HISTORY OF BECKLEY AND RALEIGH COUNTY
Stoco High School
See also Stoco Football History by Rick Baker.
On July 21, 1922, the Raleigh Register reported that a special election would be held on Aug. 1 for the purpose of voting money to establish four high schools in Slab Fork District, to be located at Winding Gulf, Stotesbury, Besoco, and Egeria.
Besoco High School, the predecessor to Stoco, apparently opened in 1923. (Several history articles give the date as 1922, which seems to be incorrect. History articles also call the earlier school Stonecoal; however, this name has not been found in any early newspaper articles, whereas the name Besoco High School appears repeatedly.)
On Oct. 19, 1923, the Raleigh Register reported that Slab Fork district voters approved a levy for a high school building.
On March 19, 1924, the Raleigh Register referred to Jesse Lee Toler, principal of the Besoco High School.
On Oct. 8, 1925, the Beckley Post-Herald reported, “The work on the new school house in Besoco is progressing rapidly and it is hoped that it will be ready for use before Thanksgiving.
On Oct. 17, 1925, the Beckley newspaper reported, “Mr. Winfred Bryson, the principal of Besoco schools, spent the week end in Athens, visiting his brother, Mr. George Bryson.
On Jan. 11, 1926, the school moved to the new building at Lego.
On Jan. 26, 1926, the Raleigh Register referred to the school as Stoco. (This is the first appearance of the word “Stoco” that has been found in Beckley newspapers.) Lacy Cole, the supervisor of schools in the Slab Fork district, named the school Stoco, an abbreviation for Stonecoal. However, the new name may not have caught on immediately, as newspaper articles in 1926, 1930, and 1933 refer to it as Lego High school.
On Dec. 31, 1926, the Raleigh Register reported, “Lego High School, of Slab Fork district, D. W. Bryson, principal, has been given the ranking of high school first class, Miss Eva Keyser, county superintendent of schools, announced this week.”
On May 9, 1930, the Raleigh Register reported, “George W. Bryson, principal of the Concord Normal Training school, will be the principal speaker at commencement exercises of the Lego High school to be conducted Friday night, May 23, in the school auditorium.”
On May 1, 1933, the Beckley Post-Herald reported, “It is expected thirty-seven seniors of the Lego High School will be awarded diplomas at the graduation exercises this year. The list as given by the principal of the school, Harvey F. Pauley, includes....”
At the start of the 1951-52 school year, Stoco High School moved to a new facility in Coal City. The former school became Stoco Junior High School.
Stoco High School closed in 1976. Students from Stoco and Sophia high schools transferred to the new Independence High School.
Some rather sad photos by Matthew Day of what the old Stoco High School in Lego looked like in 2008 are here.
Stoco Has 11’s Anniversary (1937)
This article appeared in the Raleigh Register on Jan. 12, 1937.
LEGO—Eleven years ago on the eleventh of January, eleven seniors (all girls), with many more Juniors, Sophomores and Freshmen moved into a new building here, which has since been known as the Stoco high school.
At that time high school had been taught only two-and-a-half years on Stonecoal. Jess Lee Toler, now of Spanishburg, was the first principal and Bruen Toler, of Mullens was the second. The school was then known as Besoco high school.
D. W. Bryson, now principal of the Beckley Junior High school, accompanied the students as principal when they moved into the new building in 1926.
Before that time classes were taught in the building that is now used for a boarding house at Besoco. It was also used for a teachers’ dormitory at that time.
Since students from all parts of the Stonecoal area attended the high school a new name Stoco (an abbreviation for Stonecoal) was given the school by Lacy Cole, who was supervisor of the schools in Slab Fork district.
This was also the first year that buses were used for transportation, of which there were two. Both were owned by Bob Wood, now of Amigo. They accommodated only students below Besoco. The students from Lillybrook and Princewick walked.
The first two years the train was used for transportation. It was due to arrive at Besoco at 9:20 a.m., but usually got to the school town around eleven o’clock. The train made a return trip to Besoco at 3:30, going on to Amigo. It, too, only accommodated the students on lower Stonecoal.
A third story and many more improvements have been added to Stoco, during the eleven years, and the enrollment has increased from approximately 70 high school students to 410.
Stoco High A Fast Growing And Progressive Institution (1937)
This article appeared in the Raleigh Register on Sept. 28, 1937.
By Register Staff Writer
RHODELL—The Stoco high school building at Lego, in about the center of the Stonecoal section, is a modern brick structure with 14 classrooms, science laboratory, library, two offices, gymnasium, auditorium, and a home economic department.
The building was erected almost 12 years ago. Prior to that time school had been taught in a frame building now used as a club house at Besoco.
