The St. Paul High School Class of 1927

© Jerry F. Couch 2020

THE EVENING OF FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 1927 was a momentous occasion for 120 high school students in Wise County.  At a joint graduation ceremony for all seven of Wise County’s high schools, 120 seniors received high school diplomas from Dr. J. J.Kelly, Superintendent of Wise County Schools .  The ceremony was held in the (then) new auditorium at Appalachia High School.

Dr. J. J> Kelly


From the Big Stone Gap Post, Wednesday May 25, 1927


Dr. Hillman of Emory and Henry Will Address Student Body

St. Paul, Va., May 21 — The Commencement Exercises of St. Paul High School will begin Sunday morning, May 29th, at eleven o’clock with the sermon in the Baptist Church.  Dr. J. N. Hillman, President of Emory and Henry College, will be the speaker on this

Dr. James N. Hillman

occasion.  The Senior Class play will be presented on Tuesday evening, May 31st.  Class night exercises will be held Wednesday evening, June 1st.  Both of these events will take place in the St. Paul High School Auditorium.

The graduating exercises for the graduates of all the high schools in Wise County will be held at Appalachia on the evening of June 2nd.  St. Paul will be represented by eleven graduates who are as follows:

Myrtle Kiser, Belle Talbert, Thelma Warden, Julia Smith, Mildred Marcum, Kenneth Addington, Fred Bolton, Dominick Molinary, Lincoln Kiser, Cecil Holbrook, and Victor Molinary.

Baptist Church 1928
St. Paul Baptist Church where commencement services were held for the Class of 1927 on May 21st of that year.  The photo you see here dates from 1928.



Ladies and gentlemen, fellow students, and teachers:

This is a great day for us, and for you who have believed in us strongly enough to put us through this school.  For we have finished our first stop – education at home.  Many of us will go away soon to begin the second step – education at college.  After this comes the most important step of all; education in the world of men and women; in the world of work and play; in the university of life.

We realize, though not as fully, perhaps, as we should that this is the turning point in our educational career.  Up to this time, we have all studied practically the same subjects.  We have wrestled with the problems of Mathematics together and have mastered the same names and dates in History.  We have been given the same literary viewpoints in English and Literature.  We have been a unit, or practically so, from the time we entered school together.

Tonight, we shall not really lose our unity; but we will expand into individuals, following different lines of study.  We shall retain our unity in the memory of the days we have spent in this school, and in the thousand and one things that will find us forever to St. Paul.  But we will travel in diverging paths soon.  We hope that each will find his or her Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow, regardless of what path he or she travels.

We believe that you, our people, will be justified for your faith in us.  We who are planning to study engineering hope to build the greatest monument of all to the glory of you, our parents and friends.  We who are preparing for the study of Law hope to make the greatest speech of all for the memory of you.  We who desire to become surgeons and physicians hope to advance the cause of health-giving science to the honor and credit of you who have given us this chance.

All those of this little group who have decided on homemaking as a life’s career, hope to make these homes reflect the same training and influence that you have given us.

Our motto is “Not evening; but dawn,” and it is certainly appropriate at this time and to this class.  For each of us here tonight feels with the optimism of our youth, that day is just breaking on our higher education and on our appreciation of learning and knowledge.

I am sure that I speak the sentiments of every heart in this class of 1927 when I offer to the teachers of St. Paul High School, both past and present, our sincerest thanks for what they have done for us, and our regrets that they cannot go with us into the new fields of learning.

I feel sure that I voice the sentiments of this class when I offer to those students who have not yet graduated, the heartiest well-wishes for the rest of their careers as students in St. Paul High School, and the sincerest regrets that we cannot be with you a little while longer.

Finally, I am sure that I echo the sentiments of this class when I say to you, fellow graduates, that we will always feel that we belong to one another, regardless of the paths we may tread, and that a common love and appreciation of St. Paul High School will always bind us together even though we may be separated by the poles.

Fellow graduates, it is not Evening; it is the dawn.  Teachers, students, and patrons, it is not really goodbye; it’s Au revoir!


Closing Activities for the 1926-1927 school year included a musical recital by the elementary students on May 26th.  This program was followed by a musical recital by the upper grades on May 30th.   The senior class play was “The Laughing Cure,” a comedy in two acts written by Eben H. Norris in 1916.

On May 27th, a banquet honoring the Class of 1927 was given by members of the SPHS faculty and the school’s junior class at the St. Paul Baptist Church.  Mark Hillman, operator of the Gaiety Theatre, treated the senior class to a movie on May 28th.

Domer and brother Victor Molinary ca.SPHS 1927

Brothers Dominick “Domer” Molinary (left) and Victor Molinary – SPHS Class of !927


In 1927, the St. Paul School became an accredited high school,  Students could now engage in competitive sports with other high schools in the region.  Though SPHS’s student body was small in number, their teams had grit and determination.  This would continue to be true until 2011, when St. Paul High School was consolidated with Coeburn.

From the Big Stone Gap Post, Feb. 4, 1927

Members of the SPHS basketball team for the 1926-1927 school year included Domer Molinary, Harold Jessee, Hubert Fletcher, Victor Molinary, and Fred Bolton.  Substitutes were Dave Barrowman and John Smith.  The first game played indoors was Elkhorn at St. Paul, November 31, 1926.  The team colors were red and black.

Members of the SPHS baseball team for the 1926-1927 school year were Domer Molinary, Captain, shortstop, and pitcher; Victor Molinary, shortstop and left field; Fred Bolton, catcher; Holland Fletcher, first baseman; Theodore Jessee, second baseman; Harold Jessee, third baseman; John Smith, center fielder; Hubert Fletcher, shortstop and pitcher; and substitutes Charles Cunningham and Kermit Smith.

The first baseball game of the school year was played by St. Paul was played at Big Stone Gap on April 16, 1927.  The second game was at St. Paul with East Stone Gap on April 20 1927.

Faculty Members of SPHS for the 1926-1927 school year were Earl C. Cochran, Elizabeth Fitch, Roy D. Cox, Ruby Kilgore, Mary Sue Shafter, Nancy Daugherty, Lillian Hartsock, Nannie Lou Meade, Leona Addington, Amelia Hatchett, and Mary Elizabeth Blackwell.

John T. Brewbaker was the school’s principal during the 1926-1927 school year, departing in September of 1927 for the City of Norfolk.  There, he served in various administrative capacities within the city’s school system for the remainder of his career.

Brubaker was a veteran of WWI, having served in France.  Before coming to St. Paul, he was principal of Buchanan High School in Botetourt County.

The_Big_Stone_Gap_Post_Wed__Feb_16__1927_ST. PAUL SCHOOL HONOR ROLL
From the Big Stone Gap Post, February 16, 1927



The story of the SPHS Class of 1927 would be incomplete without particular mention of two of its members, J. Lincoln Kiser and Mildred Marcum.

The_Bristol_Herald_Courier_Mon__Oct_24__1927_MARCUM-KISER WEDDING
From the Bristol Herald-Courier, October 24, 1927

…..and they lived happily ever after.


NOTE:  This article could not have been written without the mementoes shared by the Molinary family.  I offer my grateful thanks for their interest in and support of local history – a history in which their family has played an important role.


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