The Tamassee DAR School, in the vicinity of Salem in northern Oconee County, South Carolina, is listed in the National Register for statewide significance in the history of education. When the school opened in 1919, it was the only boarding and day school in the United States supervised and financially supported by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Founded with the purpose of helping poor, rural children gain access to formal education, most students who enrolled at the Tamassee DAR School also worked on small farms or in the area’s textile mills to support their families. Often tuition was paid to the school in the form of produce or livestock.
When the school opened in November of 1919, 23 female boarding students were enrolled, and 23 boy students attended the day school. By 1954, there were 452 enrolled students. The curriculum of the school emphasized education in the DAR’s core values of good citizenship and patriotism, and was designed to transform the students into knowledgeable, useful citizens, able to cope and contribute to life outside of their isolated rural environment. The children studied math, English, social studies, history, home economics or carpentry. In addition, the children received credit for assigned jobs, such as tending livestock, preparing meals, doing laundry, sewing, cleaning, and canning.
The Tamassee DAR School was also the site of South Carolina’s first “Opportunity School.” Opened in 1921, the Opportunity School was created by Dr. Wil Lou Gray, the state supervisor of adult education, in order to help uneducated textile workers in rural areas learn basic reading and math skills, cultural development, health habits and citizenship. The Opportunity School at Tamassee was so successful that other Opportunity schools were established throughout South Carolina.
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