Giles Paths: Campbellsville High School Remembered

Forty years ago, the spring of 1978 would be the last for Beech Hill, Bodenham, Campbellsville, Elkton, Jones in Lynnville, Prospect and Minor Hill high schools. These schools would be consolidated into Giles County High School and the newly constructed Richland School. This Giles Paths installment focuses on Campbellsville.


The Campbellsville Bears — they will always have a special place in my heart.


It was in the summer of 1964 when my Martin Methodist College baseball coach and dear friend Jimmy Earle came to me and asked would I be interested in coaching and teaching at Campbellsville. Mr. Warren Burns, the principal, had called and asked him if he had a player who might be interested.


A trip to visit with School Superintendent J. Marlin Goodman, a visit with Mr. Burns and a talk with school board member B.F. Rose — that’s how it began for this young, first-year coach who was just 19 at the time.


Two wonderful years at Campbellsville blessed me with many fond memories coaching softball, baseball and boys and girls basketball for both high school and junior high. I quickly realized the spirit and love all of Giles County’s schools had for their teams and school.

There are many people to thank for their help in this article on Campbellsville High School.


Glenda Tomerlin Biggs, one of my students in years past, originally made the suggestion to do articles on the Giles County schools, since this is the 40-year anniversary of their closing in 1978. Thanks also to David Dunavant, a 1969 graduate of Campbellsville,
and Deborah Johnson.


Part I will feature the history of Campbellsville School written by Bryan Johnson, son of Deborah and Calvin Johnson, graduates of Campbellsville. Thanks to Bryan and Deb for its use in this feature.


The History
Campbellsville is a small community in Northwestern Giles County. Campbellsville High School used to sit at the junction of Campbellsville Pike and Campbellsville Hill Road.


Campbellsville was named after Hamilton Campbell. He settled in the Campbellsville area around 1808. When Campbellsville was incorporated in 1829, John Dickey was elected the first mayor. By 1880, Campbellsville had expanded and had three stores, two blacksmith shops, a post office, a tan yard, a church, a school, a cotton gin and a tavern. The town of Campbellsville was also surrounded by many cotton and corn fields.


In the fall of 1924, the new Campbellsville High School was opened at a new site. The land of Campbellsville High School was purchased from several different people. This land was known as the Collins Estates. This land was bought on Dec. 8, 1924. The actual deed for the school did not go through until Dec. 22, 1924.


Several small schools were consolidated to form this new school. Some of the smaller schools were Yokley, Rich, Minnow Branch, Rose Hill, Liberty Hill, Pleasant Valley, Brownlow Creek, Anderson Creek, Factory Creek and Dry Creek.


The original building was fairly small. It consisted mostly of a library, auditorium, science rooms, cloak rooms, home economics department and a wing for the elementary. Some of the classes taught at this location were English, Math, Latin, History, Caesar, Geometry and Geography. The heating of the school building was left up to one large wood stove.


The water for students to drink was drawn from an outside well by a pump. When the school first opened, there was no cafeteria, and the students had to bring their own lunches to school.


The school had its own newspaper called The Torch. The students would write articles and put the paper together, and then, it was taken to Pulaski, where it was printed. At this time, the normal school day ran from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The first principal at Campbellsville High School was John Kilgo. Some of the first organizations and clubs were the Jackson Literacy Club and the Sevier Club. The members of these clubs were usually very active.


During the first years of the school, it had a football and basketball team. Not only football, but also basketball was played on outside courts. The school, at this time, did not have a gym.


Despite the many cotton fields and other farm work, Campbellsville did not officially close school for work. Some students would have to stay out of school to work. In the school’s early years, students had different means of transportation for getting to school and back home. Students who lived close to the school or had no other way would walk to school.


Some students also had the use of private automobiles available to them. The school system did provide a few buses; however, these buses were very crude and probably not a very desirable means of transportation. Another way students had to get to school was by horse and buggy.


In the 1924-25 school year, the first year in the new school, there was not a graduating class. There was a mock graduation that year. The first graduating class was the class of 1925-26. This class consisted of only six students. They were Louis Dalston, Macky May Smith, Mildred Smith, Ruth Smith, Grace Campbell and Helen Shuler. During the school year of 1925-26, the students performed the play “Merchant of Venice” by William Shakespeare. This play was performed several different times at various sites in surrounding counties. All props and costumes for this play were made by women of the community.


The second graduating class also consisted of only six students. These students were Eunice Goats, Bessie Thurman, Eula Belle May, May Engille Daniels, Mary Irene Dickey and Mary Elizabeth Hays. One interesting thing about this class is that all of the graduates went on to attend college. At the time, graduation ceremonies were traditionally held on Friday nights. Graduation was not the only thing that went on during this last week of school though. Every night during the week of graduation, the school had some sort of activity going on at the school for the students.


