History of Redwood High School


"Alma Mater, dear old Redwood loyal sons are we
Our fond hearts are thine alone and evermore shall be.
Far into the fields of glory banners are unfurled
To proclaim our Alma Mater greatest in the world.
Proud is thy endearing beauty in thy hillside vale
Hail to thee, our Alma Mater Hail Redwood all hail.

Forward: A lot of the early research about our small community has been done by Mrs. Hazel Middleton, a retired school teacher and a former teacher at Redwood for many years. Mrs. Robbie Graham was of great help in gathering this information and history before her death. Mr. J. Noel Nutt was most helpful in clearing up a few lost years. I have spent many hours and days trying to piece all of this past 150 years together. Hopefully all of it is correct. If not, I stand to be corrected and apologize.–Robbie R. Whitaker, 1988, (Pictures and annotations by Mel Oakes with permission granted by Robbie R. Whitaker). Robbie’s picture at right

Redwood History by Robbie Whitaker

As we go back in history, try to picture this area, if you can, as a vast wilderness, barely a trail to walk on, or ride your horse or mule, and I don't mean the comfort of a Tennessee Walker. There were still a few Indians in this area. The white people and Indians had a border line agreement. This line was near the old Yazoo River bridge, not more than a mile up Highway 3 from Redwood school. It was agreed that the Indians would not come south of this line for a period of time; neither was the white man to go north of this line by land. Why settle in this area? Plentiful supply of water, the Yazoo River, and an abundance of rich Delta farm land.

There have been five different school buildings in this area since 1840, all being within a two-mile radius of this very building. The first village in this area was established in the 1840s and was known as Milldale. The exact site of this vanished town was at the home place of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Graham on Skillikolia Road. This land is still owned today by the Grahams' daughter, Mrs. Leroy (Dorothy) Butts, and a granddaughter of the Grahams, Mrs. Ann Whitaker Sherard.

Only a faint hint is left here and there among the hills that a village ever stood—a stone pillar that supported a grist mill, and high on a ridge is a child’s lone monument. An abundance of clear cold spring water feeding into the Skillikalia Creek1 is still in existence today, which is another reason for this village being in this area. The few people living in the village saw the need for a school. In 1840, they built a small, one-room shack that served as the school for the next 20 years with the parents conducting the school as best they knew how. For lack of a name, it was known as the “Public School” with an enrollment of four students.

In the late 1840s and before the Civil War, an Englishman by the name of Thomas Redwood 2 moved into the Milldale village. He could see the beginning of a new era in this area. He operated a tannery, made shoes that he sold within the village and to traveling people along the Yazoo River. Later, he operated a store. As he prospered, he bought a tract of land—a dense woods where Redwood School is presently located. Redwood was named for the man who brought the first industry into the village. The people who lived here at that time were mainly farmers. Much of this land was, and still is, owned by large plantation owners. Very few small farms existed. Therefore, the population failed to grow, but the few people who were there were interested in education.

With the coming of a lumber mill, a feed mill, and the people who made their living by fishing and lived in house boats along the Yazoo River, the school began to grow. Because of the density of the population, a new school was built in the 1860s in the same general area and, according to land records, it was named Milldale School. An interview was granted by two senior citizens, Mrs. Lily Baker and Mr. Newell Simrall, and according to a report given by them, the only furniture in the school, except the stove, were the benches brought by the teacher and the pupils. All pupils used the same books, namely, The Blue Back Speller3, The Barnes Reader and an arithmetic book. With an enrollment of 7 students, this school remained in existence until 1895.

Because of the growth in population and the need for more room, the school moved about one mile west of the Milldale School to the Redwood Methodist Church. This was the first time the name Redwood had been associated with the school. They met in one corner of the church and used the church benches and the teacher used the pulpit as a desk.

The enrollment had now grown to twelve students. With this large enrollment, they now had eight grades. The textbooks used for the first and second grades were The Baldwin Reader and The Blue Back Speller. The remainder of the students were taught reading, writing, grammar, and arithmetic. Grammar diagraming was done in all grades from three through eight. All students used copy books. Since there were no blackboards, a few children, and very few, were able to have slates.

Four years later, in 1899, Mr. Frank Hebou gave a small tract of land for a new school just one-half mile from the Methodist Church. The people, seeing a need for a schoolhouse, met and donated their time and labor to build it. The next year, the pupils had a blackboard and regular school desks. This new school was really the very first Redwood School. There were other small schools in the Redwood area, e. g. Cole School.

Below is an early Redwood school. The photo was contributed by Roy Whatley.

The teacher, with the black bow, is Maude Dart Lanier (1883-1969), seen at right. She later was a postal clerk in Vicksburg for 31 years. Roy Whatley has a family photo from this period that has Maude in it, leading one to conclude that she was boarding with the Whatley family while teaching. The name of the school is not known. Schools were often assigned a number by the district e. g. Redwood School No. 1. But was known in the county by the location.

In 1902, Superintendent of county schools list in the October 8, Vicksburg Herald that Miss Laura L. Stiles is the teacher at Redwood. Mr. W. H. Mounger and Miss Eleanor Baker are teachers at Oak Ridge.

Some of the teachers who were instructors during this time were Mrs. Emma Pender, Mrs. Laura Stills and Mrs. Joe Hogan; all of these teachers were college graduates. They taught four months a year and received $40.00 per month, and some good soul gave them their board and keep. This building remained a school until 1916. It is still standing as of this date. The owners are Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell Martin and they have remodeled the building within the past year. It is now a lovely home for the Martin's daughter and her husband, Tammy and Nathan Ross.

