Pelion Schools Turn 100

1917-2017

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“The school was the center of the community. I really think the schools are much better than they used to be because they have many more classes and things to choose from. But the part that has stayed the same is the way that people around here value their education and are willing to support it.” Roy Nichols, 2004

Pelion Schools

In 1917, a two-story brick building was completed at the corner of Magnolia and Fort streets on property donated by Mrs. Lessie H. Fort. Trustees at the time included Dr. Daniel R. Kneece, Daniel F. Shumpert, Sr. and J.A. Gunter. The building contained three classrooms downstairs and an auditorium and one classroom upstairs.
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In October 1996, surrounded by friends and family, including wife Lois and children Frank and Laura, D. F. Shumpert, Jr., accepted the Order of the Palmetto in recognition of his many years of service to his state and community, especially his support of public schools in Lexington District One.​
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In the early 50’s a much-anticipated spring event at Pelion High was the annual banquet hosted by the juniors to honor the seniors. School Board member D. F. Shumpert, Jr. at the head of the table was joined by his wife Lois, Principal and Mrs. Roy Nichols, Mrs. Gladys Cook and Mrs. Iva Garvin.

Pelion Schools History from "Looking Toward the Future"

Pelion School District 25 became one of the three attendance areas in the newly formed Lexington School District One during the 1952 consolidation.


Annette Shumpert Lucas describes the early Pelion School in a history published in Sandhill Recollections in 1987. “The first Pelion School, a one room frame building at the corner of Pine and Norris streets, was erected in the early 1900’s as the young town of Pelion, spurred by the completion of the Southern Railroad line linking Columbia and Savannah, sprang up and grew. This structure, which also served as a community building and as a church for all denominations, was rectangular with double front doors and a wood stove in the middle. A permanent partition was added later to create two classrooms.”

Mr. Hollie L. Harmon, who later became Lexington County Superintendent of Education, was the first known teacher. Members of the Board of Trustees included Dr. Daniel R. Kneece and Daniel F. Shumpert, Sr. Early teachers were C. G. Williams, Lillian Goulshire, and D.I. Wingard.


In the rural area around Pelion, there were several one and two teacher schools at this time. Some of these were Smith’s Branch, Black Creek, Macedon, Clay Springs, North Edisto, and Sharpe’s Hill.


In 1917 a two-story brick building was completed at the corner of Magnolia and Fort streets on property donated by Mrs. Lessie H. Fort. Trustees at the time included Dr. Daniel R. Kneece, Daniel F. Shumpert, Sr. and J.A. Gunter. The building contained three classrooms downstairs and an auditorium and one classroom upstairs.


In the early 1920’s Mrs. Lessie H. Fort served on the Board of Trustees. “Total school expenditures per year increased from $2600 in the early 1920’s to $4500 in the mid 1920’s indicating growth in the school program. The principal’s salary in 1922-23 was $480.00 per year.” (History Of Pelion)


As students from smaller schools began attending Pelion, two one story wings were added to the south side of the original building about 1928. Each wing consisted of two classrooms separated by a cloakroom. When in-door plumbing was added later, the cloakrooms became bathrooms.


Leonel B. Eargle succeeded Harvey Lybrand as superintendent in 1931 and worked there until 1941. In his memories of the Pelion School at this time, which he shared with Elsie Rast Stuart in Sandhill Recollections, he recounted, “Parents were very cooperative with the school. The general feelings of the parents were expressed by Mr. Plum Hutto’s family. They wanted their children to have enough education so they could ‘put biscuits on the table’ – training to make a living.”


During the Depression years, Mr. Eargle recalled that people around Pelion had little cash money, but they were happy to share what they had. “Many times I’d return from work and find a ham, vegetables, or watermelons on my back porch. My salary when I left Pelion was $1,500 a year.”


By 1935, the upstairs location of the auditorium was judged unsafe because of the danger of fire trapping people upstairs. The auditorium space was converted into two classrooms and a small office. Graduation ceremonies for the 14 students in the class of 1935 were held next door in Pelion Methodist Church, and work started on a new one story brick building. A Works Progress Administration project completed in 1937, this building consisted of two classrooms, office space, and a combination gym and auditorium with a stage on the west end.


Mr. R. A. Williams was superintendent for a year and a half in the early 1940’s. Mr. Jesse Frick replaced Mr. Williams when he left to serve in World War II. During Mr. Frick’s tenure, a new building containing a lunchroom, agriculture classrooms, and a community cannery was added to the campus in the late 1940’s. This cement block building was struck by lightning and burned on a Sunday afternoon in 1950. It was rebuilt in the same location, but the cannery was later remodeled into two classrooms as more and more families bought home freezers.


In the period immediately after World War II, the school became a leader in helping the community overcome the effects of the war years. Returning G.I’s finished their educations which had been interrupted by the war, and agriculture teacher L. H. Eleazer worked tirelessly to enhance farming in the community.


The fall of 1949 brought a new school administrator to Pelion. Mr. Roy Nichols, ably assisted by his wife, Ruth, served the school for the next twenty-five years. He experienced, but successfully administered, the strife resulting from school consolidation in 1952 and later the total integration of schools in 1968. By the time he retired in 1974 he had also observed the early indications of the growth in student population which was to later occur in Pelion and all of Lexington School District One. Shortly before his death in 2004, Mr. Nichols shared his thoughts in an interview. “The school was the center of the community. I really think the schools are much better than they used to be because they have many more classes and things to choose from. But the part that has stayed the same is the way that people around here value their education and are willing to support it.”

Mr. Nichols’ observations are emphasized by the fact that both his wife and daughter have also served Pelion Schools as administrators. Mrs. Ruth Nichols served as high school principal from 1977 until 1981. Their daughter, Jean Nichols Haggard, served as Pelion High School principal from 1992 until 2012, providing outstanding leadership in the establishment of the new Pelion High campus that opened in 2001. R. Clark Cooper was principal from 2012 until 2017 replaced by W. Bryan Hearn.


And three generations of the D.F. Shumpert family have served on the School Board. Daniel F. Shumpert, Sr. helped to establish a school in Pelion. Later his son, D. F. Shumpert, Jr. served on the Board. His grandson, D.F. “Frank” Shumpert, III also served on the Board of Trustees in Lexington District One.

Share your Pelion school memories with us!

Please send us your Pelion pictures and memories to share throughout the upcoming school year!
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