Morganton High History

History Overview - Morganton High school

"A look back"


The history of the new Morganton High School began when it opened in 1927. But to appreciate the institution we alumni educationally benefitted from, appreciation of the educational story of Burke County and Morganton helps place our high school story into a proper prospective.

Up until the early part of the 1900’s, public education struggled to take hold. Sheer survival, pushing boundaries westward, simply “eking out” a living in a new frontier. It was not until 1885 we find the first records of educational board meetings being held. That year, there were sixty five (65) schools in Burke County. Fifty (50) white schools and fifteen (15) schools for blacks were reported in 1885.

Schools were simple, private one, two or three room schools, taught by motivated locals who in many cases lacked even a high school or college education. Tuition was required/paid to compensate the teachers of these schools. Local churches and preachers played a significant role in early education in Burke County and Morganton.

Of note, Burke County was formed in 1777, and six years later in 1783 the first school in Morganton, the Morgan Academy was chartered in 1783. Jumping forward to 1905, by then there were sixty (60) schools in the county. Fifty three (53) were one teacher schools, seven (7) two teacher schools. No schools had more than two teachers. The oldest financial records available from 1905 showed total funds for education in the county were $13,940 of which only $2,264 were state funds. Funds allotted for the city school were $1,713, and average teacher salary was $28.95 a month.

On November 19, 1904 you find the first record showing students were counted separately from the rest of Burke county schools as the state legislature in 1903 established/ chartered Morganton as a separate “graded school” system and administrative unit. The first Morganton School Board members were appointed by the legislature. This original charter did not address provisioning for new buildings, as existing ones were deemed inadequate. In 1905 the General Assembly authorized issuance of bonds in the amount of $20,000. Upon the sale of these bonds, a new brick building was erected. This building was the old Central Primary School we perhaps remember and served as the first “graded school/ high school” until it was moved to the second high school location on Avery Avenue.

In August 1926 it was announced that a new high school, Morganton High School that we remember, would be built at an approximate cost of $100,000. You can see the newspaper article as the announcement appeared in the News Herald. (click here for news paper clip)

From when the school first opened in 1927, the growth of the institution and the numerous educational offerings and programs grew for our benefit. We are hopeful we can renew old memories for our alumni of the various classes by reflecting on those activities and the people/teachers that shaped and influenced our lives during these formative years. Exploring further you can perhaps remember “sports”, “teachers”, our “music heritage” by clicking on them below. Additionally, we hope you might feel motivated to share some of your experiences, stories and photos during these years of your life that made a deep or significant impact on your life. Brick and mortar may be gone….but our cherished memories live on! Carpe diem!!