Schools are an important part of Orange County History
The schools within the county always have and will continue to have a profound effect on the growth of the county’s youth and the direction in which the county goes.
A copy of the centennial edition of the Orange Leader published on May 29, 1936, took a look at the education available at that time.
According to one story, Orange County had five common school districts including Little Cypress, Bancroft, Winfree, Prairie View, and McLewis.
It also had one rural high school district which was at Vidor and five independent districts, including Cove, West Orange, Mauriceville, Orangefield, and Orange.
That community’s first school was organized in 1899 and was named for a Mr.. Hobson, who was a veteran of the Spanish-American War, according to the news story.
The first trustees were Josh Bland, Raish Cooper, and John Frederick with J.P. Hilliard serving as the first teacher.
In 1913, the school was moved to the site where it still stood in 1936 and in 1936 was a frame structure consisting of four classrooms.
The school consisted of three districts including Hobson, Mauriceville, and Texla. By 1918, the school had grown to a six teacher school with a scholastic enrollment of about 250. This growth was due in part to the lumber industry, so after the timber was exhausted and the mills moved, the enrollment declined to less than 150.
The county superintendent took active control of the school when this happened.
In 1929, Lemonville school was consolidated with the Mauriceville school and then the Cherry Grove district of Jasper County known as Gist was consolidated with the Mauriceville school. Later, however, some of this area was annexed to the Buna Independent School District.
During the tenure of Supt. Hampton Burkhalter, a bond issue was passed to build a modern brick building with six classrooms.
In 1831, Q. B. Culpepper became superintendent and for the first time 11 grades were taught. The first students to graduate from the 11 grade school were Roselea Taylor, Nan Bee Linscomb, Lucille Smith, Betty Brown, Wayne Dunn, and Floyd Wilkinson.
During 1933, the old frame school building was torn down and a gymnasium, home economics and agriculture departments were built.
According to the 1936 clipping, the board members that year included Chairman G.P. Tillery, Secretary W. T. Dunn and board members D. Ward, Coleman Peveto, Joe C. Bilbo, Monroe Jedry and E.N. Brewer.
The Parent-Teacher association was organized in 1930 with Mrs. T. J. Frederick as president.
Since then the Mauriceville school district has consolidated with Little Cypress.
The Bancroft school district came into being in 1929 after splitting from McLewis. In 1936, its school building consisted of a two-room structure with a knock-down partition to convert the two rooms into an auditorium. The building was located on a five-acre plot about half-mile west of O.S.T. and it had classes through the 7th grade.
The first school board consisted of A.O. Willey Sr., Harry Bishop, and Henry Hare.
According to the news story, “in the seven years of the school history, there have been only three teachers, Mrs. Allen Hubbard and Miss Lucille Womack were teachers for the first three years. Miss Inez Wallace and Miss Lucille Womack for the next two and Miss Inez Wallace and Mrs. Allen Hubbard for the past two years.”
The first school for Negroes was organized in Orange about 1870 in Mt. Zion Baptist church, of which Rev. William (Bill) Jones was pastor and with a Prof. Washington as principal.
The news story said the church was a one-room structure which measured 14 feet by 24 feet.
C.N. Vincent, L.M. Sublett, and S.M. Sublett taught in the school. In 1883, the school was transferred to Salem E. Church with the pastor, Rev. Shakleford acting as teacher.
A.J. Griner succeeded Rev. Shakleford and taught for one-half term at Salem Church before the school was moved to the old U.B.F. hall. The school was a one-teacher school until 1884 when Griner was given an assistant for the first year and two the second year.
It was reported that J.N. Sublett succeeded Griner for two years, after which he was succeeded by S.R. Pickney who served as principal for 13 years.
It was under his direction that the first graded school was organized and it graduated a seventh grade.
Also, during Pickney’s administration of the old F.S.A. hall, a two-story frame structure was purchased and used as the first independent school building.
J.E. Horton followed Pickney’s and under his administration an annex was added to the school.
E.W. Pettaway was the next principal and he served for 18 years. While he was principal, a three-story fire-proof brick structure containing 22 steam heated and automatically ventilated rooms, was erected. This building was opened in 1916. W.M. Caldwell was the next principal and he took over in 1930. “He served three terms and under his administration the school was named Moton High and raised from a Junior to an A class Senior High School.”
Emma Henderson Wallace, the principal in 1936, had been in the system more than 30 years and succeeded Caldwell in 1933.
“It was under her leadership that the school equipped a regular library room, with 975 volumes and an amusement park containing tennis and basketball courts, croquet, and volleyball ground.”
The school during the ‘30s also was highly successful in athletics winning the all-around championship cup for the Southeast Texas Conference in athletics.
The school’s name was later changed to Wallace in honor of its beloved principal, Emma H. Wallace.
The Orange Independent School system had its beginning in 1872 on a site in the vicinity of Market and Polk streets and was started by Mrs. Annie Lynch.
