The following descriptions of the various schools, unless otherwise noted, was taken in part from the late Jill Knight Garrett's "History of Lauderdale County, Alabama," which she personally published in 1964.  If you know of a Lauderdale County School that is not listed here, or if you have school pictures to share please e-mail me. Pat M. Mahan


Appleby Bradshaw Brandon
Coffee Forest Hills
Gilbert W. C. Handy
Hibbett Kilby  
North Wood Avenue R.M. Patton  
Powell H. G. Richards Weeden Heights



     Appleby school was named to honor F. T. Appleby, who was superintendent from 1917 to 1932. The building is the original Coffee High School. Florence Junior High School, built in 1936 on the lot adjoining Coffee High, had housed all junior high classes until 1951 when the new high school was built on its present location. The old high school building was then converted into an elementary school. Upon completion of Richard School in 1961, all the elementary grades were moved to that school. Both the old high school building and the junior high school are now used as junior high schools.
          This building had several fires, and in the 1980's it was badly burned. It has been razed, and the University of North Alabama tennis courts now occupy the area. [back]


          This was the second High School for Florence. Occupied in the mid 1960's, it was named for Henry A. Bradshaw.  Although the buildings still exist, the school, by name, does not. Bradshaw and Coffee High Schools were combined in 2003, and are now known as Florence High School.  [back]


[From the newspaper scrapbooks compiled by the late Oscar D. Lewis,
located in the Local History and Genealogy Room of the
Florence - Lauderdale Public Library.]

          Charles M. Brandon, manager of the Cherry Cotton Mills, was instrumental in the establishment of a school in the East Florence area which was known as the Sixth Ward School and had its first two sessions in a residence a few blocks east of the present site of the school. Miss Ada Coffee was the first principal and Miss Emma Hiss was her only assistant. At the beginning of the third session, the school was moved to the brick store building on the corner of Aetna and Union streets. The free kindergarten was opened on the first floor of the building and the school occupied the second floor. The Florence Evening Bulletin made note in 1900 that a fence had been built around Brandon School to keep the hogs from being allowed to bunk under the school and scratch themselves on the corners of the building.
          Mr. Brandon donated land for the school and the city built a five-room frame building which was named for the donor of the land. IN 1919 the five-room original building was moved tot he back of the lot and the present building erected. [back] See Newspaper Articles about this school.


          This was a combination of the John Slater School and Burrell Normal School, and served the negro children from 1937 to 1958. In December 1958 the twenty-three year old school building burned. It had housed 360 pupils from the 7th through the 11th grades. The new Burrell-Slater Negro High School was built on the corner of College and Cherokee streets and opened for the school term 1960 - 1961. This school has an enrollment of about 561 and is accredited by the State and Southern Associations. [back]


          Before 1917 less than on hundred pupils were enrolled in the city school system and there was no accredited high school until this year. The city schools were Patton, Brandon, Fifth Ward in North Florence, and Slater School for negroes.
        In 1916 ground was broken for the new high school on land given by Mrs. Camilla Madding Coffee, who gave a portion of the ground with the understanding the school would be named for her husband Capt. Alexander Donelson Coffee. The cornerstone was laid 1916 and construction completed in 1917. The school was opened in 1917 but the official housewarming was not held until September 1918.
          In 1917 F. T. Appleby became superintendent of city schools and under his direction Coffee High School became a member of the accredited secondary schools in the state in 1920. This last year, 1920, was the first year in the history of the city school system that a high school graduate did not have to take an entrance examination to enter college. 
          [Note: The buildings still exist, but the name does not. Coffee and Bradshaw High Schools were combined in 2003, and the name is now Florence High School.] [back]


          This school was completed on September 1, 1963, on a 12 acres tract of land donated by Dr. W. W. Alexander and F. R. Stovall. It has 28 classrooms and was built at a cost of $608,000. This school serves the area of the north part of Florence.  [back]


