In 1846, when the first public school Board was created, and German born Arnold Krekel was a director, public education was only for white students. As plans for public schools took shape, there was a count of school age children made, which unfortunately did not include colored children. It was illegal to educate blacks under Missouri Law in 1847. It wasn’t until after Missouri’s Emancipation of its slaves on January 11, 1865 that things changed. In 1866, Jacob Weston was hired by the public school board and paid $20.00, in part payment, to teach the colored children in St. Charles. William Royce, began to collect subscriptions to build a public colored school, for the 167 colored children. The school board announced that school would start in December 1867. The African Church at Second and Pike Streets served as a school house and received $5 a month rent for that. By 1870, plans were being made to purchase the church.
At that same time, the Franklin School building was purchased from St. Louis University. For $3,500 the school board purchased everything, even the benches, in the school house that had been serving as a Catholic school for the St. Charles Borremeo parish since 1855 when it had been built. The colored school population was divided between the African Church and the Blue Ville School at Gallaher and Olive. In 1871, The colored Methodist Church was then purchased for $1250. In 1897, all colored children were being sent to what was Lincoln School at Second and Pike.
It wasn’t until 1901, that H.H. Peck spoke up about giving the African-American children, of which there were 80 at this time, a full day’s education. He also wanted another teacher since there were so many students, but that was denied. Instead on October 7, 1902 the school district opened the Franklin School to relieve the overcrowding at
Lincoln School. It wasn’t until 1910 that the first mention of graduation exercises. In 1914, Lincoln was the white school and Franklin was all black, and an addition was built to accommodate all the former black Lincoln School students. The addition was made at a cost of $2,674. In 1921, the State Superintendent of Schools suggested that two years of high school be added. Improvements of more rooms at a cost of $11, 418.00 was done at this time as well. And in 1922, the first diploma was awarded to Clarence Thomas Shelton.
In 1925, the front of the school was modernized to today’s appearance. A lot was purchased for $7,500 to provide a playground for the students. In 1931, a third year was added to the high school, and in 1932 a fourth year was added. By this time, bus transportation covering 60-80 miles a day in its route, to bring African-American students from Jonesburg, Warrenton, Wright City, Wentzville and O’Fallon. It was great event when in June of 1933, Franklin School proudly graduated ten students from its four-year high school. In 1938, a gymnasium was built on the south side of the school building, where the former George Hellrich home had been, at the cost of $17,980.00. Another house on Hellrich’s property served as the Home Economics building.
Integration came to Missouri’s schools in 1954, and the lower grades were the first to be racially integrated. An era came to an end on a Thursday evening in June, the 2nd, in 1955 with the last graduation of Franklin High School. Hundreds of students from African-American communities in Warren, Lincoln, and St. Charles Counties had gained that important High School education in this building. Portions of its halls had served students since 1855, with a majority of its life as an all-black school. Student Mary Stephenson’s family had moved to O’Fallon from a farm in St. Paul, to attend school. She would pass school buildings that were a block from her home, to ride an early morning bus, to receive a high school education. Dedicated teachers, used all the materials they could find, and taught several different subjects. They insisted upon learning and the importance of education. This was a place that instilled pride in hundreds of former students that passed through its hallways. This sense of pride can still be seen today in the homes of these families. Their pride in their education still echoes in the hallways, and in their discussions with the school board. For more information about the plans for the former Franklin School, which is being sold, please contact the City of St. Charles School District.
Information for this post came from the National Register Listing for the Frenchtown District and One Hundred years of Negro Education in St. Charles, Missouri by Stephen Blackhurst, Jr..