Walker County African-American education history remembered at Marsh House

Walker County African-American education history remembered at Marsh House

February 28th, 2013 by Katie Ward in Local Regional News

LaFayette native Hubert Marsh continues to help preserve the rich history of Walker County.

He met with Hill High School alumnae Alma Benton and Betty Aiken at the Marsh House during a Walker County Historical Society meeting Sunday, Feb. 24 along with Walker County Historical Society president David P. Boyle. The purpose of the meeting was to collect African-American education-related historical documents and facts for an exhibit at the Marsh House.

"The first school for blacks was in my grandfather's home. [that of] Ed Marsh, who was the son of Wiley Marsh, who was born [at the Marsh House] as a slave," said Hubert Marsh. "The city [then called Chattooga and later LaFayette] started a school system for blacks in the churches. There was one in the Bronco area of town, one in Kensington and one in West Armuchee. The one I knew the most about was the Hickory Hill School in the Naomi community at Mount Zion Church."

He said Walker County funded Hickory School, which operated from 1915 to the late 1930s. It was a one-room schoolhouse building with one teacher for all ages. There was no lunchroom, so students brought their own lunch from home.

He said the North Georgia Industrial Institute was later started by 25 churches in the Northwest Georgia Baptist Association. It was a private school that costed 75 cents per quarter.

Hubert Marsh personally attended Hill High School that had grades 1-12. The school was open from 1951-1967.

"It was a smooth transition to LaFayette High with no problems," said Marsh of his transfer as a junior. "The teachers worked hard to help with a good transition. The fall of 1967 is when I transferred to LaFayette High. The year before that, in the fall of 1966, Hill High students could transfer and three students did, but I stayed one more year at Hill High School."

He said attending Hill High School was equally a positive experience. He remembers having an assembly every Friday where the young men wore sports coats and ties. He said the educators at Hill High taught him to look his best at all times.

"When I was at Hill High the whole school was 350 to 400 students in 1-12th grades," said Marsh. "Hill High School was at the corner of Steele and Culberson streets in LaFayette. I could walk home for lunch from Hill High to my house on Chattanooga Street. Spencer Marsh of the Marsh House gave my great-grandfather Wiley Marsh the land that our house was built on. My dad was born in that house and I was born in that house."

Boyle said the Walker County Historical Society likes to recognize the African-American history of the county, particularly in February for Black History Month.

"It would not be Walker County without African-American history," said Boyle. "Spencer Marsh brought several African-Americans here with him before he set up his property when he was acquiring businesses. LaFayette was 20 to 30 percent African-American in the early days from the 1830s to 1850s with a total [black and white] population of 200 to 400 people. LaFayette was a village. The town limits were one mile from the courthouse. People lived in the LaFayette Square area."