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Craig’s Chapel

By Sherri Onorati, Special to The Leader

Although, it’s been hard to determine when Craig’s Chapel first started its school, records at the Tipton County Board of Education do show that it was in operation and the district was paying teachers at the school, as far back as 1911. There is written records that describe the school as a frame building, erected in 1918. The one-room building was just 600 square feet sitting on a half acre. It was lighted by windows on three sides and came with an ordinary stove for heating in the winter, windows for ventilation and two different size seats for students. There was well water on the grounds and one unsanitary toilet. The students had use of a hylo plate blackboard but library books, and the only playground equipment was an old basketball, valued at $1.

Craig’s Chapel teacher Gertrude Lyles’ grade book from 1923


The list of verifiable teachers who left their mark on Craig’s Chapel included:
1912 Clemmie Adkinson
1913 M. Williams
1914 Lottie Cothran
1915 Mary A. Walker
1916 Miarianna Walker and Annie Stevens
1917 Annie Stevens and Lillian Nelson
1918 H.M. Sweat
1919 Pauline Blankenship
1920 Lois Black
1921 Myrtle Baskin
1922 Myrtle Baskin
1923 Veatrice May Lall
1924-25 Gertrude Lyles
1926-27 Gazle Turnage
1928 Alma Billings
1929 Bessie Joyner
1930-33 Gazle Turnage
1934 Lena Ellen Goss
1935 Louise Templeton

School Days

Available teacher’s books begin with the 1923-24 term, with Gertrude Lyles as the educator of the one-room schoolhouse. That year, the school year began on Aug. 6, 1923 and dismissed on Apr. 18, 1924 for a total of 160 school days with just two “lost” days according to Lyles – Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Students at the school were between the ages of five to 18 and in grades 1st through 7th grade. The school did teach up to 8th grade but there were no students in the 8th grade that year. School began promptly at 8:30 a.m. with chapel exercises and concluded at 3:30 with spelling, the last subject of the day. And just as teachers today have a set and precise schedule to follow for students, Craig’s Chapel of the early 20th century was no different. The daily schedule consisted of:
8:30 – 8:45 chapel exercises
8:45 – 10:00 reading
10:10 – 10:15 recess
10:15 – 11:50 arithmetic
12:00 – 1:00 noon lunch
1:00 – 1:45 language
1:45 – 2:30 geography
2:30 – 3:00 history
3:00 – 3:15 seat work
3:15 – 3:30 spelling

During the 1923-24 school year, there were a total of 46 students from the Compton, Craig, Gladden, Gookin, Hanks, Higgins, Holliman, Ralph, Suggs, Turnage, Wardell and Wilson families. All of the students came from farm families and traveled up to two miles a day to get to school. By the end of the year, 25 students had dropped from the school rolls and only 21 were promoted to the next grade.

At the conclusion of the 1926-27 school year, there were 36 students, but only one, an 8-year-old 3rd grader by the name of Ruby Velma Hanks completed the year with perfect attendance. Little Ruby walked a mile and a half to attend school each day and she loved to go. The proof is in her attendance record and in her grades – she ended the term with straight A’s and was promoted to the 4th grade. Ruby, the daughter of Joseph C. Hanks, graduated from 8th grade in 1932 at age 12 – again with perfect attendance and straight A’s. In fact, during her eight years at Craig’s Chapel, she only missed 11 days of school and 10 of those days were when she was in the 4th grade. She also achieved straight A’s every year!

In 1933, Gazle Turnage was the teacher at Craig’s Chapel having seven years of experience under her belt with six of them at Craig’s Chapel. She was issued permanent certificate #29174 on June 30, 1930. She was a single, 26-year old and made $67.50 a month to teach 32 students in grades 1st thru 8th. At the end of the year, she wrote that the school had a leaking roof over the porch and five yards of blackboard. There were nine erasers in the classroom, two brooms, one bucket, one shovel and two dippers.

A school improvement association was started during the 1933-34 term. The president was the teacher for that year, Miss Lena Ellen Goss and the secretary was Mrs. Clyde Hanks. The association had 10 members and they held five meeting throughout the year. The group raised $26.75 during the year and bought a new globe for the classroom for $1, four library books for $1.50, school decorations in the amount of $13.60 and other expenditures amounted to $10.65. The school had 53 students – 27 boys and 26 girls.

School Improvement

The last record available for the school ends with the 1934-35 school year. The building and heating plant were valued at $500, with the grounds listed at $25. The school added 27 new books to the library, a donation from the Junior PTA of Washington. Students ran the School Improvement Association this year. They had 12 members and held four meetings, which they boasted had a 90 percent attendance rate. The students raised $14.50 for the year and spent $.40 on repairing desks and furniture and another $11.45 on unidentified expenses. They ended the year with a balance of $2.65.
Anyone with additional information or pictures on Craig’s Chapel or any Tipton County community school is encouraged to contact Sherri Onorati at 237-0422 or [email protected].

List of students names from Craig’s Chapel