A Kaleidoscope of History
A series on the history of Raymond by Rebecca B. Drake,
originally published in the Hinds County Gazette

Raymond's Early Schools:
Consolidated School, Agricultural High School and Junior College

Diogenes, the famous Greek philosopher, stated... "the foundation of every state is the education of its youth". Cicero, a Roman orator and spokesman, shared this concept when he proclaimed... "what greater or better gift can we offer the republic than to teach and instruct the young"? The forefathers of Raymond must have known the importance of educating its youth because, even prior to the Civil War, the town took pride in the excellence of its school system.

Public schools did not exist prior to the war. An education was received either at home or in a private academy. Many wealthy plantation owners hired teachers to live on the plantation and teach the children. This type of education was of the highest level and often included foreign languages as well as music and other arts. Private schools were available for those who could afford to attend. One of the first private schools in the history of Raymond was the Methodist Female Seminary, built in 1844. This large building - located on the now vacant lot adjacent to Bob Ferguson - housed approximately 100 women students. George Harper, editor of the Gazette, often mentioned the Methodist Seminary in his newspaper and reported as to its activities. The young men in town attended the Raymond Military Academy that was established by Col. Goldsborough, a graduate from West Point. The academy with over 100 cadets enrolled was quite successful when it first opened.

The concept of public education was an idea pursued by many state educational leaders long before the turn of the century. By 1900 the 'school house' had become a vital part of every city, town, and rural community. In 1910 - as well as 1928 - the state took giant steps forward in the field of education due to progressive new laws passed by the legislature. One of these laws led to the combining of several rural schools into one consolidated school. 1917 was another landmark in Raymond's history when the first consolidated school was built. This large two-story building, located on the same site as the present consolidated school, educated many of the state's finest citizens.

Another important innovation in the Mississippi school system was the advent of county agricultural high schools. These schools, established early in the century by an act of state legislature, made education a 'reality' for rural students. These agricultural schools provided young men with a basic education as well as special classes in agriculture and farming. The young women, who were also eligible to attend the agricultural high schools, learned home economics.

Before any county could build an agricultural high school with state funding basic requirements had to be met... "the schools had to be built on at least 20 acres of land and have housing as well as dining facilities to accommodate forty students. The campus was to include a dairy, a poultry farm, an incubator, hogs, an orchard, gardens, a laundry and a cannery." (Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History). In keeping with these state requirements Hinds Agricultural High School, in Raymond, was established in 1916. This pioneer class had an enrollment of 116 students with a faculty of eight. The original campus, as far as we know, consisted of an administration building, a barn, and two dormitories. Thru the years all of these buildings were destroyed except for Old Main. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1922-23 the first year of college was added to the high school and thirty freshmen college students enrolled. In 1926-27 the second year of college was added and seventy-four freshmen students enrolled. In 1926, the same year that Main Auditorium (Cain Hall) was built, Hinds Junior College became official.

Since its inception Hinds Junior College has continually served the town of Raymond as well as all of Hinds County. Raymond takes great pride that their college is widely recognized as one of the largest and the finest in the state. The mayor of Raymond, E.E. Jackson, comments on Raymond and the future of the town... "after having survived the Civil War and two disasterous fires, Raymond today is still a caring and a thriving community. Located on the fringe of the Jackson Metropolitan area Raymond's population has grown to over 2,500 people. Because of our location this growth is expected to continue. Hinds Junior College has grown to be the largest junior college in the state. The Raymond campus has about 4,000 students daily and is possibly the largest employer in Hinds County outside the Jackson Metropolitan area. Raymond has a bright future. We can look back to our past heritage with pride. However, we must look forward and accept our responsibilities today. Our challenge is to be sure that Raymond always remains a caring community and one that we can always be proud of."

Perhaps Emerson best captures the spirit of Raymond in 1987 when he wrote... "we are reformers in spring and summer: in autumn and winter we stand by the old; reformers in the morning yet conservative at night. To reform is to be affirmative. To be conservative is to be comfortable." It is this mixture of the old and the new that makes Raymond the unique town that it is today.

The Kaleidoscope fascinates us all, and we watch - and wait - sometimes holding our breath, as the patterns of color continue to change with the passage of time.

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