“Early Walker County
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
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
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.
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.
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, 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.
CONDUCT FOR TEACHERS
You will not marry for
the term of your contract.
You are not to keep
company with men.
You must be home between
the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. unless attending a
You may not loiter
downtown in ice cream parlors.
You may not travel
beyond the city limits unless you have permission of the
chairman of the board.
You may not ride in a
carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your
father or brother.
You may not smoke
You may not dress in
You may not under any
circumstances dye your hair.
You must wear at least
Your dresses must not be
any shorter than two inches above the ankle.
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