Holmes history marks educational milestones

Published 10:12 pm Wednesday, March 10, 2010

By Staff
This column and maybe one more will conclude the part of Ethel Holmes history of Escambia County about education in Escambia County. I must remind you that this was originally written in 1934. Since that time, many things have changed to be politically correct.
Mr. O.C. Weaver, the present County Superintendent of Education, was born in Monterery, Ala. in 1885 and received his education in the schools of Monterey and at the Southern University at Greensboro, from which he graduated with an A.B. degree in 1909. After completing his education, Mr. Weaver taught in the Camden schools eight years, before being made superintendent of that school, a position, which he held for six years. In 1927 he came to Brewton as County Superintendent of Education, the position, which he still holds. He is a member of the Methodist Church.
T.R. Miller High School, now a part of the public school in Brewton, was formerly a private school for boys and girls, known as Brewton Collegiate Institute. It was established in 1887, burned in 1894 and when it was rebuilt it became a public school.
Downing-Shofner Institute for Girls is located within one and one-half miles of Brewton. The idea of the institution dedicated to the education and instruction off girls of limited means was the dream of the founder of this school. It was to be a Christian home in which the physical, moral and mental natures of the girls could be trained into strong and healthy womanhood. The founder, J.M. Shofner, a Methodist preacher, was a man of high ideals, a man who saw the need of such an institution and who determined that it should be erected and dedicated to advancing the knowledge of girls. The school was chartered in 1906, and was a small long building. Answering a most decided need in that section, the D.S.I. received the acclaim of the local people from the start. People from other states as well as from Brewton and Alabama helped support the organization.
As pupils increased every year, it was necessary for the school to add to its facilities. Pauline Taylor Hall, Martha Gielow Hall and Wiggins Hall were built in order to care for the housing and instruction of the girls. Since those buildings were completed, a home for the president has been built.
Starting with the fifth grade the D.S.I. teaches all of the high school courses and up until the last two years, it included the first two years of college in its studies. The curriculum is very complete. In addition to the regular courses, voice, piano, expression, bookkeeping, shorthand, and typewriting are offered. Special courses of industrial features are offered, especially sewing, needlework and cooking.
Due to the fact that the school’s primary object was to furnish education to the girls of limited means, the tuition is exceptionally low. In many instances scholarships are given by various citizens to worthy girls. Other gifts and donations are often received.
One of the best-equipped black schools anywhere in Alabama is found in Escambia County. The Southern Normal and Industrial School is situated about three miles north of Brewton on the eastern prong of the Castleberry and Kirkland road. The school was started in a small way in 1911 by James Dooley who carried it on almost by his own efforts for about eight years, after which he interested the Board of Domestic Missions of the Reformed Church of America in what he was attempting to do for the black youth in this section. The secretary and other leaders of this denomination came down from New York, and seeing the need of such an institution and recognizing Dooley’s earnestness, came to his aid. Leaders of the Board came down from time to time and helped plan the improvement and work of the school. It is now well established and draws a patronage from many surrounding counties.
A large brick building, modeled after the State Board of Education plans for consolidated school buildings, and a large dormitory have been erected. They have a number of workshops on a large farm where all kinds of farm demonstrations can be carried on. The school offers courses in Bible, for it is primarily a Christian institution, agriculture, carpentering, commercial courses, dressmaking, home economics, piano, voice painting and printing.
Since the recent death of Dooley, Love was appointed Dean of the school after having had a special course at Ann Arbor, Mich. John Dooley was made business manager, and Mary Dooley, widow of the founder, is matron of the boarding department. On the local board, selected by the secretary of the Board of Domestic Missions of the Reformed Church of America, are some of the most prominent businessmen of Brewton.
Not only is Escambia County interested in education of the youths but also the adults. This is shown by the opportunity schools held every summer for six weeks in the following places: Damascus, Roberts, Bradley, McCall, Graves, Wallace, Maxwell and Boutwell. Under the supervision of Mr. J.B. Goolsby ten trained and experience teachers are employed to teach in these schools. The course of instruction includes the subjects that the students want, arithmetic and business, English being the principal subject called for.

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