Drushals Dedicated Their Lives To
Hundreds Of Young People Learned Compassion And Service.
By Nancy Hostetler - 2005
Why would a newlywed couple want to build their first home alongside a creek aptly named Troublesome? Did they realize that just around the curve Troublesome was joined by another body of water named Lost Creek?
George and Ada Drushal arrived in Breathitt County in October 1905. They both had the desire to commit to a life of service to others. The couple was received warmly in the small community of Lost Creek located ten miles south of Jackson. Here they are shown on Kentucky Belle probably headed to neighboring communities where they, along with other teachers at Riverside Institute, established afternoon Sunday Schools.
Construction began on the first two buildings of Riverside Institute in 1906. One was the parsonage for the Drushals (center of the photo) and the other was used as a church sanctuary (upstairs) and classrooms (downstairs). George Drushal designed and helped construct the suspension bridge across Troublesome Creek.
Before long George was asked to be the regular teacher at the small school in Lost Creek. As he accepted the offer, he also felt the acceptance of Ada and himself in the community. In addition, Ada found herself being a student. Women in the community were helping her learn the meaning of "light bread," the wonders of boneset tea, and the availability of wild "sallet."
Acceptance in the community brought about some new and unexpected experiences for Ada. On one occasion she was asked to come to a home where a child was very ill. Before she arrived the child died, and she then realized that the family looked to her to prepare the little boy for burial.
On another occasion she was called to a home where a mother was expecting a child. Without any prior experience she found herself in the role of midwife. Later she was told, "We all knew that you had been to college, and what else is there to learn in college if you don't learn to catch a baby?" The Drushals took this in stride, as they had committed together their desire to serve the people in any way, at any time.
As their outreach in the community grew, George and Ada felt the need for land to establish a place for their ministry. They approached "Uncle" Dan Cornett, who agreed to sell them three acres of flat land on the west side of Troublesome Creek for $150, with the understanding that his children would receive their education free.
At this time the Home Mission Board of the Brethren Church agreed to purchase the land and take over the sponsorship of the Drushals, now at $50 a month. In the spring of 1906 the first two buildings were under construction. One was a parsonage for the Drushals. The other building had a two-fold purpose; the upstairs was a large room to be used as a church sanctuary and as a chapel for the students, along with classrooms downstairs in response to much encouragement to start a school.
Neighbors helped George and Ada move their possessions across Troublesome on a freight boat, and they began to make plans for a dedication service. Dr. J. Allen Miller, president of Ashland College, came to speak at the service and suggested the name Riverside Institute. That name remained for 27 years.
Once the new school was open, the response in the community was very gratifying. More and more students came, and there was a growing high school enrollment. Even some young men and women in their late teens who hadn't learned to read came.
Henry Noble, a merchant from Whick, convinced the Drushals to let his boys come and stay upstairs in the parsonage and attend school. He agreed to pay for their upkeep and schooling, and thus George and Ada's home became a dormitory.
One of George Drushal's firm convictions was that it's the work of the church to meet the needs of the people. Two real needs in the Lost Creek area were transportation and communication. George helped to initiate and was very much involved in several projects. He designed and helped construct a suspension bridge across Troublesome Creek. This was helpful to students and church members. He and others in the community persuaded the railroad to extend their line on through from Jackson to Hazard. He, along with Walter Strong and Mize Landrum, formed the Lost Creek Telephone Company, and they ran their own line from Lost Creek to Jackson to connect there. George agreed to training that would qualify him as a lineman and repairman.
However, another of his ventures to help the people had mixed reactions. To take a stand against violence in the area, George helped organize a "Law and Order Society." Although many folks were appreciative for the improved law enforcement, some objected to the interference in their moonshine business. One Sunday morning service was momentarily interrupted when a bullet fired through an open window hit the ceiling and fell to the floor.
On another occasion George was called to his porch early one morning and faced two men on horseback, each carrying a pistol. He said, "Good morning, friends. What can I do to help you today?" After a pause the men said they just stopped by to say hello and left. Later George was told the men's mission was to shoot him. After he called them friends and offered help, they lost heart in their intent.
The church and school continued to grow. George and Ada sensed the hunger to be taught by people beyond the limits of Lost Creek. They, along with other teachers, established afternoon Sunday Schools in several neighboring communities. This involved riding their horse, Kentucky Belle, or a mule or walking. More land was purchased from "Uncle" Dan Cornett and two dormitories were built. For students who could not pay for their room and board, the Drushals created a work program. Students were assigned jobs as much help was needed in many areas. When people "up north" sent "missionary barrels," community people would bring in produce, chicken, berries, etc. in exchange for used clothing or tuition for their children. Teachers at Riverside were given $25 a month, room and board on the campus or in a home in the community, and a good supply of used clothing. Later the stipend was raised to $50.
One Riverside graduate, Hattie Cope, went on to be a missionary in Africa. She later wrote, "I can still see him (George) getting up early and going out to see about the cows, cleaning out clogged-up sinks, etc.; all the menial things that should not have been his to do, and he did them without complaint. Mrs. Drushal, while she cheerfully did without, still made her home a place of blessing to all who came, and there were many."
