A HISTORY OF THE MIDDLESBORO SCHOOL SYSTEM
PART 1: 1890-1944
This page is a work in progress. Some of the work is from the MHS Wikipedia page that I edited extensively last year. I have moved the information here where it belongs and added more research.
Middlesboro High School has been educating students for over 120 years. The first class of seniors graduated in 1894 just four years after the founding of Middlesborough in 1890, so there is always more to discover.
THE FIRST TEACHER: MR. EDWARD LEE GRUBBS
There is limited historical information remaining concerning Middlesboro's early educational institutes. In his 1943 book, "The History of Bell County" Henry Harvey Fuson (transcribed by C. Richard Mathews) offers some insight into those early years. He writes:
"The first school in Middlesborough was a private school taught by Ezra (Edward) L. Grubb, a graduate of Centre College. It was opened December 9, 1889, over Charles Whitaker's store on East Cumberland Avenue. Mr. Grubb was assisted by Mrs. Maggie Chumley and Miss Cora Morris, who taught music and painting."
The records at the Grace Doherty Library of Centre College show that Edward Lee Grubbs, graduated with the class of 1889 at Centre. His school information noted his teaching in Middlesboro. Ezra is never mentioned as a nick anywhere except in Fuson's writings.
Tragically, Mr. Grubbs was killed in a horrific automobile accident in 1922 not long after his biography appeared in History of Kentucky.
FIRST MIDDLESBORO TEACHER KILLED IN AUTO ACCIDENT
Prof. E.L. Grubbs, whose death is described below, was the first school teacher in Middlesboro. He visited here with the Junction city high school football team about a month ago. Professor Grubbs' father was the contractor of the Booneway Inn. Grubbs came here in 1890 when he was just out of college and taught school for two years.
The following is a dispatch to the Courier-Journal:
Prof. E.L. Grubbs, 52 years old, Centre College graduate and principal of the Junction City High School, and S.W. Burke, Jr. 22, clerk in the Danville post office, were instantly killed at 7:30 o'clock this morning when a freight backed on the automobile in which they were driving as they reached the crossing at Junction City, near here. Young Burke was on his way to work, bringing Prof. Grubbs in his automobile to Danville. The train was nearing the crossing just as they approached the track and struck the automobile before they got across. They were dragged along the track about thirty-five feet and were ground to pieces. The automobile was wrecked. Professor Grubbs had been principal of the Junction City High School for several years and was one of the best known educators in Kentucky. He is survived by his widow and seven children.
Middlesboro Daily News; Middlesboro, Kentucky November 13, 1922
Mr. Grubbs' family served the nation in other ways. His father, William Grubbs, was a captain for the confederacy during the Civil War. His brother First Lieutenant William Grubb, died during the Spanish-American War leading an infantry charge in the Philippines in 1899. ref here
MOVE THIS!!!REF Stan R. Campbell The Grace Doherty Library Centre College
THE FIRST SCHOOL BOARD
Fuson offers more insight, "On October 17, 1890, the city council passed an ordinance to establish a public school. Mr. Grubb became the first principal, being succeeded by Prof. T. C. Westfall. Following Westfall as principal was C. W. Gordinier from Valparaiso Normal School, who was appointed by the first city board of education. The members of the board were F. D. Hart, W. H. Rhorer, William Acuff, E. K. Pattee, M. Park and Mr. Price. Mr. Hart was elected secretary and manager of the school at fifteen dollars per month."
Fuson further states, "The first class was graduated in 1894, the members being: John Miller, Jennie Dickinson, Julia Moore, Kate Colgan, Louise Park, Mary Campbell, Denta Campbell, Nell Van Gorder, Jess Rhorer, Dora Green, W. A. Purnell and Hattie Broshear."
The first school that opened its doors in 1890 as Middlesborough Public School was located on one of the two floors in what is now the Masonic Lodge building on 20th Street. If one looks closely, the early photograph of the building shows a sign that reads "Public School". The caption in the photograph from a period booklet, reads "Middlesborough High School".
