History of the Erath Schools

Spirit of Erath Centennial Series

Erath School History

School is a building that has four walls, with tomorrow inside.”
Lon Watters

Education is a powerful tool that has challenged generation after generation in the small town of Erath. Since the community emerged, education has been linked to the area’s growth and progress. Founding fathers who guided the newly settled area helped bring forth the importance of education. Although the town of Erath was not officially established until 1899, education was a vital issue for residents, even before the rural area was officially proclaimed a village. Some local settlers that surrounded the railroad in the mid 1890′s, believed in educating it’s youth. From the latter part of the century until now, many caring parents and educators in this area have opened doors for the children in this community. Together, they bonded to bring a vision for a brighter future.

In the nineteenth century, the first School Board meeting was held on March, 28, 1876. On August 10, 1877, minutes recorded at the meeting stated that schools were authorized in all wards of Vermilion Parish. During this time, teachers were appointed by the School Board, but the local residents provided the structure. During the end of the nineteenth century, schools had been established around the outer edges of (what is now the) Erath Community. One school was located at the residence of Minos C. Broussard, located about two miles north of what is now Erath. One was located next to the Methodist Church, which is now the Henry area. Another school next to the residence of Desire Hebert accommodated the populated Bayou Tigre settlement located south of Erath. Some of the larger plantation owners provided their children with private tutors.

Henry High School which had been established in 1877, graduated their first student, J. H. Williams, in 1900. Later, Mr. Williams returned to Henry High as Principal and later became Superintendent of Vermilion Parish Schools and served for over thirty years. With the establishment of the railroad in the Erath settlement around 1893, education became important to families in this newly established area.

Dr. Joe E. Kibbe, Semar Broussard, Pierre Ubal LeBlanc, Telesphor Nunez, Frank Williams and many others, valued the opportunities of a good education. So Dr. Joe Kibbe, with the support of town founder August Erath, Ollie J. Moss and others, petitioned the School Board for a school to be established in the area. The School Board then authorized the plan and a three room school was built.

The first school house was built at the north end of Kibbe Street. It was located at 203 North Kibbe Street. In 1899, Erath was established as a village. By the turn of the century, a new community had outgrown it’s first little schoolhouse. At the time of the census in the year 1900, a total of fifty six families resided in the Erath Corporation limits. The total number of residents at that time was two hundred and seventy. Pierre Ubal LeBlanc had been elected to the School Board and by 1903 a new two story school frame was built directly in front of the older school. The building was erected on the comer of Putnam and Kibbe offering an elementary education from the first through seventh grade. After seven years children were offered two years of high school.

By 1920, the Erath school enrollment had increased in the two story frame building. Additional classrooms were acquired on the second level of the Erath Mercantile Company located on Lastie. In addition, the School Board authorized a three year school curriculum including eighth through tenth grade. Additional classrooms were also used in a two story frame building on Edward Street which was owned by Semar Broussard and later by T. J. Suire. This structure was destroyed in a fire in 1938, along with Cap’s Confectionery and the Bijou Dance Hall located on the comer of Broadway and Edwards.

From the turn of the century through 1920, roads were mostly dirt with a few which were covered with light gravel. During this time, mules were used to pull the school bus wagon that brought the children to school. The mules were allowed to graze near the coulee that ran behind the school. On one very unusual day, one of the mules actually fell into the coulee. A rope was then tied around the mule, while the children and teachers united to help the mule out of the water. Many of these students who are still living today enjoy sharing interesting stories like this with the younger Erath citizens.

In the early 1920′s records reveal the school enrollment to be one hundred fifty students with eleven teachers. The school offered seven years of elementary classes with three years of high school. The curriculum at that time included only ten grades. The 1922-1923 school terms were the final year for the second school in Erath. During this era, the Nation was still feeling the repercussions of the first World War. In the late twenties and early thirties, the nation suffered greatly from the depression.

Dr. Joe Kibbe and his son, Pressley, along with others fought hard to develop a complete High School System despite all of the obstacles that blocked their path. The Kibbe’s along with Manson Harrington, Cabic Leblanc, (Mayor at that time) Frank Williams, and Honore L. LeBlanc petitioned the school board for a new school that would offer a four year high school curriculum. Those in grades 8, 9, 10 and 11 would be awarded a diploma upon completion of eleventh grade.

J. H. Williams, Superintendent and Ulysses “Tobee” Bernard, the first ward School Board Member created a school district that included Delcambre and extended into the second ward. The 1923 school year opened in a new three story brick building. The school was built on twelve acres of land, which was located on Broadway. The land was generously donated by Vernon Caldwell.

The first year enrollment at Erath High School was two hundred students, which included high school students from Delcambre. The first graduating class in 1924 had seven graduates. Four were from Erath and three from Delcambre. Gerald Fahaye was the principal. Doryce Joseph Broussard, Alton Derouen, Nedier Richard and Vena Marie Harrington were graduates from the Erath Area, while Louise Blanche Delcambre, Rita Ann Landry and Aldoph Leo Sonnier were from the Delcambre area. The principals that served these two schools were Mr. Lafleur, Mr. Raphael Broussard, Mr. Alphe Hebert and Mr. Gerald Fahay. The basic curriculum during the early years included, reading, writing, arithmetic and English. During the mid 1920′s B. E. (Bert) Webb, a native of Mississippi, married Edez Boudreaux, a sister of Dr. L. M. Boudreaux, a family physician in Erath. While Webb was named Principal, his wife, Mrs. Webb taught first grade until their joint retirement in the early 1950′s.

From the late 1920′s through the forties, the high school curriculum included the requirement of four years of Agriculture and Home Economics, but the option was there for two years of French during the Junior and Senior years. Credits were offered for Chemistry, Algebra. Geometry, Geography, History, Science, Math, and Physical Education.  For graduation with a diploma, 16 credits were required during the four years of high school (grades eight through eleven). At that time, only eleven grades were offered.

Ulysses LeBlanc, a grandson of P. U. “Piglow” LeBlanc was elected to the Vermilion Parish School Board in 1929. He served as President in 1933, until his retirement in 1954. During his tenure, U. P. LeBlanc made significant changes to the school campus. This school housed an auditorium for Erath High students and faculty members. It was located on the second floor in the extended wing. Many townspeople attended social events and plays in the auditorium. But a need for a gymnasium was evident. The building of a new gymnasium began in 1938. The High School Gymnasium was completed in 1940, except for the installation of basketball goals. Then without warning, the town of Erath experienced a tragic flood. When the waters receded, the school officials noticed that the new floor of the gym had buckled. The floors had to be removed and a new floor and basketball goals were installed. During the flood, the citizens of Erath were evacuated to the school because it was the tallest building in town. A tragic incident occurred at the school during that time. A man, who suffered from epileptic seizures, was found dead on the first floor of the building during the flood of 1940. It was speculated that he suffered a seizure during the flood and drowned. A canning center was completed in the 1940′s at Erath High School.

During 1944, in the minutes of a School Board meeting, talk of adding an additional grade to the curriculum began. Children would attend first through twelfth grade at Erath High. In 1949, the final eleventh grade class graduated at Erath High. There were only three graduates that year. They were Daly Duplantis, Gayle “Monkey Sandoz and Bernice Shiner. Bernice Shiner later became the first female Umpire in Baseball’s Pro League. The graduating class of 1950 was the first class to complete a twelve year curriculum.

The Louisiana State Board of Education now required that students attend twelve years of school. By this time, the three story school building was unable to accommodate the student growth. A new building was constructed and it was dedicated in 1950. It accommodated the commerce department, band room, kitchen, and lunchroom. The expansion provided additional classrooms as well.

According to Curney Dronet’s book, in 1950,  Henry Bernard Jr. was appointed the Principal at Erath High School, replacing Mr. Bert Webb. Henry Bernard Jr. had been born and raised in the Erath Community and had graduated from Erath High School. S. L. I. (now U. L.). He also attained a Master’s Degree from L. S. U. During his tenure in Erath, he brought forth improvements to the educational system. He remained at Erath High until he accepted the Principalship at Abbeville High in the middle 1960′s. He later served the Vermilion Parish School System as the Assistant Superintendent and then the Superintendent. In 1956, the Vermilion Parish School Board decided more room was needed so a three story school building was built. After the high school was built, construction began on an elementary building. The elementary school was built in front of the three story structure. When the construction was complete, a contractor was hired to demolish the three story brick building. In 1957, an Industrial Arts building was constructed in anticipation of the program being implemented into the curriculum. It was a separate building to the west of the main high school building. It was connected to the school by a breezeway. The L-Shaped building was divided into two classrooms. The southern part was an Industrial Arts Room, while the other became the band room. In the early 1950′s there were concrete steps in the gym in which spectators put folding chairs to view events. By the late 1950′s wooden bleachers were added.

