The Early History
of Schools in Hernando County

Complied by Virginia Jackson, Richard Stanaback & Bob Martinez

1872 Teachers Rules
1915 Rules for Teachers
Photo Gallery

Hernando County History


The first priority of early Hernando County settlers was to establish their claim, clear the land, build a house and plant crops to sustain their family. After meeting these basic needs, they would then turn toward education of their children. In 1849, a public school law was passed by the county commission for schools by taxing property owners. These funds were not adequate enough so schools were limited to three or four months only. Most schools were privately owned and furnished rent free to public school system. Due to the very rural populations, one room schools were built for children of all ages. Generally there world be about 20 children in each one room school. In many schools they had to split log benches and students would hold their work on their laps. Paper was scarce in the early years and most students used chalk and slate. 

The Lykes family was said to have built the first school in Hernando County in 1850 after they had moved here from South Carolina, to settle in old Spring Hill. Frederick Eugene Lykes had been a teacher in South Carolina and knew the importance of education. His son, Howell Tyson Lykes, was educated at the Spring Hill School. 

After the end of the Civil War in 1865, attitudes had changed as a generation of widows, orphan and disabled veterans faced the task of rebuilding their lives as well as their farms. The war had also destroyed all the schools in the county. The next big school was built in Brooksville near the Saxon House (the old Scarbrough House) in an area known as Saxon Heights by J.R. Temple in 1889. There were schools built in Bayport and around 1857 there is record of a school in the First Baptist Church in Brooksville. 


The fist school in the county was build in 1850 (Spring Hill School). Located on what is now West Ft. Dade Avenue, near Citrus Way.



The Hernando County Board of Public Instruction was organized on July 25, 1869, but all attempts to organize a school system failed. In 1870, Theodore S. Coogler, who was originally brought here from South Carolina by Frederick Lykes to teach the Spring Hill School, became the first Superintendent of Public Instruction. He established the school in a log hut located next to the Public Library today. Later, another school was started at Union Street Baptist Church on North Main and the Brooksville Colored School on South Lemon. By 1872, there were ten public schools, in 1865 there were twenty-two schools and by 1880 a whopping forty-five schools in the county. Remember, most of there were one room school shacks. The main subjects were Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. In the one room, it was the responsibility of the older students to help the younger children. Children would have to travel for miles to reach their schools. They would travel for miles through woods, sometimes following cattle trails, where wild animals were quite common. Lunches were generally carried in a tin lunch pain and usually consisted of leftovers from the previous meal. Children played games such as ball, Stealing Sticks, Bull Pen and Three Old Cats. Boys and girls usually did not play together. Girls played Dare Base, Wood Tag, Poison Sticks and a game played by both girls and boys called Annie! Annie Over. Teachers sometimes lived in the homes of their students. There would be very strict rules for teachers and discipline of the children was a very important part of schooling. There was an old saying, “If a kid got in trouble at school, they got double trouble as soon as they got home.” Teachers were not allowed to go out during school nights or dance or play cards. If they married they could no longer teach. Actually, many good things went on in the one room schools. The relaxed atmosphere was conducive to learning and helping create a loving and lasting relationship with their teacher. It instilled the virtues of honesty, morality responsibility and fair play be example.

The education of the girls did not have the priority that was given to the boys. Girls were taught things such as music, art, embroidery and sewing. There were schools in such locations as Spring Lake, Lake Lindsey, Hazen Riggins, Hebron, Stafford, New Harmon, Ringald Junction, Blue Sink, Istachatta, Croom, Centralia, Richland, Kaylon, Pleasant Grove, Sicily, Stage Pond, Rose Hill, Red Level, Homosassa, Floral City, Mainfield, Crystal River and there were African-American schools in Brooksville, Bay Springs, Croom, Wiscon and Fort Taylor. 

Mr. Robert Wells of Crystal River, who attended the Ozello School (which was then in Northwest Hernando County in the 1870’s and 1880’s) described his school as a 24’x 30’ building with a wood burning stove and three hanging coal lamps. There was never any electricity in the building.  


Hernando High Students (1907)




In 1887, Pasco and Citrus pulled away from Hernando County. That left seventeen white and five African-American schools left. The first Hernando high school was built in 1889. In 1888, the School Board granted the request for the new school and appointed a committee comprised of Dr. Sheldon Stringer, Frank Elmore Saxon, George Higgins, Warren Springstead and J.C. Phillips. The committee selected a site just outside the city and south of the railroad tracks. Hernando High School opened on February 4, 1889. Professor E. R. Warriner was the principal and his wife assistant principal. Faculty members were Miss Baker and Miss Wooten. Hernando High’s first graduating class was in 1892 and was composed of Hardy Croom and Mrs. Alda Burns Wright. They were followed in 1893 by Miss Louise Walker, Miss M. Walker, Miss E. Wilson, Miss Lola Bell and Miss N. Thomason. Principal Mallicoate, from 1890 to 1896, suggested starting an alumni organization, which was not initiated until 1899. By 1909 the wooden structure was already showing signs of age. The school was then replaced with a new brick structure. At a cost of $10.00, it had running water installed along with a pump house and a new well. By 1910, the county had twenty-two rural schools and two in Brooksville. There were thirty-six teachers. By 1914, the brick high school was already overcrowded. This was due because all grades from first thru the tenth were crammed into two small rooms. That was with a total of 65 students. So great the crush, the Brooksville Christian Church had to be rented for the two lower grades. Members of the 1914 senior class were: Jennie Grozier, Beryl Russell, Willah Burrows, Imo Chambers, Myrtle Taylor and Marion Watson. 


