Oakey Ridge community sees two Spring Hill schools in area

Published 11:07 pm Friday, September 12, 2008

In last week’s column, the two Spring Hill Schools that were located in school district 38, were identified, and information about schools in the county during their time of existence was presented. It seems unusual that the two schools bore the same name and were located so near each other in essentially the same community. Also, while Spring Hill #1 was begun several years earlier than Spring Hill #2, they were operated simultaneously for a number of years until they were consolidated with Sanford School in 1927.

While the beginning date of Spring Hill #1 has not been identified, there are records of a school called Sanford School #1, which was located in District 38 that was created in 1904. It is likely that this school was what became known as Spring Hill School #1. If so, the name change probably came from an effort to distinguish it from the one in the Town of Sanford that was named Sanford School. Trustees for this school in 1916 were J.P. Wiggins, chairman, J.A. Cassady, and D.C. Burden. Trustees listed for 1920 were W.M. Taylor and H.J. Day. It is understood that the school burned in 1927, and the students were transferred to Sanford School and consolidated with it and the Spring Hill School #2.

Spring Hill School #1 was located adjacent to a large spring next to County Highway 73. The building sat just north of the current Scripture Truth Church and on the opposite side of the road. It was situated between a small shotgun-styled house and a dipped area in the landscape. Mr. E.C. “Pate” Benton resides near this location on the home place of his Dillard grandparents. Pate and his sister, Jeanice (Benton) Boothe, recalled that their grandparents boarded the teacher for the school and that their mother attended the school. There is a group picture of the students and teacher for this school, which was made in the 1920s that is shown with this column.

In 1920, the residents of the community surrounding the current Oakey Ridge Baptist Church decided they wanted a school even closer to their homes to which their children would not have to walk so far. Three trustees, J.P. Wiggins, J.H. Evans, and G.W. Wiggins were elected that year, so they set about organizing the school and erecting a building. It is believed by some local historians that the school was first named Oakey Ridge School, but when it was discovered that another school in the southern part of the county had this name, there was a need for a change in the new school’s name.

Since it was so close to Spring Hill School #1, it seemed a natural call to simply name it Spring Hill School #2. Still, there were a number of good springs of water near both locations. It has been said that there were springs on both sides of the hill upon which the second school was built. It might be significant that J.P. Wiggins was chairman of the trustees for Spring Hill School #1 in 1916, but he became chairman of the new trustees for Spring Hill School #2 in 1920. Anyway, both schools held a special place in the hearts of the two communities, which were located very close to each other.

The same can be said for the many community schools, which existed throughout the county during these earlier years. The sources for this story include interviews with earlier citizens and Wyley Ward’s book, History of Public Schools, Covington County, Alabama.

As requested before, anyone who has information, memories or pictures of these early schools that have not been documented historically is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or Email: cthomasson@centurytel.net.