Classes moved to the new Middlesboro High School (Central School) after its completion in 1910." After the school moved in 1910, Pinnacle Lodge 661 purchased the building in 1911 from J.L. Manring. The Middlesboro Independent School District offices remained in the lower floor rooms until the 1980s.
PROFESSOR THOMAS C. WESTFALL
Professor Thomas C. Westfall, succeeded Professor E.L Grubb. Westfall was a Covington, Kentucky native and spent only a short time in Middlesboro. Little else is known of him. He died in Cinncinatti in 1924.
DR. CHARLES H. GORDINIER
Dr. Charles H. Gordinier came to Middlesboro and served as principal of its fledgling school system beginning in 1892. His major accomplishment was grading the schools. Dr. Gordinier served as principal teacher from 1892 to 1894 and again in 1895.
Dr. Charles H. Gordinier, Middlesboro's First School Superintendent
Major Campbell was hired as principal teacher for the 1894-95 school year; however, Dr. Gordinier was rehired the following year to replace Campbell.
First Superintendent, Dr. Gordinier
Dr. Gordinier was named the very first official superintendent of schools in 1896. According to an article in the August 10, 1967 edition of the Middlesboro Daily News, it was during the same time period that a separate high school was formed.
After he was replaced as superintendent in 1896, Dr. Gordinier, founded the Middlesboro University School, or Middlesboro Collegiate Institute, under the direction of Central College. Central College was created after the Presbyterian Church of Kentucky, and with it Centre College, split in 1867.
The "community college" lasted for only a short time; however, reports indicate it was professional and a considerable asset to the community and its students. According to the 1967 Daily News article earlier referenced, the first graduate names were listed in the cornerstone of the Central School with Dr. Gordinier named as superintendent.
Dr. Gordinier later returned to Pennsylvania around 1900 and had a long career in education. He was president of Millersville University from 1918 until 1929  and stayed in the education field well into his 70's.
The Middlesboro University School continued for a short time after the departure of Dr. Gordinier and the hiring of Professor James Reid Sterrett.
PROFESSOR JAMES REED STERRETT
The photo above is of Cadet Sterrett, class of 1891, Virginia Military Institute, Lexington Virginia.
The ad for Middlesborough University is from The Big Stone Gap Post of 27 July 1899.
PROFESSOR BURKE HILL KEENEY
The first principal-teacher was Professor Burke H. Keeney. Very little is known of Professor Keeney's term with the school system. His work in the mining field is better documented. He probably was related to Jacob H. Keeney, a Middlesboro businessman who helped develop the coal and banking industries in the early 20th century.
PROFESSOR S.L. FROGGE
S.L Frogge, circa 1900
Middlesboro's second official school superintendent was Professor Samuel Littleberry Frogge who replaced Dr. Gordinier. He was hired for the 1897-98 school year and ended his time at Middlesboro in 1900.
A native of Russellville, Kentucky, professor Frogge was an 1876 Graduate of Bethel College. His contributions to education in Kentucky were numerous. Professor Frogge served as superintendent for a number of Kentucky school districts. S.L. Frogge, who served as principal and professor of Lindsey Wilson Training School from 1904 until 1905. He was President of the State Teachers Reading Association at the time of his death in July of 1907.
Death of Proffesor Samuel L. Frogge. A Tribute to a Very Worthy Man and Educator by J. T. Cherry, P. C., Russellville, KY. 15 Oct 1907. Graduate of Bethel College, Superintendent of the Christian county public schools; principal of Lindsey Memorial School of Columbia, KY; Principal of the Greenville schools; superintendent of the city schools of our State capital; and was at the time of his death President of the State Teachers Reading Association.
SUPERINTENDENT JAMES B. TAYLOR
J.B. Taylor served the school system as superintendent from about 1900 until 1902.
A report in Kentucky Public Documents written in 1902 describes the system under Taylor:
"The public schools of Middlesboro were organized in 1891, and have graduated classes every year, except one; that was 1895.
The high school course is the equal of that of any other city in the State of Kentucky of twice it's size, being planned after the suggestions of the Committees of Ten and Fifteen. The enrollment for 1900 and 1901 was thirty-six; for 1901 and 1902, twenty six as follows: Four seniors, twelve sophomores, and ten freshmen.
