History of Midlothian ISD
Karen Esberger -Historian
Midlothian Area Historical Society
Although a few Anglo settlers arrived in this area as early as 1847, Midlothian itself was not established until two railroads crossed here. The Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe began running trains through the area they called Midlothian in 1882 and held a major sale of town lots in May, 1883. Then the Houston and Texas Central crossed that line in 1886. Residents of the nearby village called Lebanon, established 1848–1850, moved their businesses and homes to the proximity of the railroads. The railroads also brought an influx of new residents from the Old South who had previously raised cotton and saw that the soil around Midlothian would also produce plentiful cotton crops.
In 1850 a log cabin school/church was built within the Hawkins settlement. Its location would be on S. 14th St. now. After it burned around 1860, a new cabin was constructed and called Lebanon. Besides school and church, it was used for public meetings.
At the time of the sale of town lots in 1883, Professor Ratliff had 40-50 students in the first public school, located on the present Irvin campus. Also at that sale, the railroad company granted Block 59 to Professor Works for a private academy. Block 59 is now Kimmel Park. By 1886, there were 150 students enrolled in his Polytechnic Institute.
In September 1892, Professor Works opened with 40 students, while the public school taught by Professor Coglan and Hawkins enrolled 70 students. By January 1896, the graded public school under Professor J. M. Crawford had 325 pupils, and Polytechnic had 100 students. A two story wooden structure, built on the present Irvin campus in the 1890s, was the first Midlothian public school.
The Midlothian Independent School District was formed in 1906. The first trustees were B. F. Hawkins, President; DeWitt Rice, Burr Martin, S. J. Martin, Sec; S. A. Belew, L. O. Moore and G. W. Hendricks. The first tax rate of 35 cents was approved, and each term lasted six months.
In August, voters approved a sale of bonds for $15,500 to build a brick building. The trustees hired architect C. H. Page, Austin. Soon they accepted his plan with an auditorium on the 2nd floor. The Texas Building Co, Ft. Worth, won the contract with a bid of $14,860.90.
In March, 1907, the trustees moved to “sell to the highest bidder at public outcry on 11 of May 1907 the old Public School Building at 3 p.m." They took out insurance for the new building in May, in the amounts of $12,000 for fire and $8000 for tornado. The trustees purchased coal stoves in August, and the school year began in the new, brick building.
The trustees elected Professor M. H. Morris, Corsicana, as Superintendent of MISD for 1909-10, at a salary of $1200 per term of 8 months. The trustees also passed a rule that all students and teachers have to stay on campus all day, beginning that school year. On September 6, Professor Morris reported 285 in attendance for opening day
In April 1914, the trustees were again considering construction. A mass meeting of citizens of the 20 square mile district was called to discuss issuing bonds to build an auditorium.
Blackboards were purchased in January, 1915, for $44.67.
Bids for a new building were opened in February, 1915. One for $7,996.00 for all materials and labor was accepted from Mr. Harvey, Ft. Worth. The next month, the trustees decided that the new building would be built blocking South 3rd Street. Mr. Harvey reported completion of the building on August 5. So trustees inspected and accepted it.
In September, the trustees voted that teachers were required to remain in the afternoons till all students were dismissed. Two teachers protested in October, but the ruling was upheld. They also voted to put a phone in school if it would not cost more than $1.50 per month
The trustees voted in June, 1920, to let the Baptists use the High School auditorium for church while their new building was being constructed. The Baptists were to pay lights and coal and see that the building was not damaged.
In the fall, 1920, construction was under way for a new elementary school. Mr. and Mrs. Tom Moore Dees had donated enough money for five classrooms to be built in memory of their daughter Dell Mason Dees who died at age three of measles. The trustees borrowed money from the First National Bank to be able to add an auditorium to the classrooms. A Universal Heating plant would be installed at a cost of $3600.00. Trustees paid R. M. Loyd $13.50 for toilet paper.
M. T. Moore was paid. $18.33 for plumbing the new building The Oil Mill was paid $203.62 for coal at $7.50/ton. In August, Mr. Moore was paid to put lights in Dell Mason Dees. The new building opened for students that fall.
With three red brick buildings now in place, the 1907 building housed high school; the 1915 building, called the Grammar School, housed grades 5-8; and Dell Mason Dees contained grades 1-4. It might be noted that the auditorium in Dees was large enough to house all MISD students, grades 1-12 through 1964. The campus photograph was made in 1940.
A stadium located near the east end of East Ohio Street, hosted the Midlothian Panthers football and baseball teams.
The football field was later located behind the high school on a vacant area also used as a playground.
Basketball was played on an outside court and the baseball field was located in Kimmel Park, two blocks east of the campus.
