“I USED TO WALK TWO MILES TO SCHOOL – BAREFOOTED!”
By: Sue Tindel and Robert Earl Standland
I guess we have all heard about how our mamas and daddies and our grannies and grandpas walked to school – probably barefoot. And we heard how they couldn’t always attend because they were needed to help in the fields. Life was tough for them. During the 1930s the School Board did not directly provide transportation for the rural students. Instead they contracted with private individuals who owned school buses. Sounds kinda’ like a big yellow taxi that was paid by the School Board.
Numerous individuals have contacted the Clerk of Courts office in the Courthouse or have come in hoping to find information on the various schools which have operated in Jackson County. Regretfully we have very limited information to offer. The burning of the School Board offices in March 1968 further complicates the situation. Efforts are ongoing by many individuals to reconstruct and preserve the history of the Bascom school, the Union school, etc. Perhaps if we all work together toward filling in those years Jackson County can regain some of that history. As a start we have gleaned whatever school information we could find from books on Jackson County by Jerrell Shofner and J. Randall Stanley as well as other sources. Both gentlemen were able to research School Board records and are the source of most of the following material. Others have contributed information and/or photos.
The attached 1916 School Record is a transcribed copy from the only book we have in the Courthouse and details the name of the school, the number of teachers, the number of students, and the length of the school term. At that time most of the schools were only in session four or five months. Additionally the actual record book shows the names of the teachers, how many teachers at each school held state teaching certificates, etc. Some of the records show the number of square feet of blackboard space, which was as little as three square feet in some schools!.
WEBBVILLE School opened February 27, 1827.
MARIANNA ACADEMY was incorporated by an act of the Territorial Legislature on February 6, 1834. The first building was destroyed by fire in 1837. The Marianna Academy evolved into Marianna High School.
UNION ACADEMY was begun at Greenwood in the 1840s.
Dr. SAMUEL BELLAMY taught “a select classical school” during the 1840s.
Governor John Milton had a private school at SYLVANIA in the 1840s & 1850s.
The MARIANNA MALE & MARIANNA FEMALE Seminaries were established prior to 1852. Mrs. HARRELL ran an antebellum “finishing school” in Marianna for young girls.
Mrs. Elsie GAMBLE conducted classes after the Civil War on the Ely estate in a small rock house formerly used as a studio.
In 1868, there were 8 schools in Jackson County; by 1872 the number increased to 18; in 1883, there were 58 schools.
The KIRKLAND school began in the 1870s in the “rural community south of Neal’s Landing”.
ENTERPRISE school began in Graceville in the 1870s.
In 1890, the school at Cypress received county funds but school was suspended at Neal’s Landing for lack of patronage and was suspended at Sylvannia “until a house to teach in was built by the people.”
In 1891, the school housing Marianna High School was too small and inadequate for the number of students . Tuition ran $3 to $5 per month.
In 1893, Marianna High School, Greenwood, Sneads, and Cottondale received County tax money. Special School Districts were established for the following schools:
Sneads May 18, 1899 Little Zion (col) Feb 2, 1906
Galilee May 1, 1901 Campbellton May 1909
Graceville May 16, 1903 Cottondale June 18, 1909
Grand Ridge May 16, 1903 Marianna April 5, 1910
Greenwood May 7, 1904 Bascom June 1914
Spring Hill May 7, 1904 Malone April 1911
Johnson May 18, 1905 Sinai School began before 1908.
Tax Districts were formed for financial support of the following schools:
Kynesville, Bascom and Grand Ridge in 1903.
Greenwood, Campbellton and Spring Hill in 1904.
Pre-1900, Marianna had the only High School and Sneads had the only Junior High.
Sneads High School was formed sometime before 1899.
Graceville High School was formed in 1905.
Marianna High School moved into a new building in 1907.
Greenwood High School was formed before 1910.
The City of Marianna funded the establishment of an “industrial colored school” in 1916 and a “colored schoolhouse” within the city limits in 1918. (Question: did one of these become the Gilmore Academy? In court testimony in a 1943 case, testimony mentioned “Calhoun school, a rock building” on Orange Street. I find no other mention any where else. Was the Gilmore Academy ever called the Calhoun school? Comments are most welcome and encouraged.)
