The Vagabond – Early schoolhouses, teachers in Gadsden

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By Danny Crownover

One of the first schools in Gadsden was that of Miss Fannie Fullenwider’s classroom on Eighth Street, located where the Woodruff family once lived.

A brilliant woman and a very capable teacher, Miss Fannie had a way with children. They loved her but also respected her authority, and she never had to deal out much physical punishment. Every year, Miss Fannie put together an Easter egg hunt for the children and presented each of them with an Easter card.

Miss Fannie taught good manners as well as the three “r’s.” She had an invariable rule that if a boy was caught saying a bad word,. he had to wash his mouth out with strong soap. She stood over the boy in order to make sure that he did a good job of it. It was said that Miss Fannie permanently cured several students of the habit of cursing.

One of the first baseball game played outside Miss Fannie’s schoolroom featured Martin Sibert as catcher and Miss Betty Tolson as pitcher. Betty wore spectacles and reportedly was very a good player.

Although the next school in town was called a public school, students had to pay tuition. The students were taught in a wooden building that was replaced in 1911 by the Striplin Building (pictured above at right) on the current site of the Gadsden Public Library.

Professor A.B. Goodhue, an old-time pedagogue, was the principal of this “public” school. He was for many years a member of the faculty of Howard College. Goodhue came to Gadsden from Oxford, where he conducted a famous preparatory school for years. His assistants were J.W. Dubose, his son David P. Goodhue, Mrs. C. Dunn and J.C. Hail.

Thevery  first school in Gadsden was known as The Academy, established in the late 1860s by Dr. William Heath and located on Locust Street. Local historian Will I. Martin visited The Academy in 1878 after Heath’s death in 1877. Martin remembered a recital given by Miss Fannie B. Hodges, a beautiful girl from one of the leading families of the city.

Martin eventually was scrubbed “within an ace of Godliness” for his trespassing. After the scrubbing, he was turned over to two older boys who served as escorts. The trio eventually passed through the old downtown graveyard located behind the site of the old city hall located on Fifth Street across from the current Cultural Arts building.

Martin’s escorts soon began shooting peas through quills at spectators and speakers on the stage, and trio was promptly bounced out into the cemetery after being called bad boys.

The boys soon became the best of companions, for they knew the shortest route to the best swimming holes in the Coosa River, Town Creek, Black Creek and Big Wills Creek, as well as the best ways to get out of watermelon and sugarcane patches and plum orchards when caught trespassing.

The boys attended school at Tunnel Block located on North Broad Street close to Sixth Streets, which was taught by professors Potter and Bailey. Their classroom was located in a vacant storeroom on the sidewalk level with a store underneath. It was there that the boys learned most of their tricks.

Contact The Vagabond at dkcrown@bellsouth.net.

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