Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Stores of the South - Old Salem School

At the turn of the 20th Century in Mississippi as well as the nation there was a push to better educational standards.  In rural areas of Mississippi the norm was the one room school house as well as privately owned and run boarding schools.  But more often than not due to the majority of families living on farms that needed every pair of able bodied hands, children were educated locally at a one room schoolhouse.  In the second half of the 19th century school consolidation began to develop nationally as a result of efforts to increase educational efficiency and along with the advancement of motorized transport and the condition of state roads this became more feasible.  I’ve already talked about this before in a prior post about the Clay County Agricultural School.

The other argument made for school consolidation was of course cost.  It cost less per student to educate in the larger schools versus the one room school.  It would allow for better organization, better quality of teachers, and of course more students meant more money to purchase better equipment.  It also gave students a larger circle of acquaintance and made a wider variety of athletic activities possible.  The consolidated school system slowly replaced the one room school house in all but the most remote of rural areas.  After consolidation Noxubee County maintained 19 schools and established two school districts.  There were 6 consolidated schools - Salem, Lynn Creek, Center Point, Cliftonville, Cooksville-Paulette, Mashulaville, and Brooksville.  Today we’re going to cover Old Salem School.  

The communities of Concord and Salem were interested in organizing a school and Mrs. Samual A. Adams was one of the early leaders with Mr. W. B. Jones the first superintendent.  In 1904 land was purchased located 3.4 miles west of Macon on highway 14.  The school was completed in 1914 and remained in use until 1939.

The building itself is 52 feet wide by 42 feet deep with brick walls being 1 foot thick.  Plain brick chimneys rise on the east and west sides with the school with rooms being heated by wood burning stoves.  As of 1916 the building was valued at $7,000 which doesn’t seem like much but in comparison the average household income in in Mississippi in 1916 was about $4,000 a year for the average worker.  In today’s money that $7,000 is about $160,000.  

The first floor had four large rooms divided by counter-weighted panels that could be raised and lowered to separate the 4 rooms into 8.  The partitions were innovative and thoughtful for the time.  Interior walls were plaster on wood lath above 3 foot high beadboard wainscoting.  Wood trim, banisters, and stairs were all plain in design and the ceilings were press metal.  The first floor was occupied by the grammar school students, grades 1-8 with 2 grades per room.  The second floor was for the high school students grades 9-12.  High school classes were math, science, history, and English.  Often there were private music lessons available as well.  The largest room on the east side had a stage that ran the length of the room and was used for study hall, music, chapel, and entertainment.  

Children came from the surrounding communities first by two horse wagon and later by school bus.  Each day started with the students lined up outside the school for the pledge of allegiance and daily prayer.  Once a week chapel was held.  Bible verses were read and songs such as America the Beautiful, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, and My Old Kentucky Home were sung.  And  always there was prayer.  As for the classes, they were often crowded with three children sharing a desk made for two.  The big rooms with their wood burning stoves were freezing in the winter and children learned fast to layer up their clothes to stay comfortable during the school day.  Central heat and air were a ways off as was federally funded education.  The county paid the teachers of which there were only 6 or 7.  Four of the teachers taught the grammar school students, and two or three taught the upper grades.  In an interview with Sallie Harper by the Mississippi Oral History Project she remembered a Mr.Mitchell who taught math and science and another teacher for english and history.  You can listen to her short interview HERE.   Books and supplies were paid for by the parents and grandparents of the pupils.  

The community also chipped in by attending the many fundraisers put on by the school.  One of their fundraisers was to have a stage play with the teachers and parents as actors.  One such play had the two main characters played by two local sweethearts, Spence Guy and Alice Neil.  According to the account by Herron Farrar Cockrell when they sang the title song My Wild Irish Rose there was not a dry eye in the building.  Other plays and programs were produced for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Presidents Day, Valentines, and Easter.  Each celebrated with an equal amount of enthusiasm by students and teachers alike.  Another fundraiser, and probably the favorite was the “box supper.”  The ladies of the community would prepare their very best supper, usually fried chicken with all the fixings, wrap it up in a beautifully decorated box, and each would be auctioned off with the proceeds going to the school.  The catch was no one was supposed to know who made which box!  The boxes were being auctioned off to the men of the community and of course each man wanted to purchase the meal prepared by his special lady.  Each year though the men would find out who made which box. The married men would then have great fun running up the bid on the single ladies supper boxes much to the chagrin of their beaus.  Along with the box suppers there were oyster suppers, ice cream socials, cake walks, and a Halloween carnival.  

