Ole' School Blog Challenge: The West Street Graded School

West Street Graded School
From "The Planet" 1915, Vol. 1 No. 1
Image courtesy of the New Bern-Craven Public Library

I have to send a huge shout out and thanks to Victori Bass of the Griot Gram Family History Group on Facebook for coming up with the "Ole' School" blog challenge this month. The idea was to choose an ancestor and find out where they obtained their education. Well, by signing up for this challenge and researching information regarding the school where some of my Whitney and Harrison ancestors went to school in New Bern, NC, I made an amazing discovery.

So you know I did some Googling and came across some helpful information.

First, here's a little bit about the West Street Graded School that I found in an article that was written by Arabelle Bryant and was featured in the April 17, 2010 edition of the New Bern Sun Journal.

Prior to 1905 there was a wooden structure on West Street which was the school for black students. This structure was referred to as the "Red School House." This building burned in a fire in 1905. A new two story brick building was built in 1907 that replaced the first. John Thomas Barber was appointed the first principal of this school.

So who was John Thomas Barber? It turns out he was quite the self made man. This is an excerpt from a book called The History of the American
Negro, Volume IV, Page 841, that describes him.

Conspicuous among the educators of Eastern North
Carolina must be mentioned Prof. John Thomas Barber of
New Bern, whose meritorious work has won for him the
principalship of the New Bern Public Schools. Prof. Bar-
ber is a native of the town of Trenton in Jones Co., where
he was born on Jan. 6, 1872. He came to New Bern at an
early age and it was in the public schools of that historic
town that he laid the foundation of his education. Much
progress has been made in the public schools of the city
since his student days and much of that must be credited
to Prof. Barber.

Image courtesy of the book, The History of the American 
Negro, Volume IV, page 841

Now here's a map of New Bern, NC and I have the approximate location of where the West Street Graded school once stood noted in orange. The yellow star shows where the home of my great grandmother, Carrie Whitney Harrison, was located.

 Orange star notes approximate location of West St Graded School
Yellow Star is 709 Hatties Lane, previously known as 709 Brown's Ave/10 Brown's Alley.
The Brown's Alley address was initially owned by Carrie's parents Samuel and Sarah Whitney.

The school Carrie attended as a child was just a block away. Amazing! There was no excuse for her not to get to school that's for sure. Being close to where there was a school, played an important role in the lives of my Whitney and Harrison ancestors and no doubt contributed to how successful these family lines were to become. 

Anyway you are probably saying right now, what about that discovery?! What was it?

Well, this is one of the things I came across while Googling. It turns out that the West St. Graded School put out a yearbook called "The Planet." This yearbook was digitized not too long ago online by the New Bern-Craven County Public Library. Here's the link:  https://archive.org/details/planet191501west.

I was so excited flipping through the pages. I carefully scanned each name looking for anyone familiar and lo and behold on page 3, I found someone.

"The Planet" 1915, Vol. 1 No. 1
Image courtesy of the New Bern-Craven Public Library

That's when my stomach started to flutter. Could there be a picture?
I didn't have to wait long to find out because when I turned the page, this lovely image came up.

"The Planet" 1915, Vol. 1 No. 1
Image courtesy of the New Bern-Craven Public Library

And here's a close up of my great grandmother.

Carrie E. Whitney

In May of 1915, Carrie was just 17 years old. She would turn 18 on October 11, 1915 and just three short days later would marry my great grandfather John T. Harrison. It appears that she completed her schooling through the 9th grade. The West Street Graded school would eventually go on to include a high school department, with it's first high school class graduating in 1925.

But wait there's more!  On page 13 of "The Planet"  I learned that perhaps Carrie had a bit of a green thumb. 

"The Planet" 1915, Vol. 1 No. 1
Image courtesy of the New Bern-Craven Public Library

Genealogy Happy Dance Anyone?


  1. Great post and topic. I enjoyed the read and the wonderful pictures

  2. This is AMAZING! How wonderful to find actual pictures Andrea you are truly a gifted detective. Excellent!

    1. Thanks Victori so much for putting out there this challenge! Also, or your sweet comments. I don't know when I would have come across this picture if you hadn't put out there this blog prompt. Still genealogy happy dancing. :)


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