More improvements were made to the gym in 1963. The gym originally built in 1940 had a balcony on the east wall, as well as a narrow stage. It contained rest rooms, but no dressing rooms. To meet the newly required dimensions of a basketball court, they had to break the wall of the balcony. This renovation allowed for a larger playing court. The balcony was then closed off. Only windows remain for those who remember it. The front middle door through which many people had flowed was also sealed off. Two side entrances were added to the front of the building. Other improvements made at that time, included the enlargement of the stage.

At that time, a stadium was built at the high school football field to replace portable bleachers. In 1964, the “gir1″s gym was constructed behind the gym. It did not contain a regulation sized basketball court. This gym was used as the physical education facility for the girls at Erath High School. In 1965, Robert J. Segura Sr., was appointed Principal of Erath High School  replacing Henry Bernard Jr., who was appointed as Prmcipa1 at Abbeville High. Bob Segura served as the administrator through 1980, with the exception of 1976-1977 school term. M. C. Trahan served as acting Principal that year. Mr. Segura was credited with school improvements at Erath High. One of which was a new and improved agriculture building which was completed in 1971.

During the 1972, school year changes were made at Erath High School due to lack of space. First, second and third grade students were transferred to a renovated old school structure in Erath.

Dozier Elementary’s first parish structure was built in 1942 for African American students. From 1911 through 1941, many African American students were taught in homes and churches within the community. In 1942, the first school house was built by the Vermilion Parish School Board. That structure was torn down. A newer building was erected in 1954. That school plant was shut down in 1968 due to integration.

The new Dozier Elementary School housing all children in Erath for grades 1, 2 and 3, opened in the fall of 1972 with Johnnie Suire as principal until 1980. In the fall of 1974, public schools in Vermilion Parish opened its doors to Kindergarten students for the first time. Dozier Elementary now housed Kindergarten through third grade children. In 1980 Sherry B. Trahan, a former Erath High School Graduate was appointed the new Principal at Dozier Elementary. She retired in 1986. Teddy Broussard, the Assistant Principal at Erath High School was then named the new Dozier Elementary Principal and he held this position 1986 through the year 2000. Teddy Broussard has earned several awards during his tenure at Dozier Elementary, one being the “National Distinguished Principal” Award where he traveled to Washington D. C. to receive this prestigious honor. Ralph Thibodeaux replaced Broussard in 2000.  Thibodeaux remained for two years at Dozier Elementary.

In January 2002, Dozier Elementary’s hired its first Assistant Principal Mrs. Elizabeth Gremillion. Gremillion became Dozier’s next Principal in the fall of 2002. At that time, Mrs. Dawn Amy was hired as the second Assistant Principal at Dozier Elementary. In 2009, following the displacement of Dozier Elementary after Hurricane Rita, the campus was split and LeBlanc Elementary was formed. Dozier Elementary moved back to the original plant on Primeaux Street with Karla Toups as Principal and Natalie Hebert as the Assistant. 

LeBlanc Elementary opened in 2009 and was located at the FEMA structure that Dozier Elementary had occupied from 2006-2009.  In 2009, LeBlanc Elementary Principal Dawn Amy and Assistant Principal Kimberly Etie were named leaders.  In 2012, LeBlanc Elementary opened the doors of its newly built structure south of Erath. In 2013, Jeff Janette was named Assistant Principal at LeBlanc Elementary.

From 1979 until 1981, the process of air conditioning the schools took place. In 1979, construction began on the new Erath High School Gymnasium. Construction was completed in 1981. Mr. Segura retired in 1980, before the completion of the “new” gym. In 1980,  Clarence Moss, a 1961 Erath High School Graduate was appointed as Principal.

