School System at Marion Started Before Civil War

The Gazette
October 5, 1939


Bell Academy  Was First School; Present Building Erected 1922

Shortly before the Civil War, the townspeople of Marion gathered together to try and solve the problem of schooling for their children. Thrashing out the problem, they decided to erect a building which was to be called the Bell Academy. work was actually started upon this structure, but the outbreak of the Civil War stopped work.

Thus, from that humble beginning, has the school system of Marion grown.

The building was used some with John Hopkins as teacher. After a few years use, however, the Academy was torn down and the academic problems transferred to the old Bell church. This, too, was short lived for quite a number of settlers moved away and the structure was soon torn down.

Since the church seemed to be the logical place to hold school, the next attempt at organized education was the Baptist church. The instruction, at that time, was under direction of a Mrs. Hargis. This new structure was an improvement and enrollment jumped. Several of those enrolled were boarding students, coming from around the surrounding territory to bet “book larnin'”.

Housing a Problem

However, the school did not remain in this building long for shortly it too was torn down and a new structure known as the Union church was built. At this time, the school was conducted only during the summer months. Although organized instruction was slight, it was deemed necessary to lengthen the school term to six months until 1900, when J. O. Hodnett was employed. Soon after his association  with the school, the term was lengthened to nine months.

During Hodnett’s connection with the school, the school was moved to the new, larger Baptist church. Due to the large influx of students another teacher, Mrs. Hodnett, was added. Both teachers conducted classes in the same room until the number of pupils became so large that the lower grades had to be moved back to the older building.

First School Building

In the meantime, workmen were building a two-story frame building to house the school. In 1905, it was completed and occupied. There were three classrooms on the lower floor, the upper one was divided into an assembly room and a Masonic Lodge room.

The faculty was now composed of two full-time teachers and one part-time teacher. In 1906, Paul Weiss, who later was associated with the Louisiana State Normal faculty, became principal of the school.

In 1908, the school was made an accredited high school by the state board of education. The faculty was increased to four with this move. Two were assigned to the elementary department and the remaining two handled the high school. Another teacher was added in 1910.

Agriculture Department Added

In 1911, the first indication of modern education touched the school, when an agriculture department was added. This was the first department of this kind in the parish. It was under direction of B. K. Watson. At this time, the school had a faculty of six and there was a demand for more space. The Masons sold their space to the school.

The next vocational course was added in 1913 when Miss Alma Burke joined the faculty as home economics instructor. There was now one transfer – a wagon drawn by mules – operating at the school from a distance of five miles. In 1916, an annex was added to the building, raising the number of classrooms to eight

Disaster struck at the school in 1920. Fire swept through the building in the early part of the year and gutted the structure. Classes, however, were continued in the churches and the Woodmen and Masonic Lodge halls.

Present Building

In 1922 the present three-story brick structure was occupied. The faculty at this time numbered nine; but there was still only one transfer and there were still a large number of boarding students.

An addition was made in 1929 when a home economics cottage was built. The home economics department and the agriculture department are both members of the Smith-Hughes system.

The school today has a great number of active organizations among which are the Home Economics Club, an FFA chapter, a Library Club and several other organizations.

A Glee Club, under the direction of John Green, parish supervisor of music, was organized last year.

The school today also has several athletic organizations.

A Parent-Teacher Association was formed at the school in 1934. It has been very active in the affairs of the school.

Since 1929, the faculty has grown from 13 to 15. Not included is a kindergarten, sponsored by the PTA Chapter.

400 Students

Approximately 400 students were enrolled int eh school during the last regular session. This past year the grammar school at Union was consolidated with the Marion school.

Today, five buses bring students from surrounding settlements at Union, Tugwell City, Tucker Town, Oakland and Litroe.

With PWA aid the physics plant of the school has increased to a separate building for agriculture, a home for the principle and a gymnasium-auditorium-as of brick veneer. Repairs were also made to the main building at the home economics cottage.

In March, 1939, the school was accepted to membership in the Southern Association of College and Secondary Schools. This is the oldest accrediting agency in the South.

The high school has graduated close to 350 students, many of whom have continued their education in some of the higher institutions of learning in the state and surrounding states.

E T Powell





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