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

African American Schools in Mt. Sterling and Montgomery County, KY

Between 1866 and 1870, there were two schools in Montgomery County supported by the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands [see NKAA entry Freedmen Schools, Kentucky]. The first school was thought to be established in 1881 with Mrs. Anna Thompson as the teacher, according to Montgomery County Kentucky Bicentennial, 1774-1974, by S. A. Harris. The school was held in a one-room building located at the corner of Queen and Locust Streets in Smithville, the present location of Keas Tabernacle CME Church. There would be other colored schools in Montgomery County; in 1880 the teachers were Anna Belle Botts and Victoria Clarke, both in Mt. Sterling; Alex Davis in Aarons Run; and Sarah Jackson in Smithville [source: U.S. Federal Census]. 

The first commencement of the Mt. Sterling Colored School was held in 1891, and Professor J. S. Estill had completed his first year as principal of the school. In 1892, J. Green Trimble offered a lot on his farm for a colored church, and he also offered for sale, at the lowest price, a lot for a colored high school [source: "Highland Park," Mt. Sterling Advocate, 07/05/1892, p. 4]. There were 12 colored schools in Montgomery County in 1895 [source: Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1895-1897, pp. 595-598]. The average attendance was 696 students taught by 17 teachers during the 1895-96 school term, and 900 students taught by 19 teachers for 1896-97. The average wages for male teachers was $34.00 and the female teachers earned $33.00 per month, 1895-96, and the following year, male teachers earned $38.00 and female teachers earned $35.00. The majority of the teachers were fairly well educated and more than two-thirds of them held a first class teaching certificate. 

In 1899, Professor Estill presented diplomas to the graduates during the commencement exercises at the court house [source: "Colored School commencement," Mt. Sterling Advocate, 05/09/1899, p. 3]. It was reported in the Mt. Sterling Advocate, 09/04/1900, p. 7, that there were no colored county schools in Montgomery County, "as there are not exceeding ten colored children of school age in the county." This wasn't exactly true; according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, in Montgomery County, KY (including Mt. Sterling) there were at least 891 Blacks who were 10 to 20 years old.

In 1914, the Colored Moonlight School held classes in the Mt. Sterling Colored School: there were 75 students, the most at any one Moonlight School in Montgomery County [source: "Moonlight schools," Mt. Sterling Advocate, 09/09/1914, p. 1]. In 1915, Cora W. Stewart reported that the Mt. Sterling Colored Moonlight School was one of the best in Kentucky for Negroes [source: Cora Wilson Stewart and Kentucky's Moonlight Schools, by Y. H. Baldwin]. In 1918, the Mt. Sterling Colored School principal was Prof. George W. Adams, who had come to the school in 1914. At the end of the school year in 1915, the school had the first grammar school commencement [sources: Mt. Sterling Advocate, 10/01/1918, "The School children of the city...," p. 1, and "A Nice compliment," p. 2; and "Commencement exercises of colored school," 06/02/1915, p. 1].

The previous principal, Professor Estill, had left in 1914 for a teaching position at the Colored Normal School [today Kentucky State University]; his replacement was Prof. George W. Adams, who came from the Glendale Reform School in Lexington [source: "Goes to Frankfort," Mt. Sterling Advocate, 10/14/1914, p. 5]. Professor Adams resigned in 1918 to take a position with the National Benefit Life Insurance Company in Washington, D.C. and was replaced by Mrs. Robert [Cathryn] Gatewood [source: "Colored principal resigns," Mt. Sterling Advocate, 01/29/1918, p. 4].

Prof. George W. Adams was back in 1919, serving as superintendent of the Mt. Sterling colored schools [source: "Colored commencement," Mt. Sterling Advocate, 05/20/1919, p. 9]. Professor Adams' return coincided with the organizing of the colored county school system in Montgomery County, one of the schools was named Prewitt School, mentioned under the heading "Prewitt Descendants" on p. 25 in Montgomery County Kentucky Bicentennial, 1774-1974, by S. A. Harris. In the fall of 1919, plans were made for the construction of the Colored Training School to serve Mt. Sterling and Montgomery County [source: "The Right spirit," Mt. Sterling Advocate, 09/09/1919, p. 5]. J. W. Muir was the Mt. Sterling Colored School principal in 1922, and the new teachers were Miss Barnes, Miss Coons, and Miss Keller [source: "Teachers selected for city schools," Mt. Sterling Advocate, 06/08/1922, p. 1].

In 1930, there were two high schools: Montgomery County Colored School and Mt. Sterling Colored School [source: "Colored high schools--Kentucky, 1930-31," Kentucky Negro Educational Association Journal, vol. 1, issue 1, pp. 23-24]. In 1940, the Negro teachers in Montgomery County were Anna J. Black, Dwena Carrington, Viola Chenault, Robin Hamilton Davis, Judia Davis, William Ethel, Katherine Gatewood, Amilda Gatewood, William Hawkins, Wayman Hockett, Margaret Hockett, Susie Jones, Cornie McClure, and Melinda Preevitt [source: U.S. Federal Census]. 

The two Negro high schools were consolidated in 1952, and in 1964 the schools in Montgomery County were fully integrated after DuBois High School was burned down. The St. Partrick School in Mt. Sterling was the first school to be listed as integrated in the Kentucky Public School Directory, 1958-59, p.1015. For more on the history of the colored schools in Mt. Sterling and Montgomery County, see the "Schools - 1881-1964" on pp. 17-18 in Montgomery County Kentucky Bicentennial, 1774-1974, by S. A. Harris.

  • Colored Schools (12)
  • Aarons Run School
  • Smithville School
  • DuBois School (built in 1939)
  • Montgomery County High School
  • Moonlight School
  • Mt. Sterling American Missionary Association School supported by the Bureau
  • Mt. Sterling Freedmen School
  • Mt. Sterling School
  • Mt. Sterling High School
  • Prewitt School
  • Training School of Mt. Sterling and Montgomery County

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Montgomery County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Mt. Sterling, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Aarons Run, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Smithville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“African American Schools in Mt. Sterling and Montgomery County, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2018-08-27 19:29:51