Vesuvius School was located on Shady, near the blue building. Billingslea is on Walker near Shady.

In 1918 and 1919 thirty-seven young women, friends and neighbors of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner were members of the Edelweiss Club in Montgomery, Alabama. These are snapshots from their lives, place and times.

Click any image to enlarge

Vesuvius School was located in North Montgomery, among railroad tracks and warehouses. There was a black community up there. The first mention of Vesuvius School was in 1899 when the staff was given as one teacher, Nanie Hardaway.

The Weekly Advertiser
Montgomery, Alabama · Friday, October 27, 1899

In 1903 it was proposed that the city rent the vacant Vesuvius Hotel for $15 a month, put in some blackboards, stoves etc., and use it for the school, which had been meeting in a church in the area. The hotel had been vacant since 1895. This was approved. There were 85 students and two teachers.

The Montgomery Advertiser, June 29, 1904

Unfortunately, the following year, a spark from a passing train set the building on fire and it was completely burned down except for the walls. The school went back to meeting in a nearby church until the city bought a three room house in the area on Shady Street.

By 1918 there were 160 students. Mary Hightower was the principal. Viola Love, Clara Hamilton and Minnie Williams made up the teaching staff. In 1922 the Billingslea School was built to replace Vesuvius.

Mary Howard Hightower belonged to the same generation of the Edelweiss Club members parents and had not attended any of the meetings. Viola Love wasn’t a member. Clara Hamilton and Minnie Williams were.

6 thoughts on “V – VESUVIUS School

  1. That’s too bad that the school building burned and then at least the city provided the little house. But I wonder how 160 students could be served in such tight quarters, let alone just 3 teachers! Talk about dedication to education!

    1. In 1903 there were 2 teachers and 85 students. One of the teachers was also the principal. After your question, I went back to check and found several other news items about Vesuvius School. There was one from 1899 listing colored staff and one from 1903 listing staff and number of students. I have added this above. Thank you for the question.

  2. It seems a terrific fluke that a spark from a passing train set the school on fire. I have never heard of a building fire like that.

    Was the school named from inspiration of the mountain near Naples and the events of AD 79? Would students have studied Pliny?

    1. It was named for the Vesuvius Lumber yard which was in the area. There were many articles about the volcano near Naples which had erupted recently. I learned that there was a Hotel Vesuvius in Naples and Enrico Caruso died there. There were many more articles about the volcano then about the school. There was also US warship named Vesuvius cruising around in the Atlantic.

  3. The heyday of railroad travel is often looked upon nostalgically, but it was also a very dangerous form of transportation — besides fires, as you mention here, people were hit by trains when crossing the tracks and it was a risky occupation for railroad workers. Looking at the school stats, these talented women had to cope with some very large classes!

    1. Horribly large. I used to travel by train a lot. Of course it was after the fire danger, but I do remember that a train struck a car once. I wasn’t in the front of the train and don’t know how bad it was.

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