History of the Darby School, Pasco County, Florida


The Darby School

The old Darby School, since enlarged. Photo by Jeff Cannon.

Darby (the town)

This page was last updated on Dec. 12, 2019.

An 1877-78 list of Hernando Schools shows the trustees of the Willow Oak school were Jno. W. Darby, S. B. Colding, and Geo. Bates. The teacher was O. W. Collin. The report says, “This school was suspended + was finished by B. L. Blackburn.”

An 1883-84 list of Hernando County schools shows the Willow Oak teacher Miss Hortense Lee and trustees R. J. Bradley and Lot Sellers.

On Sept. 5, 1887, the Pasco County school board discontinued the Willow Oak or Providence school.

According to McCormick, the Darby School for whites opened in October 1888 and a school for blacks opened one year later.

A deed dated Sept. 28, 1888, conveyed property in S36 T21 R19 from William J. Zeigler and wife Mary E. Zeigler to the school board. School board minutes of Oct. 1, 1888, report that W. J. Zeigler and wife Mary deeded one acre for the Darby School.

On Jan. 13, 1898, the San Antonio Herald reported, “The re-opening of the Darby School which was to take place Monday, Jan. 10th, has been postponed for another week on account of the teacher, Miss Mary Howard [should be Howell], being sick.”

On Aug. 1, 1898, W. M. Gilbert was appointed teacher at Willow Oak school #37.

On Oct. 5, 1899, the San Antonio Herald reported, “The public school in the Darby settlement was closed by order of the School Board on account of sickness.”

On May 5, 1902, it was recommended that School 38, Willow Oak, should be abolished as it is in the three mile limit.

On Sept. 18, 1914, the Dade City Banner reported, “Mrs. Ollie Norris and two children arrived Wednesday morning from Ellenton, Ga., and drove out to the Darby school, where Mrs. Norris will teach.”

A Dec. 1915 newspaper indicates that Miss Myrtle Johnson was the teacher at the Darby school.

On Aug. 17, 1917, the Dade City Banner reported that Clemmie Croft was appointed the teacher at Darby.

In August 1918 Mrs. Clorie M. Knight was appointed the teacher.

In November 1919 the teacher was Mildred M. Hudson at Darby, no. 22.

A 1927 map shows the Darby school in the NE ¼ of the NE ¼ of Section 36.

School board minutes show the following teachers appointed:

Aug. 8, 1889 R. J. Bradley
Aug. 7, 1893 R. J. Bradley
Sept. 4, 1893 C. P. De La Mater
July 1, 1895 J. A. Cunningham
Aug. 1, 1898 Mary Howell
July 1, 1901 Miss Mary Howell
June 6, 1904 Dollie Sims
May 22, 1905 Mignon Geiger
July 5, 1909 Nora Sumner
July 5, 1921 Mrs. Marian Douglas
July 7, 1924 Mrs. J. L. Shelton
July 2, 1928 Mrs. Florence Sessoms
Oct. 28, 1928 Miss Florence Sessoms
July 3, 1930 Mrs. Daisy Pike
June 15, 1931 Miss Edwina Huff
May 6, 1935 Miss Lulu Hancock
May 1936 Miss Gertrude Rowland
May 3, 1937 Miss Gertrude Rowland
May 2, 1938 Miss Gertrude Rowland
May 8, 1940 Mrs. Daisy Belle Miller
Apr. 21, 1940 Mrs. Daisy Belle Miller
June 5, 1944 Mrs. Daisy Belle Miller
Aug. 18, 1947 Mrs. Daisy Belle Miller
July 6, 1948 Mrs. Daisy Belle Miller
May 2, 1949 Isabel H. Barnes
May 4, 1950 Isabel H. Barnes
June 5, 1950 Mrs. Virginia Chambers

School board minutes of April 10, 1951, report that the school trustees recommended the closing of the Darby School. On Dec. 8, 1953, the Darby School and one acre were sold to B. V. Lyons for $635.

Memories of Darby School (1986)

This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Sept. 27, 1986.


They were the days when youngsters walked miles to attend classes in one-room schoolhouses. They came barefooted, toting lunch pails with biscuits and syrup. They sat on hard wooden benches. And they learned their lessons well.

It was that type of atmosphere that students attending Darby School experienced. The school once stood at the corner of County Road 588 and Darby Road in the east Pasco community of Darby.

The building is long gone now. But memories of those early days of Pasco schooling will long be remembered by the students who learned their ABCs there.

Many of those former students of Darby School will gather today for a reunion — a time to become reacquainted and share those memories.

“It was just a one-room school, but I’ll tell you this. When we got through with our lessons we knew it. We didn’t have all this baseball, football and glee club,” said Hattie Bellamy Miller.

Miller, 80, first attended Darby School in 1911. The school included “the primer (first) through eighth grade,” she said.

Miller went to Darby School eight years and then some. “Momma was afraid I’d missed something, so she put me hack another year,” she said. “Then she found out I was teaching the little ones — not the teacher. She pulled me out.”

There was a high school in Dade City. But all the students didn’t continue their education because there wasn’t a way to get to the high school some 10 miles east, Miller said.

She walked the 1&frac;12 miles to Darby School and back home again each day. “We got to go barefooted until we got half-grown,” she said.

And for a few years, classes were held only for a six-month stretch. That was when the Darby area was known for its strawberries, and many of the students had to work in the fields, Miller said.

The students carried lunch pails filled with all types of foods. “A fresh onion with a biscuit — anything we could eat we’d put in that bucket,” she said.

There was an old, open well from which the students would draw water, taking a dipper to fill the individual cups that they left each day at the schoolhouse.

The land where Darby School once stood was originally purchased by Mary Wiggins Darby in 1867. In later years, she gave 40 acres to each of her two daughters, one of whom was Miller’s grandmother.

In 1890, Darby’s other daughter and Miller’s great-aunt, Mary Atkins Ziegler, donated an acre to the county for construction of a public school.

The first building burned a short time later. While it was being rebuilt, students attended classes at a log house and sat on logs for benches.

Miller’s children, including County Commissioner Sylvia Young, and other Darby youngsters continued to attend classes at Darby School until it was closed in 1949.

The land on which the school once stood was sold and has since been privately owned.

Today’s reunion and “Oldtimers Day” will be held at the Darby Civic Center. That building, at the corner of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard (County Road 581) and Darby Road, was moved there from west Pasco by the County Commission in the mid-1970s at the request of Mary Morgan, then the supervisor of elections. It was also used as voting Precinct 11.

The land on which the building sits was donated to the county in 1974 by Bill and Eloise Ziegler Bennett.

This is the third year former Darby School students have gathered for a reunion. Miller came up with the idea as “kind of a get-together to see who’s living and who’s not.”

The get-together is also for any former or current residents of Darby. It will begin at 9 a.m., and lunch will begin at noon. Those attending are asked to bring covered dishes to share. Plates, utensils and beverages will be provided, Miller said.

Fond Memories of One-Room Schoolhouse (2002)

This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on May 10, 2002.


Students are counting down the days until that final bell rings, signaling the start of summer vacation.

But in bygone days, school vacations weren’t days of leisure. Schools were often only in session for six months to allow for youngsters to pick crops on their vacations.

Such was the case at the Darby School in the early 1900s. The school was built then at the corner of what is now Bellamy Brothers Boulevard and Darby Road.

Students walked miles to attend classes in the one-room schoolhouse. Most came barefoot, toting lunch pails with biscuits and syrups, and sat on hard wooden benches to learn their lessons.

Hattie Bellamy Miller, who first attended the Darby School in 1911, walked the 1 1/2 miles to classes and back home again each day.

“We got to go bare-footed until we got half-grown,” she said in a 1986 interview at 80.

Miller and the other students filled their lunch pails with all types of food.

“A fresh onion with a biscuit – anything we could eat we’d put in that bucket,” said Miller, whose daughter, Sylvia Young, was a longtime county commissioner.

Many times, Young added, Miller would take cold biscuits and turnip greens, once even trading her lunch for a necklace from another student.

There was an old, open well from where the students would draw water, taking a dipper to fill the individual cups they left each day at the schoolhouse.

“It was just a one-room school, but I’ll tell you this:

“When we got through with our lessons, we knew it. We didn’t have all this baseball, football and glee club,” Miller said.

When she attended the school, it included first through eighth grades. She went eight years and then some.

