Quick Facts on the History of Morris Grove
The First Morris Grove
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
History of Morris Grove
*Image donated by Hallie Nunn, student of original Morris Grove School.