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About Nelson Merry School


What was Nelson Merry?

Initially founded by Reverend Peter Guinn in the 1890’s, Nelson Merry served as the only K-12 school for black and minority students in the community of Jefferson County and surrounding East Tennessee area. With it being the only black establishment for education during segregation, it became a symbol of community and cultural appreciation. Today, the gym and stories passed down through generations and alumni remain to create the spirit of the school. The preservation of the school’s story is in question as youth in the area are fed bits and pieces of Jefferson County’s history, with focus on the civil war period, while the importance of Nelson Merry has been lost. However, there are many people within the Jay Bird Hill community that have fond memories of the school and believe that sharing their stories will be a reminder and catalyst for the future of minority culture within the County. While recent attempts at reviving this history have been accomplished, such as the Jaybird Hill project fostered by the Mossy Creek Foundation, the ultimate impact has not been substantial enough to make a long-term difference. The goal of the Nelson Merry Foundation is to provide a community outlet that brings a sense of hope and unity to progress the social concerns of the county, ultimately creating a long-lasting impact to progress Jefferson County. 

Historical Tidbits

School History