Can You Tell What This Abandoned Building Near Canyon Used to Be?
The drive to Jowell School Road will remind you of your place in the universe.
From Canyon, head south on US-87. Once you pull off the highway, you'll find yourself placing blind faith in the GPS directions while winding down a series of Farm-to-Market roads.
It is lonely. It is desolate. It is a sea of rolling farmlands and wide open prairie. And if you choose to go as the sun is falling down toward the horizon, you will find yourself thinking of how vast the Texas Panhandle truly is; of how people lived back then before technology connected us all.
The answer to that is exactly what the Jowell School once represented: community.
The Old Jowell School
The derelict remains of the Jowell School house sits on the intersection of FM 1705 and Jowell Rd, where dirt road meets blacktop.
I first heard about Jowell when I saw a blurry photo of the building in one of the many social media groups I'm part of. Several other group members commented a series of heartfelt statements and wistful memories involving the Jowell School house that stayed with me long after I put down my phone.
[I] went to many community events and meetings in that building. My dad went to school there. I cast my first vote there. Many, many other firsts took place there.
We saw the change from perfectly preserved to a ruin. It's been a sad process.
Researching the Jowell School has proven tricky, but not impossible. Rather than county records and documents easily pulled from a database, the Jowell School's history is chronicled mostly by those who are connected to the community itself.
A Teeny Tiny School House On The Prairie
The Jowell school was built in 1901 when a Jerome Thomas Jowell donated the land for its use. The Jowell family moved to Hereford in 1905, but the Jowell name lived on.
The school programs and student plays were cornerstone for the community. Fundraisers and bake sales were held for any equipment the school needed. Religious sermons were hosted at the Jowell School house, as were book clubs and other groups.
It was in 1948 when the smaller rural schools were consolidated and all students began to attend school in Canyon. When this happened, the Jowell School took on a second life as the as a community center. Spearheaded by a man named Pete Leavitt, it continued to serve the tiny rural hamlet of Jowell for club meetings, social gatherings, political rallies--and more.
This photo was taken June 1, 1987 as part of a project with the Texas Historical Commission. From what I can gather, the Jowell school-cum-community center had been fully restored at one point. I suspect the photograph above was taken to document the restoration.
So, what happened to Jowell? What happened that reduced the beautiful, stout structure seen above into rubble?
By all secondhand accounts I can gather, the ruin of the Jowell School house came about when vandals set the building afire a decade ago.
Today, the Jowell School house sits in crumbling disrepair next to an enormous microwave tower on the northwest corner of FM 1705 and its namesake road.
There is no historical marker or official placard. Yet for those who know the history, the ghosts of Jowell School house remain.