          Gilbert School was born, so to speak, in Dr. L. F. Duckett's cotton patch in March 1921. The Fifth Ward School and the elementary school housed at Coffee High School were combined to form Gilbert School, which was named for H. C. Gilbert, who had served as superintendent of education from 1892 to 1904. When the school opened, 272 pupils enrolled.
          Henry Grady Richards was the first principal and teacher of the seventh grade at Gilbert School. He retired in 1964 after being principal here for 42 years and upon his retirement was presented with a new car by former pupils and parents of his pupils as a token of appreciation for his years of service to the children of this school.
          There were originally eight grades in the school, as were in all the city's grammar schools until Mr. Norton organized a high school. This school met on Pine Street for two sessions from 1914 to 1916.
          The faculty at Gilbert School in the 1930's included Miss Josie Milner, Miss Virta James, Miss Helen Chandler, Miss Era Russell, Mrs. Robert Lanier, Mrs. L. E. James, Miss Ruth Sims, Mrs. N. E. Williams, Mrs. A. B. Staton, Miss Novie Almon, Miss Springer, Miss Alma Lovelace, and others. Miss Ruby Little and Miss Corinne Tuthill were visiting teachers who taught music and art, respectively.
          The frieze over the front door of the new Florence-Lauderdale Public Library came from this school which no longer exists. [back]


          Located on Handy Hill, this school was named to honor the famous negro musician and composer who was born in a log cabin in west Florence. Handy is the largest elementary school in the city.  Fifteen acres are included in this property, which also includes the W. H. Lewis Stadium. [back]


          Construction of this school was started in 1954 in the Norwood Park subdivision, east of the Cloverdale Road...
          The school was named in honor of Sam C. Harlan, who served as a member of the Board of Education from 1921 to 1929 and who had contributed much to the progress of education in Florence. [back]


          On September 1, 1973, "Rufus HIbbett Day" was celebrated in Florence to honor the former coach, teacher, principal, school superintendent, and city commissioner on his 50th year of outstanding community service in Florence.  Hundreds of his former students witnessed the inauguration of the Rufus Hibbett Scholarship Loan Fund which was announced during half-time ceremonies of the Coffee-Sheffield football game. The city also announced...that the new elementary school...would be named the Rufus G. Hibbett, Sr., Elementary School.         
          The resolution read at the game: "In grateful recognition for the many years of outstanding and distinguished service of Rufus G. Hibbett, Sr., to his community, state and nation, the new elementary school to be constructed by the Florence City Board of Education on its newly acquired twenty-two acre pubic school site in the northwestern section of the city is hereby named and designated Rufus G. Hibbett, Sr., Elementary School." [back]


          Kilby began as a model training lab for teachers and was established in 1885 and accepting it's first students in 1886. Prior to the addition of this school laboratory to the curriculum of the State Normal School, future teachers did their student teaching at various schools in the area. Dr. T. J. Mitchell was president of the State Normal School at the time. [back]




          As the Edgemont subdivision grew, the need for a school in this area was soon apparent. The board acquired a tract of twenty the area between Edgement and Cherry Hills. Construction of a 20-classroom building was started April 15, 1958. This school was named by J. W. Powell, who retired in 1958.
          In January 1959, children who had been attending Patton School were moved to the Powell School. This need grew out of a fire which had destroyed Burrell-Slater School. The high school students from Burrell-Slater were sent to Patton School and the white students at Patton transferred to Powell School. [back]


          Richards school, serving the Riverview section, was built at a cost of $325,000, which included grounds and furniture. The school, first occupied September 1961, was named to honor Henry Grady Richards, who, as principal of Gilbert School, had taught three generations of Florence pupils in his 42 years at that school. [back]


          This school became part of the city school system when the Weeden Heights section became part of the city of Florence in March 1951. The school plant consisted of a five-room frame building complete with cafeteria building and equipment.
          On September 27, 1953, announcement was made of the plans for a combination junior high and elementary school at Weeden Heights. [ back ]



     Brooks High School is located on highway 72 east of Killen, Lauderdale County, Alabama on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. S. K. Brooks, Sr., in 1965. [Sockwell, Sandra. "Place Names of Colbert and Lauderdale Counties, Alabama". 1985. Doctoral Thesis.]


