Brown County Historical Scrapbook: History of the lost Griffin School

Ronnie and Donnie Lappe
Special to the Bulletin
Ronnie and Donnie Lappe

In the Brown County Museum of History’s annex building, there is a small schoolhouse with a plaque that gives the history of the Griffin school house. The display is set up to look like a schoolhouse from that time period.

George Griffin, an African American cowboy, was passing through Brownwood in the 1880s and decided to stop for rest. He attended a dance and met Bettie Harris, one of the daughters of David Harris, the first African American homesteader of Brown County. His wandering days were over.

They married on Dec. 20, 1885, and he purchased 111 acres of land that joined his father-in-law in 1892. His father-in-law, David Harris, was the first African American man to own a farm in Brown County, and George Griffin was the second.

George and Bettie became the parents of 10 children, two sons and eight daughters. While living on the farm, Bettie Griffin became concerned about the education of her children, because there was not a school for African American children near their home. Bettie wanted her children to know how to read and write, so she persuaded her husband to talk to Courtney Gray, the county school superintendent. Mr. Griffin was told that there was money to build a small schoolhouse and to hire a teacher for four months out of the year. Griffin and one of his sons constructed a 14x14 building near their home, west of Brownwood, in the Bangs area.

The county hired Miss Helen Johnson of Terrell as the first teacher. She lived with the Griffin family during the school term and taught for two years. Miss Fullbright, from Fort Worth, taught for a year. Many of the Griffin children attended the school during the three years. The oldest to the youngest went to school and learned to read and write. The dates for this school are not known, but it was active sometime between 1905 and 1909. When the Griffin school closed, some of the children attended “the little red schoolhouse” in Brownwood and drove the family buggy from the farm to the school. He sincerely wanted an education to ride a long distance in an uncomfortable, open buggy, even on cold and rainy days.

After the Griffin school was disbanded, it was used as a storage house. The Griffins sold the 111 acres to F.E. Strange on Sept. 2, 1919, and moved to Brownwood. The brush began to grow around the schoolhouse until it was covered and hidden from sight. Dr. J.B. Stephens purchased the land in the late 1980s and while having brush cleared from the land, he discovered the little schoolhouse and it was found to still be in pretty good shape. The brush covering helped protect it from the elements.

Dr. and Mrs. Stephens donated the building to the Brown County Museum of History in 1991. They had it moved to the main building of the museum from their farm, and the Museum restored it to its present condition.

The Brown County Museum of History has an exhibit with the school and artifacts from the period to portray the history of a one room schoolhouse.