The West Florida Colored Baptist College was incorporated to operate at Mt. Olive. It was later relocated to Marianna. (See the attached list for the 112 schools for the 1916 school term, the enrollment, the number of teachers, and the school term)
Per Dale Cox, Cox School was first known as Watts School and was located adjacent to the Watts turpentine still.
At some point, Owens, Green, Cox, and Crossroads schools became the Central School.
Malone High School was built in 1920 by the good citizens of Malone with no county or state funding.
105 separate schools were in Jackson County in the early 1920s (down from 112 in 1916).
The Kynesville School burned in 1922.
Cottondale High School was built in 1925.
A new Marianna High School was built in 1926 on Daniels Street.
Per J. Randall Stanley, in the 1920s & 1930s, “R.T. Gilmore’s Academy was attended by most of the young blacks of Marianna . . . it later became the Jackson County Training School. . . The Baptist College continued during the period and a few Marianna blacks started their educational career at Cook’s Institute at Two Egg.”
Cherokee School was built in 1928 and was an amalgamation of Hickory Level, Hickory Pond and Pittman Hill schools.
Per Jerrell Shofner - In 1941, only 8 schools in Jackson County were accredited while 15 white and 49 black schools were not recognized as adequate. This is a disturbing comment from Mr. Shofner and might be explained by the fact that only 8 schools had school terms of 8 months. The remaining schools were in session only 4 or 5 months out of the year. See the 1916 list)
At one time, Jackson County had the largest number of one-teacher and two-teacher schools in the State. This was “remedied but not entirely cured in 1950.”
Chipola Junior College was chartered in 1945 (on 200 acres).
The 1949-1950 school year saw a new gymnasium built at Marianna High School, a new gymnasium built at Malone High School, and an elementary school built in Marianna. The enrollment was approximately 10,000 students. There were 23 white schools in the County – 8 senior high schools, 5 junior high schools; and 43 negro schools which included 2 senior high schools and 4 junior high schools.
In 1951, Jackson County schools saw record breaking enrollment. However, 10 of the smaller (white) schools which operated in 1941-42 were now closed. These included Compass Lake, Cave Springs, Hickory Pond, Paront, Lovedale, Pilgrim’s Rest, Pittman Hill, Concord, and Central.
Hasty Pond was in its last year and would transfer students to Alliance in 1955.
In 1951, Alliance, Cypress, Dellwood, Kynesville, and Magnolia had maintained fairly constant attendance levels since 1941 but Cherokee dropped from 127 students in 1951 down to 55 in 1954. Attendance was down in Alford and Union. Campbellton High School was down slightly, Graceville was constant and Malone had a slight increase.
In 1951, Marianna showed an increase from 919 to 1535; Grand Ridge increased from 324 to 401; Sneads increased from 321 to 490; Cottondale High School increased from 173 to 497. Greenwood and St.Paul’s showed increases and the Graceville Negro School received a new four-room school in the 1955 budget.
In 1961, a Junior College for Negroes was opened near the Jackson County Training School. However, in 1965 it was found to not be in compliance with the desegregation ruling and was ordered to be integrated into Chipola Junior College.
Currently, efforts are underway to preserve and restore the old Bascom School. The exterior work has been mostly completed – windows have been replaced, a new roof, new wiring, etc. - and effort is now focused on the interior. Funds are short and the work is slow. Anyone interested in helping is asked to contact the Friends of Bascom School at 569-2412 or 209-0481 for additional information. Watch for the fundraising spaghetti dinner, catfish dinner, and new cookbook coming out this year.
The status of the old Marianna High School on Daniels Street is unknown at this time. This list is not complete and is a first attempt to begin the preservation of the history of education in Jackson County. If anyone remembers the closing of a school and/or where the students then went, any details of these small schools which have disappeared, please contact me. The names of principals and teachers would also be most welcome. Any additions, comments, or corrections are greatly appreciated. Contact Sue Tindel or Robert Earl Standland at the Clerk of Courts office 482-9552.