Henderson County, Kentucky


Literary Act of 1821 Gave Birth To It Here
By Maralea Arnett

Education as a public function in Henderson County dates from the Literary Act passed by the General Assembly in 1821.

At this time the county was divided into twelve districts, but lack of funds prevented further action. In 1839 the Common School Fund was established statewide but no local taxes were assessed until 1842 when District 26 collected $465.

In 1848 the state asked the people to vote a two cents on the $100 tax for common school purposes. It was ratified by a large majority. In 1855 it was increased to five cents and in 1869 to fifteen cents.

The Act of 1839 also provided that schools should be under the supervision of three commissioners appointed by the fiscal court of each county. Their duties were to examine teachers, submit reports to the state and dispense funds. The law required a school term of only three months but many communities extended the term by subscription.

Educational progress was retarded by the Civil War but the year 1869 marks another milestone: the establishment of a public high school and separation of the two school systems.

The rural schools were supervised by the county commissioners appointed by fiscal court, while the city schools were administered by a city superintendent. However, the charter for the new Henderson High School provided a point of contact: Henderson County Court should appoint three trustees to cooperate with the city school trustees in administering the high school and admission would be provided for “all white children who are bonafide residents of the county or city of Henderson.”

In actual fact, this meant that the County Board should pay tuition for any county resident who had transportation and wished to attend Henderson High School. Many did so, but Corydon provided its own high school and Cairo, Robards and Dixie had secondary subjects taught at various times.

The Center Street School was completed in 1870 and housed all twelve grades in its three stories, with a total of 13 elementary teachers and two secondary. The first commencement was held in June 1872, with 10 graduates and an elaborate program of music and essays, delivered by the graduates. It was held at Dixon's Roller Skating Rink on the northwest corner of Elm and First Streets. (This was on the second floor above a livery stable and an undertaking establishment!)


Source: The Gleaner, Henderson, KY, Sunday, October 31, 1976


Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS

Copyright 2006 HCH&GS