From 1920 to 1969, the Parent-Teacher Association of Midlothian schools sponsored an annual May Fete as their primary fundraiser. A queen, maid of honor, and ladies in waiting were elected from the senior class, and every homeroom elected its own duchess who chose her duke. The main festivities were held in the grammar school, then the primary school auditoriums, and later the gym. The girls’ formals, as well as stage decorations, became progressively more elaborate. One end of the gym was decorated to seat the royal party, and the other end was decorated with a different theme each year, in order to entertain royalty and patrons.
At first, a Maypole was set up on the playground behind the three school buildings, and a parade circled through downtown before the coronation program began. Queens were selected at a penny a vote; later they were elected by popular vote of the high school students. After a few years, it was decided that the queen choose a king.
Each homeroom class from grades one through 12 elected a duchess who chose a duke from among her classmates. The girls' dresses were simple for the first several years, but became more elaborate, and soon each wore a formal. The Duke provided a nosegay for his Duchess; and the PTA provided a crown and long white train for the Queen who, of course, always wore white. The other dresses were of various pastels.
Nearly every child participated in the program, and the gym was always packed full of proud parents and other spectators, in the days before air conditioning!
The fiftieth and last May Fete was celebrated in 1969 by inviting former queens and kings to participate. They had special seating in the gym at the end opposite the Royal Party. Both ends of the gym were elaborately decorated with white sateen drapes, trellises of greenery and red roses, and baskets of greenery. The center court contained three maypoles. Over fifty of the former royalty attended, including Mrs. Alta Sherrill Daughty, the second queen in 1921.
By 1932, MISD served 415 students and graduated 33. Courses taught in the High School were English, commercial, bookkeeping, typing, shorthand, homemaking, and P.E. The school tax rate was reduced from $1 to 90 cents. Valuation of property in MISD was $1,250,000. School property was $100,000.
Most of the high school boys participated in the Future Farmers of America through their vocational agriculture classes after the Midlothian Chapter received its charter on December 15, 1937. This is now the third largest chapter in Texas, in a national organization which was chartered in 1929.
The Midlothian schools’ first gym was completed in the spring of 1950, barely in time to host the annual May Fete. Part of the lumber came from Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, after World War II ended. A band hall was located to the left side of the entrance, and a lunchroom was to the right. Eugene Pegram was one of the carpenters, and he did the major part of constructing the rafters in their diamond-shaped arrangement, known as a lamella roof style. The citizens had approved bonds for $70,000 to finance this project.
The Grammar School building was demolished in 1954, and the bricks were sold for a total of $1.00 (one dollar) to build the local civic center. Students met for class in the gym until this new, long section opened in the fall of 1954.
The red brick Midlothian High School was demolished in 1954 and replaced with a long, low building, attaching to the new Grammar School, and opened for the spring semester in 1955. Classes met in the gym during construction.
Soon after the new buildings were opened in 1955, the new Superintendent’s office was the site for the first Salk polio vaccine being given in Midlothian. Dr. G. J. Kochevar, the only Medical Doctor in town, administered the injections, assisted by his nurse Gladys Anderson, and several parent volunteers. All students in grades 1-12 were brought to the office, in turn, to receive this preventative medicine. Many of them had lost family or friends to the epidemic already.
Graduates of Midlothian High held a reunion in July 1955 in Dell Mason Dees Auditorium. A display of old yearbooks and other memorabilia was set up in the lobby. A brief business meeting was held in the morning, and graduates from each class stood as their year was called. A catered barbecue dinner was served and visiting went on all afternoon. This basic format is still followed every five years.
Girls in Midlothian Schools organized a Pep Squad to cheer their teams and support the Cheerleaders. A drill team called the Pantherettes was begun about 1962. Of course, the Majorettes continued to lead the band, as had been done for years.
The Homecoming Parade on the Friday afternoon of Homecoming week has always been important to the students. Entrants include civic groups, school groups, and each high school class (grades 9-12) They each spent hours building their float for competition. Earliest floats were pulled by horses before the gasoline engine became more widely available.
The 1957-1958 boys basketball team was the first team to win a district title and bi-district in any sport in Midlothian.
The students endured several epidemics in the days when few immunizations were commonplace. Meningitis caused a closure in 1912. In 1918, the school children gave money for the Red Cross to send to the boys “somewhere in France.” Flu closed the school in 1919 (the “Spanish” influenza epidemic) and again in January, 1952. Modern, indoor plumbing was installed in 1919, and natural gas was piped in in September, 1927. Chickenpox was rampant in February, 1955, and measles closed the school for two weeks in April, 1956.
The local Future Farmers of America (FFA) put together an award-winning String Band in 1958 which played at the national convention in Kansas City.
The year 1960 brought the first district championship in baseball to Midlothian High School. Under coach William Borgers, the team lost only one district game and won Bi-District, losing out in the regional playoff tier.
From a senior class of 51 in 1966, the District experienced a slow, steady growth till about 1990 when the number of students began to mushroom. The class of 1998 was the last to graduate fewer than 200 students. The original campus, now called J. R. Irvin, is still in use as an elementary school, and the District also contains seven other elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools.