Sumter schools develop rapidly

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Bradford Springs became well known for Harmony College, a school which offered young ladies the opportunity to pursue the classics, music and other refined subjects.

In January 1832, Mrs. Frances Bowen opened The Sumterville Female Academy with one assistant and an impressive list of trustees. This school "eventually gained the status of a college and offered to the young ladies of the community a complete education, from the first grade through undergraduate college work."

The Sumter Academy was started in 1837 on land donated by John B. Miller located on the west side of Washington Street between Hampton Avenue (then Republican Street) and Liberty Street. This institution was in operation for 30 years before it was destroyed by fire. A unique feature of this academy was that it was a coeducational institution with principals for the boys and girls academies.

"St. Joseph's Academy, a Catholic parochial school, was founded during the War Between the States by the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy when they took refuge in Sumter following the federal bombardment of Charleston. The report of the state superintendent of education in 1881 showed that St. Joseph's had five teachers and 60 pupils. Like the Sumter Institute, it was discontinued after the graded school system proved satisfactory."

George Edward Haynsworth (Tuck), Citadel cadet reputed to have fired first shot of War Between the States, along with Thomas P. McQueen, founded Festina Lente, school for boys in Temperance Hall in 1869.

Public Schools (Graded Schools) develop rapidly

During the 1870s, white and black public schools developed rapidly in Sumter. The first elected superintendent of city schools was John B. Duffie of Columbia, a graduate of Union College. He was later forced to resign because of health concerns in 1895 and was replaced by S.H. Edmunds, a graduate of Davidson College. He formerly served as the assistant principal of Sumter High School. Miss Linnie McLaurin joined the faculty in 1896 and became assistant principal, heading the Girls High School for 20 years. With the death of Edmunds in 1835 she became the acting superintendent until March 1, 1936.

During the 40 years of Edmunds' administration, many changes and incredible growth occurred in Sumter City Schools. Before his death, school enrollment was placed at 3,896 pupils, 92 teachers and school property was valued at $417,950. More than 2,600 students received diplomas from 1891 to 1937 from the local high schools. "Since then the school system has continued to grow in step with the population." Until 1952, the schools in the county operated under the county superintendent of education, after the consolidation of the rural schools.

"Dr. Hugh T. Stoddard, a former coach and principal of Boys High, was named superintendent of the rural schools located in District 2."

Reach Sumter Item Archivist Sammy Way at waysammy@yahoo.com or (803) 774-1294.