Back in these one-room school days, the only teacher led the children in singing "America," the reading of Bible verses, or the repeating of the Lord's Prayer. One grade studied while the teacher heard another recite; and so it went from early morning to mid-afternoon. Of course, we will have to admit that there was a good bit of "mind wandering" of those at their desks because it was downright funny to listen to others read or spell. However, there was no giggling, and if one did forget himself in such a manner to let it be known he was laughing at somebody else, he might miss recess and not go out to play. The reason was because after the teacher finished his punishment, he or she wouldn't be able to play for a while.

Even though these schools were small, the state of Mississippi knew they were being operated, and even had superintendents who came on the scene in 1868 and were appointed by the governor. The first superintendent was a Mr. Brent4 who served two terms. With the coming to office as county superintendent, the late John H. Culkin, at left, (later Senator Culkin), a new era began to dawn for the Warren County Schools.

Soon after he entered office in 1913, he called a meeting of the local boards of trustees to discuss the inadequacies and effectiveness of the traditional one-teacher, one-room district school plan of education. Mr. Culkin was ready with a plan for consolidation which had been approved by the county board. Although only five consolidated schools were planned at first, it was shown that the children of the Redwood Community could not be transported because of the topography of this section; so it was decided to erect a school 1/4 mile east of the present school. In 1914 the board divided the county up into six school districts: Jeff Davis, Jett, Bovina, Culkin, Oak Ridge and Redwood.

In 1915, The Vicksburg Herald contains a notice from the County Agent Carlton G. Smith, County Agent, of a movie adressing improvement to Corn Growing. Included in the list of locations for the film are: Redwood School Nos. 6, 14, 35, 39, 13, etc. The names of these schools were not given. (One was the Magnolia school, other possibilities would be Brickhouse School, Holy Hill School. Which of these was the original 1899 school is not known. Similarly Oak Ridge Schools Nos. 19, 31, 30, 39, 16, 10, 4, 5, and 24. (Some nanes were: Cole School, Cane Ridge School, Russellville School, Beech Grove, Black School, Villa Nova School, Christian School and Bradley School.) Clearly the schools were not consolidated. Consolidation of Redwood and Oak Ridge schools appears to have occurred in 1916 as Robbie chronicles below.

Fifteen and three-fourths acres were bought from Miss Addie Fossett at $10.00 an acre to build this bigger and better school. We were, at last, really beginning to grow. This was in 1916 with an enrollment of 71 students, three teachers, and Miss Inez Owing Lum (1860 -1937), the principal. One of these teachers was Miss Vera Hopper, better known today as Mrs. Vera Opperman. She is living today with her daughter, Mrs. Virginia Conrad, on the same land that served the school as a baseball field for a short time.

In consultation with Robbie I am adding the following. The 1916 school building for consolidation needed to house 71 students. Robbie was told that maybe that building at some point burned. When this occurred is not known. I speculate that this building operated until the school, built in the 1920s, was constructed. The 1920s construction added three classrooms. It seems unlikely that this addition known as "Little Green School" could house twelve grades. I suspect the 1899 building was used with the 1916 addition and later burned after those students moved to Oak Ridge. The Vicksburg Herald newspaper reported in May 1922 of a competition among the county schools in Warren County. Oak Ridge and Redwood are included. They report the scores for each class at each school. Redwood grades listed are 1 through 6. There are no high school grades listed. Oak Ridge has 1 through 12. This would suggest that in 1922 that either high school students chose not to compete or that they maybe were at Oak Ridge. Jane Keen Griffin said her father graduated at Redwood and his class had only two students. Karl Keen was born in 1909, suggesting he graduated in 1925 or 1926. The teachers listed in the article were W. G. Cheney, Principal, Vera Hopper, Intermediate and Miss Elmer Austin, Primary.

In November 10, 1917 Vicksburg Herald, W. I. McKay is listed as principal of Redwood Consolidated School. In a November 28, 1917 issue of the Vicksburg Herald, they mention entertainment at the Redwood Consolidated School. The school faculty was Alonzo Eldrid McKay, who was born on 28 April 1897, his father, Samuel James Mckay, was 26 and his mother, Irene Josephine Boone, was 24. He lived in Beat 1, Warren, Mississippi, United States in 1940. He died on 1 February 1975, in Warren, Mississippi, United States, at the age of 77, and was buried in Ballground, Warren, Mississippi, United States., Principal, Miss Caddo Scott, Domestic Science and Miss Addie Fosset, Primary. In 1918, Estelle Austin, Home Demonstration Agent gave instruction at Redwood. a 1917 article in Vicksburg Herald refers to the Redwood Consolidated School building.

In 1917, the first teachers' home was built beside the school. It is still standing today and being used as a residence by Mr. and Mrs. S. V. Brock, a former Redwood High School teacher. (Note: At the end of this article I have added an interactive Google map of Redwood. Some of the names in this history will be present on the map. Click also on Satellite View to see aerial view of our school.–Mel Oakes)

In 1921 Miss Florence Fox was teaching at Redwood.

In the early 1920s, because of the shift in population, and Redwood Community getting bigger and growing each year, it became necessary to build three large classrooms, a music room, and an auditorium. The school housed students from the 1st grade through the 12th grade until 1932. The Redwood Parent Teachers' Association was organized in 1924. At this time, Mrs. Charlie Dunn was principal and Mrs. Lawrence (Robbie) Graham was the first P.T.A. president. With many money-making projects of the P.T.A., they were able to purchase playground equipment and chairs for the auditorium.

