As children return to school driven in buses from near and far and by private transportation, I am reminded of the stories I have heard from times gone by and the many hardships endured for an education.
My grandmother, the late Annie Mae Reiser Exley born in 1897, told us about her school days. She walked several miles to a neighborhood school, Indigo School. Regardless of the weather, the trip had to be made with an early start to get there on time.
A small stream had to be crossed and she had to cross on “foot logs.” If you stayed on top of the logs, you stayed dry; otherwise you were wet for the day. If you saw a snake, you waited until it moved on and then crossed it scared. School had no screens, ceiling fans, electricity, indoor plumbing nor adequate heat in winter.
Ten or eleven grades of school were all that were taught back in the day. In the lower grades, one teacher handled all the students in the one-room school.When time came to finish, you had to go on to a school offering higher education. The academies offered professors and many subjects.
In my grandmother’s case, that was the Effingham Academy in Springfield that sat where the former Treutlen Building stands south of Ulmer Park.
It was too far to walk (her home was many miles away from Springfield) so arrangements were made for her to board with the Martin Gnann family, a cousin, upstairs in a two-story house facing the Effingham County Courthouse.
She had a roommate, Ruth Shearouse Seckinger. They had a pretty meager existence, and she looked forward to going home on the weekend. She spoke often of school days with her classmates Wylly Thiot and Ernest B. Mingledorff. The accompanying postcard was a keepsake she received when she graduated in 1915.
Ironically, Annie Mae and her husband and family decided to leave their home in Clyo in the 1940s, and they purchased and lived in the very home where she had boarded as a school girl. Her house faced the courthouse and also the home of former classmate Ernest B. Mingledorff, who was school superintendent of Effingham County for many years.
The Exley residence was eventually sold to the county for office space, burned in a fire and now the Effingham County Judicial Center sits where it once stood.
Some homemade buses existed and some students caught rides with teachers headed to school or workers going to their jobs when the automobile came into fashion.
In preparing photographs for the Historic Effingham Society 2014 calendar, I found a picture of students around the year 1900 at Guyton High School. They too had students who boarded for high school.
A brother and sister by the last name of Register from Register are listed. Will Humphries was from Sylvania. Jim Hodges, Cone Smith and Will Enecks were from Oaky. (Some of the Enecks lived in Screven County). Abner E. Graham was from Shawnee. Daisy Brewer hailed from Oliver. Alex Hughes was from Wadley. Robbie Exley was from Exley (Goshen Road area). Rawls Mallory was from Clyo. George Mingledorff was from Spingfield and many lived in Guyton.
The train may have provided the transportation for those from Oliver and further. Guyton scholars boarded during the week in homes in Guyton, just like in Springfield.
Getting to school today is a far cry from what it was around 1900.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.