Early Schools in Dublin
By Frank Chamberlain
The first school classes to be taught in Dublin began in 1858*, a few years after the first settlers began arriving. By this time, there was a sizable population of children in the area, especially after the arrival of the large O’Neal and Keith families. These first classes were held in the home of the original Dublin schoolteacher, Mrs. Sarah Keith O’Neal. About 35 students attended her classes for the tuition of a dollar and a half for three months worth of education. (Prior to 1869, there was no centralized public education system in Texas, and no state funding allocated to schools.) These classes were held in a local residence. If anybody needed this house to live in, the classes were moved outside under the liveoaks. She taught for a short time before becoming the assistant to the new teacher, “Uncle” Jim Keith. His classes were held inside a primitive log cabin, and were attended by “everybody, big and little, old and young.” Keith was known as a popular teacher who frequently donned a pair of pistols to accompany students to and from the school to ward against possible Indian threats. A number of other teachers followed him, generally teaching a few months before moving on [Arthur (Dublin Shamrock News (date unknown), Eoff 177, 180; Lattimore14-16; Westphal 142].
The first public school in Dublin opened in 1876**. The classes were held in the same building that housed the church and the Masonic lodge. By 1882, there were three schools operating in Dublin due to divisions that had developed within the community. These schools were incorporated (combined) in 1884 and were placed under the management of Rev. J.L. Lattimore. Incredibly, three teachers originally taught the entire student body of 158 kids in this one room building using virtually no supplies except a few textbooks. Soon thereafter, a four-room, two-story frame schoolhouse was built. This building was enlarged, and eventually contained ten rooms. This school was used until a fire destroyed it in 1899. In the meantime, classes were held in various buildings, churches, or even outside. In 1901, a bond was passed in order to construct a new school. The insurance return that resulted from the fire damages was also used to supplement the project. This new building was a large, three-story brick structure, complete with a basement for the heating equipment and a bell tower. The original plan called for a clock tower to be implemented, however these plans never came to fruition. All the grades were taught in this building until 1913, at which point a separate high school was built. This old structure remained an integral part of the Dublin landscape until 1936. By that time, the building was deemed to be unsafe for habitation. When it was razed, the rocks were used in the construction of the new schoolhouse that stood on the same spot. The junior high building now sits on this location [Dublin Shamrock News (date unknown); Dublin Citizen 4/17/2003; Eoff 190-191; Lattimore 58-60; Westphal 142-143].
*According to a newspaper article entitled “Some Interesting Facts About Dublin Schools”, written by D.C. Arthur, the first schools began in 1860. The author found a photocopy of this article, but has been unable to verify the name of the publication nor the date.
**The D.C. Arthur article gives this date as 1874.
Arthur, D.C., “Some Interesting Facts About Dublin Schools”, (date and name of newspaper, unknown).
“Dublin Schools in the 1800s”, Dublin Shamrock News, (date unknown)
Eoff, Vallie. “A History of Erath County, Texas”. Unpublished M.A. thesis. The University of Texas, 1937.
Lattimore, Sarah Catherine. Incidents in the History of Dublin: Gathered from Participants and Eye-Witnesses , Dublin, Texas: Press of the Dublin Progess, 1987 (original date of publication, 1913).
“Remembering Dublin Texas: What is that building?” The Dublin Citizen, April 17, 2003.