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Monday, February 29, 2016

Knott County High School--My Favorite Places In Appalachia

I graduated from Knott County High School in 1968.  I entered school there in the fall of 1964 after graduating from Salisbury Elementary on Beaver Creek.  I spent one year as a manager of the basket ball team under Coach James Moore.  As I recall, our freshman class entered with about 110 students and only graduated 58.  But I have always been proud of the fact that our graduating class finally had at least 6 students who received a master's degree or higher in college.  We had an interesting and generally well qualified faculty and Principal Ed Madden was a major factor in the lives of many of his students.  Hubbard Martin, who was near retirement at the time,  primarily taught  mathematics courses but could also teach English and might well have been competent at nearly any course in the somewhat limited curriculum.  He was famous for being able to do long division and multiplication either in his head or at lightning speed on a chalk board. When Hubbard Martin was near death in the University of Kentucky Hospital I was working in Lexington and heard that he was hospitalized.  I visited him in the hospital to thank him for trying to keep me on track.

Burnis Jacobs also taught mathematics and algebra and loved to hunt, especially coon hunting.  It was a common ploy for students who wished to avoid class work to attempt to get Burnis interested in telling a coon hunting story in order to distract him.  Burnis also made a somewhat unsuccessful attempt to start a Boy Scout Troop loosely connected to the school.  It was not successful primarily because most of the boys in the school were from families who were too poor to buy the uniforms and other items necessary to be a good Boy Scout.  Burnis was one of my favorite teachers and got me through Algebra I and II after I had somewhat deliberately failed Algebra I under Hubbard Martin due to my tendency to be a nuisance in class.  His wife, Mary Lois Jacobs, taught English and is still on my Facebook Friends list.

Wallace Niece taught the social science courses and loved to show horses.  He was also somewhat subject to narcolepsy and had been known to fall asleep in class from time to time. I will always remember Wallace Niece discussing the Great Appalachian Migration and imitating a bus station attendant using the station PA system to inform travellers that the "bus is now leaving for Dayton, Detroit, Middletown, and all points north."  Wallace Niece may well have been the first person to make an attempt to impress on me the importance of Appalachia and being Appalachian.  Jean Francis also taught English courses and was in the early years of her career when I was in high school.   

The building was one of those wonderful old WPA cut stone structures built during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  It had weaknesses in its design and showed some wear by the time I arrived.  But it had still been built to last a thousand years with ongoing maintenance.  It is a shame it no longer exists.  When Knott County consolidated the high schools in the county with the exceptions of Cordia High School and the Hindman Settlement School, the building was sold at auction and bought by Ed Madden who later sold it to Alice Lloyd College which demolished it to make a parking lot.  That was a terrible waste of a historic building.

If anyone who reads this has old photographs from Knott County High School and is willing to have them added to this post, I would greatly appreciate it.  You can send me an E-mail at and we will arrange to post them with full professional credit to the photographer who shot them.

I will write further about the school and expand this post as soon as I have some more time.  But let me say the most important thing I can about the school.  We graduated from Knott County High School not Knott County Central.  From time to time I see one of my classmates list the wrong school on their Facebook page and I always remind them to change it.  Our school had a fairly long and positive history before being consolidated and those of us who went to school there should never allow it to be forgotten.