Mammaw’s One-room Schoolhouse

1 Room School House (1)

Mammaw’s one-room schoolhouse in China Grove, Alabama.

To commemorate the start of another schoolyear,  I share a photo of my mammaw’s one-room schoolhouse class.

To the naked-eye it may be difficult to find my grandmother. Eula Bae Barfoot is standing in the middle of the back row. Like everyone else in the photo, she wasn’t saying “cheese.”

Mammaw was born on February 26, 1896 to Leander and Corinthia Argin (Anderson) Barfoot.  The photo was taken while she was living in Pine Level, Alabama (in unincorporated Montgomery County) where she grew up. However, the school was in China Grove, Alabama–just 8 miles from Pine Level.

One of the unique aspects of the one-room schoolhouse was the wide range of ages in the class. How did mammaw simultaneous teach the little guy on the far left of the front row and those much older teenagers lining the back?

The exterior of the schoolhouse behind them looks a lot like many historic sites we can visit today throughout the south. Perhaps the photo was taken in the spring or fall as they appear to be dressed warmly. Even the shoeless and barelegged boy on the front row has on a coat. At least three of boys are wearing ties and two of the girls are adorned with hair bows.

The photo was taken in the 1910s as mammaw did not teach after marrying James Otto Townsend, (“Nandy” to me and my cousins), at the age of 24, on November 16, 1920. Most likely, mammaw was in her early 20s at the time of the photo.

As I was talking about the photo with my mom (Bonnie Bae Townsend Bruce) she said, “I guess that is why I liked to play ‘school.’” She continued, “Mother was always a teacher, a-teaching me or someone. She also taught Sunday School.” Today, one of her great, great granddaughters is a teacher in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

An interesting fact I discovered while learning about this photo is that Pine Level has one very notable former resident. Rosa Louise McCauley (Rosa Parks) was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. However, when her parents separated, she moved with her mom to Pine Level where she grew up with her maternal grandparents and mother. She attended “rural schools” until the age of eleven. This would have put Rosa Louise in Pine Level for several years up until 1924. Mammaw and Rosa Louise were residents of the same community at the same time. I wonder if their paths ever crossed.



Mammaw at my brother’s 2nd Birthday in 1965, shortly before her stroke which would take her life after a lengthy two-year, bed-ridden debilitation. From left to right: Mom, Mammaw, my sister, my liddle brudder, me & Aunt Colleen.

Mammaw and Nandy had four children. James Otto Townsend Jr., Harold Hugh Townsend, Gwyneth Colleen Townsend and my mom. Mammaw went to be with the Master Teacher on September 7, 1969.

If you know more about this photo or mammaw’s one-room schoolhouse, please share your thoughts in the comments below.


One response to this post.

  1. I love this Billy! I learned something new about your family and I already knew so much! I remember your grandmother. She was so sweet. I remember one Sunday nite, Gwyne and I sat with her in church. I was sitting on the end and we decided to take our shoes off. The angle I was sitting at, everyone could see. I got in sooo much trouble. It was a night when Daddy was at church. Funny the things you remember after so many years. Thanks for sharing this and I love the pictures.


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