To understand the importance of preserving and restoring Bath High School (BHS) it’s important to understand how integral the school has been to the history of Bath itself and the impact the school has had on the community. Bath High School was a hive of activity for nearly 70 years until the doors closed to students in 1989. Due the perseverance and tenacity of a hand-full of people, BHS is again a hive of activity serving thousands of people in the community. We want to share the story of the early days of the BHS, history of the first female town commissioners who were credited with getting the school built, decades of students who attended school here and how the Bath High School Preservation (BHSP) intervened to bring the BHS back to its rightful place as a hub of the community.
The Bath High School is 100 years old (1921-2021)
A century ago, the radio was the main entertainment and community-life centered around visiting family and neighbors, when not working or attending church and school. The school has always been a place where ideas were born and generations of children thrived learning the 3 Rs- Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Many scholars, teachers, athletes, farmers, watermen, physicians, dentists, journalist, attorneys, accountants, nurses, firemen, administrators and other professionals received a strong foundation in their early education. Many graduates were well-prepared for success at prestigious universities, in business and life with the strong foundations of English, Math and Science that our dedicated teachers provided for us at Bath High School. The school was known for strong academics and winning sports teams!
The Boyd farm on Hwy. 264 east of Everett’s Crossroads is considered by the State Historic Preservation Office to be one of Beaufort County’s most intact and original homesteads with fine examples of outbuildings like a smokehouse, corn crib, packhouse and multiple barns. Many of the school children at Bath High School were raised on farms like this in the surrounding rural areas.
Farewell to Bath High School – November 5, 1988
With the beginning of the 1988-1989 school year, Bath High School’s students, faculty, and community found themselves experiencing a deep sense of sadness and a dreaded end to the “family- school” that had educated, nurtured and supported several generations of students. The Beaufort County Board of Education felt that a consolidated school would better serve the needs of the community; therefore, at the end of the 1989 school year, Bath students joined with those from Belhaven and Pantego in a school at Yeatesville called Northside High School.
First Female Town Commissioners Built BHS
Soon after the passage of the 19th amendment which gave women the vote in 1920, Bath elected a slate of women commissioners. They wanted to get their town recognized as the first capital of North Carolina. They felt that history and tourists had neglected Bath far too long. The idea was to erect a marker which would designate Bath as North Carolina’s first capital with the state’s first church and first library.
Elected were three —movers and shakers— in the community, Mrs. T. A. Brooks, Chairman, Mrs. Vonnie Marsh, Secretary, and Mrs. Annie B. Crawley. Mrs. Brooks was made chairman and Mrs. Marsh, secretary. Mr. Brooks was then serving as mayor. He agreed to serve in name only. He was too busy with his store and his lumber business to have time for all the projects the commissioners had in mind, so he retired gracefully to the background. Mrs. Brooks (—Miss Mollie—) became acting mayor. Though never actually elected, she was widely heralded in the press as North Carolina’s first woman mayor. Born Mary Mackey Pollard on Mackey’s plantation in April, 1874, Mrs. Brooks was a powerhouse. The State Magazine wrote, “Even after Bath for over a century had lapsed into drowsy content, it made history. In 1921 it became the first town in the United States to have a female administration, mayor and council all women.”
The women commissioners put on a campaign to beautify Bath by cleaning it up. In order to get money, they checked the records for delinquent taxes and collected most of them. They campaigned for a paved road from Bath to Washington, and they put pressure on the authorities to get the new brick school they had long been promised. The women got their marker! June 19, 1924 was a great day for Bath when the marker was unveiled in a wonderful celebration with four thousand people in attendance including many notables.
For more fascinating history visit: Bath High School Preservation (bhspreservation.org)