Harkers Island , NC Schools
The Schools of Harkers Island
The first school on the Island existed prior to the Civil War and had one teacher, Mr. Jasper Phillips, from Morehead City. In 1864, a Miss Jenny Bell came to Harkers Island from Boston and started a school as a missionary worker. She had no regular months in which to hold school. She taught for a few weeks, and then would take a vacation for as long as she liked, or until she received word that one of her friends from the North was to visit her. The books she used were sent to her by the Missionary Society sponsored by the Methodist Episcopal Church. The also paid her to stay on the Island.
The building in which Miss Bell taught was built almost in the center of the Island. It was a large two-story building. The downstairs was used as one large classroom. The upper story was used for storage. There was a large stage in the north end of the first floor on which Miss Bell used to give plays and programs. She also had a small room partitioned off which she used as her library. This was filled with books sent to her from the North. A small house was built on the school grounds for Miss Bell to live in. Also, near the school was a small house where the caretaker and his wife lived.
After several years, the people began to tire of the way Miss Bell was running the school, and decided to build one of their own. This was a one-room building built not too far from Miss Bell’s. The first teacher to teach in it was Warren Whitehurst from Straits, who taught three months. Bob Hancock of Straits was the second teacher. He taught two terms of th4ree months each. Samuel Leffers of Straits and a Miss Harkins and Charles S. Davis were also teachers there.
After Miss Bell died, the building she taught school in was torn down and moved west of where it was originally built, and further from the shore. This was used until about 1922 when the county built what seemed to the people of Harkers Island to be a nice large school. Soon, however, this practically new building was crowded and school had to be spread to the churches and other buildings available. This went on for many years, with the high school keeping itself going with all the provisions put on it by the state laws and with no pupils from other places coming in to help. When the other communities began getting their much needed school buildings, Harkers Island asked for one, too. In place of a new school, the high school was taken away and moved to Smyrna. Since Harkers Island had more than three hundred of its own students enrolled and was rated third in the county in population, naturally the people were very disappointed. But, as the old saying goes, “Time is the healer of all wounds,” and the people have accepted the decision of the county school authorities to consolidate Harkers Island High with Smyrna, and have come to look upon Smyrna school as their own.
Although Harkers Island failed to get a new high school, the citizens feel very proud that the county saw fit to build one of the most modern elementary school buildings to be found in North Carolina.
When those who know of or have heard of the one-room school building and the three month school term see this new school, they know for sure Harkers Island has come a long way. We are also proud to see our young people not only finish high school, but many of them find the ways and means to finish college. Nor has it only been the last few years that Harkers Island has had its citizens to graduate form college. One of the first to leave the Island to seek a college education was Charles S. Davis, who graduated in 1894 from the University of Tennessee. He came home to teach at Harkers Island, as well as at the Graham Academy at Marshallberg before going into private business. It was always his interest to have seen the boys and girls of Harkers Island continue in their education. He would have been proud to have seen his grandson Charles Davis, receive his Masters Degree in Science from the University of Arizona in 1957 at the age of 25. Today, many of our boys and girls are employed as teachers, nurses, bank clerks, preachers, and many are serving their country as high ranking officers in the service.
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