In 1927 Troublesome Creek, along with backwater from the North Fork of the Kentucky River, flooded the campus. Everyone worked feverishly to move, as much as possible, food and furnishings to second floor levels. The Drushals then stayed upstairs in their home safely, but two men came late in a john-boat to take Ada to a home in the community to help deliver a baby. George and their oldest son, Garber, carried her through the water to the boat.
After the flood the church and school enjoyed a couple years of prosperity. The high school received accreditation and the enrollment climbed to 135. Many Riverside graduates were going on to become teachers. Through the years others have become preachers, lawyers, missionaries, businessmen, doctors, nurses, college professors, and many have joined the military.
Then in the 1930s another flood came, not of water but of testing of anxiety and of soul-searching. Since more public schools were being built and were somewhat more accessible, the Home Mission Board felt there was no longer a need for a school. They instructed George to close the school and continue just the church work. The Drushals, the teachers, and the community felt very strongly that the school was a valuable asset to the church ministry and to the Lost Creek area. George, not wanting to break his word to their mountain neighbors, made several trips to Ashland to plead for the school but to no avail. The case was taken to a local court and received support there. However, when the Mission Board went to the Court of Appeals in Kentucky the lower court decision was reversed. Everyone packed to leave after the 1933 commencement.
Now, perhaps more than ever, George and Ada witnessed the independence of the mountain people that had been related to them prior to their coming. Two men, Arthur Haddix and Beech Davidson, offered to donate two small tracts of land that they owned which were adjacent to the school property. Here could be built a school building out of logs. Much of the material for this building was donated, and no local builder received pay for his labor. The new building, which had classrooms downstairs and a chapel upstairs, was rightfully called the Miracle Log Building. (There is another whole story there.) A new corporation was formed and chose the name Riverside Christian Training School.
Through the perseverance of the Drushals, the teachers, and the community, the school continued there for several years. They even maintained their accreditation. Then in 1940, when the interim pastor in the original church left and some issues were settled in the denomination, George and a committee of the school met with the Mission Board. An agreement was reached. The Missionary Board of the Brethren Church would continue as the owner of the property and the school would return to its original place and operate under an independent board.
George and Ada moved back into the original parsonage, and the faithful teachers moved back on the campus. It was an exciting time for them. Adah Irene, their daughter, returned from college to join them and devoted nearly her entire life to the work of Riverside. Their oldest son, Garber, furthered his education and eventually became president of Wooster College in Ohio.
However, the future held two more tragedies for George and Ada. In the early 1950s fire destroyed the parsonage, their home. Some time later their second son, Gordon, died in Ohio from an accidental asphyxiation. (Another son Milyard died in early childhood.) Ada once wrote, "Sometimes we ask the question, would we have started this work, had we known the dark days through which we must pass? Yes, had we known all, that all including God's miracle-working power to take blunders and barriers and make them work together for good."
Riverside became widely-known throughout Kentucky and the Drushals held true to their commitment to stay and to provide intellectual and spiritual growth for all the young people who came seeking. In 1955 there was a two-fold celebration. It was the 50th anniversary of Riverside School and the 50th wedding anniversary of George and Ada.
A year later George suffered a heart attack. He recovered and continued to preach and teach for two more years. After a second heart attack in December of 1958 he passed away at the age of 84.
Also in the 1950s two new, cement block buildings were constructed. One became a new dormitory for boys and the other a parsonage. One of the biggest undertakings of all was begun. With funds donated by the E. O. Robinson Mountain Fund and raised by the local Riverside Improvement Club and others, a new school building/gymnasium was built. Adah Irene was appointed acting director for an interim time. Now it was necessary to find a new president for the school and pastor for the church. It seemed the Lord had been preparing a young man to assume these responsibilities. Dr. Harold Barnett had been born and reared in the Lost Creek area. He attended school at Riverside and graduated in 1949. He also graduated from Ashland College and the Theological Seminary (Ohio). He then furthered his education at the University of Pittsburgh. The Riverside Board of Directors asked Harold to come in George Drushal's place. When Harold and his wife, Doris, moved to Riverside in 1959 they were joined by my husband, Doran, and I, who, like the Drushals, were newly-graduated from Ashland College and newly- married. The campus and buildings were in sad shape, the Missionary Board was considering selling the property, and enrollment had dropped. Under the leadership of these two men, and the support of the dedicated staff, renovation programs began. Several old buildings were razed. Then with financial help from the E. O. Robinson Fund, the Missionary Board, many churches, individuals, and, as always, the community, new buildings were constructed. With everyone working together Riverside rebuilt and has improved its physical plant ever since.
Meanwhile, Adah Irene and her mother, Ada, after an interval out west, returned to the work at Riverside. Adah taught in the high school, held Sunday School in different homes up Fugate's Fork, and, just importantly, was a loving care-giver for her mother's declining years. Both of them were present and spoke at the 1965 dedication of the newly-constructed church rightfully named the Drushal Memorial Brethren Church. Ada went to be with the Lord on December 29, 1975, at age 92. For years Adah continued a loving outreach to the community especially playing the piano at weddings and funerals.