          Ticksville  School was a one-room log cabin near Green Hill. In 1885, the teacher was the mother of Allen Thornton, the present Lauderdale County Superintendent of Education (1964).

County Schools as listed in the
1933 - 1934 Financial Report of the
Lauderdale County Board of Education.


Anderson [2 schools,
white and colored]
Confluence Cross Roads Good Springs [colored]
Grassy Hammond Haraway Howard

Lauderdale County High School

Lexington Mt. Olive [colored]  Mt. Pleasant



Rogersville Public School Sweet Gum


Springfield Whitehead  


District 2

Alabama Antioch Atlas Blackburn [colored]
Bailey's Chapel Center Star
[2 schools, white and colored]
Ebenezer Green Hill
[2 schools, white and colored.]
[2 schools, white and colored]
McGee Mt Zion [white] Myrick [2 schools, white and colored.]
New Hope Palestine Pisgah [colored] Pleasant Valley
  Pruitton Wilson  


District 3
Bethel [colored] Beulah Burcham Valley Cedar Grove
Central High Cloverdale [2 schools, white and colored.] Coffee [colored] Elting
Fairview Hewitt's [colored] Hopewell [colored] Jackson
Jacksonburg Kilburn Lovelace Mars Hill
Mt. Zion [colored] Oakland [2 schools, white and colored.] Ray Shiloh [colored]
St. Florian Stony Point Threets Underwood
  Warren Weeden  


District 4
Dabney Gravelly Springs Graham Kendall
Macedonia Rhodesville Smithsonia
[2 schools, white and colored.]
Union Hollow Wright Waterloo
[2 schools, white and colored.]


Schools listed by Jill K. Garrett in her
History of Lauderdale County

 but not included in 1933-34 brochure

Bethel Grove Brush Arbor Bumpass Creek
Comas Little Zion Lone Cedar
McNary Panther Creek Rogers
Romine Union Woodland


School names mentioned in Sandra Sockwell's Doctoral Thesis 
"Place Names of Colbert and Lauderdale Counties, Alabama"
Copy located in the Genealogy-History room of the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library. The following are those schools, some of which are not located elsewhere by the same name.

Rocky Knoll &
Green Tree, p.492
T3 R12
1900 - 1929
Ray, p. 492
T3 R 12
ca 1929 - 1949
Rock Primitive Baptist Church [Black], p. 491
S18 T3 R 11
Jerusalem [Black]
p. 492
Brown's Chapel Methodist Church and School,
p. 113
Anderson Rosenwald, [Black], p. 59
West End High School [Black, aka Oakland Colored School] p. 59 Antioch,
p. 61
p. 62
Atlas, aka Comer School,
p. 65
Bailey's Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and School,
p. 67
Old Bethel School,
p. 435
(New) Bethlehem School, p. 91 Beulah,
p. 92
p. 113
Bush Arbor,
p. 123
Cedar Hill,
p. 137


          During the early years of the county's existence, there were quite a few private schools. Some of them were:


Green Hill Academy Mars Hill Academy Lorance School
Locust Dell Academy Bailey Springs University The Baptist University
Florence Synodical Female College Florence Female Academy
Florence Male Academy  


          Bailey Springs University for the higher education of women was established in 1893 and was organized by William P. Ellis, Dr. Henry A. Moody, Ella B. Ellis, and Charles H. Tatum. Dr. Moody served as its first president. The university was incorporated by the legislature on December 13, 1894. The panic of 1893 and 1894 caused financial difficulties for the school and it closed about 1900. At least one diploma was given. [back]

