The third Alameda School, then located at the southwest corner of Hwy 571 and CR 434. The center of the Alameda Community life. Photo supplied by Kenneth and Salata Brown.
The Alameda School's concrete foundation sits lonely and largely forgotten in brush on the west side FM 571, south of CR 488. This was once the epicenter of one of the largest consolidated schools in Texas. If you stop your car and get out on this road south of Ranger, you will hear the wind's mournful whisper through the cottonwood trees. Joyful student laughter and fellowship rising from the nearby playground and ball field are gone forever. But listen closely…this amazing story can still be heard.
Alameda actually had at least four school sites through the years. Its first in 1874 was known as Schmick's School House, a two story log structure near Mansker Lake. The first sessions of Eastland County's District Court were held here as it was one of the largest buildings in the county. According to a 1950 History of Eastland County by Ed Cox, it stood just north of the Eastland - Desdemona road and about 300 yards east of where the road then crossed Mansker Lake.
The ground floor was intended for school purposes and the upper story as a meeting place for the Alameda Masonic Lodge No. 467. Some of the early teachers at Alameda were Harry McFarland 1878, L. W. Duffer 1879 and R. Maggie Smith in 1884. This first school was a one teacher school and the seats were said to be made of split oak trees.
Though the first settlers came to the area in 1858, writer Robert Lindsey believes that there were no schools from 1858 - 1870 because of Indians and frontier conditions. Mrs. George Langston's History of Eastland County relates that the Mansker family moved away to Blair's Fort near present-day Desdemona from 1860-1865 during Civil War then returned to Mansker Lake after that.
The Mansker family donated land to the Alameda School District Trustees on January 1, 1885 that became the second known school site. This acre was located near the Leon River, down the hill from Alameda Cemetery. This school was actually constructed to the east, immediately north of where the cemetery tabernacle presently sits. This was probably to prevent being flooded. This frame school's foundation stones were pointed out by Bud Blackwell in the 1980s and are still visible.
The third site (and the beginning of many consolidations) was located on the southwest corner of Hwy 571 and CR 434. This was also a frame structure but appears to be much larger from photos. Mr. Cozart had a store just east of the Hart place near this school. The school was the center of the community, serving at various times as the birthplace of the Sweet Home Baptist Church (until the church rebuilt in Cheaney) and a Church of Christ. Several weddings took place here as well.
The fourth and final site actually had two generations of
buildings. The first set were the Alameda School and the Cheaney
School buildings which were dragged to the site during their 1929-1930
consolidation. The Alameda School House brought to this location
was a two room building with large high windows, allowing in light
but preventing observing the landscape during class time. The
two rooms had a third room added, forming a T. This building served
as the grade school. Some of the teachers here were Ruth Kirk,
Berle Blackwell, and Gus Reynolds. Don Rodgers taught, coached
and drove the bus. The metal bus barn still exists nearby.
The 1940 last Alameda School built by the WPA. Photo
supplied by Kenneth and Salata Brown
The superintendent's house may have been the old Brushy School House. It was later moved to Ranger (and still stands). The school building from Cheaney was a three room frame structure with a large room added on the west side. It served as the study hall and auditorium. Some of the superintendents from this time were Aubrey Wofford, Mr. Blanton, Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Cooksey. Some of the teachers were Mrs. R. D. Wright, Mr. Verl Rodgers, Mrs. Jewel Sealey, Mrs. Wood, Mr. J. W. Turner, Mrs. Paige, Mrs. Chapman, and Gwyn Lion.
The final building was a large sandstone building built in 1941 as a WPA project. When the schools were consolidated into the rock school building, it had about 250 students. The 1941 high school class was the largest ever, with 12 graduates. Carter Hart remembers the school being called the "ABC School" for awhile, because of the consolidation of Alameda, Brushy and Cheaney. The Alameda School (the Alameda Mustangs) consolidated many school districts through the years - Cheaney, Salem, Mountain, Hoard, Thurman, Young Springs, Brushy Point, Lone Cedar and Triumph. A 1936-37 map of the Eastland County School Districts shows the Alameda District geographically being as large as Ranger's.
