Highland Home School celebrates 100th birthday
Highland Home School recently reached a milestone by celebrating its 100th birthday, but before HHS opened its doors as the school we all know today, it had a different name, set of students and curriculum.
Few may realize that at one point in history, Crenshaw County was home to a college; Highland Home College, to be precise. Originally called Highland Home Institute, the college was established in 1881 by Justus “Mack” Barnes, Col. M.L. Kirkpatrick and Samuel Jordan. The school’s original location was in Strata, but do to serious issues with the spread of typhoid fever and “yellow chills” in the area, it was decided that the school should be moved about a mile inside Crenshaw County. The Highland Home Institute operated through its eighth season, 1888-1889, and in February of 1889, the school was incorporated under the name Highland Home College.
The two-story frame school building consisted of classrooms on the first story and a large auditorium, which encompassed the entire second story. While the college was not specifically a “church school,” a Bible Department was enacted and it was said that many men who studied there later went into the ministry.
The name for the town, Highland Home, was reportedly chosen by the three school founders. Up until that time, the area was referred to as Rocky Mount; this was when the area was still part of Lowndes County.
Barnes built a large home, which originally contained 16 rooms but was later downsized to eight. After he moved to Montgomery, the home was used to house the principal of the school and his family. The structure was later torn down when an elementary building was constructed in 1959-60.
From the beginning, Highland Home College had one goal: to educate.
The three courses offered at Highland Home College were academic, scientific and classical. The school day started at 7:30 each morning and ended at 4:15, with the last 15 minutes dedicated to physical culture. Most of the classes lasted about 45 minutes, and the only break offered during the day was at lunch.
The school was co-educational from the beginning and primarily drew students in who resided in south Alabama.
Two literary societies were in affect during those days, the Wattsonian Society for the young women and the Zetalethians (Truth Seekers) for the young men. These societies held debates, musical programs open to the public and wrote essays. In May 1895 the Alumni Association of Highland Home College was established with 74 charter members enrolled.
Tragedy struck the campus on the morning of March 17, 1904, when the college building burned. The cause of the fire was never determined, but it was said that it began on the roof. The building was unsalvageable, and at that time the cost of the structure averaged $7,500 with only $1,500 as the insurance.
In the summer of 1904, a new building idea was brought to the table, which was valued between $15,000 and $20,000. The building included steam heating, would be well lit and ventilated and could accommodate 250 students. It also included a physical laboratory as well as a library with 400 volumes. The college received several donations of money and land to help offset the cost of the new building. Donations included 40 acres of land from Highland Home citizens, nine acres and two houses from other citizens and approximately $10,000 in cash and pledges.
In the 1905-06 session, enrollment had reached 225 with students coming from Crenshaw, Butler, Lowndes, Covington, Dallas, Montgomery, Conecuh, Pike, Jefferson, Baldwin, Coffee, Monroe, Autauga, Marengo and Escambia counties in Alabama. The school reached its highest record of enrollment in 1890-91 with 243 students from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Texas.
The property of the college was sold to the state of Alabama in June 1916, and then became a high school known as Crenshaw County High School. In 1936 a new brick building was erected for the high school in the space adjacent to the college building. At that time the elementary school moved into the old building and remained there for many years. Eventually a new elementary building was erected and the old college structure was demolished in 1959.
The Highland Home College remained open between the years of 1881-1915. Over the span of 34 years, it could be said that much was accomplished in the field of education as well as culture.
One year later, the doors were opened on Highland Home School.
Since then, HHS has become a staple to the community of Highland Home, and continues to grow and educate students in preparation for their next steps into the world.
“I started teaching at Highland Home in 1985 when I was 22, and 31 years later I am still here,” said Wanda Rogers, kindergarten teacher at HHS.
“My favorite part of teaching at HHS is the kids. I love making a difference in tomorrow’s world, because the children of today are our future. The people here are loving and kind. During my stay here, I have taught kindergarten through 6th grade. I am not the only one teaching in my class; the children have taught me many things over the years.”
Cliff Maddox, principal for HHS, is now in his 23rd year as an educator at the school and continues to enjoy the improvements of the campus, curriculum and students each year.
“I graduated in the class of 1989. Since I’ve been gone and came back, the school has grown. There are more students, faculty and buildings now. When I was in school I learned how to type on World War II Surplus Typewriter, so the new Ipads and Chromebooks are much different than what we had,” Maddox said.
“Growing up here, I still see the same familiar faces as I did before I left. Several of my former classmates are now teachers and a lot of the students’ parents were underclassmen when I was a senior in high school.”
Maddox says his favorite part about being the principal of HHS is the relationships he forms with the students.
Senior class president Tanner Harris moved to HHS in the second grade. Since then, he has seen the school go through many changes.
“Out of the 100 years of HHS, I’ve only experienced a decade and I’ve seen this school change tremendously,” Harris said.
“Over the years I have left and come back, but this has always felt like home. I have enjoyed my time at Highland Home, and I hope to see it improve over the next few years.”
It is the hope of faculty and students alike that HHS will continue to grow, prosper and become more than they ever imagined it could.
“My favorite thing about Highland Home is the family atmosphere; you can’t find it anywhere else,” said Dr. Victoria Reese, assistant principal for HHS.
“The community set up we have here is centered on the school, and I feel like that is what’s important in a community.”