was closed and never reopened when he moved to Texas in 1851. Beyond these facts, little is known of the history of this school.

Top of Page


Another early school whose history has been lost was the academy established by Henry Patillo Barry near the present site of the town of Switzer. Among the students were Miles Gentry, a Dr. Ward and Miss Lula Tucker, who later gained renown as an educator in Florida. The dates of the school's existence are not known.

Top of Page


Pear Field academy falls in the same class with Barry's school, its history having been lost. It was established near the site of the present Trinity church of Cross Anchor, and was conducted by Chana Stone and Simpson Burnett. Mr. Stone later opened a classical school in Union county.

Top of Page


The Word academy was established in 1824 in a grove near Cedar Springs by the Rev. James Porter. Later teachers were E.C. Leitner, George Packer, Roland Burdette, James Smith and others. About the same time, a Mr. Scarbourough opened a school for girls in the same community.

The exact date when Word academy was closed is not known but Landrum stated in his history that Gabriel Cannon, who was born in 1806, attended "Word academy at Cedar Springs, a classical school, where he studied Latin, algebra, geometry, etc." Landrum also stated that the school was "probably the best in Spartanburg district at that time."

Top of Page


New Prospect academy, which was located near the present site of the New Prospect Baptist church, was in existence in 1825, but the exact date of its establishment is not known. The school was one of the highest standard academies in the county, according to all records. Landrum stated in his history that he attended the school for a few years and that it was one of the best in the upcountry.

Colonel Stephen Lee conducted the school in 1857, and was succeeded by Dr. T.J. Earle in 1858. In 1860, Dr. Earle opened a private school for both boys and girls at Gowansville. New Prospect academy was closed at the beginning of the Civil war and was never reopened.

Top of Page


The Rev. John G. Landrum, who organized several of the early Baptist churches, established schools in or near these churches. He began a school at Mont Zion Baptist church in 1836 and also taught at Clayford academy on Lawson's Fork near the Calvin Foster property during the same year. He was assisted at Mount Zion by M.N. Chapman, who later became a member of the state legislature. Among the patrons of Mount Zion school were the Chapmans, Wingos, Fosters, Turners, Bomars and other families of that neighborhood.

Top of Page


In 1840, John W. Wofford opened Ridgfield academy near the site of Hill's factory on Tyger River, which he conducted for ten years. As an inducement to attend this school, he offered students board in his home at the rate of four dollars a month. In 1845, he was a candidate for the legislature on the prohibition platform, an unpopular issue at that time, and was defeated. He closed his school and moved to Mississippi in 1850.

Top of Page


James Hutchinson established a school at the Cross Anchor section, near the present site of the New Hope Baptist church, in 1825, which he conducted for a number of years. Among those who attended this school were Simpson Bobo, Oliver E. Edwards and the children of Colonel Thomas Farrow. The date when the school was closed is not known.

Top of Page


From all records, Flint Hill academy had a very brief existence. It was located one mile north of Moore on the Saluda Gap road, and about one-half mile north of Rock Spring school. During 1833, the school was conducted by the Rev. John Boggs, a Presbyterian pastor. Mr. Boggs served as pastor of Nazareth church from 1816 to 1820 and taught at Minerva academy during that period.

There are no records to show that Flint Hill academy was operated either before or after the term of 1833. In 1848, Pine Grove academy was established at the same site, and it is evident that the school was extinct before that time.

One of the early schools was a private academy conducted by William Hastings near Van Patten's shoals on Enoree river. He erected a school building in 1825 and conducted the academy for exactly 15 years. He specialized in preparing young men for medical colleges, and among the graduates were three Westmorelands, who later practiced medicine in this county.

Top of Page


The Spartanburg Male academy was in existence in 1837 but the date of its origin is unknown. It was located in a small brick building at what is now the intersection of Henry and Union streets. Among the early teachers were Erastus Rowley, Elias Hall, John A. Leland, Z.D. Cottrell, William Irwin and Jonathan Hadden.

Major A.H. Kirby, who came to Spartanburg when he was eight years old in 1837. wrote that the Male academy was being taught that year by Jonathan Hadden, and that he learned the school had been taught a few years before that date by E.C. Leitner and others.

In 1848, the building was used by the Episcopal denomination as a place of worship, and this denomination continued to use the building at intervals until the completion of St. John's college on the present site of Converse College. The Male academy was then closed, but the building was used by various organizations for several years. It was finally abandoned and later torn down.

