Mooney School for Boys
“The Mooney School for Boys, 1902-1908” by the Rutherford County Tennessee Historical Society is an online history of the school. The Nashville Banner and the Chattanooga Daily Times are among the newspapers that chronicled Mooney School events—primarily sports. The ad (right) is from the Knoxville Sentinel
William D. Mooney. In addition to being principal, he taught Latin and Greek at Mooney School. Image from Find a Grave
In 1889 Simon V. Wall and William D. Mooney became the founding principals of a new preparatory school at Franklin, Tennessee. Officially titled Battle Ground Academy, the school was generally called Wall and Mooney’s School. Around 1896 Mooney became the sole principal, and the school became known as Mooney School.
Following a 1902 fire in Franklin, Mooney School reopened in Murfreesboro with 158 students. An all-boys school, it remained small with a listed enrollment of 125 in 1906. Nevertheless, it was an academic powerhouse. In 1902 it boasted, “This school has sent more pupils to Vanderbilt University within the past twelve years than any other school.” In addition to its Classics program, it offered an English program for students entering business.
Newspapers noted that students had a chapter of Alpha Pi social fraternity which sponsored an annual dance (Soule College for Women in Murfreesboro would provide dancing partners). Students also had two literary fraternities—the Aristonian and the Lafayette, who competed for prizes in oratory, declamation and debate. Mooney School competed annually against Bowen School of Nashville in debate and declamation.
Mooney’s association with the school came to an end in 1908. “The Mooney School” says, “Financial obligations which Mr. Mooney had assumed for a friend and then could not meet” led him to deed the campus back to the board of trustees. The school continued as Anderson School for Boys until 1912.
Bricks and Mortar
In Murfreesboro, Mooney School opened in a new building on an eleven-acre campus. The “magnificent building,” measuring approximately 75 by 90 feet, was two stories over a basement. it was constructed of red brick and featured a two-story portico with four white columns. The ground floor included an 800-seat auditorium. The Sanborn map shows the campus one mile east of the court house.
Later an 1831 frame residence was secured to serve as a dormitory for those boys who were not from Murfreesboro. It later became part of the Bristol Nelson Physiological School.
The campus and buildings were passed to the local school district. In August 1934 the Banner noted that 80 men were needed to demolish the main building.
School colors: Purple and Green
Though a small prep school, Mooney School played football at a very high level. Each year the schedule included two or three colleges—including Sewanee, at the time the best program in the South. In 1902 the schedule included two games with the University of Nashville (a win and a draw) and one each with Cumberland University (a win) and the University of Kentucky (a win) – in addition to Sewanee (a loss). In both 1904 and 1908 Mooney traveled to Atlanta for games with Georgia Tech. In addition, the schedule generally included games with “scrub” teams from both Vanderbilt and Sewanee.
The Mooney schedule also included similar prep schools such as Castle Heights Academy, Morgan School for Boys, Sewanee Grammar School and Bowen. Newspapers generally acknowledged that Mooney had one of the best prep school team in the South, and twice Mooney teams were invited to play for a mythical championship of the South. In 1900, while still in Labanon, Mooney defeated Alabama champion Taylor School 36-0. In 1905 Mooney lost 2-0 to Gordon Institute, the Georgia champions.
Mooney was likewise a power in basketball, baseball, and track. The baseball program played similar mix of college and prep teams, while adding the Nashville Volunteers of the Southern Association to their schedule and once trying to schedule the New York Giants.
In 1904 the track team earned the school a holiday and a banquet by winning a major tri-state meet in Louisville, sharing the title with Bloomington (IN) High School.
The 1905 Mooney School team that played for the championship of the South. Image from the Nashville Banner.