About the School
Mary V. Wheeler opened in the fall of 1964 consolidating seven community schools. The schools included: Sampson, Mt. Crest, Beaver Hill, Griffith, Bell View, Mt. Zion, and Grape Vine. Joseph Wheeler donated the land on which the school is now located. In return for donating the land, he requested that the land be named in honor of his mother, Mary Virginia Wheeler. Mr. Wheeler also donated money which was matched by federal funds that purchased science equipment and established a library. Three hundred fifty-four students entered Mary V. Wheeler the first fall of its existence. Mr. Carl Boynton was the first principal.
On the very crest of Cumberland Mountain, two Mary V. Wheelers have stood- each proud and strong. The present Mary V. Wheeler is a school that is recognized by Bledsoe Countians for its high educational standards and accomplishments. Long before the school, another Mary V. Wheeler stood on the same site. This Mary V. Wheeler was a Lady. She, also, was recognized for her high educational standards and accomplishments. How much do you know about the Lady?
Only a few could give a lengthy answer to that question. But once the Lady was known as well as the school. She was called Aunt Mary by the people of the community. One granddaughter said, “I thought when I was young that everyone in the community was a relative. They all called my grandmother Aunt Mary.”
What was so great about the Lady that a school now carries her name? The Lady was left a widow at the age of 38 with 10 children. The youngest was two years old. She watched as portions of her farmland, livestock, and farm equipment were sold. The money in the bank was divided, leaving her only a wife’s part of her husband’s estate and 10 children. The children would inherit their portions of the estate on their twenty-first birthdays. There were no financial programs for child support in 1906.
The Lady not only did not let her children starve but saw them all attend high school. To attend high school, they had to stay away from home. The nearest high school was 10 miles away. This meant added financial difficulties. With the aid of her strong belief in education, four of the children became certified teachers. Three taught school in Bledsoe County. Later, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren became teachers in Hamilton, Sequatchie, and Bledsoe Counties. Bledsoe County only had one doctor at this time. The only methods of traveling were the horse and buggy and horseback. The people of Cumberland Mountain could not count on the doctor always coming that far. Aunt Mary was always sent for first and the doctor second. She spent days in homes of the community nursing the sick. If the sick person were the mother, Aunt Mary would do the cooking and laundry for the family. She never left as long as she was needed. Records of births in family Bibles show that three-fourths of the babies born on Cumberland Mountain during this time were delivered by Aunt Mary.
At the time of the school dedication, one speaker said, “She spanked the breath of life into our babies, and closed the eyes of our dead for a quarter of a century.”
The Lady accomplished many tasks with honor and dignity. Perhaps no other institution except a school could reach out, touch and influence as many lives as Mary V. Wheeler, the lady, did. The name Mary V. Wheeler will remain a name that symbolizes love for the people of Cumberland Mountain, a high regard for education, and help in time of need.
Written by Mary B. Emery