The Dickson College
The first school we have on record in Dickson was mentioned in an early newspaper article when the town was still known as Smeedsville. There are few details about the earliest schools. Most likely they were small one room schoolhouses where one teacher taught a small group of students who lived nearby. But as the town's population grew, larger, more sophisticated schools were needed.
In the mid 1880’s the Dickson Academy opened. It was built on the eastern edge of town, where the Dickson Middle School is located today. Considering its name, it was probably modeled after Tracy Academy in Charlotte which existed from the early 1800’s to the early 1900’s. Tracy Academy, which was also known as Charlotte Academy, was considered one of the finest early schools in the state of Tennessee.
The Dickson Academy was founded by Professor Johns and Professor Osborne. Very little is known about this early school, but the street that runs between the Frosty Jug and the Dickson Middle School is named Academy Street in its honor.
At about the same time that the Dickson Academy was being established, a college was being formed in the western part of the county. Professors W.T. Wade and T.B. Loggins established the “Edgewood Normal School” in the Yellow Creek Community. “Normal schools” were schools that prepared teachers for a career in education. Edgewood had started off years earlier as a one room schoolhouse but grew into an academy and eventually a college. Wade and Loggins had established themselves as the best teachers in the area, and possibly the State of Tennessee by the 1890’s.
At this time, the Yellow Creek community was small and not growing like the town of Dickson. Dickson was situated on the railroad. This access to first class transportation caused the town to grow rapidly. Even though Dickson was not created until after the Civil War ended, it had quickly outgrown every other settlement to become the largest town in the county.
The people of Dickson were proud of the Academy and the growth of their town, but they wanted more. People in town began secretly trying to convince Wade and Loggins, the founders of Edgewood, to move their college to Dickson.
When the people of Yellow Creek found out about the secret negotiations, they became furious. Many had bought land and built houses near Edgewood just because of the school. They were so upset that the feud spilled over into the newspapers. In an open letter published in April of 1891, Wade and Loggins were accused of “acting in bad faith,” and it was said that they had “violated every principle of honor and fair dealing” in their secret negotiations to move to Dickson.
Despite the allegations and bitterness from the Yellow Creek community, in 1891 Wade and Loggins decided to move their school to Dickson. On May 14, 1891 the property of the Dickson Academy (current Dickson Middle School campus) was sold to Professors Wade and Loggins and they began building almost immediately.
The property consisted of at least ten acres of land and several new buildings were erected. There were dormitories for the boys, one large hall for ladies that also had some classroom facilities, and a dining hall. The main college building, which was made of brick, was constructed the next summer in 1892. The new main building gave the college its signature look. Campus construction in the early 1890’s cost over $2 million in today's money.
The Dickson Normal College opened its first session in the fall of 1891. Many of the students were “boarding school students” who had arrived on the railroad from places outside of Dickson, while some were from Dickson County.
The school was an immediate success. So many students applied for admission that there was a waiting list to attend. Over 100 students enrolled the first year and within a few years the school had expanded to serve several hundred students.
A newspaper article from March 1892 called the Dickson Normal College a “booming school.” Other articles of the time described the school as the “best in the state of Tennessee.” It was on par with Vanderbilt in Nashville and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville as one of the elite colleges in the state.
When asked about the success of the college, Loggins and Wade were quoted as saying: “We do not claim all the honor to ourselves, but the people of Dickson and Dickson County!” The street in front of the college was named College Street in honor of the school.
By the late 1890’s it appeared as if the Dickson College and the town of Dickson both had a bright future.