Franklin High School – 1922

Published 9:51 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022

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Exercises for the Franklin High School graduating class of 1922 were held in the new Franklin Theater on June 12, 1922. And, according to a Tidewater News report, the stage was beautifully decorated, and the exercises fully measured up to the high standard of excellence characteristic of Franklin school finals.

There were sixteen graduates that year. Jonah Soble was the valedictorian and William J. Jones was salutatorian. The other graduates were Ellenor Howell, Emmett Pace, Pretlow Darden, John Thomas Seal, Mamie Allen, Laura Beale, Virginia Beale, Pattie Beaman, Irene Butler, Lucie Anne Butler, Inez Cutchin, Stella Garrenton, Lucy Howell, and Sarah Leigh Taylor.

Principal R. Lee Chambliss delivered the diplomas.

During the exercises, a prize from the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union was presented to Anne Graham Rowland for the best essay written on the beneficial effects of prohibition in America. As a prize, Miss Rowland won $5.00 in gold.

That was the final graduating class coming out of the old high school buildings. The wooden multiple-story structures, located on Clay Street, were to be dismantled and moved over to Fourth Avenue. To replace the old school, a new school building of brick construction was planned – with ten classrooms, an auditorium seating 750 people, and modern-day appointments.

Soon after the old school was vacated for the season, Camp Manufacturing Co. put a force of men to work moving the old high school buildings to a lot on Fourth Avenue which was formerly used as a garden by Mrs. R. J. Camp; the buildings, purchased by the Camps for $6,000, were, later, converted into apartment houses, similar to the one they owned on Clay Street. The Camp-owned apartments, initially, were used primarily as residences for Camp Manufacturing Co. employees.

  1. C. Smith, contractor for the new high school, was already hauling brick and other material to the lot preparatory to building operations. At the same time, right next-door northwest of the new school, Henry Duck was assembling materials for the erection of a handsome new bungalow home facing Clay Street.

When the 1922-1923 school-year began in the fall, a new and modern brick building – at a cost of $50,000 – was occupied on the same site as the old school.

The overall history of Franklin High School is somewhat sketchy. We do know that James T. Pretlow opened, in the early 1900s, a small school in one of the rooms of his residence on Gay Street. Attendance increased so rapidly that new quarters had to be sought. A one-room wooden structure was built in the woods just off Third Avenue; however, due to flooding, other locations were sought. From time to time, the school was set up in various other places around town. In 1907, a modern two-story brick building was erected on West Second Avenue. That building, intended for both high school and grammar grades, soon proved too small to accommodate both. So, in 1911, the former Franklin Female Seminary building, located on and facing Clay Street, was bought and used for Franklin High School. Then, the Second Avenue building was designated as Franklin Grammar School. From 1911 to June of 1922, Franklin High School existed in the former seminary building; former students of the Franklin Female Seminary and the boys of the closed-up Franklin Military Academy combined and attended the newly organized Franklin High School.

The Franklin High School, built in 1922, existed until 1967 at which time a new Franklin High School was opened on Crescent Drive. The old building was then converted and used as an elementary school until 1978. It stood dormant for many years; In 1988, although still structurally sound, it was demolished to make way for Clay Court Apartments which now occupy that location.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is