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Rose Hill community promoted education through many schools

While searching for information related to Rose Hill, this writer discovered a column, “Rose Hill Rich in Memories,” written by Mrs. E.W. Blow and published in the Andalusia Star-News on February 21, 1973. In it she outlines information on the following topics relative to Red Level: roads, schools, churches, cemeteries and some of the pioneering families.

Families began to move into the area during the 1820s and settled on the south side of Conecuh River and along the Three Notch Trail. They came primarily from Georgia, South Carolina and the surrounding areas in southeast Alabama. The Three Notch Trail was quite popular with those migrating west because it was well established by the native Indians over several hundred years. One could travel from Columbus, Georgia, to Pensacola, Florida, without crossing a major stream that could not be easily forded. This made the trail quite attractive for the settlers moving to the area.

In today’s column, attention will be focused on the schools in the Rose Hill community as identified and described by Mrs. Blow. According to her information, the oldest school of any record was the Moody School, which was located about 200 yards northeast of Henry Moody’s residence. It is believed that it was built circa 1830. About the same time, the Haygood School was built on the Burnout Road near the home of John Butler, with was about four miles northeast of Rose Hill.

Around 1860, school was taught in a log structure located near and across the road from the Pilgrim Church on the Rose Hill-Dozier Road. Some of the teachers who taught there were J.P. Rouseau, H.H. Rowell, Dick Steward and Sidney Haygood. About the same time, there was a school called White Head and Redbug Rest at times, which was located near the home of George Bryant.

Then the Thomasson School was built sometime before 1870. It was located about four miles northeast of Rose Hill on the Burnout Road. The land and lumber for it was donated by Jefferson Sylvanus Thomasson whose home was about 100 yards east of the school. One of the teachers who taught there was William Bonner whose family lived in the area.

In 1873, a two-story building was constructed near the Rose Hill Gin Company, and it was known as the Old Academy School. The upper floor was used as a Masonic Hall, and school was taught in the first floor until 1910 with an enrollment of 40 to 50 pupils each year. There was never more than one teacher at a time, and the books studied included the Blue Back Speller, McGuffy Reader, Sanford Arithmetic and a grammar.

The Bethel Church, located near the Chester Grant home, was used as a school for a time after 1877, and the Williams School was built around 1882 near the site of Robert Baker’s residence. Also in 1882, a new school was built about one half mile south of the old log structure on the Rose Hill-Dozier Road. It was named Rowell School after H.H. Rowell who donated the land. Water for the students was secured from a nearby spring, and they used gourd dippers. The building was heated by an open fireplace. Some of the teachers were B.D. Rowell, L.L. Mallette, W.H. Davis and J.J. Kimbro. Each year on the last night of school, a “concert” was held, which consisted of recitations, speeches, spelling bees, drill and singing.

In 1885, the Taylor School was built near the site of Wiley Wiggins’s store. In 1900, the Mt. Gilead School was constructed near the present site of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church. In1917, it was consolidated with the Chapel Hill School to form Mt. Chapel School, which was located near George Bryant’s home. Also in 1917, the Rowell and Taylor Schools were consolidated to form the Old Rose Hill School. That same year, the Lord School and Williams School were consolidated to form Campbell’s Chapel School, located one fourth mile north of the site of L.H. Wiggins store.

In 1936, a modern brick veneer school building was constructed on the Three-Notch Road about one mile east of the Rose Hill stores. This new school’s enrollment consisted of the students from the Old Rose Hill School, Campbell’s Chapel and Mt. Chapel. This building featured nine classrooms, and three more were added in 1939. There was the usual auditorium, and the building had a modern steam heating system. In 1941, the school had 340 students with a faculty of 12 teachers. Five private or county-operated school buses transported the students to and from school.

When the nearby Straughn School building burned in 1959, some of the students were temporarily bused to the Rose Hill School building, and others were taught in area church buildings. Eventually classrooms were set up in large tents, which served while a new building was being constructed. The Rose Hill school was closed about 1968, and the students were transported to Straughn School and Dozier School. The building was in good condition and was used as a community center until it burned in 1968 when lightening struck it. Afterwards, a new community center building was constructed on the site, which is still being used today by the community and serves as the site for the adult activity center meals. Students who live in the area today are transported to Straughn School or the schools in Brantley.

The only one of the above school buildings known to this writer to still be standing is the Thomasson School, one for which his great grandfather was responsible. After ceasing to serve as a school, the building was used as a dwelling for many years and eventually as a hay barn. It is most fortunate that the current land owner, Tony Walden renovated the building for use as a camp house and office-type building. (The writer would be very interested in learning of any other wooden school buildings that might still be standing in Covington County. He may be contacted at the addresses listed at the end of this column.)

While there are no thriving businesses in the area at present, Rose Hill remains a pleasant, rural community where many make their home. When the first settlers came in the 1920s, they found an area covered with thick stands of longleaf pines. There was evidence of a fairly advanced Indian civilization having lived for some time in the area. The newcomers were able to settle and build upon the remains of the Indian sites.

Some of the more significant historical events of the area included the following: The well-known Colvin House was build circa 1830 by Richard Feagin. The house was later occupied by Dr. J.T. Brady during the years of the War Between the States and later by John L. Stewart who sealed and remodeled it. The Cauleyville Post Office was established in 1840 near Rose Hill, and the Rose Hill Post Office was established in 1861 with A.J. Feagin serving as postmaster. In 1852, the Greenland Post Office was established, but it was abolished in 1855. It was located about two miles northeast of Rose Hill on the Three-Notch Road, and William Green Williams was reported to have been the first postmaster. Around 1850, the Rose Hill Masonic Lodge was organized, but it ceases to exist at the present. In 1850, there were two medical doctors, Dr. J.T. Brady and Dr. Pendrey, and they were followed by Dr. Dan Campbell. The first store was built in 1855 and operated by Billy Brandon. Also in 1855, Dr. J.T. Brady is believed to have operated the first horse-drawn cotton gin. In 1872, a tanning yard was known to exist, and in 1875 Mildew Killebrew ran a wool mill or jeans factory.

Information on the churches and cemeteries of Rose Hill will be shared in the near future. Anyone having information regarding these or any corrections to the above history is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or e-mail: cthomasson@centurytel.net.

HISTORICAL MEETING: The Covington Historical Society will be meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 30, at the Red Level Community Center. The program will be a presentation of the history of the area with photos and memorabilia. Guests are welcome.

The Thomasson School building as it appears today.| Courtesy photo