Tag Archives: Wheat High School

Poplar Creek Seminary

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

A Tennessee Historical Commission marker for the Poplar Creek Seminary was dedicated on October 9th, 2013. The marker is located off Highway 58 in the former Wheat Community which is now in the Oak Ridge part of Roane County. The George Jones Baptist Church is visible behind the marker. The marker reads: “Poplar Creek Seminary” Wheat Community citizens established the Poplar Creek Seminary in 1877 as a center of higher education for area children. The seminary’s name was changed in 1886 to Roane College, chartered by the state of Tennessee as an accredited college. At its peak, the school enrolled 200 K through 12 and college students. In 1908, Roane College closed, replaced by the new Wheat High School near what is today called Highway 58. Wheat High School closed in 1942 when the surrounding community became part of the World War II Manhattan Project. “

The first president of Poplar Creek Seminary was W.H. Crawford who was also a teacher. In 1878, the land was given by J.W. and Martha J. Pyatt to the Trustees of the Poplar Creek Seminary. Those trustees were D.H. Gallaher, James W. Watson, J.F. Browder, W.T. Gallaher, George Jones, J.W. Pyatt and A.J. Burum (secretary). In 1879, George and Lucinda Jones gave 200 acres to the school which was to be “applied solely to the benefit of said institution.” In 1886, Poplar Creek Seminary became Roane College. Six Trustees of Poplar Creek Seminary made an application for a Charter of Incorporation with the State of Tennessee to create a school of higher learning. It had the power to “confer degrees and graduate students after passing satisfactorily through the course of study.” The Board of Trustees was to consist of representatives of the three denominations located in the community (Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist). There was not to be a majority of any of the denominations.

I have a personal connection to Roane College, in that my great-grandfather, Richard A. Ladd, attended there in the mid-1880s. He took the Normal Course of Study which was required to teach in the Tennessee public schools. After completing his studies, he became a teacher in the Roane County school system. In 1908, Roane College became a part of the Roane County education system, and the name was changed to Wheat High School. Until 1916, Wheat High School was still under the control of the Roane College Board of Trustees. Wheat High School closed for the Christmas Holidays in 1942 and never reopened. As a result, the students of families who were still in the area were bussed to Dyllis.

Wheat Community Citizens established the Poplar Creek Seminary in 1877 as a center of higher education for area children. The Seminary’s name was changed in 1886 to Roane College, chartered by the state of Tennessee as an accredited college. At its peak, the school enrolled 200 K through 12 and college students. In 1908 Roane College closed, replaced by the new Wheat High School near what is today Highway 58. Wheat High School closed when the surrounding community became part of the World War II Manhattan Project.

 

Wheat High School started as the Poplar Creek Seminary and later as Roane College.

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, December 2013.

History of the High Schools of Roane County

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

In Roane County’s history, four high schools were created by Roane County Court (now the Roane County Commission). Those were Roane County High School, Wheat High School, South Harriman High School, and Midway High School. The schools of Harriman, Oliver Springs, and Rockwood were created by the respective cities and were independent of the Roane County School system in their beginnings. Roane County High School had its origins as the Rittenhouse Academy and was the first high school created by the Roane County Court in 1905. Wheat High School started out as the Poplar Creek Seminary and later as Roane College. It came under the Roane County Board of Education in 1908 and closed in 1942 as part of the government acquisition of land for the building of Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project. South Harriman High School was the third county high school to be created by the Roane County Court. The resolution was passed in 1915 and became effective in 1916. The school closed in 1963. Midway High School was opened in September 1947. It was the last high school to be created by the Roane County Court. It replaced Fairview and Paint Rock High Schools, which were organized as two-year or junior high schools in the 1920s. Harriman High School began in 1891. Beginning in 1922, Harriman High School was reported by the county superintendent as a county high school in order to receive more state recognition for funding, and the graduates of the school received state high school diplomas. As a city high school as opposed as a county high school, it was not recognized by the state until the county listed it as a county high school. It became part of the Roane County School System in 2003. Oliver Springs High School had its beginning about 1895. In 1925 the first four-year high school was organized. In 1935, the Oliver Springs Independent School District was dissolved, and it became part of the Roane County School System. Rockwood High School’s first graduating class was in 1892. In 1922 it was recognized as a state-approved high school. In 1935, both the Rockwood High School and Campbell High School became a part of the county system. Campbell High School was the only high school for blacks in Roane County. It started out as the Rockwood Colored School in 1920 and later became Campbell High School. It closed in 1965.

