The History of Elvie McFadden School
In the fall of 1927, a newly constructed brick building emerged, boasting four classrooms and an auditorium, ready to welcome students for registration.
On the first day, amidst the lingering summer heat, ninety-nine pupils hesitantly and eagerly enrolled. By the end of the school term, the student count had grown to one hundred fifty.
This establishment was known as the Elvie McFadden School, marking a significant milestone as the first school in Rutherford County to bear the name of a woman.
Miss Elvie McFadden dedicated her life to tending to the spiritual and physical needs of underprivileged families in Westvue. Her daily actions exemplified her belief in being her "brother's keeper," as she worked tirelessly to rehabilitate lives through salvation and education. Through her efforts, a small mission chapel was erected. Before her passing in 1925, B.B. Kerr, Chairman of the Rutherford County Board of Education, assured her that a school would be built in Westvue for her beloved community, and it would be named in her honor. The land for the school project was acquired from Otto Cannon for $2,750.
Mrs. W.E. Manson assumed the role of the school's first principal, accompanied by faculty members Kate Ashley, Jane Holden, and Ethel Edwards (née Dickens). Remarkably, Mrs. Edwards served on the initial faculty and remained a part of the school's staff until 1967.
Looking back, Mrs. Edwards fondly remembered pots of soup simmering on pot-bellied stoves in the classrooms. The teachers took turns preparing and serving soup to the children who lacked proper nourishment at home.
During those days, the teachers possessed a strong sense of unity, a collective spirit that has somehow been passed down to subsequent generations of McFadden faculty.
A significant event during that era was the Blue-Ribbon Parade. Through friendly persuasion, hard work, and gentle coercion, McFadden School managed to assemble forty Blue Ribbon children to participate in the parade during its inaugural year. With each passing year, the number of participants increased, and the school received loving cups for six consecutive years for achieving a 100 percent participation rate in the Blue Ribbon program.
In the fall of 1928, tragedy struck as two classrooms and the auditorium succumbed to fire. The fire's origin was believed to be a flue issue in the back of the auditorium. However, no fire could extinguish the indomitable spirit of the teachers and parents. Following the fire, two additional classrooms were constructed.
An active Parent Teacher Association was established, with Mr. Fred Smotherman serving as its first president.
In 1930, Mr. Baxter Hobgood assumed the role of principal, with Miss Martha Wade Neely as co-principal. In 1931, Miss Neely took over as the principal. Miss Neely's impact on her former students remains cherished in their hearts and minds, particularly her unforgettable character-building lesson, "The Straight and Crooked Ladder".
In 1932, plagued by yet another fire, the charred remains of McFadden stood as somber monuments. This fire originated from a small stove in the first-grade room.
While the new building was under construction, the old East End School building on East Main Street served as a temporary location for the remainder of that term. Thomas Holdon assumed the role of principal during the 1932-33 academic year.
At the beginning of the 1934 school term, the East End building had been demolished, and the Burr James brick dwelling on South Church Street was rented for the school's use. Generous contributions from individuals like Mrs. George Walters, who donated a piano to the school, further demonstrated the growing community interest. Mrs. Edwards fondly recalled the morning chapel as a highlight of the day, with children seated step by step on the spiral stairway, singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" with great enthusiasm. At that time, J.E. Brandon served as principal.
In the fall of 1935, a brand-new, shiny thirteen-classroom brick building greeted thirteen faculty members during a pre-school conference. It was a spacious and luxurious facility, featuring a new auditorium, a cafeteria, a library with 613 books, a home economics department, and a manual arts department. The school operated on a six-three basis for one year. Much credit was attributed to Mr. George Cranor, Chairman of the County Court Building Committee, for the additional features of this $25,000 school, which was acclaimed in 1963 as one of the finest school buildings in Rutherford County. George Sharpe assumed the role of principal in 1936.
The alma mater song, "Hail to Thee, McFadden," composed by Mrs. Lowe and Mrs. W.B. Carnahan, was sung by the eighth-grade graduates at the commencement. The words, "We shall ever remember McFadden days," sung from memory on that memorable May day, remained etched in the hearts of countless students.
