School stories: Hiram Rosenwald

Not every story of a closed school ends badly, with ruins, weeds and caved-in roofs.

Some not only thrive, but have something to teach us.

Hiram Rosenwald is one of these stories.

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Hiram Rosenwald, 2013

Rosenwald schools got their name from Julius Rosenwald, a supplier who eventually became president and chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Company. Rosenwald took an interest in African-American education, especially in the south, where schools were lacking and conditions were deplorable.

Through a partnership with Booker T. Washington, he became a board member at Tuskegee and set up the Rosenwald Fund in 1917. One of the major programs of the Fund built black schools – nearly 5,000 of them across 15 states. The New Georgia Encyclopedia gives Georgia’s share of this total as 242, built in 103 counties.

Many of the schools were small – one- and two-teacher – and were aided by community support. That was the case in Hiram, where the fund contributed $750 towards the $3,010 total cost for a local school. African-Americans, presumably Paulding County/area citizens, contributed $1,400.

Hiram Rosenwald was budgeted in 1929-30 and built as a two-teacher school. Notes from Fisk University’s Rosenwald Database said it included an elementary library valued at $120.

For the next 25 years, Hiram Rosenwald faithfully served. For part of its history, it contained high school grades, but by the 1946-47 term, it was limited to seven grades, older students going to Matthews in Dallas.

In 1952, Paulding County became one of the first systems in Georgia approved for Minimum Foundation Program school building funds, with further support coming from a local bond issue passed later that year.

Plans called for the building or improvement of nine schools in the county. Plans also called for the consolidation of all black schools into one: Matthews.

Grading began on school sites in the spring of 1954, but not all of the schools were open by the time the 1955-56 year was to begin.

“The Board regrets that all the new buildings are not ready for the opening of school,” said The New Era on August 18, 1955.

Matthews was one of the schools that had yet to open and the Paulding County Board of Education opted to send all of Hiram’s students back to the old Rosenwald school at the beginning of the term. The new Matthews was finally dedicated October 30 that year, with Dr. Lynette S. Bickers of Atlanta University delivering a special speech.

R.L. Cousins, perhaps the leading African-American involved with education in Georgia (and honoree in the naming of two high schools), was also present.

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Historical marker at Hiram.

After Matthews opened in its new building, Hiram Rosenwald was transferred to Sweet Home Baptist Church, which had purchased the property in July 1955 for $500. Sweet Home continued to keep up the building in the decades after. In 2001, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Hiram continues to keep the building’s spirit alive. There is now a museum dedicated to its history as a school and it remains active for community events, with updates on Facebook.

Sources: The Dallas New Era – June 19, 1952, Aug. 28, 1952, March 4, 1954, Aug. 18, 1955, Nov. 24, 1955; National Register of Historic Places; Fisk University Rosenwald Database; New Georgia Encyclopedia.

School stories: Mount Olive (Twiggs)

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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

School stories: South Side

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South Side in Brooks County was barely visible from the road in 2010.

The woods of Brooks County hold secrets.

The county seat and main city of Brooks is Quitman. There are other towns – Boston, Morven, Dixie, Barney, part of Pavo.

But Brooks is a large county and a rural one.There are lots of pine trees and lots of places to get lost. It is perhaps not surprising that there were nearly 40 African-American schools in 1950 within its borders.

A better effort was made on behalf of Brooks’ white schools. Only eight of those existed in 1950, half of those large enough to have high schools.

The other half, however, were all four-teacher institutions, existing at Barney, East Side, Sand Hill and South Side, the latter of which might have actually been Southside. (Spellings had little consistency.)

South Side opened in 1942, strangely highlighted in a brief history of Brooks County Schools, and probably one of very few schools to be built in the year after World War II began. It seems to have combined Nankin and Palmetto schools and was listed as carrying seven teachers its first year.

The student load did not last long.

The 1943-44 Georgia Educational Directory said there were six teachers at South Side. In 1945-46, the number was down to four. The number did not rebound at the war’s conclusion and four it would stay for the rest of its history.

