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Moss Rest School

A Look Back To Moss Rest School Days
By Brenda Kirk Fiddler
Lexington Progress, Wednesday March 11, 1992

Back from left: Gladys Hunley, Mattie Jo Stanford, Earline Darby, Rachel Blackwell, Virgie Gateley, B.D. Barr, Rachel Waller, Irmon Waller, Rachel Gateley, Willis A. Moore, Lonzo Darby, Raymond Waller, James Jackson, Lofton Gateley, (center) Gladys Gateley-teacher, Genie Blackwell, Thomas Stanford, Jimmy Patton, Imogean Gatlin, Hautie Stanford, Maurine Cook, Pearlie Jane Jackson, Cora Mae Gateley-teacher, (front) Bedford Gateley, Lloyd Stanford, Sam Hayes, Freda Harrell, Maurine Blackwell, Martha F. Stanford, Pauline Stanford, Jessie Darby, Audie D. Stanford, Elsie Mayfield, unknown boy (right side, third row back) Winfield Gateley, Annie M. Moore, Marie Hayes, Blanche Gateley, Connie Gateley, Zuline Lemons, Leon Tucker, Robbie Gateley, Clifford Gateley, Cleophus Blackwell, Gardner Gateley, Ed Darby, Dennon Hayes, Guilford Rivers, Richard Gateley, Jack Hayes, Jr., Thomas Hunley, Ossie V. Moore and Ray Jackson (Photo courtesy of Paul and Brooksie Hunley).

Once upon a time, one and two-teacher schools dotted the Henderson County landscape. A school was located within walking distance of most homes ("five miles in the snow, etc.). Between 1930 and 1940, students were educated in about 75 schools with colorful names such as Pleasant Hill, Spring Hill, Longsought, Maple Springs, Poplar Springs, Christian Chapel, Cooper, Oak Forest, Hinson Springs and Moss Rest.

A few of the old school buildings still stand, serving as community centers or residences. In most cases, only pictures remain as proof that boys and girls once walked to school carrying textbooks purchased by parents and clutching syrup buckets filled with a baked sweet potatoe, sausage and a homemade biscuit or fried pie. "Richer" students might have a paper sack with an apple and peanut butter sandwich made with store-bought bread.

The history of Moss Rest School covers more than 70 years, from about 1878 to 1949, at two locations. The first site was on O'Brien Road. About 1933, a new school was built on Highway 104 North, approximately three miles from the Carroll County line. The Bobby Sipes residence now stands on the 104 school site with the house built on almost the exact site of the old school building. Many students transferred to Mt. Gilead School when the site was moved.

Mrs. Jean Byrd's house sits on the exact spot of the old school. By the early 1900's, a boxed structure with one long room replaced the log building. Miss Willie Tucker, a spry 93 year old NuCare resident, recalls walking from her home by Hearns Chapel Church of Christ near Gateley Springs, with her girlfriends and "all of the Gateley boys" to school at Moss. Mr. Horace Kirk, while a very small boy (about 1911), remembers going there to hear Preacher Puckett warn the crowd to "do what Puckett preaches and not what Puckett does!"

Many teachers taught at the school, which sometimes had as many as 60 students and two teachers. Perhaps Mr. Louis Kirk, born in 1854, was one of the earliest teachers since he used to tell his family he "married one of his pupils when he was 30 and she was 15". His son, Zelmer, often told about the kindness of his teacher, Miss Ione Lister, who insisted he return after the eighth grade so she could tutor him in 9th grade Algebra and Latin. Miss Lister taught at Moss Rest before she began driving a buggy to teach at Hickory Flatt, just over the Carroll County Line.

Front from left: Annie Macil Moore, Connie Gateley, Marie Hayes, Gardner Gateley, Laverne Walters, Cleophus Blackwell, Helen Kirk, Paul Hunley, Rachel Stanford
Second Row: Harold Sellers-teacher, Illy B. Stanfill, Jeanetta Stanford, Ossie V. Moore, Mary S. Woodward, Jimmy Patton, Cora Mae Gateley-teacher, Leon Tucker, Freda Harrell, Thomas Hunley, Ethelene Kirk, Winifred Gateley, Pauline Stanford
Third Row: Mattie Jo Stanford, Earl Stanford, Rachel Gateley, Clifford Gateley, Gladys Hunley, Sam Hayes, Rachel Blackwell, Genie Blackwell
Fourth Row: Jack Hayes Jr., Lorene Cook, Lloyd Stanford, Martha Sue Cook, Thomas Stanford, Blanche Gateley, Dennon Hayes, Maurine Blackwell, Fielder Fortner, Martha F. Stanford and Lee Stanfill (Photo Courtesy of Paul and Brooksie Hunley)

