Old School House in Rural North Carolina
The Currie-Lucas School | Pender County North Carolina | c. 1915
This rural schoolhouse represents an era in North Carolina history that is marked by the rise and fall of the railroad. And although it is empty today, one local family has plans to bring this piece of history back to life.
Europeans first arrived in this part of Carolina in the late 1500s and by the 1730s, a few scattered homesteads had been established here near the coast. In 1776, a skirmish broke out here, known as the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, that helped to bolster the cause for independence from Britain.
By the 1830s, Wilmington had become an important shipping hub on the eastern seaboard and by the 1840s, rail lines were being laid to connect Wilmington with Weldon, NC. Operated by the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad, the lines opened up larger markets for farmers and as the 19th century went on, small towns began to spring up along the lines. One such town was Currie, founded in 1888.
Access to the railroad brought prosperity to farmers who shipped their strawberries, blueberries, radishes, timber, and pulpwood. The railroad was their lifeblood and brought many new settlers to the area just before the close of the 1800s. An account from 1890 of visitors to Currie who arrived on the train reported a “booming town with 6 homes under construction and 2 more set to start shortly.”
A depot was built and multiple stores opened along the tracks, most notably, Walker’s General store where locals could buy meats, canned goods, hardware, and shoes.
In 1915, the community decided that a new school was needed and the Pender County School Board constructed this building for $1,200 to serve white children. In 1918, a school for African American children was opened in Currie as well, although I wasn’t able to find any photos of it. The land where the Currie School was built belonged to the Lucas Family so the school was named in the family’s honor. Back then it sat at the center of the community.
But the following years would bring monumental shifts to this community and the rest of the country as well. The first World War was underway when the school was built and as soldiers returned, they brought the Spanish Flu with them. This pandemic took a toll on this small community, claiming the lives of many, including some of the Lucas Family. The next decades would bring economic depression and another World War that brought uncertainty to this small rural stop along the rail.
In 1940, a map of the town shows plans for 214 buildable lots for homes and businesses but efforts to develop never materialized. In 1949, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad closed the depot at Currie and sold the tracks to the Seaboard Coast Line. In 1971, the tracks were finally torn up.
The school hasn’t been used for many years but luckily, someone purchased it in 2020, as well as the historic Lucas Family home next to it with plans to bring the buildings back to life.
Elizabeth Moore was my great great great grandmother. She was the “Widow Moore” of Moore’s Creek. By the way, the Bell house and the Lucas school are being restored now. My cousin’s wife was raised by the Lucas brother and sister who lived in the house.
You may want to check out the East Columbus Library in Riegelwood, N.C. In the 1970’s, a committee was formed to create a branch library in eastern Columbus county. The railroad donated the depot in Delco for that purpose. We had it moved to Riegelwood and set up business. The railroad even donated a railroad car that we refitted as the Children’s section.
It is still a source of pride 40 years later. Contact Robin Creech for more of the story.
Herbert P. Bell’s oldest granddaughter here.Gaye Miller Benso
Daughter of Dorothy Bell Miller
When I was a child, I loved visiting Miss Annie and Mr.George in their home, usually to use the only phone in the neighborhood back then! I remember overnights with Barbara and would like to know more about her. My grandmother Pearl Bell taught at Lucas School!
Barbara married my cousin, Kenneth Ray Futrell. They live in Waynesville, North Carolina. I knew H.P. Bell. I went to school with Laura Bell at Burgaw High School. I also taught her daughter in the second grade. It is a small world!
Hopefully you can read my comment below! I am HP Bell, Sr.’s granddaughter.I would visit Miss Annie and Mr. George as a child. I remember overnights with Barbara and bathing in that big tub I saw in the movie Mutant Ninja Turtles !I would love to visit with you! My roots are in a little place called Currie!
The black school house is right up the street.
Wondering if the Lucas’s had another house in Rocky Point off of hwy 117? I think there was a farm there and the house @1900 is still there. Glad to see the old school house and home in Currie will be fixed up…
By the way, does anyone have any old pics of the Arnold Rhodes house (built 1903) off Casha rd?