The Bryan School

The Bryan School

By 1908 the people of Dickson had voted and decided they needed a large public school for the growing population of students in the town. Robert “Bob” Corlew Sr. who took on the role as Superintendent of Schools a year earlier led the project.

Corlew had the pressure of getting the new school open as fast as possible. Due to the amount of time it would take, they decided against constructing a brand new building. Instead, the large home of J.R. Bryan was purchased with a plan for it to be repurposed into a school. Corlew believed this process would be quicker and more feasible.

The Bryan School in Dickson, Tennessee

The Bryan property was located just south of the railroad tracks on Walnut Street. The house was remodeled and furnished with new desks and other modern school equipment. The school became known as the “Bryan School” and it was for students in 1st through 8th grade.

J.R. Bryan, who owned the building, was one of the original citizens of Dickson. He was born in Robertson County and at the age of fifteen joined the Confederacy during the Civil War. He entered Company I of the 18th Tennessee Volunteers and after the fall of Fort Donelson, he fought alongside Nathan Bedford Forrest. After surviving the war, he decided to move to the newly established town of Smeedsville (later known as Dickson).

He first came to town in April of 1868. When he arrived, there were only a few buildings. He described them as "a little box depot," a "double log house hotel" and a few "box store houses" in an interview he did with the local paper.

Bryan was one of the town’s early businessmen. He began his business venture with a Lumber Company and with a partner he also owned a General Store at Burns Station. Later, he helped establish one of the first banks in Dickson. After the business section of Dickson burned in 1893, Bryan was nominated to lead a group that was formed to spearhead the rebuilding of Main Street.

As a successful businessman Bryan made large donations to the Dickson College. Education was important to him, so it was no surprise that when he was approached about selling his property to be used as a new public school, he gladly agreed. His large house was located right in the middle of town and it was the perfect place to house a school for the children of Dickson.

The Bryan School opened less than two months after the election. There was an opening ceremony held on Monday September 28th that was held at the Dickson Courthouse, just down the street from the new school. Students, teachers, and citizens of the town were all in attendance.

There were several speakers at the event. The first speaker was S.E. Hunt, a member of the school board. He took no credit for himself, but instead praised the community for their efforts in getting the school opened so quickly. He was quoted as saying, “It is the unmistakable duty for any community to work unceasingly for the cause of the children.. the little ones whose training is entrusted to our care.” He went on to assure the people that the new public school would be the best school in town. He ended his speech by proclaiming that “Dickson is approaching a new era in education.”

“Professor” W.C. Caldwell of Mount Juliet was chosen to be principal of the new school and he also spoke. He was a graduate of Cumberland University, who had 28 years of teaching experience. He said he was ready to lead the school and looked forward to meeting all of the locals soon.

The final speaker was W.T. Crotzer. He said he remembered a time when there was no college and while he was proud of the work that the Dickson College had done, especially for the elementary school children, he was very excited for the new public school and encouraged the community to not only have pride in the college, but also their new public school.

All of the new teachers for grades 1-8 were announced. Registration was held and over 800 students registered for school. The first day of school was Tuesday September 29, 1908. The school day began at 9am.

The Bryan School served its purpose, but it was never meant to be a permanent solution. The new schoolhouse was almost over capacity from the beginning and plans were being made to build a bigger and better school with things like a cafeteria, auditorium, and gymnasium. Within a few years a new school would be built, but the foundation for the modern public school system in Dickson County was established with the formation of the Bryan School in Dickson.