During the period of the Civil War and shortly thereafter a new type of school developed in Milam County, commonly referred to as the academy. This type of school differed from the preceeding private school in that it was not tax supported. Academies like the earlier private schools developed in response to a deeply felt need for education, particularly education of the advanced type.
The buildings and equipment were meager as compared with present day standards, but adequate for the times.
All of the academies in Milam County seemed to be community projects rather than privately owned and controlled. The necessary funds for erection of buildings or renting suitable quarters were secured by subscription. For operation purposes, tuition fees were charged, usually two dollars per month per pupil. Occasionally a philanthropic minded individual adopted a child not his own and paid its tuition fees. A case in point was little Mary Tucker, already referred to in connection with the schools at Cameron. Since money was scarce in those days, the officials quite often accepted supplies in lieu of money, and not infrequently took board in the house of patrons of the school. Practices in this regard varied with customs in different settlements. In some communities teachers lived in the school building. In other communities teacherages were provided. In at least one institution, buildings were erected with funds derived from taxes.
The private school were usually exclusive and served only wealthier families. The teaching was done either in private houses of the teachers or in buildings rented by the teachers for this purpose. As in the case of academies, tuition fees were charged. Most of the fees were in terms of money, supplies, or board, or a combination of all three methods. While some of these private schools did very good work, they lacked the prestige of the academy. For this reason, in the first place, the academies enjoyed a more widely distributed patronage support, which led to better organization; and in the second place, the teaching personnel was of a superior type as compared with those of the private schools.
The teaching personnel in several instances consisted of northern men; northern because immigrants from the north had had access to higher education, and men because stern disciplinarians were required to control and keep at their tasks the bigger boys.
Indeed, in some communities it was considered fashionable for the big boys to break up the school. In some instances, however, women teachers were allowed to serve as assistants, but rarely as principals in the organized schools. Unfortunately, in some instances, some of the best trained men who taught during this period were victims of the drink habit. Less objection to this habit was voiced than today, due to the prevailing attitude of the towns. This may have been more prominent then because drinking teachers would not be tolerated in the organized schools of today. The ones who drink would quickly lose their places.
Two of the academies were incorporated under the laws of the state of Texas. these were the Milam Liberal Institute at Cameron and the college at Port Sullivan.
The first settlers in the Brazos and Little River valleys were more or less wealthy families who had come to Texas with their slaves. the rich farming lands made the plantation system highly profitable. On arrival, the pioneers settled with their families and slaves on the plantations. the building of railroads into and through the territory disturbed the social-economic equilibrum.(sic) Towns sprang up along the railroads, and in time the women and children of the plantation owners were moved to town into suitable mansions. the men commuted between plantations and towns. With them came the desire for learning and culture. Their shifting affected the schools.
The first schools near Baileyville were at Smithland. Mrs. Davis (1875-75) taught there and went to Jones Prairie (Barron school) later. The next teacher was Mrs. McNeil, who also went to Jones Prairie. At this time, the school was moved to Baileyville. Some of the teachers after the school was moved to Baileyville include: Mr. Phelps; Mr. John McNeil; Mr. Bob Crawford; Dr. McBean; Colonel Weathen, graduate of Harvard; and Mr. Knight. These were remembered by Mrs. W. J. Smith.
Mrs. P. H. Mckinney related this information. This school was started in the late eighties. It was first taught by Miss mary(sic) Davidson. Miss Marian Burke, who later married Mr. Coy Campbell, taught there. Miss Katie Hammond (Mrs. Stricker of Houston) taught later, as did Mr. Oscar Kidd (1898-1899). (Mr. Kidd is now a lawyer in Cameron). and Mr. Horace Monroe. Mr. Monroe later taught in Cameron and was a teacher of the writer’s mother. He was very strict. This Barron school was very near Jones Prairie, and the two schools, Tarver Grove and Barron’s where(sic) later consolidate into the Jones Prairie school. Some pupils remembered by Mr. Kidd are: the Pool children, Bertha, Mary, Carrie, and Juilia; Luis Chamberlain (Mrs. Voss Harlan, Branchville); Mabel Chamberlain (Mrs. Hugh McKinney, Jones Prairie); Arthur and Sue Atkinson; several Griffen children; Rodney Anderson; and a family of children named Black.
