The two-room county Schoolhouse stands beside Ethridge Road about half a mile north of the farmstead. Ira Ethridge who had been a teacher before he married Susan Ella Shields supervised its construction in 1909.
He persuaded Alex and Emory Shields, grandsons of James Shields, to donate two acres of land and the school was named ‘Bachelor’s Academy’ in their honor.
The building was constructed by Harvey R. Carruth at a cost of $361.oo, which included $18.oo for a bell installed in the bell-tower.
Mr. Ira took a close interest in the running of this school and in the early years the teacher who was employed by the county stayed at the Ethridge home during the school term.
In 1915 an ‘Educational Survey of Jackson County’ reported 26 children at the school distributed through seven grades. The school year was divided into two terms – one lasting 16 weeks and the other 8 weeks.
In the early years all of the schoolchildren were white, but in 1938 when the county consolidated its schools, Bachelor’s Academy became a school for African American children. Thereafter a house was provided for the teacher at the Shields-Ethridge farmstead.
Children walked to school and there were several paths through the surrounding fields and woods converging on the schoolhouse. Each child brought his or her lunch from home in a bucket and most days sat outside to eat. Drinking water came from a well in the yard.
The 1915 Survey reported that the building was well kept, but described its setting as “unimproved grove; grounds neglected; no school-garden; no toilets.” Boys and girls went into woods on opposite sides of Ethridge Road when they needed to relieve themselves. Children entered the building through a cloakroom where they could leave their coats. The two schoolrooms were separated by a wooden partition; the main room was heated by a potbellied stove.
There was no electricity supplied to the school, illumination of the interior depended on daylight. The 1915 Survey reported the following school equipment: “double patent desks; cloth blackboard; one chart; one globe; no maps; no pictures.” A slate blackboard replaced the cloth blackboard at a later date.
The Schoolhouse remained in use till 1950; a Georgia Heritage grant funded its restoration in 1996. The Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm Foundation is now gathering oral histories from former students at the Academy to preserve a record of their experiences.