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The Historical Story
of Bee County Texas By Camp Ezell
In writing the history of a state, county, city, or school, a historian quite logically would start at the beginning of the subject about which the narrative is to be written.
Since Bee County was created in December 1857 and organized in early 1858 out of a territory that was populated by only a few settlers who had claimed land grants from the Mexican government twenty-two years previously, it would be reasonable to assume that one would not have to indulge in retrospective search further than the period of creation to find the beginning of public schools in Bee County.
And just as I was nearing the stage of desperation frorn fruitless efforts to run clown some historical word-of-mouth data about an old schoolhouse that was purported to have been among the first houses of instruction in the county, I encountered Mrs. Charles Millikin, the former Jewel Miller, daughter of the late Tom Miller and the late Mrs. Janie Taylor Miller, who said she had some facts that I might like to incorporate in my history.
I asked: ''What-''
And she replied: ''A picture of the first schoolhouse built in Bee County. And the first teacher was my great grand father, T. J. Smith, father of Will Smith who served as County Treasurer for a number of years.''
That was an answer to prayer! I made an engagement for Helen and me to call at Mrs. Millikin's home, and she gave me not only the picture, but a story written by the late L. L. Buffs of Normanna, father of Bob and George Buffs of Beeville. which was published in the Beeville Bee on August 21, 1908, giving the details that I had been seeking.
(Mr. Butts was a reliable historian. and after I took charge of the news desk at the Bee-Picayune in 1945, he wrote a series of articles for the newspaper which we published.)
The picture at the beginning of this chapter 'is a likeness of the schoolhouse when it was first built. Later a lean-to room with chimney was added, in which the teacher and his family resided. Mr. Buffs' story follows:
By L. L. BUTTS In Beeville Bee, August 21, 1908
Near Normanna on the San Domingo Creek and also on the Normanna Mineral Road stands a little old building that never attracts a second glance from passersby and is of no interest at all to people of this community. The building is what is known as the San Domingo schoolhouse. But if has a history the beginning of which dates back beyond the memories of the oldest living inhabitants of this community.
In the year 1859, before Beeville (now a city of about 4000 inhabitants) was even a settlement-in fact, when there were no settlements or towns between Corpus Christi and Helena c6r Goliad and Oakville-this schoolhouse, now probably the oldest in the county. was built. Forty-nine years ago Mrs. Sallie Pettus, wife of John Pettus, then living one-half mile south of where the town of Pettus now stands, erected this house on its original site, on The west side of the Dry Medio 'just below what is now known as the Copeland Ranch.
The material for the schoolhouse was brought from Florida by vesscls to Saint Marys and wagonned sixty miles over rough country to the site selected. To appreciate this as we should, it is necessary to bear in mind that Bee County at this time was a wild unsettled section, and the only means of transportation was by wagons.
The original dimensions of the house were 16xI6 feet. Holes were cut in the sides to admit light and air but there were no window panes or even board shutters, and the cracks were not battened. A chimney was built of sticks and adobe, but in severe cold weather school could not be held.
T. J. Smith, father of our County Treasurer William Smith, taught school here in 1860 and Will Smith of Beeville. W. A. Pettus, James Pettus, and their sister, Mrs. Allitha Lincoln. now of Goliad, were his pupils.
About 1867 the schoolhouse was moved over between the Medio and Dry Medio Creeks where it stood for a couple of years before it was moved down on the banks of Toro Creek. About this time Mr. Porter moved onto what became known as the Porter Ranch at the forks of the creek.
Mrs. Julia Lewis, Mr. Ed. Allen and Miss Gussie Hitchens all taught school in this building while it was at this place. It was here that ''Miss Gussie" first met the man she afterward married (John W. Flournoy of Beeville) whose sole possessions at the time consisted of the mule he was riding, and his saddle bags. By this time the county had settled up somewhat but inhabitants were still few. W. T. Roberts, S. G. Davidson, Mr. Porter, Eldridge Fuller and Robert Nutt were some of the pioneers whose children attended this school.
