EARLE’S CHAPEL: The School – Part 2
(an excerpt from the narrative “Earle’s Chapel: A Little History (1840-1990)” written by Bettye Earle Raines showing research supporting her request to have Earle’s Chapel and the Earle’s Chapel Cemetery designated as Texas Historical Sites)
In 1875, the original log building was set on fire by a drifter seeking to distract the community families while he robbed Elijah Earle’s house of a trunk containing land deeds and gold. A second building was constructed, according to oral tradition, “…in the ashes of the first.” In 1889, a new building, which still stands, was completed and the “old” building was moved some distance away. The lower grades had classes in the “Old School” and the older scholars studied in the “New” building. The “Old School” burned in 1909 and was replaced by another one on the same site. Almost eighty years later, Boone Jowers remembers the occasion of the burning of the school quite vividly.
Based on existing official county records, some of the best qualified teachers of the day taught at the school. In 1902 – 03, L.A. Pritchett was the teacher. In 1905, when W.P. Lane, P.C. Ragsdale, and A.P. Templeton were trustees, School Masters Thomas B. Cocke and A.W. Smith were holding classes as Jess Earle, Jettie Earle, Lottie Jacobs, Boone Jowers, Emery Pritchett, and F.B. Ragsdale began their primary school education. Other teachers during this period included Lena Bell, E.M. Crume, J.V. Trout and J.H. Quick. Professor Quick drove a horse and buggy each day from Jacksonville to his teaching duties. During the years of World War I, teachers included Dan Simpson who taught the 1915 – 1916 term and Wylie Odom and his wife, Jessie. The Odoms lived in Dialville, but boarded during the school terms with the Smith family who lived near the school. Mrs. Odom taught grades one through five, while Professor Odom taught sixth through ninth grade.
Opal Earle Reynolds, who attended Earle’s Chapel School during this period, remembers that completing ninth grade was considered to be a high school education. A student who had completed ninth grade could take a certificate from the Professor to the County Court House in Rusk and take the test for a primary teacher’s certificate. She recalls that classmates Mina Jowers and Velma Tankersley began their teaching careers in this manner. Among her classmates at Earle’s Chapel were the children of Bufkin, Carver, Driskell, Earle, Hibbard, Jones, Jowell, Jowers, Kravitz, Lane, Lovelady, McKinney, Pickens, Ragsdale, Reynolds, Rosemond, Simpson, Skelton, Slider, Tankersley, Taylor, Templeton, Trammell and Yancey families. A number of interesting anecdotes that illustrate school life during the first part of the century have been gathered from Earle’s Chapel students.
In 1918, the Earle’s Chapel School District, now designated #58, was moved to a new building on what was then the Jacksonville-Palestine Highway where classes continued for several more years. In 1922, after a great deal of heated discussion in the community, Earle’s Chapel School District #59 was consolidated with Ironton School District #76. At Ironton School, classes were held through eighth grade while high school students attended classes in Jacksonville. In 1954, the Ironton School District was consolidated with the Jacksonville Independent School District so that students of all ages who live in Earle’s Chapel now attend school in Jacksonville.