South Side’s history would be short-lived.

With Georgia preferring its elementary schools to have at least one teacher per grade, many rural locations were in trouble. Though South Side’s included grades have not been found yet, a guess of 1-7 or 1-8 is probably not far off. Four teachers meant even more trouble.

If that was not trouble enough, other factors were at play as Quitman city and Brooks County worked to figure a merger as the school building programs were finishing.

South Side was not necessarily being maintained well, based on a sanitation report printed in The Quitman Free Press not even seven years after its opening.

A survey of all schools in the county listed South Side’s water and bathroom situation as having a drilled well and electric pump, but “unsanitary pit privies.”

The opening of the new, consolidated high school in Quitman meant that there was now more room at the nicer town schools to house children.

No stink seems to have been made when Brooks County announced in March 1959 that South Side would be closing, along with Barney, East Side and Sand Hill. South Side students were divided between Dixie and Quitman.

Brooks would never use the South Side building again as a school. Its status post-consolidation is unknown, though its condition in 2010 seems to suggest that someone did maintain the building for at least some time before the woods grew around it.

Though rural, South Side was not totally alone. From 1953-59, a very short distance separated it from Empress, a consolidated African-American school. Empress itself closed around 1967.

Sources – The Quitman Free Press – Jan. 6, 1949; March 19, 1959; Multiple editions of the Georgia Educational Directory; Greater Brooks.

School stories: Central High (McRae)

Central High (McRae)

The former Central High School in McRae, 2012. The sign from its days as Central Elementary is standing to the right of the entrance.

In just about every corner of Telfair County there is an abandoned school.

Lumber City is still neat, with a bell out front to remind of those bygone days of education. Weeds grow through Milan’s black school. Workmore died as a school, then died as an antique market, whose signs are still up. Rock Hill seems to beg for attention just to the side of US 441.

McRae-Helena, the conjoined county seat at Telfair’s northern tip, has its own tribunes to former education. Old South Georgia College continues to sit proudly on a hill as a museum. But barely off the middle of town is another series of abandoned buildings.

Those buildings were Central High School, which was open from 1958-2003.

There is little microfilm of The Telfair Enterprise housed at the University of Georgia from the 1950s. What took the Telfair County school system so long to get going on its school building project is hazy for an outsider, who can only suppose that the delay was either location of sites or a fight by Milan and Lumber City white high schools to stay alive.

Whatever the case, Telfair County students could only be bystanders as their schools disintegrated. Conditions grew so bad that the Telfair Enterprise ran a two-part story in 1957 highlighting them, complete with pictures.

1957-02-28 Telfair Enterprise (Twin City)

Twin City High (The Telfair Enterprise, Feb. 28, 1957)

Twin City High, the name of McRae’s black school, looked to have been a hand-me-down former white school, based on its size. An instructor in the school said the building swayed in the wind.

New schools across the county had already been planned, with the details released in February 1956. A new consolidated African-American high school (combining Twin City, Rock Hill, Milan and Lumber City) was to be located on a 20-acre tract donated by the city of McRae.

Months after the series on school conditions, Telfair was able to get started and the buildings were open in the fall of 1958.

Countians were even nice enough to approve the building of two new gymnasiums to go with their new schools, but those were not to be built until the schools were nearly finished and the new Central High played its first season of basketball on the road.

Central High (McRae) gym

Central High’s gymnasium was built with bond money voted in 1958. Amazingly, it seems that post-integration, someone merely painted over the “HIGH” part of the name, a rare artifact of its former days.

Central High swept to the state basketball titles in 1961.

C.J. Easley’s Tigerettes defeated Liberty County, 50-45, to cap an undefeated season and E. McDonald’s Tigers tripped up East Depot (LaGrange), 58-51.

No football was played at Central, perhaps in part because none of the white schools did. Central’s average daily attendance hovered around 300 for most of its existence.

Telfair began stepping up its integration efforts prior to total consolidation in 1970. In 1969, the Georgia Educational Directory lists Central as being only grades 2-12.

