Robert Fletcher Memorial School – McColl, South Carolina
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This now-vacant building in the Marlboro County town of McColl was built as a high school in 1920, though construction had begun two years earlier. The school was made of imported European brick and designed by architect Henry Dudley Harrall. It was named in honor of Robert Fletcher, who died in World War I on October 7, 1918. His body was relocated from France to McColl to be buried in the Fletcher family cemetery.
The Fletchers of Marlboro County were a farming family whose ancestors relocated to rural South Carolina in 1816 by way of Virginia and North Carolina. Robert Fletcher’s father, William, and his uncle, Jesse Adams Fletcher, were prosperous farmers during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, known for their expansive acreage of farmland that at one time numbered 1,800 acres in Marlboro County and 2,100 acres in neighboring North Carolina. The family also operated a lucrative cotton seed oil mill and a sawmill.
After Robert Fletcher died of mustard gas poisoning during the Great War, his father and uncle wanted to honor him by opening a school for rural students that focused on both academic and agricultural education. The school was well-received by the people of Marlboro County, as it boasted not only a strong farming focus but also traditional studies and an impressive music department complete with an orchestra. The Fletcher brothers personally paid the teachers’ salaries during the school’s first years of operation until the public agreed to support it with taxes.
Building a local school in Robert’s memory was fitting. Robert Fletcher had valued his own education, having attended the Pine Grove School, which once sat where the school bearing his name was built. Fletcher then attended Wofford College in Spartanburg before returning to his home to farm. In 1924 the Fletcher brothers attempted to convert the Robert Fletcher Memorial School into a college that would commemorate all South Carolinians lost in World War I. They offered to purchased additional land and add modern facilities to the school, but the plan was voted down by the state legislature.
The Robert Fletcher Memorial School operated as a public school from 1920 until 1985. It was consolidated with other local public schools in 1951. Today Marlboro County High School in Bennettsville serves all of the students in the county. The Fletcher School building was sold in 1989 for $15,000; it now stands in disrepair. The teacherage, or building that housed the teachers, was built the same year as the school and can be seen below. This teacherage also accommodated boarding students who attended the school from across the county. It was built next to the school and was also designed by Harrall.
Much of the above information is attributed to Marlboro County resident Mattie Frank Carraway.
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Address: 1040 Piney Grove Church Road, McColl, SC 29570
GPS Coordinates: 34.699442, -79.586364
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