Wheat High School started out as the Poplar Creek Seminary and later as Roane College

Roane College, later Wheat High School near the K-25 plant

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, May 2013.

Roane County’s School History

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

In Roane County’s history, four high schools were created by Roane County Court (now the Roane County Commission). Those were Roane County High School, Wheat High School, South Harriman High School, and Midway High School. The schools of Harriman, Oliver Springs, and Rockwood were created by the respective cities and were independent of the Roane County School system in their beginnings. Roane County High School had its origins as the Rittenhouse Academy and was the first high school created by the Roane County Court in 1905. Wheat High School started out as the Poplar Creek Seminary and later as Roane College. It came under the Roane County Board of Education in 1908 and closed in 1942 as part of the government acquisition of land for the building of Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project. South Harriman High School was the third county high school to be created by the Roane County Court. The resolution was passed in 1915 and became effective in 1916. The school closed in 1963. Midway High School was opened in September 1947. It was the last high school to be created by the Roane County Court. It replaced Fairview and Paint Rock High Schools, which were organized as two-year or junior high schools in the 1920s. Harriman High School began in 1891. Beginning in 1922, Harriman High School was reported by the county superintendent as a county high school in order to receive more state recognition for funding, and the graduates of the school received state high school diplomas. As a city high school as opposed as a county high school, it was not recognized by the state until the county listed it as a county high school. It became part of the Roane County School System in 2003. Oliver Springs High School had its beginning about 1895. In 1925 the first four-year high school was organized. In 1935, the Oliver Springs Independent School District was dissolved, and it became part of the Roane County School System. Rockwood High School’s first graduating class was in 1892. In 1922 it was recognized as a state-approved high school. In 1935, both the Rockwood High School and Campbell High School became a part of the county system. Campbell High School was the only high school for blacks in Roane County. It started out as the Rockwood Colored School in 1920 and later became Campbell High School. It closed in 1965.

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, May 2013.

The Harvey H. Hannah Highway

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

If you drive along the highway from Harriman to Oliver Springs, you’ll notice that Highway 61 is called the “The Harvey H. Hannah Highway.” The highway was named after Harvey H. Hannah of Oliver Springs who for 30 years was the Tennessee Chairman of the State Railroad and Public Utilities Commission. He served in the Spanish American War becoming Colonel of the 4th Tennessee Volunteers. He also became a Military Governor of a Cuban province. Cordell Hull who became United States Secretary of State served as a Captain under Hannah. Besides being a lawyer, military officer, and politician, he was well known as a great orator. He served as Adjutant General under two Tennessee Governors from 1903-1907. This was where he acquired the title “General.” In 1922, General Hannah was a candidate for Governor in the Democratic primary but was defeated by Austin Peay who would become Governor. On Nov. 8, 1936, Harvey H. Hannah died from a throat condition. Governor Hill McAlister visited Hannah before his death and asked, “Harvey, is there anything that I can do for you?” He replied, “Hill, I know that money is hard to get, but I hope that you will find enough state money to finish the Oliver Springs-Harriman highway.” The Governor did find enough money, and the highway was named in Hannah’s honor. Harvey Hannah is buried in the Oliver Springs Cemetery, and his tombstone is said to be the tallest monument in the Oliver Springs area.

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, January 2013.

The Beginnings of Oak Ridge & The Secret City

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

There have been many important events that have occurred throughout the history of Roane County. The coming of industry to create Rockwood, the Temperance movement which brought about Harriman, the Tennessee Valley Authority which brought power to rural areas and many others made dramatic impacts in Roane County. However, the creation of “Oak Ridge” may have had the most impact. The bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese brought the United States into World War II. Here in Oak Ridge and other plants in the United States, the atomic bomb was developed which were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The development of the atomic bomb had to be kept top secret. The first code name for the project was called the “Kingston Demolition Range” but was later renamed “Clinton Engineer Works” after the city of Clinton. One of the reasons this area was chosen was that the area was isolated. It also had power provided by T.V.A., and there were two railroads. Land acquisition began in the fall of 1942. Approximately 56,200 acres in Roane and Anderson Counties were acquired for the project. An important aspect of the land was the ridges which divided the valleys. A plant was located in each valley. At this time there were only about 1,000 families in the area. The average cost of an acre paid was $45 per acre. However, many families received much less. Among the items located in the Roane County Archives are the maps of the Kingston Demolition Range showing all the owners of the different properties which were acquired by the Federal Government.

