Saturday, June 25, 2011

Poteat One-Room School (Yanceyville, North Carolina)

Located a little way off the County Home Road near the junction with the Hamer Road (Slade Road), Poteat's old field school is the only one-room public schoolhouse in the vicinity of Yanceyville available for preservation. It is one of the last of the breed left in the County. Currently, the Caswell County Historical Association has plans for the moving and restoration of this old house, relocation to be in the Yanceyville Historic District at the rear of the Old Courthouse. Contributions were being received at the Old Jail Restoration on Hoedown Days with a good response. Enough more dollars contributed between now and the next Hoedown might see another visitor attraction added.

Many Caswell citizens began their education at one of several small neighborhood schoolhouses scattered about the County, Poteat's being typical. When sufficient need arose, a small plot of land would he deeded to the County Board of Education for minimal consideration, the possession to revert to the grantor if the educational use should ever be discontinued. On the appointed day, prospective patrons and their helpers would gather at the site and put up a building in a surprisingly short time. The County would then contract and pay a teacher from some time in October until late February for the "free school." If the term should be extended, patrons paid the salary for the "subscription school."

During the term the teacher would room and board in the community and probably walk, as did the students, sometimes up to three miles "'cross the creek, over the cow pasture and through the woods" as Mrs. Ernest Foster of Yanceyville Baptist Home recalls. The familiar "teacher load" was usually less than 40 -- not too bad even today or at least yesterday -- hut how about that number of all ages from 6 to 17 learning at all levels from Grade One through Grade Seven? And all in the same room? Heat was provided from a pot-bellied stove sitting in a sand box, according to Mrs. Foster, and water was obtained by dipping from a pail filled at the nearest spring.

About 1924, according to lifelong school-man M. Q. Plumblee, these little schools became consolidated and in 1926 came transportation by motor (these figures are approximate, he cautions, as some schools like Poteat's closed earlier and some closed later). The fact is that, surprisingly enough, the children did manage to get a fundamental education and some even managed to like it so much that they went on to higher schools and colleges. Education did take place in spite of frost-bitten fingers and toes, epidemics generated by the dipper-and-pail and, at Poteat's, Allen Slaughter (as we shall see).

Mrs. Inez Poteat Calvert of Danville, Va. is a granddaughter of the A. L. and Manerva Poteat who on April 30, 1913, deeded to T. J. Hatchett, R. I. Newman and L. A. Gwyn, who composed the County Board of Education one acre of land, more or less, in return for the sum of $5.00. The acre (it was actually 300 by 300 and quite a hit over) adjoined J. C. Smith and was 46 yards east of "the Montgomery Road leading from Yanceyville to Blanche." We must explain that the County Home Road as it now exists was constructed for the most part on the road bed of the former Montgomery's Mill Road, an ancient landmark in the County. After passing J. C. Smith's to the eastward, the old road had departed from the present highway and gone by Gillespie's Old Log School on Lipscomb Land. Thence it headed northward to the Mill and Blanche.

Bella Poteat Foster says she doesn't know why the Gillespie school was discontinued but it was where she went the first year. Miss Gertie Jones of Yanceyville remembers that when she was six around the turn of the century she went to Gillespie's and thinks there got to be more families living toward Yanceyville and that the New Hope School took over those to the east. Bella says her father gave the timber for the building described in Caswell's Architectural Inventory as "Small, gable-front building with overhanging eaves, single front panelled door. Originally served as a one room school."

From records in the County Superintendent of Schools' office Mrs. Calvert has obtained the following list of early patrons of the Poteat School: C. L. Holt, A. L. Poteat, F. S. Phillips, J. C. Smith, G. W. Johnson, R. J. Satterfield, W. M. Hooper, C. B. Hall and B. A. Guthrie. She has also obtained a copy of the roll for the first school year, 1913-1914. Giving name, age, sex and date of entering, the record shows the following students attending on the first day (age on special request if you're that interested): Harvey Holt; Fletcher, Cornelia, Bella and Irma Poteat; Lewis, Lessie, Alice, Edgar and Leola Phillips; Haley, Malloy and Vera Smith; Douglass Johnston; Lanie and Myrtle Satterfield; Anna Hooper and Florine and Fannie Hall; on the second day came Lois and Ola Gutherie and Hunter, Marshall and Joe Hall; later entries were Ima Smith, Mabel, Judson and Jim Holt; Joe and Pat Powell; Banks, Preston, Otis and Elmer Poteat; Josie Wrenn and Jim Powell and Josie and Louie Slaughter.

The teacher for that year was Miss Bera Motley who received $35 per month, records Mrs. Calvert, and supplies for the year were bought, presumably by the County, as follows: 18 new patent desks (Bella says they were double); 5 window shades , 1 water bucket, 1 dipper, 1 wash pan, 1 blackboard, 1 box of crayons, 2 brooms, 1 large oak table, 2 lots of library books, 1 bookcase. It was noted also that school yards were cleaned off and eight maple trees planted. This information was on the second page of the report required of the teachers at the end of the year.

