Thursday, April 9, 2009

DUBLIN'S FIRST COLLEGE - The Harriet Holsey Industrial School

The Harriet Holsey
Industrial School
Statewide vocational education in Georgia began during World War I after the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act. The act was authored by Cong. Dudley M. Hughes of Danville. Prior to that time, a few counties and communities provided some courses in vocational education. Most courses in these schools focused on agricultural and domestic subjects. Funds for public schools were scarce, but industrial/vocational schools were very rare in rural Georgia.

The first mention of an vocational education school for the Colored students of Laurens County appeared in an advertisement in an 1886 issue of The Dublin Post. A.S. Dickson, President of the Dickson Institute, invited all of Dublin to join with him and Vice President Pinkney Hughes in a meeting to solicit funds for the school. In December of 1905, the Congregational Methodist Episcopal Church purchased an acre of land. Bishop L. H. Holsey appointed Rev. W.A. Dinkins as President of the Dublin Normal and Industrial School. Rev. Dinkins was a graduate of Paine Institute in Augusta. The school was located in a small wooden building at 292 East Jackson Street at its intersection with Decatur Street. School officials planned to model the school after Booker T. Washington's school in Tuskeegee, Alabama. Poplar Springs Industrial School was established later in that same year of 1906. The Poplar Springs school was sponsored for the most part by the members of Poplar Springs North Baptist Church.

A fair was given for the purpose of promoting the Industrial School in the fall of 1908. Bishop Henry M. Turner of the Congregational Methodist Episcopal Church gave the address to a crowd of thousands. Fair exhibits included agricultural products, equipment, and techniques, as well as cooking, laundering, furniture making, sewing, and art work. The fair committee was composed of Rev. W.A. Dinkins, President, and committee members C.H. Williams, R.H. Ketchum, F.C. Kiler, P.B. Baker, A. Walker, Wm. Blackshear, and A.B. Jackson.

In 1908, the school staff was composed of Rev. W.A. Dinkins, President; Professor Noah Clark, Principal; Mamie Dinkins, Music Teacher; Daisy White and Mary Snelson, Teachers; and Mrs. M.J. Dinkins, Matron. The yearly matriculation fee was only two dollars per student. In 1909, R.A. Carter, A.J. Cobb, and Lee O'Neal, all from the Atlanta area, purchased thirty acres of land which included the former Dublin Furniture Factory on Ohio Street. They sold one block of the land to L.H. Holsey, G.L. Ward, J.H. White, P.W. Wesley, R.A. Carter, A.J. Cobb, Lee O'Neal, W.T. Moore, E. Horne, and C.L. Bonner as Trustees for the Harriett Holsey Industrial School. The school provided education in agriculture, domestic science, and other technical skills and was open to all of the Negroes of Laurens County.

The college was housed in building of the old Dublin Furniture Manufacturing Company, which was established in 1898. The area came to be known as Scottsville, named for the Rev. Scott, who was an early resident of the area. The owners of the surrounding lands subdivided the furniture factory field into building lots for the workers. Several cottages and a boarding house were constructed along with a factory building. The company, headed by J.M. Simmons and several of Dublin's leading businessmen, specialized in medium-priced bedroom suites. The location was chosen because of its proximity to the Oconee River. Lumber was transported by river which lies within a half-mile of the factory. The choice of the location turned out to be a poor one. The waters of the Oconee came flooded the area when the river was high.

The school became known as the Harriet Holsey Industrial School. The subdivision around the homes was renamed Holsey Park. Streets in the subdivision were named after some of the United States. The college, located in Block 11, was bounded on the north by Georgia Street, west by Ohio Street, south by an unopened portion of Columbia Street, and east by an unopened portion of California Street. Bishop Holsey was given a lot in anticipation of the construction of his home near the college.

By the beginning of 1916 the school ended its operations. While the school was somewhat successful on a local scale, it never progressed as its trustees had planned. The trustees sold their interest to Katie M. Dickson who planned to keep it open as a convention school. The dormitory was converted into a workshop and a new building was planned. Mrs. Dickson still continued the dream to model the school similar in design to that of the Booker T. Washington School in Tuskeegee, Alabama.

Today, all signs of the Harriet Holsey Industrial School have vanished. In the early 1950s Charles McMillan and M.C. Mallette, operating under the name of M & M Packing Company, purchased much of the property, and constructed a meat packing plant and slaughterhouse on the site. In the latter half of the 1980s Roche Manufacturing Company purchased the property and built a large cotton gin on the college site. Bishop Holsey's lot is now the site of a small park belonging to the City of Dublin.

So ends the story of the Harriet Holsey Industrial School. It is deserving of more attention and research. Perhaps there is more information hidden away somewhere that will bring to light more information on Dublin's first college.

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