Our History

A brief history of Mountain Mission

The Setting

The time was early Spring of 1888. The place was the mountainous terrain of Eastern Kentucky.

A 10-year old boy named Sam Hurley, poorly clad, was alone in the woods and was about to “bed down” for the evening. Day after day, he had walked from one house to another, searching for work in exchange for food to eat. His father had died earlier and there was no income in the Hurley household. The few jars of canned food in the pantry had been gone for days.

The Promise

Sam found a rock outcropping which he called a cave and kicked the stones around to make a smooth place to lie down. Some half-decayed leaves pulled up around him provided a blanket of warmth to his shivering body. Then, he was struck with fear: the fierce call of the catamount (mountain lion) … coming closer and closer … drove him to call to God for help. He prayed for God’s protection throughout the night. He told God if he would spare him from the catamount, he would build a place for boys and girls like himself so they wouldn’t have to sleep in the woods.

Sam did make it through the night … and through many more.

After some very rough beginnings, he became a successful businessman. He never attended school. At the age of 22 he married the love of his life, Jane Looney. Jane taught him how to read and write.  Sam was successful and, of course, never gave his promise to God a second thought … until a little boy (much like himself) came into his office in the courthouse in Grundy, Virginia, and asked if Mr. Hurley would take him into his house and keep him because he didn’t have anywhere to go. He told the boy he had seven children of his own and had taken in nine others and he did not have room for him.

Fulfilling the Promise

Later that same day when Sam went out of the courthouse to lunch, he noticed the little boy sitting up against the courthouse crying. Then, he remembered his promise. He immediately visited his lawyer who completed the necessary paperwork for starting Grundy Academy, which later became Mountain Industrial Institute … which is now Mountain Mission School.

Sam Hurley brought Dr. and Mrs. Josephus Hopwood out of retirement at Milligan College. Josephus Hopwood became Grundy Academy’s first president. He set up the educational system of the school. Mrs. Hopwood served as Dean of Women (Girls). After Dr. Hopwood’s health declined, Sam Hurley became President and he and Mrs. Hurley moved to the campus, putting everything they owned into Mountain Mission School.

MMS Today

It is estimated that more than 20,000 children have received care at MMS since its founding in 1921. Chris Slone, great-grandson of Sam Hurley, serves as the school’s sixth president.

The campus first consisted of one building and now contains Hurley Hall for Girls (3 separate residences), Parker Hall for Boys (4 separate residences) and Toddler Hall (for boys and girls under 7 years) plus an educational building, vocational and fine arts building, campus chapel and administration building. It is much like a small college campus. Typically, 200-230 resident students (ages 18 months to 20 years) reside on campus.

A fine private school consisting of grades pre-K through 12 operates on the campus.  MMS teachers with advanced degrees teach several college courses to MMS students. There are 40+ staff members. All students from kindergarten through high school are computer literate and all high school students are computer competent.

More than 95% of MMS graduates go on to college!