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Progression of Sumner County high schools, 1911 - 1935

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Two Sumner County High schools, Portland Tenn. Old school (1915) on the left, and the new school (1932) at right. SUBMITTED

This was originally written for the Upper Sumner Press in Feb. 1963 by Mrs. Clara Caudill Dye, SCHS Class of 1916. It was copied verbatim for re-print in the Portland Sun, with spelling and form identical to that used in the Upper Sumner Press 54 years ago.

In order to have a complete story of the Sumner County School it is important to know some of the background as it developed during the few years preceding. The Portland High School was housed in a wooden structure that stood on the exact location of [Portland] First Baptist Church. Three programs of graduating classes during these years may be of interest to many.

Commencement Exercises: 1911; 8 O'Clock


  1. Invocation --- B. F. McMican
  2. Chorus
  3. Salutatory --- Henry C. McMican
  4. La sonnamubula (piano)-Bellini-Leyback --- Marjorie Donoho
  5. Heart of Old Hickory-Will Allen Dromgoole --- Miss Ora Crabtree
  6. Valedictory --- Marjorie F. Donoho
  7. Address --- Dr. H. H. Cherry
  8. Presentation of Diplomas --- R. D. Moore
  9. Benediction --- Rev. R.M. Chenault

Pat W. Kerr: Principal

Class Roll: Henry C. McMican, Claude McMican, Marjorie F. Donoho

Commencement Exercises, Portland High School: May 17, 1912, 10 O'Clock, Auditorium

Pat W. Kerr, Principal


Class Roll --- Mr. Hiram Duncan Moore, Valedictorian; Miss Nell Mai Shannon, President; Miss Hattie Mai Bradley, Salutatorian; Miss Oma Louise Shannon, Secretary

Colors - Purple and Gold

Motto: Plus Ultra

  1. Morning Song (Chorus) Forman --- Eight Young Ladies
  2. Invocation --- Rev. J. F. Beasley
  3. Il Corricolo (piano) Durand de Gran --- Miss Helen Moore
  4. Salutatory --- We Build the Ladder by Which we Rise --- Hattie Mai Bradley
  5. Lasca (reading) Hatch --- Mary Roark
  6. Silent Influence --- Nell Mai Shannon
  7. Call of Summer (Chorus) Forman --- Eight Young Ladies
  8. Beyond the Alps Lies Italy (Reading) --- Oma Louise Shannon
  9. Engineer Connor's Son (Reading) Dromgoole --- Ethel Jones
  10. Valedictory --- Hiram Duncan Moore
  11. Address --- Hon. J. T. Baskerville
  12. Presentation of Diplomas --- R. D. Moore
  13. Benediction ---- Rev. A.H. Huff

Commencement Exercises Portland High School, Wednesday May 28, 1913 7:45 O'Clock

Pat W. Kerr, Principal


  1. Rustles of Spring (Piano)- Sinding --- Helen Moore
  2. Invocation --- Rev. A. H. Huff
  3. Salutatory-The Challenge of Today --- Walter Smith Moore
  4. Sing On - Vocal Solo - Denze --- Eddie Allison Evans

[Text skipped numbers 5, 6 and 7]

  1. The Keeper of the Light (Reading)-VanDyke --- Ethel Jones
  2. Valedictory-By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them --- Stephen Morris Evans
  3. Address --- Honorable H. H. Cherry
  4. Presentation of Diplomas --- R. D. Moore
  5. Graduates Farewell Song --- Senior Class
  6. Benediction --- Rev. H. W. Seay

Class Roll: Florence Emma Enders, Eddie Allison Evans, Stephen Morris Evans, Walter Smith Moore.

The Portland High School was so named and so dedicated at a ceremony which took place in the fall of 1910 with Prof. Pat W. Kerr as Principal. The faculty members were few in number. The courses included were equivalent work for three years high school. The graduating classes had few members, but they were extremely proud of their accomplishments. There were dramatic and music departments sponsored by Miss Ora Crabtree and Miss Iva Crabtree. This work was of the classic type. Their students were outstanding performers.

Portland High School had a new principal in the fall of 1913. Mr. P. L. Lloyd was a well-educated man and a splendid teacher. In the spring of 1914 he told his three-year class they were entitled to graduation if they wished to follow the custom. However, a four-year high school at Portland was in the plans of the Sumner County Board of Education if they desired to come back another year. The class (with instructions from their parents) voted to graduate from a four-year school. There were no graduating exercises in 1914.

New school built

Plans for the four year high school were carried out, and a beautiful new brick building was begun on "Old Portland's Eastern Border." A new principal, Prof. John W. Williams, took charge in the fall of 1914. His faculty was also few in number. The student body had far outgrown the old building of 1898; classrooms and equipment were inadequate. Being a capable leader, Mr. Williams carried on until February 2, 1915, when the new building was completed. That is the date the Sumner County High School was dedicated with pomp and ceremony.

Again the question for graduation arose. A new department, home economics, was added after moving to the new building. Miss Tula Adcock was head of the department. However, the faculty and equipment were inadequate for being accredited. We had no library, no laboratory for science classes, only one faculty member held a college degree, possibly two, but I have not been able to verify this. Again, the class was consulted. Mr. Williams was formulating plans which would change some of these handicaps if we wished to graduate from an accredited four-year high school. Most of the members held the required units for graduation. Now we wished to have them approved. The class was small. We were advised to wait. We waited. There were no graduating exercises in 1915.