For many years Harold was the administrator, taught in the high school, and carried on mission work at Rowdy and Haddix. A gifted soloist, he also made four long-playing records of sacred music. The proceeds from the sale of the records went to help finance the building of new faculty apartments at Riverside. Doris also taught, assisted in the cafeteria, and, for a time, was the school treasurer.
Enrollment climbed back to 120 and the staff numbered 15. Twenty-two seniors graduated in 1966. New sports programs were begun and a fine new athletic field became a reality. Young people were still coming to stay in the dorms, but many were being transported in daily on school busses.
Then an early morning fire during Christmas vacation in 1969 destroyed the boys' dorm and the Hostetlers' home. Fortunately, no one was in the building or nearby. But the metal building became like a furnace and everything inside was a total loss. The Jackson Kiwanis Club raised $3400 toward a new dorm, and the E. O. Robinson Mountain Fund assisted once again. It has oft been said that trials can make one bitter or better. The workers at Riverside Christian Training School have always chosen the latter. Despite fires, floods (the worst is yet to come), landslides and lack of funds, the dedicated teachers have persevered to stay true to the calling they felt so clearly.
In the 1970s there were many events of interest. New classes were added. A scholarship program was initiated for students with limited resources. A traveling choir, consisting of students from K-12 and some staff members, was formed and given the name "The Lower Lights." For more than a decade they performed locally and made a number of out-of-state trips. They were great ambassadors for the school. For a U. S. Bicentennial project a group of volunteers, teachers, and local men built on the campus a log cabin. Nearly every phase of the construction was done by hand, similar to the ways of the pioneers. It still stands today and is used for various occasions.
Harold Barnett left the staff in 1975 to help start a Christian college in Maryland. Doran Hostetler became the administrator and continued the forward progress of the school and campus. A major event was a new library addition to the school. Also during this time the Jackson Kiwanis Club was sponsoring an annual school fair. For several years Riverside entered a large float in the parade and won first place. The first one carried the message "Smile, God Loves You." The teachers and students always felt the floats made a statement for them. The Kiwanis Club chose Doran as their Citizen of the Year.
The next decade began with a happening memorable for many. Kent Fishel from Fort Wayne, Indiana, came for a Spiritual Emphasis Week. During this time many students made commitments and ten were baptized. Soon the original church, built in 1906, was no longer safe and was torn down. But in its place, and using some of the same foundation, the alumni constructed a pavilion. Many community folks enjoy using this for family reunions. A new gymnasium floor was poured, once again made possible by E. O. Robinson Fund.
The new gym floor was surely tested, as was most of the campus, by the worst flood ever in 1984. Eight feet of muddy Troublesome Creek flooded the gymnasium, some spilling over into classrooms. Several teachers' homes had flood waters rushing in. Countless school materials were destroyed and wet sheet rock and insulation had to be ripped out and replaced. Losses were great but help was greater. What an indescribable blessing it was to everyone to feel the undergirding of the Lord and to experience the help and prayer support of so many.
Perhaps this tragedy brought about a renewal of interest in Riverside outside the area. Work groups, some with 20-30 people, began coming, especially in the summer. Nearly all of them would bring supplies and food with them. When the number of available beds ran out, they would put down sleeping bags on the floor. A new 12-room addition was added to the main school building. This made possible much needed new offices and restrooms and the elementary department was moved to the new classrooms.
As administrator, Doran was responsible for the many facets of ministry of Riverside. He was also teaching, driving a bus, and coaching several sports. However, one of his greatest loves was flowers. Every moment he could spare he was outside working with other staff to beautify the campus with flowers, shrubs, sidewalks, fences, even a gazebo, and more. Flowers bloomed under his tender, loving care and so did young people. His athletic teams reached new heights, and he helped to form the Three Rivers Conference for other small schools to join together in several sports. Then in January 2000, after 40 years of service, Doran passed away suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack. One of the many tributes his family received was "The Godly character Doran exhibited in the competitive arena impacted more folks than he was aware of. His legacy as teacher, administrator, coach, and friend will be carried into the future."
At the helm now is Beverly Burroughs who served alongside Doran for 30 years as elementary coordinator. Transition seldom comes easy but those struggles are diminishing, especially so in the light of an exciting approaching event. Plans are underway for a Riverside Centennial Celebration to take place September 23-25, 2005, on the school's campus located on Highway 15, ten miles south of Jackson in the community of Lost Creek. It is also of special interest that Miss Adah Irene Drushal passed away this year, bringing to a close 100 years of the Drushal family being a part of the outreach of Riverside. Visitors are heartily welcomed throughout the centennial weekend. Many special activities are being planned.
Nancy Hostetler, Riverside Christian School, HWY 15, Lost Creek, KY 40385, shares this article with our readers. The information for this article was taken from the book Troublesome Creek by J. Garber Drushal and numerous other articles written by the Drushals and others which appeared in church publications.