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1895 - 1950



Early Beginnings


 1895 Mason's Building

1895—Mason’s Building


Teachers are Alys May Corr, unknown, Belle McEwen, Jim Southerland Gertrude McFall, Dennis Cason, supervisor, & Rev P.W. Corr. In center seated are M.S. Stevens & Alice Heard

On the right are students: Joe McEwen, Mel McEwen, Lewis Bostick, Yancy Teachy, unknown, & Jes McEwen These boys played in the band under the direction of Professor Corr.

Second row: Miss Willie Green, Cora Southerland, Maude Wilkinson & Leland Carlton. Other children pictured: Effie Branch, Myrtle McEwen, Bessie Branch, Flossye McEwen, Lloyd Carlton, Pearl McEwen, Valda Bostick, Mallie Wiggins, Tom Wiggis, Alfred Cochran, Floy Hendry, & Earl Carlton seated on the far right.

Source: Watch Wauchula Win, Margaret Stringer, Photo from Bertie Southerland Forrest 





As pioneers began to travel southward, settlements began emerging throughout the region that is now known
as Hardee County.  These communities opened make-shift schools in homes, neighborhood churches, and
one-room log cabins to provide their children with a proper education.


Grades 1- 8 were taught with all grades combined into a single classroom. The main subjects included the
three "R"s: Reading, Writing and 'Rithmetic.  The curriculum comprised memorization of multiplication
tables, spelling words, and chapters or verses from the Bible and other literary works. Spelling bees
and recital of subject content reinforced what was taught in the classroom. There was also an emphasis
on addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. 

first school house and annex in Wauchula Wauchula School

Wauchula School, undated  but written on the back
"1st School House & Annex to it in Wauchula."

Source: CrackerBarrel,

Photo from Betty White

Wauchula School

Source : CrackerBarrel,

Photo from Betty White
















Strawberry Schools


Our schools were known as the "Strawberry Schools" because the school terms
were scheduled around the harvesting of the strawberry crop.


Classes would begin in July and then close in December through March.
During the harvest, this calendar enabled the children to pick berries along side of their
parents and other siblings.  Then the schools would reopen during the middle of March.






Wauchula Schools


In 1884, the first school house was located west of town in a log cabin which housed
120 students.


The principal of the school was Rev. T.J. Sparkman and his assistant was Mary A. Payne. 


In 1895, a new school was built at South 8th Avenue and Bay Street by the Masons.  The Masons
referred to the school as the "Wauchula School". The building consisted of two floors. 
The Masonic Hall was on the top floor and the school was located on the bottom floor.





Dennis Marion Cason

First Supervisor of Wauchula Schools.


Source: Watch Wauchula Win, Margaret Stringer, Photo from Marjorie Cason Durrance


Mr. Dennis Marion Cason helped in the construction of the building because he
was very interested in education.  He would encourage parents to enroll their children
in school.  Therefore, when the school opened; he was appointed Supervisor and
Rev. T.J. Sparkman became Superintendent.  Mr. R.D. Moore became the new
principal and Helen Carlton was assigned as the assistant. 


They had very little money then.  There was only $100 allotted for supplies.


There was also a grading committe which was selected for examinations on
September 2, 1895. The committee decided that examinations would be held
in September.  The committee members were:  R.D. Moore, C.J. Carlton and
George W. Harp.


Class of 1908



 Class of 1908, taken at the schoolhouse on South Eighth Avenue and Bay Street




Class of 1908, taken at the schoolhouse on South Eighth Avenue and Bay Street.

The next year classes were moved to the new brick school on West Oak Street and North Seventh Ave. Professor Shaver was principal.



Source: Watch Wauchula Win, Margaret Stringer,   Photo from Emerson Clavel                                                                      























New Brick School in 1909


 In 1909, students moved to the new brick school located on West Oak Street and North
Seventh Avenue.  This was the first of the three units to be built.  The location for this
building would be on the east side of the complex. 


