Approximately 40 people gathered Saturday night at Logan's Roadhouse in Joplin to commemorate George Washington Carver's death and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Carver Birthplace Association.
George Washington Carver, who was born near the end of the Civil War near Diamond, died on Jan. 5, 1943, at Tuskegee, Ala. He was one America's most remarkable men and one of this country's great scientists.
The Carver Birthplace Association was founded 50 years ago as a group dedicated help the National Park Service in general and the George Washington Carver National Monument in particular.
Primary speakers at this year's meeting were Deb Sheals and Angie Geist Gaebler. Both women are involved in the on-going studies of the 1872 Colored Schoolhouse in Neosho. This is the original school where George Washington Carver got his first chance at a public education.
For the presentation, Deb Sheals talked about the founding of the school in 1872. She noted that after the Civil War, communities were ordered to provide an education for black students. In 1872, the Neosho school board bought a small home on Young Street, which has been built only a year before by James Vawter. They called it Lincoln School.
This school, greatly modified, still stands on its original site. George Washington Carver came to the school in the mid- to late-1870s and stayed with Andrew and Mariah Watkins who lived next door to the school.
Sheals said that the school measured about 14 by l6 feet and accommodated between 20-40 children. In those days, children who were 5-21 years old were considered to be "school age" and a single teacher at Lincoln School probably had all ages of children at the same time in one room.
During the research on the school, the big question that hung over everyone's head was "Was this the actual school building where Carver attended?"
Sheals said the answer is "Yes, he walked on those very floor boards."
Angie Gaebler, a preservation architect, talked about the school building and what was found when it was researched last summer. Since the building was only a year old, school for blacks began immediately. When a larger school for blacks was built in 1891, the original school was sold for $150.
Gaebler showed pictures of the research work, pointing out various things that prove the date of the school. She noted that the school has a large amount of original materials still on site. She showed pictures of the old siding which had been covered with more modern siding. Besides the old siding, there are many original architectural features in the structure that date back to the 1870s.
And Gaebler, as did Sheals, is confident this is Carver's school.
"If you remove a couple of layers, you have what was standing when George Washington Carver was there," she said.
Page 2 of 2 - The Carver dinner has been an annual event for about five years and is held in early January.