The first sheet of the teacher's report directed that the teacher should record efforts to beautify the school grounds, secure a library and pictures for schoolroom decoration under the printed heading "History." Miss Motley did indeed make history with the following summary:

Poteat's school house built 1913, school term begun October 6, 1913 with Miss Bera Motley for teacher. Friday night before Christmas the school gave an entertainment Box Party and Xmas tree. From the Box Party we realized the sum of $19.50 which went for securing a library for the school. School term ended March 18, 1914 with an entertainment the following night. "Our Awful Aunt" was presented which was a comic drama in 2 acts and 10 characters. Supt. Geo. A. Anderson of Yanceyville and Prof. E. T. Hines of the Faculty of the Yanceyville Graded School were present and made a splendid address.

Another such "History" obtained by Mrs. Calvert is for a later year with a different teacher who wrote:

"The Poteat School opened Oct. 2, 1916 with (Miss) Maggie McGuire teacher and with an enrollment of 34 pupils. On the night of Dec. 20 a play was given by the advanced students, entitled "The Little School Ma'am." At the close of the program a number of boxes were sold realizing a sum of $10.00, which was used for the purchase of a broom, dipper, and a teacher's chair and table. During the fall term the students sold 30 buttons, for which they received a flag for the school. On the night of Feb. 8, 1917 a debate was given and at the close of the debate, a number of pies were sold, realizing the sum of $10.20, which was used for the purpose of painting school building. Free school closed Feb. 29, 1917. Then a month of subscription school was taught, which closed Mar 29, 1917."

Mrs. Foster noes not remember exactly when Poteat's School closed; it may have been in 1921. She remembered Misses Motley and McGuire and of course her sister Fannie; also Fannie Sue Wilson and Fannie Woods; she mentioned Edna McGuire, Maggie's sister, and recommended that we go to see Mr. Louie Slaughter on the County Home Road.

Indeed Mr. Slaughter did remember Miss Edna; his daughter was there that afternoon and said Mr. Louie still had the fountain pen Miss Edna presented to him at the end of the year for good behavior and scholarship. Louie's younger brothers Allen and John attended some time during the six or seven years the school was held. Mr. Slaughter told about the walks to and from the schoolhouse, building the fires, etc., and cleaning off the vines that always wanted to grow over the windows of the little building. He also told about the summer of 1914 when it was almost as dry if not more so than the summer of 1986. They didn't make any tobacco that year and if it hadn't been for the cow and the chickens and hogs people would have starved but somehow they got through it. He remembered many of the names mentioned by Bel1a; he had married one of his schoolmates, Vera Smith. It was always a time of reminiscing when any of the old students got together.

In fact, Holland Phillips who lives over in Burlington never saw him but that he brought it up about how he owed his education to Allen Slaughter. Mr. Louie continued: "He comes up with this straight face and says how the only reason he was able to drag himself out of the bed every morning and walk up to that school in spite of the way he hated it was he just had to be there to see what Allen was going to do that day!"

When pressed for details, however, Mr. Slaughter couldn't remember anything definite. Maybe his memory will come back when he enters the restored Poteat's School come next Hoedown.

Source: Caswell County Historical Association Newsletter, Volume IX, Number 4 (October 1986), Sallie P. Anderson, Editor.

Mentioned in the Article:

