A Brief History of the Chautauqua School
By Robert Cowser
In 1914 a group of citizens in the Greenwood community signed a petition advocating a bond
election for the purpose of raising money to build a school. Among those signing were W. R. Sustaire, R.
O. Combs, G. W. Looney, J. l. McCoy, and A. W. Knotts. On May 10,1914, 34 voted to issue a bond for
construction of a school building to cost $1,300. Only five voted against the issuance of a bond.
The Sulphur Springs Gazette for December 8, 1916 referred to the consolidation of Plymouth
School and Greenwood Academy. The new school was located in the geographical center of the district.
During Its first year the principal of the Chautauqua School was C. A. Massey and the teachers were
Fannie Stinson and Halley Winfrey. At a box supper to raise money for the school Frank Griggs won the
contest by being selected as "the ugliest boy." The amount collected in his "honor" was $10.50.
G. W. Looney donated land for the building. The Gazette for Nov. 26, 1915, reported that Van E.
Gilbreth and Mr. Hays came to Sulphur Springs to buy lumber for the school building. The school had
three rooms with porches and cloak rooms on three sides. The porches were used as a stage for plays
put on at the end of the school year. In the late 1930's my parents took me to a performance of a
student play produced on one of the porches. We sat on benches in the school yard facing the porch at
the front of the building.
In 1924 an election was held to determine whether a bond would be issued for $800. The money would be used for an addition to the building and for equipment. l. E. Wardrup, my uncle, was one of those signing a petition asking for an election. Lexie Wardrup, l. E.'s wife, was the election judge.The Wardrups lived on a farm almost two miles from the Chautauqua building on the Greenwood-Old Saltillo Road. Forty-two voted for the issuance of the bond; only three voted against it. A fourth room was added to the original building.
In 1933 under the New Deal of the Roosevelt administration, money was provided for cultural programs in rural schools. One of the debates conducted at the Chautauqua School posed the question of whether Native Americans or African Americans had been treated more harshly by the Federal government. The opposing debater came from the Cartwright School two miles away. Although the debaters were supposed to be students at each school, the Chautauqua debater was not a student. He was a young man who lived in the community (Homer Osteen).
My sister Juanita attended the Chautauqua School from the time she began school (1921) until she finished the sixth grade (1926) except for a hiatus of one year when the family lived in another community. She usually rode a horse the two miles to the school from the farm where my parents lived at the time. She recalled playing basketball on a dirt court; the girls wore bloomers instead of shorts.
Marjorie Young Johnson, who was enrolled in the school from 1937 until 1941, reported that each morning the entire student body met in the large center room for the pledge of allegiance to the flag and for the singing of patriotic songs. Then the youngest students went to one or the other of the two smaller rooms for classes.
The only time I ever went into the building was in 1942 when I accompanied my father to the school so that he could register with U. S. Selective Service. The country had been at war only a few months. Since the school had only recently closed, desks, tables, and other furniture were still in the building. I remember seeing stacks of school books on tables.
According to Kerry Garmon, when the building in 1951 was razed, some of the materials were
used to enlarge the Baptist Church building at Greenwood.
The site of the Chautauqua School was west of Greenwood, Texas, near the intersection of county roads 2372 and 2371. The school had a close connection to Saltillo, Texas, which was about 9 miles northeast, as many of its students went on to attend school in Saltillo and many of the school’s teachers came from Saltillo..