Shankle’s … Dark Corner’s second private school

Published 3:41 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Gowensville Seminary was not the only private school in the Dark Corner. Another was known as Shankle’s School, superintended by Mrs. Eva J. Shankle.
It first operated in the old Calmes home, a large, two-story building at the intersection of S.C. 11 and S.C. 14 in Gowensville. Later, it was moved approximately two miles west on Highway 11, to a 100-acre site, which was across the road from Squirrel Mountain (today’s Look Away Farm with its 21st Century Klickety Klack Covered Bridge).
The site had two large buildings — a white, two-story house and a three-story building with long porches on the first and second floors. The larger building housed classrooms, a small auditorium, an office and a sitting room. Plays, entertainment and religious services were held in the auditorium, and the top two floors were used as a dormitory for boys.
The smaller building was located about 50 yards from the main building. The first floor had a large parlor, kitchen, dining room, private rooms for Mrs. Shankle and other female teachers, plus two rooms for teaching music and other subjects. The second floor was used as a dormitory for girls.
The devout Christian atmosphere and the musical program offered by the private school were strong incentives for parents of farm families in the community and nearby towns to send their children to the school.
Students were given free books, and children of local poor families were furnished shoes and clothing, if needed.
In actuality, Willard Industrial School was the proper name, even though everyone referred to it as “Mrs. Shankle’s.” The 100-acre operation was a demonstration farm where male students were taught intelligent agriculture as they produced cotton and other farm products for school use and for sale.
Ira W. Williams of the United States farm demonstration work in South Carolina made a personal inspection of the school and recommended the state give assistance to the demonstration farm.
At a National Conference of Charities and Corrections meeting in St. Louis, Mrs. Shankle gave a complete report on the school’s operation.
A local reporter wrote a “review” of her presentation, liberally sprinkling it with typical vignettes of backwoods and “hillbilly” incidents of dodging bullets as she traveled the road to and from the school, rather than presenting items of substance from her report.
The reporter and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch were brought to task by the General Secretary of the National Conference. He stated: “I cannot imagine a less accurate account of the report given by Mrs. Shankle,” and proceeded to have the conference stenographer furnish a complete and accurate copy of her presentation to them.
Even Ira W. Williams defended the school and the Dark Corner people from the highly inaccurate descriptions laid out in the reporter’s “review,” pointing out that educational endeavors such as that of Mrs. Shankle and numerous churches had brought the light of truth to long-standing inaccuracies about the Dark Corner people.
Conditions brought about by World War I forced the school to close for the 1917-1918 school year. It resumed operation following the end of the war until August 1920, when all the buildings were destroyed by fire.

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