In 1884, Mrs. Emily C. Prudden, a deaf, middle-aged, and former New England housemother visited the Francis Garretts in Gastonia concerning establishment of a girls' school. Mrs. Prudden continued to travel across western North Carolina establishing one or more schools in various towns. She prearranged benefactors for each school, as well as procured individual and organizational contributions. In 1888, she established Lincoln Academy at All Healing Springs, the first of seven schools she founded for blacks. She never asked for payment or recognition for her efforts, and none of the fifteen schools she built in her thirty-year career bore her name.