Providence's old school building still used for education in White County

By Michelle Wallace
PROMOTIONS CONTRIBUTING WRITER                              Click to enlarge  1920's
The Daily Citizen
    6 Feb 2005

Though it never has been very big in size, the people are what have made the small community of Providence in north central White County a good place to live.
   The community of Providence was once centered around its school. Those days are no more, but the school building is still being used to educate the community's children. What was once Providence School and then Providence Elementary School is still serving educational needs just a few miles down the road from where it was initially built.
   A rock building was constructed in 1937 and 1938, serving the community until 1948, when Providence and nearby Plainview schools consolidated to form the White County Central School District. In 1960, the rock structure was moved up the road and now is an elementary school.
   "It's fully restored," Virgil Louks, a former principal, teacher and coach in the district, said. He attended school in that first building as well and was a member of one of the last classes to graduate at Providence. He started as principal for the elementary school at Providence right when the White County School District began operating; he began as high school principal the year the school building he attended was moved.
   There have been a lot of changes in the school since he was a boy. Most notably, it has increased in size.
   "The school has grown quite a bit, "Louks said. The original Providence building, with its six classrooms and a library, has "expanded out to about 20 acres," Louks said of the district's buildings.
   Clois Griffis, who also went to school in Providence, remembers when the rock building first became too small.
   "One year they were so overcrowded some of us went to the bus shed down there," he said. That problem was soon solved. "It got overcrowded and they built a two-room schoolhouse. "That was around 1942.
   Pretty soon, though, the school consolidated with others around it. Children in first through sixth grade continued attending in Providence, and those in the seventh through 12th grade went to White County Central, built between Providence and Plainview, which also kept the elementary grades in town.
   When it was time to relocate Providence's school building, there was an interesting  way of getting it there.
"They cut it in three pieces, "Griffis explained. The two-room building was transported to the new campus, too, and used as a cafeteria.
    Another big part of  life in Providence has it's been its general store, now known as Providence Grocery operated for the past seven  years by Nell Roach, it was known for many years as Yarbrough's Grocery. I "We've been here seven years. The store has been here forever," Roach said. Marvin Yarbrough originally operated the store on the same spot where today's store now sits. Yarbrough's son, J.D., operated the store for a time as well and still owns the building.
   Providence Dairy Barn sits right beside the community's store, and a church, salvage yard and one of the north White County Fire Department's four stations join it.
   Many years ago, Providence's citizens made their living farming strawberries and cotton, though there never was a cotton gin in town.
   "We had hundreds and hundreds of acres of strawberries and cotton," Griffis, whose family raised both, said. Then things shifted to row crops, though those have now disappeared from the area. Chickens, cattle and hay are now abundant in the area.
   With the change in livelihood, the population increased.
   "There are a lot of people that live around here now," Griffis said.