Murray County

July 29, 2013

Spring Place schools ‘reunion’ to be part of festival

The oldest educational facility in all of northwest Georgia is Spring Place Elementary School, which traces its origins to the mission established by the Moravians in 1801— long before there was a Murray County.

This school, sponsored by Chief James Vann, was named Spring Place because of the dozens of natural springs that had landmarked the area for hundreds of years. During more than two centuries, thousands of people have benefited from instruction received at the succeeding schools in this historic town, once the county seat of Murray County.

From the 1970s through the 1990s an annual reunion was held to commemorate school days in Spring Place and the tradition was renewed in 2009 when former students, teachers and staff gathered to honor two special Spring Place teachers — Mrs. Estelle Townsend and Mrs. Jean Ballew. Now the tradition continues — with a twist.

The 2013 Spring Place Community Festival will provide a venue for another reunion, to recognize the many small, rural schools which were eventually consolidated into the Spring Place Elementary of today. The festival’s theme is “Spring Place: A Legacy in Education” and it will take place on Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Old Spring Place Methodist Church. Activities begin at 8 a.m. and will conclude with the “reunion” at noon.

The “old” Spring Place Elementary was replaced in 1969 by the current school on Leonard Bridge Road, but the old building still stands at the corner of Highway 225 and Tibbs Bridge Road in Spring Place. This was not the first site for the famed educational institution, however.

The original Springplace (one word back then) Mission School was located off Ellijay Street near what is today called “the old gym site” at the spring which gives the town — and the school — its name. At the turn of the 20th century this was the location of a large school called Lucy Hill Institute. After the county seat was moved to Chatsworth, the former county courthouse in Spring Place became the home of Lucy Hill High School. The last class graduated in 1934 upon the creation of Murray County High.

In the 1920s, the old Institute building was replaced by the brick structure across Highway 225 from the courthouse while a large wood gymnasium was later erected at the old Institute site. The brick building was enlarged as the courthouse was torn down in 1956. Although the gym burned in the early 1960s, that original property is still owned by the Murray County Board of Education. The brick building was eventually sold to private owners.

Through the years, students have attended schools variously called Lucy Hill Institute, Lucy Hill High School, Lucy Hill Grammar School and, finally, Spring Place (two words) Elementary. During the 20th century, all of the smaller schools in the southern third of Murray County were consolidated into Spring Place Elementary until it had the highest enrollment of any school ever in the system up to that time.  

Most of these country schools were just one or maybe two rooms, and some existed for just a few years, while others operated for quite some time. A number co-existed with and were even housed in churches like Free Hope, New Hope and Piney Grove. Some had unusual names like Tickle Gizzard, Heppsedam, Cougar, Chigger Hill or even Bloodtown, while others were named for local families like Hookers, Elrod and Williams, or had place names such as Sugar Creek, Center Hill, Carters, Casey Springs, Southwest and Ramhurst. A few had names created just for them like Lower Oak Grove, Oakland and Marble Hill.

Whatever the name and no matter the location, these schools helped provide Murray County youngsters “at least a glimpse of better things,” as one former teacher said.

Anyone who attended these facilities is invited to join the reunion crowd at the festival this year. On special display will be pictures, paintings and memorabilia from the various schools connected to Spring Place. Former students are asked to share stories and memories.  

Those who are coordinating plans for the reunion are Elizabeth Robinson (706-695-6021), Ann Green Bailey (706-695-6264) and Tim Howard (706-695-2740). The festival is sponsored by the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society and the Spring Place Ruritan Club.

 

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