BACK IN TIME: Campbranch Elementary memories

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Spencer Magnet reader Severa Jacobs of Lexington submitted this clip, which first published in The Spencer Magnet on Feb. 24, 1999, and asked for it to be rerun on the Back in Time page. Have a suggestion of something you’d like to see on this page? Let us know by emailing editor@spencermagnet.com.


There was a time when black students in Spencer County attended a one room school supplied with leftover books from white children. They were books that had been replaced with newer versions. This is a bit of the history of local black citizens shared in honor of Black History Month.
The school was Camp Branch Elementary on Bloomfield Road near Wakefield. Marcella Boyd, 87, is part of that history. She named the four teachers who guided her through the eight years she attended Campbranch.
“Mable Miles, Eva Allan, Sue Perry Shelburne and Florence Stout,” she recalled as she walked toward the little white building now owned by Davis Lee Downs.
Juanita Stivers, 78, another former Camp Branch student, noted that her mother attended school on the same property in a log structure, and that her great-grandmother, Addie Miller, donated the property for the schools. The log structure was once the home of Mt. Zion Camp Branch Church, now located further down the road. Mary Lou Livers, 74, recalls buying some of her books at the local drug store which served as a general store in those days.
John Jacobs, 66, remembers field trips to Dixie Dam, the state capital in Frankfort, and Sonora. The men all remember a “straight back chair with a twine bottom” as Robert Hayes, 70, described it.
“We had to sit to take our punishment,” said Clyde Downs, 69. “He called it the electric chair,” speaking of teacher, Monroe Miles.
Students sat in the chair and took a licking across the front of the legs from a strap.
“We were mischievous,” Downs admitted.
The school provided eight grades of education for four of the six who united last Saturday for an updated class photo — Livers, Jacobs, Downs and Boyd. Stivers attended seven years and Hayes one. Those who chose to further their education beyond the eighth grade were Downs, Jacobs, and Livers attending the Lincoln Ridge Institute in Shelby County.
Downs said his favorite subject was geography; Jacobs’ was algebra. Downs went on to study education and became a teacher at Spencer County Elementary in Taylorsville. He recalls that Susan Mary Mitchell is a fellow graduate of Campbranch who lives the farthest away, residing in California. Other former students of Campbranch who are not in the photo include Dan Hayes, Rodney Cochran, Henry Gilbert and Earl Gilbert. The school opened in the early 1800s and closed around 1946. The little white frame building is now a storage shed for the owner but continues to hold the history of these black Spencer Countians and no doubt, some important memories.