Upland Chronicles: Artist discovers old school in Sevier County

Oct. 05, 2013 @ 11:24 PM

Illustrious artist Bob Timberlake enjoys driving on the back roads in the mountainous regions of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee. Occasionally, a scene will capture his imagination to the extent that he will decide to paint it. While driving around Sevier County, he saw an old crumbling; abandoned school house that he felt would make an interesting subject for a painting.

The school house that caught the esteemed artist’s eye was Island View School on Boyd’s Creek Highway. The small frame one-room school is located on the left side of the road if you are traveling from Sevierville to Seymour. The structure sets in the middle of a field owned by the heirs of McKindry M. (Mack) Hammer.

The history of the old school is interesting. On August 5, 1895, William and Penelope Widner deeded the property to W.R. Catlett, W.P. McMahan, C.W. Fox, G.W. Henderson, and W.S. Trundle as Trustees of the two- acre tract of land for the school for $34.

Referred to by the neighboring residents as a cyclone, a powerful storm in the fall of 1917 blew the original school building over on its side. In December, 1918, A.J. King, Sr. was paid $558.92 to build a new school house on the same spot. An additional $121.40 was allocated for desks and $24.47 for maps and charts. Supplies such as wood, kindling, and brooms were provided by J.F. Reed, P.W. Trundle, McKindry Hammer, S. G. Randles, and Sam Allen.

During the early years of its operation, teachers at Island View School included A. L. Clabough (1907-1908), Fillmore W. McMahan (1908-1909), Laurie Henderson (1909-1910), Vida Bogart (1910-1911), Charles Cardwell (1912-1913), Mae Flanagan (1913-1914), Edna Blalock 91914-1915), G.W. Trevena (1918-1919, Nelle Hammer (1919-1920), Eleanor Brabson (1921-1923) and Asa Henderson (1923-1924).

The school operated until 1949 when it was consolidated into the new Boyd’s Creek School. Although the school was small, there were students who graduated college. Pauline Hammer Lyle was one of those students. She graduated from East Tennessee State University and taught school in Sevier County and Lee County, Virginia for a total of 25 years.

A few years before her death in 2010 at age 95; Pauline shared the following information in an interview with a reporter for the Seymour Herald: “For lunch each child would bring either a small lard bucket or a lunch wrapped in a piece of paper, or a paper bag, either of which were carefully folded and taken home again.

She remembered taking two biscuits with meat (ham or sausage) and two biscuits with jelly, wrapped in paper as she lived nearby. The school had little cubby-holes for each child to keep their lunch and a drinking cup. Two of the children would be sent with buckets to two nearby homes to bring water for the school. The cubby-holes are still inside the building as is the blackboard. Unfortunately, over time much of the other furnishings, including the bell that hung in the steeple were removed.”

The school is one of the last wood frame schools of its era still standing. The school is not open to the public but just seeing it sitting serenely in its quiet meadow is a beautiful scene.

When Timberlake saw the old building he had no idea of its rich history. However, the old run-down building was obviously once a place of learning which made it all the more captivating to him.

Timberlake is a realist artist primarily known for his watercolor paintings as well as for designing and licensing lines of home furnishings, clothing, and various other products.

He began his career as a artist in 1970 and began his home furnishing line in 1990. In the fall of 2004, the Manor House Estate House at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock, North Carolina was renamed the Bob Timberlake Inn at Chetola Resort.

Born in Salisbury, North Carolina on January 22, 1937 and raised in Lexington, North Carolina, Timberlake always enjoyed painting, although he didn’t begin his professional career until 1970, when he was 33 years old.

Bob Timberlake wrote his autobiography Partial to Home- A Memoir of the Heart, with fellow North Carolina writer Jerry Bledsoe in 1999. In it he reveals that he was a self-taught artist influenced and mentored by Andrew Wyeth. Timberlake came home one night when he was 28 and upon reading an article and viewing photographs of Wyeth’s work in Life magazine was “moved to tears” and was convinced that he too was destined to become a painter. He began his career shortly thereafter.

His first art exhibition was a sold-out show in May 1970 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In 1973, he held the first of seven one-person exhibits at Hammer Galleries in New York City; the first show was sold out before it opened, the first time this had happened for this well-established gallery.

Along with Norman Rockwell, he exhibited at the Artists of America show in 1974, at Franklin Center in Philadelphia and in New Jersey. In 1998, Timberlake painted “White House Christmas” for the exhibition “White House Impressions: The President’s House through the Eye of the Artist.” He was one of only 14 artists chosen to depict the White House for the exhibition sponsored by the White House Association. It has been exhibited in the White House and in several presidential libraries.

Bob has designed three different postage stamps for the United States Postal Service, including a 15-cent stamp titled Wreath and Toys issued on October 31, 1980, which was based on antique toys in the artist Bob Timberlake collection, as well as the 1988 North Carolina Statehood stamp, and the 1989 South Carolina Statehood stamp.

Given Timberlake’s fame, there is little doubt that many art lovers throughout the country will view the painting of the little dilapidated school house on Boyd’s Creek Road and wonder what interesting stories lay hidden inside its walls.

Carroll McMahan is the special projects facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce and serves as Sevier County Historian.

If you have suggestions for topics, contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or email to cmcmahan@scoc.org; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email ron@ronraderproperties.com