McDowell School History

            McDowell School has a long and interesting history. It is the earliest school in Columbia still in operation. The school was named for Colonel Edward C. McDowell, an attorney, who gave land for the construction of a school. The county supplied the lumber, and the local patrons built it. The one-room, one-teacher school opened in 1883. John Trotwood Moore was the principal from 1885-1893. 

The original building was completely destroyed on November 20, 1900, by the most destructive tornado ever known in this area. It was decided that McDowell should be more centrally located, and the former lot was sold.  The present site on West Seventh Street was purchased with the proceeds, and the new building was constructed in 1901. The school grew very quickly, and a new two-story brick structure was built in 1922. The stone fence that was built at that time still stands in front of the school. Mrs. Jesse Tomlinson was the first female principal of a school in Columbia with more than one teacher. She was the principal at McDowell from1919-1923. 

            McDowell organized the first PTA in Maury County, and through the efforts of this group, the first public cafeteria in the county was established. Mothers of the students took turns preparing and serving meals for the children. The PTA also organized the McDowell Fall Carnival. It was complete with rides, food, and games, and eventually this became the Maury County Fair. 

The 1938-1939 school year was the last year that McDowell included seventh and eighth grade classes. The school remained a first through sixth grade school until 1969 when a kindergarten was added. The first elementary school library in the county was started in 1963 with a collection of 675 books. 

McDowell led the way in desegregation in Maury County with the first black student in 1964 and the first black teacher in 1965 in a formerly all-white school. This occurred a full year before all county schools were integrated. 

McDowell participated in the first Artist in Residency program in the county in 1988. The first after-school program for parenting was established here, as well as the first elementary summer school program in the county. The first public school program for four year-olds in the county was begun in 1994-95 at McDowell School. The first Girl Scout troop in Maury was founded here in 1928. It still meets at McDowell School as Troop 12. 

McDowell School has been a leader in education in Maury County from the school’s beginning. The faculty, staff, students, and parents continue to strive for excellence and innovation.