BLAIRSVILLE: An agriculture community located on Highway 49, three miles south of Sharon. The neighborhood derived its name from members of the Blair family living in the area. In 1850 a post office was established there and continued until the early 1900s when it was consolidated with Sharon. The district had undefined boundaries, but roughly ran south from the intersection of Highway 49 and Burris Road to the intersection of Highway 49 and Highway 97.
The Yorkville Enquirer reported on March 25, 1891 – “The school at Blairsville has been suspended on account of the illness of the teacher, Ms. Deal.”
BLAIRSVILLE ACADEMY: This academy was established about 1830, perhaps by Rev. Aaron Williams. Rev. R. Y. Russell was in charge of the school from about 1849 to 1858; Russell was described by historian J. L. Strain as “strict, but not tyrannical.” For a number of years E. Giles Russell assisted his brother and then in 1857, Rev. Russell’s son, W. B. Russell, assisted. W. B. Russell had recently graduated from the College of South Carolina and was probably helping his father until he was admitted to the bar. In November 1859, he was admitted; but after practicing for one year, to the day, he died.
The first building was described as a frame structure about forty feet long with a chimney at both ends, with two door and four windows. The building was located on the west side of Pinckneyville Road (now Lockhart Highway), on a hill near the intersection of said road and what is now Wilson Chapel Road. At some point it was relocated a few yards to the east when the Pinckneyville Road was re-routed.
An announcement appeared in the Yorkville Enquirer on 8 January 1857, gave the rated of tuition for a five month session:
Primary English branches 5.00
Elementary branches 6.00
Higher branches 8.00
English, Grammar, Geography & History 9.00
Moral & Natural Philosophy & Rhetoric 12.00
Latin and Greek classes 15.00
Classics & Mathematics 17.50
The following year, in the 7 January 1858 issue of the Yorkville Enquirer it was announced: “The exercises of this institution will be resumed on the first Monday in January, under the superintendence of Rev. R. Y. Russell. The primary English branches will be taught at five dollars per session; the Higher Branches at eight; and the Latin and Greek Classes at fifteen. Good board can be procured in the neighborhood at seven and eight dollars per month. Rev. R. A. Ross, Dennis Crosby, Samuel Blair Trustees.”
Palmer Grier Sherer, in his A Partial History of the Early Schools & Educational Movements of York County, mentions the academy was closed from 1859 to 1860 because a building could not be secured. He also informs that teachers came and went after its reopening. Rev. R. A. Ross was its instructor in 1861, followed by Lizzie Russell, daughter of Rev. Russell in 1862. Mattie Crosby taught there in 1863 and 1864. Mary Wallace taught from 1865 to 1866.
It was announced in the 1 January 1866 issue of the Yorkville Enquirer that Rev. Russell was planning to open the school on the first Monday of that month, but Mr. Sherer wrote that Carrie Russell, a daughter of Rev. Russell, told him the school failed to open because a building cold not be secured. Rev. Russell died the following November.
The Blairsville Academy faded into the public school system as the Blairsville School. A new school building was built on the present site of the Howard Haas home, about 1915. The school remained active until the early 1920s when students were transferred to Sharon. Within a few years the building was moved a mile northward to the corner of what is now Lockhart Highway and Burris Road, become a school for blacks. After integration the building became a meetinghouse for the African-American congregation of St. Luke #2 Baptist Church. The building was later moved to the Hickory Grove-Sharon school campus and was restored.
BLAIRSVILLE ACADEMY MARKER: The site of the Blairsville Academy was marked by a granite marker in the 1960s by the Athena Women’s Club. Asplunda Tree Company destroyed the marker in the 1990s while clearing the right-of-way for Duke Power Company, and under the hand of Jerry West, the company paid for another marker designed by West and made by J. & B. Granite Sales of Bullocks Creek. The marker was placed on the opposite side of the road in front of the Howard Haas home, which was the site of the last Blairsville School.
LEILA A. RUSSELL, RURAL SCHOOL SUPERVISOR by Louise Pettus Leila A. Russell, an 1889 Winthrop College graduate, was destined to become one of the college’s most distinguished graduates. Her potential was evident as an undergraduate when she organized the campus YWCA and became its first president. Leila spent several years teaching in Anderson County and then was hired as York County’s first supervisor of rural schools. Soon she was also teaching at Winthrop. She combined the two jobs neatly. Leila Russell was resourceful, creative and very persuasive. Problems abounded but she thrived on the challenge. No student teacher had an automobile (students weren’t even allowed to have cars on campus until 1953). How would they get to the rural schools? Miss Russell arranged for the girls to be placed in country schools on, or near, train depots. Among others, York County schools that fitted the bill were at Blairsville, Catawba Junction, Lesslie, Friendship, Oak Ridge, Hickory Grove, Ebenezer, Ogden, Glendale, Oakley, Smith’s Turnout, Tirzah and Smyrna. Riverside elementary school in Lancaster county was also used. How would the student teachers be housed? Miss Russell found parents who were willing to give the Winthrop students room and board. Many of the regular teachers had never been to college. Miss Russell diplomatically dealt with that problem and saw to it that the regular teacher’s skills were upgraded.
Most of the schools were in terrible condition. How could the money be raised to make needed improvements? Miss Russell had a plan. She organized the parents into clubs and persuaded diem to hold benefits of any kind that would raise money. By 1912 she had persuaded 8 school districts to levy school taxes for improvement of existing facilities and in other cases persuaded communities to build larger and better schools.
She started a newspaper column which was printed weekly in the Yorkville Enquirer. After a paragraph or two of suggestions for improving the schools she added letters from students (having asked the students in each school she visited to send her letters that told what their school was doing). A typical Leila Russell item in the Yorkville Enquirer. “Are you boys and girls making use of the libraries in your schools? And if you have no library in your school can you not manage in some way to raise ten dollars to secure one? Having done this, ask your trustees and Mr. Carroll for ten dollars from the school fund, and Mr. Carroll will see that the state gives you ten, so that you will have thirty dollars to put into good books.”
She promised all the boys and girls who read at least six books to have their name read on County School Day and to have the name published in the Enquirer. She formed the boys into Com. Clubs and the girls into Tomato Clubs and saw that the best ears of com and finest jars of tomatoes were displayed at the county fair. Walter Kerr, an 8th grade student, wrote that before Miss Russell came and talked to the Oak Ridge students that his school was unpainted except for a place that was painted black for a blackboard. There was only one classroom and the little stove could not heat it. Water had to be brought a long distance from a house in the community. Writing in November 1912, Walter said that now that his school was new and built according to one of the Clemson plans. The school was painted white; the windows were screened. A large Old Dominion stove heated the room and they now had a bell, a large maps and a piano…… (Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine)
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