The Story of Us

Boone County High School part of 200-year history of education in Florence

Morgan Daniels

For many students, especially those who have lived in Boone County all their lives, it is hard to imagine a time when Boone County High School was not around.

The oldest of the four district high schools, Boone was created in 1954 when multiple city high schools consolidated into a single county high school.

The process in which Boone County’s one-and-two-room schoolhouses transformed into large buildings with multiple teachers and students took over a hundred years.

Squirrel Hollow School, constructed in 1819, was the first of many small single-room schoolhouses to be built in Florence.

It was a 14 by 20 foot house built on the foot of Banklick Street. The school had slab seats and a single rock fireplace, and was named due to the abundance of grey squirrels in the surrounding woods.

The photo depicts one of the early school houses in the Florence area in the 1800s. (, used with permission)

After that, a series of one-room schoolhouses were built around the city, one of which was a public school on Price Pike built in 1828.

At one point, the Town Hall on Main Street at Dortha Avenue was even being used for schooling purposes. In 1865, however, when the school’s director left, Town Hall’s teaching rights would be bid on every year until 1887.

A similar process happened to schools in communities throughout the county, whether along the river in places like Petersburg, Hamilton, and Constance, or inland in places like Hebron, Burlington, Pleasant Ridge, and Union.

In 1881, the Price Pike school was sold, leaving Florence without a public school building for the first time since the Squirrel Hollow School was built.

In 1887, a new Board of School Directors was elected, and within the next year, a new school was built on Montgomery Street.

A post card depicts the public school building that served Florence until the early 1930s. (Kentucky Historical Society, Ronald Morgan Kentucky Postcard Collection, Graphic 5, used with permission.)

This new Florence school had two rooms to separate the primary grades and advanced grades.

By 1901, Almer Michael Yealey had inherited this two-room frame building that only had two teachers, one acre of land, a five month school term, and no grades.

That school remained the only public schoolhouse in Florence until 1908, when Kentucky’s school system drastically changed.

A law was enacted in Kentucky that stated every county in the state should have at least one high school and it should be located in the county seat, which in Boone County was Burlington.

The new law also deemed that all tax-payers, no matter where they live in the county, had to pay a school tax.

At the time, for Florence residents to travel all the way to the new Burlington school daily was an act that took more time and money than it was worth. Therefore, a petition was filed with the county judge that led to the establishment of a school district in Florence.

By 1911, A.M. Yealey’s school on Montgomery Street had been granted two more rooms, another teacher, and a four-year graded school plan.

The school had a variety of courses available for students, such as Latin, Physics, Ancient History, and American Literature.

Florence students stand on the athletic field with the school in the background that would serve Florence until the early 1930s. This photograph is from around 1910. (, used with permission)

In addition, “manual training” for boys and “domestic science” for girls was devoted to one class period per week.

Florence, along with the other county schools, grew and developed as time went on.

In 1925, the county conducted its first ever basketball tournament, where the teams played on an outside court during the afternoon and Union won in both the boys and girls division.

Florence eventually expanded to having six rooms, a large basement, and seven teachers whose salaries were the highest in the county.

By 1931, Florence had granted diplomas to 80 students before consolidating with the Boone County School System in September to form a graded school.

The new school, known as Florence School, was erected that year on Center Street and would teach students elementary through high school.

It was a large three-story brick building that is now a part of the current Florence Elementary School.

The building that is currently connected to Florence Elementary served high school students in Florence from 1931-1954. (Lance Melching)

That consolidation became the trend, and by 1934 there were five consolidated city schools in the county.

By 1950, many of those county schools were becoming overcrowded and needed to expand.

The decision was eventually made to consolidate the upper grades in Florence, New Haven, Hebron, and Burlington city schools into one Boone County High School.

The building was erected in 1954 on Price Pike on the edge of Florence.

Boone County had a total of 515 students enrolled in the high school that year, along with 18 teachers plus principal Chester Goodridge.

The class of ‘55 was the first graduating class at Boone.

N.H. Ockerman, the superintendent at the time, allowed for the students to vote on Boone’s school colors.

To avoid being the same colors as the previous high schools, Columbia blue and silver were eventually chosen.

In regards to the mascot, the process was not as simple as choosing the colors.

After several options were shot down, such as the Boone County Bison or Moonshiners, Goodridge was fed up and called the students rebels.

A postcard of Boone County High School depicts the school as it appeared shortly after it opened in 1955. (, used with permission)

In the mid 1950s, the movie “Rebel Without a Cause” starring James Dean was popular among teenagers, so the thought of being the Boone County Rebels was quite appealing.

The students voted, and “Rebels” easily won the majority.

Boone County High School was the only public high school in the county system until Conner High School opened in Hebron in 1970. Ryle High School later opened in Union in 1992, and Cooper High School opened in Union in 2008.

Today, Boone has more than 1,300 students enrolled, has won multiple club and athletic awards, and has accomplished much in its 66 years.

It took a hundred plus years of reforming and expanding, but Boone County eventually found its way from small frame schoolhouses with one room and teacher, to a large building with successful programs that benefit and influence students all over the county.