Courting History: Helton Academy


By Sam Shumate - Special to the Post



Education around the turn of the century was left up to interested communities and churches. A group of interested citizens in the Helton Community met in 1900 to make plans for an educational institution. The Sturgill family donated property and building began in earnest.

Helton Academy opened its doors two years later. Mr. I. H. Stuart introduced their principal, Rev. Samuel Weldon Brown, to the 134 students registered for the 1902-03 session. Rev. Brown, a native of Allegheny County, earned a Master of Arts degree from Trinity College (later Duke University) in 1870. He came to Helton with 32 years of educating young people already under his belt. Rev. Brown proved himself to be an able and inspiring leader and instructor who, along with his teachers, produced graduates who went on to many higher pursuits.

Helton Academy is often referred to as Ashe County’s first high school. While academies already existed at Sutherland, Beaver Creek and Grassy Creek, Helton was set up with classes and schedules similar to future high schools.

The academy building was an impressive structure with three large rooms and a bell tower. A boarding house served as a dormitory and overflow students were housed by local residents. Students were assigned domestic chores in the boarding house as well as the boarding homes. Bartering was encouraged and parents often provided food, fuel and labor to offset the lack of cash.

The 1902 handbook listed:

Monthly board, washing, fuel and light……………………………$5.50 – 6.00

Tuition for preparatory courses…………………………………………….$2.00

Tuition, first year……………………………………………………………$2.00

Tuition second and third years………………………………………$2.50 – 3.00

Music on piano or organ……………………………………………………$2.00

Use of Instrument……………………………………………………………$.50

Certificate fee………………………………………………………………$2.00

Courses listed:

First Grade – First Reader, Spelling, First Lessons in Language and Geography, Numbers 1 to 20.

Second Grade – Second Reader, Writing, Numbers continued, Spelling, Reproduction of Short Stories.

Third Grade – Third Reader, Spelling, First Lessons in Language and Geography, Primary Arithmetic, Writing.

Fourth Grade – Fourth Reader, Spelling, Childs North Carolina History, Primary Arithmetic, Geography, First Lessons in Language, Writing, Drawing.

Upon completion of the above courses students entered high school which was divided into spring and fall terms similar to today’s semesters. Courses listed were:

Fall Term First Year – Bingham’s Latin Grammar taught with the English Grammar, Elementary Algebra, Arithmetic, English Composition, Written Composition, Spelling.

Spring Term First Year – Latin Grammar and Reader, Elementary Algebra Completed, Philosophy, Botany, Written Composition, Declamation.

Fall Term Second Year – Latin, Caesar, Harkney’s First Greek Book, Rhetoric, Higher Algebra, Geometry.

Spring Term Second Year – Latin, Cicero’s Orations, Greek Fables, Algebra, Geometry, Rhetoric, General History.

Fall Term Third Year – Latin, Virgil, Greek, Demosthenes’ Orations, French, Land Surveying, Ancient Geography, Astronomy, Book Keeping.

Upon completion of these courses, students who passed an approved examination were awarded a certificate of graduation.

Helton Academy served the county until the high school students moved to Lansing in 1930. Helton Elementary school continued at the original site until it was also consolidated with Lansing.

By Sam Shumate

Special to the Post

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