After the death of her husband, Anson Jones, in 1858, Mary Smith McCrory Jones moved her family to Galveston and then in 1859, to Goose Creek. That same year she purchased her farm called Headquarters from the estate of Henry G. Smith, with Ashbel Smith having Power of Attorney for his brother’s affairs. Her children attended the Harmony Grove school, held in the Methodist chapel of the same name which was located on Dr. John L. Bryan’s property just north of today’s Missouri Street on the west bank of Goose Creek. In 1859 the school was taught by Mr. and Mrs. Kemp and from 1863 to 1866 was taught by Rev. C. C. Preston.
After the Civil War, Thomas Gaillard moved his wife and nine children from their home in Mississippi to the east bank of Goose Creek. Soon after their arrival in 1867 his daughter, Linna, opened a school for the local children in a two-room cabin located on her family’s land which had been used by Confederate troops garrisoned there manning gun emplacements.
In 1876, the constitution established what were called “School Communities.” The requirements for a School Community consisted of having a building in which to conduct classes, a list of any number of students between the ages of 8-14, and a board of trustees consisting of three members. School was held four months a year and the school day was of 7 hours duration. Attendance by the students was not compulsory, although attendance was kept in a day book by the teacher as a requirement for her pay, which was based on the number of students in class.
The three School Communities in the Baytown area were Cedar Bayou No. 5, Goose Creek No. 9, and Lynchburg No. 24. Mary Jones’ son, Cromwell Anson Jones, was the County Judge of Harris County and all the county’s schools came under his jurisdiction. Ashbel Smith was appointed as head of the Harris County School Board of School Examiners.
Land for Goose Creek School Community No. 9 was donated by Mary Jones at the request of Thomas Gaillard. In his letter of October 28, 1875, he says,
“Dear Madame, The Public School Committee asked me some time ago to write you and ascertain if you will sell or donate to the State a piece of land out of your corner, next to Mrs. Franck’s place on the road to Cedar Bayou. Whereon to build a public school house the Committee say it might be of advantage in the Sale or rent of the net of your place. I have been sick not able to write for more than a month and now have only strength to say “God bless you”. Sincerely Your friend, Thos. B. Gaillard”.
The 1-1/2 acres of land was located inside the bend of today’s junction of West Main and South Main Streets in Baytown at the site of today’s Tucker’s Radiator Shop. Goose Creek School Community No. 9 was established on November 22, 1876 by Harris County and $39.90 was granted for the school in which classes had commenced two months earlier. There were 14 students enrolled in the first class. The petitioners for the application were Gilbert Brooks, T.S. Tabb “and others.” Lafayette Jones, Henry F. Gillette, and Jesse Brooks were appointed as trustees.
The School Committee was formed before October, 1875 and the school house was built before November, 1876. The 1875 Constitution passed with voter approval in February, 1876 so plans for the school were already being made before the Constitution took effect. As was common practice at the time, the building would have been built by parents and friends of the community. It was constructed of wood planks and was probably not painted. No good pictures are known to exist but the 1943 aerial image shows it to be about 12 ft x 20 ft. It had a door and windows for light and ventilation. The furniture consisted of two rows of homemade benches and a teacher’s desk of crude style. A dry goods box was used for a library. The books, mostly religious, were furnished by Cedar Bayou Methodist Church. The first teacher in this school was Linna Gaillard. Public school teachers were required by law to be certified by the state and her teacher certificate renewal was received by the County in August 1877 so it is likely that she was the teacher for the following year as well. The teacher from 1879 to 1881 was probably Mary Johnson, who was enumerated in June as a Teacher in the 1880 census, living in the home of Ashbel Smith.
In 1884 Goose Creek and Cedar Bayou were the only schools in School District 15, which extended between Goose Creek stream and Cedar Bayou north to today’s FM-1942. About 1886 the school building was moved to the north edge of David Wiggins’ land, just east of today’s George Washington Carver Elementary. A fire at Harris County Department of Education destroyed school records prior to 1888 but surviving records show that from 1888 until 1895 the teachers were Katie Gaillard, Stella McCracken, Annie Langford, Mamie Blackshear, and Clement Appleyard. In 1896 the teacher was Laura Alden. In 1889 Wiggins had sold 59 acres to Jesse Knowlton who subdivided the land and in 1892 sold the tract on which the school stood to Ephraim Taylor. Separate colored and white school trustees had been required by the Texas constitution since the School Act of 1884 was enacted and in 1897 Ephraim Taylor, Charles Barrett, and George Gillette were elected as School District 15 Trustees. They were immediate neighbors, all living on tracts of land purchased from Jesse Knowlton and were the only blacks to ever serve as School Trustees in District 15. That year the school became the first colored school in Goose Creek and for the next fourteen years white children had to either be schooled at home or travel several miles to attend classes at Cedar Bayou. Taylor, Barrett, and Gillette were were re-elected in 1898 and the 1900 census shows five black school age children living in the immediate neighborhood who had attended school within the year. Four of the children were enumerated in the census as being at school. The school closed sometime between 1900 and 1904 when Ephraim Taylor sold his land and for the next few years there was no public school in Goose Creek at all. In the 1910 census, no black children in the neighborhood had attended school within the year and none could read or write. It would be 1921 before a black school was re-established in Goose Creek.
With the discovery of oil in 1908 and the subsequent population explosion, a school was opened in the Goose Creek oil field in 1911 to serve the children of white oil field workers. The teacher, Alice Mae Bullard, conducted classes in a tent provided by her father. A more permanent school opened the following year under Erma McMasters and was later taught by Cora Lazenby. By 1916, the student population had outgrown that building and a portable annex was added. The “New Town” of Goose Creek had been developed in 1916 north of the oil field and the “Old School House” was reopened as a school for white children in that community. Gushers, fires, explosions and gas releases in the oil field caused several school closures in the fall of 1916 and forced the oil field school to close in 1917.
The student population of Goose Creek continued to grow to over 400 in 1918 and in August, 1919 the old school house was upgraded with plumbing and toilets. Roof repairs were made and lighting was installed in October, 1920. By 1921 Goose Creek ISD had at least six grammar schools teaching grades 1-3 spread throughout the Tri-Cities. Grades 4-6 attended classes at “The Barn” and grades 7-11 attended classes at the YMCA. The school population in 1922 was up to 1200 and twenty-eight teachers were employed by the school district.
With the passage of the $200,000 school bond in 1922 and opening of new school buildings in 1923, the Old School House had finally outlived its usefulness and was closed for good. After its service as a school was over, the building still existed as a storage shed or barn until at least 1966. It was located in a pasture on High Street near Anson Jones Elementary and children walking home from school considered it a “haunted house”. It became a “double-dog-dare” to go inside. According to historical aerial photographic images, the building was gone by 1973.
In February, 1908, R. D. Smith and John Ilfrey, Trustees of School District No 15 had petitioned the Harris County Commissioners Court for sale of the 1-1/2 acres of land which Mary Jones had donated. The petition was filed but no action on the land was taken until 1926, when Harris County transferred the land to the Goose Creek Independent School District (GCISD). In 1928, the state gave permission for the school district to sell the land to raise funds for purchase of new school land, so the 1-1/2 acres was sold to the Tyrell-Garth Investment Company. Part of it became the road bed for the West Main – South Main junction. In 1931 the property was subdivided and sold in parcels. Today there is a house, a church, an empty building, and a business on the land but the only part of the original 1-1/2 acres is still in public use is the road bed and traffic island in the Pelly area of Baytown.