100-year-old school records shed light on area residents

Published 8:42 am Monday, July 30, 2012

1930 Chelsea School eighth and ninth grade students pictured above include C. W. Chesser, Paul Nivens, Edgar Vanzant, Lewis Crane, Alan Chesser, Paulene Moore, Donna Kendrick, Verna Kendrick, Lallage Kendrick, Ozelle Kendrick, Gladys Niven, Gertrude Gilbert, Gracie Lee Shirley, Lorene Mooney, James Curtis (teacher), Buelah Helms, Myrtle Kendrick, Melvin Moore, Max or Collis Holcombe, Rosie Harper, Lois Kendrick, Autanzie Vick, Pearlene Duncan, Irene Minor. (contributed)

By SHELBA NIVENS / Community Columnist

Harold Griffin, local amateur historian and researcher, recently brought me copies of some early Chelsea area school census records, which he’d copied several years ago at the Shelby County Historical Society.

To my surprise, I found some of my own family members — Gibsons — at Mt. Chapel School 100 years ago.

Mt. Chapel was located behind Griffin’s childhood homeplace this side of Simsville Mountain from old Deerhearst. There was also a church and graveyard there, he said.

I recall visiting relatives as a child at a log cabin in Deerhearst. But I didn’t know the main road from Chelsea to Pelham ran across the mountain past the cabin.

Quite likely, some of my ancestors walked across the mountain, or rode in a wagon, to school and church at Mt. Chapel.

Other students in 1912 included children of J. L. Mooney, J. R. Moore, H. R. Carter, G. W. Shaw, E. M. Kirklin, J. W., M. O. and G. W. Stone, J. W. and W. J. Minor.

Four children of John H. Minor were listed, including 11-year-old Wilford, Griffin’s father-in-law.

1912 census records contain a long list of students at Chelsea school. It includes children of S. P. Williamson, T. B. Holcomb, G. H. and Laura Weldon, C. W. and Emma Blackerby, J. L. and Lulia Nivens, W. F. and Susie Wilder, J. D. and Ella Isbell, W. F. Adams’ son Clyde, as well as children from the Simmons, Helms, Brasher, Mulkey, Armstrong, Parker, Miller and other families.

The late Dovie Crane Chesser, grandmother of June Marie Niven, recalled a two-story school building in Chelsea, where her eldest son Frank Jr. began first grade. It was located across the railroad from Chesser and Weldon stores, “about where Autry’s apartments are now,” she told me. “But it burned around 1913.”

Evidently, this old two-story building is where the school census was taken 100 years ago.

Griffin’s research on history of the Chelsea area includes other records on the above early schools as well as those at Wilder Hill, K-Springs, Yellow Leaf, East Saginaw and McGowen.


Shelba Nivens can be reached by email at Shelbasn@juno.com.