The school also participated in community projects as well to give back to the people of the community who helped support them.  On Arbor Day each year every grade would plant a new tree. One of the water oaks in the front of the school was planted by Mrs. Cockrell and her 5th grade class in 1926.  Another project, and one that could only be appreciated in a rural setting, was a dipping vat.  This is usually a rectangular concrete structure set into the ground with a ramp in and out filled with water and chemicals to kill parasites.  Animals like cows, horses, sheep, goats, dogs, and any other animal that needed to be treated for fleas, ticks, flies, etc. would be driven through the dipping vat.  Each farmer had a certain day to drive his animals to the school for treatment.  This all took place during the summer when school was out.  Only in the country would this be a notable service to the community.  

The last senior class to graduate from Salem School was in 1932 with the grammar school continuing to operate until 1936 or 1939 depending on the source.  Today the building is significant as the largest and most sophisticated county public school building remaining in Noxubee County from the early 20th century.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1989.  The school continues to stand as a product of some of the the earliest efforts of improving education in Noxubee County.  

Last year was their 100th anniversary and the occasion was covered by local tv station WCBI and our local newspaper The Macon Beacon.  You can read the WCBI article HERE and the Macon Beacon article HERE.  Today the school is owned by the Salem Historical Society with future plans to renovate and maintain the building.


Salem School by Herron Farrar Cockrell
from the Noxubee County Historical Trail by Gordon Hansen 

Historical Notes of Noxubee County by John A. Tyson

Macon Beacon - Making Old Salem New Again 

Mississippi Oral History Project - Salem School 

National Register for Historic Places Form - Salem School  

Statistics of Income 1916 

Wordless Wednesday - Tom Soya Grain Company Crawford, Mississippi

Tom Soya Grain Company 
Crawford, MS

Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Monday Yet Again....

And again I have been overwhelmed by the very kind compliments and messages I have received about my Cooksville United Methodist post.  It was even mentioned in church three times Sunday - twice in Sunday school and again at the beginning of the service by our pastor.  I’m woman enough to say that I was more than a little worried about how it would be received and am happy to say the pastor and long time members were all very happy with what I had written.  So again, thank you so much.  

I’m my very own worst critic.  I often wonder if the intention of my writing gets across to the reader.  I wonder if what I’m writing is finding an audience.  I wonder if the flow of my writing and my grammatical errors are a distraction to the meaning of the piece.  All in all I worry too much instead of just getting the words into print, and then the truly terrifying part putting it out there for anyone and everyone to read.  One of my literary heroes is Eudora Welty.  Her simple style speaks to me as well as the subjects she covered in her writing.  The short story that first caught my attention and made me love her was “Why I live at the P.O.” which you can read for free HERE. Not only did I find this in high school, but our high school library (where I worked during study hall and P.E.) had a set of cassette tapes (yep I’m that old) of her reading her short stories and this story was on it.  I can remember shelving books, contraband walkman clipped to the band of my skirt, unsuccessfully holding in my laughter as I listened to someone very much like my grandmother telling the most wonderful stories in my ears.  I read anything and everything I could on her and in college found out she was a photographer for the W.P.A. during the depression.  Eudora Welty, Walker Evans, and William Christenberry are my trinity of Southern photography.  She was the very coolest of ladies and I thank the good Lord I found her in high school.  Still need to make the pilgrimage to her home in Jackson, Mississippi - maybe one day Allie and I can do that.  She is a lot of the reason I love southern history and more importantly the simple every day history of the every day man and woman. The people upon which an entire society is built, but often times are forgotten. Those are the stories I'm looking to write down and share. I'll never be a Welty or even approaching something close but I can share my stories. I can save the history that I can.

So today I’ll leave you with a short quote from our lady author, photographer, and purveyor of Southern Culture:

The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order the continuous thread of revelation.  - Eudora Welty

Friday, August 28, 2015

Stories of the South - Cooksville United Methodist Church Part II

Yesterday's post was all about the Cooksville United Methodist Church.  Since it's Friday and we've all had a long week, I thought I would just post some pictures of the beautiful cemetery that surrounds the church.  Some of the earliest graves date back to 1841.

That's it for this week.  It's been a long week and I'm glad to see it go honestly.  I've been fighting insomnia for a few weeks now and it finally caught up with me this week.  Maybe, hopefully, I'm back to my regular sleeping schedule.  Have a great weekend my lovelies!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Stories of the South: Cooksville United Methodist Church Part I

 Once I pulled up all my edited pictures for this entry I decided to break it up into two posts.  One of the building and interior and one of the beautiful old cemetery.  Enjoy!