Later in the 1870s as the settlers increased along the San Domingo the schoolhouse was given to this community and if was moved to its present location. Here an addition was built on one end making the building eight feet longer than if was originally. It was otherwise improved and has been used ever since until last year (1907). Sunday Schools and other religious services were held in this building from the first year it was constructed until the town of Normanna built up and more suitable places were erected.
If does not take long to say ''forty-nine years,'' nor does if take long to write this short sketch of this old schoolhouse. but to live it is a different thing. Today the boys and girls who played about its doors are old men and women and the decay of years is leaving its marks upon them as surely as upon the material of the old walls and roof that sheltered them so long ago.
The following incident will give an idea of the wildness of the country about the time when this old building was constructed. Just a short time before 1859 Nick Stewart and a man by the name of Hopkins went from the San Marcos River in Guadalupe County down to Mr. Waller's on Waller's Gulley near Oakville. On their return they came upon some Indians as they crossed a ravine. Hopkins was riding a fast horse and on seeing the Indians ran off from Stewart who was mounted on a slower animal. The red men gave chase and Stewart, seeing he could not escape, reined up his horse at a thicket and fell off as though dead. On seeing this, the pursuers passed him and kept on after Hopkins, whom they finally captured and killed, scalping him and cutting out his tongue.
As soon as the Indians passed, Stewart jumped up and ran off on foot until night, when he climbed a Mesquite tree and remained there until the next morning when he made his way back to Waller's, full of cactus thorns and nearly dead.
After murdering Hopkins, meanwhile, the Indians went over toward the San Antonio River. Captain Tom Tumbleson with a few men had struck their trail leading to the river and while following it had come upon the body of Hopkins left where he had been killed. They dug a shallow grave with their knives and buried him there and went on their way. Seeing, smoke in the distance, they went ahead cautiously and at noon came upon the Indians camped for a meal. One of the Indians was stationed on a hill, keeping a lookout toward the river from which they had lust come.
Captain Tumbleson and his men fired upon them and killed all but one, who was mortally wounded and found dead a few days later in Atascosa County. Their bodies were left unburied, just as they had left the body of Hopkins, and their bones could be seen bleaching in the sun for many years after the schoolhouse was erected. This occurred on the Dry
a short distance above the schoolhouse-L. L. Buffs, The Beeville Bee, August 21, 1908.
George W. McClanahan, a native of Virginia who was one of the first settlers in Beeville after the county was organized, taught short sessions of school for the accommodation of the few children who lived in Beeville in 1860. His wife assisted him in this work. These sessions were conducted in his one-room store east of the Public Square.
John R. Shook and his wife taught the first public school in the village of Beeville. With the permission of the County Court, they used the Courthouse, which stood across the street (West) from where the present Courthouse is located. T. R. Atkins, former owner and editor of the Beeville Picayune, in his HISTORY OF BEE COUNTY stated that he received his last schooling there. Other students were J. C. Thompson, J. M. McCollom, Ed Tatum, Mat Fuller, and Mrs. Henry Ryan, nee Miss Ann Carroll.
Ben Hunt taught the next school in Beeville in 1862-1863. After the close of the Civil War, T. S. Archer and George T. Staples conducted a school. Other teachers during post-war days included T. 1. Gilmore and wife. J. J. Swann, and T. A. Blair.
In 1874 Beeville did not have a schoolhouse, but a was made the year with the Methodist congregation to buy their building for school. A new church was built and the old structure was moved to the site where later the S.A.&A.P. Railroad depot was erected, the school trustees having purchased this land for school purposes. But when Uriah Lott, builder of the railroad. came to select a site for the depot in early 1886, he chose the spot where the schoolhouse was located.
Captain A. C. Jones met the situation by donating six acres of land for school purposes, located where the Seventh-day Adventist Church and School now stand, and John Impson, father of Grover Impson and John Impson Jr., erected a three-room schoolhouse there.
