Morgan School for boys

Monday, May 19, 2008
Photos submitted Morgan School for Boys was first built in 1918-'19 in Petersburg.

PETERSBURG -- The historic old school building at Petersburg is the only structure remaining of the Morgan School's 65-year history.

R. Kenneth Morgan Sr. started teaching at Cane Creek Academy in 1885. After a year there, he went back to Vanderbilt to complete his education, then built his first school in the Howell Community in 1892. The little school was quickly outgrown.

In 1898 Morgan and a partner purchased the Dick White College in Fayetteville and opened the Peoples and Morgan School. This facility had many fine brick buildings and room to grow. Mr. Peoples left after a few years to start his own school. R.K. added new buildings and the school continued to grow.

At the end of World War I, Morgan had the opportunity to sell the campus to another school. This gave him the ability to move his school to a smaller town. It seems the big city distraction proved troublesome for some Morgan boys. Working with Petersburg businessmen, including Dr. McRady, R.K. Morgan and his new supporters built their school in 1918-19.

The buildings were designed by architects Marr and Hollman in the Georgian revival style with Craftsman details. The two main buildings had identical decorative elements but different footprints. The administration building lost its roof, most likely to a storm, within its first year. Rebuilt in a stepped parapet design, the administration building then had a taller fašade.

The dormitory, Morgan Hall, was not only home to the paying students, but was also home to the Morgan family. Each of the three floors had an apartment on the west end of the building. These apartments were occupied by a teacher and gave adult supervision at all times.

The Morgans, on the first floor, were separated by a hall with stairs from the dining hall. The dining hall took up the center of the first floor. Another hall with stairs separated the dining hall from a row of boys' rooms, and these were just in front of the kitchen and a storeroom.

N.M. Rhaney, "Uncle Matt," was head cook for more than 20 years. The "shack boys," as they were called, ate three well-prepared meals a day, served on white tablecloths. In 1925 Morgan handed the headmaster's position over to his son, R. Kenneth Morgan Jr. The school closed in 1950.

Sadly, Morgan Hall burned in about 1980. Today all that remains are the massive foundations and circular driveway, but soon even these may be destroyed by the construction of a bargain store. This site is on the National Register of Historic Places and should be preserved along with the administration building.

The Morgan School administration building is now my home and since I purchased it in 2005 I have served as curator of the school museum. The alumni museum houses many artifacts that are the property of the Morgan School alumni. The Alumni Board hosts a picnic on the first Saturday of June every year. The museum is not open to the public, but may be viewed with special permission.

Morgan School produced many fine graduates who gave much to our country. The Morgan alumni I have met, as well as the museum collection, have convinced me that Morgan Prep was a wonderful experience. The Morgans created an extended family for the hundreds of boys who for a time called Morgan Hall "home."