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Era of James F. McBride
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“Seest thou a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men.”
About October 1, 1888 Mr. and Mrs. James F. McBride arrived to take charge of the work as superintendent and matron. Their arrival was the occasion of another joyful meeting on the part of the colored people who came to see the “suptender, and express their great joy over the new start that was to be given the school.”
Mrs. McBride at a later date, referring to the appearance of things on the day of their arrival at this, their new home, wrote:
“I can still see how the old log house looked as we drove up; so dilapidated. A broken down porch ran along the front of it, and we had to climb over an old rail fence to get to it. Our first meal was corn bread made with water-without salt-and stewed dried peaches.”
When the school opened they were assisted by Miss Carrie Peck, Celestine Hodges and Mary Grundy.
A new era was now inaugurated in the management of the school. Ownership as yet extended only to the farm buildings, which consisted of the old log house, and barn, purchased from Robin Clark, and the new school building. The first effort was now made to utilize two small fields of cleared land and the neighboring timber to raise stock and crops for the local support of the school.
In 1889 a commodious Girls’ Hall was built having ample facilities for carrying and boarding a considerable number of students. The enjoyment of anything like ordinary home comforts on the part of the teachers began with the occupancy of this building. It became the home of the family of the superintendent, teachers and the girls; and the old log house was fitted up for occupancy by the boys. An additional room was also added to the school building.
As the patronage of the school increased Mr. McBride felt there was need for a suitable Boys’ Hall. He made the plans for it and, enlisting the interest of the women of Indiana, they provided the money for it. On January 29, 1892, after three and one half years of faithful service and before his hopes could be realized by merely starting the work on the new building, his death occurred and the progress of the improvement work was again arrested.
Mr. McBride was educated at Hanover, Indiana, and had previously taught in several other schools. He was an active Christian worker and had been ordained a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church. He anticipated the future needs of the school by planting fruit trees that, during these later years, have borne bountiful crops of fruit.
The other assistants of Mr. McBride were Mary Coffland, principal in 1889 and assistant principal 1890 to 1892; Miss Priscilla G. Haymaker, who returned to serve as principal in 1890 and continued until 1896. Other assistants were Anna McBride, Bettie Stewart, colored, and Rilla Fields who served from the fall of 1891 to the spring of 1895.
During the next eight months the management of the institution devolved upon Mrs. McBride; and she continued to serve as matron until the spring of 1899, a period of eleven years. She gave to this institution many of her best years for service, and the best work of her life. She became specially interested in a number of young people at Oak Hill and aided them to attend other schools of our Board. She is now living at Coalgate, Oklahoma.
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