July 12, 2009 - The Lake City Reporter

By H. Morris Williams

In bygone days, there were four 'Rosenwald schools' in Columbia County: Springville, Bethlehem, County Line, and Fort White.

Who was Rosenwald and what were Rosenwald schools? Julius Rosenwald was a former president of Sears, Roebuck and Co. (1908-1922). Rosenwald schools were poor black schools in the south he tried to help.

He did not work alone. He entered into a collaboration with Booker T. Washington and Paul Sachs (of Goldman Sachs) and they set out to provide help for these substandard schools.

The three helped with curriculum but also with major architectural assistance in designing the best possible building plans to improve learning.

They were highly successful.

By 1932, there were 5,357 new buildings for blacks in 883 counties in 15 southern states. Florida got 125 of these schools and our county got four: Springville, County Line, Bethlehem, and Fort White.

There is no detailed history about these schools but here are the names of a few of the teachers who taught at them at one time or another:

*Springville (Located on the Lake Jeffrey Road): Alberta Williams Saulsby, Eloise Williams Green, Ruth Lamb Green, Arlethia Tate Alford, Flueria Mae Hilliard, and James Green, Principal.

*County Line (West of Lake City): Marie S. Sheppard. This school was located almost exactly on the Columbia County/Suwannee County line, thus its name. The school had two doors. Students from Columbia went in one door, from Suwannee the other door. Teachers got exactly half their paycheck from each county.

*Bethlehem Elementary: (Near Fort White): Magdalene Zinnerman, Hattie Lovett.

*Fort White Elementary: Manuel Norton, James Green, Louisa Sanders, and Mildred Singleton. Note: This school and Bethlehem were later consolidated and became Fort White Bethlehem with Mildred Singleton Bennett serving as principal.

You can learn more about the Rosenwald schools at the Fisk University website at


The old First National Bank made and distributed wooden nickels during our 1959 centennial celebration. On one side of the coin was printed a likeness of 'Centennial Belle', a bonnet-wearing likeness of a typical 1859 lady and the words "Face value 5 cents".

On the reverse side were these words, "Lake City Centennial May 17-23, 1959. Good at any co-operating business or redeemable at face value at First National Bank, Lake City, Florida.

Would those wooden nickels have any value today? No. They expired May 15, 1959, 50 years ago.


Come September 2009, Rev. Herb Brownlee, Mikesville Presbyterian pastor, will have completed his 73th year of Gospel ministry.

He has been preaching longer than Rev. Billy Graham and has preached more sermons that Rev. Billy Sunday.

Is he ready to retire? No way. Pastor Herb wants to complete a 75-year ministry before he retires.

What a guy! What a commitment to the Gospel ministry!

Visit Mikesville Presbyterian Church and hear him preach any Sunday at 11 a.m. You'll be in for a treat!


*2007: James Wilson was named Suwannee County's 'Teacher of the Year', unusual because he had been named this county's 'Teacher of the Year' just three years before.

*1988: Delan Etheridge of the Kindergarten Center was named this county's 'Teacher of the Year'. The same year, Mellie Martin, Marvin Mosby, and Trudy Pasko were named our county's school 'Volunteers of the Year.'

*1928: Mrs. 'WRE' (name withheld) entered Lake Shore Hospital, had a baby, stayed five days to fully recover, and the total bill was $89.50.

*1856: The First Presbyterian Church of Lake City, then known as Alligator, was organized with eight members. Twelve years later, in 1864, the church was used as a hospital to care for wounded Confederate and Union soldiers after the Battle of Olustee.

*2006: Lake City's Jay Brown was inducted into the Florida Transportation Builders Association's Hall of Fame at their inaugural induction ceremony.

*1956: The total assets of the Columbia County Bank, L.C. Green, President, were $2,158,564.16.

*2002: Deputy Sheriff Jefferson Davis (CHS 1995) died as a result of a line-of-duty car crash on May 29, his 24th birthday.

*1930: The CHS girls' track team, coached by Zell Waits, won the state high school championship.


The ex-wife told her friend, "My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God, and I didn't." square

H. Morris Williams is a local historian and long-time Columbia County resident.