Blackwell said at the time of the consolidation, more enemies than friends were made. Board member James Hart helped get the Alameda School accredited with the state, so kids didn't have to take entry exams to enter colleges. Alameda's teachers were considered among the best in the state. In addition to normal job prerequisites, the written recommendation from one's minister was required for serious consideration. Happy times were recorded in editions of the school newspaper, the Alameda Hi Life.
La Fray Reid Hart remembers her days as a student in the 1930s - 40s. "The class rooms were large, two grades per room. Each room had a cloak room to hang your hat, coat, etc. There were large blackboards in each room, approximately 3' x 12', at least two in each room. There was less paper that way and it also taught a lesson in performing in front of an audience demonstrating your knowledge in full view of two classes."
"Mrs. Edgar (Ruth) Higginbotham was the first and second grade teacher our beginning years. First grade through sixth grade was in one building. Seventh through eleventh was in the so-called high school building, with a library and an auditorium with a stage. The stage had a curtain that was raised bottom to top. It must have been a canvas type material because it had advertisements and nice pictures painted on it. We had chapel every Friday morning. Luther Cooksey, our Superintendent led the singing, gave us an update on the happenings at the school and then announced all the latest rules for us to abide by, and we did…"
"Mr. Cooksey was the girls basketball coach. We always had a good team. So did the schools of the surrounding area. Every game was spectacular. Alameda got a new rock school building in the early 1940s but for lack of funds closed it in 1943. A good thing gone. The building had running water and automated heat."
"The year that I started to school my parents allowed us to ride the school bus. We did have to walk to the main road where the mailboxes were. A few times we were late and cut through the woods by the Tuckers and Meltons. It sure was a long and very frightening walk through those woods."
"We all went to Alameda School, made it thru grade school with teachers: (Ruth (Kirk) Higginbotham, grades 1 - 2; Shafner Rodgers, grades 5 - 6; Pearl (Griffith) Weekes grades 3 - 4; and L. V. Brown was our music teacher. A large wood burning stove was in each room with a metal hull around it. We had a large slide, see-saws and chinning bars on the playground. The school had a well with a water tank where we got a drink."
"In the spring we would run races, high jump, broad jump, run relays, etc. 'Played baseball, volleyball, pitched washers and horseshoes. Mr. Cooksey always played hully-gully with us to get all of our pecans. He was the school principal, math teacher, girls basketball coach and boys basketball coach some of the time. I remember the flag pole next to the first grade room where we lined up to go into our room."
"While still in grade school, we had a great time playing with the neighbor kids when school was out, weekends, etc. - Kenneth, Ouida and Wayne Brown. We spent many hours playing cowboy and Indians. We rode horses a lot as we got older." Ollie Pilgrim had a store across the street from the last Alameda School. "We enjoyed candy and chewing gun we could buy there."
One relic from the time is the granite cornerstone to the 1940 rock building. The Board of Trustees are listed: L. C. Cooksey, Superintendent; W. E. Calvert, L. E. Melton, J. A. Rogers, J. A. Hart, J. M. Grice, J. D. Cook and R. A. Tucker. One can only imagine the hope and pride when the last school opened in 1940, only to be dashed by WWII and a drought only three years later. This building was dismantled and its materials used in buildings across the county.
The Alameda School consolidated into Ranger after it closed (a few went to Gorman or Desdemona). The closing of the school, and the events in the world largely brought the community of Alameda to an end. Young people joined the service and never returned. Farms were sold and people moved away.
Many students still come back to visit each May for the school's reunion. The strength of those bonds, forged in a rural life so distant now, are testimony to the special role the Alameda School served for so many. "A good thing gone".
Jeff Clark can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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