Almost Yesterday: Nell Holcomb School Established

Aug 27, 2019

It seems like Almost Yesterday that residents in the northern area of Cape Girardeau County established a new school which would bring together the students from six one-room country schools in the area. The country schools were crowded and located in wood-frame buildings that dated back to the 1800’s.

The new modern building was complete and ready for occupancy at the beginning of the 1960-61 school year. It contained modern classrooms, a hot lunch program, a gymnasium, and indoor rest rooms. These were all new and modern features for the youngsters of the R-IV School District which stretched from the Mississippi River on the east, six miles to the west, and from the city limits of Cape Girardeau on the south, to Highway 177 on the north.

Advocates of the new school were motivated by the county’s improved roads, accessibility to automobiles, the nation-wide movement for school consolidation, and the desire to enhance the teaching of science and math in the face of the Soviet launching of Sputnik in October of 1957. For many supporters the new and modern school would simply make the region a more desirable place in which to live and raise a family.

The new school was named for Ms. Nell Jerene Holcomb, a respected and long-time teacher of one room schools in the region.

Ms. Holcomb earned national fame on a cold November day in 1915 when she leapt into a swollen creek to save the life of a drowning student. For this action she received the prestigious Carnegie Medal. For a life of dedication to children, Nell Holcomb Elementary School is now a solid fixture along Highway 177 north of Cape Girardeau.

It seems like Almost Yesterday.