FAIRMONT HISTORY

Education

For twenty years, Mrs. Bessie S. Fisher operated a private kindergarten in her home, giving an entire generation of children a head start in their schooling. Mrs. Fisher, wife of A. A. Fisher, a rural mail carrier here, was widowed in October, 1947 and needed a way to put food on the table and keep two children in college.

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The Fisher family - l/r Albert Fleet, Dixie Lee, Bobby J., Mrs. Fisher, Al Ashton. Photo credit - Times-Messenger archives, used with permission.

Since there was no public school kindergarten in Fairmont, she decided to start one in the living room of her house adjacent to Trinity Methodist Church. Beginning in September, 1948 introduced the baby boomers of Fairmont to the joys of learning. With large classes and small ones, she taught us how to be quiet when asked, wait our turn, say please and thank you in addition to the usual kindergarten skills.

Each of her four children finished college, and she always had a big smile when asked about them. Below are Mrs. Fisher's kindergarten classes except for 1949, 1950 and 1965. All are from the Times-Messenger archives and are used with permission.

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The first principal of the Ashpole Institute was Stinceon Ivey. Ivey was born January 31, 1816 in Johnston County, North Carolina to James Ivey and Drusilla Beasley Ivey. His parents were too poor to provide him an education so he decided to educate himself. Entering school at age 22, he kept studying and working until he was qualified to teach. He worked with students in Stokes, Rockingham, Wake, Johnston, Columbus and Robeson counties.

Ivey married Mary Ann King on December 18, 1845 in Wake County, North Carolina. Together they had six children. One of them, Alice Herman Ivey, married Charles Bascom Thompson and together they produced twelve children, youngest of whom was Paul Herman Thompson.

In 1877 Ivey was recruited from Whiteville to come head a school for the Cape Fear Baptist Association in Ashpole. The school, Ashpole Institute, opened in February, 1878 with five students. Classes were held in the sanctuary of Ashpole Baptist Church until a suitable building could be constructed. The enrollment increased daily during the five-month term. The first school year was a resounding success.

The Institute continued to grow under Ivey's leadership for ten years. He died on August 8, 1888 after a brief illness.

Broadus E. Littlefield was born in Inman, SC on August 13, 1898 to William Walter and Loretta Littlefield. He was educated at the University of South Carolina, then briefly served in the U. S. Army at the end of World War I. He did graduate work at the University of North Carolina and was principal of Mooresville School from 1921 through 1925. In 1925 he was named superintendent of Jacksonville, NC, schools where he remained until being hired in May 1937 by Fairmont Schools as superintendent.

When Littlefield came to Fairmont, he faced inadequate, cramped facilities and little extra money to remedy this. He actively lobbied the county commissioners and the state department of public instruction for help and, in 1940, saw the construction of a classroom building and a gymnasium by the PWA. Other plans were on the drawing board when World War II intervened. Throughout the war his job was do make do with less money while encouraging students and faculty to conserve and buy war bonds. He was also tasked with replacing male teachers who had been drafted.

Building materials were still being rationed after World War II but Littlefield was able to secure funds and materials to upgrade the grammar school (high school) building. Second and third floor fire escapes were added, exit doors cut, metal-cased windows replaced wooden casings, more and improved electrical lighting and improved heating system were installed into the 25 year old building, all without losing a day of class time.

More plans were on the drawing board in expectation of the passing of a county-wide school bond referendum in 1949, but at the end of the school year Mr. Littlefield was offered the job as Superintendent of the Robeson County Schools, which he accepted. It was there that he came to be known as the building superintendent. Funded by the 1949 referendum and a state-wide bond referendum in 1953, he went on to construct 343 new classrooms for the county system, including Littlefield High School east of Lumberton.

Mr. Littlefield retired in 1965 and served the county board as a construction advisor for a few years. He died in 1976.

Talmage S. Teague was born on January 13, 1888 in Siler City, NC to Samuel P. and Addie Teague. He was the youngest son in a family of six boys and six girls. As a young boy he loved to hunt and fish and learned to handle a gun early on, becoming an excellent hunter.

Graduating from Mt. Vernon High School in 1907, he enrolled at Wake Forest College where he majored in mathematics, receiving his BA in math magna cum laude in 1911. His first job was as principal of Atkinson High School in Pender County where he remained for six years. During that time he met and married Mae Thomas in 1913. From Atkinson, he moved to St. Pauls Schools as principal, remaining there seven years.

In 1924 he was named superintendent of Fairmont Schools where he remained for thirteen years. During this time he operated a boarding house and provided meals for many of the teachers, often by hunting and killing it. In the warmer months it was the same with fish. More importantly, the Fairmont elementary school in 1926 was the first in the county to be accredited by the state and in 1928 the high school was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Baltimore, Center and Smyrna elementary schools consolidated with Fairmont during Teague's tenure as did Oak Dale and Marietta high schools.

In 1936 Mr. Teague was dismissed as superintendent for reasons not now knowable. He decided to remain in Fairmont and opened a grocery store soon afterward. In 1937 his wife died and he remarried on July 13, 1940. In the interim he was appointed postmaster for Fairmont in 1939. He remained in this position until his retirement on Jan. 31, 1958.

Teague died on May 9, 1972 and is buried in Fairmont Cemetery.

Educational opportunities in the rural South during the 1870's were almost non-existent. Many children had only basic instruction, enough to learn to read, write and do arithmetic but not much else. In Ashpole, Rev. A. R. Pittman realized that area children needed more and began to encourage his congregation to build a school. As a prominent minister in the Cape Fear Baptist Association, he encouraged the establishment of a high school promoted and supported by the association.

The members of the Ashpole Baptist Church, spurred on by Rev. A. R. Pittman, established a corporation to acquire land near the church on which to erect a school and began selling stock in the corporation for $25/share in November, 1877. Rev. Pittman became president of the corporation.

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The name of the organization was The Cape Fear Baptist Associational High School and Ashpole Institute. Stinceon Ivey was hired as principal and classes began in February, 1878 in the church sanctuary. There were five people in the first class, four boarding students, William and Gussie Williamson, Preston and Orton Grainger, and P. B. Thompson, the local student. Two five-month terms were conducted during the year.

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Photo credit: Paul Thompson, Jr., used with permission

As word spread throughout the association, attendance increased to a point where more than one hundred students attended. The Institute produced many ministers as a result of its close association with Wake Forest College. Its curriculum aligned with that of Wake Forest to the point of using the same textbooks for Latin and Greek. Prominent pupils were Rev. W. P. Pope, Baptist minister; Rev. Everette Ward, minister; John Bethune Carlyle, Wake Forest professor; Rev. I. P. Hedgpeth, Baptist minister; and Dr. John P. Brown, doctor and real estate developer.

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This photo made in 1886. Photo credit: First Baptist Church archives

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This photo was made in 1899. Photo credit: Paul Thompson, Jr., used with permission

The Institute operated from 1878 through 1901, then for two years it was privately operated without church affiliation. Its demise coincided with the advent of free public schooling in North Carolina first implemented during Gov. Charles B. Aycock's administration. By 1906 the school was not operating and its land and facilities were auctioned off in October, 1906.

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