The first school in Bon Secour was a private school in the home of John Cook about 1840. A governess was hired to live in the home and teach the Cook children and anyone else who wished to attend. People lived so far apart with no way of traveling except by boat, horseback, horse and buggy or walking that only very few children were able to come. One pupil would row a boat from Oyster Bay and then walk to the school. He was able to attend school only one or two months in the year and did not go beyond the second grade.
As the years passed, several more private schools were started in other parts of Bon Secour. There was the Plash School in Oyster Bay, the Wenzel School, the Coburn School, the Creole School, the Swift Mill School and the Witt School. The teachers earned about $11.00 a month for three months each year.
The Witt School was the first public school in Bon Secour, although, originally, it was a private school. It began about 1887 by the people of St. Peter's Episcopal Church. The school most likely was the result of the efforts of two devout Lutheran ladies, Mrs. Theresa Margaret Keller Miller and her sister Mrs. Anna Krudop, who asked that a minister be sent to the community once each year to baptize the children. To meet this request, Bishop Richard H. Wilmer sent Reverend Asa J. Roberts for this task. Reverend Roberts immediately saw the need for a school in the community and sent his daughter, Miss Sally Roberts, to be the first teacher. Miss Roberts lived with Mrs. Miller and taught in a nearby vacant house for the sum of eight dollars per month. Things were difficult for the new teacher partly because of the form and ceremony of the Episcopal Church, which she represented. Once she came home in tears saying that a dead hog had been placed on the school steps with a label: "For the teacher's lunch." This insult almost made her quit teaching in the school.
Located on the banks of the river, the Witt School was somewhat inaccessible at times. A strong southwest wind brought the tide up into the school house and the parents rescued the children with boats. Maintained for thirty-three years under nineteen different teachers, the July storm of 1916 damaged the school building so badly it was decided not to make repairs and thus the Witt School was discontinued.
The Swift Mill School was placed halfway between the Witt School and the Wenzel School. It was built across the road from the present site of Swift Consolidated School. In the beginning, the school was private, being supported by the school patrons. Later it became a public school and was attended by both white and Creole children. After a short time, the Creole children were provided a separate school.
In 1917, the patrons of Swift Mill and Witt schools pooled their efforts and materials and enlarged the school building, thus starting the consolidated school. At a later date, the Plash School at Oyster Bay became a part of Swift Consolidated School. During the last years of Mr. Tharp's term as superintendent, a modern auditorium and gymnasium were built on the campus.
Baldwin County Board Members, Administrators, Teachers, Retired Teachers, Staff, Parents and other members of the Bon Secour Community came together to celebrate the construction of Swift School's new cafeteria in 2006.
Today, the Swift Consolidated School continues the tradition of providing an education for children in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade in the county's oldest public school building that has been in use since 1916. Community support of this school resulted in the building of a library in 1996 that sits in the school yard as a reminder of the importance of education to future leaders of Baldwin County.
Written 2001 for The Baldwin County Heritage Book by Dolores J. Cooper.