From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

African American Schools in Mercer County, KY

(start date:  -  end date: ) 

In 1866 there was a colored school in Mercer County, KY, according to the Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of Kentucky. An early teacher, Susan Mary Craig, was one of the first African American school teachers in Harrodsburg, KY, according to the thesis by William M. Wesley: The History of Education of Mercer County, Kentucky, pp. 186-201 and p. 205. Susan Mary Craig had attended a white school and taught students in Harrodsburg before the Civil War. She opened a school after the war, located on Fort Street and later moved to Greenville Street. Another teacher was Landonia Simms from Ohio, who was hired by Craig to teach at her school. After the death of Susan Mary Craig, Sallie Ann Taylor began teaching at the school. Taylor is often noted as the first African American teacher in Harrodsburg.

Another teacher was a Dr. Jackson, who moved the Craig School to the basement of the New Methodist Church. The school was later taught by Dr. I. H. Welch. Another school was started by Ellen Craig Harris, the daughter of Susan Mary Craig. Classes were held in Ellen Harris' home for 40-50 students who paid $1 per month for instruction. The State Association of Colored Teachers was formed in 1877, and the second annual meeting was held in Mercer County, August 7, 1878 [source: The History of Education of Mercer County, Kentucky, p. 185]. The colored schools in Mercer County were still operating independently from the state in the 1870s.

In 1880, the teachers at the colored schools were Samuel Gill at McAfee; Nathan Singleton at Salvisa; and George Craig (son of Susan Mary Craig), James T. Harris, and Mattie Nerick, all in Harrodsburg [source: U.S. Federal Census]. W. E. Newsom would become a teacher in Mercer County, teaching from 1888-1891. During this time, the city of Harrodsburg had at least two colored schools, one in the basement of St. Peter's Church and one at the corner of Lexington and Warrick Streets. By 1893, there were 10 colored schools in Mercer County, according to the county superintendent's report. In 1903, A. L. Garvin became principal of Harrodsburg Colored School, and a new school building was constructed on four acres of land. There were Colored Moonlight Schools in every colored school district in Mercer County in 1911. There were eight school districts [source: 1911 Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction].

Principal A. L. Garvin left Mercer County in 1920, and Maynette M. Elliott became principal of Harrodsburg Colored School; she was the granddaughter of Susan Mary Craig. (Her name is given as Mattie Elliott in the census records.) By 1929, there were five colored schools in Mercer County, including Rosenwald Schools in Mayo, Salvisa, and Unity; and schools in rented buildings in Burgin and Robinson Row. In 1930, Maynette M. Elliott was principal of the newly constructed West Side School in Harrodsburg. The school held the elementary grades and the approved four-year high school grades. The cost of the school was covered in part by $4,000 from the Julius Rosenwald Fund [source: "Counties aided on buildings," Kentucky Negro Educational Association Journal, vol. 2, issue 2, p. 23]. A picture of the school is on the cover of the Kentucky Negro Educational Association Journal, vol. 2, issue 1 (October-November 1931), and additional information about the school is on p. 6.

Another school in Mercer County was Wayman Institute, established in 1890 just outside Harrodsburg, KY; it was owned by the Kentucky Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.) [source The History of Education of Mercer County, Kentucky, pp. 196-201]. The first school teacher for Wayman Institute was Dr. I. H. Welch, who had resigned as the school teacher of the New Methodist Church School. Dr. Welch taught the first class of Wayman Institute in the lecture room of St. Peter's Church. The students came from surrounding counties and boarded with families in Harrodsburg.

In 1940, the Negro teachers in Mercer County were Helen Boston, Florence Coleman, Jane Franklin, Mary Franklin, Carol Franklin, Nellie C. Gillispie, Annie R. Hayes, Cecelia Jackson, Bertha Lewis in Burgin, Beulah Sallee, Janetta Taylor, and Lesta Washam [source: U.S. Federal Census]. The first schools in Mercer County to be listed as integrated were the Mercer County High School, Burgin Independent (integrated, colored, and white), and Harrodsburg High School, on p.442 of the Kentucky Public School Directory, 1956-57

  • Colored Schools (10)
  • Susan Mary Craig School
  • Ellen Craig Harris School
  • McAfee School
  • New Methodist Church School
  • St. Peter's Church School
  • Lexington / Warrick Street School
  • Harrodsburg School
  • Salvisa School
  • Unity School
  • Burgin School
  • Robinson Row School
  • Moonlight Schools (8)
  • Wayman Institute
  • West Side School
  • Mayo School

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Mercer County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Harrodsburg, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about McAfee, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Mayo, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Salvisa, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Unity, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Burgin, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Robinson Row, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Taylor, Sallie Ann
NKAA Entry: African American Schools - Moonlight Schools, Kentucky
NKAA Entry: Wayman Institute
NKAA Source: Annual report of the superintendent of public instruction of Kentucky for the school year ending ... (annual)
NKAA Source: The History of education of Mercer County, Kentucky (thesis)
NKAA Source: Kentucky Negro Educational Association journal (periodical)
NKAA Source: Kentucky public school directory (serial)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  Craig, Susan Mary
NKAA Entry:  Garvin, Ananias Lorenzo

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“African American Schools in Mercer County, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed November 17, 2017,

Last modified: 2017-11-11 18:19:02