(Here is a photo of the Redwood School. Mel Oakes attended first grade there. It was a short walk up the road to Oak Ridge on the right. The building was green at the time he was there. During the spring his class shifted to the new building.

Redwood School 1927 Grades 1-12. To the right is a teachers' home. Below is a picture of the Teachers' home before a fence was added. In a conversation with Robbie Whitaker, she said she started school there in 1933 after the upper grades moved to Oak Ridge. At that time the classsroom to the left of the entrance was 4th grade and the one to the right was 6th grade. They must have included some adjacent grades, maybe 5-6 and 3-4. Off to the left was the 1st grade room. Behind it was the cafeteria. The large auditorium extended across the building. It had a nice stage. There was a small music room inside the auditorium. Later a new cafeteria was added behind the teachers' home. That building still exists in a remodeled form and is owned by Robbie. The school and the teachers home were demolished.

Redwood Teaches' Home, 1927. Virgil O'Neil, the principal, lived there.

Redwood Teacers' Home and Garden 1927

Redwood Teachers' home before remodel, 1927Red



(The school at the left is the first Culkin Academy, opening in 1916. Jefferson Davis is above. Gordon Cotton says that there were five consolidated rural schools built in Warren County at this time, Jefferson Davis, Jett, Bovina and Oak Ridge. Designed by a Mr. Kramer, the buildings were identical. Each was a dark green with white trim. If you look at the first Oak Ridge School, shown on my Oak Ridge page you see, indeed, they were identical. As Robbie stated, transportation issues resulted in a sixth school at Redwood. I remember the Redwood school being green also.—Mel Oakes)

The first buses were covered wagons with wide wheels and square bodies with side curtains that rolled up and down. These buses had a wood-burning stove in front by the driver. The seats raised up and down and, when not in use for transporting children to and from school, these vehicles were used to carry livestock to market. By 1917, about one-half of the buses were motor-driven, and salaries for the teachers were at a fixed sum of $75.00 a month with a B.S. or B.A. degree.

In 1932 and 1933, the P.T.A. built a lunchroom separate from the main building. During the first few years, dishes and equipment were purchased by this organization and for several years, they paid for the class rings of the graduates. A Delco generator supplied the first electricity to the school.

Due to another shift in population, with farmers looking for more land to farm and raise families, Redwood High School once more became an elementary school with its high school students going to Oak Ridge High School in 1932. A depression had now come into existence and the lunchroom was run by the W. P. A. (Works Progress Administration). Supplies were furnished by the W. P. A. The workers were paid and some seventy-five percent of the pupils were eligible for free lunches, and the P.T.A. helped buy food so that the children might have a balanced meal. Regular lunches could be purchased for five cents by the student who could afford to pay for his lunch. During the summer months, many parents grew, gathered, and took their vegetables to the lunchroom. The ladies would gather to can the food for the following school year. Many lunches were paid for this way including my own. During this time, after Mrs. Dunn was principal, a Mr. Winston came to Redwood as principal for two years. He was followed by Mr. Chaney, and then W. T. Lowrey. Mr. Virgil O’Neill (at right) was the last principal this school was to have at this particular location.

A census was taken by the school officials. They could see another population move in the making with people beginning to come near the railroad at Redwood and the gravel road into Vicksburg. Then it was decided that the people at Redwood would soon be needing a more modern and bigger school to accommodate the students from this area. In 1939, a new school was being built by W.P.A. labor.

The design was a one-story, U-plan school of poured concrete construction and topped by a flat roof behind short parapets. Taller auditorium section connects the two classroom wings, which have separate entrances set off by rounded concrete piers. Original 9/9 sash windows have been infilled and replaced by smaller residential-scale units. A facade addition to the north classroom wing dates to c.1960. The design is considered Art Moderne.

The architect was Edgar Lucian Malvaney (at right), (b.1896 - d.1970) Architect, Jackson, MS. Malvaney was born in Jackson, MS, and studied at MSU for one year (1917), before seeing service in the U.S. Army (American Expeditionary Force) in France during WWI. He remained in France after the war, studying architecture for six months at the A.E.F. School of Architecture in Le Mans and Paris, but returned to Jackson by 1919, when he worked for a number of local firms for the next decade: Drafting and Superintending for H.N. AUSTIN (1919-20); Draftsman for E.J. HULL (his cousin--1920-21); Drafting and Superintendant for T.C. LINK (1921-23); and Head Draftsman for C.H. LINDSLEY (1923-26). During this time, he also received his diploma from Washington University in St. Louis for "Special Arch." in 1922. In 1926, he became a partner in the firm HULL & MALVANEY, with EMMETT HULL. Leaving this partnership in 1931, he practiced independently for many years, designing a number of buildings and planning and supervising the moving of the town of Coldwater, Mississippi to a new site to make way for the Arkabutla Lake project in the 1930s. He served as president of the MS AIA in 1944. ROBERT GRANT FOSTER worked in this firm from 1938-1942. R.C. JONES was Architect-Designer in his office 1935-1941, and B.A. ENGLAND worked as Draftsman and Designer, 1945-1946. BEVERLY MARTIN was a draftsman and architect, dates unknown. Married in 1922, he had two sons, EDGAR LOUIS (known as Louis) and EMMETT BURKETT. Both sons became associated with his firm in 1954, when it became known as E.L. MALVANEY & ASSOCIATES. Some of his records are contained in two collections at MSU in Starkville: Hull and Malvaney Architectural Records and Malvaney Architectural Records, both held in Special Collections at Mitchell Memorial Library.