This history of this school was secured from Miss Katherine Sproul: The first school was located one and a half miles east of Ben Arnold on the Dink Terry farm. It was known as the “Sunflower School”. The teacher was Miss Nettie Houghton who later married a lawyer in Cameron, Luther McBride. they moved to Dallas. This school was not a public school but was known as a subscription school. The building was a wooden structure erected on the prairie in 1889. It was destroyed by fire in 1891.
The first public free school was built in Ben Arnold in 1892. It was located just back of the present building. It was a wooden structure 30 ft. x 40 ft. The enrollment the first term was fifty-two. The trustees were Dr. J. C. Midkiff, now of Yeleta, Texas; Vince Kabler (deceased) later lived at Cameron; and Mr. W. A. Sproul, who is now seventy-five years of age.
The first teacher was named Walker. He taught one term and located in Fort Worth, and was engaged in the real estate business. Other teachers were: John Little, one term; Mr. Weatherby, one term (1893); and Mr. Grant (1894) who probably is now located in the Gause section.
It is not known who followed Grant and Neither is it known just when Howard Nelson Phillips taught. He taught one term assisted by his brother Robert, now of Weatherford, Texas. He is editor of the “Weatherford Democrat” and is also postmaster there.
Howard Nelson Phillips taught two terms here, went to Branchville for one term, then back to Ben Arnold for one term. He moved to Crockett, Texas, where he taught in the high school. From there he went to Grovton, Texas, and practiced law; then back to Crockett in law practice until his death in 1935.
Baranoman succeeded Phillips in the first term he went from here to Oklahoma and died.
T. S. Williams from Marlowe came to Ben Arnold in 1900. That was the first year the school board employed two teachers. His assistant was Miss Margaret Terry of Curry. they were to have taught a second term, but Mr. Williams, who was studying medicine, resigned in 1901 and moved with his family to Stillewell, Oklahoma, where he began the practice of medicine and continued until his death. Upon his resignation Miss Terry took the principalship, and Miss Eva Fraim, (Now Mrs. John A. Smith, of Cameron) of Gause became assistant.
Miss Terry taught here intermittently as principal and assistant for a number of years, as she secured her education. She was one of the most beloved of all the teachers. She is now Mrs. J. W. Harrell, A.B., M.A. Baylor University, assistant librarian. Her husband, J. W. Harrell, is head of the Mathematics department at Baylor, but is away on leave in Colorado recuperating from tuberculosis.
Branchville has not been settled long, compared top these other places. It was only a small place when Mrs. Looney first remembers it. Her father called it Branchville because his son, W. B. Easterwood, had a branch store there, his man store being at Port Sullivan. Also he called it Banchville because there were so many little creeks there, and they are commonly called branches in Milam County. the first school there was near the place where the Grady Walston home is now. Mr. W. A. Morrison, who was a friend of education in Milam County until his death a few years ago, was the first teacher. Miss Sanger, from Cleveland, Ohio, was the next. Then Mrs. L. L. Blaylock was next. Miss Sally Irving was a later teacher, as was Miss Edna Sprinkle, who later taught in Cameron many years, who was one of the writer’s early teachers, and an excellent teacher. She is now dead, but has left her stamp on the youth of Cameron.
The history of this school was secured from Father Tim O’Sullivan, who is head of the Catholic church at Burlington.
This town was established bout the late seventies or early eighties. it was at first made up of Irish people, mostly, and were Catholics. Some of the descendents of these families still remain, but the community is now made up of additional nationalities, with the German probably predominating now.
The first public school was established in the year 1882. It was on the grounds now occupied by the parochial school. It was on the grounds now occupied by the parochial school. the first teachers were: Mr. T. J. O’Neill; Miss Mary Rountree; Miss Elizabeth Green; John F. O’Shean; T. C. Jones; and Mr. Shaw. Mr. O’Shean later taught in Cameron and much later in San Antonio at the Lady of the Lake College. Mr. Shaw later lived in Cameron.
