Not trash but treasure, Perkins monument finds place of honor

Sandra ClarkFeature, Our Town Stories, Powell

Powell Girl Scouts led a community celebration of public education recently, triggered by the restoration of the Perkins monument at Powell Elementary School.

Principal Denise Blefko said the monument deserved a place of prominence at the school. “I saw that monument near the dumpster, and we decided that was not the best place. …”

So, a community project began.

Patti Bounds, right, talks with history club member Lee Robbins.

Ron Evans, Bill Edmondson and Lee Robbins of the Powell History Society pitched in. Patti Bounds (school board) and Charles Busler (county commissioner) enlisted help from Russ Oaks (chief operating officer for Knox County Schools).

The monument was relocated to the front entrance of Powell Elementary, and Girl Scouts Troop 20320 organized a re-dedication with punch and cookies.

The inscription reads: Prof. W.H. Perkins, born July 3, 1840; died Jan. 5, 1881.

The scouts fleshed out the details, based on their research:

Powell’s first school, opened in 1820, was run by the Brown family at their home on Brickyard Road. The Browns educated their own kids and a few others from the area. In 1874, community leaders built a school that could hold 100. The new Powell School was free, perhaps the first free school in Knox County. Professor Perkins was hired to run it.

Scouts get expressive with the Perkins monument. The area will be landscaped.

“He transformed education in Powell,” said the scouts. “He left a legacy (of educational excellence) that lasts until today.”

Powell School was rebuilt and expanded at its present site in 1916. The current building was constructed in 1982.

Edmondson was introduced as “the champion on getting this done.” He said he met his wife in first grade at Powell Elementary School. His mother, Lucille Edmondson, was the Powell community librarian when the library was in a small white building on Emory Road near the high school. She stored the Perkins monument on her land for a time until it was returned to the campus of Powell Elementary.

“Powell was one of the first publicly funded schools in the county,” Edmondson said. “The Brown family was important. There’s a lot of history here.”

Edmondson said his grandmother, Sarah Martha Rutledge Childs, was the first president of the parent-teacher organization for Powell. She lived on Depot Drive.

Evans said his grandfather was a principal in Anderson County. “He moved his family to Powell for the schools,” Evans said.

Laura Bailey, representing the Gill and Hackworth families, talks with Bill Edmondson.

Sam Cooper was instrumental in bringing Professor Perkins to Powell, back when “the school was grades one through 10.” Powell has a solid foundation for public schools – free to all.

Bill Miller, grandson of Sam Cooper, represented his family at the ceremony. “Many hands made (Powell schools) happen,” he said.


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