Bernard Baruch’s oldest daughter, Belle, took a special interest in Strawberry School and the education of the African-American children at Hobcaw. She designated herself the unofficial truant officer and, according to Bernard Baruch’s memoirs, once went so far as to wade into a swamp after two boys who were skipping class. In this scene from SCETV's "The Baruchs of Hobcaw," Belle returns a truant to Strawberry School.
The teachers at Strawberry School were all young African-American women. They included Mrs. Abraham Wright, Miss Flossie Wilson, Mrs. Josie ("Jo") Jackson, wife of the first black mail carrier in Georgetown, and Mrs. Ethel Bessellieu. Mrs. Bessellieu, the last Strawberry School teacher, was there until at least 1949, according to Robert McClary's siblings.
None of the teachers lived at Hobcaw Barony, so they had to make the trip from Georgetown on a daily basis, traveling by boat across Winyah Bay, until the bridge was built in 1937. As historian Valinda Littlefield points out, although they may have not been much older than their students, they had the training necessary to teach elementary subjects.
Minnie Kennedy was born on Hobcaw Barony in 1916 and moved quickly through Strawberry School's fourth-grade level education. Known as "the smart one," she assisted people in the community with reading and writing letters. She graduated from Howard High School in Georgetown and South Carolina State University in Orangeburg. After a career as a teacher and principal in New York City, Minnie Kennedy retired to Georgetown, to the same home in which she spent her late adolescence. She died in 2014 at the age of 97.
In the 1930s, Bernard Baruch promised Minnie's father, William Kennedy, that he would pay for her college education. When he failed to do so, Ms. Kennedy reminded him of his promise, as seen in the clip below from SCETV's "The Baruchs of Hobcaw."
This notebook was found in the attic of a home in Barnyard Village in the 1990s by Jimmy Bessinger, the Hobcaw Barony superintendent. Arthur Kennedy's name is written on the cover, but it was shared by several students at Strawberry School in the 1940s.
The notebook provides a glimpse into the one-room schoolhouse experience, with a single teacher and an average of 10-12 students. Lessons in the book range from grammar, composition, and handwriting to basic math problems, geography and scientific concepts. More pages of the notebook are archived in the Collections section of Between the Waters, located under the Resources tab.
All students were expected to eventually meet a fourth grade level of proficiency in the subjects taught, and progressed toward that standard without being grouped by age or aptitude.
The composition book also reveals that, like most students, those who shared this notebook were sometimes prone to doodling.
In March, 2015, Robert McClary returned to Hobcaw Barony with his wife and five daughters. He took them to his childhood homes and to Strawberry School. Here they reflect on how the Strawberry School experience helped their father appreciate the value of education, and to instill that appreciation in them.