Powellsville Schools

My father’s early schooling was in a one-room building at the edge of the farm that the Moores, Sessoms, Hollomans, Parkers and other neighbors attended until a two teacher school was established at Powellsville around the turn of the century. This school was located on the Bethlehem road just about the city limits – The C. G. White School was directly behind it facing onto the Colerain road.

PowellsvilleHS

Powellsville High School 1926/27
 note the Wellington & Powellsville [Walk & Push] Railroad tracks across the road from the school
  Photo Taken Prior To 1955 by Ann Cowan Cockrell
My first year the left hand side was used as it had always been the elementary side. 
but the next year our class rooms were moved over to the right hand side of the building
which received the sun in the morning.
 The Powellsville HS was built about 1926 on the Ahoskie road and graduated students through 1943.  That fall I started to school, the students in the eighth grade and above were bused to Ahoskie.
This left about 75 students in Powellsville School which then had three teachers and a principal who usually taught 7th grade.

WalkPush
The Wellington & Powellsville Railroad Engine #100
– – – – – – – – – – –

Class Pictures – made available by Lynn McCarthy
Many thanks to the individuals who shared the class pictures. Special thanks go to the many “over 60” family members and Bertie County friends who diligently labored to identify the children and teachers in the photos. We must remember that some students were the children of sharecroppers, thus were less well-known to classmates because they moved out of the community after attending school for a short period of time. Some children started school late and some, because of illness or other factors, missed a year of school thus weren’t with their original class. Some did not live in the immediate Powellsville area. These factors made it more difficult to identify many of the students.

phs1927

1927 5th/6th grade [classes of 1933-34]
picture from Bernice Banks Askew

powells1928
1928 First two rows = 2nd grade; top two rows = 3rd grade.
Photo postcard. Photographer unknown. Picture made available by E. B. Cowan.
First Row (left to right) Ella Bass; Margaret Askew (behind Ella Bass); Sarah King; Margaret DeVane; ______; Marvin Harmon; James A. Cowan (behind Carroll Francis); Carroll Francis; Byron Wynn.
Second Row (left to right) Lucille Askew; Ora Mae Tayloe; Irene Parker; Robert Cowan; Henry A. Mizelle; Bradley Alston; Ruth Bass; Ruth C. Harmon.
Third Row (left to right) Lynwood Barnes; Marilyn Waters; Norman DeVane; Blanche Bass; ( ? ) Albert Wiggins; ______. Fourth Row (left to right) Edward Tynes; Helen Waters; Willie B. Hudson; Bessie Harrell (teacher); Ruth Robinson; ( ? ) Al Francis; Mattie Mae Tayloe.

powells1931
1931 4th grade
Photo postcard. Photographer unknown.
First Row (left to right) Hazel Harmon; Margaret Askew; Mavis Williford or Ruby Earl Byrd; Margaret DeVane; Vera Byrd; Nancy Mae Garrett; Jenny Bracy; Rosa Jones; Julia Jones.
Second Row (left to right) Edgar Herring or Charlie Oakey; Jr.; Ann Alston; D. T. Harmon; Ruth Robinson; Willie B. Hudson; Hersey L. Dilday; Bessie Lester Or Violet Hoggard; Louise Ruffin (teacher).
Third Row (left to right) George A. Harrell; Byron Wynn; Joseph Hoggard; James S. Williams; James A. Cowan; Clyde Ward; Marvin Harmon or Sidney Castello.

PHS34
Class of 1933-34 Powellsville High School
“When We Were Juniors 1932-33”
front row left to right: Lass Robertson, Bernice Banks (Askew), Lillie Mae Ward (Askew), Fleetwood Askew, Wilma Harmon (Snipes), Bertie Bailey Mizelle, Alden DeVane, Elizabeth Powell, Elmo Hollomon.
2nd row: Elizabeth Overton, Bessye Holloman.
3rd row: Bessie Mae Vaughan, Rodolph McKeel, Teacher Garnet Beasley (Hughes).
4th row: Irvin Robertson, Billy Raynor. Not Pictured: Hazel Mizelle.
This picture contributed by Bernice Banks Askew

phs1933c phs1933c2

powells1934
1934 4th grade
Photographer unknown. Picture made available by A. C. Cockrell.
First Row (left to right) ______; William Harden Wynns; ______; ______; ______; Wallace McKeel; ______; ______; ______.
Second Row (left to right) ______; Foye Leigh Pritchard; Ailene Hughes; ______; Mildred Tayloe; ______; Allie Mitchell Dilday; Annie Laurie Cowan; Lorraine Hollomon.
Third Row (left to right) ______; ______; ______; ______; ______; ______; ______; Anna Sessoms; ? Henry Vann Harmon; Willie Mae Clark; Mrs. M. G. Williams (teacher); ______.
Fourth Row (left to right) ______; ______; ______; ______; ______; ______; William Perry Barnes.

