Ferrell, James Overton (c1829 VA - 1908 KY)


Ferrell, Maj. James Overton


Father: James B. Ferrell

Birth: Apr 1829, Halifax, Virginia
Birth Source: Census

Death: 21 Dec 1908, Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky
Death Source: Biography, Hopkinsville Kentuckian

Spouse1: Elizabeth Ann Austin, married c1865, Greenville, SC


Only child of James Overton Ferrell and Elizabeth Ann Austin:
  1. Chiles Clifton Ferrell
Maj. J. O. Ferrell was a native of South Carolina (sic Virginia), and was a gallant soldier of the Lost Cause for nearly four years.

He received a liberal education in the schools of his native State and completing his education, first taught a school at South Boston, Va., and in 1857 went to Edgefield, S. C., where he became a professor in a boys' school at that place and continued to teach for three years, until the outbreak of the Civil War. His school was brought to a close in 1861 and the young schoolmaster enlisted in the 19th Regiment of South Carolina Infantry as a private. He went to Columbia, where his regiment was assigned to Gen. A. M. Manigault's brigade in December, 1861. About this time he was made Adjutant to the 19th Regiment and afterwards held the same position when the 19th and 10th Regiments, depleted by heavy fighting, were consolidated.

His first active service was around Corinth, Miss., Farmington in the same State and at other points where there was almost constant fighting. His brigade was a part of the Western Army of Gen. Jos. E. Johnston and the young Adjutant Major followed that intrepid leader through many of the most stirring scenes of the war. Later he was assigned to Gen. Bragg for service in the Kentucky campaign. He missed the battle of Perryville, as his division was detained to engage Gen. Sill, who was chased out of reach and his provision train taken, which was an important capture at that time. He was in the fight at Munfordsville, Ky., and was in the bloody battles of Missionary Ridge, Chickamauga and other fights in North Georgia. He took part in all the fighting around Atlanta and was in the battle at Jonesboro, Ga., August 31, 1862.

Major Ferrell was in many bloody battles during the four years he was in the army, but was never wounded. He surrendered at High Point, S. C., and was paroled, being allowed to retain his horse.

The following fall he returned to Greenville, S. C., and resumed teaching in the Greenville Female College. While there he was married to Miss Elizabeth Austin, the devoted wife who was his beloved helpmeet for more than forty years. In the Greenville College he taught under the late Prof. Chas. Hatlette Judson, who died in January, 1907, shortly after having been awarded a Carnegie Fund annuity.

From Greenville he went to Catonsville, Md., five miles from Baltimore, and taught one year in a military school, and in 1869 came to Frankfort, Ky., and for the succeeding four years taught in the Kentucky Military Institute.

In September, 1873, he came to Hopkinsville and established Ferrell's Military Academy, afterwards known as the Hopkinsville High School. The school was a success from the start and it became necessary for him to employ two assistants. Col. M. H. Crump, of Bowling Green, Ky., Judge Frank D. Glasgow, of Lexington, Va., Hon. Francis D. Peabody, of Augusta, Ga., and Prof. C. C. Thach, of the Alabama State University, were his assistants from time to time during the next ten years.

The school was conducted according to Major Ferrell's rigid ideas of discipline gained in the army and from teaching in military schools and the fame of his school soon spread far and wide. The curriculum embraced languages, higher mathematics and the sciences and the course was practically the same as taught in many colleges. He added a boarding department and his school prospered from year to year and hundreds of young men received a liberal education in the academy that stood near the river at the foot of Thirteenth Street.

Conditions changed in 1881 when the public graded school system was inaugurated and Major Ferrell changed his school from a military academy to a high school for young men. But ten or fifteen years later the public school added high school grades and he again adjusted himself to new conditions and changed his school to a select training school, where boys were given a course that fitted them to enter any college almost without an examination. During this period he trained boys who entered some of the larger colleges and attained highest honors. Here while quietly pursuing the course he chose for his life work, he taught until February, 1903, lacking but a few months of being thirty years in the same school room. One night after a day as usual in the school room, he retired seemingly in good health, but during the night was stricken with paralysis of his left side. For a while his life was despaired of, but he slowly improved until he ceased to be a constant sufferer, but for more than five years remained a helpless invalid. His school was of course immediately closed down for no one could be found to take his place and his long and useful career was at an end.

Maj. Ferrell died December 21, 1908.

Source: The Hopkinsville Kentuckian

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