By Myrtle Miller

         For three quarters of a century there was very little industry on Garden Creek of Buchanan County. The people managed to eke out an existence by farming the steep hillsides and raising a few cattle and sheep. Once in several years a lumber company would move in, cut out the trees, and move out and wait for more trees to grow.
The people, though industrious and hard working, had very little. In fact, you might say they had only two things in abundance, their freedom and their pride, to both of which they clung tenaciously. Because life was so hard, they longed to educate their children. A mother whose son had just graduated from Triangular Mountain Institute, was getting him ready to leave for Emory and Henry College. She said, "I want more than anything in the world to give my children a college education, then I want to spend the rest of my days going to church and visiting my neighbors." This statement would not be unusual except that it came from a mother who had been denied the privilege of learning to read and write. It points up how much the people wanted education for their children.

One summer morning in 1920, we saw strangers approaching my home. My father went out to invite them in, for strangers were always welcome in those days. My mother set about to prepare a good dinner - yes, it was dinner - lunch was just something we carried to school in a tin lard bucket.

One of these strangers was the Reverend B. N. Waterhouse, Field Secretary for the Methodist Church.

During dinner he told my father that Mr. William Boyd had given the church 150 acres of land at the forks of Garden Creek, on which to build a high school. The school would open in temporary buildings which the church had acquired from the White Oak Lumber Company.

In order to secure the very best teacher to take charge of the school, the church asked Harris Hart, whom I think, was Superintendent of Public Instruction at that time, to recommend a teacher. The man, who came to serve as principal and only teacher was Professor Ben Woolsey, formerly from Iowa. He told us later the reason he came was that he had been reading some of John Fox, Jr.'s novels and thought he was coming to the same locality.

The temporary buildings consisted of a long row of rooms in which the boys were housed. Another large building contained a kitchen, dining room and rooms for the girls. A building which had been a barn and had a dirt floor, was used as the auditorium. There were two classrooms. All of these were just shacks, covered with black tar paper.

My best friend and I had never seen the inside of a high school. We had no idea what Latin and Algebra were but we simply couldn't wait to register. So as soon as the principal arrived, we went to his office to register - and I, who had been the despair of my mother, because I talked more than any girl should, for once was speechless.

Fortunately few words were needed. Since all students were freshmen, only four courses were offered, Latin, Algebra, English and History. Professor Woolsey would teach all of them. I think there were about forty students.

Many of the boarding students were from the mountains of West Virginia. Local students paid their tuition in farm

produce. In this way there were always vegetables for the dining table. A widow lady was hired to run the kitchen and look after the girls.

Professor Woolsey proved to be the most marvelous teacher I ever had. He opened a whole new world. We had been surrounded with beauty - the beauty of nature, which before the days of mining, was unsurpassed. But the beauty of words, ideas, language and poetry, in these we were poverty stricken. This was the world he opened for us. However, unfortunately, he was dismissed at the end of the first semester. The church said it could no longer afford to pay the salary he was receiving. He later came back, courted, married and educated one of the lovely girls who had been in his freshman class, thus taking a page right out of a John Fox, Jr. novel.

P. C. Hoffman of Reading, Pennsylvania came to replace Woolsey. So much was Woolsey liked that many students dropped out and didn't finish the year.

The second year Arva Rudy, who later became a Methodist minister was principal. Beginning the third year, in the fall of 1922 came Mr. and Mrs. Edgar L. Ball, and Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Hurt to serve as teachers. It was during this year that a lovely brick building was erected. All materials were hauled in over the temporary railroad of the White Oak Lumber Company. This building had 48 rooms, a delco lighting plant and running water. The first class consisting of two girls was graduated in this building in 1924. Both went to college and became teachers.

Triangular Mountain Institute, or T. M. I. as the school was called, quickly became the center of our lives.

We went to school there all week. On Saturday night we went to a social or a party. Sunday morning it was church and Sunday School.

During the summer months, the first three years, the school became Camp Pocahontas. Youths from all the surrounding area came in two week shifts. There was worship, games, sports and even a swimming hole. The school grew rapidly, new teachers were added, the curriculum expanded, and competitive sports were enjoyed. In fact last year, 1966, a picture and a story were published in the Richlands paper, showing that the first football game ever played in Tazewell County was between Tazewell and T. M. I.

