3. First Public School
The Nolensville Elementary School cropped up in the years after the Civil War and was one of the first schools in the county.
In 1867, a brick schoolhouse was constructed with two rooms and a hallway downstairs. The upstairs housed the Masonic Lodge and Odd Fellow meetings. A Mr. Stamps was the headmaster there until 1900.
The school burned down in 1901, diverting students to other schools for a time, until a new wood-frame building was finished by 1903. Part of the building still stands behind the Clovercroft Road cemetery. It served as the school for white students until a Nolensville Road school was built in 1937. Today, that school is home to the Nolensville Historic Society.
By 1909, the Clovercroft Road school counted 163 pupils with three teachers in grades 1 through 12. At a black school, which was where First Tennessee Bank now is, 92 students attended in a two-story church building.
Once the Nolensville Road school opened in 1937, it taught grades 1 through 10, with students finishing high school at Antioch, Central, Franklin or College Grove High Schools.
Opened in 1937, it took an entire community and three years to raise the money for the land and get the school built. But it has been much more important than a school, even after it closed in 1972. It is now, since 2009, a museum and the headquarters of the Nolensville Historic Society. This is a group that understands that the school has been a symbol- for the community and a center of it for more than 75 years- that holds in its own history the story of Nolensville. No wonder the NHS wants to continue restoring and renovating it.
The school, and the community it sits in, is living history.
At first, it was an empty plot of land. In those post-depression days, schools were much different. Every few miles would be a one, two, four, or six room school house that students could walk to, but only- as Peggy Wilson, NHS director and student from 1940-48, says- only if you could not talk your parents into giving you a ride.
The Nolensville school was doing that before it was even built. In the late 1920s and early ’30s, parents in the community knew Nolensville needed a new school. The old one was not big enough and was getting old and deteriorating.
So the community, led by the local PTA, lobbied the Williamson County School District for help. But its purse was not nearly as full as it is today, so they offered what help they could: the district would build a school if the community could purchase the land.
Beginning in 1933, the Nolensville community began raising money any way it could. They organized horse shows, charging 10-15 cents for admission.They held bake sales and donation drives. Three years later, they hit their goal of $1,000.
That sum bought 5 acres of land and brought a school – and a community center to three, going on four, generations of Nolensville residents.
When it first opened, in fall of 1937, there were four teachers, four rooms and kids in grades 1 through 10. As the years went by, sometimes there were as few as two teachers. As the community grew the school had to cut back to 1st through 8th grade.
(The rooms are currently named by the museum: “Historic Classroom,” the “1937 Kitchen,” “Grady Bob’s Work Shop,” the “4-H History Room,” and the “Nolensville Sports Hall of Fame.” )
By the time Wilson started attending, the school was truly hitting its stride. The adjacent baseball diamond was a center of any weekend for teens and fathers, who organized leagues and played pick up games.
In 1947 the school got a library, literally tearing down a surplus World War II draft classification center brick by brick. The bricks were hauled back east to town and turned them into a gymnasium. It was a point of pride because at that time the only schools in the county with gyms were high schools.
It became a place to hold school plays and music shows, well attended by the town, boy and girl scouts events and the centerpiece venue for the longest-running fair in Tennessee history, the Nolensville Junior 4H Fair, where boys and girls brought their animals and girls could make dresses and bring fruits and vegetables. The fair ran for 52 years, finally folding in 1980.
The school itself closed in 1972, and for a few years, it was rented out as a recreation center. Between then and 2009 it was used as a meeting-place for boy and girl scouts, and rented by one church or another.
The Nolensville School was integrated by 1966, with black students coming over from a school built in the 1940s on Rocky Fork Road.