Mrs. Ernest Foster (Isabella Poteat Foster 1902-1990)
M. Q. Plumblee (Millard Quentin Plumblee 1906-1987)
Allen Slaughter (Wilson Allen Slaughter 1912-1993)
Mrs. Inez Poteat Calvert (Inez Elouise Poteat 1893-1979)
A. L. Poteat (Albert Lindsey Poteat 1865-1929)
Manerva Poteat (Minerva Ann Fitch Poteat 1873-1943)
T. J. Hatchett (probably Thomas Henry Hatchett, Jr. 1864-1938)
R. I. Newman (Robert Ira Newman 1854-1934)
L. A. Gwynn (Lyttleton Ayers Gwynn 1853-1936)
J. C. Smith (probably John Clement Smith, Jr. 1854-1934)
Montgomery's Mill
Montgomery's Mill Road
Gillespies Old Log School
Lipscomb Land
Bella Poteat Foster (Isabella Poteat Foster 1902-1990)
Miss Gertie Jones (Gertrude Rite Jones 1893-1991)
New Hope School
C. L. Holt (possibly Calvin Lea Holt or Calvin Lawrence Holt)
A. L. Poteat (student, so not the Albert Lindsey Poteat listed above)
F. S. Phillips (possibly Franklin Somers Phillips, Jr. 1887-1960)
J. C. Smith (See above)
G. W. Johnson
R. J. Satterfield
W. M. Hooper
C. B. Hall (possibly Charlie Brooks Hall)
B. A. Guthrie
Harvey Holt (Harvey Clarence Holt 1901-1988)
Fletcher Poteat (Fletcher Fitch Poteat 1904-1969)
Cornelia Poteat (Cornelia Elizabeth Poteat 1896-1987)
Bella Poteat (Isabella Poteat Foster; see above)
Irma Poteat (possibly Erma Minerva Poteat 1906-2005)
Lewis Phillips
Lessie Phillips
Alice Phillips
Edgar Phillips
Leola Phillips
Haley Smith (Johnnie Haley Smith 1903-    )
Malloy Smith (Annie Malloy Smith 1900-    )
Vera Smith (Vera Mae Smith 1905-1980)
Douglass Johnston
Lanie Satterfield (Lanie Satterfield c.1895-    )
Myrtle Satterfield (Annie Myrtle Satterfield 1904-1979)
Anna Hooper (Anna Mae Hooper 1906-1987)
Florine Hall
Fannie Hall (Fannie Hall Weadon 1904-1978)
Lois Gutherie (Lois Green Guthrie 1898-1986; never married    )
Ola Gutherie (Viola Cornelia Guthrie Brandon 1900-1998)
Hunter Hall (Alvin Hunter Hall 1900-1969)
Marshall Hall (John Marshall Hall 1905-
Joe Hall (Joseph Melvin Hall 1902-1980)
Ima Smith
Mabel Holt (Mabel M. Holt born 1897)
Judson Holt (Judson Grear Holt 1905-1997)
Jim Holt (James Thomas Holt 1899-1998)
Joe Powell (possibly Joseph Edward Powell 1903-1959)
Pat Powell (Pat Powell 1900-1996)
Banks Poteat (Banks William Poteat 1900-1967)
Preston Poteat (possibly William Preston Poteat 1916-1992)
Otis Poteat (Charles Otis Poteat 1903-1978)
Elmer Poteat
Josie Wrenn (possibly Josephine Wrenn Bowen 1897-1983)
Jim Powell (possibly William Thomas (Jim) Powell 1897-1968)
Josie Slaughter (Josie Slaughter Foster 1907-1993)
Louie Slaughter (Louie Taylor Slaughter (1905-1989)
Miss Bera Motley
George A. Anderson (George Andrew Anderson 1869-1945)
E. T. Hines
Miss Maggie McGuire (possibly Margaret Moore McGuire)
Fannie Poteat (Frances Lindsey Poteat 1892-1969)
Fannie Sue Wilson (Fannie Sue Wilson 1891-1983; never married)
Fannie Woods (Fannie Johnston Woods Slade 1889-1964)
Edna McGuire (Edna Bell McGuire Massey 1891-1990; sister of Miss Maggie McGuire)
Louie Slaughter (Louie Taylor Slaughter 1905-1989)
John Slaughter (John Proctor Slaughter 1909-    )
Holland Phillips (possibly Monroe Holland Phillips 1912-    )

Poteat One-Room School House Electrified

After over a hundred years without electricity, Caswell County’s one-room Poteat School is now retrofitted with electrical lights and power outlets, thanks to local volunteer support. “The challenge was to find the help and resources needed to get this done,” said Wally Ewalt, restoration project manager and Poteat School curator. “But just like how we have so much interesting history here in Caswell County, we likewise have a great number of businesses and
individuals who want to assist in these kinds of projects.”

Relocated to the Yanceyville Historic District, behind the courthouse, from its original location at the junction of Slade Road and County Home Road in the mid 1980s, Ewalt has taken charge of the building’s care for nearly 20 years. The newly added electricity may attract visitors, he said. “Now, whenever anyone wants to tour the schoolhouse, we have lights and can even run a fan to help cool, if necessary,” said Ewalt. According Ewalt, to accomplish any kind of improvement, it was necessary to run about 300 feet of electrical cords from an existing panel to across the parking lot to power what was being used at the school.

“The schoolhouse wasn’t built to be electrified. It never had it before,” he said. Donald Nickles was the first of many to step forward to volunteer time and supplies, he said. “Our next challenge was to find someone who had a trenching machine that would volunteer to dig
the almost 300 foot trench to bury the underground wire. That’s when Mark and John Thomas of
Thomas Brothers oil and Gas stepped forward,” said Ewalt.

It took Ricky Frances and Jayson Talbots of Thomas Brothers Oil and Gas several hours to get the trench dug; the wire run; and ditch covered. Tim Scruggs, who according to Ewalt has been a fixture in Caswell County for many years as an electrical-work problem solver, agreed to wire the school. Craig Smith and Scruggs’ son Adam finished the job the same day, he said. “After starting the project around 7 a.m., a flick of the new breaker came on the lights with the receptacle testing 100-percent at a little passed 3 p.m.,” he said. The project took only a day, with a few more days of cleaning and decorating, he said.

“It’s how things get done – People volunteering their equipment and time and working together in the community to make us proud to live in Caswell County. In the end, it was a fun day and a very worthwhile endeavor,” said Ewalt.

The Poteat School was first built in the early 1900s. A sidewalk winds around the old jailhouse to the school.

For more information, contact Wally Ewalt, 336-694-4828.

Source: The Caswell Messenger (Yanceyvlle, Caswell County, North Carolina), 25 July 2018.

Photograph from Caswell County Historical Association archives.

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