Hinesville was settled in 1837 and the Hinesville Methodist Church was organized shortly after. A school, the Hinesville Academy was established beside the church on the land that is now Bradwell Park located between the courthouse and city hall.
Charlton Hines as a commissioner signed the contract with Col. James Sharpe Bradwell as the first principal. The building committee, with S. G. Moody as chairman, presented the Liberty County Commissioners with an invoice for $349.12 for the academy building. Mr. Hussey made the shutters for $15, two benches for 75 cents and painted the building for $10.00. Charlton Hines furnished the paint at the cost of $12.37.
The academy was closed during the War Between the States.
In 1871, Samuel Dowse Bradwell, son of Col. Bradwell, and captain of the Liberty Volunteers, reorganized the Hinesville Academy and changed the name to Bradwell Institute in honor of his father in 1872. In the beginning the classes were led by Capt. Bradwell who served as principal for more than 20 years. High standards were set for the school and the long scholarly essays written by the seniors were read at commencement.
Bradwell Institute became famous throughout the state and large numbers of students from other counties were enrolled. Students had to pay tuition and the Moore House and other inns in Hinesville provided housing for them at a cheap rate.
A large advertisement appeared in the Hinesville Gazette, which Capt. Bradwell owned, in 1876 touting the fine qualities of Bradwell Institute. Part of the ad read: The Bradwell Institute is located in a place which its point of health and morality will compare favorably with any community in the state. There is a fine MINERAL SPRING within a few steps of the building. No pains will be spared to make Bradwell Institute a first class high school. It is entirely a home institution intended to supercede the necessity of sending our boys and girls abroad to acquire finished educations, therefore ENCOURAGE IT. Provide for the future of your children by giving them a good education. Prove your INDEPENDENCE by building up A HIGH SCHOOL AT HOME.
When Capt. Bradwell retired from the school he was elected state senator in 1888-1889 and served as school commissioner for the state. Later, he became president of the State Normal School in Athens which is today The University of Georgia.
The students carried their lunch pails to school each day filled with biscuits, ham, sweet potatoes or whatever else they had. If the weather permitted they ate outside at the noon hour. The school had a large bell that pealed when the lunch hour was over. This bell could be heard a long distance. Each day after lunch at the peal of the bell, pigs could be seen running from the woods toward the school. They hurried to eat the small scraps and peelings that the children threw on the ground.
The bell seemed often to be the butt of a prank played at Halloween. Someone would steal the bell and keep it for a day or two and then return it. But, one time the bell was stolen and someone forgot to return it.
The Liberty County Historical Society is hoping to find this old Bradwell Institute bell. Perhaps it is stored under the barn of one of your relatives or friends. The Society would gladly restore the bell and have it placed on the campus of the Bradwell Institute now with a fitting plaque. Please help us find this valuable piece of Liberty County history.
Bradwell Institute has changed places and looks several times but it is still thriving and being remodeled and enlarged. It has come a long way since 1841.