Friday, January 8, 2010

Ashcraft School or Brock School: Part 1 -- The Ashcrafts

Ashcraft School --- on a high ridge between Weavers and Splunge Creeks

by Terry Thornton

Dane Brasfield, Aberdeen, Mississippi, has sent a newspaper clipping from the Aberdeen News Herald entitled "Ashcraft -- The Last of The One Teacher Schools."

Most folks in the Hills call the old Ashcraft School "Brock School." Located on a ridge between Weavers Creek and Splunge Creek, the school site today is in the midst of the ruins of the bentonite mines.

Ashcraft School was the official name for the educational facility --- but no one seems to know specifically for whom the school was named. There was, however, a large Ashcraft family who owned 160 acres in Section 14 Township 12 South Range 17 West and 120 more acres just to the west in Section 15. Joel Ashcraft, a blacksmith/farmer, owned property there in the late 1850s.

Further, Joel Ashcraft was born in Monroe County in 1822. He was the son of John Ashcraft who received land patents on 160 acres in the 1820s. John's land was about seven miles south of the Ashcraft School location. John's sister, Mrs. Augustus Hill and her husband also had lands nearby --- a total of 200 acres.

John and his sister were two of the children of Thomas Ashcraft (who died about 1825 in North Carolina) and Oholabamah Ashcraft. It is thought that John's lands in Mississippi were managed primarily by his brother-in-law, Augustus Hill. John, after receiving title to his lands, sold them and moved to Fayette County, Alabama. His son Joel grew to manhood and married Martha Ann Bennett in Monroe County Mississippi.

Joel and Martha also moved to Fayette County, Alabama, prior to the July 6, 1870 census when they and four children were enumerated in the Pilgrim's Rest area. By 1900, Joel then 77 years and Martha 76 were listed in a household by themselves in Fayette County. Joel Ashcraft, was born October 26 1822 and died February 2 1906; Martha Ann Bennett Ashcraft was born January 30 1824 and died March 17 1901. Both are buried at Chapel Hill Baptist Church Cemetery, Fayette County. The cemetery is about one mile northeast of Ashcraft Corner in the southern part of the county.

In 1860, however, Joel and Martha and five children were enumerated on the Monroe County Mississippi census. It is assumed they lived in the Hills between Weavers and Splunge creeks --- and it is assumed the school bearing the name "Ashcraft" was named for them or may have originally been located on lands they once owned. The original school, according to the article in the Aberdeen News Herald, was a log structure. A new building which survived into the late 1940s or 1950s was build in 1909 about three-quarters of a mile from the original log schoolhouse.

A portion of that school building can be seen in the one photograph which accompanies the Aberdeen New Herald article. The photo caption identifies a group of individuals standing in front of the double-doors to the school as some who attended a singing school at Ashcraft School "about 1930." One of those identified in the photograph is my late friend, Verlon "Sause" Gilliland. Verlon was born in 1934 and appears to be at least six when the photograph was made --- so I think the school is shown about 1940.

When the name "Brock" was applied locally to this school is unknown --- nor is the origin of the name "Brock" clear.

What is known is that the 1909 building used for Ashcraft/Brock School survived to the late '40s or early '50s. I remember seeing the building --- but couldn't remember its location. My brother Sherman, who is older and wiser, states that the building was near the intersection of current Towery Road and Filtrol Road in Section 14. Others confirm that the school was near that intersection.

At one time a connecting road from Hatley-Detroit Road just east of Weaver's Creek went past Ashcraft School. That road connected to the present-day Pearce Chapel Road about where Towery Road intersects today --- in earlier times a business, Coker's Store, was near the intersection of those roads. In more recent years, the Addingtons had a store near that location. One of the hills nearby is "Coker Hill" and some of the Cocker family still own property in the area.

Although today the area around Ashcraft School is almost completely empty of human beings, at one time the community had enough families to require enough schooling room for 73 students. The enrollment most years prior to 1900 was around 50 students but in 1886 the original log schoolhouse wasn't large enough to hold the 73 pupils who showed up at the start of the school term.

Ashcraft School or Brock School, Part 2 will discuss some of the individuals named within the article "Ashcraft - Last of The One Teacher Schools."

If you have information about Ashcraft or Brock School, the Ashcraft family, or of any of the individuals or places mentioned within this article, please contact me at email


Ashcraft - Last of the one teacher schools and Ashcraft School About 1930 photograph, Aberdeen News Herald, January 30, 1975, Section Two, Page 6. Unsigned. Clipping sent by Dane Brasfield, Aberdeen, Mississippi, December 29, 2009.

Ashcraft School and information about families and business in the area from Dane Brasfield, Aberdeen, Mississippi. Letter and emails to Terry Thornton, December 28, 29, 2009, January 6,7, 2010.

Ashcraft School location and information about the school building. Sherman Thornton, Amory, Mississippi. Telephone interview with Terry Thornton, January 6, 2010.

Ashcraft family census information from the 1860 Monroe County Mississippi, 1870 and 1900 Fayette County Alabama, Federal Census Reports online at Heritage Quest. Available online through the Lee-Itawamba Library System; accessed January 7, 2010.

Ashcraft land information available online through the Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records, at accessed January 6, 2010.

Ashcraft family relationships adapted from Our Southern Ancestors -- Descendants of Thomas Ashcraft of New Kent County, VA, compiled by Faye Cain Prince. Available online at Accessed January 6, 2010.

"John Ashcraft" by Terry Thornton, April 28, 2009. Hill Country of Monroe County Mississippi, Volume 1. Number 905.

Map showing roads of Monroe County Mississippi available from Mississippi Department of Transportation at Accessed January 6, 7, 2010.

Map information also from Gregory A. Boyd's Family Maps of Monroe County, Mississippi. Norman, Oklahoma: Arphax Publishing Company. 2007.

Fayette County, Alabama: Index to Online Cemetery Records by Terry Thornton. 2006. Accessed January 7, 2010.

No comments: