African American Schools in Bullitt County, KY
According to author Daniel Buxton*, in his article, "African American Education in Bullitt County," schools for African Americans were attempted as early as 1827. Other early schools in Bullitt County were supported by the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, from 1866-1870 [see NKAA entry Freedmen Schools - Kentucky]. The schools were not welcomed; the teacher at the Shepherdsville Freedmen School was threatened; the Noble School was burnt down in 1867; and the schools held in churches resulted in the churches being burnt down. In spite of the resistance that was encountered, there were still colored schools in Bullitt County, with eight schools in 1880 [source: Ockerman, p. 127], and the 1886 Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction noted seven colored districts in the county.
In 1890, the industrial school, Eckstein Norton University, opened in Cane Spring. The school was founded by William J. Simmons and Charles H. Parrish, Sr. both of whom would become president of the school. Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N Railroad) gave $3,000 toward the development of the school, and in return the school was named for Eckstein Norton, a banker and president of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad [source: The History of Education in Bullitt County, by H. N. Ockerman, pp. 76-96]. The school was situated along the Bardstown Branch of the L&N Railroad on 75 acres of land that had been purchased from Austin Speed. L&N Railroad built a station [Lotus, KY] just for the students and school personnel.
There were seven buildings on the campus: the main building, a brick structure, and six frame buildings that were used as dormitories, a printing office, a laundry, and a blacksmith shop. There was a primary department, grades 1-5; a training department, grades 6-8; a normal and preparatory department, grades 9-12; and the college department, which offered a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Sciences degree. In 1911, Eckstein Norton University merged with Lincoln Institute, and the Eckstein Norton campus was closed in 1912. The school had awarded 189 bachelor's degrees.
During the 12 years that Eckstein Norton existed, there were still seven colored public schools in Bullitt County, including the Copera Hollow School mentioned in the article by Daniel Buxton. After the closing of Eckstein Norton, the Bullitt County Board of Education established a contract with Lincoln Institute for the education of high school students. According to Buxton, the number of county public colored schools was six by 1905, then reduced to four schools by 1910. According to Ockerman [p. 127], three colored school districts were eliminated in 1913. Another school opened around 1922: Central Christian Institute, owned by the Christian Woman's Board of Missions of the Disciples of Christ United Missionary Society; that school closed in 1927. It had been one of the five schools in Bullitt County for African Americans, along with Shepherdsville Colored School, Lebanon Junction Colored School, Mt. Washington Colored School, and Bowman Valley Colored School, which opened around 1916.
All of the public colored schools were taught by African American women teachers; in 1908 their average monthly salary was $26.14 [source: Ockerman, p. 115]. Many of the county public schools were consolidated beginning in 1922, and in 1932 Bowman Valley Colored School became the only school for African American children. The school building was located between Shepherdsville and Bardstown Junction. In 1940, Henry Owens was listed as the Negro school teacher in Bullitt County [source: U.S. Federal Census]. In 1947, the teachers were Miss Maggie Owens and Miss Mattie Owens [source: Kentucky Negro Educational Association Journal, vol. 18, issue 2, (March-April, 1947), p. 27]. The schools of Bullitt County began to integrate in 1956 with Lebanon Junction, Mount Washington, St. Aloysius, and St. Benedict [source: Kentucky Public School Directory, 1956-57, p.422.
- Shepherdsville Freedmen School [teacher threatened]
- Noble School supported by the Bureau [burnt down in 1867]
- Church School supported by the Bureau [church was burnt down]
- Church School supported by the Bureau [2nd church burnt down]
- Colored School Districts (8)
- Eckstein Norton University (1890-1912)
- Copera Hollow School
- Shepherdsville School
- Lebanon Junction School
- Mt. Washington School
- Bowman Valley School
- Central Christian Institute (c.1922-1927)
*Note: The article "African American Education in Bullitt County" by Daniel Buxton is a well researched article that includes the names of teachers at the various schools, photo images, and a list of references, all available online at the Bullitt County History website.