Cedar Grove Township and Red House School

St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, Mechanic Road, Asheboro, NC. Photo by “Genealogy Hound” at Findagrave.com.

Since completing From Hill Town to Strieby (Williams, 2016), I began to wonder about educational efforts elsewhere in southwestern Randolph County. I started by looking at Cedar Grove Township, just to the north and northeast of Union and New Hope Townships respectively.  Many of the families had kinship relationships with the families in both Union and New Hope.  Cedar Grove is also where the Red House School, one of the schools for children of color with which Strieby combined in the 1920s when small schools, especially one teacher schools, throughout the county consolidated. The third school was Salem School at Salem Congregational United Church of Christ, another church and school founded by the Rev. Islay Walden in 1880. Salem School was in Concord Township, just north of New Hope and just west of Cedar Grove. I’ll write more about that at another time.

Red House School was located near the current St Mark United Methodist Church property (Hammond, et al., 1981). St. Mark’s, founded by the Rev. Marcus Cicero Loflin/Laughlin, and the school are usually associated since both served the local community of color in Cedar Grove Township (Hammond, et al., 1981). However, Red House School was actually founded first by members of the Society of Friends. According to Emma King (1924, p. 405) a school was begun several years before groups of Friends (Quakers) from New York and Philadelphia came to teach in the area in the 1880s.  That earlier school, called Fairview, was supported by subscriptions from local Quakers. The building used was called Red House because, “the mud used in daubing was extremely red. The church and schoolhouse of the colored people bears the same name” (King, 1924, p. 405). It seems likely that the first meetings of the church in the 1890s were originally held in the school building.

Red House, as mentioned, became part of a combined “common school” in the 1920s under the Board of Education. Among its teachers were: Flossie Brewer, Hazel (Birkhead) Caviness, Hattie Crisp, Daisy Cross, Vella Lassiter, Sarah (Smitherman) Lassiter, Honora Spinks and Sherman Spinks (Hammond, et al., 1981). Vella Lassiter and Sarah (Smitherman) Lassiter were graduates of Strieby School (Williams, 2016). I wondered about the educational advancements in Cedar Grove. I wondered how they compared to the Strieby and Lassiter Mill communities served by Strieby School.

In 1880, Cedar Grove Township, which was physically closer to the town of Asheboro than either New Hope or Union Townships, had 193 people of color, in 42 households. Of those, 40 were in school (including some adults); 64 could not read; 103 could not write. The overall literacy was 66.84%; 33.16% unable to read; and 53.35% unable to write. For Strieby and Lassiter Mill overall literacy was 71.7% and 73.3% respectively. Thus, in 1880, Strieby and Lassiter Mill had slightly better literacy rates. However, since both Red House and Strieby Schools were new, it is hard to determine what influences these schools had.

In 1900, the community had shrunk slightly to 146 individuals in 38 households. Of these, 82 report they can read, 67 report they can write, resulting in an overall literacy of 68.49%.  Literacy for Strieby was 57.4% and Lassiter Mill, 48.9%. In Cedar Grove, 18 young people were reported attending school resulting in 12.33% in school. By contrast, 33 young people were school in Strieby or 32.7% and 8 in Lassiter Mill or 17.8%.  While it appears that Cedar Grove had better literacy rates overall, when comparing school attendance rates, Strieby and Lassiter Mill had greater school attendance.

In 1920, there were a total of 168 individuals in Cedar Grove, indicating a slight increase in population, for a total of 35 households, which by comparison with 1900 indicates there was actually demographic stability. Of these, 116 could read (69%), 105 could write (62.5%), for an overall literacy of 65.8%. Of the 62 school age children in the total population, 40 were in school resulting in 64.5% of children being in school. In Strieby, all 15 school age children were in school, or 100% of school age children. The same was found in Lassiter Mill, where all 15 school age children were in school or 100%. Again, it appears that the commitment to school attendance was greater in Strieby and Lassiter Mill.

