Following the Civil War, various schools were established for the children of former slaves with the help of the Freedman’s Bureau, a federal agency formed to assist African-Americans. These schools were called Freedmen’s Schools. A notice from the September 11, 1867, edition of the Newberry Journal advertised a Legislative Act to establish a Freedmen’s School in Newberry at the next state legislative meeting. However, the legislature did not reconvene that year, due to political chaos during this early period of Reconstruction.
Nonetheless, Freedmen’s Schools were in place in Newberry by the following year. Records indicate that 13 teachers – two of whom were white – were hired to teach the black students of Newberry County between 1868 and 1870. In contrast, 58 teachers were hired to teach white students. Early records show that an Elisha Church School, a free school in the Newberry community of Silverstreet, was operating by 1869.
Between 1917 and 1932 Julius Rosenwald, then the president of Sears and Roebuck, contributed funds to building moderns schools for rural African-American students in the South; the remaining funds would come from the local black and white communities and from public funds. This school shown on this page, built as the Elisha School, was erected in 1927 with the help of Rosenwald funds. It possibly replaced the first Elisha Church School.
Elisha School continued through the segregated 1950s, with white students attending school at nearby Silverstreet School. According to contributor Jim Jenkins, who did his student teaching at Silverstreet School in 1959, Elisha School “was located right on Highway 121 and 34 and was really a dangerous location for a school.”
The school board decided to build a new school in a different location, and sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s Elisha School was replaced with the Reuben School, which still operates as Reuben Elementary School.
The school board accepted sealed bids for the purchasing of the former Elisha School property and its buildings. The Senn brothers, local owners of a trucking company, bought the property and made use of its three buildings. One building was given to a friend for use as a barn. It is no longer standing. Another building was gutted and used by the Senns as a garage. The brothers replaced the garage with a new building in the 1970s and moved the former garage. Whether or not it remains extant is undetermined. The final building, pictured above, still stands on the property and is used for storage.
The South Carolina Picture Project thanks Jim Jenkins for the above photos and much of the information.