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Tranquil Institute's place in history
Liberty lore
flemington church tranquil
This aerial photo, shows the Flemington Presbyterian Church and its hall in the mid 1950s. - photo by Photo provided.
After a few years living in Midway, the settlers began moving to higher ground because of the malaria and yellow fever mosquitoes that swarmed in the swamps, killing many family members. Four “retreats,” Walthourville, Flemington, Jonesville and Dorchester, soon became permanent homes. Churches and schools were built. Education was second only to religion. The first church building at Gravel Hill Retreat (later changed to Flemington) was built of logs around 1814 by members of Midway who settled there. The log building also was used for a schoolhouse and was named Tranquil Institute. A frame church building was built next to the log cabin in 1836 and the log house continued as the schoolhouse. The frame building later burned. The land for the church was donated by Simon Fraser and probably the land where the school stood. The beautiful Flemington Presbyterian Church is located on this land today. A historical marker there commemorates Tranquil Institute.
Sam Mallard, William Winn, J. B. Martin Sr., Evalan McDowell and Miss Laura Fraser are mentioned as some of the teachers. On the Oct. 24, 1881, the Hinesville Gazette reported Mr. Martin had 13 students in his class. He also was the school superintendent  of Liberty for a number of years. The trustees for Tranquil Institute were Robert Quarterman, Thomas Q. Cassels and Ezra Stacy.
There are several old courthouse records which show the trustees suing parents for non-payment of tuition. In one such paper, dated June 10, 1839, the parent is said to be “justly indebted” to the Tranquil Institute for “reading, working arithmetic and divers languages, drawing and dancing, good manners and other niceyary and useful accomplishments.” There are also records of several tuition payments by Simon Fraser for his children, Donald, Alexander and Ann, for the amounts of $5 and for $7.50.
Miss Eliza Martin recalled her father Charles Jones Martin talking about a teacher he had at Tranquil Institute in 1855. The teacher’s name was William Winn and the students nicknamed him “Billy Breeze.” Mr. Winn was the victim of many student pranks. One day while he was sitting in his chair propped against the door — a favorite position that gave him a full view of the students — one of the boys who had been excused from the room suddenly opened the door and Mr. Winn somersaulted to the ground.
Miss Eliza remembered the Shakespearan plays when the boys played all the parts. Aneas Way usually was the star actor. And she said there were elaborate operettas complete with costumes and crepe paper parasols. All the basic subjects were taught and students were ready to enter college upon completion of Tranquil Institute.
Wallace F. Marin Jr. said he remembered someone telling about a path that went through the swamp from the original John Martin house (Misses Eliza and Josie Martin’s house off Highway 84) to Tranquil Institute. Supposedly built by slaves, it was a dike-like path with half hewn lightwood logs that made a footbridge for the wet places.
Miss Laura Fraser was long the school teacher at the Flemington school. She was an authority on everything, almost. She was the last teacher at Tranquil Institute. The school closed in 1919 when it consolidated with Bradwell Institute where Miss Fraser became the assistant principal.
During the Civil War, the school building was used as a hospital by Northern soldiers. When Sherman’s army arrived in Liberty County about Dec. 1, 1864, they took possession of Midway and Flemington, using the church and school house as headquarters, sending scouting parties all over the county.
On Dec. 17, 1866, Thomas Q. Cassels, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Flemington Academy, wrote a letter to the editor of The Daily News and Herald in Savannah. He was advertising for the Academy. (I cannot find in my research when Tranquil Institute was changed to Flemington Academy. Perhaps it was after the Civil War.)
An excerpt from the letter follows:
“Your advocacy for the common school system in Georgia is worthy of your head and heart. I hope we can see the day when this system is complete and every youth in Georgia will have the opportunity for education. Flemington Academy is located in the village of Flemington, Liberty County, three miles from McIntosh station, Gulf Railroad. It is one among the oldest in the state, having been in existence except for short intervals for a half century. A large number of young men have prepared for college within its walls. We have no institution on the coast where instruction is more imparted.
The present rector, Mr. W. W. Winn, was born and raised in this county, graduated from Franklin College in Athens in 1840 and taught 18 years, 16 of them at Flemington Academy. His public examinations embrace the last week in June, to which the public are invited to attend. As a disciplinarian, Mr. Winn has few superiors; he is kind and firm, secures the affection of his pupils, and has decision of character to control. I know of no institution where better order prevails. Mr. Winn is a man of piety and he opens every morning with prayers. Strict attention if paid to the morals of the pupils.
Some 20 or 25 pupils can obtain board at $12.50 per month in pious and intelligent families. Tuition is $5.50, $7.50 and $9 for the languages per quarter. Music is taught in the village by an intelligent and accomplished lady. We have an organized church with services every Sunday and prayer meeting every Thursday evening. The church and school are located together. A moral influence pervades our village, not surpassed in our land. Parents wishing to educate their children could do no better than to send them to this institution.
The question arises here, we are poor and property lost, and can we educate our children? The reply is apparent, shall we despond, and under this despondency, permit our children to grow up in ignorance?  Where is the intelligent parent that would not be ashamed to have his children grow up in ignorance? We must make an effort, and a great effort, to sustain our institutions and educate our children!”
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