Jess Lee Toler, now of Spanishburg, was principal of the high school department for the first year in the old building and Bruen Toler, of Mullens, succeeded him.
D. W. Bryson, now assistant superintendent of schools of Raleigh county, was the first principal of the new building. Bryson also has the distinction of being principal of Stoco high school longer than any other principal during its history. He served from 1925 to 1930. Jess Lee Toler was again principal in 1930.
The following year E. Van Dorsey, now superintendent of schools in Raleigh county, acted as principal of Stoco. He was succeeded by Harvey Pauley, who is now principal of Glen White junior high school. H. E. Carmichael was the next principal of the institution. He served during 1933-34. In 1934 Faye Harper, now principal of Marsh Fork high school, came to Stoco, where he spent two years as overseer.
James L. Hornbeck, who came to Stoco last year, was reappointed principal again this year. Hornbeck came to Raleigh county as a mathematics instructor in Marsh Fork high school at Montcoal. He held that position two years and was then promoted to the principalship of the high school, a position he held for six years prior to coming to Stoco.
Beginning with an enrollment of 42 students, a graduating class of 11 and a faculty of five, Stoco has grown until it has an enrollment of 466 students and there will be more than 50 in the graduating class this year. And the faculty has increased from 15 members, since 1925-26, which was the first year for classes to be taught in the new building and the third year for high school classes to be taught on Stonecoal.
Since students from all parts of the Stonecoal area attended the high school the new building was named Stoco (an abbreviation for Stonecoal) by Lacy Cole, now of Rainelle, who was then supervisor of the schools in Slab Fork district.
History of Stoco High School (1949)
This article is from the 1949 Wigwam, contributed by Dorothy Price.
Stoco High School is located in the little town of Lego, West Virginia, in the very heart of the great Gulf Coal Field.
Stoco High School was organized in the fall of 1922. Prior to this time there were no surfaced roads in the entire area, automobiles were few, ant travel was mainly by horseback, wagon and afoot. This slowness in transportation and communication kept the various communities isolated and as a result the people were denied many of the advantages that accompany better roads and better schools. The people were ever desirous of higher educational opportunities for all the children of all the people. Few parents could afford to send their children away from home for a high school education so "a high school at home" was the slogan at the time. The newly organized school was known as Stonecoal High School and was housed in a six-room two-story frame building at Besoco, where the school remained for three and one half school terms. During this early period, the school had six teachers, including the principal. The curriculum consisted of home economics in addition to the regular academic subjects. At this time basketball was the only form of athletics in which the school participated. It was necessary to confine the basketball season to the fall of the year since only an outdoor court was available to the school.
During this time the faculty of the school roomed and boarded in the same building that housed the high school. When abandoned for school use, this building was used as a boarding house for teachers and was known over the entire area as the "Old Dormitory". The "Old Dormitory" stands today and continues to serve the people of the area by furnishing apartments for families during the present housing shortage.
In February 1926 the school moved "bag and baggage" into the new building at Lego. This new building had ten classrooms, a library, a gymnasium-auditorium, and two offices. The new consolidated school was built soon after improved roads came to the area. The building was the pride of the people and a monument to the faith and importance the people of the region placed in a higher education for their sons and daughters. When the school was transferred from the old building to the new building, a controversy arose as to what name the school should bear. The new building had the name "Stoco" engraved in a concrete slab at the top of the front of the structure despite the fact that the school had formerly been known as Stonecoal High School. However, after a year or so in its new quarters, the school became officially known as Stoco High School, the name it bears today.
The first year in the new building was a memorable one–six teachers, a small student body, and on June 15, 1926, a graduating class of ten, all of whom were girls. Since moving into the new building the school has participated continuously year after year in both football and basketball and above all else, has placed great emphasis on both scholarship and literary achievements. The early grads recall with pride the activities of the once famous Excelsior and Ciceronean literary societies that played such an important part in the life of the school at that time. The competition between the two literary societies, which trained the youth in debating, public speaking, and readings, was keen during the first few years of the school and the societies always packed the auditorium at their annual spring contest. The dramatic club also enriched the school by giving many plays and minstrels during the early life of the school.
In 1929 the first class that had spent four years in the present building graduated. There were twenty in this class, ten girls and ten boys. Since the beginning, the Stonecoal area and Stoco High School have marched hand in hand and each new year has found the school and the area it serves on a higher cultural and economic level. Increased enrollment and demands for a richer educational program for the boys and girls made it necessary for the Board of Education to build a third story addition to the building. This addition was completed in 1930. This made the building one of the most modern school structures in West Virginia. The school now has fourteen classrooms, a science laboratory, a library and study hall, two offices and a gymnasium-auditorium. Funds are available for a new gymnasium-auditorium and new shop classrooms when economic conditions permit construction.
