History of Santa Rosa County, A King's County
by M. Luther King. Used with permission.
PUBLIC EDUCATION IN FLORIDA
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Willing to work,
Willing to fail,
Willing to struggle,
When others assail.
Willing to try,
Willing to wait,
And willing to earn.
Willing to follow
Where others have led.
This is the secret
Of getting ahead.
Even though Florida had a late start in public education, progress has
been consistent with their philosophy -"Through education, the culture,
the traditions and the social standards set by our people are passed on
down to our children." We have believed, in Florida, in Santa Rosa County,
that the extent to which we are able to continue our existence as a democratic
county of a democratic state and nation will depend and has depended in
direct ratio to the quantity and quality of our public education.
In theory, at least, the truly democratic government has long since recognized
the free public school as the most dependable educational agency; thus
the free public schools, their distribution, the quality and the quantity
of their enrollment, the quality and quantity of those school's instructional
and other personnel, as well as the degree to which they function in the
lives of the people and the communities which they serve, are a reliable
set of indices to the level of living of the people of such communities.
Any valid study of such a community institution even though it is studied
in a direct relationship towards its present surroundings and their influence
upon it becomes much more valid if the study takes its basic assumptions
from the past history of such institutions being studied.
We may even thus be able to predict something of the future trends of
such institution: ". . . Coming events cast their shadows before."
Let us then, in the light of the preceding statements examine Florida's
(Santa Rosa County's) system of free public schools. Such an examination
would show us that the very first group interest in free public education
in Florida was evidenced by the founding of the Florida Education Society
during the year 1831. The account of the founding of that society states
its purpose as: "to study the needs and pave the way for the establishment
of a (free, public) system of education."
In retrospect, we now know that the establishment of a complete system
of free public schools at that time was not only impractical but well-nigh
impossible. However, one of the branches of the society at St. Augustine
did found and operate a school for a time, but on the whole, the society
was in a measure visionary in its philosophy and soon ceased to exist.
During the immediate successive period a free public school was operated
by the city of Tallahassee.
Some institutions were instituted and operated at territorial expense
before 1845, such that the reports stated that the population had reached
87,000 (47,000 of whom were white) and that ten academies and sixty common
schools were listed at that time (1845) with a total of 3,129 pupils (all
The first actions of the legislature on the subject of free public schools,
after Florida had been admitted to the union as a state, was in 1849.
Legislation was enacted providing for an increase in the public school
funds by adding to the sale of school lands (the 16th section of land
in each township, as well as other lands that had been designated exclusively
as state school lands) the net proceeds of five per cent of the sale of
other state lands, all escheated property, and all property found on the
coasts (wrecks, etc.). This act also provided for a crude statewide system
of free public schools.
Again in 1850 taxation by the several counties for school purposes was
authorized and the state was allowed to sell the school lands consolidating
the school funds under the Registrar of Public Lands, Mr. David S. Walker.
In his first public report in 1853-54, Mr. Walker stated that there were
16,577 persons of school age in Florida and that of the aggregate apportionment
of $5,031.07 or 30.35 cents per school child Gadsden County secured a
lion's share which amounted to $546.91. However, in 1852 there had been
established in Tallahassee under Mr. Walker's guidance a public free school
sustained by a tax levy upon the city and it was one of the very first,
if not the very first, in the South so sustained. Thus there is little
doubt but that to Mr. Walker should go the credit for the "common school
law" approved January 1, 1853 which had for its purpose the establishment
of a state-wide system of tax supported public free schools.
Even the state school superintendent's report of 1858 shows little progress,
enumerating only 20,885 children of school age and an apportionment of
$6 , 542.60.
The succeeding period of Florida history was the one which saw Florida
and other states of the South arrayed in an internecine conflict, the
most terrible war of all history up to that time, a war of state against
state. There was, of course, little or no educational progress during
that time. There was, however, no doubt that there was a sustained interest
in free public education that was to stand in good stead when the state
was once again ready to turn its attention to ordinary domestic affairs.
A new Constitution was adopted during the year 1868, more or less infamously
called "the carpet-bag Constitution." This Constitution, whatever may
be said (or may have been said) to the contrary, had many excellent points
in its favor relative to free public education. The compilation of school
laws under this constitution was really a very historic step forward and
many of the statutory provisions in them remain, even to this day, part
of the basic school law of this great state. The compilation of these
school laws came during the administration of State School Superintendent
C. Thurston Chase. Who his collaborators or "ghost writers" were is not
The next state superintendent of education in this state was the Reverend
Charles Beecher, a brother of "the stormy petrel" of the American political
scene of that day, Henry Ward Beecher, and also of Harriet Beecher (Stowe)
remembered for two things: Uncle Tom's Cabin and her recantation by coming
to Florida, at Mandarin, to make her home.
Mr. Beecher's aim (and we of late years have begun to achieve this aim)
was to place school personnel on a "merit system," but the small measure
of his success in this manner was destroyed by Johnathan Gibbs, his successor.
Gibbs was a graduate of Dartmouth College, Class of 1852, and a citizen
of Florida only since the great influx of "carpet-baggers" in 1866. His
first act in office was to remove all Democrats from posts as county superintendents.
Some of these men were the most able educators of our country at that
time and their services were ill-spared by the infant systems of free
public schools of Florida of that day: Halliday of Alachua County, Richards
of Bradford County, Anderson of Leon County, and Shands of Levy County.
No reasons were ever given for their removal except they were Democrats.
The next state superintendents successively, in order, were Mr. McLin
and Mr. Hicks. Mr. Hicks was the last Republican to hold that office even
down to the present time. Mr. Hicks deplored the "strong prejudice" against
However, there came out of Mr. Hicks' administration two acts worth remembering:
the establishment of an Agricultural College at Eau Gallie (which was
at the time, of course, a very poor choice of location in relation to
the then concentration of agricultural activities) and the adoption of
the very first state-wide uniform series of textbooks. It must be noted,
however, that since neither the political functionaries nor the people
of the state were ready for either of these acts, they were "white elephants"
on the hands of the new state system of free public schools.
The national political campaigns of 1876 were the most stormy in the
career of our country. The Florida state campaign was likewise as stormy.
Mr. Hicks "stumped" the state in a campaign for reelection; his principal
pleas for his own reelection as well as for the keeping of his party (Republican)
in power was "elect Democrats and it will be the end of Negro education."
Strangely enough, however, the Democrats won in what would now be termed
a "landslide." The Democrats, as soon as they were installed in office,
called a special convention to write a new constitution in 1885. This
new constitution provided for, not only a common school education for
all school age children, but also for a higher education on a "separate
but equal" bi-racial system of free public schools. (The higher education
had not heretofore been provided nor proposed by the opposing party.)
Actually the major gains here then were not those of Mr. Hicks but rather
of Mr. Hicks' successor, Mr. William F. Haisley, native of Indiana, graduate
of Yale and Harvard and an experienced teacher. It is of more than passing
interest here that this Indiana man was the first to request a poll (head)
tax as a voting requirement, the proceeds to go to helping finance the
system of free public schools. Another new and, at that time, strange
idea was a recommendation of his that any candidate for office of county
superintendent should be a teacher. Mr. Haisley also continued the recommendation
for a uniform series of state adopted textbooks.
Mr. Haisley was succeeded in office by Mr. Eleazer Foster and Mr. Albert
J. Russell in the order as here named. During the term of service of Mr.
Russell, the Peabody Fund was made available to counties of Florida for
the purpose of teacher training "Institutes." This fund was a "matching"
fund and was continued with a great degree of success until the legislature
of 1889 failed to provide the necessary matching funds. Even so then,
eleven counties: Alachua, Duval, Escambia, Sumter, Lake, Putnam, Volusia,
Orange, Brevard, Hillsborough, and Levy continued the "Institutes" at
the expense of the respective counties.
The first State Teachers' Institute and County Superintendents' Convention
ever held in this state was held at De Funiak Springs in 1886 with Reverend
F. Pasco as president. This meeting lasted a week and was held in conjunction
with the Chautauqua being held there at that time. Such or similar meetings
have since been held as annual events of the Florida Education Association.
The meetings were held annually at De Funiak Springs until the meeting
of the year 1890 when the meeting was held at Ocala; the next, 1891, was
held at Tampa; followed in 1892 by the meeting at Jacksonville; then a
regular shifting from place to place up to the present time. Such meetings
have been held as far from the center of the state as Miami, Jacksonville,
We remember quite well the last one held in Pensacola, in 1929, during
the Thanksgiving weekend when a surprisingly sharp cold snap caused many
automobile radiators to freeze. The North wind that came "whistling" down
Palafox Street was really sharp and biting. Automobile radiators where
the automobiles were parked east of the Saenger Theatre were frozen hard.
The Miami and Key West delegations headed home early Friday without waiting
for the adjournment session on Saturday.
The year 1885 saw higher education in Florida receive its first real
boost when the Congregationalists established Rollins College at Winter
Park which has continued uninterruptedly and without any divisions or
"splits" to the present time. Rollins was founded as a non-sectarian college
and has continued to be so.
That same year 1885 saw the establishment, by the Baptists, of a school
of college rank at DeLand to be known as DeLand Academy. When this institution
was later endowed by the late John B. Stetson, it assumed the name Stetson
University and has so continued as a sectarian Baptist institution to
this time. Its law school, now located at St. Petersburg, is the oldest
law school in Florida.
Let us now bring our observations concerning public education in Florida
and in Santa Rosa County down to the local, the county, scene. Santa Rosa
County: "Board of Public Instruction appointed July 25, 1869." (This is
evidently the real beginning of free public education in Santa Rosa County.)
"No census of youth was taken. No movements looking toward an organization
of the schools of the county were reported."
Report to State Superintendent of Schools, Hon. C. Thurston Chase from
J. A. Chaffin, County Superintendent, Milton: "Schools 8, gain 6; pupils
237, gain 162. Received from the state -- nothing; from the county --
$608.00. Expenditures for schools --$600.00; Amount paid county superintendent
-- none, Board of Public Instruction -- none; expenses -- none." (A regular
"off again, on again, gone again" Finegan report.)
Report to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jonathan C. Gibbs
from County Superintendent of Public Instruction J. A. Chaffin, Milton:
"Schools -- 8; pupils -- 353, gain -- 116. Total amount of money received
from state and county -- not stated. Total expenditures for schools --
$600.00. Cash on hand -- $29.69."
But as if in partial explanation of this terse report Mr. Chaffin addressed
August 25, 1873
- Hon. J. C. Gibbs,
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tallahassee, Florida
You will see by this report that eight schools have been in operation
in this county each for three months. They were very well scattered
over the county, where, in my opinion, they were most needed, as a
great many children had the advantage that never attended school before.
There was but one school that taught higher branches than spelling,
reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and grammar, and very little
of the two last. I could have carried on several other schools had
I the money. The money that has carried on the schools mentioned in
this report was paid to me by the collector June 4, 1873, as the state
and county school tax collected for the year 1871, and no county school
tax for 1872. Now, if the state and county school tax is due the county,
there are two other years that ought to be paid. Please let me know
- Your obedient servant,
J. A. Chaffin
- Santa Rosa County:
Report to Honorable Samuel B. McLin
Secretary of State, and Acting State Supt. of Public Instruction
From: J. A. Chaffin, County Superintendent of Public Instruction; Milton,
(1874) Number of schools -- 12, gain -- 4; total daily attendance
of pupils -- 364; average attendance -- 277; amount of money received
from the state and county -- not given; superintendent received August
6 of present year -- $877.44 from taxes collected in 1872; total amount
of money expended for school purposes -- $987.50. Santa Rosa County:
December 18, 1880
- Hon. W. P. Haisley,
- State Superintendent of Public Instruction
- Tallahassee, Florida
- Dear Sir:
Owing to the large area of our county and its sparse population, the public
schools, with the exception of those in Milton, have not been attended by
pupils as well as desired. The attendance is increasing, however, and it
is hoped that, with growing interest in schools, will continue to increase.
Although in appearance the grants to the states by the general government
have been equal, yet, in fact, the grants to the northern and northwestern
states, owing to the greater value of the lands, have far exceeded its grants
to the southern states. I think that if this fact was properly presented
to Congress by memorial of the legislature and otherwise, further grants
could be secured.
- George C. McWhorter
- Superintendent of Schools
Thus goes the narrative reports from county superintendent to the state
superintendent through those formative years to 1880.
There exists something of a gap in our information at this point and where
we must depend almost wholly upon what we can read from summaries of statistical
reports, which we shall try at a later time to present without a rather
tabulation of figures.
Those statistical summaries indicate that there was continued growth of
the entire free public school system. There was a steady and continuous
growth in the number of teachers and in the quality of their preparation,
a like increase in the number of pupils and the offerings for them, a gradual
but continual increase in the length of school term until 1895 when the
number of pupils statewide had "reached the total of 100,000; then there
was a leveling off and slight decrease due to a severe freeze 'which caused
a considerable shift in the economic pattern and a slow-down in immigration.
Mr. Albert J. Russell, who became State Superintendent of Public Instruction
February 21, 1884, was a Virginian by birth and a graduate of Anderson Seminary.
He practiced architecture at Charleston, South Carolina from whence he moved
to Lake City, Florida, in 1859, and a little later to Jacksonville, Florida.
He served during "the war between the states" with the Confederate States
Army. Upon his return to Jacksonville, he was elected to the city council
there and in 1876 (the turning point year for the South) to the Duval County
Board of Public Instruction.
Mr. Russell was appointed State Superintendent of Public Instruction in
1884 and served in this capacity until 1893. It was during this period (1886)
that Florida really began to advance in education; for as has been noted
earlier it was in 1886 that the organization of school people was begun
with the Teachers' Institute and Superintendents' Conference at De Funiak
Springs. That organization was computed, perfected, and has since continued
as the Florida Education
Association. That organization has been the organized spearhead for every
advance that Florida Education has made since 1886. Mr. Russell has been,
and rightly, termed the "father of the Florida Education Association."
The Florida Education Association has been successful in its public relations;
it has, in most cases, carried' the public along with its determined program.
The legislature has looked to the F. E. A. as a source of information upon
which to base the legislative programs down through the years. However,
in 1933 it experienced active opposition from the governor of the state.
Without a doubt these factions were inspired by "selfish interest groups"
within the state.
This opposition came at a very trying time. It was this year which saw
the closing of banks, the freezing of funds, the devaluation of the dollar
' and many other such restrictive orders by the President of our country.
It was like "kicking a man that is already down."
The governor, thinking that he could carry the F. E. A. president along
with his "twisted" logic (since they both claimed the same home town), spread
anti-school propaganda over the whole state in radio broadcasts which were
somewhat later to be known as "Criticasts." The governor's own program for
schools was: (1) $5 1/2 million of state money for schools (rather than
the previously approved $7 1/2 million; (2) the governor to be in control
of the school program (the state board). The governor went so far in his
"pressure tactics" as to threaten the F. E. A. president with closing the
school of which he was principal. A "rigged" audit was even attempted. After
the community had operated the school for that year without state aid, the
governor eventually gave up the fight.
It took two more governors' terms to finally convince state politicians
that F. E. A.'s membership had too much power to be openly opposed. They
claimed the active help of too many other organizations, such that one of
those three governors is said to have told his political cronies, "Well,
we could fight F. E. A., but we can't afford to fight the American Legion."
Perhaps we should not have digressed so much nor so far afield here, but
we did wish to emphasize Superintendent Russell's great contribution to
Florida education in his founding of F. E. A. in 1886 -- a contribution
which has gone on, which still goes on, a real contribution to the welfare
of Florida's children.
Mr. Russell was succeeded as State Superintendent of Public Instruction
by Mr. W. R. Sheats. Mr. Sheats was born in Georgia, 1851; had his undergraduate
and Master's work at Emory University and his Doctorate work at Stetson
University in 1913. He served sixteen years as principal in Florida schools,
County Superintendent of Alachua County for twelve years, and State Superintendent
of Public Instruction from 1893-1905 and 1913-1922. He was author of education
articles in the Florida Constitution of 1885 when he was a member of the
One of the first county Superintendent of Schools was E.
L. McDaniel, whose salary was about $40 per month. Before this the
Sheriff served as the school supervisor.
However, of much greater interest to us here would be our own County Superintendent
of Public Instruction's report to the State Superintendent for that year
(1900). Mr. E. L. McDaniel, County Superintendent of Public Instruction
reports: "Since the last report of this nature only two school buildings
have been erected, one in Milton at a cost of about $2,500.00 and another
elsewhere at an expense to the Board of some $150.00. About six buildings
have been seated with patent desks ... All old charts were exchanged for
new ones ... Financial conditions about the same as two years ago ... School
warrants are paid promptly as presented. There is marked improvement year-by-year
in our teaching force. Compulsory education or attendance is a question
for the future. The state is not ready for it. Teachers of this county have
free access to a small library of some one hundred volumes, largely professional,
bought by your humble servant for his teachers. Except School Number 1,
no schools in the county have libraries."
A tabulation of statistical data for year 1900 is of more than passing
interest with 67 schools (58 white and 9 colored) and a total enrollment
of 2,484 or 64% of eligible school population (6-21 years of age) and at
a cost of those in actual A.D.A. $5.72 out of a school tax of $0.51 per
capita of total population. Of this expenditure, which amounted to a total
of $14,248.68, $8,762.35 was for teachers' salaries and $720.00 for salary
of county superintendent and $23.00 for janitor.
Mr. Sheats had instituted a system of biennial reports to him by county
superintendents and by him to the public. We have been especially, shall
we say, "intrigued" by the content of some of those reports.
He notes for instance two reasons for a decrease in the number of schools
for 1899-1900, 86 white schools and 9 Negro schools, "some consolidation
and some discontinuance of the less profitable schools," but goes on to
say that "it certainly seems that 2,443 schools are adequate . . . as to
number . . . since it gives a school for every 216 of total population or
for every 66 of educable youth, less than 45 of whom enroll . . . and with
other factors . . . a teacher for every 23 educable youth in school attendance."
(It would be of special interest here to note that in 1960, sixty years
later, that figure for the number of schools has increased to 1,930 including
70 kindergartens which were not counted in 1900. It would also be most interesting
to note that the A.D.A. number of pupils per teacher in 1960 was still close
to the 23 of 1900 or 22.7.)
"It affords me great pleasure to report a general improvement in school
affairs of Santa Rosa County since the issuance of your last biennial report.
"Many lots or sites for educational purposes have been generously donated.
In a few years I hope to have a well-equipped school house in every district
in the county. I am happy to report, too, a very marked improvement in teaching
force . . . the rejection from examination room of immoral would-be teachers;
and by not assigning to schools teachers who have proved to be undesirable
or incapacitated for school work . . . the prompt payment, in cash of teachers
"With few exceptions all districts cheerfully provide homes free of cost
to teachers ... the greater part of the expenses for new buildings was borne
by interested fathers and mothers.
" . . . the enrollment is not as good as I desire. We must . . . in all
cases have attractive teachers . . . a tender child should no more be permitted
to receive instruction from a bleary-eyed, loathsome, or deformed teacher,
than to sit day after day with its little limbs hanging from a high bench
in an old bat-roost school house.
"Old debt paid.
"In 1885-6 the school term was extended from four (4) to five (5) months
and a five month term will be taught this year.
"Our greatest need is school funds. We cannot operate schools unless we
have money. Some of our law makers show by their actions that they believe
that four months tuition a year will make statesmen and mothers of statesmen.
"The state militia get all they can spend for arms equipments and encampments
. . . yet many towns cannot vote a sub-district and levy $ 1,000.00 for
a high school building . . . Nearly every county boasts a jail costing from
$10,000.00 to $30,000.00 . . . are military displays and criminals of more
importance to us than our children and the future prosperity of our country?
"May the people of Florida awake and realize that they owe their children
a debt and pay it.
"Give us a three mill state tax for educational purposes."
It is interesting to note certain facts that can be abstracted from these
statistical reports: Number of schools: 58 white, 8 colored, total 66; School
enrollment: 1,829 white, 481 colored, total 2,310; Average length of term
in days: 77 white, 75 colored; General average salaries for all teachers:
$26.08; white male $30.46, white female $23.24, both $26.56; colored male
$25.65, colored female $22.25, both $23.41.
"Assessed valuation of real and personal property $1,315,885.00.
"Salaries of teachers $7,259.75.
"Salaries of superintendents $1,000.00.
"Total expenditures $10,344.25. Thirty-three counties made such reports:
Alachua, Hillsborough, Manatee, Santa Rosa, Brevard, Holmes, Marion, Suwannee,
Calhoun, Jackson, Monroe, Wakulla, Citrus, Lafayette, Nassau, Walton, Clay,
Lake, Orange, Washington, Dade, Lee, Pasco, Escambia, Levy, Polk, Hamilton,
Liberty, Putnam, Hernando, Madison, and St. Johns."
County Superintendent E. L. McDaniel, following State Superintendent W.
H. Sheats' request, submitted his report for the State Superintendent's
Biennial Report for 1901-1902. In part, he said, "Since last report five
new buildings have been erected, repairs made and desks supplied to others
when necessary . . . all . . . are substantial frame structures with modern
patent desks . . . well supplied with blackboards.
"The financial condition of school fund is good. Warrants are at all times
worth face value.
" I believe my people would favor more tax for schools. Some clamor for
it, and others are voting for special tax districts. There are demands for
'a better teacher, a better house, a longer term, a new house, some patent
desks, some more seats, a school library, a big dictionary for our school'
made almost every day at this office.
"I hope the next legislature will enact a law creating a county high school
and provide in part for its operation and maintenance.
"Special Tax Districts have not been tried -- are just organized.
"There is continued improvement in our teaching force.
"Grading committees do their work . . . well and honestly . . . a grading
committee for each district would be well.
" A law of compulsory attendance in schools is needed."
The same summary of figures for the statistical report (1901-1902) would
yield such as this:
"Number of schools -- 64 white, 8 colored, total 72.
"Number of pupils enrolled -- 2,040 white, 377 colored, total 2,417.
56 white teachers fill 73 positions. 5 colored teachers fill 8 positions.
"Highest salary paid white male teachers -- $75.00.
"Highest salary paid white female teachers -- $45.00.
"Highest salary paid colored male teachers -- $35.00.
"Highest salary paid colored female teachers -$30.00.
"The lowest salary paid in all four categories -- $20.00.
"There were 5 log buildings for white schools and 2 for colored schools.
"There were 62 frame buildings for white schools and 7 for colored schools.
There were no brick buildings.
"Value of school property was set at $ 27,610.00.
"Total receipts for school fund, $16.517.22, $30.00 for rent, $12.00
for fuel, and $0.00 for janitor.
"Total for teachers' salaries, $9,524.62.
"Total for superintendent's salary, $720.00.
"Total cost of schools per capita of total population, $1.16; per pupil
of school age, $3.10; per pupil actually enrolled, $4.95."
The years immediately following Mr. McDaniel's term in office saw many
of the projects that he had advocated brought to full fruition: special
tax districting, a county high school, a three mill levy, consolidation,
transportation, and compulsory school attendance.
That project, which apparently had always been uppermost in Superintendent
McDaniel's mind and which he always mentioned in his anecdotal reports
to his state superintendent (the creation and building of a Santa Rosa
County High School), was seen in final fruition in the term of his successor.
Mr. John T. Diamond, a school man of "the good old school," who had considerable
experience in Santa Rosa County education, who valued above personal desires
the integrity of his office, and who always placed the real needs of children
above all things else, came to the office of county superintendent, too,
with the purpose in mind of instituting and building a Santa Rosa County
Petitions had been circulated, an election held, a bond issue voted,
for the newly created Special Tax District; then the contract was let
to S. F. Fulghum & Company of Pensacola, supervised by Mr. Walker
D. Willis, architect, also of Pensacola, for the construction of the building
for a Santa Rosa County High School for the then munificent sum of $50,000.
Such a building by today's standards would cost at least six times that
The marble plaque mounted in the front vestibule of the building reads:
Board of Public Instruction
Santa Rosa County
J. F. Poore, Chm.
J. J. Hardin
W. F. Wilkinson
J. T. Diamond, Supt.
H. W. Thompson, Chm.
S. G. Collins
B. D. Whitmire
Walker D. Willis S. F. Fulghum & Co.
The inscription over the entrance reads:
Santa Rosa County
Graded and High School
They who built here built well for that building is still being fully
When Mr. Diamond was Santa Rosa County's Superintendent of Public Instruction
(before the building of Santa Rosa Graded and High School building),
there were 84 separate schools in Santa Rosa County. Santa Rosa County
then included about one-half the area now included in Okaloosa (Blackwater)
County, which was created in 1912. Mr. Diamond visited all of those
schools regularly. (Remember, too, this was back during "horse and buggy"
days.) However, Mr. Diamond, like his predecessor, Mr. McDaniel, kept
talking up consolidation and compulsory attendance. Alike to Mr. McDaniel
and to Mr. Diamond should go much of the credit for the stable foundation
upon which the Santa Rosa County's system of public schools (one of
the very best in the whole state) was built.
It remained for Mr. Diamond's successors to continue the uphill battle
for better Santa Rosa County schools; while he went to a position as
Executive Secretary to the Florida State Board of Control, which had
the supervision of Florida's system of institutions of higher learning.
