Monday, January 12, 2009
Back to the Jonah Schoolhouse
Here's a picture of the Jonah Schoolhouse I took last year.
Thanks to Mr. Al Endsley, I now know a lot more about the building, and about the town of Jonah, itself. Here is a Handbook of Texas Online article about Jonah. The article mentions a flood that happened in 1921, in which a bridge over the Mileham Branch washed out. Fears of a repeat of that catastrophe caused the construction of a new school on higher ground, replacing an old frame school. Mr. Endsley told me about a church that was lifted by the flood, and deposited on the other side of the branch as the water receded. The parishioners, rather than schlep the whole thing back across the creek, bought the land it fetched up on and left it there.
You can see one of the concrete supports of the bridge that was washed out. It still lies in the creek, seventy-eight years later.
This is part of a mural that covers the entry and down the halls of the schoolhouse, painted by students at Southwestern University in Georgetown. It was not there when I was in "The Shadow Box" in 1986. When first in use, the building had electricity only in the auditorium and hallways, as all the classrooms were on the south side, with big windows. There was no indoor plumbing, with outhouses for the convenience of students and teachers. Of course, there was no cafeteria, either, though one of the classrooms has since been converted to a kitchen for quincenieras and wedding receptions.
This is the stage on which the Georgetown Area Community Theater produced "The Shadow Box." It's a bit smaller now than it was back in 1986, as the front had a bit of dry rot, so they pared it off. It is still a nice size. The Auditorium is currently being used for services by Faith Community Church, and has been for the past five years or so.
The site was deeded to a non-profit organization called Jonah Community Inc. around 1970, and remains their property as long as it is used as a community center.
From what I could see of the photos, the school went to the tenth grade, originally. That's pretty advanced, as many small community schools only went to eighth grade at that time. Later, it was an elementary school, and eventually, the population of Jonah diminished so much that its school district was absorbed into Georgetown and the students were bussed the seven miles.
Many thanks to Mr. Endsley, who gave up a couple of hours this morning to tell me the story of the Jonah Schoolhouse. I didn't mention the ghost, and neither did he, but he didn't seem surprised at my inquiry about getting permission to spend the night in it. The rental is very reasonable, and good for a twenty-four hour period. Come Spring, when it warms up a bit, I am going to spend the night there.
For some reason I can't fully explain, I love that old building, and am extremely grateful for the opportunity to hear more about it.