Milton Press Gazette

Dec. 7, 1951

Memoirs of a Pioneer Santa Rosa Teacher

By Mrs. Anna L. Deen-Crist

In May 17, 1895 I received a B. S. degree from a small college in Grapevine, Terrant County, Texas. My father’s people (Deen) lived in Florida near Milton, Santa Rosa County and Olive, Escambia County.

I was corresponding with a cousin, Emma Creighton, living on Olive, insisting that I visit them. I was born and raised in Texas and had never seen any of father’s people. In the summer of 1896, I wrote my cousin I would visit them if I could get a school to teach while there to help meet my expenses, never thinking I would get one. In about three weeks, I received a letter from Emma, in which was one from her father, Mr. E. G. Creighton, Supervisor of Olive school of Escambia County schools, saying I could have the Olive school if I could pass the examination for teachers. I left Grapevine August 29 and arrived at Olive August 31.

The teachers’ examination was to be held in Pensacola, September 8-9-10. That gave me a week to read over the Florida history as I had never seen one. Emma and I went to Pensacola September 8 and stayed at Mr. N. B. Cook’s home while I took the examination. I applied for the second grade as I had never studied Florida History til a few days before the examination and my mind was not fresh on the other subjects as it had been several years since I had studied them. I made the second grade with 80% plus, which Mr. Cook told my uncle he thought was very good. After getting my certificate, the county school board passed a law they would not employ a teacher who had not been in the state one year, which left me without a school.

I came across Escambia Bay into Santa Rosa County to Uncle Charlie and Aunt Lou Dean, who lived near Milton. Uncle Charlie took me to see Mr. McDaniel, who was superintendent of Santa Rosa County schools. This was the last of September or the first week of October. Mr. McDaniel gave me the Harp Station school to teach for five months at twenty-five dollars per month. I opened school October 15 with 32 pupils present, ranging in age from six to sixteen and the subjects ranging from chart to high school subjects -- as Algebra, Rhetoric, etc. although the schools were not graded.

I had never taught school but decided to do the best I could. I opened by reading a few verses from the Bible and saying the Lord’s Prayer. I got my school organized and the pupils were doing very well. When I first opened school, a lady, Mrs. Jim Stearnes, who lived over a mile from the school and across Bayou Mulotte, sent me word she would give me my board if I would help her in her studies at home, as she had no opportunity to learn. I accepted her offer and stayed there for six weeks, when she decided she could not keep up her studies and do her work.

I crossed the Bayou in a batteau or flat-bottomed boat night and morn with one of my pupils. It was a new experience to me as I came from the Northern center of Texas and there was not much water there. I returned to Uncle Charlie and Aunt Lou’s home and stayed there the rest of the term. It was four miles to the school house from Uncle Charlie’s home which I walked night and morn through the pines. I had never seen a pine until I came to Florida. It was a thrilling experience to me, as I came from a town, but loved the country.

I walked alone most mornings, but several of my pupils walked part way home with me, althoough they lived foourn miles in another direction. The term was very interesting to me, and it seemed to interest the pupils.

We closed school in March with commencement exercises which the patrons and pupils seemed to enjoy.

The school building was frame, about 18' by 20', equipped with blackboard, home made desks and seats, a table and chair for the teacher, chart, waterbucket and dipper.

The water was carried from a patron's home.

The school later became the Mulat School and is now consolidated with the Bagdad School.

I tried for a first grade certificate in June, but made only a third grade. I felt very badly about it.

Beginning in July, a five week Peabody Summer School for teachers was held in Milton. Most of the Santa Rosa teachers, including myself, attended.

A friend, Miss Grace Crist, and I attneded a stayed at Mr. and Mrs. Bud Jernigan's home across Blackwater River at Bagdad, crossing the river night and morn in a bateau.*

We walked one mile to Milton on a narrow board walk along the river bank. There were several teachers who went from Bagdad and nearby communities. In the afternoon there was a party of us returning and I enjoyed the trip very much. The faculty consisted of two teachers, Mr. Graham of Hillsborough schools was principal, and Mr. Cawthen of DeFuniak Springs, who later became superintendent of State schools, was assistant.

In September I applied for a first grade, together with Miss Lelia Henry, who later married Mr. Charlie Stewart, and Miss Derlie Green who later married Mr. Calhoun. All of us received our first grade certificates. I made 100% in Algebra, the first ever made in Santa Rosa County, the superintendent said.

I taught the Olive school in the winter of 1897-98. I stayed with my uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Creighton, and walked two miles to school night and morn. Four of my cousins went to school with me. The trip was very pleasant. The school opened on Friday, October 15. Mrs. Cook asked me whether I was superstitious about beginning anything on Friday. I told him I was not. He said some of the people were, and he wanter me to show them there was nothing to that superstition. I lost one day of that school on account of the weather. The pupils kept dropping out, but I had 40 at the close of school. I took in school at 9 a.m. and dismissed at three p.m. with 15 minutes recess in the morning and 30 minutes at noon, as all Escambia County schools did. The school closed in March.

In the spring of 1898, I returned to my home in Texas, intending to teach there. I secured a school and attended a five weeks summer school for teachers held in Oakcliff, Dallas, Texas. I stayed with my brother-in-law and sister in West Dallas. In August, I had a spell of bronchial pneumonia and my physician advised me to return to Florida on account of the severe winters there. I wrote to Mr. McDaniel, county superintendent of Santa Rosa County, explaining the circumstances and asked if he had a school he could give me to help meet my expenses. He answered that all the larger schools had been given out but he had a small school in a good community at 20 dollars per month and board at Allentown. I knew I could meet my expenses, so I returned and taught at Allentown school.

* This section, printed in red, and previously missing from the article, was supplied by Michele Crist LaForgia, great-granddaughter of Anna Deen Crist.





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