2500 Block 8th Street at Cottonwood
By Mary Belle Ingram
This is the history of a school campus--Block #6--which has belonged to the Bay City Independent School District for 85 years, with children attending school on that campus for 60 of the 85 years.
The Bay City Independent School District has owned Block #6 since 1901, and it is the oldest school site in Bay City. From 1901 to 1905 an eight room two-story school erected on Block 6 served all grades. The ground then stood idle until 1930 when a new building was erected on Block #6, which served as a high school until 1949, a junior high until 1962, and finally as an elementary school from 1962 to the present (1986).
In 1901, a strawberry field, trees and fences occupied the block of land where Cherry Elementary School is now situated. This 300 foot square block of land was carved out of the Ike Towell, First Addition and was not in the city limits when purchased in August of 1901 for three hundred dollars by the Bay City Independent School District for "free school purposes." A written agreement between Ike Towell and the Board of Trustees; S. S. Montgomery, J. D. Moore, Henry Rugeley, Amos Lee, I. N. Barber, A. D. Hensley and W. C. Carpenter, gave Ike Towell twelve months to remove his strawberry plants, trees and fences from the entire block other than the building site. The Ike Towell addition had been purchased from the Mensing Brothers in 1898 and was originally prairie and pasture land belonging to the International and Great Northern Railway Company.
The school district erected an impressive two-story frame structure with eight separate classroom, halls and cloak closets on the west end of Block #6. However, this was not the first public school in Bay City. During the three previous years (1898-1901) children had attended classes in a small building at the corner of Avenue C and Eight Street on the original townsite.
Many parents objected to the new school being so far out in the country and so near the Santa Fe tracks, which had just been complete four blocks to the west. There were four passenger trains daily as well as freight train traffic. In fact, some parents refused to let their children attend and resorted to a private school conducted by the Reverend John L. Sloan at St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
Professor J. E. Cowles with Miss Julia Besley as principal and five other teachers made up the faculty of the new school. The title of superintendent was not given the teacher in charge until 1905. There were no sidewalks or roads for those early students and during the rainy season students and teachers alike wore rubber boots and carried their shoes. There was no Parent-Teacher Association; nor was there an auditorium. Each classroom was responsible for its own programs and entertainments. General school functions were held in the courthouse. One of the biggest problems was keeping livestock away from the playground and the windows when students were reciting, so a fence was built around the property. Teachers received a magnificent sum of $30 a month and the Board of Trustees placed rather heavy restrictions on the teachers--no dancing or staying out late.
This two-story structure served the Bay City children until 1905 when the Jefferson Davis School was erected at Fourth Street and Avenue L. Block #6 then stayed idle for twenty-five years until a new Bay City High School was erected there in 1930. The 300 foot square that originally composed Block #6 did not include Lots 1 and 2 of that block. They were acquired in 1930, along with all of Block 5 for additional land for the construction of not only the new high school, but a football field. The football field was on Block #5.
The architect, Harry D. Payne, met with the School Board several times and on September 20, 1929, the board accepted the plans for the new school.
The following members were present at that board meeting: R. G. Pegram, Mrs. A. H. (Lurline) Wadsworth, L. M. Matchett, Vance Porter, Frank Thompson, W. C. Lloyd, R. E. Baker, E. O. Hutcheson and architect, Harry D. Payne. The motion was made, seconded and unanimously passed that the "Board instruct the architect to develop a prospective sketch in color, setting forth proposed new school building as outlined in sketch "F" slate 7-8-29 and also to furnish us with printed postcards for distribution." In the September 4, 1930 meeting a year later, the school board accepted custody of both the primary school building and high school building as suggested by the architect.
The new school was ultra modern in every way according to a front page article in The Daily Tribune, dated July 25, 1930:
$175,000 Structures (new school building and renovated Jeff Davis) will proudly await 900 students in September
But a few months have passed since the passage of the school bonds aggregating a total of $175,000. The speed and efficiency with which those bonds have been sold and work started on the modern building north of the city is better demonstrated by a mere reference to the imposing structure which but a few months ago was a dream and one that could hardly be relied on.
