I have long thought this to be the old Dorminey’s Schoolhouse, using an obscure publication (Educational Survey of Ben Hill County, published in 1918) as a guide. However, after talking to Lionel Hutto, I thought it might be the Frank Schoolhouse. His late mother went to school here and that’s what she called it. It really makes more sense because it’s located on Frank Road. The only conflict in the identification is that there were two schools (amazingly) located in this general vicinity. Louie Harper, who knows as much about Ben Hill County’s history as anyone else I know, sent me a scan of an old Sanborn insurance map which identifies it as the Williams Schoolhouse. The Williams family has owned and still owns most of the land in the immediate vicinity. However, from a recent (May 2013) correspondence from the late Gerald Williams (owner of the property) niece, Teresa Ryan, my original thoughts that it was the Dorminey School were confirmed. Teresa luckily did some oral history interviews with the late Vera Mae “Buck” Garrison and she confirmed in those interviews that it was the Dorminey School and that it was last open around 1931 or 1932. See below for a transcript of the interview relevant to the school. Whatever its history, it’s used as a barn nowadays, but its overall appearance is still relatively stable. I’ve seen it all my life as it’s near my family’s farm and church in the Pine Level community of Ben Hill County. Other than the Wray School, it’s the only school of its era now standing in Ben Hill or Irwin county, to my knowledge.
Oral History Interview with Vera Mae “Buck” Garrison, conducted by Teresa Ryan in 2000-
Teresa: Now that Dorminey School–
Buck: Yeah that was called Dorminey high school…. Last open 1931 or 1932.
I wanted to know about the Dorminey school because I was helping to get up a reunion for just the Dorminey school people…I think that was 1987. But I remember reading in there…you know what I mean by the Yankee place…past the crossroads…you know where Morehead place is, and you put into the road where you live in. Right across there, there used to be a house there…its gone now. Ok that part of the house that was still there…or the barn, or maybe the house, but anyway, that’s where there used to be a school and my mama used to go to school there. And that was the first part of Dorminey school, then they moved it down, where they built the brick building. And I went there, they went through 8th grade there, I went there primer, and 1st and 2nd grade.
Back room there was primer 1st and 2nd grade. Back of it, on the far back side…We’s at the north end, and then the south end, there was 3rd 4th and 5th, and across the hall, that’s the part that juts out front, 6th 7th and 8th. There were three teachers. And you know what, they had a bathroom for the teachers to use…we had an outside toilet. After I was in 2nd , the school consolidated with Ashton.
I went to Ashton 3-9th. Then up to the high school. No such thing as 12th grade back then.
Thanks to Teresa Ryan for sharing this valuable part of the school’s history. Her foresight in recording it provides a valuable glimpse into rural education in the early 20th century in South Georgia.