Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
For two weeks we have traced early settlers to Union County, Georgia bearing the last name Self. As we observe in April, “Teaching Career Month,” we turn our attention to one descendant of these early Self settlers, Mary Self, who began her teaching career at the Henson one-room school that was once an integral part of education in the Choestoe District of Union County.
It is told that one of the school trustees of the Henson School appeared at the schoolhouse on the opening day of school in the early 1900’s and addressed the seventeen year old teacher, Mary Self, with the question: “Are you the little girl who is going to teach these children this year?”
A bit frightened by the query, but at the same time determined, young Mary Self answered, “I’m going to try!”
And try she did. Those larger in size and older than she held no fear for her. She taught with enthusiasm and determination and thus began her long career in education.
During the years she taught at the Henson School, she spent her summers furthering her own education at the Normal Institutes held then at places such as Young Harris and Piedmont College in Demorest. She sat for the two-day teacher examination administered for the purpose of gaining her teacher’s license. The certification grade (I, II or III) she made on it determined the salary she would make. She graduated from both of these colleges, and in her later life she praised the dean of Young Harris College, Dr. Joseph Sharp, for the quality influence he had on her life as a teacher and that of her sister, Jane Self, whose marriage ceremony to Norman Vester Dyer was performed by Dr. Sharp in the parlor of the college on June 17, 1915, with Mary Self as an attendant.
After her years of teaching at Henson School, she taught at other Georgia schools, mainly where her brother-in-law and sister had employment as educators in Lilly, Nichols and Dawson, Miss Mary Self accepted a job at Candler Street School in Gainesville. She remained there, serving both as a teacher and then as a principal from 1942 until her retirement in 1953.
In Gainesville Miss Mary Self met and married J. Howard Squires. He was for many years an officer with the Gainesville Midland Railroad. They made their home in a lovely house on Green Street Place. After her retirement in 1953, Mrs. Squires could not leave teaching alone. She first began to tutor at-risk students in her home after school.
Then the work of mentor was expanded. Her former students, in the 1950’s and 60’s parents themselves, sought her out to assist their own children and give them a boost in their school work. She enjoyed this contact with former students and was glad to assist their children to gain more confidence as students.
In choosing teaching as a career, Mrs. Mary Self Squires named the number one requirement as “a genuine love for children.” Combine that love for students with an avid desire to teach and an aptitude for instruction and teaching may be the avenue of work one so inclined should follow.
The Self sisters, Mary and Jane, both met the criteria for teachers as noted by Mary. She herself had a long career as a teacher and principal. Her sister Jane followed teaching until she and Dr. Dyer had children. Sarah Ruth and twins, Betty and Helen. Then Jane took up the full-time job of stay-at-home mother, but always assisted her husband, Dr. Norman Vester Dyer, mainly a school administrator--principal and superintendent--in his career as an educator.<> “I’m going to try to teach!” became more than a statement to a school board member in the early 1900’s as she began her first job at Henson School. She did try--and she succeeded in teaching.>
Jones; published April 14, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
[Ethelene Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA 31061-2411.]