Mrs. E.G. Latchem was employed soon after and other pioneer teachers included Mrs. George O’Brien Sr. (nee Chenault) and Mrs. S.M. Brown; grandmother of E.W. Brown, Jr.
About 1880, a two-story building known as the Henderson School was built within a block of Curtis school, which was built in 1896-97 after the early building burned.
The first graduating class of record in 1892-93 listed the graduates as Mabel O. (Ford) Channing, Bessie Kendall, Annie (Chandler) Ford, Cassie (Bunn) Warfield, V.H. Stark, Maggie (Jones) Calhoun, Albert (Spooner) Sims, and Stella (Wilson) Pond.
In 1902, J.S. Anderson, “for many years a school board member and large real estate owner, donated the south half of the block now occupied by the Anderson school.”
Mrs. S.E. Murelle became the principal. About 1913, the school was expanded.
In 1915, Orange High School, a three-story brick building was built on Green Avenue and 13th Street on land also donated by J.S. Anderson.
In 1919, Curtis school was built and named for George Curtis, oldest member of the school board.
“In 1927, the two small schools of Gum Grove and Little Cypress were consolidated into the larger and better school, Little Cypress,” According to data complied by Jeanette Heard for the 1936 centennial edition of the Leader.
According to the story, Gum Grove was located on the site where the Echo Road joined the Newton County road and the old Little Cypress school was situated farther north on the Newton County road.
In 1936, the district had a red and yellow brick building on five acres of land. Also to be found, there was a log cabin which was then used as a meeting place for the women of the community, “and was once the site for the historical division of the fair. It is a typical old pioneer building with a clay fireplace and a wide front porch.” At that time, there were seven grades taught at the school.
“Prairie View school had its beginning as a public school in a little log building, known as the Gravett school house, on land of the Ben Turner homestead, about 1879, with Miss Kate Middleton as teacher.”
Turner was instrumental in bringing from Louisiana a preacher and teacher in the person of Mr. Pilley who served for several years.
During his term, a new building was erected and designated as Bland’s chapel in honor of John Bland, an early pioneer of Orange County, The chapel served both church and school.
In 1893, this school and the lower Duncan’s Wood school united on a site on the J.C. Bland estate and became known as Prairie View.
In 1917, another move was necessary and a site on the J.C. Bland estate was acquired.
In 1936, the school had on its five-acre site a building with four classrooms, an auditorium, a manual training building and a six-room teacherage. Prairie View was the first school in Orange County to provide a home for the teachers on campus. Today the district is known as Bridge City Independent School District after merging iwth Winfree. The teacherage is the only building still existing and now serves as the Bridge City Chamber Office.
The four-room brick structure at McLewis on O.S.T. Highway about six miles from Orange was built in 1930 while the first land deeded to the school was in 1884 by Joshua Cole.
The site of that land was near the site of the Old First Northwestern railroad, about one-fourth of a mile from the O.S.T. highway.
In 1929, the school district split and the Bancroft McLewis school students attended school in the Old First Baptist Church building while the four-room brick schoolhouse was under construction.
In 1936, the faculty consisted of Miss Beatrice Walles, principal and Miss Atha Barrington and Miss Theta Pearl Noguess.
“When the Vidor Rural High School made its first official opening in the fall of 1929, people wondered why such a large building was constructed to take care of only 300 children with 10 teachers,” the story said.
By 1936, however, the building was inadequate and a new high school building, due to be opened in September, was under construction.
This was due to the fact that Vidor had grown to one of the largest rural schools in the state.
In 1936, the school board consisted of President L. Singleton, Secretary V.E. Moreland and board members Dallas O’Quinn, Wallace Stephenson, Robert Sarver, T.C. Herrington, and J.B. Stephens. The superintendent then was Bruce Stark.
In 1923, two years after the “boom” of the Orange oil field, A.E. Josephson of Orange, started a subscription campaign to raise money for a school, the 1936 news story said.
Miss Josepuhine Fuller of Woodville became principal and grammar school was started in a small frame building.
The first faculty consisted of Misses Lottie McGill and Audrey Hebert of Orange and Miss Allene Gregory of San Antonio.
The first trustees were John Walles, Henry Walles, and Arthur Granger.
“During the first two years after the establishment of the Orangefield school, the oil field students of high school age attended school at Oilla. In 1925, however, with T.N. Powell as superintendent, the Orangefield school was enlarged to include four years of high school work.”
A two-story frame building was constructed on the present campus. In the fall of 1936, Orangefield was voted an independent district.
Anna Jones was the first high school graduate. In May of 1927, a fire completely destroyed the building and its contents but luckily the bonds for a $50,000 brick building were approved the previous June of 1926, and construction had begun in July.
Also, during that time, the Oilla school was consolidated with Orangefield.
In 1931, the Duncan Woods school was consolidated with Orangefield. The Parent-Teacher Association was reorganized in 1932 with Mrs. J.R. Brett as president.