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Looking back at Effingham Academy

POSTED: December 6, 2012 7:43 p.m.
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Shown is the first of a series of buildings known as Effingham Academy. The exact construction date is not known, but it was in use in the 1880s. According to E. B. Mingledorff, it sat about where Emory Shearouse has a home.

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Effingham Academy was one of the 10 original academies established by the state. The Georgia Legislature chartered the Effingham Academy in 1809. It was to be established in the town of Springfield and operated by a group of local school trustees. Early on it established a great reputation for academic success. They stressed math, English, grammar, Latin and Greek, all necessary subjects to enter the University of Georgia. In a letter to the editor in the Daily Georgia Newspaper, Joseph V. Bevan (a land owner in the Springfield area) stated that the academy would be in operation by May 1, 1829.


An 1841, a Savannah newspaper article stated that Mr. Mallette informed friends and the public that he had taken charge of the Springfield school.  The rates for students were as follows: reading, writing and arithmetic at $3 a quarter; English and grammar at $5 a quarter; and Latin, Greek, etc., at $8 per quarter. They promised moral and intellectual instruction for girls and boys, careful attention and stated that boys could be prepared for college in the shortest period of time. Room and board could be arranged.


The original Effingham Academy building was a three-story building. It had a brick first floor with two floors above constructed of wood. The schoolmaster lived on the basement floor. The second story was used for classrooms and the third floor for a dormitory for boarding students. Stairs led from the outside to the second floor where a door opened into a long hall running the length of the building on the southwest side with doors opening into the classrooms. The Effingham Academy building burned about 1894 after nearly 100 years of use.


A small brick building with six classrooms was constructed on the old site until the brick three-story academy was finished in 1912, on lots presently occupied by the vacated Treutlen Building near Ulmer Park. The brick three-story building became the high school and an old frame building (according to River to River) at Madison and Oak Streets became the grade school with first through sixth grades.


The aging building became unsafe and was finally demolished with a new Effingham Academy constructed at Madison and Ash Streets. The accompanying photo of the new school on Ash Street was from the late 1930s. There was a fire during construction and another fire at a later date. During the fires and construction, school was held in church Sunday school rooms and buildings nearby in the community. The Treutlen Building rooms were also used for classes.


The Effingham Academy became known as Springfield Elementary when a central consolidated high school was established and the building was used for grades 1-8 until the first middle school was established in the late 1960s and a new Springfield Elementary School for grades 1-5 was built.  Currently the Effingham Board of Education occupies the school buildings on Ash Street, maintaining an auditorium, school board meeting facilities, print shop and other central offices for school administration.


This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society with information from River to River by Betty Renfro. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: hesexleyherald@aol.com.

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