Miss Estelle Wagoner, on leave from her work as a deaconess in the Methodist Church, came to take charge of the girls in 1925. She later became principal.

During the great depression of the thirties the church could not longer obtain money to support all its projects and T. M. I. had to be dropped. Boys and girls were living here who had no home and no place to go. So Miss Wagoner determined to continue the work and the school against all odds. Somehow, through the help of God, I think, she managed to keep food and clothing, and through the sacrifice of fine Christian men and women, a faculty.

In 1931 Miss Wagoner's sister and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. L. F. Wolfe, came to join the staff. Their coming was truly a blessing for the community.

In 1933 the brick building burned to the ground. The community was stunned by the loss, and under the inspired leadership of Miss Wagoner and the Wolfes, they determined somehow to rebuild.

Mr. Paul Brown of Drill gave a large frame building which was carefully torn down and transported to Garden. The alumni gave plays and held other fund raising affairs. Each alumnus also bought a window for the new building. Mr. Wolfe went to various areas getting donations. He also persuaded Syler Lumber Company to sell us materials on credit. The heads of families declared their wives and children would eat corn bread (corn was grown on their farms) for breakfast until the school was replaced. Every man, woman, and child worked. Those too young to drive a nail carried water for the workers to drink. Every Sunday worship services were held out in the open under the shade of the trees. In September the school was ready for classes, a tribute to the faith and will of a community.

Four years later in 1937, the need was so great that the county took over the operation of the school, at the request of the church. Its name was changed to Garden High School, in January, 1941, the school was moved to its present location at the mouth of Garden Creek. Some of the teachers were T. M. I. graduates and at least two still are.

A very high percentage of the T. M. I. graduates went on to college. Most of them became teachers.

Many fine men and women came to teach at T. M. I. In addition to those I have named were Reverend and Mrs. George McCreary, Reverend and Mrs. H. M. Russell, Miss Ruth Russell, Mr. Hugo Addy.

Although the school was moved, this did not end the work. The old building was still used as our church. Club work was carried on, and an apartment for a deaconess was arranged on the second floor.

The first deaconess to be sent under the Women's Division was Miss Obra Rogers, who later became Mrs. Earle Simpson, and is one of the outstanding teachers at Garden today.

Miss Verdi Anderson came to us next and stayed for 16 years, working with all groups and carrying on the work of a community center.

In October, 1953, a lovely $78,000 building of native stone was dedicated, a gift to Garden community from the Women's Division of the Methodist Church. Many people worked and sacrificed to make this building possible, but credit should go especially to Mrs. L. A. Tynes and the Methodist women of Tazewell District. 

This building contained an apartment for the deaconess, a lovely chapel, a lounge, a kitchen, a kindergarten room, and classrooms for the church school. 

The first worker to live in the new building was Miss Emma Mann. The center program involved Kindergarten, Brownies, Girl and Boy Scouts, Home demonstration work, as well as all church centered activities.

Now the center was the hub of our lives. We went there for weddings and funerals, for studies and clubs, for showers and parties, but the thing that set it apart and made it a hallowed place for us, was the fact that it was here that we went to worship our God. It was to this lovely chapel that we took our children to worship. They grew up knowing no other church.

The community was changing. Older people died, new people moved in, a new generation grew up. The Women's Division decided the need for the center as such was diminishing. So this lovely building was deeded to the Methodist Church to be used solely for church purposes. Very quickly the building was converted. Pews were installed, more rooms were converted to Sunday School rooms, as more space was desperately needed. So, the work goes on.

It would be impossible to measure the impact of the work begun in those tar paper covered shacks. Much of the community leadership through the years has come from T. M. I., as the graduates went on to college and came back to serve as teachers and business leaders.

I can honestly say that for dozens and dozens of boys and girls, for their children, and grandchildren the sun shines brighter, the sky is bluer, the birds sing sweeter, and the dew on the roses is fresher, because of those who dreamed and planned, who came and loved and worked in Garden community. 

Pages 35 to 37


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