Booker T. Washington School Origins

The Booker T. Washington School and the Elysian Fields Colored School

Elysian Fields, Harrison County, Texas

Thomas Speir, 2016

The origins of the original settlement of Elysian Fields (Old Town) can possibly be traced to a store owned by Edward Smith who migrated to Texas in September 1837. Documentation of the community can be found in a record from February 1840, a Congressional act which referred to Elysian Fields on a mail route established between San Augustine and Port Caddo. (Tiller 2012) The community, like most of Harrison County, was settled predominantly by residents of the southern United States.  These people duplicated the slaveholding, cotton-plantation society they had known before moving to Texas. By 1850 the Harrison County had more slaves than any other in the state, a distinction that it maintained through the next decade. (Campbell 2010)

The first official Elysian Fields Colored School was a two room building erected in Old Town Elysian Fields, near the current location of the Elysian Fields Baptist Church on Old Town Road.  It was constructed about 1870, five years after the Civil War. This is testimony to the dedication the freed slaves in Harrison County and Elysian Fields in particular had to the value of education. This school was a combined elementary school and high school, as were the subsequent schools.  It stayed at this location for forty-one years.

In 1910 the entire community of Elysian Fields elected to move from its original location at the intersection of FM 451 and Old Town Road, to its current location in order to take advantage of a newly laid stretch of the Marshall and East Texas Railway. (Speir 2009, Volume 7)  A year later, in 1911, the Elysian Fields Colored School was moved closer to the new site of Elysian Fields to the current site of the Elysian Fields Elementary School, retaining the name of the Elysian Fields Colored School.

On March 5, 1954 the Elysian Fields School Board renamed the Elysian Fields Colored School to the Booker T. Washington School, in honor of the famous educator Booker T. Washington, one of the foremost African-American leaders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and founder of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, now known as Tuskegee University. (Editors 2015)

The Elysian Fields Colored School(s) existed for 84 years (1870 – 1954) and the Booker T. Washington School existed for 16 years (1954 - 1970).  In 1970, the 100th year anniversary of the founding of the old Elysian Fields Colored School, all Elysian Fields schools were totally integrated, thus marking the end of 100 years of segregated schools in this small community in southern Harrison County.  In 1970 the Elysian Fields Independent School District board turned the existing Booker T. Washington School into the Elysian Fields Elementary School. 

There currently exists in the entrance lobby of the Elysian Fields Elementary School a plaque that reads: Educational opportunities for Elysian Fields Colored School and Booker T. Washington provided to African American children from 1911 to 1970 on this site. Plaque presented by Elysian Fields Independent School District and Board of Trustees on June 28, 2009.

Within the 100 years of history of the schools, the African-American students that made up Elysian Fields Colored School and the Booker T. Washington School came from multiple communities near Elysian Fields.  (Stephens 2016)   The original Elysian Fields Colored School was erected near the present site of the Elysian Fields Baptist Church on Old Town Road (South) and stood until 1911, when the school was moved to the site that would later become Booker T. Washington.

The Elysian Fields (Colored) High School (part of the combined school) had a sports team called the “Tigers”.  The Elysian Fields (White) High School named their sports team the “Yellow Jackets”, a name the Elysian Fields High School still uses today.

Mt. Pleasant, Oak Grove, Central Springs, Pine Hill, Strickland Springs, Shady Point, Sunny Point and Oak Hill were locations of other “colored schools” that existed in the area until 1947-1948, and then were consolidated into the Elysian Fields Colored School.  These “colored schools” operated under the Elysian Fields County Line Rural School System (referred to as the Board), which converted to the Elysian Fields Independent School District in April 1954.

The first noted teachers of Elysian Fields Colored School were Mr. Durant, who taught from 1871-1878 and Jordan Williams from 1890-1893.  V. Cox, Isam Spears, Jim Brown, C. A. Dudley, W. J. Brown and Mr. Oakey were noted principals who served from 1893-1910.  In 1910, Jesse D. Spears, Sr. was hired to teach and serve as principal at the two room school.  It is noteworthy that Jesse D. Spears, Jr. followed in his father’s teaching footsteps in 1948.

