The History of Morris Grove
Morris Grove Quick Facts
- Founded by Morris Hogan in the 1880s.
- Morris Hogan was born a slave in 1853.
- Once he was emancipated, he owned and operated two farms in the area of Old N.C. 86 and Eubanks Road.
- Hogan viewed education as a "passport to a better life for his own and other Black children."
- In the late 1800s the Orange County school board sanctioned the opening of one-room, segregated schools built and operated by local individuals, due to lack of funds for school construction.
- Hogan built and operated the school using his own land and funds.
- The school was located at what is now 402 Eubanks Road.
- It was a wooden, one-room, simple frame structure with only pump water, outdoor toilets and wood stove heating.
- The state paid the salary of two teachers who taught anywhere from three to seven grades depending on the decade.
- The school was most likely in operation from the 1880s to the mid 1900s.
- Around the 1950s public schools started accepting Morris Grove students.
- All of Morris Hogan's children and some of his grand children attended the school.
- The Rogers family members were some of the last children to attend Morris Grove School.
- Much of the structure still stands. It was renovated into a house in the 1950s. The original doors are covered in brick. A cement porch was added. Mazie Hogan Cradle owns the house and her son lives there.
January 24, 2008
News and Observer
A school for black kids, lost in time
Morris Grove Elementary, started by a former slave, is fading from memory
Author: Patrick Winn, Staff Writer
CARRBORO - Construction maps for a new elementary school coming to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district next year are marked in dizzying detail: parking lot grids, a maze of sidewalks, power line squiggles. There is also a blank spot near the fringe of the property. That space holds an old school's past, one that's mostly unknown to all but a circle of elderly blacks raised on nearby farms.
It is the site of Morris Grove Elementary School, named for the former slave who built it. Much of the school's ramshackle structure still stands. But its history dims with the passing of each former student.
Those still living piece together the story of Morris Grove through hazy childhood memories.
"We walked through the woods on a muddy wagon path to get there," said Samuel Rogers, 65, who went to the school through third grade. "Didn't have no shoes most of the time. Once I got there, I had to hold my feet up to the sun to get them warm."
Rogers' generation of farm children were the last to attend Morris Grove Elementary, which eventually ceded its students to the segregated schools of Chapel Hill.
The Morris Grove school was created in the late 1800s by Morris Hogan, son of a female slave and her owner. A farmer and local statesman, Hogan put his own land and money into the one-room wooden schoolhouse. The state paid the salaries of two instructors, who, depending on the decade, taught six, seven or three grades.
The school's students belonged to a mostly black farming community nearby. "Grandfather wanted all his children and all the country children to have schooling," said Ida Horton Walker, 96, Hogan's granddaughter. "He wanted the boys to be educated and the girls to marry educated men." Submerged by time Much of the old school's relics are obscured by masonry or have crumbled away with the years.
The building was renovated in the 1950s, and its original doors are covered in brick. A cement porch was added to the front. The house is owned by Mazie Hogan Cradle, a former Morris Grove student. Her son still lives there.
High grass hides the old water pump's foundation. A scrubby circle nearby, mostly bald of its trees, was where the students played on the dirt of the ball field. "We were so poor we didn't even have actual balls," Rogers said. "We had to pick fruit over by the slave graveyard and toss that around."
An adjoining wooden building is half collapsed. That was where lunch was prepared. In the haunting interior, the floor is now sunken and gummy with wet insulation from the rotted ceiling. Morris Walker, 65, another former student, remembers the aroma of turnip greens floating from that building and teasing his stomach during class.
"We ate good, but simple," he said. Some mornings, students helped teachers fire up the iron stove, which sat in the center of the schoolhouse. Lower grades sat on one side, higher grades on the other. Discipline was one hour in the corner with a paper bag on your head.
Desks were repaired donations from white schools. Books were hand-me-downs. Rogers still has a few: a decomposing hardcover on birds, an encyclopedia's orphaned "L" volume.
"At the time, we thought it was good that we had anything," said Allonious Nickens, 80, Rogers' aunt and a member of one of the last generations to attend Morris Grove through seventh grade. "We appreciated what we got."
After school, students walked wooded paths to their family farms. There was little time for homework. Cows needed milking, and wood needed chopping. Heading for the city About the 1950s, public school systems began accepting Morris Grove students. They started with fourth through seventh grades, busing them to a segregated school in Chapel Hill's Northside neighborhood five miles south.
When the city schools started taking in all the black children within its borders, Morris Grove Elementary closed. With it went part of the farming community's closeness, Morris Walker said.
"I hated that city school," he said. "Those city kids were nasty to us. Called us country boys. Teased us because we didn't know what a basketball was." Eventually, Walker won their respect with his fists, he said.
"I showed 'em what a country boy could do to 'em," he said.
Morris Grove students who aren't dead are in their twilight. Morris Walker lives in a Carrboro rest home. Rogers, a stout man with hair like lamb's wool covering his face and head, has prostate cancer. Nickens can't recall a single living classmate.
Rogers lives on family land near the school on Rogers Road. He spends afternoons tending to his grandchildren, who grudgingly chop wood for the outdoor wood stove that heats his house.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro's new elementary school, still unnamed, will sit in a county-owned park called Twin Creeks. One of the park's namesake creeks flows within view of Rogers' house. The school will handle the inevitable growth in this part of the county.
But for now, the farming community of Roger's childhood is one of Chapel Hill-Carrboro's few undeveloped outposts.
"I'll die here with my boots on," Rogers said. "This is home."