Synopsis of Hattie A. Watts High School History
Hattie A. Watts High School officially began in the 1958-59 school year. The principal was J. S. Ball. There were 266 students in grades 1 through 7, and 52 students in grades 9 – 12, for a total of 318 students. There were 7 elementary teachers and 5 high school teachers. The school consisted of a brick veneer and cement block building and a frame gymnasium that was 25 years old when the new building was built , sitting on 6.9 acres of land. The school had a library in 1958 that was open 3 hours a day with 1,357 books in it. The school tried to purchase a bus.
The Story of Mrs. Hattie A. Watts
Hattie A. Watts Elementary School was named in memory of a black teacher in Patterson who dedicated much of her life to the education of children in the community.
Mrs. Hattie Ann Tibbs Watts was born on December 1, 1882 of slave parents who had been freed in the late 1860’s following the Civil War. Her parents moved to Louisiana and received a land grant in the present Taft-Hickory Street area of Patterson, then known as Tibbsville. Mrs. Watts, whose father was Pastor of the Good Hope Baptist Church, was the youngest of seven children. She was educated by her father and became a teacher in the first “colored” school in the town of Pattersonville. This school received no funding from the Parish and was not accredited.
Mrs. Hattie married and had six children before her husband died in 1916 in a logging accident in the swamp. She was left alone with small children to raise; but she was a strong woman with much determination, and soon returned to teaching. Mrs. Hattie never remarried and raised her family on the little money she made as a teacher. She always took time to teach and care for her children and others that she saw in need. They didn’t have the best clothes, nor did they eat expensive food,but they were clean, warm and never hungry. She was active in her church and believed that learning in school and going to church went hand-in-hand. She insisted that they always had their homework done and be well prepared for school, no matter how late they had to stay up or stay in on Saturday!
The residents of Pattersonville had constructed a wooden two-story school building in 1896 which was moved in 1912 to the present site of Hattie Watts School and was renamed the Patterson Colored School. Mrs. Watts, as a teacher there, made $30.00 a month for many years. She was later promoted to Assistant Principal, and her salary was increased to $45.00 a month. In the last 1920’s she was one of the first teachers to start adult education classes and went out of her way to help young and old alike to read, learn, and grow.
Life for Mrs. Watts was never easy, as she had no electricity, nor did she own a car. She walked to school every day, rain or shine, and always did her very best to help those around her. She believed that learning to read well was most important and worked hard at finding books and making them available to children who otherwise may never have been able to get them. Many of the children in those days had to work, and some of their parents did not consider education necessary.This dedicated teacher also tried to show her students how to get along with others in life and how to prepare to become a productive adult.
In 1935 Mrs. Watts became ill and had to stop teaching. Two years later she died and was buried in a cemetery at the end of Williams Street. The work and dedication of Mrs. Hattie A. Watts was so important to the community that when the St. Mary Parish School Board constructed a new school on the old site, they named it in her memory. She would be very proud to know that her name is still a part of education today, and she would no doubt remind everyone to keep reading and learning.