A big part of moving to a new place is being a tourist in your own home and not knowing who any of the local dignitaries were through the years. I was at Wildlife Week (yeah, we have that here) looking through old archives when I discovered the log cabin where Sam Houston taught. I had no idea who he was. All I knew was that I had found a tiny little mountain school house picture and was intrigued. I was about to find out just how extraordinary this man was… The Historic Sam Houston Schoolhouse is a one-room log building that sits between Knoxville and Maryville. It was built in 1794 and is named for Sam Houston, a man with a colorful life.
Sam Houston was born in Virginia but after his father’s death the family moved to Tennessee. It is here that Sam ran away from home and went to live with some Cherokee Indians. for about 3 years. Not wanting to work on the family farm or in the family store, he took to living in the woods with the Cherokees. One of the tribal chiefs adopted Sam, giving him the name of Co-lon-neh (the Raven). He lived with the Cherokees until he was 18 years old.
In 1813, the year after teaching school, Sam took a dollar from the drum head at the town well on Maryville’s main street – he had enlisted in the Army. He served in the 39th Infantry from July, 1813, until May 1818, when he resigned. While fighting along side of General Andrew Jackson, at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, he was wounded. It was during this time that he and General Andrew Jackson met, becoming close friends.
Sam Houston had very little formal education, something not too uncommon in the time or the region. However, he studied law in Nashville, passed the Bar and became a Lawyer in six months. His military career pair with his new legal title set the foundation for his political career and in 1820, Sam ran for the office of District Attorney. He was elected District Attorney of Davidson District in Tennessee. He is the only person ever to serve as governor of two state of the United States and a major city (Houston, TX) bear his name. His accolades include:
- U.S Represnetative (TN)
- Seventh Governor of Tennessee
- General of the Army, Republic of Texas
- U.S. Senator (TX)
- Governor of Texas
Historic School House
As a way to pay off $100 in debt he owed at the general store Sam taught school in 1812 at the local school house.
I experienced a higher feeling of dignity and self-satisfaction from teaching in that little one room school house in Maryville, Tennessee than I did from any other office or honor I have ever held. – Sam Houston
He was 18 when he took the job as teacher. The school ran a term that began after corn planting in the spring, around May, and lasted until harvest and cold weather in the fall. Tuition at that time was $8.00 a term, payable 1/3 in corn, 1/3 in calico and 1/3 in cash.
The schoolhouse was constructed on Revolutionary War veteran Andrew Kennedy’s land by Kennedy, Henry McCulloch, the school’s first teacher, and neighbors in 1794. It is the oldest school in Tennessee, built two years before Tennessee became a State. It stands on the original site on which it was built, located in Maryville, Tennessee. The structure contains many of the original logs. It is built of hand-hewn poplar logs, typical of rural field schools in the 1700′s.
In the one hundred fifty-one years before its purchase by the state in 1945, the schoolhouse had a varied life. It served as school, church, and tenant house. The structure is now a Tennessee Historic Site and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The care of the schoolhouse is entrusted to an eighteen-member board of directors, The Sam Houston Memorial Association.