Tyro School – Late 1890’s

Of photography’s benefits, the greatest is its ability to confer a sort of immortality.  So it is here.

When I visited my dad last weekend for Father’s Day, wherein I presented him with a series of of repaired and enlarged and re-printed pictures from the late 1940’s and 1950’s (see previous post), he showed me something else.  A faded, scratched, and wrinkled copy of an old school picture from the 1890’s.

Tyro is a tiny community hard within the fastness of the Blue Ridge mountains, a bit above Massies Mill.  The tiny thread of rt. 56 corkscrews up to the little village, connecting it with the valley below and even remoter locales further up.  Tyro has never been much, just a few hardscrabble families eking out a living, anchored by the early-1800’s-era mill.  What little is there was nearly wiped away during the catastrophic overnight flooding from hurricane Camille in 1969.

The picture was in sorry shape.  But despite that, there was a touch of magic.  You look at the image, of 29 people – young, hopeful, earnest, with what they hope and expect will be most of their lives still in front of them – and you can’t help but be touched.  This was the annual school picture, a tradition that echoes down even to today, and you can’t not notice the seriousness in their eyes.  The gravitas.

But you also notice other things.  The wide range of ages, from young child to young adult.  There was neither the population nor the economic capacity to provide the more targeted education we see today.

You notice the formal attire of the boys, and the severe, Victorian-style attire of the girls.  Like church, school picture day would have warranted one’s ‘Sunday best.’  And yet even that was tough for some to manage.  One boy is barefooted.

You notice the boy on crutches is missing a leg.

You notice the bicycle.  And one girl’s head tilted in what one wonders might be a hint of mirth.

You look at the names and you realize that several families supplied all these children.  You begin to appreciate the interconnectedness of all these people.

You realize that every single person here… is dead.  However their lives turned – good or bad, short or long, rich or destitute – they finished long ago.  Lives remembered, if at all, by a swiftly declining handful of descendants.

And this picture.


Tyro School – 1890’s


After getting the scan back from McClanahan’s, I set to work repairing the image.  It will never be great – the poor original quickly limits what can be done – but is world’s better than it was.


Left to right…


Back Row:

Tom Withers, Robert Massie, Nettie Massie, Florence Massie, Maria Massie, Frank Hughes, Miss Gertrude Coleman (teacher), Susie Gleason, Billy Hill, Minnie Coffey, Mattie Lee Wood, Emmett Gleason, Forest Coffey, Homer Gleason, and a part of Massie Yuille showing on side of picture.


2nd Row:

Lovie Mays, Maria Gleason, Jim Higginbotham, Lora Higginbotham, David Gleason, Sally Hill, Caskie Withers, Margaret Massie, Frank Massie,Eddie Wood.


1st Row, sitting:

Pat Withers, Harry Massie, Bland Mays, and Abby Wood.


Patrick Massie Withers:  Born Nov. 28, 1881

Thomas Austin Withers:  Born Sept. 25, 1883 – Died Nov. 23, 1966

Caskie Withers:  Born Nov. 22, 1888

Lora Higginbotham Withers:  Born 1892




4 Responses to “Tyro School – Late 1890’s”

  1. Mike Lee says:

    The two Mays children shown here belong to Nicholas Mays and Amanda Johnson. Lovie Lee Mays (1891-1970) married George Sprouse and is buried at Jonesboro Church in Roseland. Bland Mays (1887-1900) died unmarried as a teenager. My girlfriend descends from a sister of the two Mays students in the photo. That sister was her G Grandmother, Lula Jane Mays (1883-1970), who is buried at Tice Cemetery off Battery Hill Rd. in Tyro. From her, the line of descent is thru eldest son, Bland Withers Mays (1902-1976), who was most certainly named in honor of his late uncle in the photo and who, in turn, was most likely named in honor of his contemporaries in the Massie family, several of whom are also in the photo.

  2. Jeff says:

    Thanks so much for adding these details, Mike! It’s so nice to hear of what became of some of these young people…

  3. Mike Lee says:

    Is there any way you could e-mail me just the photo ?

  4. Mike Lee says:

    Also, it looks like Lovie is shoeless as well as her brother, Bland.

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