“Mrs. Greene” is a name well-known to students of the Black Patch War. Her name is often spoken in a lowered voice or with a knowing look.

Mrs. J.W.L Greene was, for several years, executive secretary of the Dark Tobacco District Planter’s Protective Association of Kentucky and Tennessee – the Association.

She was, however, so much more than that. She was a teacher.

Mrs. Greene - Nancy Elizabeth Morgan – was born in 1874. She completed all of the grades in Bowling Green, where she attended public school. For two years she was a student at the General Perry Seminary – an institute for young women only.

Eventually General Perry Seminary became a part of Potter College. Nancy Elizabeth Morgan became a student there.

She was close to graduation when she married Professor J.W.L. Greene on Aug. 20, 1891. She did continue her studies, however and took a “regular course” every year. This included math, English literature, history, Latin, art and music, according to Mrs. W.I. Shannon.

Her husband taught in Rutherford, Tenn. in 1893. In 1894 he was chosen principal at the Cedar Hill School. Mrs. Greene became a teacher in the Primary Department.

Professor Greene was interested in having the “best methods” in every department of his school. Phonics was, at the time, the most up-to-date way of teaching reading, writing and spelling. Prof. Greene encouraged his wife to be trained in using Phonics.

Mrs. Greene was the first teacher in Robertson County to use this new method in the classroom. Often she would go to teachers’ meetings throughout the county to share what she was doing (in-service)!

Sometimes she would take her own beginners’ class to demonstrate the steps. Sometimes she would use students at the school where she was presenting.

Not everyone approved of the new method of teaching. Some teachers continued to use the ABC method (learning the alphabet first, rather than sounding out words.) Some parents demanded a return to the “old way.”

According to Mrs. Shannon, one mother brought her daughter to enroll and refused to leave her if the Phonics method was used.

The woman was told that Phonics was being used. If the child could stay for one week, however, she would be reading, writing and spelling at the end of that time. If not, the mother could take her child out of school.

Of course, the little girl did very well and remained at school in Cedar Hill.

Nancy Elizabeth Greene was always chosen for the Primary work in the county’s Summer Institute because of her success. It was said that “her heart was in her work and to teach little folks was her delight, for they were always spontaneously natural in word and actions.”

Unexpected was the death of Prof. Greene in January, 1902.

Mrs. Greene’s life would change.

In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.

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