Unaka Elementary timeline

Published 2:16 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

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● County school board member C. Hampton Hyder recognized the need for an education
institution and reached out to George Cole, a forest ranger who worked in the county.
● The land for the school, which overlooks the Watauga Valley, was deeded to the Carter
County School System by P.B. and S.V. Elliot, Billy and Alice Elliott and W.C. and Stacy
● When ground was broken, it was for six large reception rooms, a large basement for
industrial arts and an auditorium 60 feet by 40 feet. The construction was led by John
Peters and Jim L. Hyder.
● E.L. Bowers was the first principal, Glen D. Christian the second and Charles Speer was
the third.
● Early teachers included Robert Grindstaff, John I. “Fess” Morgan, Mary Erivin and
Newland Wilds Hyder.
● Electric lights were installed on Stoney Creek, but there wasn’t enough money to install
them at the school, so Speer and the community raised the money from selling chickens
and holding a musical.
● The first class to graduate was in 1937 with seven students. Unaka attained four-year
high school status in 1938.
● The Parent Teachers Association was organized in 1938 with Mrs. Deal Elliott as
● Newland Hyder wrote the alma mater lyrics:
“In Tennessee’s fair Eastern Mountains
Reared against the sky,
Proudly stands our Alma Mater
As the years go by.
“Forward Ever” be our watchword,
Conquer and prevail.
Hail to thee our Alma Mater
Hail, Unaka, Hail!”
● Joe Taylor became principal in 1943, a difficult time for the nation and region. He was
educated in the area himself, walking the Iron Mountain into Butler, the only high school
in the area. He taught at many local Carter County schools, all while he took care of his
aging parents. He also helped many a student to get to school.
● In the 1940s, hot meals became available to students. The meal cost one nickel.
● In the early 1950s, a block building was constructed near the old framed building to
serve as a new high school. The old building was left for elementary students.
● Joyce Stout organized the first concert and marching band.
● The class of ‘56 was the first class to exceed 50 members.
● The original white wooden building was destroyed by fire in 1958.
● Thanks to Charles Speer and Newland Hyder, 500 signatures of the Stoney Creek
residents proved the desire to have a new school at the new location four miles away.
● After construction of the new building, Joe E. Taylor came back as principal.
● Teachers who had been at the school for many years included John Morgan, Newland
Hyder, Kate Ensor, Donald Richardson, Claude Holsclaw and A.B. Grindstaff. Other
long-time staff members were Etoila Sharp, Sandra Street, Lynn Goddard (student then
coach) and James Potter.
● By the 1980s, the school had 22 teachers.
● By 2009, enrollment stood at around 400.
● 2022 marked the 100th anniversary of the Unaka school system.
Sources: Unaka school system 100th anniversary publication from a compiled and published
history by Betty J. White, edited by Earlene Campbell, a former teacher at Unaka High School.
Input from many, including Newland Wilds Hyder, Reece Cole, Lola Shankle, Conway Hyder
and Bill Ellis.

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