Below is an ad in Engineering News, Vol 139, page 149, 1947.

The building of the school moved slowly, but in 1941, as it was being finished, it was hit by a tornado that badly damaged more than half the classrooms. This delayed the opening of the school for another year. (Mr. R. L. Smith, at left, served as principal and agriculturist, of Oak Ridge School, 1940-41.) Finally, in 1942 and at a cost of $22,000.00, Redwood Elementary School opened its doors with Mr. Virgil O'Neill as its first principal. Mr. R. E. Selby was the county superintendent and Redwood was still a 1st-through-8th-grade school. Mr. Selby had been the principal at Oak Ridge.

The old green school was finally sold to M. H. Parker. He moved the building and used it as a home up Highway 61 North and lived in it many years, finally selling it to F. W. Whitaker. Mr. Parker purchased the old building for $800. The cafeteria was sold for $450 and is owned by L. B. Whitaker. The building is still standing today, remodeled and being used as a rental property only one mile from its original site.

Redwood was really beginning to move. The 1943-44 school year opened with Mr. O'Neill as principal and registering 125 students at the opening of school. In November of that year, a general election was held for the county offices. The people were electing the superintendents now instead of the governor appointing them, and Mr. E. W. Haining was elected as the new county superintendent. Shortly thereafter, the principal at Jett, Mr. Wood Hall, resigned and Mr. O'Neill was transferred to Jett. Mrs. Vera Opperman, still a teacher at Redwood, was moved into the role of principal and teacher to complete the school year.

During this school year, 1943-44, Mr. Haining made a survey of the Oak Ridge High School and discovered that 75% of the high school students were being transported from Redwood. He called a meeting of the school board, and it was decided that, once again, Redwood would have a high school. Mr. J. Noel Nutt (at right), principal at Oak Ridge, moved to Redwood High School at the beginning of the 1944-45 school year. The nation was at war during this period, World War II was in full swing, and a lot of the senior boys were beginning to volunteer or get drafted. The first graduation class from this particular school had nine graduates. Only seven got to walk across the stage and get diplomas. One of these seven, H.B. Sanderson, had just returned from the Navy with a medical discharge. Charles Oakes and Clifton Burroughs were already in the armed forces. Certificates for these two boys were given to their parents. Mr. Nutt remained at Redwood only one and a half years, moving on to fill the position as county superintendent of schools for the next 16 years.

Mr. Harold Denon Bishop (at left) was to be the next principal during the school year 1945-46. The country as a whole was just beginning to settle down after the lean war years. People were steadily moving into the Redwood area, and this meant more students for the school. A new cafeteria was built outside of the main building. During the next three years, Redwood had a shop built, a teachers' home was completed, and a gymnasium was finished and ready for use (1948). By this time, Redwood had an enrollment of 327. Mr. Bishop moved to Cary in 1949, and was replaced by Mr. F. S. Franklin as principal (below right). He was from Harperville, Mississippi, and his wife, Maud, taught high school English, later becoming Redwood's first master’s degreed Librarian. Mr. Franklin was a gentleman who had a deep voice, walked tall, and carried a big stick, as the saying goes. This school was no exception.

When principals were appointed, they were expected to teach classes, coach boys' and girls' basketball teams, run a school, act as a truant officer, and, when necessary, drive a school bus. This could mean going to Eagle Lake by ferry boat or up Highway 3 to the Yazoo County line or to Rawhide. If you were lucky, you might get to go to Waltersville. That road was paved, and all of the others were dirt and gravel. With a salary of $2,500.00 or $3,000.00 a year, Mr. Franklin said, “no way”; he had to have a little help. He had a young man in mind that he wanted to hire as coach. This young man was contacted, he rode a train to Vicksburg, rode a Greyhound bus to Redwood, and accepted the job for not more than three years. He had other plans he wanted to pursue. Little did he know that he had not only signed a contract to be a coach, he had just inherited the job as a full-time classroom teacher, boys' and girls' basketball coach, baseball and football coach, bus driver and any other job that might be available if Mr. Franklin could find him. Mr. J. C. Dorman5, at left, from Walnut Grove, Mississippi, was the young man who accepted this position in 1949. The enrollment was continuing to grow, with 395 students in grades one through twelve.

In 1951, a wing was added to relieve crowded classrooms. This addition gave Redwood a large library, three additional classrooms and a large one-room commercial department at a cost of $28,295.00. During the 1950s, Redwood was especially busy, making a name for itself, getting to be known state-wide for its academic ability as well as having a fine athletic program with the teams being known as the Redwood Rockets. Many fine young men and women were being graduated from Redwood School —going on to pursue careers in different areas.

In 1957-58, Oak Ridge Elementary School was closed, and these students were transported to Redwood making it necessary to build more classrooms. The enrollment was now 131 in high school and 424 in the elementary and junior high department for a total of 555 students, the largest enrollment that Redwood has ever had. The new wing, consisting of three classrooms, a teachers' lounge, a beautiful cafeteria, and a home economics department was completed for a total of $78,702.00 in 1958. ($66,837.00 of this was state money). During this period of time, Vicksburg was growing. New industry was moving into this area. The Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, the railroad, the cement plant, and the talk of a paper mill being built brought more people into northern Warren County—the county, not just Redwood. Crowded classrooms were in every school.