The dream however is now a reality and the new building out there north of the city is little short of a dream. Within four short weeks the portals will be open and the ideal institution of learning will welcome some three hundred students to come glean an education. The building is ultra-modern in every sense of the word, not the simplest convenience or furtherance of slightest necessity for use now or in the near future has been neglected. From the foundation to the top of the beautiful tile roof you taxpayers, we taxpayers, and the taxpayers of the next generation can look with pride and boast that the school structure erected in 1929-1930 is one of strength, one of character, and one of endurance, built by men as interested in the project as if it were their own--and in truth it is their own, yours and mine.
The cornerstone of the southeast corner of the front entrance reads:
In 1937, Block #4 of the Ike Towell 1st Addition was purchased from Ira T. Anderson, Charlie Scott Jones, Jessie Phillips Wilkins and J. P. Wilkins. This purchase enlarged the school campus to three city blocks.
Bay City High School occupied this fine building through May of 1949; a total of nineteen years. Pictures of each graduating class for those years are displayed in the Matagorda County Museum.
In 1949, a new high school was built a few blocks to the north and this old Block #6 campus and building became the Bay City Junior High School. Then, when a new junior high school was built in 1962, the building was renovated and remodeled once again to become an elementary school. The school was named the "John H. Cherry Elementary School" in honor of John Harvey Cherry who had come to Bay City in 1936 serving as principal of the old Jefferson Davis School and as Superintendent of the Bay City Independent School District from 1944 to 1960.
In conclusion, this historic block of land has served the needs of the school district since 1901; an elementary and high school 1902-1905; Bay City High School 1930-1949; Bay City Junior High School 1949-1962 and John H. Cherry Elementary School 1962-1986.
The present building will be demolished in 1986 to make way for a new John H. Cherry Elementary School on this same historic land which has seen a steady march of school children of all ages trek back and forth to school beginning with those first school children having to cross those "dreaded Santa Fe tracks" of long ago.
The Texas Historical Marker for the Site of Early Bay City School was dedicated May22, 1987, at 2509 Eighth Street, Bay City, Texas.
SITE OF EARLY BAY CITY SCHOOL
IN 1901 THIS LAND WAS A PASTORAL SCENE OF TREES AND A STRAWBERRY FIELD OUTSIDE THE CITY LIMITS. THAT YEAR THE BAY CITY INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT PURCHASED MOST OF THIS BLOCK FOR $300. A TWO-STORY, EIGHT-ROOM FRAME SCHOOL WAS ERECTED HERE, AND CLASSES WERE TRANSFERRED FROM A TWO-ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE AT AVENUE D AND EIGHTH STREET, WHICH HAD BEEN USED SINCE 1895.
ONE OF THE TEACHERS, MISS TENIE HOLMES (1874-1952), BEGAN HER CAREER IN 1896 AT A PRIVATE SCHOOL IN BAY CITY. FROM 1898 SHE TAUGHT PUBLIC CLASSES AT AVENUE D, THEN MOVED TO THE FIRST SCHOOL ON THIS SITE, WHICH SERVED FROM 1901 TO 1905. SHE RETIRED FROM BAY CITY SCHOOLS IN 1936, THEN CONDUCTED A PRIVATE SCHOOL UNTIL HER DEATH.. AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WAS NAMED FOR HER IN 1952.
ADDITIONAL LOTS AND A SECOND
BLOCK WERE ACQUIRED HERE IN 1930, AND “BAY CITY HIGH SCHOOL” WAS
BUILT ON THIS SITE. THE ONE-STORY STRUCTURE WAS DESIGNED BY
ARCHITECT HARRY D. PAYNE, AND EXHIBITED SPANISH COLONIAL REVIVAL
DETAILS IN BRICK, CAST STONE, AND TILE ROOFING. THE CAMPUS EXPANDED
IN 1937 WITH THE PURCHASE OF A THIRD BLOCK.
The original school building that became John H. Cherry Elementary was built at the corner of Cottonwood and Eighth Street in 1930 as Bay City High School.
The property was purchased in the early 1900s and was a strawberry field. It was considered to be in the country and was at the edge of the Bay City townsite. There were no streets in the area at the time and a fence had to be erected around the first school built there to keep the livestock out.
