Published on April 27, 2021

The View from my Seat

One-room 1883 schoolhouse gets facelift by Brazoria Heritage group

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

When J.V. Hinkle built a one-room schoolhouse in 1883, I doubt he thought it would still be standing more than a century later.

Although it has been moved and has been closed down for decades, the Hinkle School is still a place of learning, thanks to a major renovation by the Brazoria Heritage Foundation.

When there isn’t a pandemic, school kids from the Columbia-Brazoria Independent School District can tour the schoolhouse, now located on the property with the Civic Center and Museum at 202 W. Smith St. in Brazoria.

“The kids can get a feel for what it was like learning in a one-room schoolhouse,” says Bob Schwebel, CEO of the foundation.

Visiting students can see pictures of students and teachers, peruse old textbooks and see the kinds of desks students sat in while learning the Three Rs.

J.V. Hinkle was quite enterprising. He was a rancher, postmaster and general store owner. He also ran the ferry across the San Bernard River.

Hinkle built the school for area children on his ranch, about six miles south of Brazoria. The school had six to 12 students each year, and there was a lone teacher. It was whites only.

In 2013, Don Hudgens wrote his memories of attending the one-room school in the early 1940s:
“The school was across a barbed wire fence from our house. It basically sat in a pasture. The teacher was Miss Helen McNeil. She taught grades 1-8, all in that one room school.

“She wasn’t run over by students, so the one room worked out OK. My brother, sister, Reba Brady, Sissy Brady, Herbert Hinkle, and I are the only ones I can remember. Herbert rode his horse to school most of the time. He lived about 4-5 miles away.”

The school was closed in the middle 1940s and was used as a hay barn.

In 2016, the old schoolhouse was donated to the heritage foundation by Dr. Tom Hinkle, a grandson of the builder, J.V. The foundation, which was established to preserve the rich history of the city and county, moved the schoolhouse from the ranch to its current site and began renovation work.

Foundation members and community volunteers showed up on scheduled “work days”.

The volunteers gave it a new roof, a paint job and new windows. Finding windows from the 1800s required searching antique stores.

Much of the inside work was led by David Jordan, president of the heritage foundation. There was extensive termite damage, and the goal was to reinforce the structure while keeping as much of the original structure as possible.

Of course, there wasn’t any electricity in the old schoolhouse so that had to be added. The lighting fixtures, however, have the look of the late 1800s.

The renovation took several years and cost about $20,000 in donated funds. One could only imagine what the cost would have been without volunteer labor.

On a visit to the schoolhouse he had donated, Tom Hinkle noticed the renovated school didn’t have green shutters like the original school. The foundation explained it was short of funds.

Dr. Hinkle went to a nearby Lowe’s and plopped down $1,300. The school now has green shutters.

Tom Hinkle died a week before the March 6 formal dedication of the renovated Hinkle School.
The school house is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)