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Knoxville and Knox County Schools

Knoxville public schools had their origin in 1870, on the 16th of December, of which year the mayor and board of aldermen appointed a committee consisting of WA Henderson, JA Rayl, and JR Mitchell to take into consideration the propriety of establishing a system of free schools. At the next meeting of the mayor and board of aldermen, the committee made a favorable report and on January 21, 1871, the matter was submitted to the people and was carried by a vote of 433 to 162. A tax of one mill on the dollar was levied for the support of the public schools and a board consisting of JA Rayl, chairman; WA Henderson, and Dr John M Boyd, was appointed to inaugurate the system.

John Payne, professor East Tennessee University, aided by Rev Dr Thomas W Humes, the committee procured aid from the Peabody fund to the extent of $2,000, and as soon as suitable buildings could be procured, the schools were opened. September 4, 1871, in nine houses situated in various parts of the city, with about 1,000 children in attendance.

During the first year the schools were in session ten months, fifteen teachers being employed. In the summer of 1872, the Bell House, originally erected for hotel purposes at 220 Main street, was secured at a cost of $5,500. The necessary repairs and alterations were made and with greatly improved facilities for grading, the school was opened in this building in September, 1872. Twenty teachers were employed, several of whom had taught during the preceding year. Until December, 1873, the schools were conducted by a committee appointed by the mayor, this committee consisting of members of the city council holding their offices for one year. On the 12th of December of this year, the council passed an ordinance creating a board of education consisting of five persons to be elected by the city council for a term of five years, one member retiring each year, there being thus at all times a board of education experienced in the management of the schools and familiar with their needs, The first board consisted of JA Rayl, chairman; Charles D McGuffey, secretary; JW Gaut, treasurer; FA Reeve and WW Woodruff.

On September 19, 1874, a petition was received from Catholic citizens calling attention to the fact that they had erected a school house on Summit Hill, capable of accommodating a large number of children, which building had been erected at great expense, and as they did not expect any aid from the city in the shape of donations, or salaries of teachers, fuel etc, they would ask the board of aldermen to make them a donation from the city funds to aid them in providing furniture suitable for said building. Upon motion of Alderman Albers, the board appropriated $400 toward said purpose, and appointed a committee of three- Lewis, Albers, and O Connor, to supervise the disbursement of the money thus donated.

In 1874 a new schoolhouse was erected at 311 Morgan street at a cost of $6,000, and a school named the Peabody School was established and in 1877, the trustees of the Hampden Sidney Academy erected a new building at 304 State street which they tendered to the board of education for the use of the public schools in which the next year a school for girls was opened. In 1881 the schools again having become crowded, the trustees of the East Tennessee Female Institute offered their building on Main street to the board of education and in it a girls high school was opened. This building was thus used until 1885, when the girls high school was transferred to a business block at the corner of Church and Gay streets. In 1886 a very fine public school building was erected at 431 Walnut street for the accommodation of girls from the third to the tenth grades inclusive. This is a three story brick building well fitted and furnished and cost $35,000. January 1, 1883 when the ninth ward was admitted into the corporation, graded schools were opened therein in a building previously erected, and this is now a part of the system of public schools.

The John Sevier School -October 22, 1897, and dedicated January 30, 1898, a new two story brick building having been erected.

Park Street School located at No 304 Park St West

The Girls High School located at 431 Walnut street, formerly in the East Tennessee Female Institute building, from 1881 to 1885 and then in the Barton block at the corner of Gay and Church streets from 1885 to 1886, when it was transferred to its own new building at 431 Walnut street.

The Austin School for colored children named in honor of Miss Emily L Austin and located at No 327 Central Avenue.


It was doubtless greatly to the advantage to the public school system of Knoxville that they had at the beginning such a clear headed and broad minded man as president of the board of education. In his report to the board of mayor and aldermen submitted August 15, 1874, he presented the following paragraph on the character of the schools
"From the first day that the schools went into operation, it has been an inflexible rule with those having them in charge and fully endorsed by the people, that no teacher shall be allowed to teach sectarian views in religion, or partisan or sectional views in politics. If any violation of this rule has occurred it has not been with the knowledge or consent of the board of education. On the other hand while thoroughly in sympathy with the idea that all children should be fully instructed in moral and religious truth, yet the main idea in public free schools is to give to every child the opportunity of getting a good practical secular education leaving to the parents and the churches the duty of training up their children in the principles of our holy religion and especially of teaching the peculiar tenets of their denomination. With such teaching, the schools can have nothing to do and it is the sense of every friend of popular education that they should not attempt it. But educate white and black, rich and poor, Catholic and Protestant, exactly alike giving no advantage to the one that you do not give to the other and making all conform to exactly the same rules."

West Knoxville Schools

The West Knoxville public schools were organized March 18, 1888, with one principal and six teachers and 215 pupils.

These schools were free to all persons between the ages of six and twenty one years living within the corporate limits of West Knoxville and were divided into primary, intermediate, grammar, and high schools, and also into white and colored schools, during the first full year of their existence, there being seven teachers for the white schools and one for the colored school. From September 1, 1889 to June 6, 1890, the entire cost of the schools was $4,193.75, the average salaries paid the teachers being $341.87. During the second year the schools were kept in a building on Highland avenue with an overflow school in the old building, the total cost of the schools for this year being $5,118.52 the average wages paid the teachers of whom there were ten, including the principal of the entire system, and the teacher of the colored school being $338.53. In 1890-91 the Highland Avenue School had six teachers, the Rose Avenue School, four teachers, and the Riverside School, colored, one. The same numbers prevailed during the next succeeding year. In 1891-92 the schools cost $6,492.97 and in 1893-94 $5,946.94. At the beginning of the year 1893-94 the Riverside School was discontinued, the pupils being sent to the Knoxville City schools and to Knoxville College thereby effecting a saving to West Knoxville of $200.

North Knoxville Schools

North Knoxville public schools were organized in September, 1889, by Prof Charles Mason and for most of the first year were taught in three small buildings on Gratz street, which had been turned over to the city by the school commissioners of the Second district of Knox county. In this work of organization, Prof Mason was assisted by Mrs Kate C Callaway, Miss Mary McDonough, and Miss Jennie B Irwin. These three buildings proving too small to accommodate the number of pupils desiring to attend and hence the board of education purchased two lots on the corner of Alexander and Tennor streets, upon which a new school building was erected and which was used for the schools during the last six weeks of the school year of 1889-90. As this building furnished room for most of the pupils the previous practice of receiving them for half day sessions only, in order that all might attend during a portion of the day was abandoned and the following additional teachers employed: Miss Miriam Cocke, Miss Jennie B Ramsey, and Miss Josie Stansberry. The twenty colored pupils of the city of North Knox ville were sent to the Austin School in Knoxville.     

(Source:Standard History of Knoxville, Tennessee, William Rule, Lewis Publishing Company,1900, p. 407)

Knox County Schools

Schools A - C

Schools D - G

Schools H - L

Schools M - R

Schools S - Z


University Of Tennessee

Knoxville College

Johnson Bible College

Medical Schools