North Carolina Education - Ashe County

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Ashe County


The Valle Crucis Episcopal Mission was founded in 1842 under the direction of the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in North Carolina, Levi Silliman Ives. The mission thrived under Ives’s leadership until 1852, and under his successor William West Skiles until 1862, but later became inactive. In 1895, Bishop Joseph Blount Cheshire reorganized the mission and, after 1903, the new Bishop of Western North Carolina, Junius M. Horner, furthered its development. Since the 1960s, the Valle Crucis Mission has served as an Episcopal Conference Center.

In 1840, a New York botanist searching for exotic plants stayed for a few days in present-day Watauga County, in a fertile valley at Valle Crucis. During his return trip to New York, the botanist met the Bishop Ives in Raleigh. The botanist reported to Ives, who was hoping to start a mission in western North Carolina, about the beauty of the mountain region. Traveling to the area in July of 1842, Ives promised local residents to establish an Episcopal mission in the valley, naming it Valle Crucis, the Vale of the Cross. In December of 1842, Valle Crucis Episcopal Mission officially was launched when Reverend Henry H. Prout arrived in Watauga County to serve as the new minister.

Bishop Ives contributed to the development of the area, and by 1844 had purchased 2,000 acres, constructed a saw mill, and begun construction on mission buildings. Of the original buildings, Ives’s log cabin is still standing, although it has been moved from its original location. Ives hired Skiles, an experienced farmer, to run the agricultural operations. Skiles became an active member of the mission, and was eventually ordained as a Deacon in 1847. The mission originally contained a classical school, but it was closed in 1847 when Bishop Ives instituted the Order of the Holy Cross. The Order was active for about five years.

Bishop Ives resigned from the Diocese of North Carolina in 1852 and joined the Roman Catholic Church. When he did so, he removed himself from involvement in the Valle Crucis Mission and sold his lands in the area. Skiles remained as head of the mission until his death in 1862, at which time the mission essentially closed up shop. Throughout the later nineteenth century, Valle Crucis was visited occasionally by Episcopal ministers, but was otherwise inactive.

In 1895, Bishop Cheshire went to Valle Crucis to revive the Mission. Receiving a small grant of land that formerly belonged to the mission, Cheshire rebuilt the mission. Around the same time, the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina was officially divided, and the Reverend Junius M. Horner was made Bishop of the Asheville District. Horner was an ardent supporter of education, greatly influencing the course of the Valle Crucis Mission. Under his direction the mission repurchased 435 acres of its original lands, constructed a sawmill and hydroelectric plant, and began to provide education from first grade through high school. The mission expanded and thrived, increasing its size throughout the early 1900s.

The onset of World War II led the Mission to close its school, which served as a women’s boarding school from 1936 until it closed in 1941. It became a summer retreat for the Episcopal Church during the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960s, the Valle Crucis Episcopal Conference Center opened, and still functions as such today.

The first school - 1842 to 1847 - was located in Ashe County at that point in time. The second school, which closed in 1941, was in Watauga County.

The above write-up (with edits and additions) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.

On February 18, 1861, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate the Jefferson Academy in the town of Jefferson in Ashe County. Seven (7) trustees were named in the Act.
On March 11, 1889, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate Mud Creek School House in Ashe County. Seven (7) trustees were named in the Act.
On March 7, 1891, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate the Sutherland Seminary in the town of Sutherlands in Ashe County. Five (5) trustees were named in the Act.
On March 6, 1899, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to create a special school district using part of Ashe County and part of Alleghany County. Boundaries were defined in the Act.
Also on March 6, 1899, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate Plummer Seminary in Ashe County. Four (4) trustees were named in the Act.

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