Teachers during the depression felt fortunate to have jobs but there were inconveniences when teaching outside of their community. They would often board during the week with a family near the school. In 1939-40, Mrs. Tom Highfill (then Alice Hall, age 22) taught lower grades at Moss and Mrs. Cora Mae Gateley taught upper grades and served as principal. Miss Alice boarded with the Huey Blackwell family until her father bought her a car to drive from Broadway. Her first days at Moss Rest were unsettling because some families wanted their old teacher back and challenged her contract but she soon became popular because she picked up adults who needed to go up and down the road "a ways". People would watch for her green Ford and flag her down - she can't recall ever passing up anybody. She remembers a few houses on the graveled 104, and once she had a flat tire. A man from a nearby house came out and declared immediately he "didn't know a thing about changing a tire". Luckily she did.

"Stew Day" was a big annual event. Parents donated meats and vegetables for the kettles of stew, cooked outside with the teacher supervising. After lunch, softball would be played with students from a visiting school.

Mrs. Gladys Gateley, a Henderson County teacher for 36 years, started her teaching career at the old Moss Rest in 1926. That spring, she had received a teaching certificate along with her diploma at the Lexington High School graduation. Teachers had to perform custodial duties and she remembers stopping at Mr. Lister's store in the sharp curve on O'Brien road "where you turn off onto Law Road to go to Ward's Grove" to buy a bucket and broom.

During World War II, many teachers went into the military or to work at Milan Arsenal. High school graduates were begged to accept a teaching certificate. Mrs. Martha Stanford Wheeler (whose parents boarded Miss Kate Laws) was graduated from LHS in 1945 and by July, was a teacher at Moss, teaching all eight grades. Most students were her kin and some were almost as old as she was.

By 1938, the school was down to 13 students and Mr. George Johnson of Scotts Hill was the teacher, boarded with Raymond and Ruby Blackwell. Mrs. Elaine Bush was the last teacher at Moss Rest, which closed for cotton-picking in September 1949 and never reopened. An arrangement was made for Carroll County to send a bus into the tip of Henderson County for about five miles to pick up former Moss Rest students and transport them to Lavinia where the school was struggling to maintain its enrollment.

Other Moss Rest teachers include Della Mae Pendergrass, Nell Jackson, Martha Douglas, Lois Hedge, Mr. Martin, Seabbie Berryman, Nola Farmer and Harold Sellers.

Now only pictures remain and memories. Memories of the Christmas programs; box suppers where the eligible girls covered shoe or tea boxes with crepe paper, fill them with sandwiches and homemade sweets and fervently wish that "Mr. Right" would be the high bidder for the privilege of sharing supper.

There is also the memory of the Red Measles epidemic of 1943 and the Southern Melodiers, a Jackson gospel singing group that entertained a large crowd at the school one night. Not wanting to miss seeing the group who sang on WTJS radio, one young man went, even though he had measles, and soon everybody had them. Neither the group nor the young man were soon forgotten.

The first school was called "Golden Moss Rest". James Moss, who loved children very much, gave the land and logs for a new school building in 1878. At first it was hard to decide on a name, but Mr. Moss spent so much of his leisure time at school, it became known as Moss' Rest.

The present building was built in 1934. Four buildings have been used. The first teachers were Dr. Billie McCrea and Frank Barr. The present teachers are Mrs. Nola Farmer and Miss Kate Laws. The average attendance is near 50.

Moss community was named after James Moss, an early settler from Charlotte N.C. More than 100 years ago the first settlers came here. They were, Charlie Wilkerson, Henry Scott and later the Gateleys, Gatlins and Barrs. The oldest house standing is the Moss house. The last occupant was Frank Barr Jr.

The oldest church used is Mt. Gilead. The oldest store is at Law. The first merchants were John Laws and David Patton. The present merchant is W.T. Buch. The mail carrier for the last 20 years has been Brown Arnold.

From the works of Louise Oakley - Henderson County Supervisor of Schools (Fair Project 1940)

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