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Burkett School
Early history taken from Coleman Newspapers written by Mrs. T. A. Burns [1936] and J. W. Golson [1943];
beginning with 1911, school history by Gordon Chambers

from A History of Coleman County and Its People, 1985 
edited by Judia and Ralph Terry, and Vena Bob Gates - used by permission 

The first school in this community was a one room log cabin on Gobbler Creek, about five miles southeast of Burkett.  Mr. J. T. Evans, who later became county surveyor and county judge was one of the early teachers in this school.  A Mr. Reed was also one of the teachers.

About 1875 the school was abandoned and the community education was carried on in a little box house about a mile and a half south of the present school on the J. L. Clarke farm.  Old time teachers in this school were James S. (Pegleg) Williams and Professor Hemphill.

The third school, built in 1885 and called the Washington School, was about a half-mile east of the present town.  Lumber to build this school was hauled from Baird.  Fourteen wagons and probably twice that many men representing every family in the district made the trip to haul materials from the railroad town.  Some old timers who went on this trip were W. C. Henderson, J. W. Golson and J. L. Clarke.  The building was the best school building, outside of Coleman and Santa Anna, boxed and weather boarded, double door entrance, three windows to a side; looked big in its day.  It was also used as a church in winter, brush arbor being used in summer.

In 1911, the fourth school was built nearer the town of Burkett. It was a four room frame building.  It had two rooms at both the north and south ends, but since there had never been more than two teachers at Burkett, the south side was just one large room with a stage across the east side.  A hallway divided the north and south sections of the building and extended farther to the west than the other sections.  Above this extension was a bell tower, which housed a large bell that could be heard for miles around.  This was the school when Walter R. Chambers came to Burkett in the school year 1920 - 1921.

Between 1920 and 1936, a two room building was constructed on the school grounds and another structure was moved in from the old Independence District.  During the summer of 1936, the first building was remodeled and used as a homemaking cottage until the end of the 1956 - 1957 school year.  The second building was wrecked in 1936 as construction was underway for the new school.

Teachers for the 1920 - 1921 school term were Walter R. Chambers, Lela Muriel Chambers and Minnie Wright.  Others who taught through the years until the end of the 1931 - 1932 term were; Allie Chambers, Annie Belle Carpenter, Willie Mae Chambers, Maud Laws, Verda
Casey, Margaret Arthur, Thelma Casey, Ouida Casey, Lee Ella Halford, Alta Remington, Yunette Sipes, Wilmer Donaho, Mrs. Ben David, Laura Featherston, Tye Pope, Ben Featherston, Eunice Self, Ottie Palmore, Mrs. Florence Blakely and Minnie Wesley.  No accurate record
is available listing teachers after 1932, but included in that group are: F. B. Porter, Tom C. Laws, Mark Sheffield, LeRoy Beard, A. I. Edwards, Truett Doss, Barney Popnoe, Sherwood Downey, Gilder Adams, John Armstrong, Earnest Weaver, L. P. Holder, Vera Pearl Oliver, Christine Cunningham, Cora Fowles, Adele Adams, Ellen Townsend, Emma Cross, Georgia Ferrell, Pattie Sue Dolgener, Mrs. F. B. Joyce, Winnie McQueen, Ora Gafford, Minnie Flippin, Beulah Respess, Willie Lane Brown, Veda Cowan, Patsy Pulian, Mrs. Cleo Gill, Earle
Pyle, Myrtle McGregor, Dora Ramsour, Alice Koenig, Leta Atkins, Thelma Mayes, Annie Mae McNeel, I. B. Loving, Mrs. John W. Taylor, Mrs. Ellen Kemp, Ruth Deakins, Francis Nesmith, Margaret Lindsey, Rosemary Duggins, Missouri Strahan, Lillian Davis, Joe W. Harper,
Jim B. Matlock, Betty Edda Clark, Helen Hunter and Martha McDonald. Yunette Sipes Bowden taught 27 years.  Others with long tenure included F. B. Porter, Verda (Casey) Brown, Minnie Wesley, A. I. Edwards, Barney Popnoe, Vera Pearl (Oliver) Bunnell, Adele Adams
and Ouida Casey.

Burkett became an independent school district in 1911 and was operating as such in 1920.  Trustees were: J. R. Adams, president; Frank Golson, secretary; C. E. Burns, C. D. Baker, Bill Cross, J. C. Boyle and J. J. Canon.  Later, it was thought to be advantageous to change from an independent school district to a common school district.  Although common school districts are supposed to have only three trustees, Burkett continued to have seven as long as they had a school.  In 1920, the Burkett school district had an area of 16 square miles.  This was later increased to 105 with the consolidation with Independence in 1934, Rae in 1935, Comal in 1936, Live Oak in 1940 and an acquisition from Cross Cut.  All of these had transferred pupils to Burkett several years prior to their consolidations Burkett High School became fully accredited with the State Department of Education in 1935.  About 25 credits were approved at the time high school work was discontinued there.

The first graduation exercise was held in 1922 with Ione Adams, Henry Fox, Etta Saunders and Anna Walker composing the class.  From 1922 through 1957, 306 were graduated.  The last included Hilda Anderson, Lanette Burns, Scot Edington, Lincoln Herring. Nelda (Hagler) Hunter and Jacqueline Webb.  At least three former students hold doctor’s degrees: Otto Brink, class of 1937; James Henderson, class of 1942 and Ray Jennings, class of 1943.  Scot Edington holds a Phd., class of 1957.

A new school was built in 1936-37, composed of nine classrooms, study hall, library and gymnasium.  Another building was also built which housed a shopshed and bus garage.  Trustees were; E. W. Martin, Jesse Bell, L. A. Hill, E. G. Adams, J. C. Boyle, O. E. Brink, E. L. Harris and C. D. Baker.

Greatest publicity probably came to the Burkett schools by virtue of the records of winning basketball teams.  Both boys and girls teams were fielded in 1920 - 1921.  Boys squads played every year through 1957, however, there was a period before building the gymnasium that the school had no girls team.  Walter Chambers coached the boys every year he was at Burkett; also coached the girls teams most of the years they played.  Before the gym was built, most of the games were played outside in all kinds of weather.  Occasionally, a game would be played in a warehouse building in Coleman, with the owner of the building usually keeping all of the gate receipts.  No Interscholastic League games were played in 1943 due to WWII.  All records are not available on games prior to the 1937 season, however, a complete one was kept from then through 1957.  During those years, the boys were district runners-up twice and champions 14 times.  The school was regional runners-up three times and regional champions three times.  The boys played a total of 587 games, winning 435.  From 1945 through 1957, the girls team played 286 games and won 164.  They were district winners twice and runners-up five times.  The best won - lost records for the boys were in 1938-39, won 34 lost 2.

The school year 1956 - 1957 was the last fully accredited term at Burkett.  Teachers that year were: Walter R. Chambers, Barney Popnoe, Adele Adams, Verda Brown and Yunette Bowden; Earnest Weaver, first semester, Gilder Adams and Pattie Sue Dolgener, second semester; Sherwood Downey and Mrs. B. J. Joyce, halftime.  The elementary school operated two years after the closing of the high school.  Gilder Adams and Verda Brown taught those years.  The school was then consolidated with Coleman and Cross Plains.  Today, the gymnasium is the only school building still standing and it is maintained and used as a community center by the people of Burkett.

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This page updated July 14, 2004
Copyright © 1982 - 2004 by Ralph Terry