School for the Deaf

Historical Marker #197 in Danville commemorates the founding of the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD), "the first state-supported school in the United States for the instruction of deaf children."

In the early nineteenth century, General Elias Barbee, a state senator, recognized the need to educate Kentucky's deaf children. Barbee knew this firsthand; his daughter, Lucy, was hearing impaired. Therefore, in December 1822, Barbee and other legislators passed an act to establish the "Asylum for the Tuition of the Deaf and Dumb." The bill was signed into law by Governor John Adair. The name of the school was later changed to the Kentucky School for the Deaf.

The act proclaimed that "it is desirable to promote the education of the community, who, by the mysterious dispensation of Providence, are born deaf." It established the school in Danville and placed the institution under the control of the trustees of nearby Centre College, located a half-mile away. These men, many of whom were Presbyterian ministers, "are hereby authorised [sic] and empowered to receive by legacies, conveyances or otherwise, lands, slaves, money and other property, and the same to retain use and apply to the education of the deaf." The act also called for a committee of twelve "ladies" to help oversee the school. No pupils would be turned away, the act proclaimed, for "Indigent children resident any where within the state, shall be received into the asylum, [and] maintained and educated gratuitously." The Centre College trustees controlled the school, which was funded thanks to a Florida land grant, until 1870, when a separate board of trustees was established.

When classes began in November 1823, the students met in a former tavern known as "the Yellow House." Located on the southwest corner of Main and Fourth streets in downtown Danville, historian Calvin Fackler called the building "a large, two-story frame with a bell atop."

Seventeen pupils were present at the first session. While most of the students were in their late teens, the oldest was thirty and the youngest twelve years old. Lucy Barbee, the daughter of Senator Barbee, was among the first students. The Reverend John Kerr, a Presbyterian minister, was the school's first superintendent, and his wife acted as "matron" of the school. They served from 1823 to 1833. Sadly, their careers were cut short when they both died in a cholera epidemic.

In 1827, the school moved to its present location, a mile to the southeast. On April 15, 1876, the "Yellow House" burned down. This historical marker notes the original site of the building. KSD realized the need to commemorate the site as early as 1864. Then, "The Kentucky Standard," the school's magazine, noted, "The Kentucky School for the Deaf is one of Danville's famous firsts and deserves such an honor."

Images

Governor John Adair

Governor John Adair

Kentucky Governor John Adair signed the bill into law that created the "Asylum for the Tuition of the Deaf and Dumb," which later became the Kentucky School for the Deaf. Courtesy the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Downtown Danville, Kentucky

Downtown Danville, Kentucky

Downtown Danville, Kentucky. The "Yellow House," a former tavern where the Kentucky School for the Deaf held classes from 1823-1827, is located on Main Street. It is likely the middle structure in this image. Courtesy of Centre College. View File Details Page

Boyle County Courthouse

Boyle County Courthouse

When the Kentucky School for the Deaf began classes in 1823, they first met in "The Yellow House," a former tavern. This structure was located at the corner of Main and Fourth streets in downtown Danville, near the Boyle County Courthouse. Courtesy the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Kentucky School for the Deaf

Kentucky School for the Deaf

In 1827, the Kentucky School for the Deaf moved to its present location. Courtesy the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Jacobs Hall, Kentucky School for the Deaf

Jacobs Hall, Kentucky School for the Deaf

In 1827, the Kentucky School for the Deaf moved from "the Yellow House" to its present location. Jacobs Hall is located there. Courtesy the Boyle County Library. View File Details Page

Centre College

Centre College

When the act creating the Kentucky School for the Deaf was passed in December 1822, it placed control of the school under the Centre College trustees. These trustees ran the institution until 1870. Courtesy the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Sanders, “School for the Deaf,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed February 25, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/119.

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