For thirty-five years, North Greenville Academy has served a great and noble purpose, but what of the future?
The Mountain View High School, along with a system of state high schools, had been established; thus the consensus of opinion of many people was that the academies were no longer needed.
The four Baptist academies, which were supported by the Baptist State Convention of South Carolina, were already closed or in the process of being closed. The North Greenville Academy, being jointly controlled and supported by the North Greenville Baptist Association and the Home Mission Board of Atlanta, Georgia, was in an independent position. However, a check of $500 from the Home Mission Board for the session 1928-29 was the last aid received from that source. One year later, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to discontinue the entire system of mountain mission schools; thus the support of the academy was left to the North Greenville Association. At that time, the academy indebtedness was approximately $16,000, for which the trustees had personally signed notes. To support the trustees, the North Greenville Association had voted to have a percentage of its gifts to the Cooperative Program sent back to the academy from Baptist headquarters in Columbia. Fifty percent of the fund was to be applied on interest and notes, and the remainder was to be used for operation. This amounted to a little better than $2,000 per year.
The trustees, in their effort to insure the future of the academy, employed a man who had been successful in raising funds for other Baptist institutions to put on a campaign to raise $150,000. This would pay off the academy debt, and also repair and build new buildings, with the view of enlarging the academy to a junior college. He made a good start by getting about $40,000 pledged within a short length of time, but made the mistake of putting the emphasis on getting pledges rather than cash. As a result of what is known as the depression, the banks closed and those who had pledged had no money with which to pay; therefore the trustees recommended to the North Greenville Association that those who had pledged be relieved of their obligations to pay. Although the men collected hardly enough cash to pay his campaign expenses, and some might consider the effort a failure, he did give the academy lots of good publicity at a time when it was most needed.
In the spring of 1928, as we were finishing our work at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and praying that the Lord would open a field of service, a telegram came from the trustees asking that I accept the place as principal of the academy. I had not solicited the place; in fact, I had not given a thought to any type of school work. At the age of twenty-three I entered the eighth grade at Spartan Academy, and was very grateful for having had the privilege of attending a Baptist academy. Without making a study of facts as to the future of North Greenville, I accepted the place believing and trusting that the Lord was leading.
We arrived in South Carolina in time for me to attend the graduating exercises at North Greenville. So well as I recall, about thirty graduated. This was the last large graduation class of the academy. The eighth, ninth, and tenth grades were all small. The outlook for new students for the fall session was poor. I reported to Dr. E. B. Crain, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, that everywhere I went the people were inquiring if the academy would open in the fall. He replied, “Brother Donnan, don’t let that bother you. The school has been dying ever since I knew it.” At this point, I think we were at the beginning of the end of the academy as such. However, the school served a worthy and worthwhile program so long as high school course were offered, even along with the junior college, until Southern Associational standards required that the high school courses be left off. At this time there were three buildings: namely the main building, boys’ dormitory, and girls’ dormitory, all of which were greatly in need of repairs and painting. The dormitories were provided with low pressure cast iron boilers to furnish hot water and steam for heating except when out of water or coal, or both. As it was in the beginning, the classrooms were heated by wood burning stoves.
Under the administration of Mr. H. C. Hester a light and water system had been installed, consisting of a twenty-five horsepower gas engine to operate a generator which charged a system of batteries for lights and an air compressor for air to operate the Harris fresh water pumps. A pump was put in Mr. B. F. Neves’ well with pipes connected to a cistern on the campus which supplied water for cooking and drinking purposes. A pump was installed in the branch back of the school which provided water for general purposes. However, the batteries had depreciated to the extent that lights were on only while the engine, which gave lots of trouble, was running. The pipe lines to the branch froze in the winter. The capacity of Mr. Neves’ well was not sufficient and the Harris pumps were often in need of repair.
The roads to Greer and Travelers Rest were unpaved, and a party telephone was out of service most of the time.
Without Mr. W. D. Mitchell, teacher of Science and dean of boys, I would have been almost helpless until I had time to get acquainted with the entire system. Also, as has been true through the history of the institution, we were blessed with a good faculty. All teachers were efficient, cooperative, loyal, sacrificial, and true to what is known as the North Greenville spirit. After having worked with this group for a school year, also having received much free advice from Mother Essie Taylor which was appreciated, I felt better prepared for the next session.
In the summer of 1929, the road from Tigerville to Greer was treated with tar and gravel. An effort was made to get Duke Power to extend a power line to Tigerville, but the project was not completed until the summer of 1930; thus we saw the dawn of the a new day.
Photo: John Ballenger, diligent promoter of high school for the north Greenville area, was born on November 25, 1832 in Spartanburg County. He died December 7, 1902 at his home, Tigerville, SC, about two miles from the school site.
This picture was made in September 1901 by Mr. C. W. Drace of Greer, at Mr. Ballenger’s home now owned by the Merrill family.
(Mr. Ballenger had lost the sight of one eye about two years before his death which probably explains why the eyes are closed in the picture)
Story written by Dr. M. C. Donnan, President Emeritus, for the Winter 1967 North Greenville Alumni Magazine.