Coal Company House
Coal Camp School
Coal Camp Church
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COAL CAMP SCHOOL
In the early 1900's you would think that most people were educated in rural (country) or small town schools. However if you were born and lived in the rich coalfields of West Virginia, you would have attended a one or two room school.
The building was orginally constructed as a two room school, but as enrollment declined it became a one room school. The school was built in 1925 up a hollow called Berry Branch in Helen, West Virginia. It served black children that lived in the coal camp. In the coal camp during this time period there were two school buildings one for the white children and one for the black children. The size of the buildings was determined by population. The school buildings were owned by the coal company and the schools were run by the board of education. Only residents of the coal camp were allowed to attend the schools that were owned by the coal company.
The average enrollment would normally be about 30 students. There was one teacher per room. Often one of the students would graduate and then come back the next year with a certificate and become the new teacher.
The teacher would arrive earlier than the students to build a fire to keep the children warm during their day of learning. Teachers not only taught reading, writing, arithmetic, but it was their job to take care of everything that needed to be done to keep the school operating.
The students were seated by grade, first grade was the front row from there they followed in order. To begin the day the Bible was read to the student and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited. Some students studied at their desk, others worked math problems out on the blackboard. If affordable they would have a slateboard, which was not introduced until 1910. In the coal camps students were grateful to learn. They appreciated and respected the school system as a privilege.
Gradually as the coal fields started to die out the one room schools began to be replaced by "consolidated schools". By 1965 the last one room school closed it's doors. They have all now disappeared into what we call a memory.