Days Gone By - stories from the past

One-room schoolhouses were popular in early Alabama as these photographs indicate

Education was important to early pioneers of Alabama. One-room schoolhouses, log houses in communities, private homes, schoolhouses on large plantations, private academies, and mission schools sprang up all over the state.

The University of Alabama, founded in 1831, was one of the oldest and the largest of the universities in Alabama.

This song “Po’ Child” was performed by Dock “Zebediah” Reed (vocals) on the porch of home of Mr. & Mrs. W.P. Tartt, Livingston, Alabama, on May 26, 1939. It is part of the John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip collection at the Library of Congress.

However, the education was not equal throughout the state. “In the early 1900s, education in Alabama still suffered from short school terms, low funding, and racism.” Some children received an excellent education while others were drastically below standards as can be seen by the photographs below.

The Education Governor

Braxton Bragg Comer, who served as governor from 1907 to 1911, became known as “the education governor.” He pushed through legislation that required a high school in every county, and by 1918, 57 of 67 counties had a high school. He increased funding for schools and set compulsory school attendance until age 16.”

In the early 1900s, many children were required to work in factories to help support their families rather than attend school. Some Textile Mills tried to solve the problem by setting up schools next to the factories so children could attend school in the morning and work in the afternoon. This was not always successful as photojournalist Lewis Wickes Hine documented in the photographs below when he visited Alabama in around 1913. The notes with the photographs were written by Lewis Wickes Hine.

The Textile Mills often set up schools beside their factories.Mill School at the Merrimack Mills, Huntsville, Alabama 1910 Lewis Wickes Hines

The school above was outside view of the Mill School at the Merrimack Mills, tucked away upstairs over the store. Equipped with antique, dilapidated benches and chairs. The lessons begin at 6 A.M. and last for six hours, and these children who attend in the morning go into the mill in the afternoon and vice versa for the required eight weeks, which the law specifies. Taking everything into consideration it shows what a travesty vocational guidance may become, and is in itself the best example of Dotheboys Hall I have ever seen, except that it is not half so practical as was Squeer’s school. See Hine report. Location: Huntsville, Alabama.The Mill School at Anniston Dec. 1914 Lewis Wickes Hine

This picture above is the mill school of the Anniston Mfg. Co. These are boys at the mill school who have to make the 8 weeks schooling for the year. The school is miserably equipped. Willie Laty, the shortest boy, said he was 10 years old, and been working there about 1 year. He and the other boy said he had a job as a spinner and sweeper, but that he had just been fired (probably after the boss saw the investigator photograph them.) Collie Webb and Archie Croll are also probably under 12, and some girls not in this photograph. Location: Anniston, Alabama.Group of children attending the mill school at Barker Cotton Mills Mobile Alabama October 1914 Lewis Wickes Hine

Above is a group of children attending the mill school at Barker Cotton Mills. These children are well-kept at home, and well-directed in school. School is sanitary and well-equipped. School attendance is compulsory. Deputy in mill acts as the truant officer. If parents neglect to send children to school, they are requested to move out. The whole situation reflects the good management of the superintendent. Location: Mobile, Alabama.The Mill School at Avondale, Birmingham, Alabama Nov. 1910 Lewis Wickes Hine

This is the Mill School at Avondale. The mill gate is but a few feet to the right of the photo and the employees pass through the schoolyard continually. From all I could gather on the question, the school is only a makeshift, because the mill children go here only the eight weeks of the year to comply with the law. Attendance is irregular. In the lowest first grade, with a child of six years, were two girls of fourteen and fifteen who had been to school but two weeks in their lives. Location: Birmingham, Alabama.


  1. Library of Congress
  2. Encyclopedia of Alabama

Vinegar of the Four Thieves was a recipe that was known for its antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic and antifungal properties for years. It was even used to cure the Bubonic Plague. See Thomas Jefferson’s recipe in VINEGAR OF THE FOUR THIEVES: Recipes & curious tips from the past


VINEGAR OF THE FOUR THIEVES: Recipes & curious tips from the past (Kindle Edition)

By (author):  Causey, Donna R

List Price: $7.89
New From: $7.89 In Stock
buy now

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

Liked it? Take a second to support Alabama Pioneers on Patreon!


    1. I went thru most of first grade in a two-room school in rural Dallas County. School house was just off Rte. 14 from Selma toward Marion. School had two teachers. One taught first six grades in one room and the other taught 7 thru 9 grades in the other. Anyone wanting to be educated beyond ninth grade had to go to Selma, six miles away. Rte. 14 was a gravel road at the time and my parents were living with my widowed maternal grandmother at the time, about a mile south of the school. The teachers drove separate cars — one a one-seat coupe and the other a two-door Ford Model A sedan. Students, especially younger ones, tried to get out on the road before teachers drove by and if there was room in either car we got a ride to school. If cars were loaded, or if we were too late for them, we had to walk — a pretty cold hike in January, February of 1932, especially for a skinny six-year-old. We carried lunch, or went without lunch; got water from a pitcher pump in school yard. And there were two out-houses, one for boys and one for girls.
      Ah Memories!
      Joe McKnight

  1. It wasn’t too long ago that I learned my grandfather, James M Pirkle, taught school in Cleburne County before 1900–probably near Heflin or Bells Mill area. He had a great memory and loved spell-downs, participating at the area schools when there were “bees”. My cousin said he remembered each student he taught. After he and his young family emigrated to northern Louisiana, he did not teach school again and made his living farming.

  2. I was in one in PeaRidge Alabama,Had 3 rooms one for 1& 2 one for 3 & 4 and one for 5 & 6.and launch room.And 2 Out houses 1 for the boys & 1for the girls.This was in the 1950,s

  3. I went to school in combined grades .. Teachers go into apoplectic shock at the mere mention of it .. But I leaned more teaching the younger students than I did from the teacher

  4. No education today..

  5. My uncles had to help earn money when their father died. It was the way back then.

  6. These one rooms still stand in North Dakota

  7. i remember the cloak room.and wooden floors….anyone remember how to use a slide rule?

    1. have one but no instructions. My oldest sibling went thru college using one. They work

  8. I just love these old stories!!

  9. Teacher also lit the fire to warm the room, cleaned up after school, taught the kids, and never went on strike

  10. My Grandma taught in one room schools. All grades in one room.

  11. I remember when I was a little girl my Aunt went to a one room school in Cooks Springs Alabama, next to the Cooks Springs Baptist Church. They had bring someone to school with you day and she took me! At first I was excited, because we got to take a sack lunch, and all I could think of was having a picnic and fun. But when we got there it was one big room and the classes was separated by curtains, and you could hear everyone else if the other part of the room, but I remember that we had a very controlled and as I look back professional class. I was so glad when lunch time came and we got to eat our picnic, but by then I was ready to go home, it was very boring to me. I was so young as I am writing this I am trying to remember what we had for lunch that day and for some reason boiled egg comes to mind.

  12. I remember going to a two room schoolhouse in Marion Junction, Alabama when I was in the third grade. If I remember correctly third, fourth, sixth in one room and first second and fifth in the other. This would have been in 1942-43.

  13. Lee, I thought you might want to show this to your kids.

  14. My mother Lesta Lucas taught in a one room school six grades.

  15. I think it was probably better.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.