North Carolina Education - Transylvania County

Year County Established

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Transylvania County

On February 19, 1866, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate the Transylvania Seminary in the town of Brevard in Transylvania County. Eight (8) trustees were named in the Act, the seminary was authorized capital stock of $10,000, and fifty (50) acres of land to be tax exempt.
On February 21, 1885, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to authorize the qualified voters in the town of Brevard in Transylvania County to decide whether to levy a special tax for a graded school in the town of Brevard.

In developing Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt took the advice of grounds designer Frederick Law Olmsted and hired Gifford Pinchot as his first “forest manager.” After implementing a first-of-its-kind plan for managing Biltmore’s forests, Pinchot left the estate to serve in the U.S. Department of Agriculture as chief of the Forestry Division. In 1895, German forester Dr. Carl A. Schenck (who had studied forestry at the Universities of Tubingen and Gissen) accepted Vanderbilt’s offer to come to North Carolina to succeed Pinchot in managing and restoring his vast woodland properties.

Dr. Schenck oversaw thousands of acres dotted with several hundred houses and abandoned farms. In 1898, he established the Biltmore Forest School, using Vanderbilt’s forests as a campus. Students in Dr. Schenck’s twelve-month curriculum split their time between classroom lectures and fieldwork. Combining theory with practice, the students gained experience in the physical side of forestry, including the care of nurseries, transplanting seedlings, timber selection, felling, logging, and sawing. They also studied forest finance and economics, dendrology, botany, fish and game, and the machinery associated with forestry. The campus was located at the site of a sawmill and gristmill formerly owned by Hiram King, a leader of the Pink Beds farming community. Several old mill buildings and a community church building were utilized for school activities.

Dr. Schenck’s operation was quite successful in its first years (despite detractors who espoused forestry theory at the university level). But Dr. Schenck had a falling out with Vanderbilt and left the estate in 1909. He established the school’s winter headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany. Dr. Schenck struggled to maintain the school as a traveling entity in America, but enrollment dwindled as new forestry schools emerged. Dr. Schenck’s final class graduated in 1913, and most of the school’s alumni (who numbered more than 300) became actively employed in their field. Dr. Schenck served on the Russian Front as an officer in the German Army during World War I. In 1914, Vanderbilt’s widow sold more than 80,000 acres of her holdings to the United States Forest Service. The acquisition was incorporated into the recently-established Pisgah National Forest.

In the early 1960s, Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman toured Pisgah National Forest, including the Pink Beds area. Freeman was impressed with the historical role the Biltmore working grounds had played in the national conservation movement. He initiated commemorative efforts that culminated in 1968 with the establishment of the Cradle of Forestry in America. Today, the Cradle is a 6,500-acre historic site within the Pisgah National Forest, mandated by Congress to commemorate the beginning of forestry education and conservation in the United States. The site includes a visitor center, interpretive exhibits, guided tour trails, and restored historic buildings. Biltmore’s remaining forest continues to be managed under the guiding principles pioneered by Olmsted, Pinchot, and Schenck. The Society of American Foresters presents the Carl Alwin Schenck Award each year to recognize outstanding performance in the field of forestry education.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.

In the Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the scholastic years of 1899 and 1900, it was reported that there were four (4) private schools in Transylvania County:

Private School



No. of Students

Epworth School


F. Taylor


Broad Valley Institute


J.N. Bradley


Mt. Moriah High School


I.T. Newton


Mrs. McCluken's School


Mrs. Eva McCluken


Robert L. Abernathy founded a co-educational private school, Owl Hollow Schoolhouse, in Burke County in 1853. Reverend Abernathy established the tradition that “None Shall Ever Be Turned Away for Want of Means.” As many as four thousand (4,000) students attended the college under Abernathy’s presidency and fifteen hundred (1,500) of those did not have to pay tuition. John Rutherford provided the six hundred (600) acres of land on which the school was built. His name was given to the school in 1858, when it was chartered as Rutherford Academy. In 1861, the year it was given the power to grant degrees, the school was renamed Rutherford Seminary and in 1870 the institution became Rutherford College. The site of the school was incorporated as the village of Excelsior in 1872, but in 1881 the village became the town of Rutherford College.

In 1900, the Western North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South acquired the college. In 1932, Rutherford College merged with Weaver College. The combined school moved to Brevard, in Transylvania County, and was renamed Brevard College. With the school gone, the town of Rutherford College’s charter was repealed in 1933. However, in June 1977, the town of Rutherford College was re-incorporated.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.

Brevard College was established as a result of the merger of Rutherford College and Weaver College. The Western North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church voted for the merger in 1933. The school opened its doors in the fall of 1934. Eugene Jarvis Coltrane was the school’s first president, serving until 1950.

Rutherford College in Burke County had been established as a private school in 1853 by Robert Laban Abernethy. It received Methodist support beginning in 1900. Weaver College in Buncombe County also began in 1853 even though it was not chartered as a four-school until 1873. In 1912, it became a junior college.

In the early 1930s both schools experienced financial difficulties and the Methodist conference voted that they should be merged. Brevard Institute, founded in 1895 by the Reverend and Mrs. Fitch Taylor and sitting idle since the opening of pubic schools, was selected as the site for the new schools. The college remained a two-year institution until 1995 when it adopted it present four-year curriculum.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.


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