The first of three buildings on the Cherry site was erected to replace an earlier two-room schoolhouse that the district had outgrown. This impressive two-story frame structure had eight separate rooms, halls, and cloak closets. The principal for the new school was Professor J. E. Cowles and the three teachers were Minnie Mayes, Tenie Holmes and Julia Beasley. According to Ruby Hawkins, a teacher there in 1904, there was no Parent Teacher Association and very little amusement. There was no piano and no band. There was also no assembly room so every program was held in its separate room and enjoyed only by the students of that room. The salary was $30 per month (for as many months as the district was able to pay). There were many heavy restrictions placed on the teachers. They had to sign a pledge or contract not to dance during the term, not to play cards, and not to date except on Saturday nights with a curfew of 10 p.m.
The Jefferson Davis School was later built on Fourth Street, but by 1926 was too small to house students from all grades.
In the late 1920s the school board began making plans for the erection of a new high school on the old property located at Cottonwood and Eighth Street. The building was formally opened in September, 1930. It served as the Bay City High School from 1930 until 1949 when a new high school was built on Sycamore Street. The older building served as Bay City Junior High during the years 1949 - 1962. In 1962 the same building became the John H. Cherry Elementary School.
The building that is now John H. Cherry Elementary was completed in 1986 with the students moving from the old building to the new over the Christmas holiday break. The newer construction took place on the east side of the same site. The students had virtually no playground area during the construction period. The open house and dedication ceremony was held February 9, 1987.
Rudolph Martin was principal when the new building was constructed and served until his death in March, 1992. The current principal, Barbara Gordon began her service as Cherry principal in the fall of 1992.
Written by Mary Belle Ingram
Matagorda County, Volume I, pages 624 - 628
John Harvey Cherry was born January 25, 1891, on a farm near Rockdale, Milam County, Texas. He was the only child of George Collie and Carrie Pruett Cherry. His mother died when he was eighteen months old. John was reared by his paternal grandparents, and he attended elementary school in Milam County. He graduated from high school in Rockdale. After he graduated, he lived with his maternal grandparents while he attended Southwest Texas State Teachers College. John took subjects needed for the State Teachers Certificate. He married Alice Buffington on December 25, 1910.
In 1921 and after the birth of a son, John Harold, in 1920, John Cherry entered Texas A&M College and gained a certificate as a classer of cotton. He was the top student of 300 and 1 of only 20 to receive a special certificate. John was president of his freshman class and of the Schoolmasters Club.
John Cherry taught school for ten years in Milam County and seven years in Gonzales County. He received his BS degree from Southwest Texas Teachers College in 1934 and came to Matagorda County as a teacher in the Collegeport schools. On April 10, 1936, Cherry became principal of the Jefferson Davis Elementary School in Bay City and in July, 1944, superintendent of Bay City ISD, a position he held until his retirement in 1960. In 1951, John H. Cherry received his MEd from the University of Houston. During his tenure of teaching and as superintendent, Cherry saw the Bay City schools grow from three schools to seven campuses. He served the Region III Educational Center as a director for many years. In 1962 the John H. Cherry School was named in his honor.
Cherry was a member of the Bay City Chamber of Commerce and a charter member of the Bay City Lions Club. He was one of the originators of the Rice Festival, served as president of the Lions Club, and was honored with a life membership. He served as a director of the Crippled Children's Camp in Kerrville, Texas. He was a member of Gamma Mu, Phi Delta Kappa, and Who's Who in American Education. In 1952 he received a life membership in the PTA. He was an avid golfer throughout the years, and he played regularly each week through his 91st years.
John H. Cherry's life reflects that of a learned and scholarly man, who studied long and hard in many different colleges which gained him a high level of education which he used as a tool to give others a better knowledge of the things around them.
John Harvey Cherry died January 25, 1983, on his 92nd birthday. He was buried beside his wife, Alice Buffington Cherry, in Roselawn Memorial Park, Van Vleck.