Mr. J. Noel Nutt, the county superintendent, had been trying to talk the people into passing a bond issue to consolidate all of the county schools into one major centrally located high school, but to no avail. The people would have no part of it—too much confusion as to where a central location would be—but Mr. Nutt did not give up. He continued to speak out for this new school and the great need for it. In 1961, the agricultural shop was rebuilt at a cost of $20,225.50. This was one of the finest and best equipped shops in the county. As of this date, that was the last addition to this school building.

During the early 1960s, Mrs. B. H. (Grandma) Wells was instrumental in getting a band organized in the county schools. She went to every school and solicited money from the P.T.A.s to buy the instruments for the students. This was the beginning of the Warren Central High School (Big Blue) band.

Meanwhile, as we proceed down through the years, many changes were in the making at Redwood, as time stands still for no man. Mr. Nutt decided to run for the circuit clerk office and was elected. Mr. Sharp W. Banks, Jr. was elected as our next county superintendent of education. Mr. F. S. Franklin retired in May of 1962 and moved to Vicksburg. Mr. J. C. Dorman was appointed principal of Redwood High School beginning with the school term of 1962-63. All of these promotions took place within a one-year period. Mr. Banks also realized that the schools were overloaded, so he and the school board decided to put a bond issue before the people for a vote to see if they could get that new high school building built within the next few years. The bond issue won out and Warren Central High School is the result of that election. The new school was ready for entrance and use at the beginning of the school year 1965-66. Again, history repeats itself, and Redwood School was once more a first through eighth grade school as it was in the 1840s with a much larger enrollment (431) and many more advantages.

One of the most important issues that the schools would have to face was the coming of integration in 1970. Principals, both black and white, gathered together and worked, day and night, sometimes seven days a week trying to make a seemingly impossible situation workable and to please the Justice Department at the same time. Lines were drawn in the different school districts, dropping this school's enrollment. When school opened in September, Redwood was 48% black and 52% white. This transition went very smoothly—thanks to all the planning by the superintendent and principals of Warren County. Of course, the Justice Department was constantly monitoring the situation. You could expect them to drop in on any day of the week and check out the classrooms. Mr. Dorman was well-schooled in the law of the land, and you can believe that any student who walked through the door was treated equally whether he was Black, white, red or yellow. Redwood also received five Black teachers that school year. Three of them are still at Redwood, one retired, and one is now the principal at Bovina School. Teachers were making more money than ever before. Salaries for a B.S. Degree were ranging from $6,000 to $7,000 a year.

One of the worst disasters that the school has had was the 1973 flood. The school was never closed but was getting mighty close. The National Guard moved onto the campus complete with helicopters and trucks to move any family that needed help. They slept mostly in the gym and used the school cafeteria to cook for their men. Many homes were completely ruined. Families moved into Vicksburg and never returned. That next school year we had lost some 75 black students due to the flood. The next year the back water returned but not nearly so high. Nevertheless, it was still taking the Black people from this area, dropping the enrollment even lower. In 1978-79, the school year closed with a total enrollment of 245 students, 71 Blacks and 174 Whites or 29% Black and 71% White. Of course, this was now only a 1st through the 6th grade school. The 7th and 8th grade went to the junior high at Warren Central.

Redwood started growing again with the International Paper Mill opening up and employing a lot of people. By this time, we had Blakely sub-division steadily growing and building homes. This meant more students for Redwood. Additional classes were added, including special education and remedial classes for the slower achievers. Mr. Banks was well-known for his ability in upgrading education for the youth. By the year 1974-75, Redwood was fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges, all under his guidance. He always encouraged teachers to pursue a higher degree— “never stand still.” For the next several years the enrollment was slowly climbing; this school was blessed with a fine, active P.T.O. and Boosters Club. What the county school system couldn't afford to buy for the school, these two organizations could, providing the faculty with many different kinds of equipment, making things better for the students and teachers. Redwood could be proud of the fact that when a student came into this school, he or she could transfer to another school either in-state or out, and be proud of the academic knowledge he had absorbed while a student at Redwood under the direct influence of Mr. Dorman and an excellent staff.

The 1980s were, and are, busy years, with many changes as most of you know. In 1985-86, the enrollment was 337, 89 Blacks and 248 Whites. The word "consolidation" was fast becoming a reality. There was, and still is, unrest in the community, not knowing what tomorrow may bring, but no worse than in 1960 when Mr. Nutt was trying to pass a bond issue to get Warren Central built. In April of 1987, Mr. Dorman walked into a faculty meeting and announced his retirement due to ill-health. For a man who came to Redwood in 1949 for three years and lasted 38 years—that speaks for itself. Mr. Dorman's entire school career began and ended at Redwood, Mississippi—a record, I believe, for the state.

Mr. Sharp Banks, County Superintendent of Education, announced his retirement effective July 1, 1987. Education must move forward. No, time does not stand still for any man. Again, history is repeating itself. The new superintendent was to be appointed by the Vicksburg-Warren County School Board rather than elected by popular vote. Dr. Ed Gilley was selected to fill this vacancy. This hard-working gentlemen as well as five new board members came into a very difficult situation. Impossible to please all the people, condemned if you do, and condemned if you don't, trying to combine two good school systems, and to make them work as one all while educating children. I, for one, say it's about time we all join forces with, and get behind Dr. Gilley and let him get on with the job he was hired to do, and that being, as I have stated earlier, educating your children and my grandchildren. With our help and given even half a chance, I believe he will do exactly that. Mrs. Sara Hill, former teacher at Warrenton Elementary, was appointed the new principal at Redwood in 1987. She is the 4th lady in the history of the school to serve as principal. Her achievements have been many during the past year. The one that she and parents appreciated most was the organizing of a Science Fair. She had 47 entries in the fair. Five of these were winners in the district and one was a state winner in Jackson. Mrs. Hill had great plans for the future of Redwood.

