By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Saving Dorchester Consolidated School
Liberty lore
Dorchester Consolidated School then
Sitting in front of the old Dorchester Consolidated School on Islands Highway, a sign “SCHOOL RESTORATION PROJECT-Help Needed-If interested call 912-884-2332 or 912-884-5877” is making people smile.
This Dorchester school is not to be confused with the Dorchester Academy on Highway 84 west of Midway.
The sign has been up two weeks and several people have already called and offered services, plumbing, carpentry, etc. This brings joy to my heart to know this beautiful old building will be restored and used for a Dorchester civic center instead of being torn down as so many other historical buildings have in the county.
According to the very few notes I could find on the school, it was built in 1927 for first through seventh grades. It was phased out in 1943 and its students after that date were bused to Bradwell institute. Some disagree with that date.
The survey plat dated June 8, 1927, describes the 10 acres and is attached to the deed from Gay Green of North Carolina to the Dorchester Consolidated School District. On Feb. 4, 1958, the Liberty County School Board sold the property for $10 to the Dorchester Civic Center, Inc. The board of directors maintains control of the facilities.
The Dorchester Corporation formed with no stock, for the purpose of promoting health, educational, civic enterprises and youth organizations.
Since the school closed, it has been used for several things; a meeting place for the Lions Club and homecoming for the Dorchester Presbyterian Church. It could be used for any civic or private meeting and for a storm shelter. This is the only social gathering place in the community that is sufficient for all these meetings. It was offered to any group on a cost of utility basis.
Over the years, the building has needed repairs. The roof had some repairs in 1984 at the tune of $3,000. There are many repairs that must be done soon to keep the building from falling apart. A new roof is a must. Donations are the only source of revenue. The group’s goal is to restore the building and grounds and maintain it for the use of the Dorchester community. Donations, supplies, skilled laborers are requested.
The school had an auditorium, four classrooms and two bathrooms. There were three teachers and a principal. Its consolidation eliminated small schools at Sunbury, Colonels Island, Riceboro and Jackson Chapel. With help from all interested people in Liberty County, the old school can have new life again. Plans include a park with walking trails and a playground for the kids.
Okay, so much for the technical part about the school. I interviewed four students of the school who are still young at heart. I interviewed Barbara Martin, Catherine Brigdon Folker, Louise Sapp and Effie Oxford and could hear the pleasure in their voices as they recalled those “good old days.”
Martin: “I remember the smell of the vegetable soup and corn bread cooking in the lunchroom. This was the best soup I have ever eaten. (The soup was mentioned by all four.) Mrs. Gophin (sic) was one of the cooks. Mrs. Ruby Stevens was a teacher and played the piano. Sometimes at recess she would start playing in the auditorium and one certain song would draw all the students in from play to listen. We had dances at the school and my grandmother, Mamie Alice Martin, was a chaperone and we called her “old eagle eyes!”
Folker: “I started there in 1938. We lived right across the road. My daddy went over there every morning in the winter time and started the fire in the old black wood burning heaters so the rooms would be warm when the students arrived. Later, they had coal. The floors were pretty hardwood and kept oiled and shiny. The large windows could be opened for the breezes to blow through as there were no fans or air conditioners. Ms. Nina Yeomans was a teacher. I took piano lessons from Mrs. Stevens for about six months. The lunchroom was a long, white building behind the school house and we had long tables and benches. I ate my first ice cream at the school. Mrs. Anna Crawford was one of the cooks. She whipped together fresh milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla flavor and poured it into ice trays with cube separators in them to freeze the evening before she was to serve it the next day at lunch. I always hoped to get the end piece from the tray as it was a smidgen larger than the others. Principal Williams liked my daddy and he walked across the road to our house so he could smoke. Smoking was not allowed on campus even back then. Before the road was paved it was very sandy. They took down a bunch of trees and paved it, originally to the leaning tree and stopped. Mr. Luther Branson was a bus driver and he picked up the kids from Midway and Riceboro. Mr. Earnest Yeomans was the other bus driver and he brought the kids from the coast and put some off and carried the others into Hinesville to school. My lifetime love for books began in that first-grade classroom. There was a small, white picket fence in the back of the room with a gate that one had to go through and there were shelves filled with children’s books. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I never wanted to leave the little garden of books.”
Sapp: “My goodness, this is a silly thing to remember, but, I will always recall how we girls sat on the front walk and with a brick busted open the hard hickory nuts that fell from the huge trees in the yard. We ate them every day after lunch. The principal always scolded us about making a mess of sharp hulls that hurt bare feet. But, we still hulled them. We slipped over the fence and into the woods in February to pick the beautiful violets. The principal fussed about that too. She warned us of the dangerous snakes in the woods. Sometimes, we slipped to Mr. Brigdon’s store which was nearby and bought candy. I always bought a Black Cow sucker or Sugar Daddy and they would last all day. One day, all the kids got off the bus and skipped school. Except me. They headed toward Sunbury and loafed around all day. They blamed me for tattling but I declare that I did not say a word about it. I probably would have gone with them but I was too scared. They got into trouble twice. Jack Stevens, who lives in Florida now, was leader of the pack. Lunch was a dime a day. I guess I had a greedy gut but when that soup was served and biscuits I just wished I could have another bowl or two or three! But, there was only so much to go around. ”
Effie Oxford: “I started there in 1927. Goodness, that was a long time ago! I was only 5. Mrs. Ruby Stevens was the first grade teacher and also my Sunday school teacher. She wrote my stepmother a letter and begged her to let me start to school in April. I was so excited. I went two months in the first grade and she promoted me to the second as I knew all the others did. I had four older sisters and they had taught me what they learned. The bathrooms were two outhouses until later. No, we didn’t use corncobs! I lived a short distance from the school and walked each day. Every afternoon I stopped by the Brigdon store and spent a dime. What did I buy? Honey, the only thing worth buying was a Red Rock Cola and a Baby Ruth candy bar! We girls wrote to movie stars such as Betty Grable and asked them to send us their photo and autograph. We took them to school and sat in circles on the walk at recess and shared the pictures and dreamed. We also played Red Rover, jump board or joggle board, and marbles... The people in the community went to the school if a hurricane was in the area. We carried quilts for pallets and as kids we saw no danger but had the best of times laying awake all night and playing games. The adults were wide awake and praying for the bad weather to pass. Kerosene lamps were used for the lights.”
Sign up for our e-newsletters