Minnie Owens - Dickinsons First Teacher
Ms. Minnie Owens
When her parents came to Dickinson, “Miss Minnie” remained in Kansas teaching until the end of the school year. Upon arriving, she found that Dickinson had no county supported school and no paid teachers, so she decided to apply for the post. In order to apply, she had to pass the State Board examination, which was given in Galveston. She made the trip to Galveston on a schooner owned by Mr. Holmes, a family friend. Her application was accepted, and she became the first teacher to be fully paid with county funds.
Ms. Minnie recalls her first school.
“It was my good fortune to be elected to teach the Dickinson School for two successive terms. The frame building was about 30’ X 40’ and had been built shortly before for school and church purposes, perhaps more for church purposes as it contained box pulpit and had a steeple. It was furnished in part with home built desks and seats and a floor blackboard. There were 40 or more pupils ranging in age from 8 to 18. The subjects were from primary through 6th grade. Most of the pupils lived near, though some came from as far as the mouth of the bayou and had to live in Dickinson during the school week. Transportation ranged from buggy or wagon, horse or ox drawn and some by row boat and some came by foot.
The grounds were fenced as the cattle and hogs had the freedom of the town and adjacent country. The funds for the school provided about 6 months at $30 per month. Incidentals had to be provided by donations or some other way. Dickinson was ‘in the mud’ during rainy weather for many years until the grading and shelling of roads was effected.
The September 1900 storm razed the school building to the ground. After we recovered from the shock we had to plan for new quarters for the school term which was at hand. A portion of the exhibition pavilion built on the picnic grounds for the Texas Gulf Coast Fair of 1895 was prepared as well as possible under difficult circumstances.”
In 1901, a two-story frame building was built across the street from the Methodist Church. In 1903, their first two-teacher school year began.
She met Charlie Owens, School Trustee and Sunday School Superintendent at the Methodist Church. His visits to the school became more frequent after she arrived, and finally they married in 1894.
Her husband owned a store in town, “General Merchandise and Fancy Groceries.” The storm lifted the roof off of the store and ruined most of his merchandise. He did not seek bankruptcy but kept careful record of his debts and paid them off over the next few years.
There were now three children. When the proprietress of the local boarding house passed away, Minnie became a boarding house operator. The boarding house was the only restaurant in town, too. She housed and fed her now four children and the boarders (mostly young single men, teachers and salesmen called “drummers” who came in on the GH&H in search of business). When her husband, general store owner, a school trustee and the postmaster, died in 1910, she took over the post office.
A daughter, Beulah became a teacher at the Dickinson Elementary School. She married R.J. (Jack) Hughes, who operated the Oaklawn Fernery on the south bank of the bayou for years.
Local Post Mistress Minnie Owens recalled that Dickinson “came alive” in the spring selling season as farmers carried fruits and vegetables in wagons and on their heads to the rail station where children sold quart boxes of strawberries to train passengers. The annual arrival of agents “made us feel so important.” The buyers would come to town with silver dollars to buy strawberries.