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A Brief History of the Mt. Vernon Ruth Elementary Schools

Researched by
James M. Walker
Louis Freeman

The history of Mt. Vernon and Ruth Elementary Schools goes back to the first decade of the last century. This was the era of the "Field School," described by the historian Clarence Griffin in "Essays on North Carolina History," as a "Little teacher in a little school on a little hill with little equipment trying to teach little things to little children."

All this changed with the election of Charles Brantley Aycock as governor of North Carolina in 1901. During his four year term, Aycock became known as the Education Governor. He pressed the General Assembly for taxes to support education, arguing that educated children meant a better economy in the long run. In 1905 the General Assembly guaranteed to each school district a four month school term and set up the first $1,000,000 to supplement the financially weak counties.

On April 29, 1906 a presbyter was held to organize and constitute the Southern Baptist Church located on Church Street and the southern Railway in the town of Hampton (the town changed it's name to Ruth officially in 1939). In the basement of the church, Miss Hattie Hampton taught a school containing all grades for three years, from 1906 - 1909. A wood frame school of two rooms, named Hampton School, was built on what is now Heffner Street in 1910.

The new funding made possible the first Mt. Vernon School, which was built in 1906. The school was located about one hundred yards from the Mt. Hebron Methodist Church. The new school was a wood frame structure. This school, renamed Ruth in 1925, grew and was enlarged, and consolidated with the Watkins School in 1927, and finally moved into the present building on Mountain Stream in1929.

Following the First World War, the United States was the world's most powerful and affluent nation. The decade of the Roaring Twenties saw a flurry of new school construction. The new schools were the physical symbols of a proud, rich and expansionist nation. These new schools with their columns and cupolas, parapet walls and high ceilings were more like churches or museums than the old type schools.

The new Mt. Vernon school was constructed in 1923. The new high school served its crossroads community and graduated its first class in 1926. Mt. Vernon continued as a high school until 1962 when consolidated with Rutherford-Spindale High School. Additions were made in 1941 - 1942 by the Works Project Administration. These were three new classrooms and a gymnasium. Mt. Vernon School had a teacherage for the principal. This was a two room wood frame house. Later it was enlarged ot five rooms, three of which were used as classrooms. A wood frame agriculture building was adjacent to the main building.

Ruth Elementary school was built in 1929. Constructed on a lovely wooded rise, the one story brick structure has several details of architectural interest. A new cafeteria was built in 1951, and ten years later a gymnasium was added. The gymnasium was later named in honor of long time principal William V. Mayberry.

In only five years, these schools will celebrate their centennials of educating the children of their communities. The School year beginning 2001 - 2002 will use the consolidation of both schools into a new Mt. Vernon Ruth Elementary School. This new school will be a 450 student, $6,400,000, state of the art, K - 5 school. The old schools, beloved symbols of their communities, will be gone. Memories will remain. The future awaits.

North Carolina Gazetteer
Rutherford County 1979: A People's Bicentennial History
The Heritage of Rutherford County Vol. 1 1984
The North Carolina Atlas 2000