The school was named, "Wauchula High School," complete with a bell tower. The school
housed all grades at the time of the initial opening.  


Professor Joseph Wilson became the principal and the staff comprised of 4 teachers. 




 1909, first unit of the school complex


Source: Watch   Wauchula Win, Margaret Stringer,


Photo from  Frances Causey






Wauchula High School in 1913  



Over Crowded Schools Contin


In 1915, the 2nd building was erected to help eleviate the continuing
crowded conditions due to increasing enrollment.



Compensatory Law


July 1919, the Compensatory Law went into effect requiring that all children were to attend school.
Therefore,  the third unit was added connecting the two other buildings at the cost of $25,000.


In 1920 the enrollment of students reached 950.
Over crowdedness occurred in the lower grades. Enrollment showed that the 3rd grade had
117 students and the 4th grade had 120 students. Miss Ella Beeson had to hold double
sessions to accommodate the numbers both morning and afternoon.


 W.R. Gramling was the Superintendent and Professor W.E. Sawyers was the Principal of the High School.



  Three building complex located on West Oak Street                                                                      



Three building complex located on West Oak Street. The far right building was the High school 1909, far left was built in 1915 and became the Grammar school.   Finally, in 1920 the center building was erected.





Source: Watch Wauchula Win, Margaret Stringer.




















Board of Public Instruction Formed in 1921


The creation of Hardee County began on April 23, 1921, when the Senate Bill Number 51 went into effect.
This Bill divided Desoto County into 4 additional Counties: Hardee, Highlands, Glades and Charlotte.  


The law also required each of the five counties to hold a conference to determine and assume the
responsibility of Public Instruction respectively. This included equitable division of any left-over funds,
debts and personal property.


On May 4, 1921, the Board was officially appointed in the three districts:


District 1:     Bowling Green, Ft. Green, Ona   - W.R. Minor

District 2:     Wauchula area - S.B. Hogan

District 3:     Crewsville, Popash, Zolfo, Gardner, Sweetwater, Limestone & Lily area—H.K. Still


The three men then held an election and determined that S.B. Hogan would become the Chairman of the Board.


W.R. Gramling, Superintendent of PBI was also present and served as the secretary as provided by law.  


During the meeting held on May 20, 1921, the annual salary for the Superintendent would be $2,400; with
a $25 travel expense. His assistant would be paid $1,200 annually.




W.R. Gramling  Superintendent of PBI 









W.R. Gramling

Superintendent of PBI

Original photograph hangs in the lobby of the

District Offices

No Photographer Specified



Our Motto

Equal training

Of the





e1920’s g





























A meeting was held on June 6, 1921, in DeSoto County PBI to determine business operation
responsibilities and also to request the State Auditor to audit the books of Desoto. In addition,
they also determined the valuation of the assessable properties for each of the counties using
the 1920 Tax Roll.


The following day, June 7, 1921, the board met to authorize borrowing $350 for teacher’s salaries
which was obtained through the Special Tax Fund.  


It was voted the number of teachers per school would be decided based on
enrollment numbers.


·  12-40 students constitutes 1 teacher

· 40-75 students constitutes 2 teachers

· 75-110 students constitutes 4 teachers

· No new school if enrollment was less than 15 pupils


Transportation for students was capped at no more than .20 cents a day per
pupil for all grammar children living 3 miles or more from the nearest school
when Special Tax School District funds were available.


On July 5, 1921, the Board retained an attorney, L. Grady Burton, for legal counsel.



Oak Park School, Wauchula 1925


Oak Park School, Wauchula 1925

 Source: Hillsbourgh Library, Digital Collection,

Photograhy by Burgert Brothers


s and   Heart .



A New High School 1926

Inspite of the three unit complex being completed, the school district still

experienced overcrowded  conditions.


