Although education was important to the Cades Cove pioneers, it was secondary to survival and establishment of “homesteads”. As a result, very little time was available for building schools or schooling. The early school houses were termed field schools and several were provided in the first half of the 19th Century in the Cove. Typically, these were very simple log structures with dirt floors, a fire pit, a hole in the roof, a door and a few glassless windows. They were sited in cleared fields. Dr. Abraham Jobe provided a realistic description of the early Cades Cove field schools in his memoirs. He described his 1825 school as “primitive” but related that “the kind of instruction given to us then was better adapted to the wants of the people than the curriculum of studies generally taught now in the higher schools”. He recalled firm discipline which was “reasonable” and a focus on the purpose, maximum education in minimum available time. Jobe related “ It was study from morning till noon, then an hour for play time, and study from one o’clock till turning out time”. Cove teachers at Jobe’s school were Butler Tipton, William Davis and Arindatis Martin under whose tutelage “students advanced rapidly”. Several caring families who lived in reasonable proximity would pact to establish the field school, would share in the building and would arrange for and compensate the teacher, usually in a combination of currency and barter. The memories of three field schools are maintained. One was near the site of the Boring Post Office, another a short distance up Cooper Road and the third in “Schoolhouse Hollar”, known as the Shields Field School. Time has eroded the memories of other field schools, including that attended by Dr. Jobe.
Field Schools and Church Schools
As the Cades Cove community grew, neighbors of common religious beliefs needed to congregate to express their faith and share fellowship. Churches were required. Since most early churches were infrequently used, their dual role as schools provided an improvement over the primitive field schools in terms of size and facility comforts. Two Methodist Churches are known to have served as early schools. The first Methodist Church was built around 1840. It has been described as a “very crude log building with shingles weighted down by poles”. Logs were split lengthwise to form puncheon seats. Although puncheon floors were provided later, dirt was the initial flooring. Heating was from a fire pit with smoke exhausted through a hole in the roof, very similar to the smaller field schools. The initial church school was located near the parking area for the current Cades Cove Methodist Church east of Hyatt Lane. A second church school, precursor to the Hopewell Methodist Church, was located on the south side of the Cove near the current nature trail and AndyShields former home place. Other church buildings undoubtedly served as schools over the history of Cades Cove, probably until a decade or so after the Civil War when dedicated school houses were provided.
Cades Cove people cared ..... cared for their God, their families, their neighbors and their community. Cades Cove was a progressive community, attuned to agricultural, social and technological advances and, in many ways, more receptive to progress than surrounding communities. The residents of the Cove valued education as a path for community advancement and for their children’s future well being. Thus, after the establishment of homes and churches, their values placed schools and schooling as a priority for their children.
Schools were established during the infancy of the Cades Cove community. Joshua Jobe was among the earliest of Cades Cove pioneers. His son, Dr. Abraham Jobe, provided memories of attending “an old field school” in 1825. Dr. Jobe recalls that “the students advanced rapidly”. Perhaps this was partially due to the threat of the rod but more probably due to the expectations of parents and intrinsic Cove values. Undoubtedly, there was considerable “home schooling” which occurred prior to the existence of the field schools. The initial log church buildings provided dual service as schools. As the community matured and became equipped with saw mills, frame buildings were constructed as schools. The school locations varied as the population density varied and were sited from “one end of the Cove to the other”. The leaders of the community were role models for schooling. Both Witt Shields (Consolidated School) and Aunt Becky Cable (Cable School), among others, donated land for school houses.
As most families were dependent on their children helping out with crops and the more basic elements of survival, early schooling was a wintertime activity. Formal education requirements for the earliest teachers in the Cove, and elsewhere, were minimal with a high school education, or less, being sufficient. Many of the Cades Cove teachers were young residents with high school diplomas, an aptitude for studies and a desire for community progress. “Outside” teachers would usually board with families in close proximity to the school house. After publicly supported schools emerged in the mid 1800s, each District appointed Directors to provide local administration. Cades Cove education was damaged by school closures during the Civil War. In 1869, the Directors for Cades Cove were JohnOliver, Will Lawson, Calvin Post, A.B. Burchfield and J.B. Gregory. This large number of Directors is indicative of the priority for resuming education.
The schools of Cades Cove disappeared along with the community. The last school, the Cable School closed in 1944, in controversy over the relative responsibilities of Blount County and the National Park Service for operation. Most of the remaining students commuted to Tuckaleechee Cove for their schooling until their families left the Cove. None of the schools were maintained as historical exhibits. Only a few former students remain to remember those happy school days in Cades Cove and the “four Rs of readin’, ritin’, rithmetic and recess”.
LeQuire family memories reveal that three brothers and a sister relocated from North Carolina to Cades Cove by 1880. These were Joseph, William (“Billie”), Isaac and Arty, the sister. The lure of the Cove was great as some of the mountain crossings occurred in the cold fury of a Smoky Mountain winter, resulting in the death of two of Arty’s children due to exposure. Isaac seems to have visited first during the Civil War, perhaps searching for a better political environment, then returned to North Carolina. Three of his children were born in the Cove prior to his departure in 1869. Isaac then returned to the Cove with his wife, Harriet Bowers, and family in 1875.
Eight of Issac and Harriet LeQuire’s eleven children were born in Cades Cove. They may have enjoyed several home places but eventually were established on the banks of Rowans Creek. Their last born was George Washington LeQuire in 1884. George Washington married Sidney Shields on November 17, 1904, a daughter of Elijah and Rhoda Walker Shields. After the death of Harriet, Isaac married Martha Abbott Walker.
Grace LeQuire was included in the family of George Washington and Sidney Shields LeQuire. As Cades Cove people valued education and educators after faith and family, her parents must have been very, very proud of Grace as she matured into one of the Cove teachers. Grace taught at the Consolidated School from 1929 through 1931.
Today the LeQuire family treasures the school books, school bell and slate used by Grace in the Cove. The Cades Cove Preservation Association appreciates the loan of these items for the 2002 Schools of Cades Cove Exhibit. They bring us closer to those long past “Cove school days”!
The Lunch Basket
Vernie, Roy, Ruth and Lee were among the children of Preacher Johnnie and Louisa Myers Tipton. At one time they lived at the headwaters of Tater Branch in Cooper Hollow. Being close in age, they walked together to the Consolidated School which required about an hour. Memories of Lee Tipton include a school day from 8 till 4 with one hour for lunch and a 15 minute recess (not much playtime in Mr. Tipton’s memory!) The Tipton kids’ eating tree was a white oak. Mom usually packed a lunch basket which consisted of a varying menu. It could be baked sweet potatoes, cornbread, molasses (in a pint jar) & butter or fried Irish potatoes put in a lard bucket. All families ate as a unit because the Cove moms only packed one basket.