Also known as Florence University

          The Baptist University was known locally as Florence University and was built during the boom of the 1880's. Land for the school was donated by the Florence Land, Mining, and Manufacturing Company. The location was across the street from the waterpipe on Seymour Street in North Florence. Leon Jolly cut the stone used in the foundation and steps of the building.
          It was originally designed to be a men's school, but before the college was ready to begin operation, the Florence boom had subsided and the building was not occupied for a number of years. Later it was opened as a girl's school under corporation leadership and not under Baptist auspices. Local young ladies were transported to the school campus in a horse-drawn four-in-hand pleasure coach, which the boarding students used on Sunday to go to church.
          The college burned in 1911 at night and longtime residents who rushed to the scene remembered the young girls jumping out of the windows in the excitement of the fire. The debris and rubble remained as it was for many years. Some of the bricks were used by residents in the vicinity for garden walks, courtyards, patios, and the like. This school is the origin for the name University Heights which was given to this section. [back]


          In 1833 N. M. Hentz and his wife Caroline Lee came to Florence and founded Locust Dell Academy the following year. This school grew until it had an attendance of 70 and the faculty increased accordingly. Mr. & Mrs. Hentz, who lived in Florence for nine years, were cultural leaders in Florence society. After they left, Locust Dell Academy was absorbed in 1847 by the Florence Synodical Female College. [back]



            On the earliest maps of Florence, Ferdinand Sannoner reserved a square for the location of a male academy on Tuscaloosa Street. The Florence Female Academy was later built on this site. The main college building stood in the center of the block now occupied by the Federal Building, or the Florence Post Office. The adjoining Elks Club is the original structure erected in 1847 by Zebulon Pike Morrison and used as the dormitory for the young ladies. In 1847 the old Locust Dell Academy was absorbed by the Synodical Female Academy under the Nashville Synod. In 1855 the school became the Synodical Female College over the vote of Governor Winston.
          The president of the new college was Robert M. Patton and the secretary was William P. Campbell. Among the early presidents were Dr. William H. Mitchell, J. D. Anderson, and H. E. Stone. Certain property was deeded to the Synod on November 25, 1854, in trust for the maintenance of the school. This act was amended on February 13, 1895, to use this land to liquidate the school debts. [back]


     Mars Hill Academy for Males and Females was founded in 1871 by Tennessee native and famed Christian Church/Church of Christ evangelist Theophilus Brown "T. B." Larimore (1843-1929) on twenty-one acres of land about five miles Northwest of Florence (on what is now Cox Creek Parkway.) The land was inherited by his first wife, Julia Esther Gresham, from her father's, Philemon Gresham's, estate. Larimore was assisted in this task by Esther's brother-in-law, John Andrew Thompson Esq., (ca. 1831-1873) an Irish immigrant and Lauderdale Circuit Court Clerk.  Larimore's sister, Mary taught at the Academy, as did Esther's other brother-in-law, Elder John Christian Ott (ca. 1845-1908). The school was a co-ed non-denominational school with an emphasis on the Bible from the beginning. However its emphasis gradually shifted to training men for the ministry in Churches of Christ. Larimore was inspired to found the school by Elder J. M. Pickens' Mountain Home Academy, at which Larimore taught briefly in 1868. After Mountain Home closed, Mars Hill was the only school of its kind among Churches of Christ in the area, and had students from places as far away as Corinth, Mississippi, and Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Elder Larimore operated the school from 1871--1887, at which time he closed it in order to devote his full time and energy to preaching.
[For more information, see FD Srygley's 1889/1890 Smiles and Tears or Larimore and His Boys and Wayne Kilpatrick's "History of the Church of Christ in Northwest Alabama, 1866-1880," in Life and Legend in Muscle Shoals History: The Journal of Muscle Shoals History, Vol. IX. [ Compiled by Lee Freeman ] [back] [Go to page 2 - Mars Hill Academy]

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