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Palmersville boasts rich history

Palmersville boasts rich history
Palmersville boasts rich history | Palmersville, District 1 schools, Palmersville Historic Society

DAYS GONE BY – Former Union School student Kemp Reed led a discussion on the history of schools in District 1 Saturday afternoon when the Palmersville Historical Society hosted District 1 schools’ alumni.

The many schoolhouses that once dotted the land of District 1 in Weakley County served as the center of the community and the focal point of a world bound by agriculture and, at times, seemingly separated from the rest of the county.
For the past three years, the Palmersville Historical Society has presented programs on the community’s homecoming and fair day highlighting schools that once served the area. Three years ago, Little Zion was honored and the late Gov. Ned Ray McWherter was present for the program. The next two years saw recognition given to Webb School – now located in the parking lot beside PHS – along with Brundige and Bible Union schools.
On Saturday afternoon, Kemp Reed, a former student at Union School, led the discussion on schools in District 1, including Union, Fairview, Zion’s Hill, Donoho, Workman and Salem, just to name a few.
“Our district was geographically cut off from the rest of the county, it sometimes seemed,” Reed remarked. “We were an isolated community and were a little behind of a lot of things.”
Reed’s mother subbed at Union School and it was located across the field from the family’s home. Reed recalled the school being fed from a wood stove and the lack of indoor plumbing, but mostly an overall atmosphere of fun and enjoyment.
Union School closed in 1955 and that Christmas was a particularly memorable and impressive one for Reed as it was filled with the presence of a Christmas tree, square dancing and candy breaking – a game that involved the splitting of candy sticks and matching up with the person who had the same pattern of candy.
Reed’s reflection on his school opened the door for the large crowd to share school-day memories of yesteryear.
These stories ranged from playing “annie over” with a lump of coal and knocking out a window to being so afraid of the older boys as to cause a frozen accident inside a winter outfit.
As the program picked up speed, stories branched out and became increasingly detailed and honest in their telling.
Sylvia Donoho Rickman recalled once bringing a pack of cigarettes and matches to school with a group of friends, hiding them in the girls’ toilet and coming in to smoke them on a break. With all the girls partaking of the smoking, smoke began wafting out a window and the school was believed to be on fire before Rickman sheepishly admitted she and her friends were at fault.
Charlotte Davidson Cleaver narrowly escaped with her life when she and a friend sprinted away from a dog. The animal bit Cleaver, however, and after it was killed, its head was cut off and sent away for examination. The test came back positive for rabies and Cleaver had to endure lying flat on a doctor’s bed while being given 14 shots.
Robert David attended Salem School in the small community of Austin Springs, wedged between Palmersville, Latham and Dukedom.
“We were proud of Austin Springs,” David remarked. “We had a spring out there that was quite famous.”
David started school at Salem in 1937 and when the building burned in 1940, he moved to Union School.
This came at a time when transportation to and from school was accomplished either by foot or by riding the school wagon. Playgrounds consisted of little more than seesaws and dirt basketball courts and there were no groups to speak of as everyone commingled. It was a “level playing field” as one audience member chimed in because every family stayed in the same economic state fueled by an agriculturally dominant livelihood.
Mary Dalton added, “We had cakewalks, hamburger suppers and community plays.”
“Our world was small and what was there was the center of our world,” Reed summarized. “The schools were the center of the community. People don’t take into consideration what that meant.”
To find out more information on the schools of District 1 or any other historical information on Palmersville and the surrounding area, call the historical society at 822-3454, email or log on to   

WCP 9.27.11

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