Kindergarten came on the scene in 1986. They have just completed the second year for these classes with an enrollment of 47 students, two classroom teachers and two teacher assistants. Redwood ended this school year with 378 students enrolled, and a projected enrollment of 400 to enroll in September in grades K - 6th grades. There are 21 certified teachers, one principal, six teacher assistants, six employed in the cafeteria, eleven bus drivers, two maids, one janitor, and one secretary. The secretary, Mrs. Robbie R. Whitaker, retired at the end of this school year 1988 with 32 years service.

The faculty and staff at Redwood Elementary is committed to nurturing, challenging, and developing the whole individual. The instructional staff encourages and motivates students to set high goals and to realize his or her true potential. Sixty-nine percent of the educational staff have master's degrees or above and all participate in staff development activities to enhance their knowledge of instructional goals and techniques. Redwood follows the curriculum taught by the public schools in the Vicksburg-Warren County School District. The uniform curriculum outlines skills students must be taught in each grade before advancing to another level. Bringing young minds into focus while effectively carrying out the important task of educating students is a major concern of the staff. Emphasis is placed on the social well-being and academic progress of all students while teaching them to be good citizens. Redwood offers an array of special programs which include:
1. The Reaching Out to Our Community (ROTOC) program for academically gifted students with exceptionally high intellectual ability.
2. Special Education classes for those students who have specific learning disabilities.
3. Chapter I assistance for students who need remedial assistance in reading or math skills.
4. Speech therapy for those students who need special help in that area.
5. Teacher assistants in kindergarten through the second grade.
6. Computer classes for kindergarten through the 6th grade.

Students have the opportunity to participate in numerous activities. Student organizations include the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, the 4-H Club, and the Young Astronauts. The sports-minded student may choose from football, cheerleading, soccer, basketball, baseball, tee ball, and softball which are offered through the YMCA or various organizations.

I have tried to bring you safely down through the years of Redwood School from the very beginning in 1840 until July I, 1988. I want to add this day, July 2, 1988 onto the history. Then I will present to Dr. Gilley and Mrs. Hill copies of this to be kept in their offices for future records.

I will stop on this one note. We have seen many changes during this past 150 years, but who among you would have ever thought that there would be a four lane highway with a cloverleaf in Redwood Mississippi.—Robbie Whitaker

Annotations (Mel Oakes)

1. The name of the creek that runs right behind the shop at Redwood. It empties into the Redwood Creek at the end of what was the football field.–Donald Oakes

2. An Immigration Passenger list has Thomas Redwood arriving in New York in 1819. A Mississippi naturalization list has a Thomas Redwood in 1825. In 1830 Census, Thomas Redwood is in Warren County; he is between 40-50 years old (b. between 1780-90) and has a female (maybe daughter) between 5-10. He is also in the 1841 and 45 Mississippi Censuses. The 1850 U. S. Slave Census lists a slave owner Thomas Redwood, in Warren County. He is also in the U. S. 1850 Census, shown above, b. 1789. Gordon Cotton confirms he is the namesake.

3. The great American educator Noah Webster first published A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, otherwise known as the Blue Back Speller, in 1783. His goal was to provide a uniquely American, Christ-centered approach to training children. Little did he know that this remarkable gem would become the staple for parents and educators for more than a century and would help to build the most literate nation in the history of the West. Many of the Founding Fathers used this book to home school their children, including Benjamin Franklin who taught his granddaughter to read, spell, and pronounce words using “Old Blue Back.”

4. In the 1870 Census, there is a Brent Family, Benjamin (b. 1810 MD), Rachel (b.1835 VA), Thomas (b. 1843 MS), Henrietta (b. 1850 MS), Emmaly (b. 1853 MS) and Manerva (b. 1869 MS) living in Mildale, Warren County, MS. They are a Black family. There are no white Brents in Warren County. Benjamin owns a farm worth $250. In 1868, President Andrew Johnson appointed Adelbert Ames provisional governor of Mississippi. At the time of his appointment, Ames was also the military governor of the fourth military district which had been established under federal Reconstruction policy and included Arkansas and Mississippi. Ames continued as both military and provisional governor until the reestablishment of civil authority on March 10, 1870. He would likely have appointed a Black man as superintendent. Brent, as a landowner, would have been a good candidate, though he cannot read or write. As reported in the 1880 Census his son Thomas can read.

5. J. C. Dorman was born in Walnut Grove in Leake County, graduated from high school in 1944 and then joined the Navy. Served on the destroyer SS Rueben James. Once out of the service, he went to Mississippi College where he played basketball his freshman year, then transferred to Hinds, graduated from Mississippi Southern and returned to Mississippi College for his master’s degree. He came to Redwood in 1949. He has provided a brief history of athletics at Click Here.

For an interactive larger version map click Redwood Google Map.