Top of Page


The Spartanburg Female Academy also was organized in 1837. It was located on the site of the present First Baptist church at the corner of North Dean and Main streets.

It was first taught by Miss Louise Hamilton and Miss Rosa Wallace, both of Anderson county. In 1839, Miss Phoebe Paine, of Carlisle, Pa., was appointed head of the school, which she conducted until 1854 when it was superseded by the Spartanburg Female college.

Top of Page


Glenn Springs academy, which was located at Glenn Springs, was organized in 1842, and first taught by John Elson, and later by the Rev. Clough Beard. The Rev. John D. McCollough, the first Episcopal clergyman resident of the county, was elected principal of the academy in 1848.

Among the graduates were John C. Zimmerman, David Peake, Fred Newsom and the children of the early settlers in that section. Mr. McCollough, with the help of assistants whose names are not known, conducted the school for several years. Like many other schools, it was closed at the beginning of the Civil war and never reopened.

Top of Page


Fingerville academy was established near the present village of Fingerville about 1845. It was taught by Sam Means, Elias Johnson, Sam Lancaster and others. Among the patrons were Gabe Cannon, the McDowells, Whites, Fosters and others of that section. It, too, was closed the beginning of the Civil war and never reopened.

Top of Page


Pine Grove academy, which was located about one mile north of Moore on the Saluda Gap road, was established in 1848 as a school for girls. It was located in a pine grove on the Barry property, and presumably replaced Flint Hill academy, since that school was located on the same site.

Miss Hamilton, of Anderson county, conducted the school in 1848, and Miss Mary Juhan in 1849.

In addition to classics, instrumental music and piano was taught. Girls from the Evins, Millers, Strobels, Moores, Fielders and other families of that section attended the school.

The academy became a mixed school in 1850, and David Jones was the principal from that date until 1854 when the school was closed. Dick Kennedy reopened the school in 1855, but the later history of the school is not known except that it was closed when the Reidville Female college and Male academy were opened.

Top of Page


The South Carolina School for the Education of the Deaf and the Blind, located at Cedar Springs, has an interesting history.

In 1849, the Rev. N.P. Walker purchased the hotel building at Cedar Springs and opened a private school for deaf children. Prior to that time, South Carolina had sent her deaf children to a school in Hartford, Conn., but this system was changed when Mr. Walker opened his school.

In 1855, a department for the blind was added.

In 1857, the school was changed from a private to a state institution by purchase, and appropriations were made for its support and the erection of necessary buildings. When Superintendent Walker died in 1861, the state legislature did not name his successor, and his widow wisely managed the school for the next four years. In 1866, J.S. Henderson and N.F. Walker were made associate principals, but the school was closed one year later because of the unsettled condition of the states's finances.

It was reopened in 1869 with J.M. Hughson in charge, and N.F. Walker was elected superintendent in 1872 when Mr. Hughson resigned.

During that year, a building for Negro students was erected on the campus. In September, 1783, the state board of commissioners issued instructions that "the colored pupils must be domiciled in the same building, eat at the same table, be taught in the same classrooms and by the same teachers, and must receive the same care and attention and consideration as the white pupils." Superintendent Walker and his assistants immediately resigned. The state board failed to find instructors who would be governed by these instructions, and the school closed.

Dr. Walker opened a private school in Spartanburg in what is now known as the Horace Bomar home on East Main street, which he conducted until 1876, when the white race regained control of the state's political machinery, a new board of commissioners appointed, the previous order rescinded, and Dr. Walker reappointed as superintendent of school. The progress of the school has been uninterrupted since that date, and new buildings have been erected from time to time. Cedar Springs was known during the Revolutionary war as Cedar Springs, and two battles were fought between the Whigs and Tories near the present site of the institution in 1780.

Top of Page


St. John's college, which was located on the present site of Converse college, was built largely through the efforts of the Rev. John D. McCollough. A building was erected and the first sessions of the school were held in 1854.

The operation of the school, however, was not financially successful, and the property was sold to T.S. Arthur and William Irwin. The later purchased Arthur's interest and opened a military school which he conducted until the opening of the Civil War.

T. Wagner company of Charleston bought the property with Confederate bonds at that time and donated it to the Episcopal diocese. I was used as a home for Mr. McCollough and sold to D.E. Converse and Company in 1889.

During its existence, St. John's college also served as a place of worship for Episcopalians in this section.

