“I didn’t, but my parents had to walk to school,” said Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center Curator Marian Coleman, who attended first through third grades at Noble Hill in the early 1950s, following in the footsteps of her parents, who also received instruction at the schoolhouse in the 1930s. “When they got here [in the wintertime], it was very cold. [My mother] said the teacher would have [a] pan of water on the heater so they could come in and warm their feet and their hands.
“... First thing, the teacher would lead them in devotion, prayer and they would have to learn memory verses and recite memory verses,” she said, adding in the 1920s and 1930s, Noble Hill did not offer inside plumbing, electricity or modern heating. “They would sing songs before they began their work. There were three grades in this first classroom — first, second and third — and they would all be in that same room with that one teacher. Then, in the other classroom, it was grades four through seven. But see, that was before the other schools consolidated in here ... — Sugar Valley and Mission Road schools — [in the late ’40s, early ’50s].
“They were bused up here and that started bus transportation.”
To help bring awareness to the history of the Noble Hill School, Coleman will lead an Evening Lecture at the Bartow History Museum — 4 E. Church St. in downtown Cartersville — Thursday at 7 p.m. Coleman’s discussion will be the first of two programs at BHM highlighting black historical sites, the other focussing on the Black Pioneers Cemetery on Feb. 27.
In talking about Noble Hill’s formation, Coleman will highlight the relationship between Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald — a philanthropist and president of Sears, Roebuck and Co.
According to a news release from the Bartow History Museum, “In 1912, Booker T. Washington approached Rosenwald about his concept to build rural schools desperately needed for African-American children across the segregated South. That partnership sparked an initiative that eventually created more than 5,300 schools, vocational shops and teachers’ homes across 15 states in the South and Southwest from 1912-1932.”
Known as the first Rosenwald School in northwest Georgia, Noble Hill cost $2,036.35 to construct. The Rosenwald Fund contributed $700, with the remainder raised by the Cassville community. Built in 1923, the school stayed in operation until the educational site was consolidated into Bartow Elementary School in 1955.
After sitting vacant for more than 25 years, the building at 2361 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cassville was transformed into its present state with the help of state grants, private donations and fundraisers. Now known as Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center, the venue serves as a cultural museum that reveals what life and education was like for black residents during the early to mid-1900s.
“Going to school here when you’re small, you don’t see a lot of things,” Coleman said. “You don’t see the big picture. So now that I can see the big picture, I can see the importance of what we were doing back then — how the parents were so determined to have a decent place for their kids to go to school and a decent education for them. They fought and they raised funds and they did everything they could to make sure that we got a decent education. So I can understand that now.”
“... [Through the Bartow History Museum lecture], we want everybody to get the meaning of why this is an important place, why it is necessary to preserve history. [Because], if we don’t keep it alive, it will be lost. And we want to keep it alive for the younger generation, so they would know where we came [from]. ... From 1920 to 2014, we’ve come along way and I just think it’s important that we [emphasize], especially with our young people, the importance of our history.”
Following the Noble Hill lecture, the Black Pioneers Cemetery will take center stage with Euharlee History Museum Director Katie Odom Gobbi and archaeologist Carl Etheridge leading the discussion at the Bartow History Museum Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.
“The Black Pioneer Cemetery is located in the wooded area between the Euharlee Presbyterian and Euharlee Baptist cemeteries on Covered Bridge Road,” Gobbi said. “Over 300 graves have been identified, and we believe that the burials occurred in the cemetery between 1830 and 1900. This was a burial ground for many of the African-Americans who lived in the Euharlee community during that time.
“We do not know the names of most of the people who are buried in the cemetery. Each grave was marked with a wooden cross in the early 2000s as part of an Eagle Scout project, but there are no markers from the time the cemetery was active. A large stone marker was placed along the road by the Euharlee Historical Society to honor those buried there and to make those driving by aware of its existence.”
Like Coleman, Gobbi stresses the need to preserve Bartow’s historical sites for future generations.
“This cemetery was almost lost about 15 years ago,” Gobbi said. “Through efforts of local citizens, the cemetery was preserved, an archeological study was completed, the graves were marked and the community was made aware of its existence. Cemeteries require a lot of ongoing upkeep and maintenance, but it is important to preserve the history and heritage of our community that might otherwise be lost.
“I hope that those attending the program learn more about our community and become interested in the preservation of our cemeteries and historic sites.”
For more information about the Bartow History Museum’s Evening Lectures, which are open to the public and included in the price of admission for non-members, visit www.bartowhistorymuseum.org or call 770-382-3818.