In Lauderdale County’s early days, education revolved around household activities and everyday survival.
Living off the land required the backbone of most household members, from fetching water from a nearby creek to firewood for cooking and staying warm.
The first school in the territory had been established for Choctaw children by Presbyterian Missionaries in 1824 at Coosa Indian Village, six years before the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek and the death of Indian Chief Pushmataha in Washington, D. C. Evidence of white men living among the Choctaws was reported the 1831 Armstrong Choctaw Indian Census of the area, which was before the Indian Removal Act.
Somewhere around 1835, after log homes and a few churches had been built,
settlers began seriously considering their children’s education. Families in a somewhat close proximity of one another banded together to establish what was known as a “patron” school, where one settler furnished a log cabin, another furnished wood and bare necessities, such as tables, chairs, etc., and everyone pitched in to the pay the teacher. The teacher and/or the patrons provided the few books for the schoolhouse.
Schools operated in various time increments, one or more months at a time, in different locations in the vicinity due to poor transportation capabilities. The school house was usually located near a water spring or creek to assure ample water supply. Often church, community meetings, and Justice of the Peace court were held in the school. Often, when a new community church was built, the school relocated into the old church building.
These schools were referred to as academies,
such as White Sulphur Springs Academy in Lauderdale and Walnut Springs Academy in the Alamucha area. By the 1840’s, patron schools existed in or near Marion, Alamucha, Sageville, Bailey, Suqualena, and Lauderdale and taught grades one and two for one or two 4-month periods each year. Higher Education academies were Marion Academy established in 1837, and Alamucha, formed in 1838. Later academies were Pinckney-Vaughn Academy and the Cook Academy.
On May 9, 1837, the State Legislature passed an Act to incorporate the first trustees of the Marion Academy.
They were James Ruton, James Murry, Benjamin T. Larke, John R. Leath, Isaac Barr, John F. Chester, Horatio B. Warbington and Theodore S. Swift. These trustees were empowered to receive donations, purchase or mortgage real estate, these purchases not to exceed $5000 and personal estate not to exceed $10,000. Another stipulation was that the academy could not be located more than one mile from Marion.
The Board of Police, formed by the laws of the State of Mississippi in 1841, established further guidelines for the state’s public school system, including the appointment of a school commissioner for each of the five Police Districts in Lauderdale County. The Board of the Police retained most of the power over the school system.
No Board of Police existed until the 1832 Constitution of the State of Mississippi, and even then the Sheriff retained most of the power until the 1840’s and 50’s.
The Board of Police divided each respective county into five districts and from each district, qualified voters elected one member for the term prescribed in the constitution under the rules and regulations the board had adopted. The first members of the Board of Police served for a period of 18 months until the second election, which was for a period of two years.
Lauderdale County set up five districts in April 1834, but no records exist since the records were burned in a courthouse fire at Old Marion in November 1837.
On November 16, 1847, the Lauderdale County Board of Police composed the following:
“Whereas the Board of Police (forerunner of the Board of Supervisors) for the county have held their meetings without any rules of order governing themselves, which has by allowing wrangling and disorder greatly delayed the transaction of business and prevents any dignity from attaching itself to their court, and thus tended to detract from their authority – giving occasion for idle and jesting remarks calculated to bring the board into contempt – we therefore the members of the board of police for Lauderdale County do for the more speedy and regular transaction of business, and for the respect we bear for each other, for our government to adhere and maintain the said rules and such others as we may from time to time find it necessary to adopt.” This was signed by L. B. Banes, President; Isaac G. Suttles; L. B. Moore; Daniel Cameron; and A. (Abie) Clay.
The Jan. 24, 1854 Lauderdale Republican recorded that bids were being taken on the building of Alamucha Academy, Marion, evidencing its longevity.
1854 – 1856 – A Directory of Marion, MS compiled by Fred W. Edmiston from the Lauderdale Republican