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History

   The history contained below was obtained from several sources some without listed authors. If anyone has any conflicting information, please contact the author at: kodak1@EastmanAlumni.org -- Thank you --

   The institution known now as Eastman School was established in 1894. The first building, known as Johnson Hill School, was a frame structure and was located just north of the present campus. It measured eighteen by twenty feet and had small windows on three sides.

   The school is believed to have been founded by the Myrick, Carroll, Wiggins, Hedgepeth and Burt families who all lived on what was to become the Oak Lodge Retreat owned by George Eastman who later became the benefactor and namesake of this school.

   The first teacher and principal was Fanny B. Myrick who pioneered and led the school for 25 years. Ms Myrick did this all without outside funding who replied when asked how she did it "We simply worked it up from the ground and prayed it down from the skies".

   George Eastman saw a need for a better school prompted by his deep interest in not just his tenants but also a deep rooted belief in education for all and when approached by Ms. Myrick agreed to enlarge and modernize the school. GE as he was called deeded three acres of the land to Halifax County and paid one half the costs to build a five room school. The total cost of the original school was $14,872 of which Mr. Eastman paid $7,777, Halifax County $5095.00, North Carolina $1000,00, Julius Rosenwald (president of Sears, Roebuck) Fund and the black community $500.00 each. GE continued to assist in the school that would bear his name bringing in his architects and ordering equipment and planning the ventilation system. To see additional information about the Rosenwald School, click here.

   Eastman School opened in 1920 and 2 rooms was added in 1923-24 the same year Ms. Myrick stepped down as leader of the school she helped found. Mr. J.L. Sitzer was principal from 1924-26 followed by Ms Ruth Swann 1926-27 and Mr. Mack McClue 1927-28 of which little is written except enrollment increased to 45 and a science lab was added.

   Mr. A.R. Dees became principal in 1928 and is credited with pioneering transportation for black students in Halifax County. Mr. Dees led the parents in the different communities in organizing their capital to purchase 4 T-Model buses in order to further enlarge and standardize the school. Enrollment was increased to 117 pupils and basketball teams were organized. In 1931 Eastman became a four year standard "A" high school.

   In 1934 W.A. Holmes became principal and soon after a gift of two acres of land was presented to the school by Mr. and Mrs. George B. Dryden (Ellen Andrus Dryden GE's niece). Parents, teachers and students cooperated in the improvement of the campus. The community and school were closely involved during this time with the purchase of cooperatively owned machinery and the formulation of a credit union. By 1952 the enrollment had increased to six hundred pupils and a faculty of fourteen teachers. Mr. Holmes left Eastman this year and the school was referred to as a "Young University".

   Mr. George T. Young became the seventh principal and oversaw the enlargement of the campus to fifteen acres and the school's population increase through enrollment of students from surrounding communities. Students and faculty increased through the victories of Brown Vs Board of Education and school integration. Mr. Young left Eastman in 1966 to become the first black assistant superintendent in Eastern North Carolina.

   In 1966 Mr. J.J. Ray took the reins as principal and steered the school as student population increased and college bound students rose. During this period Eastman High School enjoyed the largest graduating classes in its history.

   The 1981-1982 school years witnessed a major change in the organization of Eastman. Due to the consolidation of all high school students within Halifax County, Eastman became a junior high school with grades 7-9. Mr. Ray left Eastman to become Halifax County Assistant Superintendent of Schools and long time math teacher Mr. Willie F. Bowser succeeded Mr. Ray as principal.

   The 1983-1984 School Year produced further change with the school name now Eastman Middle school. Mr. Ralph Evans was the new principal.