From Bess Chapel to Newbold

School for African Americans in Lincoln

Today “separate but equal” may elicit a blank stare from students hearing it for the first time. For Lincoln County, howeve, it was very much the normal state of education until the late 1960s.

In 1859, Bess Chapel Methodist Church was established by local whites in the Vale community. At that time, black slaves may have attended Bess Chapel’s services, although they sat apart from the white parishioners. In 1867, Bess Chapel School opened in association with a newly established black church, El Bethel ME Church. The school could not conduct class in cold weather, as it was barely more than a stand in the woods. The first teachers were Nathan Bess and Lucy Craft, about 14 years old. Craft later became a famous educator in Georgia, known as Lucy C. Laney.

Around the same time, some two years after emancipation, a Quaker School was established in an existing house, approximately where Zaxby’s is located on E. Main St. in Lincolnton. Founded by the Society of Friends of Philadelphia, PA, the school was held in trust y Moore’s Chapel AME Zion Church and later established Moore’s Academy in the church in 1891. The school was eventually moved to Alabama and became Lomax-Hannon College.

Move ahead to 1924 when Lincolnton Rosenwald School was established. Under its first principal, Luther L. Ramseur, the school was named Oaklawn. There were five other Rosenwald Schools in the county: Rock Hill, Tucker’s Grove, Mt. Vernon, Poplar Grove, and Rock Hill built in the early 1950s under Nathan C. Newbold, an agent of the Rosenwald Fund in North Carolina.

In 1952, a new high school for black students was built and named for Newbold. Sudents from west Lincoln came from Vale and North Brook all black elementary schools, from Mt. Vernon School, Poplar Springs School, Tucker’s Grove Elementary and Rock Hill Elementary. Students from the eastern and western Lincoln County area were shuttled to Newbold after the 7th grade using student drivers. It was a two-hour ride getting to Lincolnton from the Denver area each morning and after school.


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