Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Question of School Consolidation, a Matter of Community Pride (A History of Education in Union County, Part 4)

Mr. M. L. Duggan from the Georgia Department of Education in his 1916 survey of Union County Schools proceeded with his recommendations for consolidation, studying district maps carefully, and computing the distances students would have to travel as they went to a better and more centrally located school. In the Suches Community, he recommended that Zion and Mt. Airy go to Mt. Lebanon and, with some upgrading, that it become a “standard” school.

It took twenty-four more years for consolidation to occur in the five one- and two-teacher schools in the Suches area. Woody Gap School was dedicated in the fall of 1940. A dream of Ranger Arthur Woody and implemented by his son Walter W. Woody, the school was erected on lands where Georgia’s Civil War Governor, the honorable Mr. Joseph Emerson Brown, lived while he was growing up. Woody Gap School stands today as a tribute to those who hold great pride in their community and in accessible education for their children.

Inspector Duggan moved to the Coosa District. Fairview School there had 32 students in four grades in 1916 taught by W. C. Sullivan. The building was in very bad repair and there was no equipment. Mt. Pleasant School was two miles northwest of Coosa School, with mountains to the south. W. T. Sullivan was teacher of the five grades with 37 pupils enrolled. Coosa School, the best of this grouping of three schools, had Miss Docia Lance as teacher, 38 pupils, a good ceiled and painted building with charts, maps, blackboards, long benches and a teacher’s desk. Mr. Duggan’s recommendation was for Fairview and Mt. Pleasant to consolidate at Coosa. This advice may have been followed sometime between 1916 and 1933, for on the latter date Coosa had two teachers, J. C. Hemphill and Ms. Velma Byers, with 55 pupils listed for each. Mt. Pleasant was still operating in 1933 with 50 pupils and Ms. Vianna Hendrix as the sole teacher.

Mr. Duggan’s next grouping had six schools. Smyrna School had Miss Bessie Mauney as teacher and 32 students in 7 grades. Bell School had Miss Belle Mauney as teacher, with 34 pupils in 6 grades. Ebenezer School had I. V. Rogers as teacher with 33 students in 7 grades. Pleasant View School was a dilapidated building where Miss Callie Hill had twenty pupils enrolled but only four present the day Mr. Duggan visited. Russell School had Miss Queen Henson as teacher with 20 students in 7 grades. Antioch School had 45 in 7 grades taught by W. N. Clements. Mr. Duggan’s comments were: “This group calls loudly for consolidation. Mountain barriers would perhaps exclude Bell School and Antioch might well group in another direction.” Some of these schools consolidated or the names were changed by 1933. Antioch was still operating with 57 students with Queen Henson as teacher (this teacher had been at Russell School in 1916—no longer listed as Russell in 1933). Smyrna was still going in 1933 with the same teacher, Bonnie Mauney, teaching 29 pupils. Ebenezer School had E. S. Mauney as teacher with 39 enrolled.

Mr. Duggan recommended that Mt. Pleasant, Corinth and Pleasant Valley Schools be consolidated. In 1916 statistics for them were: Corinth, Clarence Rich, teacher, meeting in a church building in bad repair, five grades, 30 pupils; Mt. Pleasant, Miss Mary Mauldin, teacher, good church building but poor equipment, 24 pupils in 6 grades; and Pleasant Valley School with Miss Janie Carder, teacher, 6 grades and 56 pupils.

How had the picture changed for these three schools by 1933? Mt. Pleasant had 46 enrolled with W. C. Sullivan as teacher; Corinth had 39 enrolled with (Rev.) Claude Boynton as teacher; and Pleasant Valley was manned by Vianna Hendrix with 50 enrolled. In 1932, Corinth School had entered a new two-room school building with a stage where dramas and programs were presented. Peggy Hale School had been built to take the place of the school that had met in the Mt. Pleasant Church. This school, named for a lady, had Mrs. Vienna McDougald (Mrs. W. J.) as teacher and 18 pupils. Spriggs Chapel School was not mentioned by Mr. Duggan in his listing in 1916, but in 1933 Mary Miller was teaching at this school held in a church building and she instructed 22 students.

Under his heading “Some Consolidations Advisable” Mr. Duggan listed five schools that included Union with James Patterson as teacher, seven grades and 33 pupils. He noted that it was only one and three-fourths miles from Mt. Zion School and two miles from Bruce School. Mt. Zion had Miss Myrtle Mauney as teacher in a large two-story building, with lodge rooms on the second floor. Miss Mauney had a large enrollment of 61 students in 7 grades. Bethany School was also a two-story building with lodge hall overhead. Miss Mary McClure was teacher of six grades and 34 enrollment. Bruce School had Miss Flossie Cook as teacher with 24 students. She was meeting in “temporary” quarters because the school building had recently burned. Mt. Olivet School had J. M. Clements as teacher, with an enrolment of 47, but Mr. Duggan did not see the school in session as it was “temporarily closed.” By 1933, Union School was not listed but Mt. Zion had two teachers, J. G. Byers and Annie Colwell, with 80 enrolled. Bruce School was still operating in 1933 with Tennis Bruce as teacher and 39 pupils. Bethany had grown to an enrollment of 57 by 1933 with Florence Dyer as teacher. Miss Flossie Cook had moved to Mt. Olivet School as teacher and in 1933 she had 47 students.

Four schools came in his next grouping: Bethlehem with W. O. Kincaid as teacher and 55 students in 7 grades. It is the only school he noted as having a library with 150 volumes. Confidence School had R. L. Sullivan as teacher and 52 students in 7 grades. Camp Ground School was manned by S. H. Neal, had 50 students and 7 grades. Providence School had Garnett Brackett as teacher in a good church building, six grades and 38 enrolled. Bethlehem was still in full swing in 1933 with Miss Nellie McClure teaching 59 students. Confidence was not in the 1933 list. Camp Ground had Miss Mary McClure as teacher and 40 students in 1933 and Providence had 26 pupils under Miss Mary Lou McAfee’s tutelage.

Mr. Duggan was not able to inspect Young Cane, Bunker Hill and Center Hill Schools in 1916, noting that they were “temporarily closed.” Young Cane was going strong in 1933 with 88 students and three teachers, B. J. Wilson, Vinnie McDougald and Mrs. Tom Conley. Bunker Hill had 38 pupils in 1933 and Ruby Queen was teacher. Center Hill evidently had merged with a nearby school as it was not listed in 1933.

The Rugby School, named for the nearby Rugby Post Office, was founded about 1921 and was made up of the Timber Ridge (sometimes called Chigger Ridge) and Camp Ground Schools. Even though an article in Heritage of Union County History gives the founding date of Rugby as 1921 and its closing date as “between 1945-1950” when further consolidation occurred, both Timber Ridge (A. L. McClure, teacher, 29 pupils) and Camp Ground (Mary McClure, 40 pupils) were listed separately in the 1933 listing of schools.

Why did it take so long for the recommended consolidation to occur? One factor was poor transportation. The second was recovery from World War I, only to be met by the Great Depression and economic decline beginning in October, 1929. But lying at the heart of the question of consolidation was the independence of mountain citizens, community pride, and the desire to have a school at the center of their settlements. Ingrained ways are hard to change and we mountain people, even when it comes to education, operate on the side of conservatism.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published September 2, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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