pec

undated classes of Rosalie Liverman and Edith Cowper
1st Row: Carol Franis (front), Hubert Overton, Dolly Lassiter, Willie Mae Farmer, Beulah Lyon Miller, Virginia Ruth Harrell, Lou Betty Brown, Amanda Harrell, Garland Harman
2nd Row: Rosalie Liverman (Teacher), Viola Perry, Virginia Barnes, Frances Anne Bass, Elma Barnes, Doris Early, Louise Taylor, Nancy Leigh Hollomon, Edith Cowper (Teacher)
3rd Row: Lewis Morris, Truitt Taylor, Larry Early, Jessie Price Mizzelle, Cecil Barnes

pec7g1936
1936 Seventh Grade – Rosalie Liverman
Left to right 1st Row – Thomas Bass, Ruby Leigh Freeman, —, —-, —-, Ivan Brooks Holloman [one of the blanks is Marilyn Waters,
2nd Row – Maidie White Sessoms, Marie Thompson, —-, Mable Warren Wynns, Katherine Mitchell
3rd Row – Dewey T Harmon Jr, James Stark Williams, Magdaline Godwin, Nellie Mae Brinkley, Rives Cowan, Charlie Oakie, Rosalie Liverman

powells1939

?1938 6th grade [this group would grad 1944 Ahoskie HS]
Unknown photographer. Picture made available by C. S. Hollomon, Jr.
First Row (left to right) Iris Harrell; Luvenia Williams; Dorothy Hollomon; Nancy Early; ______; Nancy Dilday; Annie Harrell. Second Row (left to right) John Bass; John Moore; Morton Raynor; Sylvia Harrell; Rawls Carter; Leon Cowan.
Third Row (left to right) ______; Kader Bass; ______; ______.
Fourth Row (left to right) ______; ______; Alice Hope Mitchell; ______; ______; ______.
Fifth Row (left or right) Louis Castello; ______; ______ (teacher); Robert Brantley.

pec1942
1942 Class
1st Row: Alfred Tayor, Mack Powell, .. Byrd?
2nd Row: June Harmon, Marcelle Harrell, Julia Moore, J P Dilday

pec1946
1946 Class
1st Row: —-, —-, Bobby Tayloe, Pat Sessoms, Gene Perry
2nd Row: Gilliam Whedbee, Rosalie Liverman [Teacher] Sara Moore Barnes, —–
3rd Row: JT Hudson, —-, Ulysses White

42reunion
Powellsville H S Class of 1942 50th Reunion, Ahoskie, 1992
Left to right: Wallace McKeel, Ann Cowan Cockrell, Foye Leigh Pritchard, Audrey Phelps,
Allie Mitchell Dilday, Lorraine Holloman, Mildred Tayloe, Margie Fields Dunlow, C D Hoggard,
William Perry Barnes, Anna Sessoms Hudson, Lessie Mitchell.

– – – – – – – – – –

PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN THE POWELLSVILLE AREA

by Lynn McCarthy

Varying opinions exist on the beginning of public schooling for Caucasians in the Powellsville area. One
source said children attended school in the Powellsville Grange Hall. Another source credited the
Methodist Church with the establishment of a one-room ungraded schoolhouse in the l880’s on the road from
Powellsville to Pitch Landing (now Bethlehem Church Road).

In 1877, there was a Stony Creek #545 Grange in Bertie County but it had a Pitch Landing address. Another
Grange was in Colerain. The deed for the Methodist Church was dated 15 September, 1880 and it is thought
that the church structure was erected 1881 – 1882. It is improbable that the church built a separate one-room
public schoolhouse (which was said to have become later the home of a local resident after he added more
rooms). It would seem more feasible that the church could have been used as a school during the week or a
one-room ungraded school was built on the edge of a neighboring farm.

Unfortunately, individuals who could provide details on early public education in the area, the involvement of
the Grange and the Methodist Church, are no longer with us. Individuals interviewed had no recall of a Grange
Hall in Powellsville. (The NC Grange went out of existence in the early 1900’s not to be re-organized
until the 1929 era. If there was Grange involvement in public education of Caucasians in Powellsville, it may
have been in the 1877 – 1900 era.)

(In Bertie County in 1884, there were 29 public schools for African-Americans and 30 for Caucasians. By 1890, the number of public schools for African-Americans had grown to 41 and public schools for Caucasians numbered 51. The location of all of these schools and when they were built is lost to history.)

From oral history interviews, it is known that a very large two-story frame schoolhouse was built in
Powellsville ca. 1910 – 1912. This graded school served students, grades one through seven. The school was
located on what is locally known as the Powellsville to Windsor Road, across the old Wellington and
Powellsville RR grade, on the SW side of the road. It was across the road from the residence of Charles
“Capp” Overton.

For the school year of four months (December – March), children from as far away as 3 ? miles, traveled by
horse and buggy Monday through Friday to attend this school. Some students in the area of Cremo Road and the now US 13 North caught the Wellington and Powellsville (W & P), (locally called the Walk and Push), at Cremo and rode to Powellsville on Mondays, boarded with Powellsville families (such as the Overtons), then
returned home on the W & P Friday evenings.