The Sisters of Divine Providence came to Burlington and taught in the public school, beginning in 1899, and for eight years following. At this time, 1898, the public school was moved to the present location, and the parochial school was established and taught in the building formerly occupied by the public school. the public school is located just off Highway #77. At one time the parochial school had as many as 150 pupils, but now teaches only to the eighth grade, and so has many less pupils. The public school is now an independent school district, but many of the pupils are transferred to Rosebud.
The information about this school was secured from Mrs. W. F. Sharpe; Dr. V. E. H. Reed; and Mrs. W. T. Hefley, Jr.
In 1868-1869 Mr. John Todd taught what was called the County line School. This school got its name because the Milam-Bell county line ran through the school building. It was in the old Hendrix settlement. The Hendrix children attended.
Two of the early teachers were Oscar McAnally and E. M. Scarborough. Mr. Scarborough later went into business, and the Scarborough store in Rockdale and in Austin belonged to him.
The information about this school was secured from Dr. E. H. Reed.
Just when Curry was established cannot be ascertained, but three of the teachers were: Miss Etta May (Mrs. C. V. Terrell); Miss Mary Lackey; and Miss Texana Reed, later Mrs. Rucker. Mrs. Rucker was probably the first teacher there. She was educated at Davilla and is the sister of Dr. Val Reed of Austin, and the aunt of Mrs. Jeff Kemp of Cameron.
The history of this school was secured from Mr. L. H. Fuch.
The Fuch family came to the community west of Buckholts in 1893. the school was established at once on the Baskin Ranch. It was called the Baskin school, but is now called the Fox school because Mr. Fuchs owns the Baskin Ranch now. the first teacher was Miss Ethridge, and the pupils were the Halsey children, now of Lubbock, and the Fuchs children; Mrs. L. H. Schildron; Mrs. Anna Yelisko; Mrs. R. P. Lehmann; and L. H. Fuchs.
All material secured on these schools was obtained from the following: Mrs. F. H. McKinney Sr; Mr. J. H. Smilie; and Mrs. W. T. Hefley Jr., granddaughter of Mr. John Todd.
As was already mentioned, Jones Prairie was settled in 1835 by a Mr. Jones. He had to leave the settlement at different times because of Indian raids, but always returned, and as the writer has mentioned before, his descendents are still living in the community.
For many years private schools were taught in and about the settlement. One of the first of these schools was located on the Beal place. In 1867 John Todd taught one term and the old Rufe Beal place above the Todd place. Edward Todd attended there. there was also a second school taught in the Little River Church (mentioned in Mr. Allen’s reminescenses). John Todd taught at Little River Church in 1864. Robert Todd operated his father’s wagon train to San Antonio the year when cotton from the district was sold to the government. Robert Todd does not remember very much concerning this school except that the Todd children; some of the Pool children, including “Doc” Pool and his sisters, attended. Some of the teachers were remembered by Mrs. McKinney as Mr. L. R. Taylor in 1866; Mr. Duncan taught a school there in 1867 and Mr. Nathan Letcher in 1868. Some of the pupils included the children of the Beal, Rogers, and McKinney families. There were, of course, others whose records cannot be found.
In 1871 a school was opened at Tarver Grove. Still another school was taught by Mr. Tarver near here. The Tarver Grove school was first taught by Mr. Hightower, a graduate of a university and a very learned man. Mrs. Allen and then Mr. and Mrs. Davis taught here in 1873-74. These last named teachers had taught in Cameron and Port Sullivan. Mrs. P. H. McKinney Sr. remembers the above teachers at Tarver Grove during the years. The building constructed in 1871 is to be described later.
Mr. W. J. Smilie speaks of a school in this neighborhood that preceded the Traver Grove school which he attended in 1868. It was located on the homestead of H. B. Stoneham on the old Waco-Port Sullivan road. It was a log house, very poorly equipped. In 1868 his first teacher was Mr. Hightower, followed by Mrs. Allen in 1869. After 1869 the men of the neighborhood came together and built a box schoolhouse on a central point. The teachers were:John H. English
These pupils attended:Bailey, Charles
The Smiths mentioned above were the sons of Mr. Smith who built the first courthouse in Milam County. Mr. Smilie went to school in Robertson County in the year 1873-74, and then returned to the Tarver Grove school in 1874-75.
