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Reflections by Sammy Way: The history of Sumter-area schools, part II

By SAMMY WAY
Sumter Item archivist and historian
Posted 7/4/20

Reflections remembers the development of Sumter's education system and the construction of numerous schools attended by local students. The author used historic data retrieved from The Sumter Item archives. An article written by John Mitchell in the …

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Reflections by Sammy Way: The history of Sumter-area schools, part II

Posted

Reflections remembers the development of Sumter's education system and the construction of numerous schools attended by local students. The author used historic data retrieved from The Sumter Item archives. An article written by John Mitchell in the 65th Anniversary-Progress Edition in 1959 also made extensive use of the writings of Dr. Anne King Gregorie and Cassie Nicholes. Due to the length of the data used, a degree of editing was required. This is part two in a three-part series; read the first part at www.theitem.com.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

"Private schools were the mainstay of education throughout the antebellum era, and some wealthy plantation owners engaged private tutors for their children.

"A number of academies - schools which taught a little more than the basic three 'R's' - flourished during that period. Among these were Sandville Academy, between Stateburg and Pinckney's Ferry; Lodebar Academy; Mount Clio Academy; one near Salem Black River; Bishopville Academy and one at Rembert, Providence, Plowden Mill, Mayesville, Swimming Pens, St. Paul; as well as Friendship and Summerton Academies."

"Stateburg, Bradford Springs and Sumterville were particularly favored for boarding schools. Dr. John M. Robert's Academy near Stateburg received funds from the Baptist State Convention for the education of ministerial students. After his death, Furman Academy was established at Edgefield to carry on this work. Furman soon relocated in the High Hills, then went to Fairfield and finally was chartered in 1850 as Furman University in Greenville."

"Bradford Springs also was a center of learning, with perhaps the best-known school was Harmony College, where young ladies pursued the classics, music and other genteel subjects."

"In Sumterville, a few years after Major Theus opened his academy, James H. Thornwell advertised to prepare young men in the classics and other subjects necessary for college entrance."

"In January 1832, The Sumterville Female Academy opened in charge of Mrs. Frances Bowen, of Raleigh, North Carolina. She had only one assistant but an impressive list of trustees - James Haynsworth, president; William L. Brunson, treasurer; Thomas Williams, secretary; Thomas Dugart; the Rev. James Parsons; John B. Miller; Thomas J. Wilder; Dr. J. R. Witherspoon; Robert Bradford; Charles Mayrant; John J. Potts; and John Hemphill.

SUMTER ACADEMY

"The beginning of a more permanent institution of learning came in 1837, with a gift by John B. Miller - a name that keeps cropping up in early education records - of a one-acre site for an academy in the Sumter Academical Society. This acre, on the west side of Washington Street between Republican (now Hampton) and Liberty streets, was long known as Academy Square or Academy Grove."

Eventually three public elementary schools would stand on this site (none of these schools exist today).

"This academy operated for 30 years, with a succession of teachers, many of whom went on to establish private schools of their own. It had its problems. Minutes reveal that one was the playing of billiards, a game 'highly' injurious to habits of industry of the scholars."

CO-ED

"It was a co-educational institution, with principals for both the Boys Academy and Girls Academy."

"This school survived the War Between the States, only to be destroyed by fire in 1868. The school also had competition from numerous private academies in the area during its existence."

"One other outstanding institution of learning flourished in Sumter during the last half of the 19th century, Sumter Female Institute, which eventually gained the status of a college and offered to the young ladies of the community a complete education, from the first grade through undergraduate college work."

"The faculty of Sumter Institute included Mrs. L. A. Browne and Miss E. E. Cooper, principals, and Maj. H.F. Wilson, Mrs. C.A. Hawkins, Miss Irene McCutcheon, Dr. John M. Hughson, Miss Lila Junkin, Mrs. H.J. Harby, Mrs. L.A.I. Stevens and Miss Eugenia Fraser."

"St. Joseph's Academy, a Catholic parochial school, was founded during the War Between the States by the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy when they took refuge in Sumter after the federal bombardment of Charleston."

"The report of the state superintendent of education in 1881 showed that St. Joseph's had five teachers and 60 pupils. Like the Sumter Institute, it was discontinued after the graded school system proved satisfactory."

"One famous Sumterite, George Edward Haynsworth, The Citadel cadet who fired the first shot of the War Between the States, teamed with Thomas P. McQueen in 1868 to open Festina Lenite, a school for boys in Temperance Hall."