History of Hickory Flat School
Begun in 1838, Hickory Flat Academy was the second school to be established in Cherokee County. In those early days there were three types of schools in Georgia. One was the “poor” school partly supported by the state. The second was the “tuition / subscription school”, in which students paid tuition. The third, more permanent higher educational institution, was the “Academy”. There were three outstanding institutions of learning in the early days in Cherokee County. They were: Etowah Academy in Canton, Hickory Flat Academy, and Little River Academy in Woodstock.
It is not known who the first teacher of Hickory Flat Academy was, but its first trustees were: George Gunby, Thomas Johnson, John McConnell, John B. Garrison, and George Taylor. The students kept the academy clean. The girls cleaned the building and swept the yard with brush brooms. The boys cut wood for the fire and kept the wood box filled. There was no paper, so students wrote on slates at this time.
In 1900 – 1910, the school building had one room and was located where the old principal’s home was. The students sat on long benches. There was a fireplace located in the north end of the building. There were no toilets. The boys used one side of the woods and the girls used the other side. To get their water, they had to walk one-half mile to the spring. They used a bucket and a common dipper. There were no such things as grades, and at recess boys and girls played separately. There were approximately 75 students enrolled. The teachers of this period were: Mr. John Quarles, Mr. And Mrs. Dick Hamilton, the Hamilton’s daughter, Ida Belle, Mr. Chapman, Mr. Freeman, and Mrs. Charlie Cobb, Sr.
In 1912, the schoolhouse had two rooms that were heated by pot-bellied stoves. Fathers who were unable to pay tuition usually furnished the firewood. Since there were a limited number of textbooks, they were read and reread. The community paid teachers monthly. School was held for five months in the winter and two months in the summer. This allowed the children to be free for spring planting and fall harvesting.
From 1923 – 1930 the school was a two-story building having four classrooms on the first floor, and the auditorium was on the top floor. Before each recess, all four classes went upstairs to the auditorium where the principal read verses from the Bible and the children sang songs.
In the 1930’s the school was remodeled with a gym in the center and two classrooms on each end. There were no lights, so oil lamps were used. Mr. W. F. (Bill) Garrett was a teacher from 1936 until 1939 and a principal from 1940 – 1943 when he was drafted into the army. He returned in 1946 and served as principal until 1948. His salary was $50 per month. During this period there was a community garden in which the people planted and worked to supply food for the school lunchroom.
On October 30, 1933, before a large number of students and patrons, Professor C. E. Goss opened the fall term of Hickory Flat School. Rev. J. O. Pitts and D. T. Barron of Canton were the speakers for the occasion. Dr. Gibson led the singing with “Higher Ground” and a short devotion from the Bible.
The HFS principal’s house was built in 1934 by Dr. W. O. Rhodes, Mr. Harley Garrett, and Mr. M. C. Jones, and Mr. Jim Clark. In 1998, the HFS principal’s house was torn down, and Mr. A. Carter Browning was the last principal to live in this house.
On October 29, 1938, more than 300 attended the Centennial Celebration of Hickory Flat School. In the 1950’s there were plans to consolidate Hickory Flat, Big Springs, Indian Knoll, and Union Hill Elementary into one big school. The people of Hickory Flat built a gymnasium in order to try to keep the school in their community. The community donated the timber. Many local men donated their time and efforts to construct the gym. The BOE voted to pay 1/3 of the cost of the gym if the cost did not exceed $15,000.00. In 1950 the gymnasium was completed. The school had eight grade levels at that time. All of the schools previously mentioned were consolidated with Hickory Flat.
In 1956, the old part of the school now known as the “Browning Annex”, which houses the 5th and 6th graders, was built. This building contained ten classrooms, a library, and a lunchroom. In 1967, an additional five classrooms were added and the lunchroom dining area was extended.
In 1974, Hickory Flat received a new modern building called the “Butler Building”. This building housed six open classrooms. Also, at that time the library was enlarged and space provided for Special Education.
When Dean Rusk Middle School opened in 1986, the 7th and 8th grades were moved from Hickory Flat School. This left the school with its present grade levels of kindergarten (added full-day in 1980) through 6th grade.
During construction in 1994 & 1995 the ‘new modern’ building that was built in 1974 was torn down. Thirty-nine classrooms, new administrative offices, media center, and a cafeteria were added. This is referred to as the ‘new building’. The old lunchroom and media center were renovated to create an art lab and music room. The old classroom wings or the “Browning Annex” were remodeled for the 5th and 6th grade classes.
In 2016, Sixth grade was moved to the new Dean Rusk facility next door, leaving kindergarten through 5th grade at Hickory Flat.
Mrs. Barbara Parisi was the principal from 1990 until 2000. She was the first female principal of Hickory Flat School. The school housed almost 1,000 students during the 19992000 school year and had a staff of over 45 teachers.
Ms. Kelly Jo Brooks was the principal of Hickory Flat ES from 2000-2008. She had been the
Assistant Principal at Little River ES in Cherokee County School District before coming to
HFES. During these eight years, HFES grew tremendously. Student enrollment increased from 850 to over 1,200 students. In spite of this growth, Hickory Flat ES has remained an integral part of this close knit community.
Dr. Keith Ingram was the principal of HFES from July 2008-2014. Before coming to Hickory Flat ES, he was the principal at Johnston Elementary in Cherokee County.
Ms. Whitney Nolan became the principal of Hickory Flat ES in July 2014. Before coming to Hickory Flat, she was the Assistant Principal at Woodstock Middle School.
Mr. John Quarles, Mr. Dick Hamilton, Mr. M. H. Tarpley, Mr. James Howell, Mr. Roy Cox,
1924-? & 1935-39, Mr. Stinchcomb, Mr. George Buice, Mr. Clarence Goss, 1933, Mr. Bill Garrett, 1940-43, & 1946-48, Mr. Harold C. Reece, 1944-45, Mr. Charlie Mann, 1948-49, Mr.
Leon Little, 1949-51, Mr. Ernest England, 1953-55, Mr. Roy W. Johnson, 1951-53 & 1955-64,
Mr. W. Cline Harris, 1965-66, Mr. A. C. “Carter” Browning, 1966-1990, Mrs. Barbara Parisi, 1990-2000, Dr. Kelly Jo Brooks, 2000- 2008, Dr. Keith Ingram, 2008-2014, Whitney Nolan, 2014-present.
Resources: Hickory Flat Public Library resource file: The Cherokee Tribune, 3-29-89 & 9-30-95. History of Cherokee County, North Georgia Tribune, 10-14-38 & 11-04-38, Mrs. Peggy Cline, 1976.
Interview by Sonya Turner with Mr. W. F. “Bill” Garrett, 1999.
Edited for the HFS web site May 2016.