In the fall of 1915, three of the class members taught in the public schools of Sumner County. Only two members attended the entire year. The country schools convened only six months. These teacher members then enrolled in school to finish with the class of 1916, the first graduating class of the Sumner County High School. Three new faculty members had been added. All three had college degrees. A library had been improvised by using the front part of the principal's office. The Home Economics department, now headed by Miss Margaret Bell was fairly equipped. Other departments were made adequate for credits. A full-time janitor was employed. Being able to get recognition by the state the Sumner County High School was off to a great start with a senior class of twelve members.

There has never been a school anywhere which had greater cooperation than old SCHS. Football and baseball were outstanding sports for the boys. The girls played on the outdoor court for basketball. Interscholastic games were played and S.C.H.S. teams made records for the school. Debating teams were organized and used to further gain renown. A School Improvement Society was organized, and our mothers helped in every way possible. The fathers were used also - setting shade trees, sowing the lawn with bluegrass, hauling gravel for driveways. Everyone helped with willing hands. Seemingly Utopia was enjoyed.

Everything was not perfect. The heating system didn't heat. More classrooms were needed. Outdoor toilets marred the beauty. A public well with water "buckets and dippers" supplied drinking water. But we had made a start and with a great school man and greater public servant as our leader, these faults would be removed. The thirteen years, 1914-1927, which Mr. Williams was principal witnessed much growth. Too, we had outlived World War I.

Following an outstanding leader such as Mr. Williams is an undesirable position in anybody's book. Such was the task of Prof. B. P. Smith from 1927-1931. A very quiet, reserved man he was and without the same cooperative community spirit which was given him, his principalship would have been a loss indeed. The school continued to grow, even bursting at the seams. A new building was promised by the Sumner County Board of Education and sometime during the school year 1931-32 the high school was moved into it with Prof. C.F. Alden as principal. Another dynamic leader was Mr. Alden. The school continued to grow by leaps and bounds.

Mr. Alden was principal for four years, 1931-1935. He was followed by Harry Law for two years, 1935-1937. Mr. W. Lee Harris served the next two years, 1937-1939. Prof. C. L. Cummings was principal from 1939-1942, a term of three years. Mr. C. O. Jett served as principal from 1942-1946, or four years. E. V. Walling remained one year, 1946-1947.

Then came our beloved William M. Hunter, right out of the Navy from World War II. In the fall of 1947, he accepted the position. During the next eleven years, to the end of the school year of 1958, he endeared himself into the hearts of the Portland people. One of the great changes on his program was the teaching staff. Before he left, the majority, almost 100% of his teachers held college degrees. He had complete concern for the good of every student within his jurisdiction. The Elementary School moved into a new building in the fall of 1956 with their own principal. Our school now occupied three buildings. The work in the seventh and eighth grades was departmentalized in the fall of 1957. This would eliminate some of the hazards which confront freshman students. A larger school needed Mr. Hunter and our loss was their gain.

The following two terms were occupied by Mr. Clarence Terry. Growth is still the confronting factor. In the fall of 1960 an alumnus, Mr. William Coker, became principal. Drastic changes were to take place. A new high school building is to be erected on Portland's southern border. A new name will be adopted. The class of 1961 will be the last class of our beloved S.C.H.S. From a class of 12 members we have grown to 77 members. From a faculty count of 7 instructors, we have grown to 40 instructors.

Life after school

No history of S.C.H.S. would be complete without mention of a few of its outstanding characters. Her graduates have filled high positions in almost every walk of life. Numerous teachers occupy classrooms today. Many have become scientists, authors, doctors, lawyers, preachers and homemakers. Even our beautiful homes which occupy the land are planned, and the work supervised by our own architects who were once students of S.C.H.S. Electricians who were students here have done their share. Last but not least, look over the country at the scientific farmers who got their first impression from classes at S.C.H.S.

A special book would need to be written to give proper recognition to the young men and women who so willingly and unselfishly served their country during World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Cuban [Missile] Crisis. Dozens gave the supreme sacrifice that we may continue our way of life. Memorial Field was dedicated to the memory of many who served their country unselfishly, and some completely, during three wars.

Nor would a history of S.C.H.S. be complete without mention of two outstanding faculty members - "Miss Sallie" of the Elementary Department and "Miss Marie" of the high school. Although they have both retired from active duty, they can never retire so long as one of their students is able to breathe praise and commendations. Their precious influence will be felt for years to come.

Yes, S.C.H.S. is no longer a building, no longer an institution of learning, no longer a place to attend important meetings, social gatherings, classic entertainments or banquets. She served her people well for forty seven years - 46 graduating classes - and one preparatory year. S.C.H.S. is a memory - but what a memory!

This is a true essay of the high school known as Sumner County High School. My information is taken from a scrapbook principally. I have always had a hobby of cutting out of the newspapers any item of community interest. I have the first copy issued of the "Purple and White" a paper established for the first classes of S.C.H.S., of which I was a member. Other items I obtained from former students, Miss Nell Shannon, Mrs. Jepson, and Miss Florence Enders, Mrs. Luther Denning. The program which verify much information are copied from the originals which are in my scrapbook.

I am not saying my paper is complete; but, being a member of S.C.H.S. faculty most of the years since 1918, I have had close connection with the school. The association leaves only pleasant memories. I hesitated to call names, because I do not know all the honor students nor their achievements.

Written by Mrs. Clara Caudill Dye, '16 Graduating Class; Submitted by the Highland Rim Historical Society.

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