“Momma was afraid I’d missed something, so she put me back another year,” Miller said. “Then she found out I was teaching the little ones – not the teacher. She pulled me out.”

There was a high school in Dade City, but all the students didn’t continue their education because there wasn’t a way to get to the school, located more than 10 miles east.

The land where the Darby School once stood originally was purchased by Mary Wiggins Darby in 1867. In later years, she gave 40 acres to each of her two daughters, one of whom was Miller’s grandmother.

In 1890, Darby’s other daughter and Miller’s great-aunt, Mary Atkins Ziegler, donated an acre to the county for construction of the public school.

The first building burned a short time later. While it was being rebuilt, students attended classes at a log house and sat on logs.

Miller’s children, including Young, and other Darby youngsters continued to attend classes at the Darby School until it closed in 1949.

In later years, with additions to the old one-room schoolhouse, it was transformed into a private residence, Young said.

But that didn’t change the memories that Young and other Darby residents will always have of their school days.

Like her mother, Young walked some two miles to school on dirt roads.

“It was very country. We had no paved roads out here,” she said.

“We’re still country. We only have two paved roads now.”

Even in the days when the 64-year-old Young attended the Darby School, there wasn’t any electricity.

It was still a one-room schoolhouse where the 35 or 40 pupils were all taught together. A big iron heater in the center of the room provided warmth during the cold winter days.

Trading lunches was still a popular practice, Young said.

So was going barefoot, although the children would start off from home wearing shoes – “at least until the time our parents couldn’t see us.”

Young attended first through sixth grade at the Darby School. It closed that year, and the six in her class went on to junior high in Dade City.

That school was in the old two-story building on 14th Street that was built in 1914 as a high school to replace the original pre-1900 wooden structure.

In later years, the red-brick school next door, now Pasco Middle School, was constructed to house the high school, and the old building became the junior high.

But Young and others who attended the Darby School will always remember those old days.

“They were good times,” she said.

Throughout the years, the former students gathered for school reunions, often organized by Young’s mother, who died in 1997 at 91. The reunions aren’t as frequent these days, Young said.

The Darby School


This article was taken from a genealogy website that is no longer online.

The school house stood on the southeast corner of Miller Road and Darby Road. The Sessums lived across the road from the school. The other two corners of this intersection were open fields which were bounded by wooded areas some distance to the north. The property on the northwest corner was inhabited by long horned cows that we called woods cows. Ernest Croft Road was about one mile north of the school house on Darby Road and ran to the west from its intersection. The Baptist Church was on past Ernest Croft Road and almost to the end of Darby Road. We took Ernest Croft Road from Darby Road to go to the farm.

The day arrived for all of us to go to Darby School and enroll. That is all of us with the exception of Mart the oldest. He had to ride a bus into Dade City to school. The rest of us attended the one-room school house, which still stands on the corner of Darby Road (now Bellamy Brothers Boulevard) and Miller Road. Mrs. Daisy B. Miller was the teacher, and she taught six grades. When our family arrived the size of the school increased dramatically. There were six of us going to the one-room school, and I believe the total student population was between twenty and twenty four. Some grades had only two students.

Mrs. Miller was a wonder, and I name her among my favorite teachers. Not only did she teach all six grades, but she walked to school, got there early on cold days, filled the woodstove with wood and had a good fire going so the room would be warm for us. If the weather was hot, the windows on both sides of the schoolroom were opened to catch a breeze.

All of us took a bag lunch, including Mrs. Miller. At lunch time, she would sit on the top step of the front porch and talk with us as we ate our lunch. I remember sitting beside her on the step as she inquired of me and some of my brothers and sisters about Aunt Billie, where she was and what she was doing. This was before Aunt Billie married Uncle Ernest. Later, as we walked home, we laughed about her concern for Aunt Billie. We decided the reason for her interest was that she had an unmarried son just about Aunt Billie’s age.

I don’t know how she ever taught all those different grades the things we needed to learn. Reading, math, spelling, geography, history. But she had a system. While she had one grade up front working with them, the rest of us had work to do at our seats, and we had better be busy doing it, with no talking. Some were to copy assignments from the board, as others read from their books.

