When the fold in your hair has become silver; the
fantastic trip in your step has
slowed; and the years of age have diminished your thinking, may you turn the pages
of "Le Souvenir" and find mirrored there memories which gladden your heart - -
memories which lighten your burden - - memories which add joy to your work - -
and memories that deepen your love for dear old Simpsonville High School.
Notes from Pat Henderson (Class of '53):
Here is the history of Simpsonville schools. It was written by James Mahaffey in 2003 for our 50th class reunion. He had a position as teacher and later as a consultant in the Greenville County School's district office. Much of the material was donated by Miss Louise Smith, who was one of the early teachers in the school and lived all her life in Simpsonville. I believe she was 96 when she passed away several years ago. The section of our memory book containing the history was titled "Long, Long Ago"; hence, the title of the history James Mahaffey wrote.
A Glance Backwards at a School That Helped
Mold Our Future A Long Time Ago:
Simpsonville High School
Education in Simpsonville is marked with a proud, rich, and productive history. Because of the commitment of its citizens for more than a century, children, young people, and adults alike have benefited from the exceptional quality of teaching and learning experiences that has occurred in various school facilities that were called the Simpsonville schools, but better known to students as "our school."
The first school in what is now Simpsonville was opened in 1882 as a private tuition school in a small one-room cabin. The school was located on the corner of a lot, owned by W. F. Gresham, and faced the old textile village. Prior to its use as a school, the building was used by a white blacksmith who worked for the father of D. L. Bramlett. This cabin was destroyed by fire in November, 1938.
The earliest classes in this first school were offered only during a short summer term where teachers like Mitilda Alverson Bramlett provided her students with a rigorous curriculum steeped in the basic skills, great literature, and the study of virtues. Also in the 1880's, there were three other one-teacher schools, with sessions of three to four months, within a few miles of Simpsonville. One was the Clear Spring section, another in the Standing Spring community, and a third at Bethel camp ground. Later these and several other small schools located in the area would feed their students into a high school located in Simpsonville.
Simpsonville High School was established in 1885. Records at the South Carolina Department of Education show that early accreditation was bestowed on the school in that same school year, essentially because of its intent to meet quality curriculum and teaching standards.
As the town's population grew along with its commitment to education, a group of interested citizens of the Simpsonville community was successful in conducting a major fund-raising effort in 1885 to construct a new school at the cost of $500. The two-story frame building with two classrooms downstairs and an auditorium upstairs opened on January 6, 1886, on the plot now known as the East College Street site where the school facility was to be located for years to come. There were fifty students and two teachers, Professor A. M. Dawson and his step-daughter, Mrs. Jerdie Armstrong West, who were from Brevard, North Carolina. Later Professor Dawson's two daughters, Miss Nannie Dawson and Miss Mary Dawson, also assisted him. Professor Dawson was an able teacher and left the imprint of his learning and personality upon the town and community for years to come.
As a result of community efforts in 1885-1886 to build and expand the school, the first board of trustees was organized. Members included S. J. Wilson, S. T. Moore, T. B. Goldsmith, George Goodwin, and Dr. W. P. League. Professor A. M. Dawson became the first superintendent. This school board was one of the first organized in Greenville County, and later the Simpsonville school system became recognized as one of the oldest school systems in South Carolina.
From 1885 to 1907, several conscientious and scholarly educators served in the role of superintendent of the Simpsonville school system. In addition to Professor A. M. Dawson, there were R. G. Kendrick, R. H. Willis, P. J. Vermillion, Rufus Ray, D. L. Bramlett, who later served as president of the Farmers Bank of Simpsonville, E. M. Torry, and B. F. Allen. Each was a strong force in developing the school system.
|The frame building erected in 1896 served until 1907, when a new two story brick structure was opened on the same plot of land. The building contained seven classrooms and an auditorium, costing about $5,000.|
Closely following the establishment of a school for white students in Simpsonville, a school for Black students was organized in 1891 with J. R. Wilson, a student at Benedict College in Columbia, as its only teacher. The building that housed this school was sold in 1905, and the school was held in the Cedar Grove Baptist Church for the next two years. After the new brick Simpsonville School facility was built in 1907, the old frame school building was later bought by area Blacks and moved to a new location. This school facility for Blacks continued to operate for three years before it was sold and later destroyed by fire in 1925.