In 1939, the Elysian Fields County Line Rural School Board designated the Elysian Fields Colored School as a two-year high school.  At that time, an extra room was built and an extra teacher, Richard Anderson, was hired at $40 per month.  Also, in 1939, the Board restricted bus drivers from “letting Negroes ride in the school buses during the school term.”

In 1940, the Board authorized a removable partisan between two rooms at the “negro school.”  Annie B. Hamilton and Estelle Osborn were hired to teach at Oak Hill Colored School.  Clyte (Spears) Anderson and Vivian Smith were hired at Elysian Fields Colored School.  The Board voted to equalize the “Negro teachers’ salaries, making each $45 per month.”  In 1941, J. D. Sanford was hired as principal.  Mr. Dewitt Suber was hired that same year as janitor at the “white school” for $30 per month. 

In 1941, just prior to the beginning of World War II, the Board hired “…Mr. Mathis to cut out a pattern for Negroes school seats and (for) the Negroes (to) make them…” In 1943, W. G. Thomas was hired as principal.  In 1945, the Board hired Mrs. Annie B. Hamilton as Principal and teacher at Mt. Pleasant Colored School and Emma Lattimore as teacher.  This school was combined with the Elysian Fields Colored School three years later.  In 1947, J. G. Chatman was hired as principal of the Elysian Fields Colored School and Claude Daniels was hired as a teacher.

On July 3, 1948, Professor D. H. Fluellen came and assumed the duties as principle of the Elysian Fields Colored School. The Board voted to move the Mt. Pleasant, Oak Grove, and Oak Hill school buildings on to the Elysian Fields Colored School grounds, consolidating all of those schools.

A contract was entered with the B&D House Moving Contractors to move those school buildings.  Additional land was purchased from R.B Anderson, while other land was donated by the J.B. Furrh estate.  At the beginning of the new school year on September 6, 1948, the Elysian Fields Colored School was home to 500 students and 15 teachers. (History of the Elysian Fields School 1950)  

Ray Marshall was hired to teach health, physical education and drive a bus.  In addition, Estella Osborne was hired to teach primary, Helen Johnson 2nd/3rd grade, Emma Lattimore 4th/5th grade, Ophelia Hatten, English 5th-8th grades, Creacy B. Leary, English and Spanish, Lemma L. Wallace, Home Economics, and as aforementioned, Mr. Spears was hired to teach History.  Also, in 1948, the Board hired Mrs. Hamilton at the Elysian Fields Colored School as principal of the elementary school. 

In 1949, the Board appointed Mr. Ray Marshall to serve as principal of the elementary and moved Mrs. Hamilton to teach classes at the high school.  In addition, Henry Sanders was hired to coach and teach Science at the high school.  He started and coached the first football team and assumed the coaching responsibilities of the existing boys’ basketball team.  Mr. Claude Daniels coached the high school girls’ basketball team, and Mr. Ray Marshall coached elementary.

In 1951, the first bell system was installed at the “colored school” for $56.36.  Roy Marshall was hired to teach Agriculture.  In 1952, the Board changed the bus route along Highway 79 from Lather’s yard to the Tank Farm Road, affecting children going to Carthage, DeBerry and Elysian Fields Schools.  Students who desired to attend Elysian Fields were picked up by DeBerry’s bus drivers, dropped off at DeBerry School and picked up and dropped back off by the Elysian Fields School.

On March 5, 1954 the Elysian Fields School Board was made up of Annie B. Hamilton, Henry Sanders, Mabel Benton, Ray Marshall, Estelle Osborne, Zenobia Watson, Emma Lattimore, and D. H. Fluellen.  They renamed the Elysian Fields School Colored School to Booker T. Washington School.  A new building was opened for Booker T. Washington School in August of 1956 and it was located on FM 451 where the Elysian Fields Elementary School still stands in the year 2016.

The Elysian Fields School Board decided that the Booker T. Washington School would operate on a “split session, beginning July of 1954, teaching for six (6) weeks and then dismissing for the harvesting of crops.”  Additionally, In August of 1956, a Texas State law required all children who are six (6) years of age by September 1, must start attending school.