In the early years, there was not much of a playground for the younger students. There was plenty of room for playing but just not much equipment. As a result of this, most of the students would either participate in a baseball or softball game, and the younger students had games of their own, which they would play.


After Mr. Kilgo left, Mr. Deadmen became the principal. Mr. Deadmen only remained principal at Campbellsville for one year and did not have much of an impact on anything.


In 1929, Arthur Jones became principal at Campbellsville. He stayed at Campbellsville throughout most of the 1930s. At the beginning of the 1930s, Mr. Jones went before the school board committee to ask for money to build additions to the school. Campbellsville was granted $1,000 for an annex. The only catch to this was the community had to do the work. The community accepted the money for the additions and the responsibilities of the work. It would be eight years later before Campbellsville would ask for money for additions again.


In 1938, Campbellsville was in need of a gymnasium. A committee was set up to try and get the money for the gym. This committee consisted of Mr. Hayes, Mrs. Collins, Mr. English, Mr. Dunavant and Mr. Strawn. The committee received three bids on how much it would cost to build the building. Two bids were for $2,000; however, they did get one bid for $1,625. This bid was accepted on June 9, 1938. The money for the gymnasium came from two different places. An amount of $1,500 came out of capital outlay. The other $125 came from the school’s paint fun.


The school ran into a little trouble at the beginning of the 1938 school year. There was a question about whether or not Campbellsville had enough students enrolled to keep the school open. On Aug. 24, 1938, it was decided that the school board was to take the school’s register to a Mr. Varre. It was decided that the school had enough students to stay in operation.


During the 1940s, Campbellsville would have five different principals. They were D.P. Plunkett, T.A. Passous, E.C. Zuccarello, Ed Ingram and G.L. Meek. The salary per month for being principal at Campbellsville during the 1930s and early 1940s was about $80.


Throughout its history, Campbellsville only had one female principal. This lady’s name was E.C. Zuccarello. Mrs. Zuccarello was principal during the 1943-44 school year. The reason for her being principal was because of World War II going on at that time.


One interesting history fact about Campbellsville, as a community, is that in 1945, there was an oil well drilled on the farm behind the school property. This was not only the first oil well in Campbellsville; it was also the first oil well in the state of Tennessee.


The year was 1941 when the county started to have a school lunch program. It was not until the 1945-46 school year that Campbellsville was able to get their own school lunch program functional. This was when the first actual cafeteria workers and cooks were hired.
In April of 1949, Giles County went into a building program for all high schools. The recommendation for Campbellsville was seven new rooms, an inside water system and central heating system (coal furnace). All of these additions were made.


There were three principals during the 1950s. These men were Floyd Smith, Charles Gibbons and Jimmy Helton. Warren Burns served as principal during the 1960s, and Alan Parker and Homer Martin served as principal during the 1970s. Homer Martin was the principal in 1978 when the school was closed.


During Campbellsville’s existence, several different sports were played. Some of these were football, basketball, baseball and softball. Football was not always played at Campbellsville. This sport was discontinued in 1951. Arvil Chapman was the last head football coach at Campbellsville High School.


When basketball was first started in the gymnasium during the late 1930s and early 1940s, the teams were not allowed to play at night and could only play on the weekends. In the 1940s, teams were allowed to play during the week, and some games were played at night. In the 1960s and 1970s, baseball and softball games were played on Friday afternoons, and the student body was allowed to attend. During the basketball season, the students could also watch junior high on Fridays. This was a way of raising money. There were seven small schools in Giles County that would compete among themselves in baseball and softball. It was during the 1974-75 school year before Campbellsville ever advanced to the state level of competition. The coach at this time was the late Dwight Clark. Clark also coached two other girls’ teams to the state tournament.


The first homecoming activities were held in 1939. This was a football homecoming, and the queen was Goldie Russell McElhiney. Even though this was a football homecoming, it was held in the auditorium. After football came to an end, the homecoming queen was still picked for basketball through 1978. The last queen was Gloria Helton Lovell.


Campbellsville’s mascot was the bear, and the school colors were blue and white.


The reason Campbellsville was closed and dismantled was because of a state mandated consolidation. Campbellsville High School, along with Lynnville (Jones High School) and Beech Hill, consolidated to form what is presently known as Richland High School, which I attended and from which I graduated. The land where the high school was once located in now called Campbellsville Estates. This land contains three or four houses. All that is left of the original building is the cafeteria. Now, this is also a house. Campbellsville is now unincorporated. The small community now only consists of two churches, a general store, a tire store and a lumber company.


Part II will feature a look at the final years of Campbellsville School.

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