 Once again, the School Board had to bond for a new building in the

amount of $50,000. The school would be located in Pouncy’s Subdivision

about three blocks south of Main Street. Lots for the school were purchased

from W.L. Warren for $5,000.  (Board Minutes, Vol 1, page 104)


The new two story High School was to be built by Paber Construction and

designed by H.G. Little, a Wauchula architect. The exterior would be constructed with red brick and stone.    


The school contained sixteen classrooms with a large auditorium, office rooms,

library, laboratories, and a clinic. The cost was $50,000.  The new building could hold 400 students. 


The new school was completed in the spring of 1926.


 Principal of the school was Sam W. McInnis.

1945, Original Hardee High School

Source: Touch of Classes,   Project Graduation 1996


The Great Depression in the 1930's

In the Depression Era, Hardee Schools were referred to as the “Pay Schools.” Education

was greatly affected during this bleak period in history.   The Board of Public Instruction was forced

to require a tuition fee to be paid for each student to attend public school.


There was no money to pay teacher salaries, purchase books or maintain supplies for the classroom.  

Money was scare for many families, so grandparents and other family members would assist in the tuition fees.  

In many cases, children would have to drop out of school because their parents couldn’t afford to pay.


Teachers were paid in script; which was a piece of paper stating that the BPI would issue pay, as

soon as, monies became available. However, this could be a long period of time and teachers needed money

to live.  In many instances, teachers would opt for taking 10 cents on the dollar, so they could buy necessary

items at the local grocery store.



 Consolidation/ Closing of Rural Schools

Between 1930-1940 era, many schools that had served as the strawberry and

cucumber schools were closed in order to consolidate.


There were as many as 33 schools in various communities throughout our District.

They were Altman, Bowling Green, Bridges, Buchanan,Castalia, Center Hill, College

Hill, Crewsville, Fish Branch, Ft. Green,  Gardner, Harrison City, Holzendorf, Lake

Branch, Lemon Grove, Lilly Branch, Limestone, Live Oak, Maud(e), Oak Grove, Ona

Station, Parnell, Pine Dale, Popash, Prospect, Scott, Spring Hill, Sweetwater, Torrey,

Tura, Vandolah, Wauchula and Zolfo Springs.  


These  schools can be verified as being in existence because the District has Teacher

Attendance Rosters for each of these schools.  Please note that actual establishments

are only recorded as we learn more about these schools. 


Our records vary due to the time frame involved.  Record keeping was simplified in these

early years.  Inclusive dates may not be 100% acurate.  Regardless, there were many

strides being made to ensure education for all children in the rural areas.


Consolidation occurred as roads improved making travel easier for students to get

to and from school. Major highways that were added also contributed to the closing

of many schools and leaving only the more centralized schools in the county open.

The Board brought the recommendation from the State Department of Education to

the table for consideration at their March 21, 1949, meeting. The recommendation was

for the School Board to consolidate to three permanent school centers:

Zolfo Springs, Bowling Green and Wauchula.


The Board unanimously voted to accept the states proposal. (Board Minutes Vol:2 page 244)


In addition, the railroad also played an important role in determining the three

centers. The North Atlantic Coast Railroad ran through the cities and communities

that would later become Hardee County:Bowling Green, Torrey, Wauchula, Zolfo,

Moffitt, Buchanan and Gardner.


 The map below, shows the routes of the railroad.


 railroad routes

                                              1920 Map, Source:


Shown on this map are: Altman, Bowling Green, Bridges, Buchanan. Crewsville, Ft Green, Gardner, Grubhof ,

Kinsley, Lily, Limestone, Maud(e), Moffitt, Ona, Sinclair, Sweetwater, Torrey, Wauchula and Zolfo.



1933 Name Changed to Wauchula High School

On August 29, 1933, the Wauchula High School was renamed to Hardee

County High School by the Board of Public Instruction.   (Board Minutes, Volume 1, Page 276)



1945 Fire Claims the Hardee County High School

 At 10:40 A.M. on April 27, 1945, the alarm sounded for the local fire

department to respond to a blaze at the southeast corner of Bay Street

and Florida Avenue. It was the High School! The arrival at the scene and

seeing that the fire team couldn’t handle the blaze on their own, Chief Peeples

requested help from neighboring fire stations in Ft. Meade, Avon Park and Arcadia.