The Tarver Grove schoolhouse was built in 1871, and was the first schoolhouse built near Jones Prairie. The building was on the Branchville-Cameron road near the place where Dr. Fontaine now lives. It was a long box building, was made of lumber, and had home-made desks and blackboards made of planks painted black. It was considered for the next few years after 1874 one of the best schools in the county.
In 1874 Mr. Donavan was placed in charge of the Tarver Grove school. he completely reorganized the school system of the community. His outstanding work merits extensive treatment.
Mr. Donavan was born and reared in Ireland. He was educated for the priesthood and given a splendid education. Just before time for him to take the vows he decided he could not be a priest. Due to the displeasure of his family and because he desired to escape compulsory military service, he ran away to America. He landed in Collorine, Alabama, and true to the Irish characteristic, made a contract to dig a ditch. This ditch was to be paid for by the square yard. His employers were two brothers who were interested in the educational field. When he had finished, the brothers began to try to compute his wages. They asked him if he knew how much they owed him, and he smiled and told them. They then asked how he knew and he showed them how he had arrived at the amount by using a stick in the dirt. When asked if he had figured it out before, he told them that he had made a mental calculation while they were arguing. they asked then if he was educated, and he told them about his training. They told him that they would find a school for him. He taught a few years in Alabama, and then went to Shreveport, La., and finally drifted to Jones Prairie, Texas.
He had a plan of operating a school. He went into the community and asked the leading men to make him a note for $1,000. They were to pay off this note at $100 a month for ten months. This meant that he was receiving $100 a month when the average salary was $55 a month. Besides this he picked his pupils. Those he did not want for any reason, he would not accept. H would not under any conditions accept over 35 pupils and really did not want over 30. If he was accepted by the leading men of a community as a teacher he picked out his pupils and called all the Pupils’ parents together and explained all his rules. he said that he was to be complete master of the children from the time they left their yards until they returned to them. He also had a rule that any differences between the children would be talked over by the children at the schoolhouse before him and their parents. He also reserved the right to dismiss any child from his school that did not come up to his expectations. Mr. Donavan was a strict, but very good teacher. He never allowed pupils to use paper and pencil in mathematical work until they had come to long division. He used Quackenbass’ Analytical method of teaching. Some people who attended Tarver Grove school in 1874-1875 are: W. J. Smilie; J. N. Smilie; Miss Willie Pool (Mrs. P. M. McKinney); Rosa Rogers; George Rogers; Dick Jones; Will Cargill; Mollie Cargil; Lew Cargill; Will Tarver; Della Pool; Bob Pool; J. P. Pool and Mollie Ables. The Pool boys mentioned became lawyers in Waco. The above information concerning Mr. Donavan was related by W. J. Smilie.
Mr. Donavan stayed for many years and Mr. Foreman took his place. Mr. Foreman was also highly educated.He taught there until 1881 when he committed suicide. He did this because he had broken a vow to discontinue drinking. During the regime of these above mentioned men, Jones Prairie had in the Tarver Grove school one of the best in that section of the county.
After Mr. Foreman’s death the school term was reduced from ten months to six months. Mrs. McNeal stayed for many years. She was followed by Mr. Knight. His daughter taught also. Later Mrs. Davis came to Jones Prairie from Smithland. She was followed after one term by Mr. Powers.
The history of this school was secured from Mrs. W. T. Hefley Jr., and Mr. J. R. Collier, and Mr. J. P. Collier.
