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1912 Walker County High School

Photo submitted by Sue Scott (Jan-2005)

 

 

About Walker County Schools

By Ruth Teaford Baker

Prior to 1874, there were one-room schools in operation across Walker County. The schools were open, drafty and not very conducive to learning, one may think. But not so, says various people who experienced this era. The children did verbal responses to questions called reciting. The other younger children heard this. As much was learned  from classmates sometimes as from the teacher.

There were about 48 schools for white children and two schools for black children, with  one teacher for each school. There were about 1800 white pupils, and not more than 20 or 30 black children.

The schools did not open until July, as many of children helped with the field work and  could not attend school until the crops were laid by. They were supposed to be open for  three months, but many of them closed with two and one half months session, as the larger  children had to stop to pull fodder. This caused the teachers and the children left to lose  interest, so the trustees thought best to close.

The school houses were so open and cold, and the roads so bad that it was almost  impossible for the children to attend in the winter. Early spring planting had to be done  with their help, so summer was almost the only school time. However, we had a good  school in Jasper taught by Professor Robbins; this school was open the entire nine months  and was able to continue with the funds supplemented by the patrons and boarding  students.

Most of out teachers were men. We usually had two or three ladies teaching, but as the  patrons felt that a lady could not control the children, they felt that a man be elected to  teach "their child."

Teachers' salaries were from $25.00 - $40.00 per month; however, in those days a teacher  could get board for $6.00 - $8.00 per month in the country.

In 1874, Governor Houstin came into office and a law was passed to issue one million  collars in state obligations bearing 8 percent interest, the interest payable semi-annually by  any state bank in Alabama. This money was issued to the teachers and was worth about 80  or 85 cents on the dollar, except where taxes were to be paid, and then it was worth one
hundred cents.

There were four grades of certificates, the fourth grade being the highest, and the first  grade the lowest.

After 1877, the school laws were changed, making the first grade the highest and the fourth  grade the lowest. We had $5000.00 public school funds annum for the schools of Walker  County.

Striking facts are that during this time there was not in the county a school with more than  one teacher, that men almost without exception constituted the teaching force. Most of the schools were taught in church buildings, the few regular schoolhouses being rude log  cabins without fireplaces or other means of heating.

The County Board of Education consisted of three members, the Superintendent and two  others. All of these were elected by the people at the same time. James Carter Scott's  colleagues on the Board were C.P. Owens and James Cox.

No one would want to go back to those days, nor would we want to see our children in those  circumstances. However, it does us good sometimes to look backward from where we have  come in order to appreciate what we have today. Nine month school years are now being
considered not enough. There are some that are moving toward 12 months with two weeks  inserted through the year for off-time. It is a proven fact that children forget much in the  3-month period of summer and teachers have to repeat the first last part of the previous  year in order to begin the new work.

This trend would be hard on the family with both parents working unless industry rescheduled the work place to coincide with the same time frame.

We went from a man's dominated classroom to a lady's dominated classroom. Now,  thankfully we have a good mix with men and women taking their places in the education of  our children. It is good to see men that are filling an important role in the elementary  classes that at one time was not the case. Children need role models in both gender - and  now that is found in the schools.

Times change - sometimes for bad - sometimes for good. One thing is a surety - change is  here. We move with the times or we create havoc for our children. The most important commodity any county, state, or nation has is its children.

 

 

“Early Walker County School History

By Ruth Teaford Baker

 Mr. L.T. Gurganus of Parrish asked a question that started my mind to thinking about the old schools of the county.  He asked if I knew the number of one, two, and three-room schools in Walker County.  I know that I did a large feature in 1983 of the history of our schools, but I did not divide them into categories according to size.  If our readers will help me, we will see how many we can find.  Remember, also, that many schools went through several name changes.  I will recap a few of those stories and will add any pictures and names as I get them.

 A research report from 1928-29 made by the students of Dr. J.J. Doster, the first three schools in Walker County were located at South Lowell, Jasper, and Democrat (a community located between Dora and Summit) The first teacher at Democrat was Mr. York, and later, Mr. Robinson.

 In 1857, David Manasco became the first county Superintendent of Education.  A few of the early teachers were Shepherd, McDade, Morris, Amiss, Lamar, and Scott.  School conditions were described as very poor.  School was held in a log house with split logs forming the floor.  Needless to say, the buildings were very cold.

