EARLY SCHOOLS

Posted 3/17/19

I would like to give credit for the following portion of information which I found while researching the history of early Walker County schools, but I found this in two different articles, one four …

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EARLY SCHOOLS

Posted

I would like to give credit for the following portion of information which I found while researching the history of early Walker County schools, but I found this in two different articles, one four pages long and the other twelve, one apparently copied from the other, but no credit is given as to the writer of either, nor dates of the writings. One is titled EDUCATION DEVELOPMENTS IN WALKER COUNTY FROM 1854 TO 1955 and the other DEVELOPMENT OF EDUCATION IN WALKER COUNTY FROM 1855-1955. The longer writing has a more detailed introduction, but then includes information included in the shorter article, which I will copy.

“Public education was started in Alabama in 1854. The early schools in Walker County were like schools all over the state. The three first schools of the county were started at South Lowell, Jasper, and Democrat. The latter was located between Dora and Summit and served a large territory, a Mr. York being the first teacher and one Mr. Robinson another early teacher. In 1857 David Manasco became the first County Superintendent of Education for Walker County. Among the early teachers of the county also were Shepherd, McDade, Morrium, Amiss, Lamar, and Scott.

The schools had a very slim chance in those days. They had school in a log house. They split the logs open in the middle and turned the flat side up for the floor. They had very little means to run the school and the building was very cold. The patrons hired the best educated man to teach school. They had no school books to study, so they used the Bible instead of school books. About two months of the year was the longest school term. The children had to walk from two to ten miles to school. Usually long benches without backs were used for desk. The school day was from eight in the morning to four-thirty in the afternoon.

In 1854 the first real school law was passed. The law created an educational fund, provided for a state superintendent, county school commissioners, local trustees, examinator and certification of teachers, county taxation, and make a state appropriation of $100,000 a year for schools. The first state superintendent was William F Perry...”  Margin note “General William F. Perry”. How time changes things! One administrator in our schools today receives a higher salary than the first appropriation for the entire state.

On page nine of the longer document, after giving a history of former educators in Walker County, the writer returns to write of the early schools and their conditions. I will copy verbatim. It was written in the first person with no identification of that person.

“In 1872 there was only one public school taught, which was in the spring, when the schools were open in July, the State had no money and the schools were suspended for the year.

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

We had four grades of certificates, the fourth grade being the highest and the first grade being the lowest after my term expired the school laws were changed, making the first grade the highest.

We had $5,000 public school funds per 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 were almost without exception constituded the teaching force, that most of the schools were taught in church buildings, the few regular school houses, being made log cabins without fireplaces or other means of heating.

The schools did not open until July, as many of the children helped with the field work and could not attend school until the crops were laid by. They were suppose to be open for three months, but many of them closed with a two and one-half month's session as the larger children had to stop to pull fodder and this caused the teachers and the few children left to loose interest, so the trustees tghought it best to close.

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

Most of our teachers were men. We usually had two or three ladies teaching, but as our patrons feels that a lady could not control the children; they requested that a man be elected to teach “their Child”.” (Credit is given for this last statement to History of Alabama for Junior High Schools  Jackson and Owens, Dixie Book Company Inc., Montgomery, Alabama, 1938.   

“Teachers salaries were from $25 to $40 per month; however, in those days a teacher could not board for $6 to $8 per month in the county.

Thomas Jefferson York was the Superintendent of Education from 1917 to 1920. The most significant work of his administration was the working out of a uniform salary schedule for teachers. A schedule in theory based on training grade of certificate held and length of service or experience. An effort was made to give due recognition to any teacher who achieved marked success and teachers were encouraged to remain in the same school for two or more terms.”

In this weeks column I depended on the work of others but I found it to interest me, and hopefully to you.

One last note: The Eagle gave me a number that a man had called to let me know that he had information regarding old schools. When I sat down to make the call I realized that I could not find it. Please call back, leave your number, and I will call you.     

Contact Wheeler Pounds at 3424 Kings Mill Rd, Oakman, AL 35579, or at wheelerpounds@gmail.com.