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Prospect Schools

When Jo D. Smith presents  her programs on the history  of High Bridge, she notes that  nine of the brick support piers  for the original wooden rail  trestle had been dismantled  during the 1940’s when  building materials were  scarce due to the war efforts.  Some of those materials  were cleaned and used to  build the new Prospect  Elementary School after the larger high school/elementary structure burned in 1946.  The Prospect school grounds were located across from the present Marathon  convenience center. Much of the grounds and building locations are now part of the four-  lane highway.   The Prospect High School building was built in 1924 when several smaller community  schools were consolidated into the one location. Glenn, Tuggle, Olive Branch, Oakland,  Brightwell and Buffalo schools were those that were closed. Before this new red brick and  concrete structure was erected, Prospect students were schooled in a wooden structure  that remained on the grounds for several years after the opening of the brick school.  The 1924 school cost $25,000 and was the first in Prince Edward County to have an  indoor gymnasium.   The building consisted of two stories with the main entrance at a  mid-point between the floors.  Wooden steps lead to the top floor and concrete ones lead  to the lower level.  The upper or main floor contained classrooms, a library, principal’s office and auditorium.  The lower lever had classrooms, a lab, lunch room, restrooms, and furnace room. The  center of the this level had a sunken gymnasium, known as “The Pit.”  Due to limited county funds during the 1920’s, student teachers from the State Teachers  College (Longwood University) taught the elementary grades. Many of those to whom I  talked remember Mrs. Louise Bagby as their first grade teacher and her husband J. Boyd  Bagby as the principal.  Also frequently mentioned were Bessie Hix, Bessie Cook Durfee,  Margaret Rucker Scott, Sarah Lipscomb, Mary Alma Taylor, Iris Coleman Ferguson, and  Mary Ferguson.  The school year was geared to the rural economy of the area.  School “took in” at 9 a.m.  and “let out” at 3 p. m. In 1932-1933 the county ran out of money, so the school year was  curtailed with graduation being held a month early on May 10. The teachers reportedly did  not receive their pay checks for the last few weeks of that session.  Lois Wilkerson Johnson, who grew up very near the school yard,  remembers that her  brother John Ray Wilkerson had not missed any day of schools for several years and was  so determined to go that when the 1940 snow came he wanted to shovel a path over to  the school.  Several recollect the fateful 1946 fire.  Edgar “Rattler” Bruce was the furnace fireman and  custodian that unfortunate night. Richard Glenn, who lived in the village,  remembers  being awakened to the sound of exploding cans from the cannery that was located on the  lower level of the school. LaNette Coleman recollects that she had gotten a new doll  house for Christmas that year and her teacher had borrowed it for a class project.  It was  lost in the fire. Lois Johnson recalls that she was most concerned because her new  pencils had been burned up.  Students finished that school year and began the next in Sunday school classrooms at  the Prospect Methodist Church. The new school housed two grade levels in each  classroom except for the seventh grade, which had the largest room in the school. In the  first year of operation, the structure did not have indoor plumbing or a cafeteria. Richard  Glenn remembers beginning school at the church and then moving mid term into the new  building. His reminiscences include having to fight the wasps in the outdoor toilets and  smelling the ripening egg salad sandwiches as the hungry students waited for lunchtime.  He also remembers that the school cook, Clara Bruce, could bake a delicious peach  cobbler. Glenn recalls his seventh grade teacher as being  the no-nonsense lady Mrs. Covey  Allen, who lived in the Allen Hotel. There were seven students in his class that went on to  the eighth grade at Farmville High School.  One Halloween, several of the Prospect boys took Mr. Hubbard’s black horse-drawn  hearse out of the old Prospect Masonic Hall where it was stored and rolled it up on top of  the Prospect school. Many remember going to Prospect the next morning to see that  amusing site.  Debris from the burned structure remained for several years on site and provided  fascinating areas for children to explore and play their imaginary games. They were  oblivious to the dangers of rambling through the crumbled ruins.  Money was raised to build a new cinder block cannery on the corner of the school  grounds by “selling” the cinder blocks throughout the community. Cybil Brisentine, while a  college student, ran the cannery for a time. Her brother Kenneth recalls that one summer  she rode her bicycle to Prospect to operate the cannery. Allen Brisentine fired the boilers.  The buildings on the Prospect school grounds were closed in 1959 and were eventually  demolished when US 460 was rerouted and expanded to four lanes.  written by Edwina Covington 
The first Prospect school was a two-room frame structure that operated until1923.
Buffalo School was closed in 1924 when the county consolidated the community schools of Glenn, Tuggle, Olive Branch, Oakland, Brightwell, and Buffalo into the Prospect school, grades 1 through 11.