Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Looney School

LOONEY SCHOOL. Looney School was established in 1861 by Morgan H. Looney, who first rented and then bought the old Upshur Masonic College from the Bethesda lodge in Gilmer, Upshur County. Looney's school averaged 200 students annually for the ten years (1861–71) he ran it. Courses in English, mathematics, ancient languages, composition, spelling, and other subjects were offered during the ten months the school was open each year. During the years 1868–70 grades ranged from the elementary level up to the study of law. With such a variety of subjects, the length of the school year, and the number of students attending, Looney had to build a large staff of teachers. Among his teachers were J. L. Coven, Miss Achsa Culberson, W. A. Hart, M. L. Looney (a brother of Morgan H. Looney), Lafayette Camp, Oran M. Roberts (who later became governor of Texas), J. C. Reagan, and J. B. Norman. In 1863 the Looney School building was destroyed by fire. Until a new one could be completed, temporary arrangements had to be made for housing the school. The new building, a two-story frame structure, was opened in 1866. On the lower floor were six big classrooms. Upstairs was an auditorium evenly partitioned by one center wall, but not all the way across. There was a door at the back of each partition. Girls came in one door and sat in their section, while the boys came in the other door and sat in the other section. The teacher could see both sections from an elevated platform. Over the years about 2,000 students attended Looney School. Notable graduates included Charles A. Culberson, Judge Sawney Roberts, who became a state Supreme Court justice; Sam Templeton, who became attorney general of Texas; and Sallie Stinson, who married James Stephen Hogg. Many graduates became contributing members of society in such fields as law, medicine, education, and business. While the school was flourishing, Looney left Gilmer because of his wife's poor health; the school closed shortly after his departure, probably in 1871.

James David Carter, Masonry in Texas: Background, History and Influence to 1846 (Waco: Grand Lodge of Texas, 1955). Doyal T. Loyd, A History of Upshur County (Gilmer, Texas: Gilmer Mirror, 1966). Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986).

Texas State Historical Association website:

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