Accord-ing to research made by students in 1928-29 for Dr. J.J. Doster, the three first schools in Walker County were located at South Lowell, Jasper, and Democrat (which was located between Dora and Summit).
Democrat’s first teacher was Mr. York, and later, Mr. Robinson.
In 1857, David Manasco became the first Superintendent of Education for Walker County. A few of the early teachers were: Shepherd, McDade, Morris, Amiss, Lamar and Scott.
School conditions were described as very poor. Schools were 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 school books to study, so they used the BIBLE. Two months was usually the length of a term. The children walked from two to 10 miles to school. At the start, the children sat on the floor. Later, they split logs and put supports under them to make a bench for them.
Hiram Roberts was one of the early teachers in the county. His contract was written Nov. 16, 1849. His contract read: “ In consideration of the above obligations, we the undersigned persons do severely promise to pay said Roberts seven dollars per scholar for each scholar subscribed to his articles on or by termination of said term and furnish him with a good house suited to the comfort of his vocation. This the 16th of November, 1849.”
One other school I will mention at this time was Providence School,1849, near Parrish. Edith Deason, long-time educator in Walker County, years ago shared the information concerning her grandfather, “Jap” Jones who taught at this school in those early years. Cassandra Jones, his wife, taught at Mt. Hope in 1895 which was the year public funds first became available. She 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 Baby Chester in it. This family and their descendants have served in the schools of Walker County over a period of many years.
America School was held in 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.
Edith and Elbert Deason married in 1924. J. Alex Moore, County Superintendent, gave Elbert a $10.00 a month raise, but he did not give Edith a raise. In 1931, Edith Deason and Irma Borden taught in three big rooms at Providence. This was the first year for Parents and Teachers Association (P.T.A)
Townley School was begun about 1880 in a one-room building that the patrons built. Mr. J.D. H Elton was the first teacher. He was followed by Fannie Townley, Monroe Townely, and Mattie Townley in the next seven years. The teachers bearing the Townely name were descendants of Daniel Townely in January 15, 1822.
George Bagwell came to teach in 1890. Suring these years, when a student progressed through the “Fourth McGuffey Reader,” he was cinsudered educated.
In the year 1898, there were 32 children in school.
In the County Board Minutes on May 27, 1932, Superintendent Alex Moore advised not to hire new teachers who were married women.
Here were some “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 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless attending school functions. 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 and 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.
10. You must wear at least two petticoats
9. You may not under any circumstance dye your hair.
11. Your dresses must 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 blackboard once a day; and start the fire at 7 a.m. so the room will be warm by 8.
Does anyone see a long crowd lined up for a job today with those stipulations?
I think not!