Forgotten Trails: Loss of Neal High School to fire remembered

Published 1:40 pm Wednesday, April 11, 2007

By Staff
I am still having a good time going through the old bound volumes here at the newspaper. There are so many interesting facts that may be forgotten if not recorded. This is an article that showed up on Feb. 8, 1951.
Neal High School Razed by Friday Afternoon Fire
Fire destroyed the main building at W.S. Neal School in East Brewton Friday afternoon.
Flames swept unchecked through the structure for more than two hours while five fire departments tried vainly to save part of the county school.
Harry Weaver, principal of the school, said the fire broke through the ceiling in the library which was located in the southwest corner of the building. He said the blaze probably started from a defective flue in the library.
The flames were noticed first, about 2:30 p.m. after the students left the school. The Brewton Fire Department answered the alarms, but was unable to handle the fire. By three o'clock, the flames had enveloped the southwest wing of the building and had begun to eat into the other wings.
Firemen abandoned efforts to save the school about 4:30 p.m. and used their hoses to keep the flames from spreading. None of the other buildings were damaged.
Loss was estimated by O.C. Weaver, superintendent of county schools, at $200,000. Some of the equipment and records in the building were saved, and most of the athletic equipment was removed safely.
Weaver said the county had $75,000 insurance on the building and $6,000 insurance on the contents.
Fire departments from Brewton, Evergreen, Flomaton, Atmore and Whiting Field answered the alarm when the flames began to spread.
Weaver said that plans have already been laid to rebuild the school.
Classes on a temporary basis were opened in the remaining buildings yesterday, and Principal Harry Weaver said students will be handled in them until the new school is built.
The school building destroyed by fire accommodated about 400 students. Neal School has an enrollment of about 900 pupils this year. It serves high school students from the entire eastern end of the county.”
In the same issue of the paper there was another little interesting article that could have changed many things in the school system since that year. It was a little article entitled &#8220Group Seeks to Merge Two Schools Here.”
It seems a movement was made to merge the city and county school systems in Brewton and East Brewton. A group met in the Chamber of Commerce office to express a general desire to merge the two systems. Another merger had been discussed four years previous but no action had been taken.
The merger proposal would have made the high school in Brewton a part of the county system. The city of Brewton would have remained in charge of the elementary school but would only have had advisory powers at the high school.
Can you imagine what that step would have done? There would have no rivalry such as there is today. I don't know what happened but I will try to find out. It is obvious that the merger did not go through.
I will continue to look for interesting tid-bits from the past and will share with you the ones that may be particularly interesting.
If you would like to share any story ideas or old memories with me, you can email me at I'd love to hear from you anytime.
Happy Hunting!

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