Valley Rewind: The Flat Creek School in the 1930s

Special to Black Mountain News
This1930s photograph shows students and staff of the Flat Creek School, founded by John Myra Stepp on his property in the Brookside community of Black Mountain.

This photograph from around 1935 shows students and staff of the Flat Creek School founded by John Myra Stepp (1850-1955) on his property in the Brookside community of Black Mountain. Stepp, a former slave and prominent landholding community worker, was committed to the educational uplift of Black children in the Swannanoa Valley. Later, these children, along with those from other African American communities, attended the Methodist Church nursery school on Padgettown Road. Many of these children later graduated from the segregated Clear View Grammar School on Cragmont Road and from Asheville’s consolidated Stephens-Lee High School.

Mary Othella Burnette, born and reared in the Cragmont community, attended the Padgettown school, which was served by many of the same staff of the Flat Creek School. She remembers the paid or volunteer workers pictured left to right in the background as Mrs. Sophia Rutherford, Mrs. Beatrice Long and Ms. Stamey, of Brookside. “Miss Sophia” was married to Horace C. Rutherford, owner of Roseland Gardens, a juke joint that operated in the Brookside community from about 1920-76. Burnette said copies of this picture were made available to different families of the Brookside and Cragmont communities. After many years, a copy of the Flat Creek School came into her possession and she has shared it with the Swannanoa Valley Museum.