Carter School served community southeast of Stanley and east of Red Oak
Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 8, 2014
Three weeks earlier the Stanley School and community were featured in this column. In today’s writing another one-room school located in the same general area, Carter School, will be described with the use of what limited information was found in several local publications and a few memories of local citizens.
While there is not a comprehensive publication that lists and describes in detail all of the many small schools that have existed in Covington County, there are several that provide valuable data. Wyley D. Ward states in his History of Public Schools, Covington County, Alabama, which was published in 2003, that, “The primary object of this booklet is to provide documented information on the creation, operation, financing, and performance of all public schools existing in Covington County, Alabama, from 1821 through 1921.” He further states, ”There were at least 150 white schools and 35 black schools in Covington County between 1821 and 2000.”
Another valuable resource is a book, The Development of Covington County Schools, was published in recent years. Miss Derlie Barnes, a well-known teacher and coordinator in the County School System compiled and organized records of the county schools for this publication. She gives credit for assistance from several individuals and members of the Central Committee appointed by the Covington Retired Teachers Association. Memories from several teachers provide insights to many of the early schools.
The focus of today’s narrative is Carter School, one described quite well by Miss Barnes in her book. She attended the school early on and later taught there one year. This small, one-room school building was located on the site of the small Carter Voting House, which was used initially for the registered voters of the surrounding community. Although not currently used for that purpose, it sits on the north side of County Road 45, which leaves Ala. 55 at Red Oak. The school was several miles east of Red Oak Baptist Church and about one and a half miles past Norris’s Meat House.
Miss Barnes described the Carter community as being “a quiet, peaceful area where large families of proud, respected and hard-working people lived.” She further wrote, “The Henry Carter family, for whom the school was named, donated the land where the building was constructed. Among other families who lived in the community were the Willie Taylors, Bradleys, Baggets, Boyetts, Blockers, Atkins, Powells, Holloways, Woodhams and many others. Children from the families of Newt Justice, W.R. Barnes, Lewis Atwell and Ed Johnson who lived beyond Yellow River also attending school at Carter.”
The Carter School was a typical one-room building, constructed by local men from rough lumber sawed at a local sawmill. It had a foundation of wood pillars and a roof of wood shingles. It had three glass windows and two doors. There was no ceiling except on the back wall where a section about eight feet wide was painted black for use as a chalkboard. A stage about 10 inches high and eight feet deep was constructed across that end of the building, and the teacher’s table and chair along with a recitation bench were placed on it.
The other furnishings consisted of long, hand-made benches with high backs to which were attached wide planks to serve as desks. These were so heavy that they would often tilt over when the students stood. In the center of the room was a box-type wood-burning heater. Of course, this required a flue running to the roof and through it. There were no toilets inside or outside, so the girls would go down stream and the boys up stream under the watchful eye of the teacher. There was no running water, so the boys usually went to the nearby creek to get water in a bucket. Each child had a drinking cup made from a gourd, which was hung on a nail in the wall.
The school day began at 8 a.m. with a roll call and opening exercises. This normally included singing, reciting Bible verses and repeating the Lord’s Prayer. Reading was the first subject of the day for all, which involved each grade being called to the recitation bench. Each student would read orally until the selection was completed, while the other students were doing assigned study period work. The Treadwell, Elson and the Baldwin readers were the selections used at Carter.
There were no library books or specific courses in literature, music and art, but at least there was some good literature in the textbooks. This included appropriate pictures, songs and poems to supplement the lessons. The students memorized poems and other works, which they recited from the stage on Friday afternoon as their required speech. The health textbook used was W.O. Kroln’s First Book in Physiology and Hygiene, published by D. Appleton in 1909. A geography textbook for the younger grades was Elementary Geography, Revised for Primary and Intermediate Classes, and Fryer’s Geography was for the higher grades. There was instruction in handwriting and spelling, which included the popular “spelling bee” exercises.
The pupils brought their lunches, usually consisting of biscuits, syrup, sausage or other meat, sweet potatoes and maybe a cookie, in a syrup bucket. While eating lunch they began to play ball, which was usually town ball, cat ball of different kinds and hail-over. The ball bats were made of boards, and the balls, of sock string. Other team games might consist of “Stealing sticks,” “Goosey-Goosey-Gander,” “Merchants,” or “What’s Your Trade.” Students also played a number of “singing games” such as Tideo, Coffee, Charlie and Marching Around the Levee. They also enjoy such games as Pop Goes the Weasel and variations of The Virginia Reel.
Teaching in a school like Carter was a serious challenge. The resources were often inadequate, and the physical environment was tough, but dedicated teachers gave their best to equip the students with a quality elementary education. Miss Barnes recalled the names of some of her teachers at Carter School: Miss Grace Savage, Miss Lillian Northcutt, Austin Beasley and E.B. White. Some of the others who taught there in later years were Mrs. Cola Mendhiem Gantt, Mrs. Bertha Powell, Miss Allie Lee Wilson, Miss Derlie Barnes and Newt Brunson.
Miss Allie Lee Wilson wrote an essay of her experiences as a teacher at Carter School. The assignment was her first year of teaching, and she indicated she was 18 years of age with no significant knowledge or experience. She claimed she knew nothing about teaching, but she had one summer school term at Troy University. She had about 20 pupils varying in ages in grades one through six. The building sat in a clearing in the woods with no other buildings around. She described the loneliness she felt in such an isolated location and missing her family. As teachers normally did, she boarded in the homes of those who offered a room. She would help the family with chores, but there was very little social life at all.
Ferris Johnson, a senior citizen residing in that area was a student at Carter in 1926. He shared some memories of his days there before transferring to Stanley School. Carter was consolidated with Stanley during the early 1920s, so Ferris attended one of the last years Carter was in operation. The date of the opening of Carter is not known, but it appears to have been during the very early 1900s. Like other small communities, Carter folks were proud of their school and supported it as well as they were able.
Sources for this writing were the two books mentioned above by Wyley D. Ward and Derlie Barnes plus conversations with a few area residents. Anyone who might find any errors or who has additional information on Carter is encouraged to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: email@example.com.
The Covington Rifles Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans will be meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 6, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. Anyone interested in Confederate heritage is welcome, and new members are desired.