Post-integration Central became a middle school, serving grades 5-8, later adjusted to 4-7. In c. 1986, it was renamed Central Elementary, with grades 3-7. In c. 1989, Telfair removed its middle grades and the old school became grades 3-5. Central was shuttered in 2003, when the school system opened a new elementary school that combined primary and elementary grades.

Central High (McRae)

Either a vocational building or classrooms built after Central’s opening.

Sources: The Telfair Enterprise – Feb. 23, 1956, Feb. 28, 1957, March 7, 1957, Nov. 21, 1957; Macon Telegraph – March 26, 1958. Multiple volumes of the Georgia Educational Directory.

School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of school buildings. Some are long abandoned, some are still in use. Most will be rural or small town schools. Information is provided by newspaper archives and editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.

School stories: Wilson (Ringgold)

Wilson (Ringgold)

A rear view of Ringgold’s Wilson High in 2013.

This was an all-grades school.

No, not the giant two-story building in the background. The one with the chimney. The one that resembles a small office.

This was Wilson High School, one of the smallest black high schools in Georgia.

Wilson opened in the building in September 1955. The history of black education in the preceding years was not well-publicized in the Catoosa County News.

From 1949-52, it was a two-teacher school. Teacher counts were not included again until 1956-57, when it had expanded up to three.

Wilson was not only quite small, it was the only school for African-Americans in the county. If any others had existed, they closed prior to the 1949-50 school year.

What sufficed as a school building prior to Wilson’s construction was not described in Catoosa County’s state survey, which was published in the newspaper January 3, 1952. It can be assumed that it was a frame building. A new building was in the works as soon as Catoosa revealed its improvement plans in 1953.

The Georgia Department of Education’s first attempt as a reasonably thorough list of black schools did not come until the 1956-57 school year. In that edition, Wilson was a 10-grade school. It was also listed as Ringgold Colored.

When exactly the Wilson name was applied to the school was unknown.

The Georgia Department of Education did not pick up the name in its directory until the 1959-60 school year and the first reference found in the Catoosa County News as Wilson was in October 1956.

The Educational Directory upgraded Wilson to 12 grades in 1957-58. It was listed as having four teachers in 1965-66, which may have been its final year as a school; Wilson is not in the 1966-67 directory.

Georgia Interscholastic Association records (housed by the Georgia High School Association) list Wilson’s average daily attendance at the high school level as 17 in 1959-60. If it still existed in 1966-67, Wilson’s ADA had increased to 22.

(Oddly, the Georgia Department of Education does not list Catoosa County as having a black high school in its 1961-62 publication, Public High School Data.)

Wilson’s existence as a high school was perhaps an odd one. Its ADA was one of the smallest of any public high school on either GIA region list.

It was not uncommon for counties with minuscule black populations in Georgia to bus school children to a neighboring district. Nearby Murray County was sending its high schoolers to Emery Street in Dalton – a county that also abutted Catoosa.

Eventually, Ringgold High grew around old Wilson. That school is the one in the background of the top photo. Perhaps surprisingly in the era of segregation, they were virtually neighbors after new schools opened in 1955.

Luckily, RHS had a use for the building.

Wilson is now the JROTC headquarters for Ringgold High. It’s a bit frightening that one department of a school is located in what was an entire grades 1-12 school.

Though a tornado came through in 2011 that damaged both Ringgold High and neighbor Ringgold Middle, Wilson still stands.

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Wilson is now a JROTC building. A careful examination of its walls show where windows were bricked over.

School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of school buildings. Some are long abandoned, some are still in use. Most will be rural or small town schools. Information is provided by newspaper archives and editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.

School stories: Seville

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Seville school, Wilcox County, 2017

Seville is slightly off the beaten path of US 280 in the western half of Wilcox County.

Pronounced See’vil, it was a town once right in the thick of things, on the highway and in population.

A 1950 United States census enumeration map estimated the town’s population at 250, just 100 less than the nearby town of Pitts. The map also showed 280 going right through the heart of town.

Seville was already beginning to languish in 1950.

