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JIM: The massive 1914 CG&HS Gymnasium - we can seat 200

Basketball in 1914 Season: The first Columbia Graded & High School gymnasium
Jim: Local History

By JIM

In the spring of 1914, Prof. Chesterfield Turner, principal of the Columbia Graded and High School, tendered his resignation to answer another calling, the ordination as a Baptist minister. To replace him, the school trustees hired Prof. W.M. Wilson, who had served in the same position immediately before Prof. Turner's tenure. During his previous stay in Columbia, Prof. Wilson had married one of the belles of the town, Miss Martha Hancock, a daughter of Judge & Mrs. Junius Hancock. Likely, her ties to the town lured the couple back to Columbia after a hiatus in Monticello, where Prof. Wilson had served in a like capacity for the previous two years.


The young family landed back in Columbia on May 27th and shortly thereafter, Mr. Wilson again assumed the mantle of responsibility as principal, and one of his first actions was to request the construction of a gymnasium. Stated the News in the July 15 edition, "It will be an addition that the school has needed since the first year of the opening." The article then noted that Prof. Wilson had "laid the proposition of its building before the trustees and they readily consented."

In a reflection of simpler times, the July 1 News had carried this one-time brief invitation to bid on the project:
"Those desiring to bid on the Graded School gymnasium, will find the plans and specifications with Mr. John Flowers, Pres. School Board...Sealed bids will be received any time from Wednesday, July 1, to 4 p.m., Friday, July 3rd."
Two weeks after the invitation to bid appeared came the announcement that Willis & Murrell had been awarded the contract along with the brief comment, "The building will be forty by sixty, and will be pushed to completion." The next report came four weeks later in the form of a terse, two-sentence entry, "Only about three weeks until the Graded School opens. Work on the gymnasium is progressing." The "Grade and High School Notes" column in the November 18 issue added another glimpse, stating "Our gymnasium has its seats arranged along the sides so that one can get a good view of the players at all times. We can seat 200."

School opened in early September and a few days later, the first "Graded and High School Notes" column of the season brought forth the news that the total enrollment stood at 220 pupils, 37 of whom were high school students. Also mentioned was the "hope to begin use of our new gymnasium in about a week."

The news failed to note the actual first use of new facility but the October 7th edition commented, "The gymnasium at the Columbia Graded and high school was well filled last Friday evening to witness a basketball game..." in which the CHS team handily defeated Monticello 21-13.


This story was posted on 2014-11-30 05:30:47
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