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he earliest records of the Barbourville City Schools date to 1888 when Mr. Jim Hayes conducted, in a two-room building on the current site, a subscription school to train those who wished to obtain a certificate for teaching. At that time there were no requirements for teaching except being able to pass the county examinations which were open to anyone.
The Barbourville Graded School was established by vote of the people in 1890. Mr. J.H. Stephens led the Graded School through 1906 . Mr. George H. Reibold, a professor from Union College, directed the school until 1909. During those early years, every family that could afford to do so sent their children to a private school. Ironically, as small as Barbourville was back then, the town contained two private schools: the Barbourville Baptist Institute, which occupied the land on which Knox Central High School is now located, and the other private school was at Union College, which at that time provided kindergarten through two years of college.
In 1909 Melvin Judd became Principal and Superintendent to a team of five teachers, among whom were W.C. Faulkner, and J. Alex Tinsley. Mr. Tinsley later became Superintendent. Classes were conducted in a white frame structure in the rear of the old (1915) high school building and in front of the current (1991) high school building. A picture of the structure is in our administration building as well as in the high school principal's office. The Commencements were held in the Union College Chapel.
In 1915 Hugh Oldfield (who was a teacher at Union) became Superintendent and succeeded in getting a new school building which was completed in 1916. That brick structure contained six(6) class rooms, an office, and an auditorium. The original plaque is now on the front entrance wall of our 1991 high school building and bears the names of the trustees and contractor. Potbellied stoves constituted the heating system. The boys vied with each other to carry buckets of coal from the basement to the stoves. The rooms were lighted on dark days by one, and not more than two, hanging electric light globes. The central heat (stoker coal) system was installed in 1921 by Gus Hauser.
The auditorium was divided by sliding doors, thus giving two more rooms. The two dressing rooms off the stage were used for an art room, taught by Miss Nan Faulkner, and for piano lessons, taught by Miss Lou Faulkner. It was in the auditorium that the first P.T.A. was organized. The pupils were summoned to school and in from recess by an old bell which had been taken from the frame building. In the late 30's, it was sold to a church for $50.00.
Between 1917 and 1920 the property owners on Pine Street, whose property adjoined the rear of the school, gave twenty or more feet to enlarge the school ground in the rear.
By 1918 the enrollment had increased so much that it was necessary to add a left (east) wing to the building (two rooms below and two rooms above). By the time Mr. Oldfield left in 1920, the total enrollment was over 500 students. There were ten teachers at that time.
In the fall of 1924, during the administration of Superintendent C.P. Caywood, a second wing was added to the west end that consisted of seven rooms and a gym in the basement. The boys called it the "Bull Pen" because it was so small. In order for the younger boys to have a chance to practice, Mrs. Sarah Hughes would go to the school and allow them to use the gym at an early hour. After the new gym was built (in 1937), the "Bull Pen" was converted into class rooms. This was the wing which was destroyed by fire in 1957.
Before any gymnasium was on the school grounds, the players and coaches used an old, abandoned church which stood back of the Gulf Station on Main Street(Union National Bank's main parking lot at present). Later, Barbourville City Schools rented the college gym (for $175.00 for ten months, plus $10.00 for each game). This was paid from extra-currcular funds.
The school Board purchased the Ed Hemphill property, where the "trades building" housing the Board Room and Superintendent's office now are. The dwelling in the 30's was used for a music and band house. It was later moved behind the gym, where it continued to be used as a band house and then also as a storage building. It was torn down in 1955. In the early years, there were several tennis courts to the east of the high school building. In 1935, the high school won the District tennis championship.
The construction of the gymnasium was started as a WPA (Work Projects Administration) project in 1935 under the administration of Guy G. Nichols and finished in 1937 under W.M. Wilson's tenure. Emerson Cobb, science teacher and football coach at BHS, was a supervisor of the gym project. The African-American Ellis brothers (Minor, Tim, and Harry) were the chief masons in laying the stones carefully in place for this well-crafted gym.
It was until the middle 20's that the street (School Street) in front of the school was graveled. The Board could find no law whereby they had the authority to pay for paving the street. The teachers took it upon themselves to solicit funds for it after first pledging their own money for the paving. The first side walks and entrance to the building were built by the NYA in 1941.
A major change in the high school building was desired as a result of a survey conceived and discussed with the Board by W.M. Wilson, but work was not carried out because of lack of money. When Ruel Cairnes became Superintendent in 1947, he revived the discussion and with the backing of the Board, many clubs, and the University of Kentucky's Education Department, the survey was completed. As a result, the auditorium was converted into two rooms to house the high school and elementary libraries. That part (on the east side) which had been the stage and dressing rooms became a large class room. The room formerly used for the library became the business & typing room. A hall extended the entire length of the second floor. All the basement rooms available were made into class rooms; Mr. Cairnes moved his office from the main building into the front of the (1937) gymnasium. The entire high school building was given a new look by a coat of paint. There was much regret at the time for the loss of the auditorium which curtailed chapel exercises.
During the administration of Roscoe Playforth, the "trades building" (one of two surplus barracks secured by Mr. Cairnes) was erected in 1953 by Walter Messer. This building served as classrooms after the fire of 1957 and 1990. The Board Room and Superintendent's Office are now in this building. During the 50's, acquisition of property by the school Board included several lots where the current elementary school now stands.
Charles Singleton was selected Superintendent in 1957. He oversaw the construction of the new elementary building just to the west of the old (1915) high school structure and the construction of the cafeteria between the elementary and high school buildings. He understood the needs of the school from his experience as a former teacher, coach, principal, and as the Superintendent until 1987.
Shirley F. Treadway, Jr., class of 1944, was elected to the Board in November, 1960 and has served continuously since then. He has been the Chairman of the Board since 1967, a service which makes him the longest continuos Board Chairman in the Commonwealth.
After the destruction of the 1915 building by fire on May 15, 1990, the current high school facility was constructed on the school property immediately behind the old high school building to house grades seven through twelve. Each classroom (as well as the elementary) possesses a telephone, is computer-wired to the world, and has VCR/TV's.
In 1998, an elementary classroom addition was completed on the east end of the original building which was constructed in 1957. It was a "wrap-around" the cafeteria construction design, allowing the elementary students to go to the lunch room without going outside in the weather.