The school building above had already been shuttered. Fifteen years ago, the situation had been different.

The Georgia Educational Directory first began listing the amount of teachers per school in the 1937-38 edition. That year, Seville had five of them and was considered a “standard” elementary school.

While not explained in any of the old directories, state-issued educational surveys from the 1910s-20s considered “standard schools” to have a good, clean building with well-trained teachers using at least some modern supplies and equipment. Standards had likely been raised by the 1930s, but probably  not by much.

The standard label was gone in 1940-41. The number of teachers was down, too, to four. That number dwindled even further in the 1941-42 Georgia Educational Directory to three.

World War II was peaking for the United States in 1943-44 as Seville dropped yet another teacher. That might have been it for the school. The 1944-45 directory is not online and the school did not appear in 1945-46 edition.

Not long after, the remainder of Wilcox’s rural schools began closing. By 1951, white schools were only in Abbeville, Rochelle, Pitts and Pineview.

School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of schools buildings. Some are long abandoned, some are still in use. Most will be rural or small town schools. Information is provided by newspaper archives and editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.

 

 

School Stories: Good Hope-Peters

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The former Good Hope-Peters School in February 2010, located in southeast Walton County

The Minimum Foundation Program and State School Building Authority was a dual-purpose organization for Georgians: it enabled school systems to upgrade education and for Governor Herman Talmadge, it enabled school systems to upgrade education, hopefully enough to stave off integration.

When integration began sweeping the state, it meant that systems generally now had a bunch of buildings without a purpose. DSC01151Most attempted to incorporate their formerly all-black schools in some way, but for buildings in rural communities, those attempts were generally short-lived.

Talmadge’s grand scheme of warding off integration was already beginning to wear slightly thin by the time the new Good Hope-Peters school opened in the town of Good Hope in Walton County in 1958. A year earlier, Little Rock, Ark.’s, Central High had been the first blow to the deep south’s chances.

Good Hope-Peters had already existed in name, combining the black Good Hope and Peters schools at the start of the 1951-52 school term. The new school came via State School Building Authority funds, built for $164,000 and containing 12 classrooms, a library and a principal’s office.

An estimated 239 students were enrolled, according to the Sept. 3, 1958 Walton Tribune. It was an increase over the 150 from a year ago, due in part to students consolidating from the small Mount Enon and Bethany schools.

For the first year, the school held grades 1-10. Tenth grade was shipped to Carver High in Monroe in 1959-60. Ninth was dropped by 1963-64. Georgia Educational directories list the school as holding eight grades for the remainder of its days as Good Hope-Peters, but it appears that Walton County received a grant in 1966 for preschool; Good-Hope Peters was one of the sites listed to get a class.

Life at Good Hope-Peters came to an abrupt halt at the end of the 1967-68 school year. Walton planned a massive desegregation program. The initial plans, announced May 27, 1968, were to house K-5 at Good Hope-Peters and 6-8 at Good Hope (a white elementary) and operate them as one school.

However, Walton was told by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) the overall county plan was not completely acceptable. In the redraft, both Good Hope-Peters and Good Hope were eliminated as schools. Under its original purpose, Good Hope-Peters served 10 years.

The school then received a strange savior.

George Walton Academy, one of quite many private schools to open in Georgia in the late 1960s under the guise of a sudden need for quality education, DSC01149 took over both campuses in the fall of 1969. It is unknown if Good Hope-Peters was included from the start or not, but by the time George Walton opened a new building in late 1974, both Good Hope sites were operating.

After George Walton’s departure, Good Hope-Peters was used to educate special education students, in combination with Morgan County as the Walton-Morgan Training Center. The school is not listed in any Georgia Educational Directory and is unknown how many years the site was operational.

(Walton Tribune – Sept. 3, 1958; Sept. 9, 1959; April 13, 1966; May 29, 1968; July 3, 1968; Aug. 21, 1969; Nov. 14, 1974; July 6, 1976.)

School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of schools buildings. Some are long abandoned, some are still in use. Most will be rural or small town schools. Information is provided by newspaper archives and editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.