- Cullman, Alabama


April 13, 2014

Holly Pond’s historic schools

HOLLY POND — Anyone who has ever traveled through the countryside in and around Holly Pond knows why a settlement was built there. It is one of the most picturesque places in a county full of beautiful scenic vistas.

In our series of historic Cullman schools, Holly Pond has, perhaps, the best records of events surrounding the schools and their importance to the community.

Dan and Brenda Scott have compiled an in-depth record going back as far as 1899 when Holly Pond’s early days were first recorded.

Like many other communities of this era, one of the first priorities of early Holly Pond families (after establishing a home) was to create a place of worship and a school, sometimes using the same building for both.

According to the Scott’s research, prior to 1899, there was very little state support for public education. This meant that local citizens had the responsibility to provide an adequate education for their children. Parents of students were expected to furnish wood used as fuel to heat the schools. “Tuition schools, such as Pine Grove Academy, meant that parents had to pay for the privilege of their children attending school,” explained Dan Scott. “Most of the schools in the Holly Pond area began as one-room structures. They were made of logs with split log seats for the students. Some had dirt floors and were heated by a fireplace or wood heater.”

Further history of this agricultural community revealed that the school term was at the discretion of the trustees and parents, usually about four months per year. Later the term was extended to five months with three months in the winter and two in the summer. In the spring and fall, children were needed to plant and harvest crops. As late as the 1950’s Cullman County Schools closed for a period of time for cotton picking, as did many of the other counties around the South.

“Teachers of the early schools were in great demand,” said Brenda Scott. “A college degree, or any formal education, was not required. A Teaching Certificate, awarded by passing a state examination, was required and could be upgraded with further education. Often young men and women would begin teaching at age 16 or 17. Many of the early teachers in the Holly Pond area were from Tennessee, hired through a contact of the County Superintendent.”

In going through old records, the Scott’s found names of some of the teachers - Nina Mae Norris Bice at Shaddrix, Mrs. Patterson at Center Point, and Mr. Rice at Redan. “The early teacher not only taught in the school, but was a role model in the community. Teachers who did not live in the community usually boarded with the family of a school trustee,” explained Scott.

The Scott’s also learned that in Alabama, students were not required by law to attend school. In 1915, compulsory school attendance laws were passed for children between the ages of eight and fifteen who had not completed seven grades. These children were required by law to attend school at least eighty days each year.

“Every community had its own school which was a great source of community pride,” said Dan Scott. “The school was usually within walking distance of the students. When it was necessary to consolidate schools, it became an issue of great concern of everyone in the community. Some of the schools were dissolved or consolidated before 1920. Because a fire destroyed the school records housed in the courthouse, many of their records are lost except in memories of those who attended.”

Those memories have made much of the series possible…

Records showed that Pine Grove School was one of the earliest in the area. The first building was located on Lick Creek. It was a log building with one small room and a dirt floor. According to an article in the Alabama Tribune, Professor W.J. Dodson had a flourishing school at Pine Grove Academy in August of 1889. Some of the other early teachers were Rob Latta, William Price and J. S. McMahan. The school was moved to a new location around 1899 near where Pine Grove Church now stands. Around 1908 another building was constructed behind Pine Grove Church. The 1899 building burned around 1910. In 1921 Pine Grove reported 78 pupils in grades one through seven. The school consolidated with Holly Pond on May 27, 1932.

Further research revealed that the community of Walter had two schools: Mann’s School House across from Walter Baptist Church, and Isabella School at North Walter diagonally across from the store. The Isabella School was built around 1890. Among the teachers were Miss Emma Brown and Miss Maggie Ward of Goodwater. The building was a one-room structure where students from grades one through seven were taught by one teacher. It later became a two-room school with Mrs. Ethel Weeks and Warlous Meadows as teachers.  In 1913, Isabella School burned and because of the disrepair of Mann’s School House, the community came together to construct Walter School in 1914. This school had seven grades with five teachers with one teacher serving as teacher/principal. The school consolidated with Holly Pond in 1963.

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