The people of Culleoka had long dreamed of having "a modern
school building to house a progressive school", and as early as 1916 began
negotiating with the county for a school here. Then World War I broke
out, and priorities changed. Culleokans became involved in patriotic
In 1919, Georgia senator,
Bill Upshaw delivered a series of lectures in Culleoka. Encouraged by
the lectures to continue their quest for a new building, the citizens of the
community pledged several thousand dollars to help finance construction.
In the spring when school was closed, a potluck dinner was held to celebrate
the destruction of the old, three room frame building which had been built
with scrap lumber from the Tennessee Centennial.
Construction began on the new building in the
spring of 1920, and when the school year began in September, 1921, the
building was not ready to occupy. School opened in the Methodist
Church. Miss Mary Virginia Graham, who graduated in the class of 1925,
remembered having a physical education class in the aisle of the church.
In December, students were given an extra
week of Christmas vacation while the faculty moved into the new building.
The community watched the proceedings with the knowledge that they had
raised $10,000 of the $25,000 cost of the building by selling eggs,
chickens, and other farm products and by producing plays.
There was no gymnasium and no cafeteria.
Many students rode to school on horseback and tied their ponies under the
shade of a big tree at the site of the present elementary building.
Other students were transported in bumpy school "trucks" and brought their
lunches in paper sacks. The students used part of their lunch period
to feed and water their horses and ponies.
of school "trucks" and bus students. The small building at the
right of the main buidling was the band room.
Throughout the 1920's, pleas were constantly
being made to the county for a new gym to replace the outside courts.
With the motto, "United we stand, divided we fall", the energetic patents
set about to raise funds to help finance the project. The October 17,
1929 ARROW reports a successful sale at the school which raised over $500
for the gym. "Everything from pencils to a Ford car" was sold
according to the article.
Education Class held outdoors.
1929 edition of The Arrow
Construction began on the gym in 1929. The ARROW reports, "Work will
begin immediately on the floors, and soon windows and doors will be added.
'It can't be long now' until we will be practicing basketball in the new
gymnasium". Some records show that this gym was built entirely with
funds raised by the Culleoka community.
Culleoka had an undefeated football season in
1925 topping such teams as Pulaski, Lynnville, and Centerville.
The home games were played on Graham field,
and fans who came to watch either sat on the ground or car fenders because
there were no bleachers.
Harris Cheatman, long-time postman in Culleoka, recalled that the coach, Mr.
Percy Priest, had never played football and knew very little about the game.
He bought a mail order book on football and used plays from it.
The 1926 "Flashlight" records another
undefeated season in 1926. The team trained every day, rain or shine.
In seven games, their goal line was crossed only once by Cedar Hill.
Culleoka scored 154 points that year and allowed their opponents only six.
Basketball was also a popular sport and the
only sport in which girls were allowed to participate, In 1925, the
girls team placed second in the county tournament, galling to Haylong (now
Mt. Pleasant) 10 to 16 in the finals. They brought home ten dollars in
gold as their prize.
First Football Team 1924-1925
School 1927 Baseball Team
about football team win
The mothers of
the community often cooked lunch for the students and faculty and brought it
to school each day. Because there was no cafeteria, lunches were
usually eaten outside. Eventually a small cafeteria was built adjacent
to the school, and this building later became a science laboratory.
For the first three years, there were only
ten grades and Culleoka and anyone who wanted to graduate had to commute to
Central in Columbia by train. Students were responsible for paying
their own fares and sometimes students who could not afford them had to drop
out of school.
The train left the
Culleoka depot about 7:00 every morning. Pupils would walk from the
train depot in Columbia to Central which was located on West 8th street.
After school, they caught the train again and rode to the Pleasant Grove
depot across from the old Culleoka Produce Company. They usually did
not get back to Culleoka until 5:00.
Maury County required only eight months of
school at that time, but the community "wanted to be better", Mary Graham
recalled, and they made up enough money to supplement teacher's salaries and
added a ninth month to the school year.
The school had no running water and students
had to pump it from a well in the field south of the school property and
carry the heavy pails back to school. When the county dug for water on
campus, they found that the sulfur was too harsh for drinking.
Chapel services were held every morning.
Ministers from the community came and spoke on a special subject each week.
At examination time, every paper submitted to
the teacher had a pledge at the bottom, signed by the student, stating that
the student had not cheated or helped another pupil.
Strict rules of conduct were set for boys and
girls. There was a set of stairs exclusively for boys to use and
another set for the girls. They also had separate doors to use
entering and leaving the building. May Graham relates an incident when
a boy was caught passing a note to one of the girls, and the principal, Mr.
Galloway, read it aloud in chapel to the entire student body.
The course of study included a one year
teacher training course which gave students a certificate to teach for one
year after graduation.
Culleoka had added grades eleven and twelve, and the first class, consisting
of 6 boys, was graduated. the graduates included the late W. A.
Richardson, Sr., Maury County's representative in the Tennessee General
Assembly for many years, and Billy Calvert, who is the last surviving member
of the class.
Through the years,
Culleoka school has graduated over 800 boys and girls. Classes have
always been small, but spirit and enthusiasm have been the hallmark of this
In the late
1940's with the country at war with Germany and Japan, many of our young men
were drafted even before they completed their senior year. Ed Denton,
a member of the class of 1944, remembers being called up before his
graduation. At the end of the war, Vanderbilt University offered short
term classes to allow these young men an opportunity to complete their
education and earn a high school diploma.
Culleoka continued to grow and prosper under
the leadership of Principal Hughes Brooks who served the school from 1946
until his retirement in 1973. Under his leadership, the community saw
the enrollment of the school double in size. In the early sixties, the
enrollment was under 200 students. Four teachers, Miss Eddie Hayes,
Mrs. John Ashe, Mrs. Sadie Hobbs, and Mrs. W. M. Allen taught all the
elementary grades. Brooks saw the enrollment climb to over 400
students and the faculty and staff to plus 20. During his tenure, a
new elementary building was constructed, the cafeteria enlarged and the
auditorium remodeled to house a larger library.
At the beginning of the 1973 school year,
Harry Underwood became the new principal and served Culleoka until his
retirement in 1996.
Culleoka occupied a new high school building and the two-story structure
that had educated the children of the community since 1921 was razed.
When the cornerstone was removed, Mary Graham, who as a child was present to
place the contents in the vault, was also present to help remove them.
During the next twenty years with the coming
of Saturn to Maury County and the build up of subdivisions in the southern
part of the county, Culleoka's current enrollment has grown to over 1000
students with a faculty and staff in excess of 75 people.
In the early 1990's an eight room middle
school building was completed on the 12 acre campus and later a 12 room
elementary wing was completed in 1997.
In 1997, Mary Ruth Campbell was appointed
principal of the unit school and Penny Waters and Kenneth Harris were named
assistant principals. When Campbell was selected Instructor of
Secondary Education for the county in May 1998, Dan Long, assistant
principal at Central was named to the Culleoka position. Waters
returned to the classroom in August 1999 and Mary Kennedy Brown took over
the position of assistant principal. Long left the school early in the
1999 school year and Jeff Quirk took over the position of principal at
addition to the school was completed in 2006. This addition included a
new music room, agriculture classroom and shop, auditorium, cafeteria,
practice gym and two new science labs as well as several classrooms and a
new main office. The school now has close to 200,000 square feet which
serves to educate almost 1,000 students.
As the Culleoka area continues to grow, the
school will grow with it just as it has in the past. Who knows how
many students the school will prepare for a bright and shining future.
to Ms. Jane McNaron (teacher at Culleoka Unit School) for compiling this