First School Graduations in Early Panola County 1835-1889
By Vina Lee
March 30, 1846, the Texas legislature established Panola County from parts of Shelby and Harrison counties. The 1850 US census reported about 2,700 people in the county and four public schools, where four teachers taught seventy-nine pupils.
The little town of Bethany, on the extreme eastern edge of Panola County founded around 1840 as the small village of Vernon had one log store, a tavern, a grain mill run by water, Post Office and a tan yard. Bethany was a day's travel from Shreveport on one of the old roads used by settlers from Alabama, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana. Some of the oldest settlers were Dr. and Mrs. White and Mrs. White taught the first school there before the private tutors were used. One of the first school houses was located west between the present town of Clayton and the Roquemore and J. R. Jarrell farms sometime between 1835 and 1845. About 1876 a Baptist College was located on the present school ground in a two story log building they built.
Fairplay, one of the oldest communities in Panola county west of the Sabine River, with the exception of Grand Bluff and Clayton has the oldest school. Each village that wanted a school built a house and took a subscription for a school. The first school house near the Old Williams Cemetery was a log house with a dirt chimney and plank floor. The first school was taught in it some time between 1835 and 1847. It served as church and school building until 1868. Mattie Trigg was teaching there when it burned down one night. In Beckville, just about eight miles from airplay, the first school was built in 1889 taught by Beulah and Bertha Kirkley.
During this period in history, most young people were working on the farms, walking to school or riding a mule if they had one. By the time they were twelve years old, they were considered to be a man or woman. Some of these girls became teachers in the one room school houses of Panola's early history. We don't know when there was a "first" graduation, but by 1900, Carthage had a school for "higher learning" which was refer to as "high school."
It was called the Panola Male and Female College founded by L. C. Libby. Some of the pioneer educators were Proffessor Grey; Mrs. Forstson; Proffessor Rucks; Proffessor Scroggs and Mrs. Demetra Hill, who caught in the building that is the present site of Brookshire's store. Proffessor Chatham was also postmaster at one time and Proffessor Carswell and Mrs. Maurine Frazier Duke, a sister of Proffessor Libby.