Historical Society dedicates Searcy School marker

Published 1:45 pm Monday, May 1, 2023

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Butler County residents gathered Sunday for the dedication of a historical marker at the Searcy School House, preserved and renovated through the efforts of the Searcy Homemakers Club. The dedication, part of the Butler County Historical Society’s April 30 quarterly meeting, highlighted the school’s history and community significance.

‘Today the Lord has shined upon us,” said Walter Parmer, who led the dedication. “The importance of the school in the community is preserved by the Searcy Homemakers Club. These ladies have worked tirelessly to make this building what it is today.”

Special guests Jay Lamar and her sister Katie Lamar Jackson assisted Parmer with presenting the dedication program. Lamar was the executive director of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission from 2014-2020 and was recognized in 2020 as one of the top twenty-five women who shaped Alabama. Jackson is a feature writer and garden columnist for Alabama Living Magazine.

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“What happened here with the restoration that you’ve done, the preservation of history, to celebrate the history and this place, that is what the Bicentennial was all about,” Lamar said. “I can’t think of another place in the state that has done it with such excellence and such heart as Butler County.”

The marker was erected by the homemakers club and made possible by a grant from the Alabama Tourism Department in 2019. Sunday’s dedication represents the culmination of years of work renovating the school, which was also made possible by grants from the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, the Alabama Historical Commission, the Bureau of Tourism, and the Butler County Commission along with donations from the community.

The Searcy community, originally called “Searcy Station” was named for James Riley Searcy, the town’s first postmaster and constable. The community grew up around a depot of the nearby railroad running from Montgomery to Mobile. The original school, established in 1885, burned and was rebuilt by men of the community in 1922.

The current structure, just six miles north of Greenville, is counted as one of the few remaining wood-frame schoolhouses in the county. Considered state of the art for its day, the school was the heart of the community, a focal point for literacy, musical events, spelling bees, speaking and debating events, plays, parties and holiday programs until its closure in 1949 due to dwindling enrollment.

Guests at the meeting learned about traditional student lunches for the time period, viewed the old stove used for heating, and heard how men of the community supplied the school with wood or coal for the furnace. Today, the structure has a new roof, a refinished floor, and is outfitted with desks and other features the school would have used during its operation.

Searcy Homemakers Club member Joan Blackmon said the group worked many years to maintain and restore the school to its current state.

“Most of the members of this club had mothers or grandmothers in the club,” Blackmon said. “Most of the members of the club had grandparents who helped build this school. My father came here [to school]. This is a little personal for me because my daddy loved this school.”

Blackmon said her family talked often of how to save the building.

“It almost seemed impossible to figure out how to get the money to replace the roof,” she said. “But with the help of all these ladies we were able to do that. 

Blackmon invited community members, both men and women, to join the homemakers club. Historical society President Barbara Middleton also invited community members to join the historical society. For more information, please email butlercoalhistory@gmail.com or call (334) 368-1570.