colors: Maroon & Gray
A one-room log schoolhouse was opened in Bessemer, NC on Bessemer Ave. in 1900 with Walter Jones as its first principal. That original Bessemer School only housed the elementary grades. In 1911, a larger school was built on the same site and the number of grades were expanded to include all 12 grades. This was the beginning of Bessemer High School. It is likely that some of the dozens of one-room schoolhouses in Guilford County closed when Bessemer High School opened. Grades 1-3 were housed in one building, grades 4-8 in another, while grades 9-12 had their own building. At some point, grades 1-3 were moved into a new building on Huffine Mill Rd. and named Bessemer Primary School.
During the entire 52 year life of Bessemer High School, it only had three Principals. Professor W. E. Younts, a Guilford College graduate, was the first Principal and he served for 36 years until his retirement in 1947. William H. Cude was selected as the next Principal and he served until his death in 1962. (When Bessemer Primary School was opened, Mr. Cude’s wife was selected as its Principal.) Upon Mr. Cude’s death, Assistant Principal Robert L. Clendenin, a 1950 BHS grad, took over and served until the high school closed in 1963. (Here’s an excellent Interview with Bob Clendenin.) After the Bessemer High School students were merged with Page High School in 1963, Mr. Clendenin stayed on as Principal of Bessemer Junior High School, then later became the Principal at Page.
In 1957, the towns of Bessemer and Hamilton Lakes had successfully petitioned to be annexed into Greensboro. Even though Bessemer was then part of Greensboro, Bessemer schools continued to operate under the Guilford County school system. In 1963, the citizenry voted to move the school system from the Guilford County school system to Greensboro City Schools. This led to the merging of Bessemer High School into Page High School. (Greensboro City Schools then merged with Guilford County Schools in 1993.) Apparently, Bessemer continued as a Junior High until 1967 when it was merged into Aycock Junior High School. (If this is wrong, somebody please leave a comment below to correct me.)
Much of the above history came from Mr. Clendenin’s interview and this Bessemer School History.
At some point soon after the closing of Bessemer School, all of the buildings except the Gym were demolished and Erwin Elementary School (now Erwin Montessori) was built on the site. Here’s a Google Street View of what I believe may be the Bessemer High School gym. (Again, somebody please correct me if I’m wrong.)
The Bessemer High School sports teams were known as the Whippets. Whippets are sleek but muscular hunting dogs prized for their speed, power and agility.
Bessemer football players certainly lived up to the image. They were a powerhouse in 6-man football in the 1940’s, then continued the tradition after switching to an 11-player team in 1945. They were the North Carolina State Champions in 6-man football in 1941. In the 1950’s & 60’s, they made four trips to the State Finals game, but a second football State Championship eluded them. Still, being four time State Runners-Up is an accomplishment of which any school can be proud.
1941 – 6-man State Champions 1953 – State Runner-up (lost to Massey Hill, 20-0)
1954 – State Runner-up (lost to Edenton, 41-20)
1958 – State Runner-up (lost to Williamston, 26-20)
1962 – State Runner-Up (lost to Brevard, 19-13)
The Bessemer baseball team gave the school a going away present in 1963. The Whippets won the State Championship by defeating Chapel Hill, 5-2.
———————- Update added June 1, 2013 —————-
[The News-Times, Hendersonville, N.C., Saturday, June 1, 1963]
By ROCKY STONE
Hendersonville has been awarded the Western North Carolina 3-A high school baseball play-offs.
According to Hugh Lockaby, principal of Hendersonville High School, the Hendersonville Bearcats will meet Bessemer High School of Greensboro at Berkeley Park Wednesday afternoon for the Western North Carolina championship.
The winner of the Hendersonville-Bessemer game will meet the Eastern North Carolina winner in a two-out-of-three series for the State 3-A championship.
Bessemer defeated East Forsyth Thursday night 4 to 1 to earn the right to play Hendersonville which drew a first round bye.
The win Thursday night gave Bessemer a season record of 15 wins and one loss. The Greensboro team, being consolidated after this year, won a string of 32 consecutive games before losing to Madison-Mayodan this year.
During the stretch of the consecutive wins, Bessemer won three district championships and lost another in a play-off.
The pride and joy of the Bessemer team is pitcher Wayne Nunn whose three-year record reads 21-1. The 160-pound junior has a record of 10-1 this year. Standing 5′ 11″ tall, the right-hander is also one of the team’s leading hitters with a .450 plus average. He also leads the team in home runs with a total of five.
Other pitchers listed on the Bessemer squad are left-hander Wally Pegram and right-hander Buck Bain.
In addition to Nunn, other .450 plus hitters are catcher Elwood Baker and third baseman Roland Deaton.
East Forsyth went into Thursday’s night game with a record of 17-1.
Hendersonville fans may recall that Bessemer lost in the Western North Carolina football finals last fall to Brevard 19 to 13.
Bearcat Coach Jim Pardue scouted Bessemer in the Thursday night game played at East Forsyth.
“I have never seen a finer high school defensive baseball club than Bessemer,” Coach Pardue stated.
In discussing the Thursday night game, the Bearcat Coach said he thought Nunn pitched a fine game but he believed his boys can hit him.
“Bessemer is a team that just doesn’t make mistakes,” said the Bearcat coach as he continued to discuss the merits of his opposition.
The Bearcats will be without the service of one first string player. Greg Pittillo will not participate in the play-off game because of a summer job. Freshman Tommy Blankenship has been promoted from the freshman squad and will open in left field. Blankenship played one game with the varsity this season and acquitted himself well.
Harold Robertson, in a slump when the regular season ended, is now hitting the ball well. He is expected to give the Cats a big lift in the game Wednesday.
It took an all-day of dickering to get the game played in Hendersonville. Finally it was necessary for a coin to be flipped in the office of L. J. “Hap” Perry, NCHSAA executive secretary, to determine the site of the game.
A substantial guarantee is being paid to get the game here for local fans to witness. Tickets will be placed on sale at various uptown locations to be announced later,
Bessemer will arrive in Hendersonville Tuesday and work out at Berkeley Park. The team will be quartered on the Brevard College campus during its stay in this area.
The Bearcats finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Blue Ridge Conference with an over-all record of 9-and-5. Most observers agree the Bearcats were equally as good a team as any in the conference.
The Cats earned the right to advance when Brevard, conference winner, elected not to compete, and Enka and Waynesville, tied with the Cats for second, also chose not to play.
——————- [end of article] ——————-
——— Odds and Ends ———–
State Representative Joseph T. Carruthers, Jr. graduated from Bessemer High School in 1925.
Bessemer High School graduated 50 seniors in 1950, 62 in 1953.
Here’s a link to the Bessemer High School Alumni group on Facebook.
There’s a Bessemer Jr. High group on Facebook, but I saw some BHS folks on there, too.
There are over 200 Bessemer High School alumni on Classmates.com.
Until it expires, you can read this interesting article about Bessemer: Humble Bessemer lives on in memories of school’s alumni.
If you grew up in Guilford County, you might find this post interesting: Old School: HS names from Guilford County’s past.
If you have memories of Bessemer High School, or you can add anything to this post, please leave a comment below.