Pure Fountain College at Smithville, built in 1883, was an impressive three stories high and had a five story tower.
It burned in 1889.


The noise of the school could be heard at least half a mile away; even though the little log building was down by the creek just north of Smithville, anyone at the courthouse could hear plainly the sound of Mr. Dawson's "studying-out" school. All sub jects were studied aloud by all pupils at all times--spelling, reading, geography, arithmetic, etc. Mr. Dawson, the only teacher, waded about among the hundred pupils, teaching as he went.

This experimental school was carried on during the 1850's. In the early 1970's DeKalb County experimented with a middle school which had few interior walls and few exterior windows, but over a period of years this experiment proved unsatisfactory, an d several interior walls were added to create a somewhat more traditional school.

The chief reason for poor schools was lack of money. Though the Tennessee Constitution of 1835 called for the state "to cherish literature and science," and did actually protect the common school fund, it provided little real money for that fund. Fr om 1835 until 1854, the common school fund provided an average of about 40 cents per child per year. In terms of real money, this ment that DeKalb County received $1,078 dollars in 1850, which was enough to pay the 34 teachers almost $16 dollars per mont h for two months. When the money ran out, the school continued for another month or two as a "subscription school," where parents who could afford it would pay a dollar or two a month to the teacher as tuition.

As a unit, DeKalb county had no school system. There was no superintendent of schools for the county until 1871, and no central office. The private schools and subscription schools were taken care of by the person in charge of each individual school . Some schools received public money from the state, and this came through the county trustee's office, where it was divided among the school districts according to the number of pupils there.

It can be said that there had been steady progress in education in DeKalb County in the years preceding the Civil War, especially during the 1850's. Although many DeKalb Countians could not afford to attend anything but the public schools, they could get a basic education there in the "three Rs--reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic." Higher education was available for those with more money and more ambition, and most who were sufficiently interested could find a way to earn money for further schooling. Of the total white population in 1850, one out of four had attended school, and the rate of illiteracy was rapidly decreasing on the eve of the Civil War. The war, however, was to change all this. By the time the war was over, there were no schools fun ctioning in the county. Many young people who would have continued their education in normal times were now unable to do so. The war had left many families destitute; their livestock was gone, their food was gone, their clothing was gone, in some cases their barns and houses were gone, and many of the men who could have helped to replace these things were dead or maimed. The younger members of the family could not spend their time in school; they were struggling to produce enough food for the family to survive.

In 1883 school year in Smithville a new school opened. It was the new Pure Fountain College. It was in a new three-story brick building with a five-story tower. In its first year it had over 200 pupils from elementary grades through the college cou rse, which was taught by Professors P. W. Dodson and T. B. Kelly and included Latin, trigonometry, Bookkeeping and debate. This building burned in 1898, but the same site was used for the high school at Smithville until schools were consolidated in 1963.

High schools as we presently know them were begun in 1909, and by 1929 there were high schools (some of them two-year schools) at Alexandria, Blue Springs, Dowelltown, Dry Creek, Keltonburg, Laurel Hill, Liberty, Smithville, Snow's Hill, and Temperanc e Hall. The high school at Alexandria lasted into the 1940s, but all the others except Smithville and Liberty were closed during the Depression for lack of money.

Until the state of Tennessee began to put more money into the county school systems in the late 1940s, it was not possible for many DeKalb countians to attend high school, and many did not go beyond the eighth grade. Thus the community schools with o ne or two teachers furnished the basic education for most DeKalb Countians for more than a century. A gradual consolidation of these schools has taken place until in 1995 DeKalb County has only four schools: at Liberty the West School (through grade 8), and at Smithville the Smithville Elementary, DeKalb Middle School, and DeKalb County High School.

The above information was taken from "A Bicentennial History of DeKalb County, Tennessee, By Thomas G. Webb. I want to thank Mr. Webb for allowing me to use this.

The following information was taken from the PURE FOUNTAIN COLLEGE, First Annual Catalogue, 1883-84.

The First Annual Catalogue, 1883-84.

The Students Page 1

The Students Page 2

The Course of Study

The History Page

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