While working on this week’s “50 Years Ago” column, I ran across advertisements for “School Closings” that would be occurring at opposite ends of Gillespie County at two of the three remaining country schools still operating.
The ads in the paper 50 years ago listed Stonewall’s end-of-the-year closing that was coming up the following Sunday and the annual picnic and closing program at Doss School the following Saturday. By then, Stonewall, Doss and Rocky Hill were the only country schools left in the county.
In earlier years, beginning about mid-April each year, the Standard would publish a weekly listing of the school picnics that were coming up, and because of the number of schools, the schools would rotate weekends to have theirs.
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School closings and rural schools are becoming a thing of the past.
In fact, the Doss Consolidated Common School District in far northwestern Gillespie County is one of just a handful of rural school districts left in Texas today.
The students and teachers at Doss will have their annual school closing picnic celebrating the school’s 134th year on Saturday, May 19.
The annual event is sponsored by the Friends of Doss School and will include a program, “Seussical the Musical” on Saturday evening that will be presented by the students and teachers at Doss.
At noon and again in the evening, as has been done for years and years, barbecue will be sold by the pound. Pinto beans and potato salad will also be offered for sale. Everyone is reminded to bring along a basket lunch or supper to go along with the barbecue.
The refreshment stand in the community center will again be open and the Friends organization will sell chances for their annual prize drawing to be conducted that evening with proceeds being used to buy equipment for the school.
Across the county, school closings were an end-of-year tradition and celebration for the students who had been practicing recitations, musical numbers and plays since shortly after Easter.
Not only were they a chance for the students to shine, but the adults were able to visit with locals as well as other friends they usually only saw once a year — at the school closing.
For many years at Doss, following the afternoon program, everyone would gather around the southern edge of the old “tabernacle” to watch one of the Doss baseball teams play a team — usually from Fredericksburg or a nearby community.
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At one time, Gillespie County had 38 rural schools scattered among the small communities.
In 1909, Gillespie County Judge Max Blum issued “A Booklet For the Public Schools of Gillespie County, Texas.”
In addition to listing the rural schools, three independent school districts — Fredericksburg, Harper and Willow City — were also included.
The rural common school districts were also listed and included Bear Creek, Cave Creek, Cherry Mountain, Cherry Spring, Crabapple, Doss, Grape Hill, Grapetown and Honey Creek.
Also, Junction, Klein Branch, Klein Frankreich, Knopp, Line, Live Oak, Lower South Grape Creek, Luckenbach, Meusebach, Morris Ranch, Nebgen and Nebo.
And, Onion Creek, Palo Alto, Pecan Creek, Pedernales, Petersburg, Pilot Knob, Pocket, Rheingold, Rocky Hill, Squaw Creek, Stonewall, Tivydale, White Oak, Williams Creek, Wolf Creek, Wrede and Young’s Chapel.
While many of these school houses stand vacant, a number of them are now community centers and are listed on the Friends of Gillespie County Rural Schools Trail and are open periodically.