St. Matthew High School History
St Matthew High School was the second high school for African Americans in Natchitoches Parish and the only one to cater to rural areas. The school was located three miles north of Melrose, Louisiana. St. Matthew High School provided the opportunity for secondary education to hundreds of black and creole children who lived and worked on small farms and plantations. Education for African Americans was often ignored or under-funded in the early 20th century especially in rural areas of the deep south. In order to overcome this dilemma many schools were supported by local churches and volunteers from the community. St. Matthew High school was one such institution. It began as a church school in 1916. St Matthew Baptist Church later sold the land for the original school house to the parish for one dollar in 1938. A three-room wood frame school house was built that offered grades nine through eleven.
In 1947 the parish approved the school to teach 12th grade and allowed it to award high school diplomas. The school experienced a great increase in enrollment and needed to be expanded. Materials were paid for by the local school board, but construction on the four-room addition was carried out by a volunteer group led by the school’s long-time principal Mr. Noble Butler. This expansion proved insufficient to deal with the school’s broadening enrollment and in 1950 construction began on the modern brick school building. The new St. Matthew School opened its doors in 1952. The school served the people of south Natchitoches Parish until it was closed in 1989. The Natchitoches Parish School Board donated the building to the St. Matthew School Community Association Inc. which has since pursued plans to convert the building into a community center.
The St. Matthew High School building is located on Highway 119, approximately three miles north of Melrose.