Students in the Jolly Street district of Newberry County attended school in a variety of buildings before this two-story, three-teacher school was built in 1915. The first school in the district, located near Pomaria, opened in 1836 and was led by teacher Charlie Dukes. It was succeeded in 1845 by another school building where Mathias Wicker served as teacher. The school operated in the second location until it was disrupted during the Civil War. School resumed following the war in a rustic cabin that lacked floors and a chimney. In fact, the cabin was so inadequately built that children were rumored to have escaped the teacher’s scorning eye through slabs of log. Nicknamed the “Knuckle House,” this rudimentary building served as the school for only two years before classes were shuffled among vacant houses in the district and even the back room of the Jolly Street Storehouse.
Beginning in 1878, no school was held in the Jolly Street district, and students attended other nearby schools for four years. In 1881 a new school for the Jolly Street district was proposed. Built the following year, this school was the first to be called the Jolly Street School. After several years in this building, the district petitioned to consolidate with neighboring St. Paul’s district. The offer was declined by the residents of St. Paul’s, and the Jolly Street School then requested permission from the school board to move its school building closer to the center of the district. The request was granted, and in 1910 the school was relocated about a half mile down the road. Though the distance was not great, the move placed the school in the center of the Jolly Street district.
After a second request to consolidate with St. Paul’s was rejected in 1913, the Jolly Street School Committee campaigned for a four-mill tax to build a modern school building. Members walked door-to-door throughout the district to ask for residents’ vote on the tax, which won with nearly 100% approval. With a $1,200 appropriation as well as funds from the county, the state, and private donors, the school district completed this building in 1915. It was formally named the Hunter-DeWalt School for its two largest private donors: George Hunter donated five acres of land for the school building as well as a demonstration farm, and the DeWalt family contributed financially, as they had since the school’s early days in the mid-nineteenth century. Despite the school’s new name, people continued to refer to it as the Jolly Street School.
The pine grove behind the school was used for decades as the location of a popular political rally held in the summer during election years. Candidates stumped, audiences responded with cheers and jeers, and the rallies typically concluded with a barbecue and a baseball game. Today the school and its environs sit quietly on this rural road.