(Prior to the existence of the graded school in Powellsville, most children attended ungraded one-room
schoolhouses. One, located across the road from the S. S. Cowand farm in the Cremo Road, now US 13 North area, served 15-20 neighborhood children. Augustus “Gus” Bass taught all seven grades and boarded with the
Cowands during the week, then returned to Powellsville for the weekend. Possibly this school was built ca.
1880 – 1884 era as ten of the Cowand’s children attended this school. The graded school in Powellsville was built in time for the two youngest children to complete their elementary education in Powellsville. Because there was no public high school in the county in the 1891 era, the Cowand’s oldest child attended school in Winton and boarded with a family during the week. This was not atypical for the time frame.)

Students completing seven grades at the “old” Powellsville School received a Certificate of Promotion
which read as follows:

CERTIFICATE OF PROMOTION BERTIE COUNTY, N.C., PUBLIC SCHOOLS

This is to satisfy that ______________ has
satisfactorily completed the Course of Study prescribed
for the ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS and is therefore entitled to
this testimonial and to admission to HIGH SCHOOLS

Given at Commencement, this _____ day of _____, 19__

Approved by _________________, County Superintendent

To be signed by teacher only after seventh grade course
has been completed

________________________ Teacher

One certificate, dated 30 March 1917, was signed by Herbert W. Early, County Superintendent and Leslie
Winston Pearson A M, Teacher. (Some students in the 1917 era then went to Aulander High School and some
went to Ahoskie.)

Consensus of the interviewees was not reached regarding the year that the “new” brick Powellsville School was
built. One source thought it was 1921 – 1922. Another said it was 1925. Several said it was 1927 – 1928.
Still another said construction started in 1926 and the building was completed in 1927. This latter recollection appears more accurate as the interviewee said she was in the second grade in 1928 and she started school in the brick building, not the old frame structure. (Noteworthy is the fact that the county bus system began in 1926, closely aligned with the opening of the “new” Powellsville School. The use of the one-room schoolhouses began to diminish in the 1920’s and coincided with consolidation of schools and road improvement.)

This “new” Powellsville School was located on the Ahoskie Road, NW of the center of town and had eleven
grades. Once this school was opened, the “old” school was used as a teacherage. Most interviewees said the
teacherage burned on a December evening in 1936. Teachers then boarded in private homes. Later, ca. 1941, another teacherage was constructed, a two-story frame structure, closer to the school. It was suggested that Works Projects Administration (WPA) funds were used to build the teacherage. This structure stands today as a private residence. Mrs. Edith C. Freeman, teacher for years at the Powellsville School, made this her home until her death in 2001.

In 1942, the County Board of Education voted to add a 12th grade to all public schools as of the 1943 school
year. Students, grades 8 – 12, who would have attended the Powellsville School, were subsequently bused to
school in Ahoskie. From 1943 until the school was closed in 1955, the Powellsville School served the
elementary education needs of Caucasian students in the area.

On Highway 42 East, just outside the town limits, is the C. G. White Middle School. On the same site, circa
1904, a private school was built. Later, the school became the Bertie County Training School. Named the
Charles G. White High School in 1938, it was once the largest school for African-American students in the
county.

In 1910, both Charles G. White and his second wife, Annie, taught at this graded school. (Later, Mr. White
became principal.) In the 1930 school year, teachers at the training school were Bessie Broadnax, Sadie
Fitzgerald, Arninta Lann, Jessie Stewart, Bessie Weeks, Marie Weeks and Annie White. Because there was never a teacherage, teachers boarded in private homes, including the White household, which was next to the
school.

Once an elementary school, the C. G. White School now serves approximately 270 African-American and Caucasian students, grades six through eight. (Prepared by Lynn McCarthy.)
Additional information and source documentation on the Powellsville schools is welcomed.

2 thoughts on “Powellsville Schools”

  1. In summer of 1946, my father Dick Montague, having just returned from WWII, got a job with Ahoskie newspaper. I was 4 yrs old at the time and we lived that summer with the Early family on their farm in or near Cremo. The only full name I recall was Monte Hester Early, their daughter, a few years older than me. They also had a young son about my age. Mr. Early was a tobacco farmer and member of volunteer fire dept.

    From 1947 until graduation from UNC, I grew up in Norfolk. Now, over 60 years later I have returned “home” to northeastern NC,
    my wife and I having recently purchased a home in Greenville.

    I have often wonder what happened to the Early family and now that I am close by, I’m hoping you might give me a lead. Would love to say “hello” to them again.
    Sincerely.
    John Montague
    214 Bent Creek Drive
    Greenville, NC 27834
    anjomonty@gmail.com

  2. I simply must tell you that you have written an excellent and unique article that I really enjoyed reading. I’m fascinated by how well you laid out your material and presented your views. Thank you.

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