I played junior high football for the Fannindel schools in Ladonia. Our games routinely took us across all manner of country roads throughout Fannin County. One evening, as we travelled through the small city of Windom our coach/bus driver began telling us about the Bartley-Woods School.
A school that had to shut down due to disappearing students and had been left a ruin by the ravages of time. The ruins had become a home of the Bartley-Woods goat-man. A horrific monster with the legs of a goat and two twisted, stained horns, horns that were used to bring down unwitting travelers and haul the unfortunate soul back to the decrepit remnants of the Bartley-Woods School. As the bus traveled on, we got to a stop sign situated between a cemetery and a multi-story building that was clearly in disrepair, with its brick walls falling in. Just as we reached the stop sign, our coach pointed to the building, letting us know that we had reached the Bartley-Woods School, the engine died. The lights flickered and the door of the bus rattled. As you can imagine, there was mass panic from the busload of middle-school students.
The coaches on the bus found this whole event to be massively hilarious, but I will admit that the school has remained in my mind as this sinister, dark blot in an otherwise peaceful Fannin County. The real story of the Bartley-Woods School is far different from the fearful tale I was told in my youth.
The brick building was built in 1940 with the construction helped along by President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. The campus had classrooms, a library, a cafeteria, and a large auditorium. The school’s district covered a large amount of rural Fannin County with a reported attendance of 300 students in 1941.
More than just a place to educate the youth of Fannin County, the school auditorium also served as a community center. There were also educational offerings for local farmers. Additionally, while the school was built in part by the federal government, the school also gave back to the nation by providing classes to returning veterans after World War II. For many, the rural school of Bartley-Woods opened many doors, but unfortunately that was not to last.
Today there is no trace of the school buildings. The Bartley-Woods School closed its doors in 1958, with much of the campus being demolished in 1991. In the end, the school was felled by changing population trends that led to many of the rural schools consolidating with larger schools in the local towns. All that was standing of this complex for quite some time was the large auditorium building. Left empty and abandoned, sometime in the past 20 years the building has fallen away into nothingness. The area has grown up with cedar trees and tall grass.
The historic landmark placard sits near the road, looking much like a marble tombstone dedicated to the old school. A memorial to the hopes and dreams of students and just the kind of place you might find while traveling along the backroads of Northeast Texas.