More on Downing-Shofner School
Published 9:18 am Wednesday, March 3, 2004
I have received several calls this week about the material on the Downing-Shofner School in East Brewton.
Shortly after the opening of the school in 1906 Shofner was transferred to Enterprise to preach in a circuit there. The school continued to operate and he was very complimentary to the teachers for holding everything together until he returned after a year.
In 1908, Pauline Taylor Hall was erected and became the administration building. It was so named as a memorial to the sister of Cornelia Taylor, who gave a contribution of $5,000.
Later there was a home built for the president which stands today on Shofner Street. It has changed somewhat but many things remain the same.
During the next few years, there was continual improvements, such as enlarging buildings, installing water and lights and erecting a large building of 32 rooms. This building was named Gielow Hall in honor of Martha Sawyer Gielow who had shown much interest in the school.
There were many times when the school was on the verge of bankruptcy when someone would come forth to bail them out. In 1909, suffering under a debt of $5000, C.L. Wiggins donated a contribution of $10,000. Again in 1915 the school was in dire straits and it seemed as if it would surely have to close when once again Cornelia Aiken Taylor of New York gave them $13,919.29.
During these years, Shofner had tried to persuade the Methodist Conference to take the school on but to no avail. Finally in 1912 it came under the Alabama Conference of the M.E. Church, South. Although there were some objections to the school becoming a church denominational undertaking, it was Shofner's desire that the school be "distinctively Christian."
In nine years, the school had grown from one dormitory with nine girls, a matron, three teachers and a plant worth $5,000 to three dormitories, an administration building, president's house, two farm houses, and an enrollment of 173 pupils, a faculty of 14 and a plant valued at about $60,000.
The girls enrolled in the school not only received an education, but they sustained themselves with growing their own food products, their own dairy, poultry and whatever else they required.
Next week I want to continue with this as I have heard from several people. I have not had the time to get all the material together, but it is very interesting.