- Cullman, Alabama


June 6, 2014

Red Hill School Building’s history kept alive at new home

In a far-reaching act of generosity that benefited many generations of children, Hollis Robert Whitman, donated a piece of his property for use as a school. The site was located just south of Arab, in what is known as Brown’s Valley, just east of Red Hill Creek. Whitman is listed on historic documents as a former teacher at the school.

Old newspaper clippings relate that the deed to the property stated that if the school ever ceased to exist, the property would revert back to the Whitman family.

According to records at the Peinhardt Living History Farm, the school was originally built in 1884. The Guntersville Advertiser made mention of the school as early as 1890.

According to a paper written by Virginia Kugler, at the end of each school day, teachers often stayed behind with five or six of their worst scholars, trying to save the state the job of reforming them later on.

In that day and age, students were responsible for buying their own books.

In information gleaned by Kugler from various individuals and records from The Guntersville Advertiser, “Trails and Traces, People and Places: History of Marshall County”, by Janet Michael and the Historical Society of Marshall County in “The History of Marshall County” by J.A. Marshall, and from interviews with former students, Kugler found that teachers were paid $30 per month and up.

Kugler’s research revealed that in 1913, students came to school at 8:30 in the morning. They studied reading, writing, geography, cooking, grammar, spelling, board sawing, crocheting, arithmetic, music, drawing, deep breathing, bird calls, scientific eating, patriotism, plain and fancy bathing, forestry, civics, and other sciences too numerous to mention.

In 1926, the school burned. In order that students could continue their education, Red Hill Methodist Church was used for school and Masonic meetings after the fire. By 1930, the school was rebuilt in close proximity to the Methodist Church. Grades 1-6 were taught there, and in 1928, the honor roll for grades 5-8 were published in the paper.

Mrs. L.W. Thomas was credited with starting a campaign to raise money for Marshall County Schools in 1929. A total of $3.10 was collected for Red Hill School. By then, the records show a 95 percent attendance during that year, which was at that time seven months and eight days.

Principal Roy Cooley started at Red Hill in 1929. The assistant principal is shown as Ethel Chandler.

On January 1, 1934, after a week’s vacation, the school re-opened. At that time the teachers were Miss Stanfield and Miss Hinds. That fall, Imogene Duncan was added as a teacher, with assistance from the state.

In 1946, Red Hill School was consolidated with Warrenton Elementary School.

In later years, the little school sat empty. It would be 62 years before the property was sold to an individual whose property adjoined the Whitman land. The new owner (not named) donated the school building to the Peinhardt Living History Farm, here in Cullman.

In 2007, a group of volunteers, including Jerry Eddleman, Eddie Peinhardt, Billy Bond, Bill Hendrix and others, went to inspect the structure to decide what would be needed to move the building from the original site to the Peinhardt Farm. When Jerry Eddleman saw it for the first time, he just stared and wondered, “How in the world are we going to move this thing?”

According to Eddleman, he answered his own question, “I thought it was impossible,” he laughed. “But the longer we looked at it, the more we figured that we could move it.”

And sure enough — they moved it!

The move took place at night. “I pulled a flatbed up under the middle section of the building, which stuck out from the rooms on the sides, and it fit on the truck. We moved the other parts on house moving rails,” he explained. “It turned out to be the easiest move I’d ever done.”

Eddleman says that the sheriff’s deputies assisted the volunteer house-movers. “They went ahead of us and cleared the traffic,” he said. “We made the 20-mile move doing about ten miles per hour. It took us about four hours to get it moved.”

That was the easy part. The reconstruction took about eight months. “The building was in such good shape,” said Eddleman. “It was made of solid heart pine and they had kept it painted.”

“I’m really proud to see it where it is,” he said. “It looks like it has always been there.”

Volunteers have worked hard to make the building as much like it would have originally been as possible. Some of them heard about a school in Moulton being demolished and were able to reclaim some tongue-and-groove ceiling slats from the site. These slats were incorporated into the Red Hill School building on the present site at Peinhardt Living History Farm.

In an interesting turn of events, Marshall County was the recipient of a historic school building on the Cullman County side, just as Cullman County was the recipient of the Red Hill School.

Along with Virginia Kugler, Patricia Peinhardt has been instrumental in providing photos and information for this article. She is happy to report that many items have been donated to make the classrooms as close to authentic as possible. But more donations are needed.

“We have the original school bell,” she said. “We display it on Farm Day. We have some sliding doors that still need some work, and we have some desks.”

What the schoolrooms still need are more cast iron desks, “We have a few,” said Ms. Peinhardt. “What we need are the ones with the seat in front and the book shelf on the back. Any old schoolbooks circa 1900s-1930s, or slate boards would also be appreciated.”

Mannequins, both adult and child-sized, would also be a wonderful addition to the school room scene, as well as period clothing for them.

If anyone would like to donate items that are related to schools of that era, please contact Pat Peinhardt at Peinhardt Living History Farm.

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