Union School is located in the Brookman Community off of Galilee Road, on the Johnson Tract. A private entrance called Gilliard runs by the schoolhouse. It is unknown just exactly when the first school building was built, or the current one standing today. But here is what we do know.
From doing some family histories for some African-American families, a couple mentioned that their grandparents attended the Brookman School. I of course never heard of this school, and while looking through recorded history, never saw a mention of such place. Therefore, I assumed that this was just a country school, not so.
Ms. Ophelia (Johnson) Killens is the current owner of the Union School, her grand-daughter, Robin Alston, was put in touch with me to show me the school house, and ask if I had any history, which I only know two people who attended the school, now three.
The family would like to have a public road access through this land, so that more of their family members may build homes on their ancestral lands. However, the county will not oblige the home building permits, because there isn't a road big enough to accommodate the traffic. The county also, will not put in a road, which the family want.
If a road is put in, it will travel right by this historic, small, PUBLIC school that existed in the early 1900s, and quite possibly during the late 1800s for the "colored" children of the Brookman Community. The Gilliard family were the owners of this land during the late 1800s and it transferred to Ophelia's mother Florrine (Gilliard) Johnson, who passed it on to Ophelia.
Children from all around attended this school, it was one of about four on this stretch of highway. The current building is the second school to be built on this site, a school built by the COUNTY, it was not just some small country school, but a public school, like Glynn Academy or the Colored Memorial.
This school housed kindergarten through the 8th grade for the African-American families. After the 8th grade they would come to town and attend the Colored Memorial School (still standing) on Albany Street. From there they would go to the Seldon Institute (still standing). Eventually, the Colored Memorial extended their classes making it unnecessary to attend a third school.
The building has since been converted into a small home by Ophelia in the 1950s, and is still being used as such by family members. Originally it was one large room with a kitchen along the back wall. This kitchen was also used in teaching children how to cook and fend for themselves, like a modern day Home Economics Class. The windows and some doorknobs are all original to the schoolhouse. The only alteration was that two rooms were built onto the right side of the house, and walls were erected inside to small, cozy rooms. A door off the right side of the house led out to the playgrounds. This door is now enclosed into a little porch.
On the grounds surrounding the school house, the children played stick ball, volleyball, tennis, and any game they could imagine. The bathrooms were small outhouses about 80 feet away from the school building. There was a girls and a boys, they were separated by about 60 feet. You can still see the indention in the ground where the girls bathroom stood!
A few of the teachers, paid by the county, were Mrs. Daisy (Mitchell) Waye, Arlie Baldwin, and Mamie Hightower.
Ms. Killens' family have long been in this county, and have lived on these lands for many decades. Not only did Ophelia attend this school, but so did her mother. However, Ophelia didn't finish school in the traditional way, she was scooped up by a Rev. Curry, who was involved in the Dorchester Academy of Liberty County, Georgia.
One day he came up to Ophelia and said "Lil' Trash (her nickname), I think you can make good with me, come along with me to the school." She informed Rev. Curry that she couldn't afford to attend the Academy as her father was already paying for one child to go to school, and there was another one ahead of her ready to go off to school. The Reverend asked her if she could work, and of course she said yes. So, Miss Ophelia worked her way through school, graduating in 1938.
Her days consisted of waking up, working the laundry, fixing breakfast, then attending classes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. then back to the laundry, then fixing dinner, and finally to bed.
After graduation, the Union School asked her to teach, but Ophelia wasn't ready, so she went to the Normal Institute to obtain her teaching degree. By the time she finished though, the Union School was no more. It had been closed down.
Today, as mentioned above, the school house is now a small home, it has only been altered slightly, you can still see the original form of the school house, a salt box. Of course it has been painted a light green color, and some window awnings were place above the windows. A living room with a fireplace has been added, and the original back door was on the side, it is now in an enclosed porch with a door to the back of the house.
To be almost a hundred years old, it is still a sturdy, beautiful piece of our Glynn County history.
Special Note: So far no existing photos of the building in its original form have been found, also, more history would be appreciated. Anything that could help this family get their public road access would be appreciated.
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