Rochelle School

8833 64 Place, Gainesville, FL

Also known as Martha Perry Institute.

The community of Rochelle is one of the oldest in Alachua County. Known originally as Perry Junction (Governor Madison Starke Perry’s plantation was located there) and later as Gruelle, the community sprang up as, a citrua center, Rochelle was also a hub of the Florida Southern Railway; in 1882 the narrow gauge line was built from Palatka and Gainesville to Ocala via Rochelle. Rochelle was later on the main line of the Plant Railway System being the daily stopover between Jacksonville and St. Petersburg. Affecting many of the small towns in this area, the Great Freeze of 1894-95 caused many of the settlers and most of the tourists to abandon the area and move farther south. As a result, the tiny settlement ceased to develop and today only a few buildings remain as reminders of the once thriving community.

One of the finest buildings in Rochelle is the schoolhouse which dates from approximately 1885. Known at the time of its construction as the Martha Perry Institute, the building stands on land which was donated in 1889 by Miss Sallie Perry, daughter of Governor Perry, to A.F, Zetrouer and T.F. Kennedy, the school trustees, for a “white Public and Private School Lot,” Although the land on which the school stands was not officially given to the trustees until 1889, the minutes of the school board indicate that there,.was a white school operating in Rochelle from as early as September of 1887. The school had one teacher who was paid $45.00 per month for five months. In April of 1890 f the term was extended to seven months due to the fact that attendance was up to 80% of total enrollment. Another factor which indicates that the school building was constructed prior to the donation of the land is that W.S. Webb mentions in his 1885 history of Florida that Rochelle had two sawmills, two churches, two schools and twenty-five residences. The minutes of the school board dating from this period make reference to the fact that there were two schools in Rochelle, one white and one colored, the white one being earlier. The Rochelle school was used for conducting classes until 1935, at which time it was closed down. The local children are now bussed to Gainesville to attend school. The building is today privately owned and kept in a good state of preservation. Many of the original desks and the school bell are still housed inside the building.

Rochelle School is a National Register of Historic Places

TAGS: All,All,19th Century