County Schools are Recognized –
Not for Achievement, but Survival
Gillespie County Country Schools
libraries can have friends, why can’t schools? In one part of the
Hill Country they
do. For all the rural schools that we might see alongside Texas’ highways,
there are ten times more that have been demolished, burned, cannibalize
for their building materials or are standing in for barns.
School consolidations in the late 1940s and 50s created these orphans,
and now, those lucky enough to still be standing in Gillespie
County are getting some attention. Other counties with surviving
rural schools might take note of this innovative approach to schoolhouse
preservation. - Editor
Gillespie County Country Schools
“The mission of
The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools is to further
the preservation and maintenance of historic community school buildings
and improvements in Gillespie
County, to support the activities of Gillespie
County with respect to the preservation and maintenance of historic
community school buildings and improvements in the County through
assistance with fundraising and other means and to use and allow others
to use such buildings and improvements for public purposes, by making
such buildings and improvements available as community centers for
public purposes. We are preserving the past to enrich the future.”
it proved to be unfounded, the rumor that “they’re selling our schools”
brought together a group of Gillespie
County citizens who organized themselves into The Friends of
Gillespie County Country Schools, comprised of over 400 members
who use the 12 rural schools in Gillespie
County as community centers. They are interested in preserving
the traditions of the schools, the community clubs, and the history
of Gillespie County
for future generations.
As a result of the passage of the Gilmer-Aikin
Law in 1949, ownership of most of the rural school properties
County was transferred to the Fredericksburg ISD. After consolidation,
community clubs leased the properties, but it became clear that these
leases were not a permanent solution to the fear of “selling our schools”.
Research quickly identified the only solution: change the law! The
Board of Trustees was unable to return these properties to the original
communities, because of a prohibition in the law. In Spring, 2000,
as requested by The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools,
Fredericksburg ISD dispatched a letter to Senator Jeff Wentworth and
Representative Harvey Hilderbran requesting that legislation be introduced,
which would allow donation of these properties to a governmental or
non-profit organization at no cost. Senate Bill 166 was passed by
the Texas Legislature, signed by the Governor and listed as Proposition
13 on the November 6, 2001, ballot. The voters of Texas overwhelmingly
80.45%) approved the Proposition, and the bill became law on January
The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools developed a
timeline and strategies to built grassroots support here and throughout
the state. Activities included exhibits at banks, stores, the Gillespie
County Fair, and Texas Preservation Day 2001. A series of articles
discussing rural education and the 44 Gillespie
County school districts were published locally and statewide.
A calendar was published in 2001 featuring the 12 schools and was
probably the most successful effort to spread the word, with more
than 2,000 copies sold. Every opportunity to publicize the story,
locally and statewide, was used and included print, radio, television,
and the worldwide web. Several members testified before the Texas
House and Senate in support of Senate Bill 116. The Friends of
Gillespie County Country Schools traveled more than a 1,000 miles
to 10 parades with the "Rural School Float", depicting a rural school
in the early 1900’s, complete with children and teacher in period
costumes and a group of community club members playing “Texas 42”.
More than 5,000 postcards were mailed and flyers were handed out on
Main Street. Every County Historical Commission received an information
packet. The culminating event was the "12 Country Schools Open House
and Reunion" in September 2001, which included a BBQ meal cooked on
one of the original school BBQ pits.
In 2003, The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools published
a calendar documenting 12 additional schools in the county. On April
5, 2003, and every first Saturday in April thereafter, an "Open House"
is held as part of the fundraising effort.
The efforts of The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools
to preserve their schools, their community centers, and their traditions
are an outstanding example of what a grassroots movement can accomplish.
The goal set in May 1999 has been achieved, but the work toward preservation
is just beginning.
In 2002, The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools received
preservation awards from the Texas Historical Commission and Preservation
Texas at the Texas Preservation Day in Abilene,
In 2004, The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools officially
became a non-profit organization (501(c)(3)) and are working on raising
funds to improve, renovate, and preserve the 12 properties. Topping
the list are updating the restroom facilities and bringing water to
seven of the 12 properties at an estimated cost of $100,000.00. Donations
are accepted and greatly appreciated.
In January 2005, the Texas Historical Commission approved and forwarded
our application to place the 12 properties on the register of National
In April 2006, during our annual celebration, Larry Oaks, of the Texas
Historical Commission, presented the National Register plaques
to the representatives of the 12 former schools and officially opened
the Gillespie County Country Schools Trail, a first in Texas.
In December 2006, the Gillespie County Historical Society recognized
the efforts of The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools
by presenting the Star of Texas award.
Creek School, aka the Albert
School, was once attended by a young Lyndon B. Johnson.
Jeanson, November 2007 photo
Schoolhouse to the right and the back of the teacher's house to
- Jim Thompson. Photo courtesy Shannan Yarbrough