In spite of their efforts, the heat became so unbearable that they had to retreat. The

building burned to the ground leaving nothing but the walls standing.


All records of students who graduated since 1925 were lost in the fire. The loss of the

building, equipment and contents was estimated at $150,000. There was nothing left to salvage.

1945 Fire





1945 Wauchula High School fire


 Main Street 2006 Calendar          



The Board being in session, at the time of the fire, adjourned to offer assistance.

In the afternoon of that same day, they reconvened to determine how they would continue

the high school for the 1945-46 school term. Quick action by the board was evident when

they passed a resolution to secure permission from the Zolfo Springs Trustees to house the

county high school in the Zolfo school building.


Superintendent T.E. Blackburn, Board Chairman C.A. Best and Member English made a

trip to Tallahassee where they met with Representative Taylor. In the conference with

Representative Taylor, they made their plead for financial assistance, in order to secure

books, Home Economics equipment, library books, typewriters, desks and other needs. 

Upon their return at the May 4, 1945, Special Meeting they reported that they had

been successful in acquiring financial aid.

(Board Minutes Vol:2, Pages 121-122)



Temporary Location for High School Students


The aftermath of the fire, brought on a whole new meaning to opening day.

The Board and Trustees were faced with many obstacles.  Additional preparation was

required, in order, for the education of Wauchula High School students to continue.  

The decision for the school to convene would be on May 24th. Starting time would

be at 9:45 A.M.


Group of students at Zolfo Springs School, 1945 Source: A Touch of Classes, Project Graduation 1996

A plea by Superintendent T.E. Blackburn was made to the community for donations. 

“We sustained a very heavy loss in building, books, furnishings and other equipment.

The loss cannot be easily replaced. Much of it is not on the market. We are a small county,

and there is a great need of unity, unity and more unity. We need your help and your

children need the help of all together least we fail them in providing the essentials for an

adequate school system.”


High School principal, Prichard also made requests for much needed items.


Additional concerns and adjustments had to be made to accommodate sanitation issues,

parking, lunches and providing adequate water supply at the Zolfo Springs School.


Transportation of students was another issue that needed to be addressed. It was decided

that for the 1945-46 school term all high school students were to be picked up at three

major locations at 9:00 A.M.


1. All high school students living west of 7th Avenue would wait for their bus at the High School ground.


2. All high school students living east of 7th Avenue will wait at the Bay Street Service Station.


3. All high school students living north of Main Street would meet at the elementary school.


Text books were another issue along with the need of stocking a library. The Principal made a

request to the public to donate any books that private citizens may have. Any donation of books

would be accepted with open arms.

1945, Old Zolfo Springs School


Touch of Classes

1996 Project Graduation



Re-Establishing Credits


All permanent records of students were lost in the fire in the spring of 1945. Therefore,

Mr. Jack Pritchard, Principal of Hardee County High School, responded to requests

from other schools and universities explaining that students were responsible for

re-establishing their credits for graduation.

letter from Mr. Jack Pritchard, Principal of Hardee County High School



 A letter was written on October 3, 1945.   There was also an enclosure for the

purpose of listing courses taken for each of the respective four years: Freshman,

Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.   Most of the re-collections of courses taken

were determined by the word of the student.



The Hardee County High School is Rebuilt


It was the 20th of June in 1945; when the Architect L. Alex Hutton appeared

before the Board to submit the application for approval which included blue

prints and specifications. Funds would be directed under the Bureau of Community

Facilities to build a new high school.


The Wauchula Trustees presented the proposed site for construction on

December 27, 1945. It was a 10 acre track located next to the west side of the

old highway known as the Southerland Estate. The cost was $6,000.


