By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
With the advent of fall, students have returned to classes, Friday night football is king once more and the Cooke County Retired School Personnel (CCRSP) held their first meeting of the new year Tuesday at the Stanford House by welcoming Morton Museum director Jayleane Smith to educate them about the early history of schools in Cooke County.
Smith said that at one time Cooke County was dominated by the Delaware, Kiowa and Comanche Indian tribes prior to the arrival of the first white man in 1833.
“Colonel William Bean was a trapper from Arkansas who passed through Cooke County and upon completion of two years trapping in the west came back to settle in this fertile grassy land in 1835.” Smith said.
Following the Texas successful fight for independence from Mexico in 1836, many land grants brought settlers into Texas and the lush green north Texas area quickly grew in population.
“Many colonies soon evolved such as Peters and Mormon Trail,” she continued. “The first school was formed in 1847 in Mountain Springs in a pioneer’s home. Even midst the every day struggle to just survive, education was high on the list of early Cooke County settlers ”
Smith said that even though many of the newly arrived settlers did not have a formal education, they wanted their children to have a better future and believed that education was the key. Building schools was a primary concern for many of those choosing the north Texas as their home.
Despite facing the day-to-day reality of life in the 1800’s, schools were formed and by 1881, there were over 91 schools in Cooke County alone.
“Teachers worked for very meager pay but with 91 schools in the area, the teachers were able to eke out a living by rotating among the different school districts.”
Most of these community schools could only afford three months pay but a teacher could travel from school to school and get paid for their work in each district which enabled them to make a living. Each district would pay what they could afford and families would provide for room and board for the teacher. Wood for heating and other needs for the school were provided by the parents of the children in the community. People would just do what they had to do because it was important for their children to read and write and continue to learn.
Smith said that in 1883, the Gainesville city council initiated the Gainesville school district with the first high school built in 1886.
“Built from local Gainesville brick, the high school cost $13,000 to build.” Smith added. “By 1892, four schools had been built including a second high school at the corner of Scott and Denton streets. Total cost to build all five schools was $87,000.”
Cooke County’s progressive thinking about education led the way into the twentieth century as cattle money and good times permeated the area.
Gainesville school children were originally picked up and transported to school by a horse and wagon. Trolley cars were eventually used in the city also. Gainesville also had one of the first school busses used in the state.
Smith continued by saying that there were several events that greatly affected the small community schools in the county.
“With Camp Howze, privately owned farm land became government land and small community schools were dissolved. The smaller schools were consolidated into larger districts,” she said. “Also the Dennison dam built to create Lake Texoma ate up parts of the county and further school district’s merged.”
Smith said that since the early days in the county, the progressive thinking of city pioneers and Cooke County settlers paved the way for education for many north Texas children throughout the years.
In other matters during the CCRSP meeting, the group’s legislative representative Gordon Smith said that the teacher retirement fund was in excellent shape with an increase in funds from $67 billion to $117 billion.
The CCRSP also sponsors a $500 scholarship to assist second year students in completing their certificate or associates degree at North Central Texas College (NCTC). The candidate must be a graduate of a Cooke County high school and must have successfully completed two semesters as a full time student at North Central Texas College. (NCTC)
Interested parties must complete an application and submit it to the NCTC Institutional Advancement office along with a copy of their official transcript. All applications must be submitted by May 31 each year and the non-renewing scholarship will be awarded in June for the following semester. The scholarship will be sent directly to NCTC on behalf of the student.