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A Look Back at education before the pandemic

The 2019-2020 school year in Hartselle has been unlike any other.  

The closest comparison would be the Great Depression, when the virtual economic shutdown required schools to close early because money to pay teachers and maintain buildings had run out.  

There was no expectation that the parents of homebound children would be given assistance by their schools to educate the kids at home. The schools lacked the funds and teachers to provide such assistance, and most parents did not have the formal education that would enable them to be de facto teachers. 

A majority of the items below go back well before the Depression, to the time when the schools available to most children – especially those living outside towns like Hartselle – were, by modern standards, very inadequate. They were usually one-roomone-teacher schools. 

Nov. 1, 1824—Wiley Galaway was reported by a local newspaper to be “a very competent and successful school teacher.” At this time Mr. Galaway was teaching a school at Houston’s Store here in Morgan County. (Before it became known as Danville, this settlement was identified as “Houston’s Store.”) 

Jan. 1, 1850—Charles Gibson was the fourth probate judge of neighboring Lawrence County. He had moved to Oakville, west of Danville, with his family from Georgia in 1818. He was educated in the common schools but only attended these one-teacher institutions at intervals when he could be spared from the business of the family farm. 

June 30, 1853—Local historian David Burleson finds that George Hartsell, then a North Carolina resident, bought 40 acres of land from William Carolan. Using today’s landmarks, Mr. Burleson says the land would be adjacent to what is now the Hartselle City Cemetery. The newlypublished 1850 census finds that the George Hartsell family lives on property he bought from Wm Carolan. Hartsell’s oldest son is a schoolteacher for a one-room school located on his family’s land. 

March 31, 1881—Katie Doss, an 8-year-old who lives with her family west of Danville, is reported in the newspaper to have read through the First Reader used in her one-room school in less than three weeks. She also recited the correct spelling of words presented in another book. In mathematics, she wrote and learned the “tables.” Her teacher, only twice her age at 16, is amazed, as are all the people living in her community. 

Jan. 15, 1886—The schools of Morgan County seem to be prosperous. This shows that our people have a tendency to appreciate the importance of an education. (J. A. Rountree, the Enquirer founding editor, expressed this optimistic view in the Huntsville Daily Mercury, a paper for which he served as the Hartselle correspondent. Undoubtedly, he wanted to motivate people from Huntsville and elsewhere to consider moving here.) 

Oct. 10, 1904On the same date as the national elections, the citizens of Morgan County will be called upon to vote for or against a special school tax for the public schools of the county. This order was made by the commissioners’ court. The public schools of the rural districts, almost uniformly one-teacher, one-room, are extremely poorfor the lack of sufficient money to carry them on, and the commissioners, under the law, have taken this means to try to make them better. 

Sept. 28, 1906The Morgan County Teachers’ Association began a two-day meeting here in Hartselle today. Papers presented included “A Model Daily Program for the Common School” by Miss Laurena Speegle. Instructors in one-teacher-one-room schools face many challenges in attempting to instill knowledge in the heads of youngsters representing multiple grades. 

July 7, 1907A movement tending to the betterment of the country public schools of Morgan County has been started and, as a result, meetings will be held at various places in the county during the next few weeks. The promoters of the movement are led by Prof. Henry T. Lile of Hartselle. The first meeting will be held at Center Grove, in the eastern part of the county, on July 19. The meetings will take place in the single-room buildings occupied by the rural schools.