Additions to Redwood High School Building



















More History

An institution for many Redwood alumni would be Bud & Minnie Allison’s store across the highway from the school. The Old Redwood Store was photographed above in 1914. Established in 1880, it was originally located near the Yazoo River levee, east of the more familiar Highway 61 site. The building was moved after the 1927 flood. It was later removed to allow for widening of the highway. Man on horse is Russell Cole (father of Dean Cole), was identified by Frances Keen as Joe Owsley, however he was born in 1903 and would be only 11 years old, maybe too young for this boy. I believe he is likely Hal Scott Cole who would be 17. Zooming in one sees a narrow faced, thin young man, certainly consistent with him being Hal Scott Cole. Scott Cole picture is shown later in this album. The man with the black hat, near the boy, is reported to be Hal Scott Cole, not likely since Scott Cole was only 17 at the time, half-brother to Frances Cole Keen. When you zoom in on this man he is thick through the chest, maybe has a moustache, and looks far older than 17. The man in the middle, holding a bottle at his waist, is Dan Sterling Cole, Billy King Pennington's and Jane Keen Griffin’s grandfather. Man on log with whip attached to the stick is Russell Graham, maybe Peggy Sue Allison Blansett’s grandfather; next to him is Brison Whitaker, and next to him is Lawrence Graham (maybe Evelyn Whitaker’s and Dorothy Butts’ father).

The store, built in 1880, was a source of news, local gossip and after school snacks. The Allisons purchased the store from Irma Selby and ran it for than 43 years. The store was inherited by their daughter Peggy Allison Blansett who operated it until its closure. The photo, taken in 1961, shows the permanent fixtures.

Nearly as permanent were fixtures Dale Carol and Karl Keen, seen below, sharing their stories. Source: Vicksburg Post, Leon Pantenburg (Photos) and Bill K. Mullen (Information). March 6, 1983.

Early Redwood-Oak Ridge school bus driven by Karl Keen














Left: Karl Keen at Redwood store. Right Karl Keen and Ralph Wells.




Robert Chrisler Fuller
Longtime school bus driver, affectionally known as “Speedball” for his slow, yet safe, bus speed.


A group of Redwood athletes were assembled around a horizontal bar near the football field. All were competing to determine who could do the most chin-ups. As a joke, someone asked Speedball whether could he do a chin-up? To their surprise, he strolled over and grabbed the bar and pulled himself up. The smiles on the boys faces slowly turned to amazement as Speedball continued to slowly and deliberately pull up. Someone began counting and as the number grew, the admiration was evident among the students. When he finally stopped he had “lapped the field.” Without comment he walked away. (Mel Oakes)





No history of Redwood would be complete without mentioning legendary sports fan, Carrie Wells, known more commonly as “Mrs. Wells” or “Granny Wells.” Not only did she contribute a long list of children who participated in Redwood sports, she supported them and the school with unbounded enthusiasm. Everyone who attended the school during her lifetime would have vivid memories of her following the down marker up and down the football field, offering encouragement to the players and her openly partisan advice to the officials. Her voice above all others was heard by the players who greatly appreciated their “Number One Fan.” For more information about Carrie Wells and her family click here...More.







R. L. Smith, Principal at Oak Ridge 1940-41 and later County Agent for Warren County
Assisted students with agricultural advice and education






Redwood, Jett & Culkin School Teachers:
?, Virgil O’Neil,?, Maybe Mr. Simmons, ?, Gladys Barfield, maybe Mrs. R. L. Smith (Culkin 1954-55), Mrs. Aubin Holliday, ?, Mrs. Marie Bobb (Culkin 2nd grade 1952), Mrs. Jessie Bell, maybe Donald O’Connor, Oak Ridge, ?

On back of picture: Jessie Bell, Gladys Barfield, Mrs Kinzer.

Oakes Auto Parts Baseball Team

A staple of Redwood History during the late 1940s and 1950s was the Oakes Auto Parts Baseball team. Fred Oakes started the team around 1945-46. He provided uniforms, catcher’s equipment, bats, balls, coaching and transportation. The charter members of the team ranged in age between 10 and 14. The team consisted of students from Redwood school, mostly living in Waltersville, Kings and the Head, Hoop and Stave Mill company housing between Kings and Redwood, near Chickasaw Bayou. Every Sunday during the summer, the players would assemble at the Oakes’ home in Kings, next door to Oakes Auto Parts. They would pile in the back of a pickup truck, if you were lucky you got to ride in front and listen to the real and fabricated stories of Fred Oakes. The team played most of the games on the baseball diamond next to the large pecan tree near the football field. The opposition would have been arranged the previous week by Mr. Oakes. In the beginning, these would be teams from the Vicksburg area such as the Highlanders from Roseland Drive area, coached by Luke Mobley and his dad, Luther. This team was distinguished by having a girl, Jean Meade, playing an outstanding third base and a dog trained to retrieve foul balls.

Another team from Vicksburg was Dixie Paint Shop coached by Gary McKay’s father, Albert. Jackie Hinson’s father, Robert Hinson, also had a team. As word about the team spread, other more distant communities contacted Mr. Oakes and arranged for games.

Often these teams had adults as members. It was always a festive occasion; the Oakes team would arrive never knowing the condition of the playing field. Usually it was at a nearby school, however, sometimes simply a flat area in a pasture. People would be gathered around the field picnicking on a blanket or sheet, an early form of the now popular “tailgating”. The games were played in a spirit of goodwill, fans applauding both teams. The home team provided the balls and the umpires. Benton, Midway, Bentonia, Satartia, Phoenix, Cary, Delhi, Rolling Fork, Lorman, Terry, Edwards, Utica and Yazoo City were a few of the communities fielding teams. Luther Warnock coached the Satartia team even after he moved to Vicksburg. Bud Allison and Jimmy Harrison also had teams.

