Historical Overview By James Walker
McAdory School owes its beginning to the pioneer families who flooded into the new Alabama Territory as the Indian lands became available for white settlement. These early settlers were eager to educate their children and built small academies and private schools in Jefferson County as early as 1819. By 1950, there were hundreds of them spread across Alabama. Several legislative acts were passed prior to 1860 attempting to create a public school system in the state, but these efforts were interrupted with the onslaught of the War Between the States.
Prior to the war there were several of these small schools located in Roupes Valley. At that time Ninnean Tannehill was living near the present location of Pleasant Hill Methodist Church and in 1828 he and some of his neighbors erected a small, one-room school. Mr. Hugh Morrow was hired to teach their children. They later hired Professor Jack Cox who advertised the opening of his school by saying, "The whipping machine will open next Monday." This school was later moved and a new log structure was built on the same spot where old Pleasant Hill Academy was later erected.
Some of the early teachers in these two schools were Thomas McAdory, father of Isaac W. McAdory, Isaac Sadler, Anderson Sadler, John Lolly, K.C. Thomas, Elisha Phillips, Julie Smithson, Emma Neal, Thomas Sadler, Fannie Snow, William Moore, A.M. Jones, Josh Draper, Fannie Star, and Nancy Sadler.
Many of the students who attended these early schools at Pleasant Hill also attended the Salem Hills Academy at old Jonesboro (now Bessemer). This school employed a number of fine teachers and became one of the finest educational institutions in the state prior to the Civil War. Students were houses in two large buildings which were located on a high hill above Salem Springs. One building was for the female students and another for the male students. Most of the buildings in old Jonesboro and the Salem Hill Academy were destroyed by Wilson's raiders in 1865, during the scourge across Jefferson County and Alabama.
Isaac Wellington McAdory, the man for whom McAdory School is named, attended these early schools and academies where he received an excellent education. Isaac was the son of Major Thomas McAdory who settled and built his home within a stone's throw from Pleasant Hill Cemetery and the old school at Pleasant Hill. This is where Isaac McAdory was born, September 17, 1843. Two of his maternal ancestors were Thomas Owen and Peter Elmore, a Quaker. Both emigrated from Wales to the Virginia Colonies where they became large land and slave holding families. The teachings and guidance from both his strong paternal and maternal ancestors instilled in him his dominant traits of character -- a most indomitable willpower backed by an invincible courage to put into effect anything he wished to accomplish.
Isaac fell in love with and married Alice E. Sadler, daughter of Isaac Sadler, for whom he was named and owner of historic Sadler House which still stands today. Alice Sadler received her higher education at Tuscaloosa Female Academy where she also became a teacher. This marriage united two fine teachers who later established Pleasant Hill Academy and later Pleasant Hill School, which eventually evolved into McAdory School. Like their fathers and mothers before them, they were important citizens in the Methodist community which fostered the school and church at Pleasant Hill.
The cold, March winds swept across Jefferson County in 1862 announcing the beginning of the War Between the States. On March 1st, Captain Samuel A. Tarrant gathered the members of the :Jonesboro Guards" in the little town of Jonesboro. They later marched to Shelby Springs to become Company H of the 28th Alabama Infantry Regiment. Isaac McAdory became 1st Lieutenant of the company which was in the Army of Tennessee. The 28th participated gallantly in some of the most intensive battles of the war losing over two-thirds of their men in battle or due to disease. McAdory survived however, and was with the regiment on April 26, 1865, when General Johnston surrendered the army in North Carolina.
Three McAdory brothers had enlisted in the war. The oldest was Thomas, who was killed in battle. Hennington was killed in the battle of Missionary Ridge. Isaac returned alone, sad and sorrow stricken to Roupes Valley which was torn by war and in total poverty.
Only one year after the close of the war, McAdory opened his first school in the little log Baptist Church at Bucksville. The young professor gathered around him the children of the farmers in the community and classes began February 5, 1866. A total of forty-two were enrolled and began the study of arithmetic, algebra, spelling, reading, Latin, English grammar, and geography.
