Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas
Public Education in Fannin County
Bonham Daily Favorite, January 24, 1993
By the end of August 1859 the number of schools in Fannin County had grown from 40 to 47 and the report for that year for the first time designated the schools with a number and a census of the number of enrolled children. A state-wide census of school age children was taken in 1855. The records of that census for Fannin County do not exist locally or at the state level although some information does indicate that the census was taken locally.
The 1859 records show that the same method of providing for public education was in effect in the county as it had been in earlier records. Basically the schools, although numbered, were identified by the name of the teacher, figures are still provided for "paying schollars" and indigents, and each school had two patrons. Some men were patrons for more than one school.
Some schools did not report indigent students and because of the size enrollment and the presence of more than one teacher, these schools may well have been private academies.
Even with the numbering system, there is no indication as to the location of these schools or how the method of numbering was used. It is only from an examination of the names of the patrons and knowledge of their places of residences are we able to make an educated guess as to the approximate locations of these mid-nineteenth century-schools. For example school number 45 had as patrons William Arledge and James Moore. Arledge, of course, settled some five miles south of Bonham in what is now known as the Arledge Ridge community. Moore, in the 1860 census was a near neighbor to Arledge which indicates that school number forty-five was a community school at Arledge Ridge. Two teachers, Hooker and Moody, were listed at school number 37; patrons were G.W. Moore and B.S. Walcott, both Honey Grove merchants and residents and obviously supporters of a school in their community.
The largest enrollment in the 1859 report was at Arledge' s school. The teacher, J.R. Hooten, reported 1074 days of indigent students and 3830 days of paying students with a total enrollment of sixty-five. He was paid, for the year, a total of $166.72 1/2. By contrast the smallest school to report was that of patrons R. Elrod and J.F. Hoffman, both residents near Orangeville. The teacher, F.M. Chaney, reported no indigent days and only 768 1/2 days of paying students for a total enrollment of fifteen. He was paid $17.29 for the year.
Six reports were rejected for various reasons, J.R. Parker, J.L. Price, W.H. Parks, and T.J. Vannoy for lack of proper certificates of qualification. R.D. Ewing's report was rejected for his failure to provide proof of patrons, and Carter Taylor for failing to provide the dates for the beginning and end of school. C.L. Ragland did not provide the proper form and Lucy Dial failed to provide dates, place, and the proper form. Dial was the only female teacher listed.
For most of the next decade, especially during the years of the Civil War, school records are almost non-existent. In all probability education took a back seat to the war for any number of reasons, lack of funding, lack of qualified teachers, etc. Some of the more successful private institutions did continue through the war years; these will be discussed at a later date.
By 1867 the Commissioners Court were still listing school districts by number but also provided specifics as to the locations. While these descriptions may have been perfectly useful in 1867, by today's knowledge these sites are difficult to determine. For example, District #5 began at the mouth of Post Oak, thence up Caney to the county line, thence with the county line Brushy to Youree Road, thence east with the Youree Road to the s.e. corner of #2, thence with the west line of #4 to the beginning of #6. Presumably a map of these districts was created at the time, but the only pertinent information we can glean from this vague description are the references to Brushy Creek and Youree's Road. This two bits tell us that the school district was in northwest Fannin County near the Grayson County line.
Soon after the implementation of the modern school system in 1890, the Commissioners Court ordered elections to be held on the last Saturday of June, 1892 for the election of trustees of the various districts. With this order, districts are not only numbers, but for the first time each school has an identifying name.
One hundred and twenty-five districts, including three black schools, were in operation. The list is too lengthy to print here. Many of these names were in use until the break up of the county system in the 1950's and 60's. A few of the names are heard infrequently so this short list is provided: #3 Eminence, #7 Gilbert, #11 Union Valley, #19 Prairie Point, #21 Clark, #24 Isham, #29 Grange Hall, #32 Craddock, #49 King, #56 Harder, #69 Morgan's Ridge, #73 Blevins, #95 Slab Town, #121 Red Haw.
I'm sure that some people will recognize these names, but either the schools underwent name changes, or were short-lived enough so that these names are rarities.
This discussion of the first attempts at public education shows only the evolution of the school system in Fannin County up to the beginning of the twentieth century. Not included in the discussion are the private schools, which did receive some county funding, that were the backbone of education in the towns of the county. In general most of the schools listed are those that served the rural areas.
In the future the impact of these private institutions will be discussed in some detail.