This school was between Maysfield and Cameron. One of the teachers was Mr. Edward Nelson Phillips. John Todd was elected to teach the Phillips School in 1861. This was a much larger group near the Phillip place. There were besides the younger pupils 22 adult (or about grown) pupils. Robert Todd remembers the following pupils who attended there: Laura and Lily Allen, daughters of Alsey (called “Turk”) Julia and Mary Beal, all children of John Beal; some McKinney children; and the following Massengele children: Bill, Mack and Lum, (all older and left for the Civil War the next year) Al, Joanna, Emma, all children of Alfred Massengeles; Bruce Mayes; Dave Mayes; Ann Mayes; Dan Mayes; Al Mayes; Jim Mayes; and Amanda Mayes, children of “Squire” Mayes; Sam and Clint Monroe (relatives of President Monroe) and another brother, Dick (a Civil War hero); Frank Mose; Anthony (ant) and Henry Shape, about gown; Jess and Al Sherill, who left for the Civil War the following year; Margaret and Ruanna Sherrill; Harriett, Eugenia, Eliza and Robert Todd, children of John Todd, teacher of the school.
The information concerning this school in later years was gotten from Mrs J. R. Collier and Mr. J. P. Collier, brothers who taught there, and were succeeded by a third brother, J. B. Collier. Mr. J. R. Collier began to teach in 1878. His salary was only $35 per month and the first year he had fifteen pupils. The next year he received $40 per month and had 35 pupils. The third year his salary was $85 per month and he had sixty pupils. The forth year he received over $125 per month and had more than one hundred pupils enrolled. This year he had two assistants. Mr. Collier taught six months and attended Baylor University at Waco for six months in each of these four years.
Mr. J. R. Collier gives these conditions prevalent in the schools:
“Our buildings were very poorly conditioned and no accommodations as to the heat, lights, water and equipment. In the rural communities in the winter time we were forced to close the school for days at a time on account of cold weather. Some of the pupils rode horseback as far as ten miles, while others walked distances from one to four miles.”
He remembered these families as pupils: the Phillips; the Massengales; the Allens; the Todds; the Evans; the Gages; the Thompsons; the Littles; the Goodsons; the Jones and the Coles.
Mr. J. P. Collier of Adrian, Texas succeeded his brother and taught in the Phillips school for four years. He taught ten years in the county from 1884 to 1894. He also taught at Buckholts and Leachville. He gives the following concerning conditions:
“At that time rural schools were not graded like they are now, but the pupils were grouped according to their advancement and ability. I think both teacher and pupil compared very favorably with teacher and pupil of this age. Teachers were more respected and honored than now by the pupils, and the teacher was the leader in all communities and took more interest in the pupils than they do now. I do not think, with all the new methods, that the teachers get more out of the pupils now than they did then. During that period all teachers did all they could to develop the child in morals. It sees now that all the teacher does is to see that the child passes the grade, and there is little molding of character, but left to drift along. I enjoyed my time while teaching. It was always a delight to life one of the pupils to a higher place. I was on the board of examiners the last four years of teaching.”
A third brother, J. B. Collier, also taught there. He married one of the pupils; as did Mr. J. P. Collier. A fourth brother taught near Rockdale. All of these brothers married Milam County girls.
The information concerning this school was secured from Mrs. W. T. Hefley Jr.
This settlement was named for Judge Yarrell. Mr. John Todd taught here in 1871-1872. He died before completing the second year there. The school ran through August in 1872; he became ill in that month, returned home to Maysfield and died.
Robert Todd remembers here only the names of these pupils: Joe Eplin; the Wilkersons; the Mowdy children; Jerry Perkins; and the Youngs.
This school was in the so-called “Alabama Settlement”. There were settlements from three states about Yarrellton. The “Alabama Settlement” lasted about two years (1869-1871); then the Arkansasans “broke up”, and went home to Arkansas.
John Todd had about forty pupils at Yarrellton and was assisted by his daughter, Frances Todd, who still lives near Gause, Texas. Mr. Frank Garner also taught here. This was considered a wild settlement. the citizens had been known to come in the schoolhouse horseback and empty their guns.
PHOTO - Cameron Public School - Build in 1892 (Now used as Community Center)
We must say a special thank you to George Keeton of Buchanan Dam, Texas, for typing the above thesis for use on the Milam County TXGenWeb site.
Created on 21 Dec 2003 and last revised on __________