On Wednesday, the state of Missouri got a good look at the 1872 Neosho Colored School on Young Street. This historic structure is expected be nominated for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places by its owner, the Carver Birthplace Association. Judith Deel, Steve Rogers and Rebecca Rost, employees of the State Historic Preservation Office, came to Neosho to examine the schoolhouse.
The story's most famous student was George Washington Carver, who came here as a boy eager for an education. It is believed that young Carver spent no more than a year at the school. A surviving certificate of good attendance has been found, citing George Carver for his attendance in 1876.
Often called the Lincoln School, it was the first school for blacks in Neosho. Two other school were built later, and they are both still standing.
In 2004, the 1872 schoolhouse was given to the Birthplace Association by Arvest Bank. At that time, there was no positive proof that the building was the school, but architectural studies have authenticated its background.
During the state visit, the visitors had a look at the inside of the school. The original building was only one room. Since that time, the original room has been separated by a wall and a back room and loft have been added. In the restoration process which is planned, all the extra rooms and add ons will have to be removed and the original boards will be preserved. Historical architects estimate that 80 percent of the original boards are still in place.
The state people discussed the restoration, mentioning some of the problems, including removal of hazardous materials (mostly lead paint) and securing the original boards from weather and other factors that could cause deterioration.
Lana Henry, of the George Washington Carver National Monument, accompanied the state people to the Neosho site. The group met with Larry James and Kay Hively, local historians and members of the Carver Birthplace Association.
When George Carver (Carver has not yet added "Washington" to his name) attended the school, he boarded with Andrew and Mariah Andrews who lived next door to the school. Later he moved to Kansas, back to Missouri and then to Iowa where he eventually attended Iowa State University and received a masters of agriculture degree in 1896. He was the first black graduate of Iowa State.
George Washington Carver went on to teach at Tuskegee University in Alabama, and gained world acclaim for his work there. He stayed at Tuskegee until his death in 1943.
Carver's formal education started in Neosho. The Birthplace Association feels this is a very important structure, and they want to restore it and tell the world how the Boy Carver's dream of an education began in the 1872 Neosho Colored School.
Much encouragement for doing so was offered by the visit Wednesday from the state historic preservation office.