To the best of my memory, there were five or six kids in my grade. I remember one time when my class was on the bench up front being questioned about a geography assignment we were supposed to have read, another student and I could not answer any of the questions. She came down hard on us for not doing our work. I continued to protest that I had read the assigned pages. “Then why aren’t you able to answer the questions?” she wanted to know. I couldn’t explain it, as a certain nervous anxiety filled my stomach. Finally, she told me to bring my book and let her look at it. When she did, she discovered that the pages in my book and the other student’s did not correspond with the pages of the other children’s books. I still have nightmares of taking tests with no earthly idea of what the material I am being tested on is about.

Mrs. Miller did not put up with foolishness. One time out of frustration I muttered “confound it.” She heard it and used it as an example to teach us not to use that kind of language. She wrote the word on the board, saying, “I don’t even know how to spell it.” Then I had to write one hundred times, “I will not say confound it.” To this day, I do not understand what was so bad about saying confound it. Ever so often, Mrs. Miller would gather all of us around the piano to sing hymns as she played. I remember hearing “Send the Light” for the first time at one of these singing sessions. However, there was one time she was not too happy with hymn singing. But that is for a later.

The school health nurse would visit the school from time to time to give the kids immunization shots. We dreaded to see her come, but there was one poor, frail, little blond girl who couldn’t face it. Every time the school nurse came and began giving shots, she would pass out, whether she was to get a shot that day or not.

There was a period of time that year that Mrs. Miller missed several days of school because her husband was in the Veteran’s Hospital in Bay Pines. Substitute teachers were rare in those parts during the 1940’s. Mrs. Sessums, who lived across the road from the school, filled in for Mrs. Miller. Poor Mrs. Sessums, she was a soft spoken, sweet woman, who could not control that bunch of kids. Some of the boys got into a fight on more than one occasion while she was substituting. No such thing happened when Mrs. Miller was there. She put the fear of Mrs. Miller in all of us, even the larger boys.

Which brings to mind another incident that happened at the school. We were instructed to never, ever go outside of the fence which surrounded the school yard until it was time to go home. One day, Gerry, who was in the first or second grade, got a bee in her bonnet over something Mrs. Miller said to her, and out the gate she went. Several times Mrs. Miller called, “Geraldine Johns you come back here!” Gerry just kept on going down the hot, sun drenched road, giving no indication that she heard Mrs. Miller. I feared I was going to get Gerry’s switching because she would not mind. Gerry walked on home, which was nearly two miles.

At recess and after eating our lunch, we played outside in the school yard. One game I remember playing was “Olie, olie, over.” There were two teams, one on each side of the school house. One of the kids would throw the ball over the school house, yelling, “Olie, olie, over,” then everybody would start running and try to get to the other side without being tagged by a member of the other team. One time while we were outside playing I was in line at the water fountain when a boy pushed in front of me and began drinking water. So I did what any normal kid would do, I pushed him, and as luck (bad) would have it, his lip hit the fountain and began to bleed. Before long, Mrs. Miller became involved, and after some questioning, determined what I had done. The punishment was a good switching on the legs. Later after we had gone back inside, the girl in the row next to me noticed that my leg was bleeding. “Reatha’s leg is bleeding,” she reported to Mrs. Miller. This is the only time I remember a somewhat defensive Mrs. Miller. She rather sheepishly pointed out that I had a sore on my leg and that was why it was bleeding.

I’m sure it must have been a spring day when one’s fancy turns to things of the heart. I had finished my work, and searching for something to fill the time I decided to write a letter to a boy in the class named Robert Sessums. I had had a crush on him for some time, although he was probably not aware of it. I poured out my heart, writing down all the feelings one of my age could have for someone who appeared so good looking. Feeling safe as Mrs. Miller was busy up front with another class, I was completely engrossed with the project. Throwing caution to the wind I wrote with abandon of my love for him. This was out of character for me as I was kind of shy. However, there was a reason I wrote with such freedom of expression. I signed Lucy Mae Peterson’s name to the letter. Now Lucy Mae Peterson was even shyer than me. Never able to put much over on Mrs. Miller, somehow she got wind of the letter, called my name, and told me to bring it to her. Startled and with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I slowly made my way to her desk and handed her the letter. She quickly scanned it and then stated that she was going to read it out to the class.

