Today this one-room schoolhouse stands on the grounds of the Aiken County Historical Museum. The school is believed to have been built circa 1890 in the nearby China Springs community. A Sandersville, Georgia resident named Mrs. Guerin Hermann donated the simple structure to the Aiken County Historical Commission in 1975.
The commission originally elected to relocate it to the campus of the Aiken County Vocational School, located on Highway 17 near Langley, as part of the nation’s Bicentennial Celebration. Students there restored and modified the schoolhouse, adding a front stoop and belfry, while the Pine Needle Garden Club from Thomson, Georgia landscaped the area around it. The schoolhouse was moved again in 1984. At its current location, it helps visitors learn about rural life in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
During the school’s early years, education in this part of the state was not compulsory, and school leaders worked hard to encourage enrollment. Nevertheless, the 1912 Annual Report by South Carolina’s State Superintendent of Education noted that during the previous year, China Springs was consolidated with nearby Windsor and Kitchings Mill schools. At the time, all of the schools in Aiken County had “new furniture and good equipment.”
For decades, China Springs maintained an active Home Demonstration Club (later known as 4-H). It was also the site of numerous community events, including “ice cream festivals,” Halloween parties, and Christmas gatherings. These events were advertised to the public and sometimes even included an orchestra. It is hard to imagine how so many people could fit into such a small space!
The events were often used to raise funds for the school. In 1938, for example, China Springs hosted a supper and play in order to earn money for a piano. The students must have been successful, because a few months later, on January 25, 1939, the Aiken Standard carried an ad from the school that read, “WANTED – one used piano in good condition.”
Likewise, as the clipping below shows, China Springs School put on a “box party” in order to purchase a Christmas tree. Although the box party featured an orchestra, the ad notes that dancing would be strictly prohibited. (Box parties were popular in the early part of nineteenth century. A women would make a meal for two and place it in a cardboard box, which she would then decorate. In turn, men would bid on these meals – and the opportunity to dine with the woman who made them!)
Over the years, the school was led by various teachers and principals. While we do not yet have a full list of the various educators, records show that Mrs. Annie Lou White served as principal in 1943, Mrs. E. P. Kennedy was the teacher in 1933, and Miss Annie Clyde Montgomery of Milledgeville, Georgia taught in 1924.
The school also held night classes for adults. They were held each weekday, even on Fridays, from 7 until 9 PM. Today the old schoolhouse rests next to the Frederick Ergle Cabin, thought to be the oldest dwelling in Aiken County.
Chris Proctor says
My daddy told us that this school came from Mayfield Road. We used to walk in the woods where he said it was located and there was an old cemetery there. Do you know anything about the cemetery? It has been years since I have been there; I guess it’s still there. My grandaddy was caretaker over the land, now it belongs to the heritage preserve. It did belong to Miss Mary Henderson. I believe her daddy was one of the Aiken mayors from what I was told.
SC Picture Project says
Dear Chris, thank you so much for your comment! You are right – this preserve is named in honor of Frank P. Henderson, a former Mayor of Aiken. I can’t find anything readily about a cemetery, but it seems this was family land so it would definitely make sense for there to be a cemetery. If anyone reading this comment can add more info, we’d really appreciate it!
Sara Hogue says
Thanks for posting. I have a photo of Mrs. Minnie Kennedy’s one room school house. I will make a copy and mail it to you. Need address. My Mother, two sisters and one brother are in this photo. Was in Gloverville SC.Hhsve tried to find this school, with no luck. Mrs. Kennedy was the Mother of Dr. Finley Kennedy of Langley and Bath, SC
Hey Sara, that would be fantastic! Would you need a physical mailing address or email? Thank you so much!
Lynda Moseley says
I would like to know if there is a list of the teachers who taught at China Springs. Our oral family history is that my paternal great great Grandmother, Emma Felder Moseley (Mrs. James R. Moseley), daughter of Barzilla B. Felder and Elizabeth Davis, taught there at one time. Thank you, Lynda Moseley
Hello Lydia, have you tried reaching out to the Aiken Museum? They own the schoolhouse and potential records there. Here is their website: http://aikenmuseum.us/. Hope that helps!
Yvonne Goff says
I would like to know where this school was originally located. More specific than China Springs area.
The best we can tell from online records, the original schoolhouse stood near these GPS coordinates: 33.6168053, -81.7303862. Hope this helps!