Among the acquisitions was the Wheat High School, located near the K-25 plant, which was only one of three High Schools ran by Roane County. The other two were Roane County High and Rockwood High. The Harriman High School was run by the City of Harriman. Most of the homes, barns and other outbuildings were destroyed to discourage people and others from moving into them. Those buildings not torn down were used for storage. Two churches, the George Jones Baptist church near the K-25 plant and the New Bethel Baptist Church near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (X-10), which was used for storage, were not torn down and are all that remain in the Oak Ridge part of Roane County before the building of the city.

The Gaseous Diffusion Plant (K-25) was the first of the three (K-25, X-10, and Y-12) plants to be built. Construction of the Gaseous Diffusion Plant (K-25) began in 1943 and was built primarily by the J.A. Jones Construction Co., of Charlotte, N.C. at the cost of about $500 million. Carbide and Carbon Chemical Company, later Union Carbide Corporation, became the operating contractor because of its experience in the chemical and metallurgical fields and earlier contributions to the atomic energy program. K-25 was the war code name for the plant “K” representing the Kellex Corporation which designed the plant. In 1945, about 10 percent of all the electric power generated in the United States was required to operate K-25. It consisted of five process buildings—K-25, K-27, K-29, and K-33 and about 70 auxiliary buildings covering about 640 acres. The U-shaped K-25 building was a half-mile long and was the largest building in the world under one roof at that time. Each wing is 2,450 feet long, averages 400 feet in width, and is 60 feet in height. The total area of the building covered 44 acres. Along with K-27, the K-25 process building was shut down in 1964. The plant produced large quantities of enriched uranium-235 from uranium 238 through the gaseous diffusion process to be used either in weapons or to fuel nuclear reactors.

K-25 Footprint

K-25 Aerial View

K-25 Union Carbide Corp USAEC

X10 Reactor Face

X-10


The X-10 (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) plant was built by DuPont for 12 million dollars and completed in October 1943. The letter “X” was used by the University of Chicago in its description of the area. The number 10 had no special significance. It was much smaller than the K-25 and Y-12 plants. During the war, it employed 1,513 people. The primary mission was to build a Graphite Reactor to show that the production of plutonium from uranium in a reactor could fuel an atomic bomb. Its job was to show that plutonium could be extracted from irradiated uranium slugs, and its first major challenge was to produce a self-sustaining chain reaction. And in 1944, chemists produced the world’s first few grams of plutonium. The Graphite Reactor operated from 1943 to 1963. Among the accomplishments through the years at X-10 were:

(1) Production of the first electricity from nuclear energy;
(2) The first reactor was used for studying the nature of matter and the health hazards of radioactivity.
(3) Providing radioisotopes for medicine, agriculture, industry, and other purposes.

The Oak Ridge National Lab is a world-wide known research center for energy, environment, and other things. The Graphite Reactor was declared a registered National Historic Landmark in 1966 and is Roane County’s only such National landmark.

The Y-12 plant was designed and constructed by the Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation of Boston at the cost of about $427, 000. The name of the plant has no special significance. It contained about 170 buildings and was built on 500 acres. The plant was put into use by the operating company, the Tennessee Eastman Corporation of Kingsport, TN, in January 1944. At its peak in 1945, it employed 22,000 people. Its purpose was to separate uranium atoms (U-235 from U-238) using an electromagnetic process developed by Dr. E.O. Lawrence of the University of California. It was the first and only plant of its kind in the world. Y-12 separated the uranium that was used in “Little Boy” the uranium bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. It was the first atomic bomb to be used as a weapon. The other bomb, “Fat Man,” a plutonium bomb, which was developed in Hanford, Washington, was dropped three days later on Nagasaki, Japan. After the war, the plant started manufacturing uranium components for nuclear weapons. The construction of parts for nuclear weapons by the Y-12 plant played an important part in eventually ending the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Knoxville News-Sentinel Headline

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community between June and September 2012.