About Wise Virginia

Central High - Towns of Wise

Historical Information About Wise

The following is a history of the town of Wise as told by Luther Addington:Wise

Historical Information About Wise The Story of Wise County (Virginia)
By Luther F. Addington

The Town of Wise

Wise, a residential and college town, and the county seat of Wise County, takes its name from Henry Alexander Wise, governor of Virginia from 1856-1860. Located on the western edge of a plateau in an area in which the terrain is predominantly sharp ridges and narrow valleys. Wise, at an elevation of 2,454 feet, has the highest altitude of any town in Wise County.

The area now comprising the town of Wise was known as "The Glades" or "Big Glades" when it was a part of Russell County. It took the name from the "glady" expanse of land which extended from the town up Glady Creek past the present high school. The act creating Wise County from Russell, Scott, and Lee counties on February 16, 1856, changed the name of the town to Gladeville. On May 4, 1856, the name was changed to Wise Court House; however, since there was a post office in West Virginia by the same name, thus causing confusion in the delivery of mail, the name was changed on May 16, 1893, to Wise. The town was first incorporated in December, 1874.

The first school in Wise, which was located on Nottingham Avenue, was an old log building with a dirt floor. The next school was located in the old log Primitive Baptist Church which was built in 1847. Following this, classes were held in the old Methodist Church and in a building on the corner adjacent to the Wise County Courthouse. A brick building located on Main Street later housed both the elementary school and the high school until the early 1950's. On August 25, 1953, the present high school, located on Birchfield Road on a 52.5 acre tract of land, was occupied for the first time. It was named for Dr. J. J. Kelly, Jr., superintendent of Wise County Schools from 1917-1963.

Dr. J. J. Kelly, Jr. began his service as superintendent on January 1, 1917. During his administration, schools and school attendance grew tremendously. Because of his successful work in the school system, the new high school at Wise was named J. J. Kelly High School, in his honor. Dr. Kelly was a graduate of Washington and Lee University and a graduate student at the University of Chicago. He served as a president of both the Virginia Education Association and Department of Superintendents.

Dr. Kelly's foresight in school matters was evidenced by a number of programs, first of the kind in the state, instituted with success in Wise County. In 1919, Wise County was the first to organize a summer high school program. In 1921, Wise County was one of the first to have a nine month school term. In the 1920's, Wise County was the first to employ high school principals on a twelve month basis, and was one of the first to place commercial courses in the regular high school curriculum. In 1936, Wise County was the first county to organize and offer a five-year high school course. Beginning in the early 1940's, Wise County was also the first to own and operate a county-wide vocational school, transporting students to and from the regular high school.

Education in the county has changed enormously since the days when students walked several miles to one-room schools. Students can now take advantage of a variety of programs designed to meet their needs and interests. J. J. Kelly High School strived to meet the changing needs of its students and those of the community it served.

All the information on this page is from: The Story of Wise County (Virginia) written by Luther F. Addington.

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