Former Gravel Switch Students Preserve School's History

By Mary Audrey Smothers - 2000

Pleasant Hill School was a one-room school on Highway 243 (Logan Road) near Gravel Switch, Marion County, Kentucky, located at the bottom of the hill from Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. The first census of the school was taken in 1894. However, I believe the school was established maybe as early as 1880. The school was in session until the 1947-48 school year, when Marion County schools were consolidated. Its last teacher was Coyle Lanham.

The District 30 census report for the school year ending June 30, 1895, signed by J. B. Williams, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, shows there were 84 students: 47 males and 37 females. Heads of the family included the children of: J. W. Minor, Mrs. Kate Young, S. H. Pirtle, J. J. Lanham, P. M. Lanham, Charles Webb, Samuel Webb, Samuel Shanks, Mrs. Jane Crane, Thomas Harmon, Thomas Glasscock, F. H. Power, Wood Whitlock, James Whitehouse, R. F. Lanham, E. D. Lanham, John Boswell, P. D. Catlin, John Glasscock, Beuford Lankford, R. Lawson, John Claybrook, Jerry Owens, Samuel Lankford, J. B. Williams, Mrs. Molley Hays, L. F. Price, Harrison Webb, Nelson Hays, and E. T. Thurman.

For the school year ending April 1896, E. Y. Thurman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, signed the census report which listed 74 students: 41 males and 33 females. Heads of the family (in addition to those above) included the children of A. Ewing, Henry Powers, R. H. Minor and Henry Green.

For the school year ending May 1, 1898, M. Harmon, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, signed the census report listing 76 students: 42 males and 34 females. Heads of the family (in addition to those listed above) were: Tom Hays, Minerva Lankford, Willis Inman, William Hannon, Rafe Lanham, D. L. Dorsey, Jimmy Jones, Samuel Hale, Perry Riley, L. P. Barrack, Nannie Powers, Sam Barrack, and C. T. Key (some of the names were difficult to read).

This gives us information on the families who lived in the community before the turn of the century. It was surprising to find the number of students attending. When we examine the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church membership list in the late 1800s, and the list of families in school, we get a pretty good picture of the community in the early years of the school and the church.

Teachers from 1912-1948 included: Dee Bradford, Josie Bradford, Purksey Allen, Hugh Lanham, Myrtle Edwards, Agnes Lanham, Ethel Crews, Charles O. Isaacs, Anna Shanks, Hazel Stanfield, Frank M. Hardin, Lillian Hourigan, Edna Lankford, Ruby Stanfield, Ethel Clarkson Hays, Bessie Yankey, Florence Collins Hays, Josephine Sims Chism, Beatrice Tatum Yates, Martha Faye Elliott, Violet Lanham Meyers, Ruby Graham, Edith Riley Hays, Virginia Wilson, and Coyle Lanham.

All the Lanhams were my relatives. My grandfather was George Lanham. Agnes was his sister; Hugh, his half-brother; Violet, the daughter of George's half-brother; and Goebel and Coyle, his grandsons (my first cousins).

I lived on a farm half a mile from the school and attended Pleasant Hill during the last seven years of the school's existence. There were seven children in my family, and we walked to school every day, rain or shine. We had several creeks to cross, but they were small enough that we could cross them by stepping on the large rocks. When it rained and the creeks rose, I remember my father meeting us and carrying us across the creek.

Our school day began around 8:30 a.m. and ended at 3:00 p.m. The most enjoyable times were recess and lunch. Other exciting times were when we practiced for the school plays we performed at Christmas. Not only our parents, but the entire community came to see our plays and listen to us sing Christmas carols.

Recently, I discovered a notebook from the school and was surprised to find the classroom subjects we covered. I have fond memories of school days and the lasting friendships that were made there.

Pleasant Hill School students attended their first class reunion on October 18, 1998, with 50 people present; and again on October 10, 1999, when 28 people attended. The next reunion is planned for the year 2003.

Mary Audrey Lanham Smothers, 7216 Billtown Road, Louisville, KY 40299, shares this story and photos with our readers. The photos are from the Classes of 1912, 1929, 1933, and 1942 reunions.