Neely Ward School

School children in the northern part of the Bledsoe school district were too far away to attend school in Bledsoe, so in 1926 a temporary frame building was erected on land belonging to Bledsoe school board member Tom M. Neely and the Neely Ward School came into existence. On February 2, 1927, I. C. Enoch filed an affidavit giving an additional five acres of land for public school (Neely Ward) use as long as it was needed. When the land was no longer needed for school use, it was to revert to Enoch or his heirs. In 1927 Leonard Miller constructed a brick building on the Neely Ward property from materials left over from the Bledsoe School. The brick building consisted of two rooms, three cloakrooms and a water room for drinking water. Two outhouses were also built and later a windmill and storage tank were erected. Miss Lennie Osburn was hired as the first teacher at a salary of $100 per month and her first students were Jack, Herbet and Alvin Neely; Glen and Howard Harrington; and Sarah and Lula Mills. Items purchased for the school were: desks, chiars, erasers, one stove, three joints of stove pipe, one damper, one coal box and shovel, one axe, one water bucket, three dippers, one broom and one ton of coal.

Boyd Crooks came to teach in 1930 and soon married and the couple both taught at the school. Among his students were James, Loretta, Lottie, and Doyle Turney.

Myrtle Reed taught at Neely Ward from September 1933 to May 1937; among her students were Billy Bickett; Mary, Percy and Joe Dewbre; George "Ike" Williams; and Billie Newman. She recalled a large circulating coal heater heated the building comfortably. She lived in the west room and had classes in the east room. Her first class consisted of twelve students in eight grades. Lacking recreational equipment, the children played with sticks or made up their own games. Mrs. Young stated there was one occasion where a severe sand storm "blackened the ky as dark as night", frightening her and her students and they sang to keep their courage up until the storm blew over. Percy Dewbre recalled that some of the children could not afford shoes and money collected to buy shoes for them. He said each child was responsible for watering and caring for one of the elm trees located on the campus.

Other teachers at Neely Ward School included G. Pendleton, Reba Murray, Faye Odom Ainsworth, J. Love, W. Johnson, Roger and Ann Harvey , Myrtle Kennedy, Willie Nettles, and Ethel Shelton.

For the first several years of the school's operation, parents provided transportation and before the bus was aquired, John Crowley was hired to drive a school car, he would gather the children east of the school; leaving them at the school to gather those to the west. In 1930 a school bus was purchased and George Williams was hired to drive it. His wife, Marie, would fill in as driver when he was too busy farming.

Students that completed the eighth grade at Neely Ward attended High School in Morton. At first car were used to get the student to Morton, and eventually a bus route was added for them.

Funds became short in the late 1940's and in order to purchase some of the school's needs the three teachers: Myrtle Kennedy, Willie Nettles and Ethel Shelton, with help from parents, including: Hadley Kern, Marie Williams, Bill Martin, Slim Henry and Cecil Masten, put on a play titled "An Old Fashioned Mother" and charged admission. The play was a huge success and the teachers and parents travelled to Bledsoe and Bula for additional showings. Playground equipment was purchased with some of proceeds from the plays.

The population of the area grew and eventually three teachers were needed and the teacherage was put into use a classroom. The Neely Ward School was also served a community center, hosting box suppers, parties, church services, musicals, and plays. The main attraction, however, was the singing and singing classes.

Enrollment at Neely Ward began to drop in the 1950's and in 1953 Neely Ward consolidated with Morton Schools. The last Neely Ward School teachers were Ruth Whitecotton and Myrtle Kennedy. Both Whitecotton and Kennedy went on to teaching positions in the Morton system. The last student that was supposed to graduate from Neely Ward was Doris Dewbre, however, she was the only student in her class and therefore was allowed to attend Morton for seventh and eight grades.

The land reverted to an Enoch heir and was later purchased by B. O. Hurley. The heirs of Vennie Evans currently own the property, including the Neely Ward School building.

Source: Texas' Last Frontier: A New History of Cochran County by Elvis E. Fleming and David J. Murrah, 2001; Cochran County Legacy, Cochran County Historical Commission, 1985