In order for the PBI to have funding to build the new county high school,

a county referendum on legislative issues had to be settled for the use of Race Track Funds.


An Election was to be held on February 12, 1946, to determine the funding of the high school.


Trustees and the Board decided to request that the Board of County Commissioners set

aside $5,000 annually to be matched by the Trustees for 15 years.   The monies would

come from Race Track Funds, over the 15 years that would provide for $150,000.


The completion cost would be as high as $300,000 which would include 10-12 classrooms,

study halls, furnishings and a auditorium. The monies for the gymnasium would be generated

through the American Legion who agreed to take on the fund raising for this project.


Architect Elliott and Fletcher and Associates were responsible for the specifications.


A building committee was established to oversee the project. Members of the committee

were: R.A. Taylor, A.B. Pearce, Evan Jones, Woodrow Nicholson, L.W. Bostick and Albert Lane.


On April 20, 1948, the Board awarded the construction bid from C.A. Fielland, Inc. of Tampa. 

(Board Minutes, Vol:2, Page 220-221)


The cost would be:         $320, 619.00

Plumbing:                        $14,082.50

Roy A. Barnett & Sons

Gym foundation               $16,858.00

& concrete floor

Wauchula High School Wauchula High School
  Source: Crackel Barrel,






Dedication  Ceremony of the New Hardee County High School


 A dedication committee for the opening of the school consisted of Mr. Joel Evers and Mr. H.F. Johnson.


They were given the direction from the Board that the ceremony would be on August 31, 1949.  The dedication

ceremony was held in the afternoon with an estimated crowd of 3,000.

The Hardee County Teacher’s Association greeted guests and conducted tours throughout the new complex.


 Hardee County High School map

 The new school opened for students on September 12, 1949, with 444 students in attendance. 

  Teachers at opening day were: Joel Evers, principal, Isabel F. Akins, E.E. Bagwell, Katherine Bostick, 

Golda Carlton, Frances Causey, Paul Creech, Ralph Fritz, R.G. Manley, V.G. Matherly, Sara McInnis,

Thelma Cole Miller, Alice T. Pearce, C.A. Platt, Mattie Mae Saunders, Norma Shackelford, Louise

Southerland, Mary Louise Van Natta, Maude Wilkinson and Lorraine Young.



Flag pole in front of Hardee County High School





Flag Pole in front of Hardee County High School


                     Dedication Plaque, 1958                        

      Dedication Plaque Hangs in Foyer

      of the Hardee County High School    

      According to the  plaque, the school 

      was erected in 1958



Painting that hangs in the foyer of the Old HHS, by Dorothy Sherman Leech Dorothy Sherman Leech

 This beautiful painting hangs in the foyer of the Old HHS on Florida Avenue.  

The artist for the painting is Dorothy Sherman Leech.  Currently, there is no information as to how the painting was aquired. 





1949-1950 School Year

The Board of Public Instruction ruled that the insignia for the Hardee

County High School would be "H" instead of the "W" for Wildcats.

(Board Minutes Volume 2, page 244)




Lillian R. Brown School Built in 1950


The school was first named Wauchula Junior High School and taught students in

the first grade through the eighth.


 Plans for construction of the new school first began when board members met

on May 20, 1950, to accept the bid from Himrod and Bostick for $17,988.


On September 8, 1950, the dedication ceremony was held with the attendance

of two-hundred people. The ceremony consisted of the Superintendet of H.B.

Dominick welcoming the public with the Principal, Mrs. L.R. Brown, of the school



Guest speaker for the event was D.E. Williams, Superintendent of Education,

State of Florida, Department of Education.







Our Vision:
Empower and inspire all students for success.

Our Mission:
To provide all students a high-quality education in a nurturing and
creative environment to develop responsible citizens.

Please note: Florida has a very broad public records law. Most written communication to or from our state officials regarding
state business are public records that are available to the public and media upon request.