Memories of Willow Grove

A new high school was constructed at Willow Grove in 1938.

Mrs. Christine Sells of Static, KY recently shared with me an old copy of the Livingston Enterprise dated August 8, 1968, that included a section dedicated to the Homecoming at Willow Grove to be held on Labor Day weekend that year. In that newspaper were many photographs of school groups and other old pictures of people who once lived in that community along with pictures of several buildings that once stood there. Also included in that issue was the requirements for attending high school at Willow Grove Academy published in 1914. They are as follows:

The spring term of Willow Grove Academy will open on the first Monday in January, 1914.

Terms of Admission: All pupils must present a good moral character, and must familiarize themselves with the rules of the school, and must pay a contingent fee in advance.

Course of Study: The course of study will cover both primary and secondary courses.

Rates of Tuition: From $1.00 to $3.00, with free use of the library.

Location: Willow Grove is located in the East end of Clay County, and is free from all immoral influences and tendencies. It’s people are generous, hospitable, and just. Good Sunday school every Sunday.

Board: Good board and lodging can be had with private families at $2.00 per week. For further information call or address A.C. Willis at Willow Grove, Tenn.

Faculty: W.L. Hunter, B.S. (Bruritt College), Associate Principal. B.C. Ledbetter, B.S. (Livingston College), Associate Principal. Music teacher to be supplied.

Board of Trustees: A.C. Willis, Chairman; W.A. Roe, Secretary; James M. Smith and W.B. Arms, Collectors; E.D. Marcom; W.C. Sewell; William Watson

A wedding announcement from 1939 was included in the Willow Grove Homecoming memories that reads as follows:

A recent marriage of much interest to their many friends was that of Miss Edwina Clark of Willow Grove to Will Herman Langford of near Celina. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. W.T. Jewell at Mumfordsville, Kentucky, Sunday, June 18. The bride is a prominent young daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Clark was received her education at Willow Grove high school and Tennessee Polytechnic Institute at Cookeville. The groom, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Langford of near Celina, is a prominent young farmer of the community who received his education at Celina High School.

Cornelia Huffer shared information on the early history of Willow Grove and some of her memories of going to school there. Portions of what she had written are as follows:

"When I was asked to do an article for the Annual Homecoming paper, I didn’t know where to start. Truthfully, I still don’t. Thinking it over, I decided a ‘Short History on the Early Willow Grove’ would appeal to almost everyone. Hardly knowing how to gather data on this, I started asking questions.

‘Who settled first in and around Willow Grove? Could you name some families?’

‘Can’t say right off.’

‘Who operated the first general store?’

‘A man by the name of Johnson had the first store. Right near Iron’s Creek, well, nearly on the banks, I’ve heard my pappy say. Those days creek beds were used as roads or they followed cow-paths through the woods.’

‘Irons Creek, why was it called by that name?’

‘Family by the name of Irons lived on that creek. Got its name from them. Man or son got killed. Buried on the hill where school-house was. According to what I’ve heard, he was thrown or fell from his horse while racing. Can’t say for sure. Long before my time.’

‘Why do you suppose they named the place Willow Grove?’

‘Don’t know. Maybe a lot of willows grew there.’

Which sounded logical, but is it true? My time wasn’t entirely wasted, for I gathered a lot of colorful information or "legends" concerning the older, older generations. Some too colorful.

‘Things that I recall are the people and the school. The school, a white, wooden structure, set on a knoll with lots of sage-grass around. A grove of trees where, during hot months, the shade was cool and inviting. Many mornings the first bell would sound loud and clear and I’d ‘dog trot’ all the way and be only a few minutes late. Never in all the years I went to school did we ride unless some neighbor happened along and gave us a lift. The last I remember of that same school was much changed. A massive, impressive brick structure took the place of the old white school house. A gym stood to the rear of the building. No longer the bell rang out to hurry lagging feet. But changes come, don’t they. Tomorrow becomes today and today becomes yesterday. The yesterdays become a week, weeks creep into months, and months suddenly jump into years, and we find our feet lagging, not wanting to hurry into a new tomorrow.

‘When school children speak of their class trips today, I remember ours and smile. We were told to bring a lunch that next day, we would go hiking. We did, all the way to Daniels Cave at Fairview. Don’t smile, didn’t God create all caves by a master plan, Mammouth Cave, Great Onyx, Carlsbad Cavern, all visited by thousands a year? Yet Daniels Cave is a small part of that master plan, and we appreciated it very much. We walked up hill, down hill, around hills to the cave. We crawled flat of our faces to a ledge, then dropped feet first into a pool of water. We waded this water nearly all the way through the cave. Inside was total darkness. You sensed the presence of others, you didn’t see them. The glimmer of flashlights was like the gleam from a firefly. One thing about Daniels Cave, you don’t retrace your steps. You go in one side of the hill and come out the other. We ate our lunch while dangling our feet over a rocky ledge. Drank deep from a spring of cool, clear water that blessed our insides with its cool freshness. On to an old dilapidated water mill. Here water was pouring from a bluff spring over the old water wheel splashing into rainbows trimmed in white on the rocks below. A pause here, then down across a field filled with glorious ox-eyed daisies. Then home. It was a lovely, glorious day filled with fun and comradeship. If we had chartered a bus, a plane, a train, and traveled miles, it couldn’t have been more fun.


The high school gymnasium at Willow Grove                                1937 photo of Willow Grove Academy
‘Water now covers all the old familiar places. No longer church bells or the school bell sound out their call to gather together. Boats now skim across the waters. Time changes everything and we lag along behind forgetting, remembering, and it will always be like that.’