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Recollections of Early Charlton County’s Schools

July 10, 1936

To the Editor of the Herald:

When I read in the Brantley Enterprise a few days ago of the death of Professor Harvey W. Mitchum, I thought of the management of schools when he was teaching here something more than forty years ago and of the management at the present time and the mention I am making of the difference between then and now relates to the system and is not intended to cast reflection on any individual.

Then each community had its own school. The selection of teachers was made by the patrons and teachers who were employed were those who were competent, regardless of whether or not they attended college and instead of inexperienced girls being employed as teachers, only men and women of mature judgment were placed in charge of schools. Skylarking at night of pupils would have been promptly reproved and had the teachers engaged in such they would have been dismissed and their license would have been revoked.

Usually eight hours was considered a school day. Children walked to school, some going a distance of three miles. There were no buses to take them up at the gates of their homes in the morning and put them there about the middle of the afternoon provided they had been so fortunate as to escape death or injury by accidents or wrecks.

I will now go further back than Mr. Mitchum’s day and give a description of the first school I ever attended. The time was before the commencement of the Civil War and the location was near the present home of Mr. E.C. Kennison. The teacher was a Frenchman whose name was Peter deYoung. The pupils as their names were then were Seab Mills, Lizzie Mills, Martha Mizell, Everett Mizell, Lucy Mizell and Billie Mizell, John Kennison, Tom Kennison, Sol Vickery, Kate Vickery, Jimmy Hagin, Owen Gibson. Where are they now. Everett Mizell and Solomon Vickery have moldered away in soldiers’ graves in the soil of Virginia. S.F. Mills and Mrs. Lizzie Rudolph, John B. Kennison and Thomas V. Kennison are lying in the Mills Cemetery. Mrs. Martha Lang is in a cemetery in Miami. William Mizell, Sr. is resting in the Folkston Cemetery, the town where he spent his declining days after a very active life. Mrs. Kate Wainwright occupies a grave in Sardis Cemetery and James R. Hagin has lain for many years in a cemetery where Bailey’s Branch Church was located in the long ago. Mrs. Lucy Lang resides in Waycross, her home for many years and W.O. Gibson is living in this vicinity. These two survivors of that school are well up in the age that must follow the schoolmates of their childhood.

For the information and perhaps the amusement of some of the readers of the Herald, I will give a description of that ancient schoolhouse. In size it was about fifteen feet square and built of pine logs from which the bark had not been removed. The floor was clay, the seats were hewn puncheons. The writing desk was a plank about one foot wide and reached across the back end of the house. It had but one door and the only window was an opening made by removing two of the logs just above the writing desk and the shutter was a piece of plank suspended by leather straps for hinges. What a contrast between that rude schoolhouse and the present buildings with polished walls and varnished seats.

-----Respectfully, W.O. GIBSON

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Charlton  County Archives