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“The Legacy of Lick Mountain”

Wind & Woods Productions and the Town of Hudson

to Present New Outdoor Drama in Summer of 2013

 

   Wind & Woods Productions, in conjunction with the Town of Hudson, will present an outdoor drama entitled, “The Legacy of Lick Mountain,” which will premier next summer in the amphitheatre of Redwood Park in Hudson. “The Legacy of Lick Mountain” is written by local theatre veteran, Keith Smith, who wrote the book, music and lyrics. The play tells two stories, the early days of the Town of Hudson and the story of Emily Prudden and her schools.

   Emily Prudden was a “social gospel educator/missionary” who was born in Connecticut and while in her early fifties, came south to begin forming schools for girls in the poor regions of the North Carolina Mountains. Between 1884 and 1909, she formed 15 schools for girls primarily in western North Carolina, with a few in upstate South Carolina. Her connection to Caldwell County came through her formation of two schools in Hudson. The first was Mountain View Academy, which assimilated into the public school system in 1912, and the second was Oberlin School, on Lick Mountain, which she formed in 1898. This school later obtained the name of the Mitchell School and moved to Lenoir for a couple of years (1908-1910). Then the Southern Railroad moved the students, teachers and implements of the school to Misenheimer, North Carolina, free of charge – and the school eventually evolved into Pfeiffer University, which still stands today.

   Smith said that the idea to write about Emily Prudden came from Hudson Town Manager Rebecca Bentley back in 2010. Smith explained, “Rebecca knew I was doing some writing about local history, so she challenged, ‘Why don’t you write about Emily Prudden? Her life was vital and interesting and her story needs to be told.’ So I began to read about Miss Emily Prudden. And I saw what a fascinating and important life she had led, and it was lived in virtual obscurity. At that time, 2010, it had been only 5 years since the Hudson Centennial, for which Lucy Wagner and former Lenoir News Topic writer, Nell Greene, had produced a massive and wonderful book about the history of Hudson, entitled, ‘Hudson Heritage.’ People are always interested in their local history, but in Hudson there seems to be higher interest than in most towns, and that interest was heightened by the recent Centennial. I began to think of how the early days of Hudson coincided with Emily Prudden’s formation of two schools here. So I had the idea to write two separate stories, one about the early days of Hudson and one about Emily Prudden and her schools. The two stories merge in the second act, when Prudden comes to Hudson.”

   “I was walking in Redwood Park, through its beautiful, pristine amphitheatre, and I felt strongly moved that the story had to be an outdoor drama - and it had to be set in this amphitheatre. The show is now complete and ready to mount, with 32 scenes and 11 original songs.” 

   Smith continued, “What makes Prudden’s story all the more remarkable is that 7 of the 15 schools were formed for African American girls, in a time and place in which those efforts caused some racial tension. And Miss Prudden had gone all but completely deaf at the age of 17 and was crippled with arthritis. Land, building supplies and labor were often donated by local residents for her schools, but they were all furnished by Prudden's ‘slender purse,’ as she called it. And she never received a dime for her work, but lived on, and produced schools from a monthly stipend that she received from a family trust fund. She would establish a school, get it up and running, then after a couple of years, she would deed it to a missionary organization or a church, and would move on to her next endeavor.”

   Smith says that the project soon took on a life of its own. “After I began writing, I got in touch with Dr. Phoebe Pollitt of Appalachian State University, the foremost expert on Emily Prudden in the entire country. Dr. Pollitt had written her doctoral dissertation on Emily Prudden and her Schools in the early to mid 1990s. Dr. Pollitt very graciously gave me access to all of her materials, research and insight. I have also visited the sites of practically all the schools, and though little remains physically, in every community there are descendants of students of Miss Prudden, or people who have an interest in the history of her schools.”

   Pfeiffer University in particular has taken an interest in the project. Dr. David Kirby, the chairman of the Pfeiffer Music Department, was originally from Hudson. He graduated from South Caldwell High School and used to play with the Lenoir Saxophone Ensemble. Dr. Kirby tragically died earlier this summer in a dangerous current at a Florida beach while on vacation with his family. Smith says that efforts are underway to have a “Pfeiffer Night” at the outdoor drama next summer, during which time Dr. Kirby will be remembered and memorialized.

   Smith says, “I am so proud of the Town of Hudson and how supportive the people are of artistic endeavors. They are not afraid to dream big.”

 

 

A List of Emily Prudden’s North Carolina Schools

 

All Healing Springs/Jones Seminary/Linwood College

Foot of Crowder’s Mountain, Gaston County, North Carolina

Formed in 1884 for Caucasian Girls (later it became coeducational and developed into a college)

 

Skyland Institute

Blowing Rock, Watauga County, North Carolina

Formed in 1887 for Caucasian Girls

 

Lincoln Academy

Foot of Crowder’s Mountain, Gaston County, North Carolina

Formed in 1888 for African American Girls

 

Saluda Seminary

Saluda, Polk and Henderson Counties, North Carolina

Formed in 1890 for Caucasian Girls

 

Elk Park Academy

Elk Park, then Mitchell, now Avery County, North Carolina

Formed in 1892 for Caucasian Girls

 

Mountain View Academy

Hudson, Caldwell County, North Carolina

Formed in 1893 for Caucasian Girls

 

Salem Mission and Orphanage

Elk Park, then Mitchell, now Avery County, North Carolina

Formed in 1894 for African American Girls

 

Oberlin Home and School/Mitchell School/Mitchell Junior College/Pfeiffer College/Pfeiffer University

Lick Mountain, then moved to Lenoir in Caldwell County, then Misenheimer in Stanly County, North Carolina

Formed in 1898 for Caucasian Girls – is now a coeducational university

 

Douglas Academy/Clarkson Home

Lawndale, Cleveland County, North Carolina

Formed in 1901 for African American Girls, then Boys

 

Golden Institute

Golden, Rutherford County, North Carolina

Formed in 1903 for Caucasian Girls

Today, Toccoa Bible College in Northern Georgia and South Mountain Institute near Nebo, North Carolina, are descended directly from Prudden’s school at Golden

 

Lovejoy Academy

Mills Spring, Polk County, North Carolina

Formed in 1905 for African American Girls

 

Mount Herman Academy

Brevard, Transylvania County, North Carolina

Formed in 1909 for African American Girls

 

Emily Prudden also started schools in upstate South Carolina, but the above list contains only North Carolina Schools.

 

Story and information provided by Keith Smith of Wind & Woods Productions

 

 

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