In 2016, 419 of 458 schools in the Georgia High School Association played football, including 91 of the 121 in Class A, the league’s smallest. That’s a far cry from 1960, when in Class C – then the GHSA’s tiniest – 33 of the 135 schools hit the gridiron.
We want to get married
But we’re so young
Can’t marry no one
– The Beach Boys, I’m So Young (1965)
High school marriage is not often a topic of discussion these days. As Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston announced their upcoming marriage in 2008, the New York Times cited census records for 10 years earlier, that a mere one percent 15- to 17-year-old boys and girls had ever been married.
Outside of MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” television series, the idea of marriage at such an age seems bizarre. In 2015, the average age for first marriage was 27 for women and 29 for men, ages that have been on the rise for several years.
A few generations ago, marriage at a young age was much more common. In 1950, the average man married for the first time at 22, the average woman at 20. The numbers were the same in 1960, with slight fluctuation. The U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, in a 1973 study, said 7.2 percent of females aged 15-17 were wed.
With kids marrying so young and much more often, it is natural that it was a concern for school systems. Students were staying in school longer and Georgia systems were adding 12th grade, hopefully keeping their charges at their desks until they were 18.
“It looks to me that if there was ever a school system ripe for consolidation, it’s yours.”
– David Rice, State Board of Education, to Wilcox County officials, March 1963
In 2016, Wilcox County, Georgia, was estimated to have a grand total of 8,761 citizens. The number was a bit smaller just over 50 years ago. Census records show Wilcox with 7,905 citizens in 1960.
The Wilcox County Patriots currently compete in Class A athletics, the smallest in the Georgia High School Association. There are only two years that Wilcox has ever been above Class A. After GHSA restructuring in 1978, in which Class B was eliminated, the school jumped to AA. It was A again in 1980 and Class A is where it has been since.
All Wilcox County public high school students attend Wilcox County High. There are no private schools within Wilcox’s borders and probably no more than a handful or two attend private schools elsewhere.
With all of Wilcox in Class A, it would seem natural that it was an early consolidation because of its lack of students. Fellow Class A school Lanier County did not entertain another white high school beyond the early 1920s. Irwin County finished consolidating its white high schools in 1952. Turner County was complete in 1957. It had only two white high schools to consolidate at that time.
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.