The class of work done this year is superior to that of last year. Penmanship and music under the direction of a special teacher have been added to all the grades and the high school this year. The enrollment last year was five hundred; this year five hundred seventy five."
DR. MATHEW OLIVER WINFREY
Another of the early Middlesboro School superintendents was Professor M. Oliver (M.O.) Winfrey. Winfrey excelled in many endeavors having at one time run for Kentucky State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Professor Winfrey received his MA degree from Kentucky University and his LLD from Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
According to "A History of Kentucky and Kentuckians" by E. Polk Johnson, Winfrey was superintendent from September 1902 until September 1915. He was credited with the building of Middlesborough Central High School in 1906.
Dr. Winfrey was well known throughout the South as one of the region's leading advocates for higher education. 
THE WINFREY SCANDAL
Dr. Winfrey's time in Middlesboro ended in 1915 when he was accused of a criminal operation (illegal abortion) and breech of promise with a former teacher in the district. The allegations filed by Miss Nannie Louise Lynn of Virginia were vehemently denied by Winfrey as blackmail, yet he was indicted. The news of his actions were reported by several state newspapers including a report in The Adair County News of June 9, 1915. The court case, denial of the events, and his subsequent marriage to the young woman, ended Dr. Winfrey's long career in public service and the education field.
The Hopkinsville Kentuckian of June 5, 1915 gives a full report of the incident. The description of the events borders on the bizarre. Miss Lynn stated in the accusation that Winfrey had persuaded her that they had been married during the illegal operation.
Dr. Winfrey died six years later at age 49. His estranged wife Anna whom he had married in 1897, indicated in a 1921 City Directory entry from Louisville, Kentucky that she was the widow of M.O. Winfrey. Mrs. Winfrey reported in other documents obtained by a newspaper that she had divorced Winfrey a few years earlier.
SUPERINTENDENT FRANCIS ALBERT COSGROVE
Francis Albert F.A. Cosgrove, born 1858 in Defiance, Ohio, served as superintendent from September 1915 until 1917. He was active in statewide education projects. He served as superintendent at Fort Thomas for many years 1915 and in other systems including campbell County, Jackson City schools in Breathitt County during the 1920s. He also served as principal at Oakhurst School in North Carolina in the early 1920's.
The Pinnacle News 1916 reported comments made by Dr. Cosgrove during the school Christmas services.
DR. TYBEE WILLIAM OLIVER
Middlesboro High School was listed as a Class A accredited High School as early as 1920 under the direction of superintendent Doctor Tybee William (T.W.) Oliver. Dr. Oliver served as superintendent from 1917 until 1922. Dr. Oliver was born at Sturgis, Kentucky in 1881. After leaving Middlesboro, he was named superintendent of the Pike County Kentucky school system.
In the publication, Catalog of the University of Kentucky 1920-21, Middlesboro Schools are listed as Class A Accredited Public High School under the leadership of Dr. Oliver. Born on 1881 to James A Oliver and Cornelia F Carney. He passed away on 1949 in Pikeville, Kentucky, USA.
FROM UPIKE WEBPAGE
T.W. Oliverís commitment to education changed Eastern Kentucky. A native of Sturgis, Ky., Tybee William (T.W.) Oliver earned his bachelorís and masterís degrees at the University of Chicago and his certificate of superintendency at Columbia University. After a distinguished career as a teacher, superintendent and an education professor at Morehead State Teacherís College, Oliver came to Pikeville in 1922 as director of summer school programs for the Kentucky Department of Education. In 1923 he was hired as the superintendent of the Pikeville and Pike County School, the only public high school in the county.
THE TRAGEDY OF PRINCIPAL W.J. BARNES
Mr. Wesley James Barnes was born in Pulaski County Kentucky in 1874. He had served as teacher and superintendent in Pulaski County in 1914 and other systems over twenty five years. He arrived in Middlesboro to take over as principal at MHS around 1920.
