The Franklin Times published an article on May 1, 1914, recounting the history and progress of Mapleville Academy, a flourishing private school in eastern Franklin County, located near the intersection of roads leading to Nashville and Spring Hope. The unnamed author emphasized the commitment of local farm families and religious leaders to providing good educational opportunities for local youth.
It had been a long-term endeavor. The article states that Carswell Finch operated a school near Maple Springs Baptist Church prior to the Civil War. A succession of teachers, including Professor Charles Bebee of Maryland, followed him.
Although a bill to incorporate Mapleville Academy was not ratified by the General Assembly after its introduction in 1897, the Rev. George W. Newell and others actively promoted the school’s development. John H. and Lucy E. Uzzell offered a one-acre lot on present-day N. C. Highway 56 East for the construction of a building for the academy. When the school was completed in 1898, the Uzzells deeded the property to the trustees of Mapleville Academy: G. W. Newell, J. W. Strange, W. G. Strange, W. N. Fuller, W. H. Perry, James H. Sledge, John H. Uzzell, A. W. Perry, D. E. Best, and C. P. Harris. Miss Sallie Lou Best became principal at that time.
The school apparently invited prominent citizens to speak to the children. On April 6, 1906, future North Carolina Governor Thomas Walter Bickett gave a talk in which he outlined “little things that hurt and little things that help.” During the presentation he “introduced those pesty little Foxes of Pouting [,] Fault-finding, Gossip, Suspicion and Hasty Words, each within its-self as poisonous as the hissing serpent when it thrusts its deadly fangs into the human flesh.” Bickett urged his listeners to help their friends and to look for the “grand, beautiful and sublime” in life.
The building erected in 1898 was replaced by a more commodious structure in 1913. The new school was constructed in a four-acre grove “back of Mr. J. H. Uzzell’s home, and facing the Laurel road.” This accomplishment required the hard work of area residents, parents, and children.
The idea for replacement of the school was proposed by the Rev. George Mark Duke (1845-1918), a beloved pastor who had served at Maple Springs Baptist Church for more than forty years. Many other Baptist churches, including Mount Zion, Sandy Creek, Poplar Springs, and Cedar Rock had benefitted from his devoted service. The academy’s Betterment Association, led by Maple Springs Academy teacher Lola Jackson, raised much of the money for the new building. Miss Jackson and Mrs. H. H. Hobgood spearheaded the association’s project to sell ice cream each Saturday in front of the store in Mapleville. The most successful initiative was an “Old Fiddlers’ convention,” which raised $120. Ultimately, the rectangular structure with a projecting gable entrance cost $2,000.
At the time the new building was completed, Gaither M. Beam, a native of Person County and graduate of Wake Forest College, served as principal. Beam later left the school to practice law in Louisburg. Trustees included C. P. Harris, J. O. Wilson, J. W. Strange, J. H. Uzzell, and John B. Yarboro, Franklin County’s register of deeds.
It is not clear when Mapleville Academy ceased operations, but the construction of new public schools in Franklin County during the 1920s led to the demise of some smaller institutions. Later, the building was used as a residence and subsequently burned.
Published in The Franklin Times on January 14, 2016.
Maury York is director of the Tar River Center for History and Culture at Louisburg College and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He wishes to thank Joe Elmore for his assistance in locating source material for this article.