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Knifley High School: 1929-54

This article first appeared in issue 14, and was written by Marion V. Bowman.

School reached its peak enrollment in 1938-39 with 90 students enrolled

Knifley High School was organized as a Junior High in 1925. It was one of many high schools begun in this period in the more remote areas of the state to afford students access to secondary education. The economics of the time was conducive to expansion of education facilities, being a time of progress in the entire country that was settling down to good times after World War I.

Other schools begun about the same time in Adair County were at Breeding and Glens Fork. I am not cognizant of school board members at the time, except for a Mr. Ely Grant who was very supportive of the school at Knifley.

The first teacher at Knifley High was Azro Hadley, who was also the elementary school teacher. he had three students the first year: John Dunbar, his brother Pinckney, and Ruby Chelf. The next school term, when the student load had increased, Laura Smith was hired to conduct classes. The school continued as a junior high until 1929, when it became a four-year non-accredited institution and an additional teacher was hired. In 1932, the school was awarded full accreditation and had three teachers.

I am not certain of the years of their tenure, but here is a listing of Knifley High teachers roughly in order of their employment: Azro Hadley, Laura Smith, R.J. Bailey, Edgar Lacy, Iva Holladay Williams, John Dunbar, Reedie Tucker, Joe B. Janes, Evan Edwards, Douglas Durham, Layne Wiggenton, Bayard Antle, Anne Hutchison, and Paul Riggins.

The faculty never numbered more than four, which occurred during the 1938-39 school year when Knifley enjoyed its highest enrollment with 90 students. I believe that was the year of the largest graduating class also, with a number of 14.

I am not certain just when the school building was constructed, but it must have been during the early 1930s. It consisted of two rooms on the north end for the elementary grades and three rooms on the south end for the high school, plus an auditorium that could be used as a classroom when needed. The building faced eastward and was situated on a knoll in the center of the village of Knifley. The school grounds consisted of a square plot of perhaps an acre of land, but it was unfenced. It was reached by a graveled road of perhaps 300 yards in length, which connect with Highway 76 just north of the center of 'town.'

Over the years, students came to the school from the outlying areas by varied means of transport. It was not uncommon to see horses tethered to graze during the day, awaiting their masters to finish their studies. Bicycles were another popular mode of transportation, as were automobiles and trucks, of course. Many more prosperous student would haul others in automobiles or trucks for nominal fee.

During the winters when roads became near-impassable, many students would board with families in Knifley and walk to school, which was very convenient for them, as well as providing a small extra income for the Knifley families. During later years of the school's existence, the county provided a bus to pick up students at designated points about the community.

The school was consolidated with Adair County High School in either 1954 or 1955, which accorded the students with better and more modern facilities, as well as bus transportation to Columbia. The school building was either sold or leased after consolidation and was being used as a furniture shop when it burned in the 1960s.

Nothing is left of the site now but an empty lot.

Marion V. Bowman is a graduate of Knifley High School.

A resident of Elkhorn, then, he attended the school through an arrangement between the Taylor and Adair School Districts. He is now retired and lives at 293 Bear Track Road, Campbellsville, KY 42718.

This story was posted on 1997-06-15 12:01:01
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