The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Integrated Schools

Preserved By Dora P. Maine © 1988

Issue: November, 1988

Editor's Note: The following article was sent in by Dora P. Maine of Kissimmee, Florida. The George Goforth mentioned in it was her great-grandfather. No date was given on the article, but by doing some quick arithmetic, it must have been printed circa 1959.

Integrated schools in North Carolina 150 years ago?

Such would apparently seem the case according to a report September 30th in the Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal based on information supplied by George Matthews of Oak Grove, Kentucky, grandson of a former Madison County teacher.

Matthews gave the Louisville Newspaper the following story which is reprinted in full;

"It may surprise the people of North Carolina," he begins, "to know that their great state had an integrated school 150 years ago. According to the records handed down by my grandfather, George Goforth began teaching near Marshall in 1809. (He was born January 20, 1791.) "His family must have been very much opposed to slavery. Their many rough acres, hidden in the foothills of the Great Smokies, became a refuge for escaped slaves. Whole families of Negroes fled there. They cleared the dense forests, grew their own food, hunted wild hogs in the hills, and fished the cool mountain streams. My grandfather taught their children in the same school with white children. We read of no trouble among his pupils.

"In those days, teachers not only had to build their own schoolhouses, but make their own textbooks. Many such a book made by my grandfather are still in good condition. One of his arithmetic's is at the home of my cousin at Laurel Creek, Kentucky. It begins with common fractions and ends at the present high school level. These books are all made by hand, using a goose feather pen. They are bound with cloth woven on a loom in his home. Finer handwriting hardly can be found today.

"Strange as it may seem to us, 'keeping fire' was one of the most important necessities of that time. But this is better understood if we realize that it was a good quarter of a century before anything like the match came into use.

"My grandfather gives in great detail the kinds of wood best suited to preserve fire. And if the fire were to go out, here are his own words how to make a new one;

"'Take a piece of cotton no larger than the palm of your hand, pull the fibers until it becomes a loose mass. Place it on the ground in the midst of dry shavings. Then sprinkle a few grains of gun powder on the cotton. Then take a flint and a piece of metal and strike them together so the spark will strike the cotton. Caution, use but very few grains of powder."

Geroge died in 1887 and is buried in Payne Cemetery in Madison County.