John H. Martyn Elementary & High School
(Formerly Shrewsbury School)
Probably no one has uttered words that better describe John H. Martyn High school than Mulock when he said “So roll the changing years and so we change. With each new year since “Remember when” there have bee Martyn High School, each of which has brought it many steps up the hill of progress.
Many teachers and principals were appointed to the so-called school in Shrewsbury to educate the colored children of the community. There were many make -shift buildings used for school such as halls and churches owned by various organizations in the community. This continued until the 1920’s when the Young Men’s Hall was designated as the Shrewsbury School on Harlem Avenue presently named South Causeway Blvd.
The late professor J.W. Lee Sr. a Presbyterian minister was appointed as principal; along with one other teacher the late Beatrice Houston (both were classroom teachers). The teacher’s desks were ordinary wooden tables and chairs. The children had no desks. There were benches along the four walls used for desks and the children sat on the floor most of the time or on the bench with books and tablets on their laps for writing. This condition existed also in the Macedonia Hall. After a few years the late Mr. Grant Dennison Sr. of Kenner, Louisiana was appointed as a teacher increasing the faculty to three. After a number of years, the principal Rev. John W. Lee died in 1934 and Mr. Dennison became principal. At the same time Mr. Lee’s daughter, Miss Eula Mae Lee was appointed to the faculty. The Shrewsbury school continued at the Young Men’s Hall until 1937 when it was relocated on Shrewsbury Road. The new location was near the River Road in an old abandoned school house that was for white children and had stood abandoned and boarded up for more than fifteen years. The Jefferson Parish School Board did not paint the building before the children moved into it.
On the opening day of school in September of 1937, Mrs. Beatrice Houston was transferred to Waggaman Elementary School and Mrs. Roberta Johnson Cross was transferred from Waggaman to Shrewsbury School. Also Mrs. Hazel Rhea Hurst was transferred from McDonogh 27 in McDonoghville to Shrewsbury increasing the faculty to four including the principal, Mr. Dennison.
Miss Lee, (Mrs. Brown) had the idea to have an Achievement Day once a year where all of the so-called Colored Schools in the parish would gather and display the works of their schools along with competitive activities, crafts, etc. The School Board granted permission to Miss Lee to formulate a plan to be reviewed by the board for approval. It was approved and for three years the Achievement Day was successful. This was discontinued when the school board purchased land for a new school about one mile away. A building was erected on the new site where the present John H. Martyn High School now stands. The first building was a three-room framed building that was built with old material that the school board had used for years in McDonoghville as a warehouse. When it was completed the state condemned it because of the materials used and the arrangement of the three rooms. The school was unused for three years at which time the existing school became overcrowded and this makeshift building had to be used. Two teachers were sent to the new site and two remained. This building had gas space heaters in each room. It also had outhouses and the same ones were used by both students and teachers. Old barracks from nearby Camp Plauche were brought to the campus along with trailers, and of course the faculty increased as more buildings were added to the campus. All of this encouraged the community to send more children to school. Finally, the Jefferson Parish School Board built the present beautiful brick building in Shrewsbury which replaced some of the makeshift buildings. It was named the Shrewsbury Elementary School until 1951 when the Kenner Colored High School of Kenner, Louisiana was relocated at the Shrewsbury School renaming it the Shrewsbury Elementary and High School. Grades one through twelve were taught on one campus. In 1955 the school was renamed John H. Martyn Elementary and High School. It was so named for the late Mr. John Henry Martyn of Kenner who was one of the first black educators in Kenner. He taught in the Kenner Elementary School and was the principal until the new Kenner Colored High School was built. The late Mr. Joseph Carroll was appointed principal after the first year. Mr. Martyn became a classroom teacher and remained so until he retired. When he retired, he opened and operated a kindergarten school in Kenner until his death on January 13, 1954. He was a native of Greensburg, Louisiana but lived most of his life in Kenner.
John H. Martyn High School is presently located at 1108 Shrewsbury Road in Jefferson, Louisiana and has grown tremendously through the years. Before it was integrated and disrupted in the late sixties and seventies, it could boast of a principal, Mr. Lawrence Johnson, an assistant principal, Mr. Roland Turner, two counselors, a full-time librarian, three clerks, a faculty of eighty-four and the following departments: Physical Education, Industrial Arts, Art, Music with Band and Orchestra, a cafeteria with a certified Dietician in charge, a spacious modern gymnasium, full time custodians, and a caring family atmosphere.
John H. Martyn High School has had many great principals and educators. The principals were Miss Jones (one room school), Professor J.W. Lee, Mr. Grant Dennison Sr. Mr. Arthur Paul Clay and Mr. Lawrence Johnson.