Several national and regional newspapers reported a tragic incident that occurred in downtown Middlesboro in late October 1920. The copy below is from the November 6th Madison Register.
There were two different reports concerning Barnes condition.
The Appelton-Post Crescent reported on the same day the following story:
TEACHER SHOT BECAUSE HE WHIPPED GIRL TEACHER
By United Press Released Wire Middlesboro, Ky.-Middlesboro High school was closed today as a result of a tradgedy which may cost the life of the principal, W.J. Barnes, 45, of Louisville. Barnes was shot over the heart by Adolphius Oaks, brother of the girl pupil whom the principal is alleged to have whipped last week. Oaks surrendered and was held in jail. Following general criticism of the punishment of the girl, Barnes had resigned.
One month later, Barnes was miraculously able to write to friends in Pulaski County as proved in the following transcribed newspaper article.
W.J. Barnes Writes To Let His Friends Know of Unfortunate Shooting Affair. Middlesboro, Ky., Dec. 3, 1920.
Somerset Journal, Somerset, Ky.,
Dear Sir: I get so many letters and telegrams from friends in Pulaski County that I thought I would ask you to put a short statement in the paper for me concerning my recent misfortune. I am principal of Middlesboro High School with an enrollment of one hundred and thirty pupils. About five weeks ago in enforcing a rule against talking I had some girls upon the carpet. It seems about a week after this a young man who belonged to a tough element and whom I had never seen, accosted me on the principle street one evening about dark and beat me over the head with his pistol and shot me through the lungs just above the heart, and since that time I have been struggling between life and death with chances at present in my favor of getting well. The good people of this town are standing by me loyally. They had a mass meeting at which they collected $2,000 to prosecute the assassin and pay all my hospital and operating expenses. My left hand had to be amputated at the wrist, but I am willing to give it freely for the great common school cause for which I have given the best part of my life of twenty-seven years service. Thanking you and my many friends in Pulaski County who have been so vitally interested in my welfare. I remain as ever, your friend, W.J. Barnes.
DR. JAMES WOOD J.W. BRADNER
One of Middlesboro's most distinguished school superintendents was Dr. James Wood (J.W.) Bradner. A graduate of Tri-State College (BS); Indiana University (AB); Columbia University (MA); and graduate studies at Chicago University, Dr. Bradner was a nationally respected educator and administrator. Under his leadership at Middlesboro beginning in the Fall of 1921, the school system was considered the top district in the state. The distinguished Bradner was selected by the Governor of Kentucky to head the Kentucky Department of Education. Dr. Bradner served the school system and community until his sudden death in 1944. As a result of Bradner's devotion and service to Middlesborough public schools, the football stadium located in downtown is named in his honor.
Middlesboro High (Central) School, on 20th Street, was completed in 1906. The large brick building housed both the high school and classrooms for downtown area elementary students. With the rapid growth of the city, a separate high school was built in 1920 located one block west of Central School just off South 21st Street.
Middlesboro High School received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools . in 1929. The classically designed school was located atop a small knoll overlooking downtown Middlesboro for nearly 50 years.
Middlesboro Fight Song
Middlesboro Loyalty is performed by the award winning marching band at football and basketball games, parades and at other times when maximum school spirit is required! The music and lyrics are nearly identical to the University of Illinois school song "Illinois Loyalty". However, Middlesboro Loyalty is played at much faster, more rousing tempo.
Below, you can hear Loyalty as played by the Victor Military Band, as performed on December 5, 1916.
Middlesboro High School's official fight song was sung at least as far back as March 18, 1915. The Pinnacle News ran a story entitled "St. Patrick's Day at Local Schools". An excerpt from the article reads, "A quartette of girls sang " A Toast To Dear Old Erin" in more than an ordinary manner. Then the entire school gave the Middlesboro Loyalty Song with great gusto." Loyalty lyrics appeared in print for the first time in the 1921 edition of the MHS Senior Yearbook.
Written by Chuck Owens
Copyright 2015 Middlesboro, Kentucky 40965
Copyright 2015 Middlesboro, Kentucky 40965