North Carolina Education - Mitchell County

Year County Established

County Webpage Herein

County Seat Webpage Herein


Mitchell County

In the Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the scholastic years of 1889 and 1890, it was reported that there were three (3) private schools for white children in Mitchell County:

Private School



No. of Students

Bowman Academy


J.C. Bowman


Private School


Miss Templeton

18 females

Private School


E.L. Mace

On February 15, 1895, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to authorize the qualified voters in Mitchell County to decide whether to levy a special tax to pay for public schools in said county.
On March 9, 1897, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to create and establish an independent school district from parts of Mitchell County, Burke County, and McDowell County in the Linville Falls area. The boundaries were defined and each county may elect one school committeeman.
In the Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the scholastic years of 1899 and 1900, it was reported that there were five (5) private schools in Mitchell County:

Private School



No. of Students

Prudden School

Elk Park*

Miss Blair


Aaron Seminary


N.S. Ridenour


Yellow Moutain Academy

Plum Tree

Prof. Randolph


Bowman Academy


A. Masters


Pineola School


G.T. Thompson

*These villages were in Avery County in 1911.

An institution of the Presbyterian Church, Lees-McRae College awards associate and baccalaureate degrees. The campus claims the distinction of having the highest elevation (4,000 feet) of any college in the eastern United States. From the front of the campus can be seen Beech Mountain while from the rear is visible Grandfather Mountain.

In the summer of 1895, the Concord Presbytery sent Edgar Tufts, a seminary student, to Banner Elk to organize a church. Two years later the newly ordained Tufts returned as pastor and remained in Banner Elk until his death in 1923. In 1899, concerned with the limited offerings of area schools, the Reverend Mr. Tufts began tutoring some young people in his neighborhood. From this modest beginning the present college marks its origins.

Tufts saw the need for a boarding school and, with money raised at a prayer meeting, constructed a frame dormitory in 1900 for fourteen (14) girls and one (1) teacher. He named the institute for the teacher, Elizabeth McRae. A few years later a boys department opened twenty-five (25) miles south at the Avery County community of Plumtree. It was named for a benefactor, Mrs. S. P. Lees of Kentucky and New York, a friend of McRae. The school was chartered by the state in 1907 as Lees-McRae Institute. In 1927, Lees-McRae became co-educational when the boys unit was moved to Banner Elk after the buildings at Plumtree were destroyed by fire.

Lees-McRae Institute became Lees-McRae College in 1931, gradually eliminating the high school department to form an accredited, co-educational, junior college. The trustees in 1987 voted to seek senior college status. It was granted in June of 1988 by the Commission of Colleges and Schools of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

When it began in 1900, the McRae Institute was in Watauga County. Lees Institute, in Plumtree, was first located in Mitchell County. In 1911, Avery County was created and the Lees-McRae Institute was now in Avery County.

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


Founded in 1929 by Lucy Morgan, the Penland School has become one of the most prestigious handicraft schools in the United States. Morgan, a teacher at the Episcopal Appalachian School in Penland, began re-introducing cloth weaving into her community in 1923 after instruction at Berea College in Kentucky. A small cabin on the grounds of the Appalachian School became Morgan’s training ground for local craftspeople as she aided them in not only learning new weaving techniques, but also selling their goods to tourists. In the first few years, Lucy traveled throughout western North Carolina marketing wares in a truck donated by Episcopal Bishop Junius Horner.

In 1928, Morgan collaborated with Frances Goodrich of Allanstand Cottage Industries, Olive Dame Campbell, founder of John C. Campbell Folk School, and Mary Martin Sloop of Crossnore School, in organizing the Southern Highlands Handicraft Guild. In 1929, Miss Morgan, who specialized in Scandinavian crafts, opened the school at Penland, and people began arriving to learn pottery, weaving, silversmithing, and metalworking. After her retirement in 1962, Bill Brown, formerly with Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine, took charge. Under his direction, Penland introduced woodworking and glassblowing to the curriculum. Brown oversaw the establishment of the resident craftsman’s program enabling artists to spend three years living and working at Penland honing their crafts. Many of these individuals have gone on to achieve critical acclaim in their disciplines after having left the school including glassblowers Harvey K. Littleton and John Nygren. Miss Morgan, born in 1889, died on July 3, 1981.

Still considered a premier craft school, today Penland continues to educate people from around the world having expanded to forty-one (41) structures located on four hundres (400) acres. The facilities now host more than twelve hundred (1,200) artists a year, offering week and two-week long classes in the summer and eight-week semesters in the spring and fall. The Penland Gallery, receiving over 14,000 visitors a year, provides a venue for displaying and selling artwork.

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


© 2018 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved