Sunday, February 5, 2023THE SIVELLS BEND SCHOOLThe first schooling and instruction of the settlers’ children in Sivells Bend was done in the homes as the families began to move into the area in the latter 1850's and 1860's. Many homes had included books, music, a piano or organ, family portraits, and the Bible in their household goods.
The first school classes were held in a small log building at the foot of Sivells Bend hill on Dillard land in the 1870's. It was a summer term taught by Miss Mollie Miller, a Baptist preacher's daughter. The second school was also a private school on the J.B. Stone farm. It was taught by Miss Martha Dillard, Judge Dillard's niece. The pupils were Bell Hunter (Neal), Mollie A. Dillard, a sister of the teacher, Jennie Weaver (Gordon), Horace Gunter, Lillian Gunter, Joe Nix, Henry Hearendon, Charlie Alien and Tom Dillard, Judge Dillard's son.
The first public school was in a large two-story building erected by the Gunters on the present school site in 1880. A Masonic Lodge facility was on the top floor, the lower floor served as a Methodist Church building and was used for day school classes. This building burned in 1883. Some of the first teachers were W.P. Petty, Joe Barnett and Miss Mary Brinkley. Bill Brinbury was the teacher at the time the school house burned.
After the School Law of 1884 was passed by the Texas Legislature, Sivells Bend became the second school in Cooke County to have the school district identified by the county, Sept 15, 1884. A petition of twenty taxpayers was necessary for an election supporting a school tax. The district boundary description contained 14,511 acres, approved by the County Commissioners. Per capita apportionment was $4.50 per student from the state.
The School Law of 1884 also provided that the available school fund for any one year could be used for building a school house when the site was donated. Also the law provided that the citizens of the community contributed in labor or in money an amount at least equal to the school fund.
Addison Yancy Gunter of Sivells Bend served in the Texas Legislature in 1884-85 and could have been instrumental in the early progress of public education at Sivells Bend. Requirements were to be met to receive the available apportionments. Subjects to be taught included orthography (spelling), reading in English, penmanship, arithmetic, English grammar, modern geography and composition. There was to be no racial discrimination and separate schools for whites and colored were mandatory.
In 1897, a separate school was established for colored children called Sivells Bend #2, with enrollment of eleven. It was only a three month school taught by Miss R.M. Douglas who also taught at Walnut Bend the three month fall term. The school continued until 1905. Trustees for the colored school were J.C. Pace, Albert Dillard and Burney Smith
By 1897 the enrollment at Sivells Bend #1 had risen to ninety seven students and the school tax was $.20/$100. Teachers for the 1894 term were W.C. Jordan, whose salary was $70 per month, and Miss Dora Lay at $60. The Sivells Bend School term was first a seven month term, later eight months. The grades included first through eight grades and in the thirties extended to nine grades and a nine month term.
Some of the school board members in the early 1900's were Dr.S.A. Greever, Joe Dillard, Dr. R.H. Harrison,
E.G. Giddens, H.C. Long and C.W. Links. In 1908, E.R.Blackburn was the County School Superintendent. 116 children were on the school census although they were not required to attend classes. In 1920, a new two-room school was built. Two of the board members at that time were C.H. Bush and Milous Baugh.
Several other schools were established in the outlying areas of the Sivells Bend School District in the early 1900's. Mr. H.C. Long donated one acre near the Cohee Grave yard in 1905 to the trustees of the Cohee School House, which later became High Point Baptist Church. Other schools were Red River, Fish Creek, Loving, Warrens Bend and Hickman. These were necessary as the population increased. As transportation improved the schools were consolidated with the Sivells Bend School.
Students who attended high school usually had to board in Gainesville as the distance was too far and too difficult to travel daily. Vin Morris, Jr. told that Sivells Bend tried to have a bus to Gainesville in the thirties but the roads were so rough and the bus broke down so many times, it was abandoned. Some of the families went together to buy a Model A and the boys took turns driving to Gainesville High School. Some of them were Vin Morris, Joe D. (Dutch) Dillard and Granville O'Brien.
A large part of the Sivells Bend School District was included in the Camp Howze area in 1942. Only the North East part of the district was left intact. Many families were moved out, the outlying areas used for the infantry and artillery training grounds for the Army Camp. The citizens had to drive through the army camp installation to get to Gainesville. Thurman Ward was the bus driver in 1942-43 for the students transferring to Gainesville High School. He was a senior at the High School.
After the Camp Howze army camp was dismantled, the school board bought a large barracks building from the Government for $180 in 1948 and moved it to the school at the cost of $740. It was joined to the existing two room structure and served as an auditorium and was also used as a community gathering place.
A Community Improvement Club was organized in 1951. With the war years behind and materials becoming available the patrons could see the need for school improvements and remodeling the teacherage on the school grounds. Electricity had been installed in 1948 as the REA extended service and a good well was dug. The citizens were apprehensive about the cost, however, and many rumors were circulated that the district would be burdened with bonded indebtedness. The Sivells Bend School Board called a community meeting to explain the building plans and the means of financing after careful study with the County School Superintendent, Hubert Moss, and of the property valuation of the school district. J.E. Pybas was chosen as spokesman to present the project. Since the valuation of the district had been increased by the number of producing oil wells, enough money would be available by increasing the school tax to $1.00 for two years from the existing rate of $.50. It would then be reduced with no long term indebtedness incurred.
The patrons were satisfied and by the fall of 1953, the school and teacherage were remodeled at the cost of $14,241. Indoor restrooms were installed, hardwood floors laid throughout, a stage and new stage curtain, venetian blinds, new lighting, new desks and propane heating were added.
In November of 1953, the community held a celebration and open house to honor the school board members. A barbecue supper was attended by 300 patrons and guests, proud of the achievement. Board members in the early fifties were, Joe D. Dillard, Rufus Lynch, H.E. McElreath, J.T. Cole, D. A. Thompson, Wm. H. Howell, J.E. Pybas, Thurman Ward, and Elmo Wilson.
In 1957, a lunch room-cafeteria was built to the delight of students and mothers alike. The first cooks were Mrs. M.P. Russell and Mrs. Betty Richey who made good use of the new school commodities and the school lunch program.
In the mid-sixties, Moss Lake, which was to be a city reservoir, was built in the Sivells Bend School District. As a result, many houses were built around the lake for week-enders as well as for permanent residents. The school enjoyed new enrollment and a knowledge that it would remain constant. Many of the persons commuted to jobs in the county or in Denton or as far away as Dallas. The rural climate was attractive, however, and the educational opportunity excellent.
1973 was an unsettling time when bills were before the Texas Legislature to consolidate all schools with fewer than 1500 students and also doing away with the County Superintendents and Common School Districts. Many patrons went to Austin to oppose the adoption of this bill. Mrs. J.E. Pybas, with children in the Sivells Bend School, was the spokesperson for the North Texas area Small Schools organization, testifying before the Senate Education Committee and the House Education Committee opposing the bills. There were so many citizens attending the hearings, the large crowds made it necessary to hold the committee meetings on the House Floor of the Capitol instead of in Committee Rooms. The consolidation bill was not passed but Sivells Bend School district held an election to become an independent school.
Many more improvements have come to Sivells Bend with the building of a gymnasium in the 1970's and many other improvements and additions in the 1980's, arranging existing space for four classrooms instead of two, beginning the computer classes and special education classes, a new library building as mandated by the State.Submitted for Publication by Mrs. Barbara Pybas
Composed in 1992.