Numerous individuals, including Dr. J.C. Waller and Dr. Charles Lewis, dedicated their time to improving the school. Murfreesboro Civic clubs, the Community Chest, the Charity Circle, the Garden Clubs, and local businesses also made generous donations. Active Parent-Teacher Associations contributed their time, energy, and financial support throughout the years.
Homer Pittard assumed the role of principal in 1937. He also served as an eighth-grade teacher and coach, leading the school for nine and a half years.
In the bleak winter months, on Sunday, January 26, 1939, students, teachers, and parents mourned once again as they witnessed the remains of their school devastated by fire. The fire was discovered by a newsboy named Red Travis as he delivered papers. The Fire Department battled the flames until noon. While the cause of the previous fires could be explained, the Fire Marshal openly suspected that the fire had been intentionally started by someone. Rumors and speculations circulated, but the origin of this disaster remained shrouded in mystery.
With the loss of their school, 405 boys and girls were left without an adequate building for their education. The fifteen eighth-grade pupils, required by state law to complete eight months of schooling to receive their diplomas, faced an unwanted winter vacation. The antebellum courthouse took on a new role, serving as a temporary classroom. The county's circulating library on the second floor became a makeshift learning space, with Mr. Pittard as the teacher. Later, once Crichlow completed its term, the other seven grades utilized that building for six weeks.
Undeterred, the community members and the Rutherford County Board of Education initiated plans for constructing another school. Although the County Court did not approve funding for a fireproof structure due to lean Depression years, a decision was made to demolish the Mooney School building and utilize its bricks to construct a brand-new McFadden school. This building, which still stands on Bridge Avenue today, began construction in May.
Thankfully, the school has not experienced any major fires since, except for a small blaze in 1953 that caused damage limited to four classrooms. Frank Fuson served as principal during that incident.
McFadden's achievements in sports are proudly displayed in two trophy-filled cases. The year 1945 was particularly memorable, as both the boys' and girls' basketball teams clinched the county championship title. McFadden School has been county champions nine times and runners-up six times. The teams received invitations to the Mid-State Tournament in Shelbyville every year. The girls' team secured the runners-up position in 1956, while the football team claimed the city championship in 1960. The fifth and sixth grades won the Rotary Track Meet twice, and Bobby Jones was a national marble contest runner-up one year.
Under the leadership of Mr. Wiser, who served as principal for eight years, the school witnessed further expansion. A new wing consisting of eleven classrooms and a modern cafeteria was added, along with new teaching equipment and supplies. The principals consistently emphasized the importance of meeting the needs of the students in their overall approach to education.
In 1965, the school board approved and built a new gymnasium, while the existing gymnasium was converted into the school's library. In 1978, due to increasing enrollment, another wing was constructed, featuring two large classrooms, eight regular classrooms, a bathroom, and a science lab.
In the 1999-2000 school year, McFadden School transformed into McFadden School of Excellence, becoming Rutherford County's first academic magnet program. The school shifted from a K-8 to a K-5 school with the opening of Central Magnet School. Ms. Paula Barnes served as Principal from 1991-2005, and since 2005, Dr. Clark Blair has held the position of principal.
McFadden School of Excellence is steeped in history, with a legacy of providing exceptional education, fostering excellence, and preparing students for a bright future. Its commitment to holistic development, academic rigor, and community engagement has made it a revered institution within its locality and beyond.
Principals of McFadden School
|Ms. Madge Manson||1927-1930|
|Mr. Baxter Hobgood||1930-1931|
|Ms. Martha W. Neely||1931-1932|
|Mr. Thomas Holden||1932-1933|
|Mr. J.E. Brandon||1933-1936|
|Mr. George Sharpe||1936-1937|
|Mr. Homer Pittard||1937-1946|
|Mr. Robert Jones||1946-1949|
|Mr. Henry Adams||1949-1953|
|Mr. Frank Fuson||1953-1954|
|Mr. Fowler Todd||1954-1955|
|Mr. Jesse Wiser||1955-1963|
|Mr. Joe Messick||1963-1966|
|Mr. W.H. Owen||1966-1967|
|Mr. Don Johnson||1967-1991|
|Mrs. Paula Barnes||1991-2005|
|Dr. Clark Blair||2005-present|