The Providence School (1919) on East Croom Road. First thru Eight Grade. Front row (1 to 4) Alfred Tankersley, James Dick, Archie Smith, Melinda Whitman, Estelle Long, Corrine Smith, Teacher-Sally Jo Moore. Back Row (l to r) Tom Tankersley, Annie Mae Dick, Mary Dick, Ethel Tankersley, Henry Whitman.


Although space had been a problem in 1914, a bigger problem occurred in 1918 when Hernando High School burned to the ground, under mysterious circumstances. Leamon Varn later recalled that a large number of Brooksville citizens turned out in a vain attempt to save the building. Lacking modern fire equipment, only some furniture and a few textbooks were saved. During the next few months, high school classes were held in the Court House, Masonic Hall, City Hall, the Presbyterian Church, the Jennings Building, and over Hernando State Banks. A newer, larger and more centrally located school began in late 1919 when the new high school on Howell Avenue opened its doors.  The new brick facility had eleven recitation rooms, a library, several bookrooms, and auditorium and a large basement. Members of the first graduation class in the new high school in 1920 were: Margaret Bell, Herbert Brown, Lula Hope and Margarite Shaner. The athletic programs improved dramatically as well. Football began in 1918, but not taken up again until 1923. In 1920 we saw the addition of basketball and in 1926-27 a baseball team was started. Track had always been around. The football team during the twenties was known as the “Tangerines”. The real estate boom of the twenties had the new high school busting at the seams by 1925 and a new high school was built at the top of Bell Avenue at a cost of $60,000. In 1926, the hot lunch started at school and it also marked the beginning of the nine month calendar and the start of junior high. The first PTA was also organized in 1926. 

During the depression year of 1930, the school board announced they could not keep the schools open for nine months and asked parents to pay $1.50 per month school tax to keep the school’s accredited status. Most families could not afford to pay. In October 1931, the school board was only able to pay teachers 40% of their monthly wags, eventually to 50%. In 1938, Hernando High lost its accreditation because the school could not afford to stay open for a nine month period. 


Hernando High from 1920 to 1926 on Howell Avenue later a junior high and then an elementary school



In 1944, the school term was one again expanded to nine months. In 1946, a 28-piece band was organized by George Kayton, setting high standards to this day. In March 1960, a new high school was built at the present locale, students moved from the Bell Avenue school to the new site. Integration came into effect in 1968, making the old Moton school an elementary school. Schools grew at an astonishing rate during the 70’s & 80 with the new Westside Elementary (1972), Springstead High (1976) in Spring Hill, J.D. Floyd Elementary, West Hernando Middle School, Spring Hill Elementary, Powell Middle School, Pine Grove, Parrott Middle School and Central High. The growth continues into the 21st Century. 


Hernando High from 1926 to 1960 at the top of the hill on Bell Avenue.






1872 Teachers Rules 

  1. Teachers each day will fill lamps and clean chimneys.
  2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water & scuttle of coal for the day’s sessions.
  3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of pupils.
  4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes. Or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
  5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the bible or other good books.
  6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
  7. Every teacher should set aside from each pay a goodly sum of their earnings for their benefit during their declining years so that they will not become a burden to society.
  8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool halls, or gets shavee in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect their worth, intention, integrity and honesty.
  9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents a week in their pay, providing the board of education approves. 


1915 Teachers Rules 

  1. You will mot marry during the term of your contract.
  2. You are not to keep the company with men.
  3. You must be home between the hours of 8 PM and 6 AM unless attending a school function.
  4. You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores..
  5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board..
  6. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
  7. You may not smoke cigarettes.
  8. You may not dress in bright colors.
  9. You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
  10. You must wear at least two petticoats.
  11. Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.
  12. To keep the school room neat and clean, you must: sweep the floor at least once daily, scrub the floor at least once a week with hot soapy water, clean the blackboards at lest once a day and start the fire at 7 AM so the room will warm by 8 AM.


Historical Information
Complied by the Hernando County Government

On February 27, 1843, the County of Hernando, named in honor of Hernando Desoto, a Spanish explorer, was established. The name of the county changed in 1844 from Hernando to Benton, for Senator Thomas H. Benton, who had introduced a bill in the State Legislature which was responsible for opening the land for settlement. The position of Senator Benton on the Missouri Compromise was reversed in the 1840's and the residents of Benton County petitioned to change the name back to Hernando, which was accomplished in 1850.

One of the principal settlements by the early 1850's was Bayport, a port of entry for the county for exporting cotton, farm produce and timber. Bayport was chosen and approved as the County Seat by the Legislature in December 1854. Bayport's selection stirred the emotions of residents living in the eastern section of the county, so within two years, the voters choose a site located within five miles of the center of the county. The people of Hernando County named the new County Seat "Brooksville" in honor of Representative Preston Brooks. During the 1880's a measure entitled, "A Bill to Divide the County of Hernando and Make There from the Counties of Citrus and Pasco the Counties of Citrus and Pasco" was subsequently introduced, passed and signed into law on January 2, 1887.

In the following several decades, the lumber industry flourished; the citrus boom hit central Florida; the phosphate industry stabilized and limestone mining was established. The depression of the 1930's and World War II had a severe effect, however, on the available of resources and any further development. As the County recovered, Hernando County had a corresponding increase in population, land development and highway improvement projections.


Hernando County covers approximately 312,000 acres of area or 477 square miles, including the cities of Brooksville and Weeki Wachee. The county stretches 37 miles from east to west and 18 mines from north to south The central portion of the county includes the County Seat (Brooksville) and historically (prior to 1970) contained most of the population Hernando County's rate of population growth increased by 802 percent from 1960 to 1990.According to State of Florida population estimates, Hernando County's population for 2002 is 132,762.

Visit the Hernando County Government web page.

For more information on the history of Hernando County visit The Early History of Hernando County at