 The patrons hired the best educated men to teach school.  They had no books to study, so they used the BIBLE.  Two months was the general  length of the term.  The children walked from two to ten miles to school.  At the start, the new students sat on the floor.  Later, logs were split and legs to support them were added, making benches for their seating.

 Mrs. Frankie Roberts and the late Bruce Roberts loaned material about Hiram Roberts, one of the early teachers in the county.  They had his original contract which was written November 16, 1849.  “In consideration of the above obligations, we the undersigned persons do severely promise to pay said Roberts seven dollars per scholar subscribed to his articles on or by termination of said term and furnish him with a food house suited to the comfort of his vocation.”

His hand-made textbook for arithmetic contained rhymed verse of the reading problems.  I used these problems years ago at the ending of my articles and ask people to work them (if they could).  An engineer in Tuscaloosa worked them using a mathematical formula.  A country man with very little formal education worked them as we did when we were kids by old arithmetic.  A young school child in Jasper used it as a challenge and worked it every week.  They all gave the right answers, but came to their conclusion a different way.

The late Mrs. Edith Deason (who was a teacher for many years) told me there was a school in operation at Providence in 1849.  Her grandfather, “Jap” Jones, taught there.  Cassandra Jones, her grandmother, taught at Mt. Hope in 1895.  It was that year that public funds became available.  Cassandra has been credited with beginning the first nursery school.  She had three children, so she made a play area in the corner of her classroom and kept her baby, Chester, in it.

America School was held in the Zion Church and later moved to America Mining Camp in 1909. 

Old Bankhead School was opened during World War I in 1918.  It was moved to a new location later and called Owens School.

Big Ridge School between Parrish and Gorgas in 1919 had 150 students with three teachers.  The principals in order were: Mr. Burton, Vera Boyd, and Millie Deason.  Mt. Hope was later consolidated with the Big Ridge School.

Edith and Elbert Deason married in 1924.  J. Alex Moore, county superintendent, gave Elbert a $10.00 a month raise because of his marriage but he did not give Edith a raise.  In 1931, Elbert and Edith deason and Irma Borden taught in three big rooms at Providence.  This was the first year for the Parents and Teachers Association (PTA).  The teachers gave box suppers and other programs to raise between $100.00 and $200.00 to run the school.

This was the time when teachers were paid with state warrants, or I.O.U’s from the state.  Mr. J.D. Key’s Mercantile Store at Parrish would accept the warrants at face value.  Mr. Joe Legg accepted them for burial insurance.  Loveman’s in Birmingham would take the warrants at a 20% discount. These were hard days for teachers.

 Townley was begun about 1880 in a one-room building that the patrons built.  It contained a homemade table for the teacher’s desk, a boxed-in corner shelf for the water bucket, and backless benches.    Mr. J.D. Helton was the first teacher.  He was followed by Fannie Townley, Monroe Townley, and Mattie Townley in the next seven years.  The teachers bearing the Townley name were descendants of Daniel Townley, the man who settled the area on January 15, 1822.

 George Bagwell came to teach in 1890.  During those years, when a student progressed through the “Fourth McGuffey Reader.” He was considered educated.  In the year 1898, there were 32 children in the school.

 In the county Board of Education minutes of May 27, 1932, Superintendent Alex Moore advised not to hire any new teachers who were married women.  He also recommended that any married women who were employed by the system at that time and were willing to retire be replaced with unmarried, trained men and women.

            RULES OF CONDUCT FOR TEACHERS

1.      You will not marry for the term of your contract.

2.      You are not to keep company with men.

3.      You must be home between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. unless attending a school function.

4.      You may not loiter downtown in ice cream parlors.

5.      You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have permission of the chairman of the board.

6.      You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.

7.      You may not smoke cigarettes.

8.      You may not dress in bright colors.

9.      You may not under any circumstances dye your hair.

10.  You must wear at least two petticoats.

11.  Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.

12.  To keep the school room neat and clean, you must sweep the floor at least once daily; scrub the floor at least once a week with hot soapy water; clean the blackboards once a day; and start the fire at 7: a.m. so the room will be warm by 8:00.

Anyone want to go back to the “Good Old Days