By 1940, the Cedar Grove community had shrunk considerably. Now there were 81 individuals in 23 households. Previous members of the community followed the pattern of other neighboring communities by moving into Asheboro, or moving to other communities, often in neighboring counties, where factory work was plentiful, or, in some instances, leaving the area altogether for greater opportunities in places like New York and Massachusetts. Of those families still living in Cedar Grove, 10 children were attending school (12.35%). Of those who were not attending school any longer, the highest grade completed was 10th grade and that individual was herself now a teacher. Of those still in school, 5 were attending high school including a 4th year student. However, most adults did not report the level of school they had completed unlike those in Strieby and Lassiter Mill, making it impossible to truly compare the communities on this parameter.

In From Hill Town to Strieby, one concrete measure of literacy was the signatures on World War I (WWI) draft registrations of those who reported in 1900 that they could read and write. In Cedar Grove, using the same parameters, the following was found.  In 1900, there were a total of 27 young men of draft age. Of those, one young man’s last name was not recorded. He was simply listed as “Jim, a colored boy” which prevented locating him in draft records. Of the remaining young men, no draft record was identified for 13, two others died before the draft was instituted. Of the remaining 12 young men whose draft registrations could be identified, 11 signed (92%) their draft registrations and only one did not. By comparison, among those educated at Strieby School from both Union and New Hope Townships, there were 33 young men identified. Of these, nothing was found for 12 of the young men and two died. Of the remaining 20 young men, 18 (90%) signed their registrations, while two did not. Overall, based on draft signatures, these communities were comparable.

So, what might account for the slightly greater school attendance at Strieby School than Red House? It’s hard to say. Cedar Grove community was larger which could have affected community cohesiveness. In addition, Cedar Grove was closer to the town of Asheboro, with possible economic incentives that might have seemed more attractive in the short term than school. By contrast, Strieby and Lassiter Mill were more isolated, more families had immediate kinship ties, and by the turn of the century few immediate economic diversions. Income depended more heavily on farming. For other forms of economic opportunity one simply had to leave Strieby/Lassiter Mill. For Strieby/Lassiter Mill, academic achievement was itself an important community value, while in Cedar Grove, there were very likely competing values.


​Genealogy Hound. (2014, January 16). St. Mark’s United Methodist Church. Find A Grave. Retrieved (12 May 2017) from: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=2527007

Hammond, Leah, Cranford, Charles L. (compilers), & Denny, Zeb (editor). (1981). St. Mark’s United Methodist Church. Farmer: Yesterday and Today. (Welcome, NC: Wooten Printing Co.) 47.

King, Emma. (1924, October). Some aspects of the work of the Society of Friends for Negro education in North Carolina. The North Carolina Historical Review, 1(4), 403-411. Retrieved (12 May 2017) from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23514375?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

US Federal Census. 1880. Cedar Grove, Randolph, North Carolina. Enumeration District: 220. National Archives Administration (NARA) Roll: 978; Family History Library (FHL) microfilm: 1254978. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com.

US Federal Census. 1900. Cedar Grove, Randolph, North Carolina. Enumeration District: 0082. NARA Roll: 1212. FHL microfilm: 1241212. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com.

US Federal Census. 1920. Cedar Grove, Randolph, North Carolina; Enumeration District: 99. NARA Roll: T625_1318. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com.

US Federal Census. 1940. Cedar Grove, Randolph, North Carolina. Enumeration District: 76-8. NARA Roll: T627_2961. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com.

Williams, Margo. (2016). From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie “Back Country” of Randolph County, North Carolina. Crofton, KY: Backintyme Publishing.

About mlwilliams

I have Masters degrees in Sociology and Religious Education which provide the backdrop for my interest in family history and community social histories. I've researched and written extensively on my Lassiter family, including my books: Miles Lassiter (circa 1777-1850), an Early African American Quaker from Lassiter Mill, Randolph County, North Carolina: My Research Journey to Home, and From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie "Back Country" of Randolph County, North Carolina. I am a frequent lecturer for the Family History Centers in the Washington, DC area, a former editor of the Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and have my own private research company, Personal Prologue.
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