The old schoolhouse (formerly the Methodist Church) was razed and the lumber was given to the Negroes, who built a church on a location now facing Juarez Street and named it Jones Chapel Methodist Church in honor of Captain Jones who had done so much for the colored people. Also built out of this lumber was a schoolhouse for Negro children, and Mose Loft and Allen Canada were the carpenters who did the work. William Langley Sr., son of Lymas Langley Sr., one of the pioneer citizens of Bee County, graduated from this school. In the early 1930s, the frame schoolhouse was replaced with a brick structure and was named Loft-Canada School in honor of the men Who had constructed the first schoolhouse for black people.
Trustees for the Beeville school in 1886 were J. W. Cook, H. J. O'Reilly, and R. W. Archer, and Professor T. R. Royal was superintendent. The enrollment numbered approximately ninety-five pupils.
Mr. and Mrs. John W. Flournoy taught In the Beeville school from 1881 until 1884. At that time Mr. Flournoy began the practice of law. but his wife, the former Miss Gussie Hitchens who was popularly known as "Miss Gussie,- continued to teach until she retired in May 1908.
The third schoolhouse built in Beeville was an attractive two-story brick structure, with basement and cupola, erected in 1894, one year after the citizens voted to incorporate for school purposes. The first teachers were Professors Smith Ragsdale, L. W. Bell, and J. W. Bell, Mrs. Ida Nations, Mrs. John W. Flournoy, Mrs. Josephine Humphreys, Miss Mattie Mussett, Miss Maggie Smith, and Miss Lela Lawley.
Professor William E. Madderra, one of the most brilliant and intellectual teachers the system ever had, first taught in the Beeville school in 1898 while his uncle, Professor T. G. Arnold, was superintendent. Mr. Madderra went to Nacogdoches the following year to serve as head of that school, but when Mr. Arnold became ill, Mr. Madderra was induced to return to Beeville in 1900, and upon the death of his uncle, the board named him superintendent, a position he held until his death in 1936. Mr. Madderra, generally referred to as ''The Professor,'' was a Latin and Greek scholar, a master mathematician, and a grammarian of distinction.
L. W. Bell was blond-headed and his brother, John W. Bell, had dark hair, and the students gave them the nicknames of "Whitie" and ''Blackie.'' When McKinley became president of the United States, J. W. Bell retired from school teaching to become postmaster of Beeville, a position he held until his death in 1905. L. W. "Whitie" Bell was a strict disciplinarian, and although he had some young men students who occasionally decided to "fake over'' and run things to suit themselves, Professor Whitie met them on their own grounds and always made them understand that he was in charge and that decorum must be maintained.
In 1910 the need for a high school building was felt. Bonds were voted to build the Allen Carter Jones High School at 601 East Carter Street. It was named in memory of the Man who had contributed so much to the cause of education in Beeville. Captain Jones' widow donated the land on which the structure was erected. The building was dedicated on October 13, 1911.
Because of the crowded condition of the school system, the eighth grade was taught in the upstairs hall over the W. S. Brown Grocery Store, corner of St. Mary's and Corpus Christi Streets, in 1910-191 1. Professor J. A. Risenhoover was the teacher. The students, being segregated from the other pupils of the school, decided that they should have a distinguished name for the class and called if ''Brown's College."
The ''Mexican School,'' as it was called during the early days, was a two-room frame building located on the block that is surrounded by Avenue D, Hefferman, Jackson, and Bowie Streets, and Mrs. C. A. Betz was principal for many years. In 1932, this building was razed, and a brick schoolhouse was erected on the property one block west of the old site, facing Jackson Street. This was still called the Mexican School, but when it was remodeled and enlarged in 1952 the name was changed to Jackson School. In 1971, after all Public schools had been integrated, the building was again remodeled, and was converted info a school for all sixth-grade students.
With the coming of Chase Field, a gradual increase in population, and a decrease in drop-outs, as the years rolled by more classrooms were imperative, and the following buildings were erected:
Tyler Elementary School in 1931 and Central Cafeteria, 800 block on Tyler Street, built in 1941, with an addition in 1947.
Loft-Canada School. on West Corpus Christi Street, was remodeled and enlarged in 1947. This building is now used by the school's fax office personnel.
William E. Madderra Elementary School, 1949. (This building replaced the brick structure that was erected in 1894.)
