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Bulloch History by Roger Allen
Bulloch gets first public school
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    In the olden times in Bulloch County, there were no public schools, school buses, and county school boards. There were, very simply, the parents, the church, and the community. Therefore, what “book learnin” the children got came from their elders, and covered the three R’s: “reading” (literature), “ritin” (penmanship), and “rithmetic” (mathematics).
    At first, the children were taught in the homes, but eventually the value of teaching the neighborhood children together was realized, and the “Old Field Schools” became a fixture in each and every little settlement throughout Bulloch. Depending on the proximity of one’s neighbors, and based upon how many children were being taught, either the parents took turns teaching, or they hired someone who had earned their “letters” (a degree from an institute of higher learning, be it a “Normal School” or a college).
    These “old field schools” were called such because they were most often located in the worn out, least usable part of a farmer’s field, and quite often sat on a hill or in a hollow. Made from hand hewn (cut with an axe, and not sawed) logs, which had the holes patched with mortar made from the (very plentiful) sand, these buildings had “puncheon” (split logs flat on one side) floors, and had shingles made from chestnut or cypress wood, cheap in those days but extremely expensive (if available at all) today.
    The classes were held during the farmer’s slow times, when the children were not needed to work in the fields, such as at planting or harvest times. The basic texts used in these schools were McGuffy’s reader, Webster’s Spelling Book, and Rays Arithmetic Book. The costs were born by the parents, who paid whatever they could.
    In 1817, the Bulloch County Commissioners were informed by the Georgia State Legislature that a “Poor School Fund” (or PSF) of $250,000 had been established, in order that each county could assist in the education of its youth. In 1821, the Georgia Legislature further added to these monies by adding an endowment of $500,000 to the PSF. There was enough money, they estimated, to instruct each child between the ages of 8 and 18 years old for three years.
    In July of 1823, Bulloch’s Inferior Court appointed the following men as Superintendents of Education for the Bulloch districts: Sheppard Williams for Captain Hagin’s district; John Everett for Captain Wise’s district; Henderson Fryer for Captain DeLoach’s district; Michael Young for Captain Fagan’s district; and Henry Parish for Captain Lockhard’s district. In May of 1827, Bulloch County’s Inferior Court appointed Sheppard Williams, David Kennedy, and Edmund Warren as Trustees of the Bulloch PSF.
    In 1804 the Georgia Legislature granted 5,000 acres to establish Bulloch’s first publicly funded institute of higher education: Bulloch Academy. Appointed as the Commissioners for the Academy were Samuel Lockhart, John Rawls, Sheppard Williams, William Holloway, and Charles McCall. The school wasn’t actually built, however, until 1822. By 1834, there were nine men being paid to teach at nine Bulloch public schools, who were receiving an annual wage of between $94.18 and $146.25.
    It wasn’t until the mid 1850’s that the Georgia Legislature actually created a fund to establish regular public schools throughout the state, and that only happened when they dedicated the revenues earned from the state-owned Western and Atlantic Railroad for educational purposes. Even back then, teaching was a low-paid profession in, but it was considered to be a most honorable one too. Looking at our public schools today, some might say that in some ways nothing has changed.
    Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger
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