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1873 - 1898 by W. Clay Crook
Middlefork Village (Found at Lexington Library)

During the War Between the States, Henderson County, Tennessee, was politically divided among geographic lines. In short, the area south of Middlefork Creek comprising the villages of Middlefork, Mifflin, and Jacks Creek were strongly pro-Southern. The areas immediately north, east, and southeast, however, were not. As a result of this situation, these three Confederate bastions were not only under constant attack by Union forces, under Colonel Fielding Hurst, but by their neighbours as well. Any public building, including church houses and schools, was razed in an effort to teach the "rebs" a lesson. Men such as Col. Hurst considered it a holy crusade to kill the infidel and preserve the Union.

Needless to say, the afore mentioned tactics left the greater Middlefork area in detestation; and survival, not education, was the primary concern for "cracker" and landed-gentry alike after the cessation of formal hostilities. Henderson County, stil1 considering the rebellion very much an issue and dominated by hordes of Union veterans, was loathed to lend any assistance to the three rebel communities at all. Support of formal public education for Middlefork and the old 6th District was certainly out of the cmestion.

However, education in Tennessee as a whole was far from dead. Subscription schools reemerged from the ashes, and in 1867, Governor Brownlow reinstated the office of State Superintendent of Schools, abolished since 1844, and provided for county superintendents as well. The legislature provided for the examination of teschers for public certification and created schools for black children as well. These programs were funded by the poll tax and additional property taxes. By 1873, a new school system was adopted in the state, and it is here that we find the beginnings of the Big Springs School in Middlefork Village, West Tennessee. According to Bessie Gantt Kee and Virgie Kee Crook, two local residents of some age, Big Springs School was held at the Big Springs Presbyterian Church, a wooden building that formerly stood behind the Old Big Springs Church Cemetery. By 1880, the Church would move to another building where highway 22A crosses next to the present Big Springs Cemetery. The Church and school took its name from a massive spring on the old McAdam's farm that still forms one of the major tributaries of the Middlefork Creek system.

The Parent Act, or Law of 1873, "provided that all schools should be free to all persons between the ages of six and 18, for a permanent school fund of $2,512,500.00 ( this can't be correct) on which interest was to be paid by the state for school support, and a poll tax of $1.00 to be levied for school revenue on each male voter under fifty. School Districts in Henderson County corresponded to civil districts and Big Springs was designated as school number three in the Sixth District. The other schools were Edwards and Joyner's Grove, which was designated for the coloured students.

The school directors for the Sixth District were M. Joyner and J. H. McAdams, and Dr. J. W. Sparkman, D.D., was contracted as early as 1876 as the instructor for the school. Certification was by examination, and required renewal upon every twelve month period. Early records are few, but a partial county school report from 1885 showed that there were 81 white teachers and 2,250 white stu­dents county wide. The average length of the school term was 57 days, and the average teacher salary was $28.00 a month for three months.

Big Springs School was composed of only five grades, although students were sometimes as much as twenty years old in the upper grade. A follow up on students who pursued higher education makes apparent that although only five grades were authourized, student's received education far beyond that level and returned, year after year, to continue their education. One student, Clint McAdams, went directly to the Baptist College in Lexington after spending several years in the fifth grade. Another, Professor W. C. Crook, maintained fifth grade status until his sixteenth year, and afterward attended the "High School" at Juno, and then to college in Kentucky.

Some of the texts used at Big Springs were: Elements of Composition and Rhetoric, published by the America: Book Company in the 1880's; English Grammar in the Public School, by Jonathan Rigdon, published by the Norwood Press, Boston, in 1896; and books in the Steele's Sciences, published by the American Book Co., in the 1880's and later. Although Middlefork School was started in 1895, Big Springs School would operate for another three years as a subscription school. Following is the school enrollment for July 1896 of the sixty-one students attending:

By December 1897, enrollment fell to twenty-four students, and at the end of the term, Big Springs School closed its doors for the last time. Education would be continued for the next fifty years in Middlefork by Middlefork, Truett, Laster and Joyner's Grove Schools, which were consolidated in the early 1950's as Southhaven Elementary (1-8).

First Grade Age Second Grade Age Third Grade Age Fourth Grade Age Fifth Grade Age
REED, Monte 06 GRIFFIN, Zeb 10 GRIFFIN, Elmer 13 WALLACE, Willie 11 CROOK, Willie C. 16
GRIFFIN, Bun 10 VETETO, Arlie 10 GRIFFIN, Mamie 09 GRIFFIN, Lessie 11 CROOK, Tommy J. 14
GRIFFIN, Van 7 1/2 HORN, 09 REID, Chloe 09 HATCHETT, Ida 11 WALLACE, Jimmie 14
GRIFFIN, Mollie 07 RYALS, Arlie 09 CROOK, Lena 7 GRIFFIN, Bettie 12 WALLACE, Bannnister 16
DOUGLASS, Arlie 06 REID, Ethel 11 McADAMS, Harvey 11 BROWN, Hettie 10 ARNOLD, W.F. 13
HURT, Ada 08 RHODES, Alonzo 08 GRIFFIN, Julius 11     JOYNER, J.L. 17
HURT, Clara 08 REID, Rosco 10 JOHNSON, Willie 14     MEADOWS, A.U. 18
VETETOE, Estelle 08 DYER, Willie 14 DAVIDSON, George 14     GRIFFIN, J.M. 18
GRIFFIN, Nova 07     McADAMS, Clint 08     GRIFFIN, J.B. 15
HANEY, Quin 09     GADDY, Nonie 6     McADAMS, James 17
McADAMS, Lessie 06     DAVIDSON, Cora 16     McADAMS, Sam 14
RHODES, Sidney 07             GRIFFIN, Ida 17
HATCHETT, Hubert 09             REID, Annie 15
HATCHETT, Pinkney 07             McADAMS, G.M. 14
BOWMAN, Willie 16             HATCHETT, John R. 18
BOWMAN, John 15             IBSON, Luther 12
BOWMAN, Wylie 13             BROWN, Luther 16
DAVIDSON, Harvey 08                
DYER, Len 10                
McADAMS, Walter 07                

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