Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Historical marker tells of first Christian school for African-Americans in Dallas County

'The Beloit Industrial Institute' historical marker.
This week’s featured historical marker is the “THE BELOIT INDUSTRIAL INSTITUTE” marker in Dallas County, Ala. This marker is located near the entrance to the present-day Beloit Community Center building, which is located on State Highway 22 in the Beloit community, southwest of Selma.

This marker was erected by the Beloit Community Organization in 1994. There’s text on both sides of the marker, and both sides are different. What follows in the complete text from the marker:

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“THE BELOIT INDUSTRIAL INSTITUTE: The Beloit Industrial Institute was founded in 1888 by Industrial Missionary Association, an area subdivision of the American Missionary Associations. The President of the Association, Dr. Charles B. Curtis, was a Presbyterian missionary and educator from Wisconsin who established the school and founded the Beloit community. Dr. Curtis named the community for his Alma Mater, Beloit College in Wisconsin. The Beloit Industrial Institute gained recognition as the first Christian school for African – Americans who lived in Dallas County. (OVER)”

“(Continued from other side) From 1888 to 1923, the Beloit school functioned as the intellectual, social and religious hub for the thriving Beloit community. The school was the first in Dallas County to combine agribusiness training with strong Christian teachings. In 1923, the Dallas County School Board gained legal possession of the school which they retained until 1963 when desegregation and zoning forced the closing of the school’s doors. For a period of ten years, the school building was owned by a private business. In 1974 the building was purchased by the Beloit Community Organization. It now functions as a multi – purpose, community center and exists as a shining example of progress, self-reliance and community service for generations of past, present and future Alabamians.”

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I encountered this historical marker last April while returning from a trip to Old Cahaba, which is located just a short drive from the Beloit community. If you decide to visit this site for yourself, be forewarned. This old school building, which was constructed in 1929, is located very close to a set of railroad tracks. Getting to the school is easy, but when leaving keep you eyes open for not only approaching trains but also traffic on State Highway 22. When you get there, you’ll see what I’m talking about. For first time visitors, getting back onto Highway 22 can be somewhat tricky.

I was also interested to learn that this location is one of many sites in Dallas County listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The Beloit Industrial Institute was added to the register on Aug. 6, 1993. Other Dallas County sites on the register you might want to check out are the Live Oak Cemetery in Selma and the Hurricane Creek Bridge in Pleasant Hill.

In the end, visit this site next Wednesday to learn about another historical marker. I’m also taking suggestions from the reading audience, so if you know of an interesting historical marker that you’d like me to feature, let me know in the comments section below. 

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