From the inception of the Simpsonville school system, all students had to take the same subjects in the elementary school, but electives were permitted at the high school level. The high school course of study, however, included a core curriculum required of all students. This core curriculum was supplemented by elective subjects of special interest as well as subjects to develop the students' talents and intellect. Studies in the classics, the fine arts, languages, and related areas were offered early in the history of Simpsonville High School and continued through the years. Often in the early years of the high school, the curriculum was divided into several courses: the science course, the academic or the college preparatory course, and the vocational course. Students chose their course of study based on their career goals and interest, and with the assistance of their teachers and counselors. Later, the curriculum included offerings specifically identified as the college preparatory program, business education program, and vocational education program. This curriculum was offered even late into the 1950's.
Simpsonville High School continued to grow and to develop its educational program, often distinguishing itself as the "first" among schools in offering new opportunities to its students. Simpsonville was the first school in Greenville County to offer its students agriculture and public school music, and the first to have a music building exclusively for that purpose. Interestingly, in 1911, a music hall was constructed on the grounds of the First Baptist Church with a voice, piano, and other music teachers provided by the school. Simpsonville was the first school in Greenville County to offer eleventh grade work, and the first to present high school diplomas to graduates in May, 1917 [Under the 1907 High School Act, only those schools offering a four year course and fourteen units of credit could grant diplomas. - web editor's note]. Other "firsts" included state wins in expression, debating, music, and athletics. Simpsonville closely followed Greenville in offering a home economics program to its students.
In 1914, under the guidance of Superintendent C. O. Milford, the high school became fully accredited by the state. Then, in 1926, Simpsonville High School was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (now the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools), the highest school accreditation that could then be archived by any high school in the Southern region of eleven states
By 1915, with the student population continuing to increase, more space was needed and a two-story brick addition was erected. This addition was put in front of, and attached to the older brick part. The first floor provided two classrooms, a book room, and a superintendent's office. The upper story was used as an auditorium with seating for five hundred. Later the old auditorium was made into three classrooms to accommodate the increase in student population and the expansion of the educational program. Still within a few years, the citizens realized that more adequate school facilities were needed.
Simpsonville High School 1920-1957
A new $45,000 high school building was constructed in the 1920-1921 school year. The facility had ten classrooms, six smaller rooms for music studios an and offices, and a gymnasium. This new school building was used for years, along with additional classroom space made available in the vocational agriculture building, cannery, and other adjacent buildings. It served Simpsonville youth until Hillcrest High School was built in the 1956-1957 school year.
As the years passed, these 1920-1921 facilities became more and more limited. For instance, the library/study hall on the third floor had too few books and other resources, such as magazines and newspapers. While science classes had access to a microscope, there was little equipment available for performing science experiments. The small vocational agriculture building (best known as the "ag" building) provided space, however, for one of the finest vocational agriculture programs to be found in any high school of comparable size. Used by such teachers as Mr. Gary, Mr. King, Mr. Smith, and Mr. M. O. Alexander, the facility allowed for a program of agricultural studies that gave many students the opportunity to learn more about farming and agribusiness. Furthermore, the program provided help for local farmers and paved the way for many improvements in community farming, a leading industry and job market in the Simpsonville area for years.
The 1920-1921 facility replacement for the Simpsonville schools did not address, however, the growing elementary school population or the need for a larger auditorium and gymnasium for the total school population, including the high school grades.
It was not until 1938 that the elementary grades needs were addressed. Then, the school trustees F. A. Hunter, Chairman; W. F. Gresham, Secretary; and Roy Garrison with Dr. L. L. Richardson as adviser to the board held numerous meetings to discuss funding the building of a new elementary school facility. With the help of interested citizens, a petition for a bond issue was circulated. This bond election carried in 1938. The bonds were sold and the Public Works Administration was asked to supplement the building fund. Plans providing for a three-unit building were approved. The new plant was a combination auditorium-classroom-gymnasium, located on Academy Street. The classrooms served the elementary grades. All grades, including the high school grades, used the auditorium and gymnasium.
From the beginning, the curriculum at Simpsonville High School was designed to motivate and challenge the students. Students were prepared to enter college, the armed services, or the work force with confidence and determination to succeed. Whatever the choice of the students and their parents/guardians, the program always included the prescribed courses required for a state high school diploma plus the many varied academic, vocational, and other courses offered as electives. To strengthen the program and to better prepare students for the future, the twelfth grade was added to Simpsonville High School in 1949. Many students who graduated from Simpsonville High School through the years distinguished themselves in the immediate world of work, the armed services, or the professional careers they entered upon graduation from college. Teachers, lawyers, doctors, dentists, nurses, business men and nd women, farmers and agribusiness leaders, accountants, and many others in various lines of work, as well as homemakers, came through the classrooms of the academic, business, and vocational programs offered at Simpsonville High School.