The Redwood community was very supportive and large crowds showed up throughout the summer, regardless of the temperature. After the games, the players would pile back into the pickup, and Mr. Oakes would find a general store to provide the team with drinks and snacks at his expense. This was a high point for all. The team often won its games. During the week, the players would regularly go to Redwood and practice after 5 o’clock when Mr. Oakes could be there. There was also a piece of land behind the railroad tracks in Kings that was owned by Mr. Oakes, and he leveled it and laid out a practice field. Pick-up games with kids from the Black community were often held there.

The Oakes team provided a healthy and wholesome summer activity for boys in the community, long before Little League. Many boys considered it a second family. Margie Oakes would often provide snacks to the team before it departed to play their game. She also held parties for the team. When Fred Oakes died, his pallbearers consisted of many members of his team. When Donald Oakes retired as Warren County Superintendent of Schools, he requested that any gifts in recognition of his service be made to the Fred and Margie Oakes Scholarship for a Warren County High School Baseball Player enrolling in Hinds Community College. (HCC Development Foundation at P.O. Box 1100, Raymond, MS, 39154-1100 accepts donations and administers the scholarship fund.)

Oakes Auto Parts Team Members

Back Row: Donald Oakes, Phares Griffin, Billy Wayne Bishop, Melvin Oakes, Norman Oakes, Billy Wright
Front Row: Floyd Oakes, Bobby Jernigan, Harold Barker, Lamar Thomas, Earl Martin, Johnny Griffin

Back Row: Melvin Oakes, Billy Wayne Bishop, Bobby Jernigan, Harold Barker, Billy Wright, Norman Oakes, Floyd Oakes
Front Row: Earl Martin, Donald Oakes, Phares Griffin, Lamar Thomas, Johnny Griffin

Back Row: Billy James, Harold Barker, Norman Oakes, Billy Wayne Bishop
Front Row: Earl Martin, Donald Oakes, Phares Griffin, Johnny Griffin,
Kneeling: Lamar Thomas, Melvin Oakes

Back Row: Carl Edward Shiers, Todd Huskey, Harold Barker, Floyd Oakes, Billy Wayne Bishop
Front Row: Earl Martin, Phares Griffin, Johnny Griffin, Lamar Thomas, Willie Maddox, Donald Oakes

Back Row: Harold Barker, Todd Huskey, Everett Burton, Johnny Griffin
Middle Row: Lamar Thomas, Billy Wayne Bishop, Carl Edwards Shiers, Orvis Hart
Kneeling, Earl Martin, Phares Griffin, Melvin Oakes, Floyd Oakes

Standing: Lamar Thomas, Floyd Oakes, Carl Edwards Schiers, Johnny Griffin
Squatting: Todd Huskey,










Left: Phares Griffin. Right: Johnny Griffin

Oakes Auto Parts Baseball Uniform worn by Johnny Griffin. (Contributed by Johnny Griffin)

Dixie Paint Shop Ball Team, Great Competitors, 1951. L to R.
Back Row: Owner & Manager Albert McKay, Allan Bliss, William Reed (deceased 2005), Freddie Groome
Middle Row: Bobby Jernigan, John Wood, Gary McKay, Buster Warren
Front Row: Jimmy Stabler, Jimmy Peacock (Contributed by Jane Griffin)

Roseland Drive “Highlanders”, about 1950. Team Coach was Gene Mobley, L to R.
Back Row: Lafair Doyle, Holt Whatley, George Morris, Harold Whatley, Gilbert Rowe, Edward Rowe, Earl Langford Front Row: Lonnie Breihaupt, Luke Mobley, John W. Loviza, Jimmy Mead, Miller Matthews, Tully Beaughman (Contributed by Joe Loviza)

Oakes Auto Parts Baseball Scorebook-1951 (Contributed by Floyd Oakes)

Oakes Auto Parts Baseball Scorebook-1951 (Contributed by Floyd Oakes)

Oakes Auto Parts Team Members 10/20/12

Back Row: James Coley, Raymond Sanderson, Johnny Griffin, Billy Joe Jones, Billy Bishop, Ted Porter, Sonny Keen, Donald Oakes; Front Row, L to R: Lamar Thomas, Floyd Oakes, Bobby Jernigan, Billy Wright, Norman Oakes

Missing: Mel Oakes, Selby Parker, Billy Carl Irwin, W. C. Alderman, J. C. Dorman, Raymond Hunt, Billy James, Bruce James, John “Worm” Gray, Bob Hardy.

Deceased: Earl Martin, Todd Huskey, Harold Barker, James Porter, Bill Porter, JC Trusty, Carl Edward Shiers, Willie Maddox, Orvis Hart, Everett Burton

Compare with picture below taken at Oakes Auto Parts about 62 years earlier.

Oakes Auto Parts Team Members ca. 1948-49
Back Row: Donald Oakes, Phares Griffin, Billy Wayne Bishop, Melvin Oakes, Norman Oakes, Billy Wright
Front Row: Floyd Oakes, Bobby Jernigan, Harold Barker, Lamar Thomas, Earl Martin, Johnny Griffin

Oakes Auto Parts Team Members
Back Row: Bill McDuff
Front Row: Phares Griffin, Harold Barker, Lamar Thomas
Photo in front of Oakes Auto Parts at Kings. ca. 1948-49