turnerlane05This house was built in 1870 by Turner Lane near the Mississippi Central Railroad bridge and very close to one of the entry points for General Earl Van Dorn’s Confederate raid against Holly Springs in 1862.  The house was constructed by German-born architect Gustavius Adolphus Palm, who also built the Wynne House and The Pines.

On April 15, 1873, Turner Lane sold this house and the surrounding land to the State Normal School for Negroes.  The State Normal School originated from the Reconstruction Constitution of Mississippi from 1869, and was officially founded on November 15, 1870 with Professor Gorman as the first principal.  By law, every Mississippi legislator could send one of his constituents to the State Normal School, along with a 50 cent a week stipend.  The State Normal School was a teaching school, and was created to increase education and literacy for the newly freed former slaves in Mississippi.

Though the State Normal School for Negroes began at the nearby Shaw University (which would eventually be renamed Rust College) it soon ran out of room there and moved to this present location in 1873.  One of the first students at the State Normal School was the famous anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells (1862-1931).  For several decades, many hundreds of teachers were educated at the State Normal School.  Unfortunately, changing times and the coming of Jim Crow laws changed the racial environment of Mississippi.  In 1875, soon after the end of Reconstruction, the Mississippi Legislature ended the 50 cent stipend for students, endangering the school.  The school continued on until 1904, when the school was finally closed by the newly-elected governor of Mississippi, James K. Vardaman (1861-1930), a proponent of white supremacy who saw the black schools of Mississippi as a threat to white control.

In 1909, famous African-American activist Booker T. Washington came to Holly Springs and deplored the recent closing of the State Normal School and the subsequent loss of education for the local black population.  However, one response to the closing of the State Normal School was the founding, in 1905, of the Mississippi Industrial College.

In 1906, the North Mississippi Agricultural Experiment Station was opened by C. T. Ames at the site of the Turner Lane house and former State Normal School for Negroes.  The goal of the Experiment Station was to end the disastrous soil erosion in the Holly Springs area and to improve and diversify crops.  The Experiment Station lasted until 1948, when it was closed.

In 1948 Friar Frichtl of the Holly Springs Catholic Church, deploring the vastly inferior conditions of the government run black schools in town, opened up a Catholic School for blacks at the old Turner Lane house called St. Mary’s School.  In the first years, 55 children in eight grades were taught in one room, by one teacher.  The next year, four nuns arrived at the school and enrollment grew to 150.  A high school was eventually added to St. Mary’s.  In 1969, St. Mary’s School was integrated with St. Joseph’s School, the white Catholic school in town, and the combined school was renamed CADET (Christian Development Through Extraordinary Training) School.  The CADET School was renamed Holy Family School in 1994, and is still a predominately African-American school.  In many ways, Holy Family continues the original mission of the State Normal School for Negroes.

The original Turner Lane house was destroyed sometime in the 1950s, and the present school building was built in its place.  The Turner Lane house was an Italianate brick house, with an ornate decorated balcony and unique tall, slender windows on the ground floor.  It was the only brick Italianate building in Holly Springs.

3 thoughts

  1. Very interesting. There is so much black history in the holly springs area that should be made known. Thanks for the education and I don’t live in mississippi.


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