I was mortified! How could I endure such humiliation? To have my feelings laid bare for all to see? As she began to read, I could feel the blood rush to my cheeks and I turned weak as I wanted to sink through the floor. When finally the slow torture ended, she began to lecture the girl whose name I had put at the bottom. Saying something about a girl her age writing such a letter. I just sat there letting Lucy Mae take the tongue lashing, thankful I had escaped. But then to my horror, she began to protest vehemently that she had not written the letter. Mrs. Miller did not believe her, saying, “Your name is signed to it.” “But, I didn’t write it!” she declared. “Well, then who did?” Mrs. Miller wanted to know. “I don’t know, but I didn’t do it.” she replied. There are always those helpful little tattletales who delight in ratting on others. “Reatha did,” she said with great satisfaction. One thing you never wanted to experience was the wrath of Mrs. Miller. She reprimanded me not only for writing such a letter, but then to have the audacity to sign someone else’s name! She went on and on, which seemed like forever, saying something about how you could go to jail for doing such a thing. Put the fear in me! I could just see myself languishing in jail forever, thinking about the awful thing I had done. From that horrible experience, I learned that if you write it, someone will read it. I don’t believe I have signed someone else’s name to anything since that dreadful day.

One day Mrs. Miller had an announcement. We all perked up, intent on hearing what she was saying. That afternoon if we finished all our work, we were going to the field across the road and have an Easter egg hunt. Oh, great, we could hardly wait for the time to go for the egg hunt. Some of the women in the community had colored and hid a lot of eggs and baked some goodies for us. Finally, it was time and we all marched in line across the road and hunted for the colorful eggs in the tall grass. This was so much fun, the most we had had in a long time. Finally, the end of the school year was near and we were going on a field trip. The bus came and loaded all of us on it and we made what seemed like a long ride. We came to a park which had a lake and a swimming pool. The water was clear and cool in the pool, not like the water in the ponds. We had a great time swimming and then had a picnic lunch. I have no idea who provided the lunch, but it was great. After a while we were allowed to swim some more, then it was time for the long bus ride back to the school.

Daisy Belle Miller and The Yellow Rose of Texas


This article was taken from a genealogy website that is no longer online.

A one-room schoolhouse, not conducive to learning? Believe this if you will, but you didn’t have the pleasure of making Mrs. Daisy Belle’s acquaintance. Mrs. Miller may not have been a world-traveler; may not have spent hours on end attending the opera; visiting museums; getting gussied up in fancy ball gowns. But Mrs. Miller could do one thing and she could do it well; Mrs. Miller could teach. And Mrs. Miller was bound and determined to bring culture to us little ragamuffin country children.

We learned music. And not all of that high-falutin’ stuff either. Daisy Belle had a favorite: “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” Every day, same thing, eight o’clock sharp, salute the flag, pledge allegiance, may have been a rendition of The Lord’s Prayer in there somewhere, and then sit down and prepare to sing The Yellow Rose of Texas. We may on occasion have sung some other less-worthy songs but I don’t remember. Mrs. Miller would sit down at that old upright piano and give a short introductive chord. Then be prepared to belt it out. Never heard the neighbors across the street, The Sessoms, complain. Two of the Sessoms boys were in school then. And a school marm carried an awesome amount of power in the community. You have a problem with the school marm? You just thought you had a problem. By the time that school marm finished with you and your parents and the rest of the community found out about it, you were the one with a problem, not the school marm.

Grades one through six. The big seventh graders had to ride the school bus all of the way into Dade City and attend Pasco High School. San Antonio didn’t have a high school then, as I recall. Would have been closer but progress takes time. St. Leo College, right close at hand. As a matter of fact, this is where the actor Lee Marvin attended school. But I digress. That little one-room school house was where the learning took place. Mrs. Miller did her best to instill good learning habits in us young ones. Seems like I remember the board of education residing right there in her top right-hand desk drawer. Pretty effective tool. One session was usually enough. A teacher can’t do that now. Two different ways of looking at corporal punishment; but back then and under those circumstances, it worked.

Mrs. Miller had an ability about her to let a child explore and learn on their own. Where else would a child be allowed to mark off the hour sun-shadows as they marched across his desk and design his own personal sundial. Defacing school property? Not in Mrs. Miller’s book. This child was making real-world scientific observations.

