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Wheat community homecoming this weekend

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Alumni of Wheat High School and Old Roane College will gather with residents of the former Wheat community this weekend to celebrate their annual homecoming.

The Oct. 3 service will begin at 11 a.m. in George Jones Church in the former community off Blair Road. John Stair Jr. will give the message.

A basket lunch will be served at noon.

Former Wheat residents and their descendants gather the first Sunday in October as a way to pay tribute to their former community, which was displaced due to the Manhattan Project that helped bring an end to World War II.

Wheat was first known as Bald Hill because all the timber in the area had been cut to construct houses.

Poplar Creek Seminary was established in 1877. The school grew, and George Jones donated more than 200 acres of property for school use in 1878-79.

The Rev. W.H. Crawford, a Presbyterian, was school president and teacher.

A post office was established near the campus in 1881. It was then that the name was changed to Wheat in honor of the first postmaster, Franklin Wheat. He was also a trustee of the Poplar Creek Seminary.

The Rev. John P. Dickey, a Methodist minister, established a subscription or “laud” school. The school, in a log building in front of the present George Jones Baptist Church, later burned.

After nine years of operation under the name of Poplar Creek Seminary, steps were taken to form an institution for higher learning.

In 1885, the board and faculty of Poplar Creek Seminary agreed to a college and applied for a charter and incorporation of the name of Roane College.

Roane County Board of Education assumed responsibility of the educational institution in 1908, and Roane College continued to operate until 1916. Faculty members were dedicated men and women equipped with training, high ideas and abiding determination with the best interests of the students and the school in mind.

As the college grew, larger buildings were needed. Lumber for new construction was taken from the school property, with men in the community providing the labor.

In 1892, Roane College was financially sound and was accredited by the state as a four-year college with more than 200 students enrolled.

Many of the students stayed in the boarding house for a small fee. Most of the meals served to the students were prepared from crops that were grown on the campus farm. Some of the students stayed in homes in the community.

After the property was deeded to the Roane County Board of Education, the construction of Wheat High School was completed in 1916.

A dormitory for girls was built, and the boys dormitory became known as “the boarding house.”

School buses began to run in the mid- to late 1920s. Wheat High School offered outstanding sports programs for both girls and boys.

Largely through the generosity of George Jones, a community was built. Now, many years later, he still provides the setting for its reunions.

Symbolic of an era now gone, Wheat’s former residents are beckoned to return to the hallowed walls of the Rev. George Jones Church. With an abundance of love and respect among friends and neighbors, Wheat was considered a model community.

A number of people annually sacrifice their time, talents and energy to the success of the homecoming.

The Wheat Alumni Association recognizes Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Committee members Steve and Teresa Goodpasture, David and Heidi Miller, Martin and Ann McBride, Lloyd and Betty Stokes, Bobbie Martin, Mick Weist, Lisa Ramsey, Colleen Black, Mary Fair and U.S. Department of Energy manager Jim Thompson for their work preserving the memories of the Wheat community.