Mr. Diamond was succeeded in the office of Superintendent of Public
Instruction of Santa Rosa County by Mr. J. D. Smith, Jr., who also had
a close intimate knowledge of Santa Rosa County's system of free public
Mr. Smith, in turn, continued the fight for consolidation of the small
schools of Santa Rosa County. He made a real start towards such consolidation
when he held meetings in one community (evening meetings with basket
dinners and free movies, in themselves quite an innovation in that rural
community) with the result a petition for a consolidation and a building
bond issue. (Don't get the idea for even a moment that there was no
opposition to such a move, for some of the "old timers" opposed right
"down to the wire.")
However, the "ground was broken" and consolidation was really to begin
Mr. Smith was succeeded in office by Mr. Raymond B. Hobbs, (another
already experienced in the school system of Santa Rosa County) who "took
the ball and really ran with it." He organized communities over the
whole county, in a really "political campaign" manner. The result was
that petitions for creation of "special tax bond" districts sprouted
up all over. Elections began to be called with a clocklike regularity;
almost everyone voted the consolidation and the required bond issue.
The fact that Allentown (for some time known as the Santa Rosa Agricultural
High School) had made the consolidation and building move successfully,
made it much easier for the next units, desiring such consolidation
and building, to achieve success.
Chumuckla, Juniper, Springhill, Harold, Holley, Fidelis, Jay, McLellan,
Munson, Wallace, Bagdad, Crossroads followed in a rather rapid order
as Consolidated Special Tax Districts and most of those also constructed
masonry buildings. Most of these consolidations and bond issues were
during the years 1924-1926 and during the administration of Mr. Raymond
B. Hobbs as superintendent.
It was also during this same administration that Berryhill, the first
purely elementary school, was built in Milton. This relieved and released
the Santa Rosa County High School building at Milton for purely high
Santa Rosa County Teachers Institute held August 29, 1917 at the
former Milton High School on Canal Street. Among those pictured
are: A.D. McCall, Mrs. Bessie McCall, Martha McCall Alford, John
Diamond, Ruby Robinson, J.D. Smith, Chafin Jernigan, Sidney McCall,
Cecil Johnson, Clyde Whitmire, Agnes Stewart, Ross Bass, Ruby Watson
Diamond, Lilly Burnett, Frank Simmons, Myra Bergamy, Claudia Bergamy,
and A.D. Kean.
- During the ensuing years, following the construction of the Santa
Rosa County Graded and High School, these men administered the affairs
of (now) Milton High School:
- Professor A. D. Kean, 1915-1917
- Professor M. M. Bryant, 1917-1918
- Professor H. S. Bowden, 1918-1921
- Professor L. K. Sims, 1921-1922
- Professor C. C. Garris, 1922-1924
- Professor S. A. Draper, 1924-1928
- Professor Ira S. Johnson, 1928-1935
- Professor M. V. White, 1935-1938
- Professor N. 0. Smyth, 1938-1940
- Professor D. R. Allen, 1940-1941
- Professor Raymond B. Hobbs, 1941-1943
- Professor N. 0. Smyth, 1943-1950
- Professor T. G. Vaughn, 1950-1952
- Professor John H. Russell, 1952-1953
The beginning of the 1953-1954 term saw the building, Milton High School,
converted to elementary use as Canal Street School, while the high school
pupils attended the new high school site on Stewart Street. Mr. Russell
continued as the high school principal until 1959 when he was succeeded
by Mr. John Southwell. Mr. Southwell was followed by Mr. John D. Perry,
and his successor was Mr. James Cook, who is presently serving in that
The amazing retrospect of the whole thing is how the leaders of that
day had the nerve, the foresight, and courage to go into such an ambitious
program in view of the impending economic crisis of that time. It was
politically suicidal for Mr. Hobbs whose failure in his bid for reelection
has been attributed to his program of consolidation and construction.
Mr. Hobbs was succeeded in the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
by Mr. J. C. Word who had moved into the Jay area of the county from
the east central area of Alabama. He had served as teacher and principal
of schools in his native county and continued to do the same in this
county. He came to the county superintendency directly from the Jay
High School system and his was one of a long string of elections and
reelections to that office from the Jay area.
