As Grovetown prepares for the opening of a new high school, the city also will lose its oldest school.
Grovetown High School, under construction on Chamblin Road, is expected to open in August. But Grovetown's first school will likely be torn down soon to make way for new development.
The Hatton Schoolhouse, a small wooden building that housed students in the late 1800s, sits in disrepair on a 4-acre lot that fronts East Robinson Avenue and backs up to Ford Avenue across from the current Grovetown Elementary School.
"I never knew anything about it," said Bob Boyd, principal of Grovetown Elementary. "That is kind of neat."
The school, which opened in 1878, was named for Dr. Joseph Hatton. Hatton, from England, was a journalist, novelist, playwright and author. He was elected as Grovetown's first mayor in 1882, said Charles Lord, who has written about Columia County's history.
"He owned everything down here," Lord said of the area along Robinson Avenue, which was then called Timberlake Avenue.
The small building served as the only educational institution in Grovetown until the turn of the century.
"It was nothing fancy," Lord said, adding that the schoolhouse might have housed a handful of pupils. "People around here were very uneducated at the time. It wasn't that big."
The dilapidated building sits between two other old buildings that Lord believes were built later. Lord said it is unclear if those two buildings were related to the school since records from that period are scarce.
Through the open space where a wall, and possibly a porch, fell in, a small room with a single light bulb and a window is visible. The belfry, which might have once housed a school bell, still stands atop the sharp-pitched roof.
The property is owned by Jackson Carswell, who said he had no idea the old building was a historic schoolhouse. A mobile home occupied by renters sits just a few yards away.
"It is a good little piece of property right in the center of town," Carswell said. "The only thing I had ever been told on it is right where the doublewide mobile home is sitting was one of Grovetown's oldest and biggest homes, and lightning struck it and it burned."
Lord said that home, called the Villa-Marion House, was home to a few prominent families after Hatton died, including a cotton broker and prominent Augustan Stewart Phinizy, and Billy Cox, a Grovetown mayor.
The house burned in 1972 but part of it's stone foundation, outdoor walls and a stairway remain. Carswell said he bought the property from the Cox family three or four years ago, after Cox's widow died.
Carswell lives on another historic property in Grovetown -- the former home of John Dodge. Dodge was a pharmacist and harness racing enthusiast who brought his stable from Ohio and built a large house and race track on what is now called Dodge Lane.
Lord said use of the Hatton Schoolhouse ceased around the turn of the century when the Grovetown School, also called Jordan's Academy, opened near the current site of Grove Baptist Church.
"This school, in my opinion, was the original school," Lord said. "But who is to say that in later years after the (Grovetown School) came, that people didn't use that ... as playhouses and everything else."
Carswell said the property is for sale, but he doesn't have any plans for what he'd like to see done with it.
"One of the ladies in Grovetown wants to put a library there," he said.
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