The following account was provided by Jerry Stover, Clay West Virginia to the Clay County Free Press. We hope you will enjoy reading this story from the past.
When the Concord Normal at Athens burned in 1911, an effort was made to locate that institution to Clay, but it was impossible. The establishment of a high school was then considered. A. J. Pugh, a member of the House of Delegates at that time, put through the legislature a bill calling for a special election to be held to ascertain the wishes of the voters of Clay County in regard to a high school. The election was held March 11, 1911. The vote for the establishment was 614, against it, 218. By a provision in the act of the legislature, the county court and county superintendent of schools were the board of education. The members of the court were L. J. Reed, T. N. Nutter and W. S. Pierson. B. F. Murphy was county superintendent. These members took the oath of office on May 8, 1911 and elected S. W. Bryant secretary. On the same day, they selected the Meyers lots, north of Church Street and east of the Court House Branch as the proper site for the erection of the high school building. The secretary prepared and posted plans and specifications of a building to cost about $20,000.00. The plans were to be considered May 20, 1911. H. Russ Warne, of Charleston, was appointed architect and ordered to draw plans. At the same time, eleven lots were purchased from the Meyers estate for $1,500.00.
On July 17, 1911, the architect was present with plans. The secretary then had published the notices of bids, to be received sealed, on August 11, 1911. On July 1, 1911, J. F. Wilson assumed his office of superintendent of schools and became president of the board.
The board met August 8, 1911 to receive bids. Only three were received and all three were rejected. The architect then modified the plans to cost less and new bids received September 11, 1911. J. H. Perrine was the lowest bidder and received the contract. T.J. Swift was employed to superintend the construction.
Because of the advancement in cost of materials brought about by the world war, J. H. Perrine surrendered his contract August 16, 1911. The building was completed by the board by day labor at a total cost of about $40,000.00.
The first term of school was opened in September, 1912, with E. S. Knabenshue as principal. In the school year of 1913-1914, the enrollment was eleven boys, twenty-nine girls, and thirty-three rural school teachers enrolled for the spring term. The faculty consisted of E. H. Knabenshue, Earnest Stutzman, D. R. Dodd and J. O. Galaspie.
Principal Knabenshue said in his first annual report that two things were being attempted by the high school and were an experiment within the state. Instrumental music was being given without a fee and a special course was being given to teachers of Clay County without tuition. The school served as a normal training institution for a long time and a large number of teachers received their first professional training in the Clay County High School.
In 1923, the personnel for the high school board was changed by an act of the legislature. One member was to be appointed by the state superintendent, one by vote of the people of the county and one, the president, to be the county superintendent of schools. The following named men have served as president of the high school board: B. F. Murphy, J. F. Wilson, R. C. Mullens, R. E. Slack, W. A. Andrews, A. V. Boggs, C. N. Ashley and C. M. Young. S. W. Bryant has served longer in connection with the school than any other man. He served as secretary for more than ten years and also played a large part in the establishment of the school.
Before the coming of good roads to Clay County, students were compelled to board at Clay. For the care of these students the board of education operated two dormitories which were both destroyed by fire. In the early days of the institution a large number of students used the B&O Railroad as a means of transportation. Union District at one time paid the transportation of about 20 students.
By 1929, it was felt that the school had grown to such a point that a larger building was needed. A new unit was constructed at a cost of $50,000.00. This new unit housed the department of home economics, vocational agriculture, science and physical education. The department of home economics and vocational agriculture are considered to be as well-equipped as any in the state. The gymnasium was as good as any in this section of the state but equipment was found lacking.
When the county unit board ceased to exist, and the first county-wide board was appointed by the state superintendent of schools, the board was made up of F. M. Reed, J. A. Sirk, I. N. Morris, H. P. Hickman and Charles W. Foreman. This board purchased four school buses for transportation of high school students. Clay County was the last county in the state to furnish transportation for students. As a result of free transportation, the enrollment during the school year 1934-35 showed almost a hundred per cent increase, or a greater-increase than any other- high school in the state, showing the desire of Clay County boys and girls for education. Only one additional teacher was added to take care of this increase. It was found necessary to add another bus for the school year of 1935-36. All the districts of the county are well represented in the enrollment. In 1928, Otter District had but two or three students enrolled, while at the present time, it has fifty-three.
The present board of education consists of A. A. Smith, S. V. Hinselwood, Charles Foreman, H. P. Hickman and J. H. Slack with C. M. Young as county superintendent.
(Compiled from records most of which were gathered by Paul Lowe, present principal of Clay County High School.) Mack Thomas Archives & Manuscript Section West Virginia Collection West Virginia University Library
This was written sometime between 1936 and 1940. Parker C. Black was principal
during the school year 1940-41 and probably before that. Published in Now&Then, Vol. 10, #1, 1999-date given as 1937.