North Carolina Education - Jackson County

Year County Established

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Jackson County


To minister to the Cherokee people living in the area of present-day Jackson County, the Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the South established the Echota Mission along Soco Creek. In 1841, Reverend D. Ring became the mission’s first pastor. Eventually several native preachers served the congregation. After attending one of the worship services, Charles Lanman reported that Cherokee worship was very similar to the worship of white Christians only that the service was done in Cherokee. He found the congregation to be neatly dressed and worshipping according to the Methodist custom, with the exception of singing hymns with more wild excitement.

The mission established a school in 1850 - it was in Haywood County at that point in time. Reverend Ulrich Keener, who had previously served as minister to the mission in 1847 to 1848, became the first resident superintendent of the school. He held the position until his death in 1856. Keener’s original cabin still stands next to the Cherokee United Methodist Church in the Soco Community of Cherokee. The cabin is the oldest architectural structure at a Cherokee site in North Carolina.

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.

Cullowhee Academy, a private primary school, was established in 1889 in Jackson County. The school’s second principal was Robert Lee Madison who began work that year. Madison, a proponent of teacher education, proposed, along with Lewis Smith, that the legislature give money to an existing high school in each congressional district so that a Normal School could be opened to train prospective teachers. The legislators chose only to fund such an arrangement at Cullowhee, granting $1,500 to Madison to get the program started. Although not funded at the time, Madison’s idea, called the “Cullowhee Experiment,” became the model for the state’s regional colleges.

Improvements to the campus were funded by the state legislature in 1901 and the name was changed to Cullowhee Normal and Industrial School in 1905. Cullowhee began operating as a junior college in 1913. Continued growth facilitated the transition to a four year college, known as Cullowhee State Normal School, in 1925.

Rechartered in 1929, the school became Western Carolina Teachers College, a four-year, degree-granting institution. The next name change, to Western Carolina College, occurred in 1953 and was intended to better reflect the school’s liberal arts programs and graduate courses. Levern Hamlin was the first African American student to attend one of North Carolina’s state-supported colleges in 1957 when he took a summer school course at Western Carolina.

The college gained university status in 1967 adopting its ultimate name, Western Carolina University. The regional university affiliated with the University of North Carolina system in 1972. Western Carolina University opened the Mountain Heritage Center, a museum concentrating on the history, natural history, and culture of Southern Appalachia, in 1979. The center collects artifacts, presents craft demonstrations and folk music performances, and creates exhibits and other programs that enrich the educations of students of all ages.

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


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