Written by Mary Belle Ingram
Matagorda County, Volume 1, Pages
Long-time educator and community leader, John Harvey Cherry, died early this morning in Matagorda General Hospital on his 92nd birthday.
Services are pending at Taylor Brothers Funeral Home.
Cherry came to Matagorda County as a teacher in the Collegeport schools in 1934 after receiving his formal education at Southwest Texas State Teachers College, the University of Houston and A. & M College, where he gained a certificate as a classer of cotton.
In 1936 he became principal of Jeff Davis Elementary School in Bay City and later became superintendent of the Bay City Independent School District in 1944. He held this position until his retirement in 1960.
During his tenure of teaching and as superintendent, he saw the school district grow from three schools to seven. Memorial Football Stadium was built during these years. Cherry served Region 3 Education Center as a director for many years and John H. Cherry School was named in honor of him in 1962.
Not only a schoolman, he was active in his church and community.
Cherry was a member of the First United Methodist Church, joining in 1937. He served as chairman of the board, education chairman and was an assistant teacher and teacher of the Wesley Men's Class for forty-five years; teaching up to the time of his last illness.
He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and a charter member of the Bay City Lion's Club who was one of the originators of the Rice Festival. He served as president of the club and was honored as a life member in recent years. Cherry also served as director of the Crippled Children's Camp in Kerrville.
An avid golfer throughout the years, he played regularly each week through his 91st year.
Survivors include son, Harold of Houston and daughter-in-law, Jackie.
Daily Tribune, January 25, 1983
John H. Cherry
Services will be held for John H. Cherry, 92, of Bay City, 2 p. m. Thursday at the First United Methodist Church.
Officiating at the services will be the Rev. LeRoy Stanton.
Cherry died January 25, 1983 at Matagorda General Hospital
Survivors include son and daughter-in-law, J. Harold and Jackie Cherry of Houston.
Cherry was a member of the First United Methodist Church, charter member of the Bay City Chamber of Commerce, Bay City Lions Club, Men's Golf Association of the Bay City Country Club and the Masonic Lodge.
Burial will follow services at Roselawn Memorial Park.
Pallbearers include L. A. Augsburger, D. F. Wiginton, Ben Thorpe, Richard Dawdy, Weldon Sullivan and John Woolsey. Honorary pallbearers include members of the Wesley Class and the Bay City Lions Club.
Arrangements with Taylor Brothers Funeral Home.
Daily Tribune, January 25, 1983
Mrs. Alice E. Cherry, 87, retired schoolteacher and active member of First United Methodist Church as well as the community, died yesterday at Matagorda General Hospital.
Mrs. Cherry taught school for 20 years with seven being in the Bay City School District and six years in Matagorda County Schools.
Being a charter member of the Woman's Society of Christian Service, she served on various committees and offices. Mrs. Cherry was responsible for the kitchen facilities at Wesley Hall.
She was voted as the Wesley Class Mother of the Year in 1970.
Mrs. Cherry was a member of the Eastern Star since 1925, serving as treasurer for three years.
She was a retired member of the Book Review Club and the Flora Study Luncheon Club serving as various officers.
Mrs. Cherry is survived by her husband John H. Cherry of Bay City.
Mrs. Alice Etoile Cherry
Mrs. Alice Etoile Cherry, 87, died at Matagorda General Hospital on December 26. She was a member of the Easter Star and had been a resident of Bay City since 1936. She was a retired schoolteacher. Survivors include: husband, John Cherry of Bay City; son, Harold Cherry of Houston; sisters, Mrs. Lela Pruett of Baytown and Mrs. Baybelle Buffington of Hearne, Texas. The funeral will be held at the First United Methodist Church on December 28 at 11:00 a. m. The Reverend S. Merle Waters will officiate and interment will follow at Roselawn Memorial Cemetery. Pallbearers include: R. P. Dawdy, Weldon Sullivan, T. A. Castleton, L. A. Augsburger, Ben Thorpe, and Kenneth Kerley. Honorary pallbearers include: Wesley Class and Lions Club. Arrangements made with Taylor Brothers Funeral Home.
Daily Tribune, December 27, 1979
Copyright 2009 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Feb. 22, 2009
Mar. 21, 2015