Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 15, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
CHINA GROVE — Old yearbooks, scrapbooks and photographs of the former Farm Life School will fill China Grove Middle School’s gym Saturday.
You can take a look back in time at the school’s history through a timeline created by social studies teacher James Wohlgemuth and artifacts provided by the China Grove Roller Mill Museum.
“The thing I have learned while researching for this project is the amazing evolution this piece of property has gone through for the sake of education,” Wohlgemuth said.
The Farm Life School started in 1911 when a group of China Grove residents made a request to the Rowan County Board of Education to build on 20 acres of land where China Grove Middle is currently located.
“At the time, agriculture was the lifeblood of the area,” Jane Woodward, China Grove Middle’s media specialist, said. “When you ate, you had to grow it.”
The first building, a girls’ dormitory, was constructed in 1915, followed by a boys’ dorm several years later.
Woodward said home economics that taught students how to preserve and cook foods were the first classes taught at the school, followed by agricultural courses.
“Students would take core classes at the high school on Patterson Street then they would walk to the Farm Life School,” she said.
The school had its first class of 13 graduates in 1917.
Academic subjects were added to the curriculum in 1919, which created an influx in enrollment of about 200 students, Woodward said.
Woodward said one of the major milestones of the school was when it combined with the old China Grove High on Franklin Street in 1921, making it the largest rural high school in the state.
The Farm Life School turned into a traditional high school in 1933, before becoming a junior high in 1989.
Woodward said the final original structure from Farm Life School was torn down in the early 1970s.
China Grove Middle will host the farm school’s 100-year anniversary celebration from 10 to 3 p.m. Saturday.
“The Farm Life School sat right here where our school sits now, that’s why we felt compelled to do something about it,” Woodward said.
The event will incorporate the annual back-to-school bash featuring inflatables, concessions, a car show and tractor display.
Entertainment for the day will also include bowling, a dunking booth, a magic show, bluegrass music, celtic musicians and a karate demonstration.
Woodward said she’s hoping for a good turnout Saturday.
“I think there is something for everybody, because we have games for the kids, food and entertainment,” Woodward said. “We also have artifacts, and I think anybody who has a connection with China Grove will be amazed by the rich history.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.