Tennessee Mountain Stories

A Trip to The Pres Beaty School

I ask a lot of questions.  I know it’s annoying sometimes – okay a lot of times I’m pretty annoying.  But you wouldn’t believe what I learn this way.

In researching last week’s article about efforts to keep Clarkrange High School open, I learned of the “History of Education, Fentress County, Tennessee” which was produced by the Retired Teachers’ Association in 1986.  Mr. Steven Little has graciously shared it with me.

Pres Beaty School 1933

Pres Beaty School 1933

The booklet presents the Pres Beaty’s School with a story by Wilma Pinkley.  She describes the school as established in the 1930’s.  While the location of the school is not given, it is described as being in “a sparsely settled area and so far away from any school that the Fentress County Board of Education established a school just for this one family.”

She then presents an account of a Doctor Pearson driving his Dodge car to this remote school, along with his nurse Mrs. Roys, in November 1937.  The account was so entertaining that I want to share it with you unedited and in its entirety (including her spelling).  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Medical Team on their visit to the PRes Beaty School

Medical Team on their visit to the PRes Beaty School

Mrs. Roys had received directions from someone as to just how to get to the school.  She had also written the teacher that we would be there on this special date.  We traveled approximately 15 miles on a good oiled road – and then angled off on a side road and headed straight for trouble.  “How lucky we are that we cannot look ahead and see what the future has in store for us.”  After a few miles travel on a fairly good graveled road, we came to a long mud hole in the middle of which we turned off on another road which led through a field and into what I now consider a forest.  Shortly after this, we met a truck load of logs, so it was necessary to back for some distance in order to find a place to pull off into the woods to let the truck proceed.  In continuing on this road, we made our first real human contact.  “This man with some boys was hauling wood.  He told us that one of the boys could go with us so we would not get lost on the rest of the route, but the boy made many excuses to keep from going and told the man, on the side, that he did not know any of us and since he had been reading in the papers about kidnapping, thought that might be our purpose in coming in there.”  After receiving minute directions, we continued the journey.  We found that the forest was full of narrow roads running in every direction.  “We rolled over rocks which could not be crossed, went through holes which could not be gone through and did all sorts of impossible things.”  In one instance, we found a tree across the road which we chopped loose from its stump with an ax we found at a nearby wood pile.  It required our combined strength to move the tree.  At another place, we ran upon a stump with the differential housing of the car so that the rear wheels were left waving in the air – the car had to be jacked up so that chunks could be placed under the wheels.  After the first two hours, we thought we could not possibly find any worse road than we had already been over, but we did.  Finally, it became so late that it was necessary to return to Jamestown to be there for the afternoon schedule of our clinic. 

               “Even though we failed in our objective, our courage is not daunted and we plan to try again next week.”

(Written by Marie Bennett, Co. Supervisor)

               Once again we four started out to conquer that which seemed to be unconquerable.  I dare think we might be a little egotistical to think we were the type that never give up.

               The morning was not as cheerful as the preceeding Thursday and maybe we were rather doubtful as to the outcome since we had such an unfavorable trip before.  Overhead the sky was overcast with clods scurrying around and occasional rain drops were flitting across the wind shield of the doctor’s faithful Dodge.         

               Nurse Roys had not been idle during the week, and had arranged for a guide to escort us over the hills and creeks.  The guide, true to mountain traditions, had failed to respond to the urgent call of the “furrner,” thereby causing us to once again change our course.  The teacher at Silver Pines came to our rescue and furnished a girl to show the way.  Note the fact that a girl was chosen, once again proving the many different uses of the mountain maid.  We were able to drive through the pine woods for a distance of three miles, when we were confronted by a pole fence and were advised at the same time by the guide that we would have to walk the rest of the way.

               One of the things we viewed with no little apprehension, was the scales which had to be taken along to prove Nurse Roys’ point that corn pone and sorgum was not a sufficient diet for the children of the hills.  The Doctor’s pill bags were no light load, but we divided the load and started along at a lively and determined gait.  The road was proof enough that even a T-modeled Ford would be at a loss here.  The nurse kept sighing over a creek she knew we must ford.  We soon knew why she was apprehensive.  A very swiftly moving little river was merrily winding its way down the valley unobstructed by ferry boats or bridges.  True, a tree had fallen across, but it was narrow and slippery.  Being born in the mountains and long used to just such conditions, I thought I was equal to the situation and I started across the tree=no one urged me on because they thought it was impossible.  The doctor was especially concerned over the bag I carried.  I made good progress until I reached the bank and then the result of a good job well done made me dizzy, and like many others who lack the last round of reaching the top of success, I toppled over into the berry patch.  No damage was done to the bag, but my dignity had suffered.  The rest of the party waded.  I expected pneumonia.

               We proceeded up the hill and around the cliffs, which were lovely.  We deplored the beauty that grew on every hand with few to appreciate it.  Many times the girl informed us we were almost there and it was just a quarter of a mile farther.  The school was discovered at last and many exclamations of relief and delight went up from light hearts.

               The doctor, nurse, superintendent and I worked with as much speed as possible in order to make our return trip by one o’clock.  Many mothers took advantage of the free service and we were not able to get away as soon as we wished  It was afternoon and the walk had made us hungry.  One of the inhabitants of the woods gave us some nice sweet turnips, which she generously gathered from the patch.  It would not be a very good story if I left out the fact that this little school is operated for one man’s family.  There are seventeen children; eight of whom are in school.  Grandchildren fill up the required rank.

               It is an old story.  The one about getting stuck.  We did that, too, in a nice way.  I believe the doctor said it was the first time he ever got to the place when he didn’t know what to do next.  Being out with Dr. Pearson and knowing he doesn’t recognize defeat, that alone was enough to know the situation was plenty bad.  We must give thanks to a hunter who came by in time to save us from what appeared a watery grave.  With his superior knowledge of these roads and strength that had not already been taxed to the breaking point, we were able to pull out.

               All stories must end.  We arrive home destitute, weary and worn.  The story speaks for itself.  Were we hardy  I shall let my readers come to their conclusions, but as my mother always says, “We live in peae.  May we die in grease and be buried in a cake of tallow.”