Landmark Provides New Opportunities

By Sue Tidwell, from the Southern Democrat (now the Blount Countian), June 10, 1987

Blount Highland School taught reading, ’riting, and ’rithmetic a century ago. The last of the four structures it occupied has been transformed into the Pine Mountain Community Center, where annual barbecues and regular yard sales are enjoyed by the community.
A sawmill came to the mountain around 1880 to cut the verdant, long-leaf pine timber from which several huts were built. In 1883, one of those huts was used for both school and church. A.F. Whitley was the first teacher at Blount Highland School, and J.C. Robinson was the second.

A better school building was erected in 1884, only to be demolished the next year by a tornado. It was soon rebuilt and served as both school and church again. On Feb. 11, 1932, that building was leveled again by a storm. The Blount County Board of Education, with the help of loyal citizens, soon built the structure that still stands.

As the population grew, the school progressed from a one-teacher to a five-teacher school until the county began to bus high school students to surrounding schools. It was reduced then to a grade school with only two teachers. A history prepared by Brenda Reeves, secretary for the center, names 43 teachers, an incomplete list by far, before he school closed in 1969.

After citizens obtained ownership of the building from the board of education, the first minutes of Pine Mountain Community Center were recorded on April 2, 1976. Its first officers were Claude Brady, president; Otis Horton, vice president; Bill Boggs, treasurer; Evelyn Lambert, secretary; J.C. Brown, Kenneth Moats, and George Hallman Jr., board of directors. Brady resigned a few days later, but agreed to take charge of work to be done at the center. Lester Hallman was elected president and has served in that position ever since except for a two-year period.

Initially Pine Mountain Extension Homemakers Club agreed to have the electricity turned on. It has also replaced kitchen appliances, done much painting and repairing, and continues to help with building maintenance. The club meets there three or four times a year. Members have prepared meals for work days at the center and have made financial contributions when needed.

In further improvements, community volunteers have replaced broken window panes, installed a new water heater, painted and floored the kitchen, repaired the well pump, and covered the porch floor.

Because paint wouldn’t adhere to the exterior wood of the old building, covering it with aluminum siding was first proposed in 1977, but funds weren’t available. It took from 1984 to 1986 to raise the $7450 needed for the project, the final $2500 coming from the governor's discretionary funds. The siding was installed in the fall of 1986.

A pavilion was built in 1978, and a concrete porch with a ramp for the handicapped was added to the center in 1982. An American flag was presented to the center in memory of Pate Ridgeway by his family, and the flag pole was repaired.

The first discussion of fire protection for the area took place in May 1977. Once Pine Mountain Fire Department and Rescue Squad was organized, its growth soon required separate facilities, bank accounts, and officers as trucks, tanks, and other fire equipment were purchased. In 1983, a tornado destroyed the fire department and the roof of of the center. The center granted additional land for the fire department to rebuild and repaired its own roof.

Square dancing, tap dancing, and aerobic classes have been taught in the center's large room, which boasts tables and chairs, old pews from the Lee’s Chapel Methodist Church, and a stage. The pavilion was used to cook pork for the first annual Fourth of July barbecue in 1976 and for last year’s Labor Day barbecue. Neighbors and friends gather on Thanksgiving for a covered dish supper. Eric and Tracy Huffstutler chose to be married at the center last February.

The ballfield is used for practice every day, and some softball and baseball games are played there. A combination tennis and basketball court is being considered.

Reeves edits and publishes a community newsletter. Funds raised by the barbecues and yard sales are used for the maintenance of the building.

Blount County Historical Society presented the center with a plaque in 1985 in recognition of its age and history.

Reeves recalled that when she attended Blount Highland School in the 1950s, boys and girls had separate playgrounds… and separate outdoor toilets, of course. Restrooms were added around 1960. Her father, Claude Brady, remembers that when he attended school there in the 1930s, there was no electricity.

Reeves is vitally interested in gathering as much information about the school and community as possible. Anyone with pictures, anecdotes, or other facts may phone her at 681-0920.

The 200 families on Pine Mountain are proud of this landmark, which has overcome nature’s storms in order to provide them opportunity through the years to grow… physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially.


This landmark was erected in 1932 as Blount Highland School and has been used since 1972 as Pine Mountain Community Center.

Students of Blount Highland School pictured around 1926, before a tornado destroyed that building, are (first row from left) Bill Rice, Gordon Pierce, Ernest Horsley, Lewie Mize; (second row); Martha Dennis, Myrtle Horsley, Abigail Horsley, Gertha Horsley; (third row) Ethel McGowan, May Belle Mize, Addie Rice, Annie Brown, and Ruby Smith. Gertha Horsley Armstrong and Ruby Smith Horton still live on Pine Mountain.