A school name too difficult

You probably have not heard of Morgan-Leary High School.

Its existence is only  noted in a single one of Georgia’s educational directories, the 1957-58 edition. Its actual life was even shorter.

Morgan-Leary is likely one of the shortest-lived high schools in Georgia’s history.

Under its name, the school only lasted three months. The reason for changing it was one of the stranger decisions in state school history, too – Morgan-Leary was too cumbersome.

Morgan-Leary, located in Morgan, was named August 14, 1957 at a Calhoun County Board of Education meeting. It was renamed at another Calhoun County board meeting to Morgan High November 13, 1957.

The reason behind the change was explained by the Calhoun County Board of Education in the November 22 Calhoun County News:

“Upon suggestion of the board members from the Morgan district, a motion was made with concurrence from the Leary board member to change the name of the Morgan-Leary High School back to its original Morgan High School. Explanation revealed the name Morgan-Leary High School was impractical because of its length.”

Morgan-Leary was not even the most complicated name in the state at that time; Sardis-Girard-Alexander, which existed from 1952-87 (or 1954-87) in Burke County had two hyphens and three towns and communities incorporated into its name. And there was also Newnan-Coweta County Central High, though that was nearly universally referred to as Newnan Central.

Morgan-Leary was a name change from Calhoun High. Not to be confused with the city of Calhoun, whose high school held the same name, this Calhoun High had adopted the moniker in 1953, when Calhoun County was seemingly on the cusp of consolidation.

Edison and Morgan were going to consolidate in 1953, with the high school at Morgan. Everything looked ready to go, until the state of Georgia intervened.

No public hearing had been set up in Edison, the state said. Five years later, the state would rule similarly when Cleveland and Nacoochee high schools were kept from consolidating in White County.

High schools in Edison and Morgan went back to their previous status. Morgan kept the name Calhoun.

White County was delayed in 1958 and consolidated in 1959. The opposite happened in Calhoun County where instead of being a temporary delay, consolidation turned into a war.

In 1955, Arlington and Edison refused to consolidate and Calhoun County maintained three white high schools for three more years, with the second Morgan High existing for less than one year.

On February 12, 1958, the Calhoun County Board voted for Morgan High’s students to go to Edison for the 1958-59 school year. In return, Edison sent its middle school students to Morgan.

Morgan’s status as a junior high only lasted until 1968, according to the Georgia Educational Directory. The school closed completely that year, with the only school remaining in the town the all-grades segregated school, H.T. Singleton.

Arlington and Edison were gone by then as high schools.

Low attendance caught up with them and the Calhoun County BOE voted to consolidate both in September 1962, with the two coming together in 1963 when a new high school building opened in Edison.

Sources: The Calhoun County News – Aug. 21, 1953, Sept. 2, 1955, Aug. 23, 1957, Nov. 22, 1957, Feb. 28, 1958, Sept. 20, 1962; Georgia Educational Directory – 1953-54, 1957-58, 1958-59, 1967-68.

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School stories: Hickory Grove

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Hickory Grove school, located in east Hancock County. The headstones behind the building are from the adjoining Hickory Grove Church.

This was a schoolhouse. It remained a schoolhouse until January 1960.

That information about the above Hickory Grove School may seem shocking, but not for Hancock County. Though quite rural, the county operated 14 black schoolhouses until January 1960 and some were even smaller than Hickory Grove. Ten years earlier, there were 23 schools.

Not much is known of Hickory Grove’s history. As it was not uncommon for black churches to double as schools the buildings could have been one and the same in some of the 1930s community reports.

Hickory Grove’s appearance resembles that of a Rosenwald school.

However, while the Rosenwald fund seems to have been generous to Hancock County, the Fisk University database has no record of a school built at Hickory Grove. Nor is it mentioned as one in the Sparta Ishmaelite.

It is certainly possible that Hickory Grove was inspired by Rosenwald schools. The fund is known to be responsible for four other buildings in Hancock, including a school at East End, which was located only a few miles away and though bigger, had a entrance that merely appears to have been a mirror image of Hickory Grove in an archive photo.

The school was active for community and children. Registration for war ration books was held there in 1943.

In 1948, it hosted its district of Hancock County schools in an Achievement Day, where the schools competed in literary and athletics competitions, with special displays of home economics and 4-H club projects. Schools coming over for district were Galilee, Sandy Run East, Archer’s Grove, Cherry Hill, Bethlehem, Culverton, Thankful and Pleasant Grove.

The Georgia Educational Directory did not make an attempt at identifying all black schools until its 1956-57 edition, which only then highlighted the bigger centers. Hickory Grove was not considered one of those.

In 1957-58 and 1958-59, the school was listed as having grades 1-7 under the guidance of two teachers. It was not listed in 1959-60 as a pair of new black schools being built by the the State School Building Authority (Hancock County Training and Southwest) were not finished.

Hickory Grove was finally emptied in January 1960, but possibly not for one of the new buildings. Brand new Hancock County Training was already overcrowded.

As the January 28 Ishmaelite explained, “This will leave some Elementary pupils at the L.S. Ingraham School and some at Galilee as the mammoth new building was not large enough to accommodate them all.”

