Our local chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence Chapter, recently met for our monthly meeting at the County Line School House in City Park.
The school building was restored 15 years ago to preserve George County’s oldest surviving school building. Most of the items currently inside the building have been reproduced to represent the furnishings in the original school in 1924.
The day of our DAR meeting was a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning, and we left the door open for a breeze. During the meeting, the local Girl Scout Troop walked past by happenstance and peeped through the doorway. Their eyes showed large interest so we invited them inside. The girls, all elementary age, quickly grabbed seats at the wooden desks while I greeted their leaders and told them we were having a DAR meeting there with a program on the history of that schoolhouse.
It turned out to be the perfect meeting because DAR has three missions: historic preservation, education, and patriotism. Having an opportunity to show the schoolhouse and explain a few of its characteristics fell right into both the historic preservation and the education categories. When we showed the girls the 48-star flag, we added a little patriotism.
Speaking of the 48-star flag, it stands upright in a base at the front of the one-room school behind the teacher’s desk. In 1924 the United States only had 48 states as Hawaii and Alaska had not been added. We also pointed out the wood-burning stove that would have heated the building in the winter and the glass-paned windows which would have been raised in the warmer months to allow airflow. Other items the little girls found interesting were the kerosene lamp on the teacher’s desk and the chalkboard with cursive lettering displaying the proper formation of the alphabet. Chalkboard slates and pieces of white chalk lay on the student desks for classroom work whereas today’s school children would use notebook paper and pencils or perhaps computer laptops.
The schoolhouse sits on the northern hillside of the park and is the oldest surviving school in George County. Established in 1880, the building originally sat at Evanston and was called the Evanston School, named for the Evans family who lived nearby. It served grades 1-12. At that time Evanston was in Beat 1 Jackson County as George County was not formed until 1910. It later became referred to as County Line School because it sat on the Jackson and Greene County line.
The number of students enrolled in any one year averaged about 43, but attendance averaged about 24 per month because many students had to work on the family farm as needed. The length of the school year varied from year to year. For example, one year might be 80 days long and another 107 days. By 1923-24, the number of students had dropped drastically and the school officially disbanded in September 1924. Its students were transferred to Ward School. Through the years it was used as a home, a hay barn, and a corn crib. It moved a couple of times; however, by 1969 it was located on the property of Harold Tanner on Mississippi 613. Tanner donated it to the Lions Club which moved it to the park and maintained it until that organization disbanded. In 1983 the Lucedale Garden Club took ownership but had difficulty maintaining it because of vandals. When the restoration project began, the City of Lucedale accepted ownership of the Lucedale Garden Club.
In April 2008, the School House Restoration Committee began meeting under the leadership of co-chairmen Joe Cowart and Louis Valentine. Other members were Dr. Dayton Whites, Mayor Doug Lee, Darwin M. Maples, Joe Dickerson, Roy Grafe, Jr., Dennis Moffett, Dave Lollis, Fred Croom, Richmond McKay, Clyde Dungan, Jeanine Havard, Yvonne Havard, Janet Smith, and Kathy Johnson. The building was restored through local fundraisers and donations of brick, lumber, labor, and other items.
Renovations were completed in four years. A dedication ceremony took place on April 21, 2012. Finally, the little building was made available for citizens to experience the one-room school era.
Today it stays safely locked except when organizations and school teachers request its use. And a few Saturdays ago, its history came to life for adults and for children when the Declaration of Independence Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution showed it to some sweet little girls of Lucedale Girl Scout Troop 4637.