Days Gone By - stories from the past

The Free School in Jefferson County opened on the 20th of April, 1874


(transcribed from the Birmingham Iron Age April 23, 1874)

On Monday morning, the 20th inst., the Birmingham Free Public School opened its first session at the new Academy, corner of 5th Avenue and 24th Street. Prof. Connerly and all his Assistants were present at the morning session and were greeted by the glad faces of one hundred and ninety children and young people, who came to receive instruction.

They were divided according to age and advancement into four classes and placed in four rooms, under the government of Messrs. Grace, McLaughlin, Mrs. Thomas and Miss Cahalan respectively.

The work of examination and classification was begun, and will engage the teachers most of the week. On Tuesday forty additional pupils entered, raising the number on the second day to two hundred and thirty. This will require additional room and another teacher, and we are pleased to learn that the School Committee are already working in that direction.

First Birmingham School 1874 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

The school has been visited by the Mayor and several members of the City Council and by other prominent citizens, and encouraging addresses were delivered by several gentlemen to the different grades of the school. The highest gratification has been expressed by all parties because of the entire unanimity with which the community of Birmingham have engaged in this enterprise and on account of the favorable auspices under which it has begun its work.

The school is free to all white children of Jefferson County.

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includes the following stories

  • The Yazoo land fraud
  • Daily life as an Alabama pioneer
  • The capture and arrest of Vice-president Aaron Burr
  • The early life of William Barrett Travis, hero of the Alamo
  • Description of Native Americans of early Alabama including the visit by Tecumseh
  • Treaties and building the first roads in Alabama


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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey



  1. Jeff Sharritt

    What does it mean by free school?

    1. Alabama Pioneers

      Prior to this time, parents paid for their children to attend school, either at their own home or with a private teacher in the community. The free school described in the article was the first one in Birmingham where the teachers and principal were paid by the city government through taxes. All students in the community could attend for free – that is all white students in Birmingham could attend. Schools were segregated and I don’t believe there was a free school for African-American students. In 1901, one African-American man started a school for wayward boys with his own funds in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I wrote a story about him here.

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