Galilee was just a few miles directly west of Hickory Springs, almost located on the same road. It looks to have remained a school until 1962.

Shortly after closing, Hickory Grove – as well as its land – was slated to be sold at auction in June 1960, along with several other small former black schools.

Hancock seems to have had a change of heart over what to do with Hickory Grove. Online property records for the county show that the parcel, which is still identified as Hickory Grove School, was granted to Hickory Grove Church for $0.

(Note: The date listed for Hickory Grove’s property transfer to the church is given as May 6, 1960, before it was listed in the Ishmaelite as being part of the auction.)

Sources: The Sparta Ishmaelite – Oct. 21, 1943, April 22, 1948, Dec. 28, 1950, Sept. 24, 1959, Jan. 28, 1960, June 2, 1960; Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database; multiple editions of the Georgia Educational Directory; Hancock County property records.

1949: Clay County High created

Clay County became one of the earlier Georgia school systems to consolidate down to one high school in 1949, when a ruling from the state made it the only solution.

The Clay County board decided May 17, 1949 to join Bluffton and Fort Gaines high schools together.

“The section was taken with some apparent hesitation by the board after public hearings at the courthouse Tuesday morning had revealed the step as one to be taken only because of curtailed allotments from the state,” said Fort Gaines’ News Record on May 19.

The state, said The News Record, had cut their allotment of teachers by four. Bluffton elementary was entitled to three, the elementary at Fort Gaines to six and the consolidated high school earned four.

Elementaries were kept in both cities. The new high school was  housed in that building in Fort Gaines.

Clay’s board said it reserved the right to break up the monopoly on high school education if the situation ever bettered. It never seemed to do so, though conditions did not get worse.

When requesting money from the State School Building Authority in 1952, all Clay County High wanted was a vocational building, which at most cost $68,500.

Little changed at Clay until total integration in 1970, with students from A. Speight coming in. Clay County High combined with Randolph County in 1980 and as Randolph-Clay survives as the last of Georgia’s five post-total integration multi-county high school educational attempts.

Sources: The News Record – May 19, 1949, Aug. 21, 1952, Nov. 26, 1953

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: 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.

A new gym at Oak Park

The opening of new buildings always brought excitement to Georgia towns. That was certainly the case in late 1951 when Oak Park High debuted its new showplace.

With visitors apparently declaring it “one of the nicest and most serviceable structures of its kind,” the gymnatorium, as it was referred to, opened November 13 with games against Wheeler County High.

Wheeler won the girls game, 35-23, but Oak Park’s white-and-blue-clad boys destroyed the Alamo school, 72-39, in the finale.

Oak Park was nice enough that it hosted at least one game from out-of-county high schools. Vidalia and Lyons played there in January 1952 as neither school had its own gymnasium.

Within a decade, the air at Oak Park was decidedly different.

Few would have thought of closing the high school there in 1951, but low-attendance rural high schools who survived the consolidation efforts of the 1950s were soon out anyway under pressure from the state. Oak Park was transitioned into an elementary school in 1963. Twenty years later, the elementary was eliminated as well.

Sources: Swainsboro Forest-Blade – December 13, 1951; The Lyons Progress – January 10, 1952.

Consolidation, only slightly unchained

By the start of the 1950s, most school systems with rural schools realized that they had a very real problem with African-American schools.

Most were in one-room shacks.

The Georgia Department of Education, in its Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports in 1950 said that out of the state’s 2,310 black schools, 1,254 employed only one teacher. By contrast, there were only 135 one-teacher white schools.

Baldwin County was one of the systems with many such schools. There were 21 one-teacher schools in Baldwin in 1949-50 and 29 schools total, according to the Department of Education.

A school survey happened in Baldwin, likely during the first half of 1950. It recommended consolidation of small schools.

Baldwin had nine in a section of the county: Browns Crossing, Fishing Creek, Walker’s Grove, Antioch, New Mount Zion, St. Mary’s, St. Paul, Morgan’s Chapel and Vaughn’s Chapel. Enrollment at the nine totaled 340 students.

After some consideration, the Baldwin County school system decided upon a plan as to what to do with this school population.

They would move them into a hospital. A hospital that had until recently served as a Georgia State Prison hospital (and still was at the time the plan was unveiled).

Milledgeville’s Union-Recorder described the thinking behind this decision as such:

“The board of education believes that since the county has the hospital building under lease from the state for 16 more years and since the prisoners housed there will be moved by August 1, that savings can be made in the number of Negro teachers employed and that a better school program can be carried on.”

Three buses were added to the fleet to transport the students.

The prison was located just west of Milledgeville on GA 22 and actually in the Brown’s Crossing District. It is approximately where the Baldwin County Recreation Department is currently located.

Settling into its former prison digs, the school was named Northside.

Northside apparently remained in its former prison hospital building until c. 1967, when it moved to North Columbia Street.

Sources: Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports of the Department of Education to the General Assembly of the State of Georgia; July 13, 1950 Milledgeville Union-Recorder;  1950 State Highway Department Baldwin County map; Georgia Educational Directory 1966-67, 1967-68.