Saturday, January 7, 2012

Douglasville's First Schoolhouse

Last week my topic was the lawsuit that birthed the location and name of our fair city, and how it took two elections to finally settle things. During my research I stumbled over the fact that the very month and year Douglas County was birthed in October, 1870 our state legislature passed the Common School Act statewide.

Prior to 1870, the state allocated monies to academies in various counties. The academies were more like higher education institutions since they taught Latin, Greek, English literature and higher forms of mathematics. The students at the academies tended to be members of the wealthier families since tuition might be as much as $10 for the year, an exorbitant amount in those days. Poor rural children rarely entered a classroom. The Common School Act began to change that, but the change occurred slowly, and other forms of legislation had to be passed before large majorities of Georgia's children were being educated.

As far back as 1818 money from the land lotteries was invested in bank stock and interest was used to pay the tuition of indigent children for a period of three years. In order to get the tuition, families had to claim pauper status.

Times were different back then. Most families shied away from a label like that, and many Georgia counties chose not to apply for monies since this early system made no provision for elementary education. It wasn't until the Common School Act was passed in 1870 that the system began to straighten out, but again progress was slow.

W.A. Candler, president of Emory University, gave a speech in 1889 where he stated, "How far [the common schools] fell short of reaching all the people, may be inferred from the fact that in 1840 when they reached the number of 176, they had an aggregate attendance of only 8,000 pupils, though the children of school age then in the state numbered not less than 85,000."

Yes, there were children across the state not being served, but I'm so pleased to report that as of early as our first year of legal existence the children of Douglasville were being served by a common school and the building is still standing today.

The first public school in Douglasville stands at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Strickland Street. I've pictured it as it appears today at the beginning of this post. Today the building is a private residence. In 1870, the structure was built by the townspeople and bricks that were made right here in Douglas County covered the exterior of the building. Today the red bricks are covered with stucco and other changes to the structure include additional rooms, a second floor, and a porch. An earlier picture of the school is presented below.

There was no Board of Education in 1870. Common schools would be organized in various neighborhoods by parents...

THANK YOU for visiting “Every Now and Then” and reading the first few paragraphs of “Douglasville's First Schoolhouse“ which is now one of the 140 chapters in my book “Every Now and Then: The Amazing Tales of Douglas County, Volume I”. 

Visit the Amazon link by clicking the book cover below where you can explore the table of contents and read a few pages of the book…plus make a purchase if you choose!

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