The splendid work that McAdory did during his two years at little Bucksville school attracted the attention of the people of the county all around. Some of the leading citizens of the community hired McAdory to teach their children at Pleasant Hill. The little log school house was no longer standing but these families banded together to build a new school building of two rooms. The building measured 24 X 30 feet and was completed in January of 1868. The building proved too small to accommodate the students who came the first year, therefore the young men had to study out of doors, but came inside to recited and receive instructions. During the winter of that year, the building was enlarged by adding twenty feet to its length. This addition was build by Charles Regan and cost four hundred dollars.
Pleasant Hill Academy was of great importance to the people of western Jefferson County. McAdory worked hard to improve the quality of education in his school, and throughout the years it became an important center of learning in Alabama. Many men and women who became important citizens in the South received their early education under I. W. McAdory.
The only objective which the professor seemed to have was to see that a young person received the opportunity of an adequate education. Many families were living in poverty after the war; but the professor always insisted that a child was not responsible for the state of poverty in which they live, therefore their parents owed them the opportunity of an education whether or not they had money. He often took students into his school who were unable to pay. He provided them the necessary time to work and earn money with which they could repay their indebtedness. His attitude was, that if a student lasted for ten months of study, then they possessed the necessary qualities to pay their debt. The theory must have worked, for very few of his students failed to pay him for their education although it often took several years to earn the money.
In 1888, an epidemic of measles and typhoid fever tragically struck the little school. Mr. and Mrs. McAdory and his sister, Maria, who was one of the teachers, nursed the sick students until they too became ill. Maria and sever of the students died. Unable to teach, he hired Professor Perdue to teach his students, and Miss Sallie Hickman assisted him. Professor McAdory had taught regularly for eleven months every year for twenty-three years.
He served as a representative in the Alabama Legislature in 1876 - 1877, and again in 1886 - 1887 at which time he assisted in drafting the Henry School Bill which established the first successful state school system in Alabama. He was also instrumental in the founding of Birmingham Southern College.
McAdory became superintendent of Education for Jefferson County and served that office from 1894 - 1913. At the age of seventy he retired to his farm at old Pleasant Hill. It was there, within sight of his old academy, Pleasant Hill Methodist Church and his birthplace, that Isaac Wellington McAdory died at the age of seventy-nine on August 31, 1922.
This remarkable man, who devoted his lifetime to the education of young minds, lived to see the birth of a new educational institution named in his honor -- McAdory High School. His wife, Alice E. McAdory, in her long skirts, walking cane and high-top shoes is still remembered today by those who attended McAdory School. Alice died at the age of 96 on March 6, 1948 with her son, Richard Rose McAdory, at her bedside.
From the book "The Way We Were"
Published by McAdory School Reunion Committee 1988
Times Printing Company
Pleasant Hill School
The cornerstone for this wooden structure was laid September 19, 1907. The building had four classrooms downstairs and four upstairs and were joined on both floors by a central hallway running the width of the building. It served as both grammar and high school until 1920 when the high school department was moved to the present campus. This building was condemned after the turn of the century and the grammar school was consolidated with the high school. Although it was condemned, it was once again used for classrooms after the fires of 1929 and 1938. The Pleasant Hill School building was demolished about 1942 and the lumber from the building was used in the construction of the Sunday school department of Pleasant Hill Methodist Church.
The site for the new high school was chosen in 1916 and the land for the new campus was purchased from the McAdory family. The first building to be built in the new location was a one-story structure built of tile and stucco. Completed in 1920, the structure was valued at $45,000.
A four-room structure at the rear of the building was called Farris Hall. This building housed the Home Economics Department and agriculture and shop classes. Near these two buildings was another large garage for the buses.
These strange looking vehicles were called "stagecoaches" by the students. Actually they were school buses. Jefferson County owned only a few buses and had to rent others from local citizens who usually operated them.\
The First Fire
By 1929, McAdory School had an enrollment of 320 students. On Friday, April 5, the building was destroyed by fire. McAdory High School at McCalla, six miles south of Bessemer, was destroyed by fire early Friday morning. Total loss of building and equipment is placed at $40,000. Origin of the fire is undetermined. It was discovered about 3 a.m. by a passing truck farmer. Mr. McAdory who lives a short distance from the school, was aroused and the Bessemer Fire Department was called, but by the time a truck could get to the scene the flames were beyond control. Records of the school were in an iron safe and are believed undamaged. Classes will resume on Monday using the four-room frame annex which was undamaged by the fire and also the school garage on the grounds. The county carried insurance on the building. Mrs. H. H. King is principal with nine assistants.
The Second Building
A short while after the first building burned the construction of a new building on the site was begun. By 1930, the enrollment of the school had grown to 606 students. The first section of the new building was done in 1929, and the other additions to it were completed in 1931. This building was considered to be one of the most beautiful school buildings in Alabama.
The Second Fire
Eight years after the second building went into use, it was also destroyed by fire. The fire occurred on Sunday December 18, 1938. At that time, the school had an enrollment of 800 students.
From the Birmingham News, Monday, December 19, 1938
McCalla, AL Fire destroyed the McAdory Consolidated School Building here early Sunday, with damage estimated at $150,000.
A farmer living nearby discovered the blaze shortly before daybreak . . . (the fireman) confined their activities to saving annexes in which home economics and agriculture departments were housed. Mrs. H. H. King, principal, said the building was insured. The school closed Friday for the Christmas holidays and provisions must be made to car for the 800 students before Jan. 2. County School Supt., J.E. Bryan said the annexes and churches of the community would be used. The burned building housed both elementary and high school students.
The Third Building: The One We Know Today
The building was completed about 1941 and was one of the most modern school buildings in America. It was constructed by the Works Projects Administration, a federal agency of 1935 - 1943 charged with instituting and administering public works. Designed by architect E. B. Van Keuren, some of the latest construction techniques and materials were used in the building processes. The one-story building has walls of concrete reinforced by steel and cost approximately $250,000 to build.
Article from The Birmingham Post 1941
New McAdory School -- A Far Cry From The Old Days. It Isn't Just A Building -- It's Modern
Ah, shed a tear! The old red-brick schoolhouse is no more. It is white now. It has sweep and form and grace. From a distance it looks like an ultra-modern factory.
At least, this is the case of McAdory School at McCalla, the latest school to be built in Jefferson County. Dr. John Bryan, superintendent of county schools, says it's by far the most modern schoolhouse in the county, perhaps the most modern in the nation.
E. B. Van Keuren, the architect, says the building will afford 35 percent more natural light than most schoolhouses in the county or city. Its windows are long. The sashes are made of steel. The glass has a bluish hue, so as to practically eliminate glare.
In the classrooms the walls are painted green to help guard against glare. To this end there isn't even a blackboard. It's a "greenboard" now. Even the bulletin boards are green.
All ceilings are acoustically treated. Even the walls have been given a roughened surface because that tends to tone down reverberation of sound and makes for an easier hearing.
Gone from this modern schoolhouse is the note carrier, the student who went from room to room to deliver a message from the principal. A complete sound system has been installed.
Thus Mrs. H. H. King, the principal, can talk to any room by merely pushing a button in her office. Or if she chooses, she can talk to several rooms, simultaneously, or all the rooms, for that matter. Furthermore, by pushing the buttons, she can listen to what's going on in the other rooms without anyone being aware of it.
Can Play Records
This sound system is connected with a radio and phonograph. If, for instance, a radio program is broadcast that Mrs. Key feels will be of interest to the students she can push her buttons and everyone in the classrooms can hear it. Or, if she thinks it will interest a portion of the students, she just pushed certain buttons. In the same manner, she can play phonograph records to the classrooms.
In addition, there is a "visual education" room. This room is for the showing of motion pictures.
The floors are made of asphalt tile, resilient and easy on the feet, having almost the same effect as linoleum. The tile does away with harsh sounds.
The walls are made of concrete reinforced by steel. The building is of one story. It is said to be the last word in resistance to tornadic winds.
It is completely fireproof except for the gymnasium-auditorium, which has a wooden floor. The room, which has been built to be used both for athletic and assembly purposes, has purposely been situated so that it may be entered without having to go through any other part of the building. The idea is that it may be used in the evening for community purposes without having to open the entire school.
Even the name on the building is modernistic. You can hardly tell the S is an S.
The building is not quite completed, but classes are being held there anyway. It was built through the Works Projects Administration at a cost of approximately $250,000.
So shed a tear! That is, if you are a nostalgic poet. The students though frankly seem to prefer this modernistic edifice to the old fashioned red-brick schoolhouse.