Address on letter explained

Published 1:14 pm Wednesday, October 22, 2008

By Staff
In a recent Brewton Standard, Ms. Debbie Baker sought information about the meaning of letters “DIS” on an old letter addressed to her mother, Laura Bass, in fall of 1915. At that time Miss Bass was attending school in East Brewton learning bookkeeping.
The answer to the “DIS” enigma lies in the deeds of a remarkable man of God who truly practiced what he preached. In May 1904 the Rev. Dr. J.M. Shofner (one “f” please) began work to open a school for girls here. In his autobiography, Dr. Shofner declared, “Woman is the greater compliment of God to man… she is the central figure of the home… love is her light and power. This is the ideal woman we seek to develop from the homes of the humble and neglected.”
The first contribution to that school was made by Miss Martha Vincent of Rehoboth. Other donations followed and in the fall of 1904, they purchased the old Fort Crawford site. Progressing slowly, in July, 1906, they organized and incorporated the Downing Educational Society to “establish, run, maintain and conduct a girls industrial school for the education, maintenance and support of poor girls and worthy women.” However, the school was called the Downing Industrial School (DIS), in honor of Mr. Elisha Downing who had been quite liberal in building churches and school-houses, and assisting many in their education. In Sept. 1906 the first nine girls matriculated.
In an enlightening article, Beverly Howell, former Brewton Standard Lifestyles Editor, described the school. “The atmosphere of the school was essentially religious and courses in the Bible were taught as well as sewing, needlework, cooking and diarying (sp) in addition to the academic subjects of grades five, six and high school. As the enrollment increased music, shorthand, typing, stenography and bookkeeping were added to the curriculum. Following Dr. Shofner's retirement in 1924, the name known from its beginning until this time as the Downing Industrial School, was changed to the Downing-Shofner Institute. The last five years of the school a junior college curriculum was included in the studies.”
Ms. Howell's artical concluded by remembering that Dr. Shofner passed away on June 3, 1926, his birthday. He was laid to rest beneath the moss draped oaks of Fort Crawford Cemetery, and that according to Mrs. Jewell Williamson, a 1939 graduate, Mrs. Billy Shofner Bergman, Dr. Shofner's daughter, later had the cornerstones of the former school placed on either side of his grave.
Wilellen Weaver Elliott
East Brewton