Mrs. Miller’s son was in the military. Seems like I remember the name of Alfred; it’s been a long time now. But Mrs. Miller managed on her salary to purchase a brand new 1948 Chevrolet Coupe. Blue in color and the chrome bumpers had become available by then; not the way it was at war’s end. Really pretty car for that time. Solid blue in color and an in-line Chevy six engine. Alfred, I’m fairly sure his name was, sent his mom a speed governor for her car. Mrs. Miller brought it to school and let us future mechanics have a look. Part of the approved curriculum? Mrs. Daisy Belle approved and that was good enough.

Aunt Billie and Uncle Ernest had their share of domestic problems. The neighborhood grapevine usually picked up on such with amazing rapidity. The internet transmits packets of information sandwiched between spurts of voice communication. But while the internet information is being transmitted, it travels at around 186,320 miles per second over the communication wires. The speed of light. The neighborhood grapevine seems not to be constrained within technical limits. For getting information disseminated, give me the grapevine every time. Mrs. Daisy Belle had gotten a whiff of Auntie’s and Uncle’s problems. Six little Johns children with twelve little ears, surely a veritable treasure trove of information. Start with the youngest and work up. “No’m, I don’t know nuthin’.” “You don’t know anything, anything!” “Yes’m, and that’s a fact.” Rally around the flag and dummy-up; every last one of us. Only time I ever remember the grapevine being thwarted.

We learned that one teacher, with the community firmly behind her, could teach six grades at once while six teachers without proper support have much difficulty trying to teach even one grade. That singing “The Yellow Rose Of Texas” over and over won’t stunt your growth. That if you’re really sincere about learning, a teacher will allow you to get away with carving an operating sun dial on your desk top and will bring all six grades around for you to explain to them the principles involved in measuring time with a sundial.

The Darby School


This article was taken from a genealogy website that is no longer online.

Virginia Bellamy (niece of Daisy Belle Miller, the teacher) peed in her pants, and Mrs. Miller took her pants and hung them on the fence. That poor little girl. It was horrifying to me. Mrs. Miller was doing a spelling test and she was going too fast, and I just put my head down on the desk and cried. Bill carved a sundial in the desk. Mrs. Miller really fussed at him about defacing public property, but then she had all of us kids gather around, and she had Bill explain how a sundial works. For years when I would go out to Darby I would look through the window of the school and see that sundial. An old fellow from Kentucky bought the schoolhouse, and the wife wanted him to tear it down and get her a double wide trailer, and he divorced the wife and kept the school.

The Darby School


This article was taken from a genealogy website that is no longer online.

I began my formal education at the little one-room Darby School. The first day of school I sat beside my sister, Martha Nell. There were six of us from our family in that one room. Mrs. Daisy B. Miller would call, “Sixth Grade,” and then the sixth graders would go up front to do their lessons with her while the rest of us did paper work at our seats. Then, “Fifth Grade,” and so on until she got to us, the first graders. Sometimes I would listen to her giving the older kids their lessons, and I would find that I knew the answers because of listening to them instead of doing my own work. One time I was completely engrossed in the lesson some higher-grade kids were doing up front, and when Mrs. Miller asked, “Is Asia a country or a continent?” I blurted out, “A continent!” Everyone else in the room froze as though they expected to see a public execution, and my own situation – first grader who was supposed to be doing paperwork at the desk – flooded back. Mrs. Miller simply stared at me for a couple of seconds and then went back to the lesson for the older kids.

Mrs. Miller tried to address some issues which were close to home. She put up a poster which had a blown up picture of a fly on it. No text, just the awesome fly with all of its scales, hairs and chilling fly parts shown in detail. Every time she spoke of cleanliness, of keeping food free of germs, I looked at that picture and understood. She arranged for the county health worker to come talk to us, and that worker gave us toothpaste, toothbrushes and charts to keep of how faithfully we brushed our teeth. She collected books to use in making a little library for us in the back of the room. One time the first-graders’ math lesson consisted of calculating the year we would finish high school.

At the end of the school year I was the only student in the school to get a perfect attendance certificate. I earned that because my brother, Jim, had told me that I couldn’t miss school because the teacher would beat me and give me an “F” if I missed.

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