In 1955, the Board did not re-employ Claude Daniels, Mabel Benton and Estelle Osborne because of the low attendance at Booker T.  However, in 1956, attendance had risen to 325, and the Board hired Earl English and Louise Wilson.  By August 1956, the Booker T. Washington School had a new building, for which the faculty sent a letter to the Board “expressing their appreciation for the new school building.”

Mr. Fluellen asked the Board for bleachers to go into the gym but was told to use the portable bleacher on the football field in the gym.  In 1957, Noble Bowman, A. D. Anderson and Noma Lee Johnson were hired.

On March 11, 1958, the Elysian Fields School Board and DeBerry School Board met to discuss the consolidation of the two districts into one – the Elysian Fields School District.  The students attending the nearby DeBerry School were comprised of residents of DeBerry, Panola County, Texas and Bethany, Caddo Parish, Louisiana.   The Boards decided that the school would permit students who transferred to Carthage to continue until graduation and Bethany children from the Louisiana side would be able to attend the consolidated school.  The DeBerry community fought against the consolidation. 

On July 7, 1958, Stephens Alexander was moved up to be principle of DeBerry School where Victoria Davis has once been the Principle.  In 1959, the Board adopted a resolution of consolidation of DeBerry and Elysian Fields School Districts, with consolidation occurring in 1960. The consolidation of the two school districts was to take place in the fall of 1961. 

 Many of the DeBerry Colored School teachers were hired by the Elysian Fields School District, including Ollie B. Hodge-Lester, Verdie Hall and Stephen Alexander.  Mr. Alexander became the Assistant Principal at Booker T. Washington.  In 1959, the Board approved the first senior trip.  In 1960, the Board approved an addition onto the Booker T. Washington School because of the consolidation with the DeBerry School.

In 1960, after approving the consolidation of the two school districts the Elysian Fields School Board approved adding another building to the Booker T. Washington School campus due to the increased student population at Booker T. Washington.  The sole Principal to oversee the Booker T. Washington School from 1954 to 1970 was Mr. D. H. Fluellen.  The 1970 – 1971 School year was the start of something new….the first full year for the newly integrated Elysian Fields Independent School District.
(ISD n.d.)

 On January 3, 1965, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law, which required integration of all public schools.  Elysian Fields, while fighting against desegregation, offered a Desegregation Plan of voluntary transfer to the “school of choice plan.”  In 1965 the first African-American students enrolled and attended Elysian Fields (White) School. Thus, in 1965, Marva Sue Anderson, daughter of Ruben “Buss” and Sarah Anderson volunteered to transfer to Elysian Fields in the 9th grade and graduated in 1969.  Hubert Staten, son of Ruben Staten and Gloria Anderson Staten and grandson of Ruben “Buss” and Sarah Anderson transferred to Elysian Fields school in the 3rd grade and graduated in 1974. 

Five faculty members, who started their career at Elysian Fields Colored School through Booker T. Washington, went on to the Elysian Fields School.  They were Mr. and Mrs. Fluellen, Mr. Sanders, Mr. Spears and Mr. Ray Marshall; Mr. Fluellen served as the Junior High (Middle School) Principal and the designated principal to address the disciplinary issues of all black students at the high school.  Mr. Sanders later retired as the High School Principal of Elysian Fields School. (Ruben 2016)



Sources Cited


Campbell, Randolph B. Handbook of Texas Online, "Harrison County". June 15, 2010. (accessed September 16, 2016).

Editors, Booker T. Washington Biography. February 24, 2015. (accessed August 26, 2016).

"History of the Elysian Fields School." The Tiger, Yearbook of the Elysian Fields High School. Elysian Fields I.S.D., 1950.

ISD, Elysian Fields. A Brief History of the Elysian Fields Colored School and Booker T. Washington. n.d. (accessed August 16, 2016).

Speir, Thomas E. "A Preliminary Archeological Study of "Old Town" Elysian Fields, Texas." The Steward, 2009, Volume 7: 39-71.

Stephens, Julian. BTW School data (personal email). August 13, 2016.

Tiller, Jim. Handbook of Texas Online, "Elysian Fields [Old Town], TX". May 22, 2012. (accessed September 16, 2016).