Mr. Word inherited a completely consolidated and rebuilt Santa Rosa
County school system, and at the same time he inherited the greatest
bond indebtedness that it could have been possible to have levied upon
the county in those days.
He inherited several other conditions which would have tested the mettle
of any man seeking or holding that office at that time. Among such conditions
were: the almost complete exhaustion of the major natural resource of
the county (long-leaf-yellow pine timber), and the resultant closing
of most of the sawmills, turpentine places, and shipyards; the ravages
of the cotton boll-weevil which almost shut off, for a time, the cotton
production of the county; and the national and worldwide movement of
the economy of the whole world towards a major depression and a second
In retrospect, again, it is no small wonder that Mr. Word was able
to do as well as he did. His should probably be considered the supreme
effort when compared to either his predecessors or his successors. It
was during his administration that the unfriendly attitude of a governor
and a governor-led legislature reached its climax. Funds, even for the
payment of the then meager teachers' salaries were not to be had; maintenance
funds came to be non-existent; interest and sinking fund payments lagged
behind, delinquent in many of the special-tax districts.
Mr. Word negotiated several refinancing measures for districts that
were delinquent. Allentown, Harold, Milton, Mulat were about the only
ones never delinquent in either interest or sinking fund. Court orders
were issued for new millage assessments in some districts. Faced with
seemingly impossible situations, he usually came up with some sort of
satisfactory solution to the problems.
Interest-bearing coupon warrants were issued to teachers in lieu of
the "yellow script" that had been issued as certificates of indebtedness
for past due salaries. Progress, it is true, was nearly nil, but the
wonder of the whole thing was that schools operated at least part time.
The Federal Government's "Make Work" projects during this period in
the county included all the "new" school construction during this period:
the rebuilding of the Jay High School, the building of some additions
at Allentown Berryhill, and a gymnasium at Milton.
Mr. Word was succeeded in the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction,
Santa Rosa County, by Mr. W. B. Gross, who came to that position from
the principalship of Jay High School. He, too, had come to the Jay area
from the same east central Alabama area as had his predecessor, Mr.
Word. His two terms in that office were largely concerned, locally,
of maintaining the "status quo" of legal requirements and paying of
the rather immense "back-logs" of short term indebtedness. However,
during his administration a better feeling toward free public schools
had been building up over the whole state and in Santa Rosa County.
Some people, at least, were beginning to show some measures of appreciation
towards the large group of devoted and dedicated public school teachers,
who had kept a semblance of an organized free public school system in
operation -- mostly without pay -- during the badly depressed years.
The governor had appointed a state-wide committee to study and make
recommendations to the committees of the legislature in order to prepare
them to pass the legislation necessary for revitalizing the Florida
state free public school system.
Mr. Gross was succeeded to the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction,
Santa Rosa County, by Mr. Charles F. Morris, who although born in Alabama
(Brantley) had grown up, had his elementary, high school, and college
education in Florida (his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the University
of Florida). Mr. Morris had begun his professional career at DeLand,
then principal at Allentown High School, Jay High School, and finally
was elected to the office of County Superintendent of Public Instruction,
from the principalship of, yes, you guessed it, Jay High School.
Mr. Morris served two successive terms and it was during his terms
in office that the now well-known Minimum Foundation Program for Florida
Schools was implemented, was put into operation, and the children of
Santa Rosa County began to reap the benefit from the wise legislation
contained within that "package" of legislation.
The Minimum Foundation Program for Florida Schools provided for supervisors
of instruction and Mr. Raymond B. Hobbs succeeded Mr. J. S. Rozier,
who had served as County Supervisor of Instruction under earlier legislation.
Later Mr. A. D. McCall succeeded Mr. Hobbs as General Supervisor of
Instruction and brought to the system the advantages of his years of
experience in the public schools within Santa Rosa County.*
Mr. Morris was succeeded in the office of Superintendent of Public
Instruction by Mr. Radford M. Locklin, born, reared, and educated in
Santa Rosa County, and the University of Florida, not to mention educational
experience in the General Staff College of the United States Army. Mr.
Locklin, therefore, brought with him to the office of county superintendent
a background of administrative training and experience. His experience
and skill has been a telling factor in his successful administration
up to this date.
*(Mr. McCall, upon retirement in 1966, was succeeded by Mr. S. S. Dixon,
former principal of Pace Elementary School.)
CALHOUN SCHOOL (Built in 1916)
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