Willow Hill School and Community
Location: US Hwy 80 at Willow Hill Road, Portal
Coordinates: 32.515901, -81.891597
Marker Type: Bulloch County Historical Society
WILLOW HILL SCHOOL
In 1874, nine years after the Civil War ended, a group of former slaves of the Riggs, Donaldson, Parrish, and Hall families founded the Willow Hill School to serve the area’s black children. Georgia Ann Riggs, age 15 and a former slave, was the first teacher. Class was held in an old turpentine shanty. Willow Hill School, was one of 15 family-operated black schools in Bulloch County, became the center of a community of successful land-owning black Americans. In the first half of the 20th century, the Rosenwald Fund helped pay for construction and the Jeanes Fund helped train faculty.
In 1920 the Bulloch County Board of Education purchased the school for $18 dollars. In 1954 the county built the sixth and current building to house the school (.5 miles SW). Children attended an integrated facility beginning in 1970.When closed in 1999, Willow Hill had been a school for 125 years – the County’s oldest. In 2005, descendants of the founders bought the school building for $113,000 and the Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center seeks to preserve the legacy of those former slaves who built a community and nourished the school.
Supported by the Jack N & Addie D. Averitt Foundation
The Bulloch County Historical Society’s historical markers are funded by the
Jack N. & Addie D. Averitt Foundation.