school and students
Two of Sherman Hensley’s grandsons outside Brushy Mountain school, date unknown.

NPS photo

There were two schools constructed in the Hensley Settlement proper. The first school, according to Sherman Hensley, was "a log school house," "logs and daub, clay-mud," with a puncheon floor and about "18 x 22 or maybe a little more than that" in size. The old school was ultimately torn down and re-sited about fifty yards from the first school and built with improved materials supplied by the county. Two outhouses, one for girls and one for boys, were constructed some distance apart from each other near the woods. The school term ran from July until January but stayed closed through the winter, when travel was more difficult for teachers and students, and through the spring and early summer when fields had to be prepared and planting done.

Students usually went home for dinner [lunch], but sometimes brought food. Jess Gibbons recalls "the farthest ones off'd bring their lunch with 'em, and us kids'd always go back home for our lunch, or sometimes we'd bring it. If my mother was going to be busy at work with something or other, we took our lunch with us."

Because the school house was the only space in the community where neighbors and visitors could gather outside of homes, for school functions, church, funerals, and Decoration Day activities, it figured prominently in the minds and memories of residents of the settlement.

Inside of schoolhouse
Brushy Mountain school interior as it appears today.

NPS photo

teacher register w cowbell and photo of Stella Hensley
Stella Hensley, wife of Wallace, worked as a schoolteacher for several years.  “I always wanted to be a schoolteacher and I had that desire and, yes, I was kindly frightened at first but I got settled and I really enjoyed it.”  This cow bell (cat. #252) from Hensley may have been the one Stella recalled using to call the students back after recess.  The page from a 1942 teacher register in the park’s Hensley Settlement Collection gives an idea of the variety of grade levels and student absences

NPS photo


Last updated: June 18, 2015

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