Cooksville United Methodist Church was established in 1834 and the present church building was built in 1846.   To place that in history Mississippi had only been a state since December 10, 1817, James A. Polk was the 11th President, and the Civil Would would not start until 1861 twenty seven years later.  

Cooksville United Methodist Church was is located on Cooksville Road about 17 miles east of Macon, Mississippi off Highway 14 east.  it is right past Savannah Church which I covered in an earlier post HERE.  Cooksville was once a small vibrant community that had churches, a school, stores, and even a cotton gin.  The gin is still there located on Circle M Plantation and one of the stores Sparkman's Store located right past the church.  

According to the deed dated June 5, 1846 the land was deeded by Robert Neil to the "Constitutional Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church South in the town of Cooksville."  This document can be found at the Macon Courthouse today.  In 1876, for whatever reason, the Presbyterian congregation dissolved leaving the Methodists the sole owners of the property. 

The church was formed under the guidance of Reverend James Matthews who was appointed to the Choctaw Mission.  The Choctaw Mission at Mayhew was established by the Methodist in 1818.  Their objective was to minister to the local tribes as well as offer education to them by setting up a school.  To this  day their is still an active Choctaw Mission in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  Reverend Matthew along with his appointed junior ministers R.L. Kennon and William Weir helped established not only Cooksville Methodist but also another church at Fairfield on the Bigbee.  

The church was built by James L. Duck.  It has changed some over time with the addition of two Sunday school rooms and a vestibule but otherwise has stayed largely the same.  It is a vernacular style church like several others in the area.  The flooring and pews are original to the church as is the flooring which is 6 1/2" virgin pine.  And charmingly the pews are marked here and there with the initial of prior members.  Little delinquent charming scamps. 

Adjoining the church is the cemetery in the which some of the earliest graves are of Rosanna Prewitt 1783-1841, John Prewitt 1780-1851, and Frances Scott 1801-1885.   

More than just a beautiful building with a long and storied history it is a lovely congregation of people that love and care about each other and the community.  For an example, in a day and age of Facebook posts and email our Sunday school teacher Mrs. F runs a card writing ministry.  Each Sunday at least two if not more cards are passed around and signed by the members.  Doesn't matter if you know them or not.  We pray constantly for newly married couples along with expectant mothers.  The children's program is thriving and we are building an extension to our fellowship hall because the church has simply outgrown it.  No matter it's 17 miles from town, no matter it's location, it is thriving and continuing to grow.  I love it because it reminds me so much of the churches I grew up in - no matter I'm a girl raised, saved, and baptized in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, spent time in her grandparent's Baptist Church, went to a Baptist School, married in the Baptist Church.  I'm enjoying my current time in the Methodist Church.  It's been a warm, welcoming church, and most importantly Allie is getting the foundation she needs to build her faith upon much the same way I did and her father did, and Momma is very happy about that.  

If you'd like to see pictures of the church during Christmas, you can click HERE.  


Noxubee County Historical Trail by Gordon Hansen, edited by Debbie Butler White

Friday, August 21, 2015

Beginnings of fall

Noxubee County Corn August 2008
Polarid Instamatic

It's that time of year, corn is beginning to be shelled all over the county.  The rain we've had this week makes me itch for long rides in the woods, cooler days, and even cooler nights. 

Happy Friday, my lovelies.  The very best of weekends to you.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


soybean deerbrook hickory ridge studio

I'm not the biggest poetry fan in the world, but what I like, I like.  Robert Burns, Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Shelly, Lord Alfred Tennyson - do we see a pattern here?  And then there's my love of two American poets, Robert Frost and Walt Whitman.  Frost and Whitman write the most beautiful nature poetry.  The kind of poetry that if I'm having a bad day, I just google their name and read till I feel better.  

soybean deerbrook hickory ridge studio

I honestly can't remember if I've posted these pictures before, but regardless the soft colors are what I'm feeling today.  So again I'll leave you with this short poem from Walt Whitman. 

soybean deerbrook hickory ridge studio

by Walt Whitman 

Why, who makes much of a miracle? 
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles, 
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, 
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, 
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water, 
Or stand under trees in the woods, 
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night 
with any one I love, 
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest, 
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, 
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon, 
Or animals feeding in the fields, 
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air, 
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet 
and bright, 
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring; 
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, 
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place. 

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, 
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle, 
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same, 
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same. 
To me the sea is a continual miracle, 
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the 
ships with men in them, 
What stranger miracles are there? 

That's it for today lovelies, another post tomorrow hopefully to round out the week.  Good night!