A short time later, the Erath High School Campus made physical changes in the school plant and Erath Middle School was established as one feeder school for Erath High. Donald Primeaux was selected as the Principal. The town of Erath now had three established schools. Dozier Elementary was the K-3 Primary School. Erath Middle housed students in fourth through eighth grade. Erath High School remained with grades nine through twelve.

The Erath Middle and Erath High School students still share the cafeteria which is located on the high school campus. Mr. Moss served from 1981 until 1991 as the Erath High School Principal. Donald Primeaux served as the Erath Middle School Principal from 1980 until 1989. Ebrar Reaux was named the new Erath Middle School Principal in 1989 and retired in May 2005. In the fall of 1991, Erath Middle School hired Mrs. Matael Jordan as the new Assistant Principal and remained until 2003. Since then the Assistant Principal has been Laura LeBouef. In 2005, Lynn Moss was named the Erath Middle Principal and Errol Trahan was named Assistant Principal.

Mrs. Garolyn Landry, a native of Maurice, became the first female Assistant Principal at Erath High School in 1989. She was voted as the “Assistant Principal of the Year” by the Louisiana Association of Principals in 1991. She became the first female Principal in 1992 at Erath High School. Ms. Landry was named the Coordinating Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction for Vermilion Parish Schools in 1996. Lynn Vincent and Charlotte Waguespack both served terms as Principal at EHS. Vincent served from 1996 until 2000. Waguespack served from 2000-2005. In 2005, Francis Touchet became Principal and remained until 2012. Jed Hebert from Lafayette served from 2012-2013 and Erath native Marc Turner was named the Erath High Principal in the fall of 2013.

Many educators in the Vermilion Parish School system have served as Assistant Principals at Erath High School during its history. These individuals include: Charles Bienvenu, Cleve Thibodeaux, Sterling Menard, Jimmy Vice, Ralph Thibodeaux, Garolyn Landry, Lynn Vincent, Charlotte Waguespack, Mike Guilbeaux, Teddy Broussard, Clarence Moss, Donald Primeaux, Lynn Moss, Francis Touchet, Liz Vice and Sandy Huval.

Education in this community stems back to the latter part of the nineteenth century. Through the efforts of courageous early settlers in the small village of Erath, some believed in and struggled for the powerful benefits of educating their children. Since the birth of the educational system in this community, many in Erath have experienced that within the four walls of their school, hope did exist for a brighter tomorrow. During the twentieth century, many changes have taken place within its educational system. Yet the vision brought forth by its founding fathers, remained steadfast through each transition that occurred. The original vision was one of hope that would bring a brighter tomorrow to those living in the newly established territory of Erath.

Through the eyes of those who shared a vision, emerged a long line of caring parents and educators who joined forces to offer the children the benefits of an education….an education that not only probed the minds, but also touched their hearts. It began with a tiny school house at the north end of Kibbe over one hundred years ago, but ends with the hope and dream of a productive future for all of those who were offered the opportunity of an education.

Spirit of Erath Articles (Keys to the Past Series)

Written by Stacy Bodin, Erath's 100th Anniversary Erath Centennial Historian (1999)

A Special Thank You goes out to Attorney Warren Perrin;
 the Acadian Museum in Erath;
Kermit Bouillion;
Curney Dronet, (Erath Author);
the Abbeville Meridional (Local Newspaper);
(The late) Clement Bourgeois Jr., (Erath Historian);
John LeBlanc (Town Official);
The 1999 Centennial President Jackie Vincent;
Robert Vincent (Acadiana Museum Director);
and my parents Larson "Cap" and Gertie Hebert Bodin
who assisted me in my research in this project.

The articles presented in memory of
Relie LeBlanc III
whose enthusiasm and love of Erath
inspires me still today in my quest of
researching and writing about our community. 
His "Unity in the Community" motto
will forever remain in my heart.

Photo of LeBlanc is
Courtesy of Dickie Durr's Thrifty Way of Abbeville

Questions or comments?
Email Stacy Bodin

Erath Map (MapQuest)

Erath July 4th Celebration
The Acadian Museum in Erath, Louisiana

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