Early History of Schools in Terrell County

Terrell County residents have always been supportive of the education or their children.  Before there was a town, ranchers and inhabitants of the small water stops on the railroad tutored their children at home or hired "live-in" governesses or “professors” to teach their children the basics. 

For the first ten years there were few residents in town, in fact, few women, at all.  In a San Antonio Light newspaper article for August 10, 1885, just three years after the founding of the town, Charlie Wilson, father of Sanderson, reported that there were just three women in town.  These were probably "working girls," the so-called “nymphs du grade,” and not the family-type.

By the late 1880s, though, more people had moved to town, bringing their families with them.  A need arose for a public school and the first school was built around 1888, as confirmed by early resident Alejandro Marquez, Sr., in an interview in the 1960s with Albert Gilbreath, editor of the Sanderson Times, and stood where the Harrell Dairy now stands, south of the railroad tracks, just off 2nd Street.  According to Marquez, it was a crude building made of railroad ties and was not sealed, allowing freezing wind to pass through in the winter. 

The first teacher in this little school, according to the Sanderson Times in a 1937 article, was Miss Fanny Patterson.  Later, Miss Lou Darling came from Alpine to teach in the little school. The school term, in those days, was 240 days, compared with today's 180-day school year, or, a full two months longer.

A few years later, in 1898, a third school was built, this one of adobe and located near the access way between the old Kountry Kitchen building and the old Roundhouse Restaurant/McKnight Motor Company building. Since Oak Street had not been surveyed or dedicated at the time, the school was located near the middle of the present-day street.  Mr. Taylor was the teacher, later, Miss Nettie Carpenter, Scudder Biggs and Edgar Biggs, with Miss Lizzie Savage teaching in this school after the Savages moved to Sanderson in 1899.

The second school was a tiny, lumber building and stood across the street from the present-day Sanderson Bank, at Oak and School Street.  That, in fact, is the reason School Street was so named.   One teacher at this school was Miss Susie Riggs.  The school building shared the property with an early cemetery, also at this location.

The second school, a frame structure, was located across from the present Sanderson Bank at Oak and School Streets, ca 1896-98. Standing behind is the teacher, Miss Susie Riggs.


The third school building erected for the town of Sanderson, built near the middle of present-day Oak Street, not surveyed or dedicated at that time, between Wilson and School Streets, ca 1899.  The teacher, Miss Nettie Carpenter, is standing ground level at the far right.

Terrell County Common School District created
With the organization of Terrell County in 1905, the Terrell County Common School District was created with the County Judge as its superintendent.  This district, however, covered only a part of the county. 
 Dryden School, in operation from 1907 until 1956.  Grades 1 through 7 were served here, with Grades 8-11 being bused to Sanderson for high School.
In 1907, a grammar school was organized at Dryden, with other small schools eventually being located at Independence, Watkins (a railroad stop 34 miles east of Sanderson on a now-abandoned section of the line,) the Allen Ranch and the Sam Bell Ranch.  These schools came and went as needed.  Children eighth grade and above had to come to Sanderson for their schooling, if at all.
The Red Brick School
In 1910, the school building at Hominy Hill began to burst at the seams. With a burgeoning town population and the resultant influx of new students, there was no more room to put kids.  It was decided to build a new school, with plenty of room for growth.  The idea had been sounded as early as 1900, and even a fledgling effort at selling school bonds was made, but nothing came of it. 
Finally, in the spring of 1910, a $25,000 school construction bond election was overwhelmingly approved.  San Antonio architect Henry T. Phelps was retained to draw up plans for the new school building.  The highly-respected Phelps had drawn the plans for the Terrell County Courthouse, along with many schools, commercial buildings, depots, courthouses and private homes across the State.  His plans were accepted and bids were let in July of 1910.  The winning bid was made by Martin Brauer of Del Rio, with a bid of $21,700 to construct an imposing three-storey brick building, to be located a block south of the courthouse on Pine Street, and include a steam plant to heat the building.
The red brick school building was completed on schedule and opened on May 1, 1911, in time to use the new auditorium for end-of-school activities.  Although there was no graduating class for 1911, the students put on plays and skits for the year-end celebration.  The highlight of the evening was a Tom Thumb Wedding, starring the children of the primary department.
Sanderson School, aka, the red brick school, pictured shortly after opening in 1911.  It was advertised at the time as the finest, most modern school building in West Texas.  It served nearly 70 years and was demolished in 1970.
Kid’s slide at the red brick school, with the fire escape slide in the background, ca 1928,  Troy Druse is at the far right. 
Sanderson Schools Photo Album
Coming Soon!
Terrell County Consolidated School District #1
In 1911, passage of a new state law allowed schools to absorb all districts in a county to become a single school district.  But, it was not until 1929 that the county commissioners decreed that the Terrell County Common School District expand to become the Terrell County Consolidated School District #1 to simplify administration of schools in the county and greatly improve the chances for all students to get a good education.
The red brick school served the county for the next seventy years, first housing all eleven grades, and then, with the construction of the new high school in 1930, housing the elementary school. 
Grammar School and High School organization in Texas
In those days, first through seventh grades were considered elementary or grammar school and eighth through eleventh grades were considered high school.  There were no junior high or middle schools at the time, nor were  public kindergartens or pre-schools widespread.  Mrs. Cecil Elder Nations conducted a kindergarten in her home in Sanderson in the 1920s, but it was not affiliated with the Terrell County Consolidated School District.
New High School constructed
In 1931, a new high school building was completed on the north side of the school block, facing Hackberry Street and the courthouse.  Again,  the citizens spared no expense, and the $150,000 building was hailed as a bellwether for area schools.  Ultra-modern and done in Art Deco-style, the building was designed by well-known San Antonio architect, Ralph Cameron.  Rather than a stark, utilitarian building, he incorporated bas-relief panels above the main entrance depicting TruthCulture, Progress and Success, and added Art Deco elements, inside and out.  It was a point of pride for the citizens of the community, and a last gasp of hope for prosperous times, in the face of the coming Depression.
The new Sanderson High School, as completed in 1931.   This building served for 71 years, and portions of it are still in use to this day.  A new high school building was opened in 2012, south of the Sanderson Junior High School building, facing 2nd Street.
Dryden School closes
As years passed, the smaller schools in the Common School District disappeared, one by one.  Finally, as the Dryden population dwindled, their school was determined to no longer be cost effective and was closed in 1956.  The remaining students were bused to Sanderson elementary.  Busing of the grammar school students was no great shock to Dryden residents, as the older students had been bused to Sanderson for high school since the mid 1930s.  However, no one wanted to see their little children have to ride the bus.  This ended the era of small country schools in Terrell County. 
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Independence School in 1950.  This school served ranch residents who lived near the Independence Creek in the northeastern part of Terrell County.
Dryden students, 1950, Anna B. Winston, Teacher
Independence students, 1950, Ima L. Chandler, teacher.
The Story of Terrell County Schools
Lee McSparran, Pat Harris, Gene McSparran, unkn, 1930s
Spirit Day at school, 1920s
When Oak Street was surveyed around 1900, the adobe school was found to be in the middle of the new street and was razed and a lumber building constructed at the foot of Hominy Hill, where the present Church of Christ building stands, at the top of Persimmon Street. A Miss Wilson was one of the teachers, as well as the celebrated J. J. Allen, who later became Sanderson's third and very successful sheriff. 
Fourth school, built at the top of Persimmon Street, at the foot of Hominy Hill.
Sanderson High School Graduates