School stories: Mount Olive (Twiggs)

Mount Olive (Twiggs).jpg

Mount Olive Elementary, Twiggs County, 2010

The red dirt of middle Georgia tends to stain.

It is difficult to wash out when dry and when wet, turns into an even thicker mud.

Twiggs County has never been populous.

Less than 10,000 people filled out 363 square miles in 2010 and in 2015, the population was estimated to have dropped from 9,023 to 8,390. Instead of a baby boom in Twiggs from 1940-60, the population fell during each census. There were 9,117 recorded in 1940, 8,308 in 1950 and 7,935 in 1960.

The small population of Twiggs was not a wealthy one.

Unlike in other school systems in the 1950s where school buildings were pushed behind a need to stymie overcrowding, Twiggs needed new schools for safety reasons.

When the State Board of Education approved $12 million worth of school building projects in April 1953, the Twiggs County New Era was thrilled that $1 million was to be local:

“The largest beneficiary of the new program would be Twiggs County, which will rebuild every school in its system at a total cost of $1,025,025. Projects will include 32 white and 46 Negro classrooms. All of the structures in Twiggs now are wooden.”

Five schools were approved, high schools for white and black in Jeffersonville (the white structure consolidating high schools at Twiggs, Smith and part of Twiggs-Wilkinson at Danville), a white elementary at Smith and black elementaries at Antioch and Mount Olive. The county was to help fund the building of an elementary at Twiggs-Wilkinson.

Antioch and Smith were both at Dry Branch. Mount Olive was in the southern part of the county.

The red dirt surrounded Mount Olive, an eight-classroom school with a lunchroom, built on land purchased from Mary Hand. The Twiggs County New Era stressed that all buildings would be fireproof, constructed with concrete blocks inside and a brick exterior.

Mount Olive had already been a school base, listed as having four teachers in 1951-52 and eight in 1953-54, after presumably some small school consolidations.

The contract for building was let in June 1955, with the buildings finished in 1956.

Despite the eight classrooms, Mount Olive opened with just seven teachers for its seven grades. Antioch had eight teachers for seven grades. The Georgia Educational Directory finally listed the school as having eight teachers in 1965-66, nearly a decade after it opened.

Mount Olive remained at eight teachers, but was reduced to six grades in 1968-69. The Freedom of Choice era did not seem to affect the school’s student load.

 

In 1970, Twiggs’ schools were restructured so that Antioch and Mount Olive became junior highs with grades 4-7 integrated. Twiggs-Wilkinson and Smith became grades 1-3. By 1972, the elementaries were renamed to South Complex #1/#2 and North Complex #1/#2.

Mount Olive, now South Complex #2, remained grades 4-7, but was down to five teachers. One principal was now handling both southern schools.

The 1975-76 Georgia Educational Directory was the first to list telephone numbers for schools and the last to mention South Complex #2.

South Complex #2 lacked a telephone.

Few improvements had ever made at Mount Olive, to the extent that the building never had a proper parking lot. Georgia red dirt surrounds the property.

In 1976-77, the South Complexes were reduced to South Elementary. Antioch and Smith still split grades in the northern half of the county.

As kindergarten fit into the Danville building, Mount Olive was likely abandoned permanently as a school in 1976.

Sources: Twiggs County New Era – April 30, 1953, May 27, 1955; Historical Maps of Twiggs County; multiple editions of the Georgia Educational Directory

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