Flournoy Elementary School, built in 1952, in front of the Madderra School. This was named in memory of Mrs. John W. Flournoy who taught in Bee County thirty-seven years.
In 1956, bonds were voted to build a new high school, and thirty-two acres of land was purchased from A. C. Jones 11, grandson of Captain A. C. Jones. A high school complex, including classrooms, a gymnasium. and an auditorium, was erected. The name of the high school (A. C. Jones) was transferred to the new building, and the former schoolhouse of the same name became the Thomas Jefferson Junior High School, for seventh and eighth-grade students. In 1957, another building was added to the new high school complex-the Area Vocational Department classrooms and workshops.
In 1957, the Junior high school building, erected in 1911, was deemed unsafe and inadequate, and was razed to make room for a new structure, which is being used today.
Fadden-McKeown-Chambliss Elementary School, located at St. Mary's Reagan Road. was built in 1958. This school was named in honor of three teachers who had served the school system longer than any other three instructors: Miss Rosa Fadden, Miss Ann McKeown, and Miss Sara Chambliss. Miss Fadden is deceased, and Miss McKeown and Miss Chambliss have retired.
The R. A. Hall Elementary School, erected at 1100 West Huntington Street in 1967, was named in honor of R. A. Hall, who served on the Board of Education of the Beeville Independent School District many years and was president of the body several years.
Professor Madderra was succeeded by Robert Marshall as superintendent in 1936. Following Mr. Marshall were Jack Cates, H. Lee Clifton, Floyd Parsons, and Archie A. Roberts. The latter came in 1956 and resigned on February 1, 1973, to become assistant executive secretary of the Texas State Teachers Association in Austin.
During Mr. Roberts' administration the school system underwent the most drastic changes in its history, including complete integration of Mexican and Negro students, and the adoption of Federal Government programs designed to educate the indigent children of the nation. Many thousands of dollars of government money came to Beeville to help fund the new programs.
With the departure of Mr. Roberts, the Board of Education elected Lester McCoy, high school principal since 1956. as acting superintendent until a new one could be found. Mr. McCoy devised the eight-periods-per day open-campus system for grades 10-1 1-12, providing the students with an opportunity to develop self-reliance and giving them time during the day to fake additional courses for self-improvement or time to work at school-related jobs. Numerous school administrators evidenced interest in the plan by writing for information or visiting the high school to see the plan In operation. Other school districts in the nation have adopted the Beeville Plan or adapted it to their high schools.
On April 17, 1973, the board elected Luther E. Hartman of Lockhart as superintendent. He will assume his duties on July 1.
The Beeville Independent School District has taken in many common school districts and embraces the City of Beeville with a population of 13,506 and the surrounding area in the central portion of Bee County. The district has a population of 17,230 and occupies 342 square miles of rolling coastal plains. The school's staff on eight campuses numbers 250, and there are more than 4,500 students. Total assessed value of the district is $52,900,000. The proposed budget for 1972-1973 is $3,41 1,075. The state provides 60 per cent, local effort 25 per cent, and federal funding 15 per cent of the budget costs. The current fax rate is $1.56 per hundred dollars valuation.
Principals of the various schools are: Jones High, Lester McCoy; Thomas Jefferson Junior High, Steve Fey, Tyler, Harold Mulkey; Madderra-Flournoy, Henry Mullins; Jackson. Jeff Curbo; Fadden-McKeown-Chambliss, Thomas J. Pfeil; and R. A. Hall, John Hensley.
Trustees of the school system are: Alex Kibler, president; Mrs. Darlene Conoly, Alex Garza, Dr. Scott McNeill Jr., James Millikin, John W. Beasley, and Everett McAulay.
During the early 1900s there were around twenty common school districts in Bee County, but gradually these have been consolidated into four independent school districts-Beeville, Pettus, Skidmore-Tynan, and Pawnee. The history of each of these towns (other than Beeville) has been written for this book under the chapter entitled ''Communities,'' and this will include the development of the other three school systems.
The Historical Story
of Bee County Texas By Camp Ezell
Updated Thursday, December 21, 2006 21:02
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