While school facilities and the curriculum were being addressed and improved, attention was given also to extracurricular activities. Simpsonville High School, from the late 1930's until 1957, offered a more ambitious extra-curricular program than any other school of its comparable size in the Piedmont region of South Carolina. Home room activities; organized play (later known as intramurals); various clubs focusing on the academic, vocational, and special interests and talents of the students; and a Student Body Organization contributed to the aims of the program and the school under the guidance of the faculty. There were civic and religious organizations that were very closely connected with the school and its activities also.
Still another source of pride at Simpsonville High School was the athletic program. Students were given the opportunity to participate in several sports. The athletic program was far more expansive than similar programs in high schools of the same size as Simpsonville High School. The Whirlwind [school's logo] was famed for its exploits far an wide. Several state championships were earned in baseball, football, and basketball, not to mention the numerous district titles. In addition to these three major sports that attracted the interest of most students, there were track activities for others. Many will recall the evenings at sports events and "sock hops."
The Simpsonville Whirlwind girls' basketball team brought an abundance of favorable publicity to the high school and the community. The team was organize in 1921 by L. R. Richardson, superintendent and first coach, who led the team to its first state championship in 1923. Over its year, the team won most of its games and compiled an enviable record of numerous district championships, upper-state championships, and state championships. Many of the girls were mentioned on All-American teams.
In 1949, a committee of fifteen citizens as appointed by the Greenville County legislative delegation to study the organization of the eighty-two separate schools districts in the county. Simpsonville was one of those small districts. In 1951 with consolidation, Simpsonville schools became a part of the new School District of Greenville County. This led to the equalization of school facilities and educational opportunities, and thus, a newly constructed Hillcrest High School to serve Mauldin, Simpsonville, and Fountain Inn students. Simpsonville High School, with its glorious history of nurturing and developing the youth of the area, held its last graduation ceremony in the spring of 1957. The new high school serving the Golden Strip opened its doors to 1450 students in grades 7-12 in the fall of 1957. The remaining 1950's classes were part of this new educational venture. The Simpsonville Whirlwind had now become the Hillcrest Rams, and another chapter in the history of the schools in the area had begun.
[In the previous years] lessons were taught and guidance given to students by very caring and superb high school teachers. Some of these skilled and beloved teachers included Mrs. Lois Abbott, Mr. M. O. Alexander, Mrs. Mary Jane Curry McKinney, MIss Mary Bishop, Mrs. Wilma Gault, Mrs. Nan Hopkins, Mrs. Lillian Johnson, MIss Elizabeth Sloan, Mr. Charles Johnson, Mrs. Sybil Martin Todd, Mrs. Mildred Givens, Mrs. Annabelle Stogner, Mrs. W. B. Huntley, Mrs. Tommie Hinton, and still others not named here. Memories of school leaders including Mr. Elridge C. Barnett, principal, and Mr. L. L. Holladay and Mr. J. E. Herndon, school superintendents, are fondly cherished.
In addition, several accomplished special area teachers in music and the related arts left an indelible imprint on students in both the elementary and high school grades. These teachers were committed to helping students develop, use and enjoy their talents, and above all, appreciate the fine arts. Among these teachers were Mrs. Goldie Love Kilgore, Mrs. Loretta Ezell, Mr. William Ezell, Mrs. Euralene Layton, Mr. Gordon Casad, and others.
Several of the elementary and high school teachers in the Simpsonville schools joined the faculty of the new Hillcrest High School when it opened in the fall of 1957. These teachers and many others along with Mr. Henry Bennett, the principal, continued to influence the lives of Simpsonville area graduates and others in the latter part of the 1950's and beyond.
What youthful memories could be better than those created in the special places that the 1950's graduates hold so dearly - their Alma Mater - Simpsonville High School. Certainly the 1950's graduates have been heirs of an endearing educational opportunity that will always be remembered with deep affection and appreciation.
1. When the Blue Ridge smiles in grandeur, Where the "whirl-wind" plays:
Greenville Historical Schools List
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