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Our History
History: Our Beginning

Preface to our Centennial Book: Bardstown City Schools - 100 Years Perspective by Dixie Hibbs.

Almost 100 years to the day of the opening of the school is the closing of this account of the history of Bardstown Graded Common School which became the Bardstown Independent School System. Thousands of pictures, papers, newspaper clippings, scrapbook pages and yearbooks were reviewed and the information collected in order to get the details for the story. The researchers, writer and editors relived the school years and experiences with the students. From the first early dramas and sports teams, “Bardstown Corn Crackers”, to the Depression School Fairs, to World War II scrap drives, to the merging of the Training School and Bardstown schools, we felt the emotions, the struggles and the successes of the students of more than 100 graduations of the Bardstown Training and Bardstown High School.

Those involved in this monumental task were often surprised at the variety of activities, field trips, and opportunities at state and national levels for our students to shine. Those occurred not just lately, but sixty and seventy years ago. Bloomer uniforms, outdoor goals, games at the Opera House, these were the details of the first girls basketball teams in 1915. National contests were won by English students. Short stories and poems were submitted for national publication in the 1920s and 1930s. Graduates went on to become attorneys, teachers, bankers, and business owners. The alumni association was very supportive from the 1920s, meeting each year during graduation week.

As we went along we determined that the information we were gathering was really too much to try to use in the text. It was decided by the committee to list all graduates, all teachers, all the classified workers (bus drivers, custodians, lunch room workers, secretaries, etc.) principals, school board members and the eight superintendents who have led this system. These names were compiled in long lists and printed for history. The classified workers were listed from the 1970s as information about them was almost impossible to obtain before that. This listing in the back of the book will be a handy reference for anyone looking for a graduate, teacher or board member.

Anytime you attempt to compile a list of this magnitude, you are likely to omit someone. Please forgive us if we have inadvertently left someone off you think should be listed. Write them into your copy of the book. This historical account is just an outline that every graduate needs to fill inwith their personal memories. Read this book and discuss it with your family. Slip a page of your school details and memories in your book. It’s your book. It’s your school. Then, Now and Continuing: Bardstown City School System.

– Dixie Hibbs


On the 8th day of July 1907, a petition was filed and recorded at the Nelson County Clerk’s office asking for the establishment of a Graded Common School in Bardstown. The names were counted and it appeared “a majority of the trustees of the said common School Districts have endorsed their approval of the petition.” A boundary was proposed, surveyed and filed. Included within this area was part of four school districts and the entire school district #33. 

On September 23, 1907 an election was held at the Courthouse for the purpose of allowing the vote by the legal white voters in the Graded Common School District to determine if they would support by taxation of forty cents per $100 of property this new school. Also a poll tax of $1.00 on each white male inhabitant was proposed. This money to be used for the erection, purchase or repairing of buildings for the foresaid purpose. It is also stated that the boundary will be no more than two and one half miles from the site of the proposed schoolhouse. The voice votes were taken and the vote of 223 for and 120 against created the financial support for the Bardstown Graded School. Five trustees were also elected at the same time, W. A. Rosenham, J.W. Shaunty, John E. Newman, L.B. Samuels, and Ed O’Bryan. Rosenham, Samuels, O’Bryan and Newman were city councilmen. Samuels and Shaunty operated distilleries and the others were businessmen of the community.

The first years of the new school were filled with challenges. Principal Ernest N. Fulton was given the job of hiring teachers and setting up curriculum for all 12 grades. Mary Geoghegan, Aileen Mann, Eleanor Wicklffe Ella Carothers, and Principal Fulton comprised the first staff. The 1908-09 term was filled with musical and dramatic productions by students from all grades. Some to raise funds for the school library. These were held at the school auditorium and the new Opera House on Broadway.

Known as the Bardstown Graded School it combined several grades into one. Taught by experienced teachers who followed a required curriculum it was advertised as a “ Real Live School” . A new building, with new fixtures. Students came from inside the district as well as some from outside for which the County School System paid tuition of four dollars a month. The nine month school year was one month longer than the county‘s.

The Bardstown Graded School building was erected in 1908 at a cost of $30,000. A bond issue and loan from Farmers Bank started the project. Made of brick and stone it offered eight lower grades and four full years of high school. “Four years of Latin, four years in English, two years in French, two years in German, courses in Physics, Chemistry and Physiology with laboratory work in all three and a full four years in Mathematics” was the promotional listing. “Every boy and girl in Nelson county, who can give sufficient proof that he or she are prepared to take the high school course is entitled to free tuition.” Principal Ernest Fulton would oversee the teachers and students. This new public school resulted in lower enrollment at the private schools causing the closing of Nelson Normal School and Bardstown Baptist Institute. 

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