The name of John Bain lives on in the story of Historic Bain Academy, the subject of a $3 million bond referendum that will be determined by MInt Hill voters on Nov. 6.
Born in 1809, John Bain was orphaned at an early age and reared by his older siblings. After they passed away, he inherited the 700-acre family farm, located off Lawyers Road. In response to his request to build a school for the community, Philadelphia Church approved the construction of Bain Academy, which opened to students in 1889 and held its first graduation the following year. Mr. Bain paid $2,800 to have the two-story brick school built. “Nothing before or since had happened so quickly,” noted the late Russell M. Kerr.
Bain Academy flourished from the start and attracted a number of boarding students who lived with local families. The school offered a well-rounded curriculum that included physics, rhetoric, oratory, music, and Latin – not just the three R’s. It was the first graded school in Mecklenburg County. All the teachers were college graduates (not a county or state requirement), A highly respected school, Bain Academy was one of only two high schools in the county that prepared students for college and for life. Its graduates became doctors, lawyers, city officials, preachers, merchants, teachers, stenographers, bookkeepers, tradesmen, craftsmen, farmers, and homemakers.
For the remainder of his life, John Bain was a frequent visitor at the academy. According to one newspaper account, “Mr. Bain… delighted in listening to the little folks ‘songs and the big folks’ debates and recitations. He was so happy to carry his gold-headed cane which had been given to him by the grateful young folks of the school.”
After John Bain died in 1897, the Bain Trust was established. It continued to provide funds for the school through the year 1935. After a devastating fire in 1903, trust funds were used to rebuild the school within a year’s time. (During this period classes were taught in homes and at Philadelphia Church.) The trust also paid for the addition of four rooms, land for a playground, a gymnasium, an agriculture building, and teacher supplements – a grand total of $16,240.
Bain graduates returned to the school for reunions year after year. The reunions became as legendary as the school itself and were often noted in Charlotte newspapers. In the late 1930s North Carolina Governor Clyde Hoey was the keynote speaker at a Bain Reunion.
An undated newspaper article from long ago sums up the importance of John Bain’s contributions to Mint Hill: “If Mr. Bain could come back and see the development which has been made and know all the good that has come through the influence of the school, his cup of happiness would overflow and he would consider the founding of Bain Academy was the best investment he had ever made. The school is more lasting than one of bronze or marble. May others follow his noble example and leave their name as a living memorial for generations to come.”
John Bain is buried in Philadelphia Church’s West Cemetery, across from Bain Academy. An obelisk monument bears this inscription: “John Bain, the builder of Bain Academy, donated to Philadelphia Church, 1889. Long may his name live.”