Top of Page


Odd Fellows' academy was established in 1856 on the old Baptist church lot near the county jail. It was conducted in 1857 by Major D.R. Duncan, who later was admitted to the bar and discontinued teaching. The school was evidently not a financial success, for efforts were made to secure new students by reductions in tuition fees. It remained in operation, however, until the Civil war, when it was closed and never reopened.

Top of Page


Wofford college owes it existence to the philanthropy of the Rev. Benjamin Wofford, a local preacher of the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

Benjamin Wofford died in 1850, leaving $100,000 to found a Christian college "in my native district." At that time, the gift was said to be the largest sum ever given to school in the South.

The college was chartered in 1851 and opened its doors for regular work in 1854. Since that time, it has grown steadily despite the fact that its endowment and resources were swept away by the wreck of the Civil war. During the dark days following the war, Wofford remained open when many other institutions were forced to close their doors.

Dr. W.W. Wightman was president of the institution from 1854 to 1859; Dr. A.M. Shipp, 1859-1875; Dr. James H. Carlisle, 1875-1902, when he resigned, being succeeded by Dr. Henry Nelson Snyder, who has served as president since that time. [Time of this writing, Sept 1937]

Top of Page


The Reidville Female college and Male High school, established in 1857, were the results of efforts of the Rev. R.H. Reid, pastor of Nazareth church for many years and a minister deeply interested in the education of young man and young women. He brought his plan for the school before the annual business meeting of Nazareth church in 1857, and a resolution was unanimously adopted to make efforts to raise money for the buildings. The necessary funds were quickly raised and the cornerstone was laid in October, 1857, before a crowd of 2,000 people.

The Male High school opened in February, 1858, and the Female college held its first session the following year. The property surrounding the schools was divided into lots and a village soon sprang up. It was named Reidville in honor of the founder of the schools.

The Rev. B.P. Ried, son of the founder of the schools, was head of the institution until the public school system developed in the late nineties. In 1913, he decided to convert the buildings into an institution for the care of the indigent children whether orphans or not, but he died suddenly before his plans had been carried out. The property has since been sold.

Top of Page


After he had conducted New Prospect academy in 1857, Colonel Stephen Lee opened a private school of his own at the home of Dr. Alfred Moore near the present sight of the town of Wellford. He conducted classical school until the opening of the Civil war when, like many other schools, it was closed and never reopened.

Top of Page


In addition to the schools mentioned above, there are others whose histories have been lost in the maze of uncertainty.

The Neighborhood Classical school, conducted by P.S. Oeland, held its first session in 1861 at the Antioch Methodist church, but nothing is known of its later history.

Mt. Carmel academy, located at Hurricane Shoals, was conducted by L.N. Legg in 1860, but its history is also lost.

Thomas and William Golightly taught schools at private homes in various sections of the county, but the exact sites and the dates of existence of these schools have never been determined.

There were probably many other private schools whose histories have been lost.

Top of Page


Soon after the organization of Nazareth church in 1765, the founders organized a society, the purpose of which, according to church records, was "to secure the best education possible for their children and for the promotion of the general interest in education throughout the state."

The society raised money by fines and membership fees, and met semi-annually for the examination of teachers and to hear reports and to consider what was best to be done to promote the objects of the association. It was incorporated as the Spartanburg Philanthropic society by the legislature on December 16, 1797.

Top of Page


The Civil war saw the end of the majority if private academies and schools which has been in existence prior to that time. The majority of the teachers closed their schools to enter the army, and, during the dark days following the war, only few families were financially able to send their children to private schools. During Reconstruction days, a number of private academies sprang up, but the advent of the free public school system resulted in the extinction of most of these schools.

Top of Page


The Spartanburg city school system was organized in 1884. The first meeting of the board of trustees for the Spartanburg district was held on July 28, 1884, at which time a committee was appointed to examine all buildings available for school purposes.

The trustees were Dr. E.C. Fleming, president; Charles Petty, chairman; John B. Cleveland, clerk; and George Cofield and W.L. Harris. The committee reported that the Male academy building could be rented for $28 the first year and for $30 a year thereafterwards, and the Female academy building for $50 a year.

William S. Morrison, of Wellford, was elected superintendent at a salary of $75 a month, and Miss Carson, Miss M.H. Guardeaux and Mrs. E.E. Evins were elected teachers. R.M. Alexander was elected principal of the Negro school which was given quarters in the basement of the Baptist church for Negroes. The first session of the schools opened on October 6, 1884.

From these humble beginnings, the present modern Spartanburg county and city educational system has evolved.

Top of Page