The school's enrollment increased somewhat from year to year, but it was in the fall of 1944 that a big jump came in the enrollment when the entire Collins High School student body joined the student body at Stoco after the Collins High School building was destroyed by an untimely fire. This brought the enrollment of Stoco the 550 mark. The students from Collins were enthusiastically welcomed by the entire student body at Stoco, in spite of the fact that it meant crowded buses, crowded lockers and crowded classrooms.
The present enrollment of Stoco is near 570, the largest enrollment in the history of the school. There are eighty members in the present senior class, making the class this year eight times the size of the first senior class that graduated in 1926. There are eighteen teachers on the present faculty or three times the number of teachers in the school at its inception. At the present time Stoco can truly be called a consolidated school. Five school buses transport ninety percent of the student body from twenty-five communities in the Stonecoal and Winding Gulf area.
Stoco has long been rated a first class high school by the State Department of Education and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. These are the highest ratings attainable by any high school in our state.
In addition to the academic subjects customarily included in a high school curriculum, Stoco offers a commercial course, domestic science, vocal and instrumental music, journalism, and health and physical education. Our fifty-piece band is one of the outstanding bands in the county. The Stoco Broadcaster, our school paper, has been a great coordinating agency for the school.
The Student Council has helped line up the full support of the student body behind all worthwhile school activities.
In athletics, Stoco as won many trophies and honors in basketball, football, baseball, track, wrestling and boxing. Stoco won the state boxing championship in 1935. The school at present participates in football, basketball, baseball and track. Stoco is a member of the Coalfield Athletic Conference in addition to being a member of the Raleigh County Athletic League.
Stoco is proud of its heritage but the school is ever alert to direct its efforts toward building citizens for today and tomorrow. The nine-hundred twenty-three Stoco graduates have entered an impressive array of professions and occupations–medicine, law, engineering, mining, teaching as well as scores of others. A large percent of last year's class is pursuing a higher education. The school takes pride in the fact that many of the graduates have won high scholarship distinction and honors in the leading colleges and universities. Stoco graduates and Stoco students served their country valiantly during World War II, many of them commissioned officers.
Stoco's greatness stems from many sources–from the interest and close support of the people of the various Stoco communities, from the competent and well-trained teachers of high character that have always been on the Stoco faculty, and from the student body itself which has ever been imbued with the desire and zeal to prepare itself to take its rightful place in a finer citizenship of our county, state and nation.
‘High at Home’ Stoco’s Slogan (1950)
Stonecoal School Formed In 1922 In A 6-Room Besoco Building
This article appeared in the Beckley Post-Herald on Aug. 25, 1950.
“A high school at home” was the slogan of the Gulf coal fields before the organization of Stonecoal—now Stoco High School—in 1922.
Stonecoal came into existence in a six-room, two-story frame house at Besoco, where it remained for three-and-a-half years. Behind its opening were years of campaigning by area residents for a truly “local” school. The original school building, doubling as a rooming house for the faculty, was quickly dubbed the “Old Dormitory,” a name which stuck when it was abandoned for educational use. The “Old Dorm” is now used as an apartment building.
On January 1, 1926, the school moved bag and baggage into the new building at Lego—and a dispute over names began. The new structure had 10 classrooms, a library and a gym-auditorium, but “Stonecoal” had vanished. “Stoco” had been engraved in a concrete slab over the entrance. Just who coined the abbreviation is not known.
The first year there were six teachers, a small student body, and on June 15, 1925, the first class of 10—all girls—was graduated. D. W. Bryson, now Raleigh school superintendent, was principal from 1925-38, and was succeeded in order by: A. C. Stowers, E. Van Dorsey, Harvey F. Pauley, H. E. Carmichael, Fay Harper, J. L Hornbeck, Cecil D. Cooke, Clyde O. Wriston, C. D. Munson, Jr., and Sherman C. Trail, school chief since 1945.
Slowly the school developed. Athletic teams went into competition and the Excelsior and Ciceronian literary societies packed the auditorium with their spring debates. The dramatic club started operations. In 1929, the first four-year class—10 boys and 10 girls—was graduated. In 1930, a third story was added to the building.
In 1944, enrollment leaped to 550 when the students of Collins High were moved to Stoco after their building burned to the ground. At the present time there are 18 on the faculty. Five buses transport 90 per cent of the students from the Stonecoal and Winding Gulf areas.
Plans are now far advanced for a new Stoco — an eight-room building to serve high school students only. It will be built at Coal City to relieve crowded conditions.