The town of Claremont was started in 1884. At that time, it was called Charlotte's Crossing. In 1886 the name was changed to Setzer's Depot because Charlotte's Crossing sounded too much like the name of the town of Charlotte in Mecklenburg County. It wasn't until 1893 when the city was officially incorporated that Claremont received its present name.
The first Claremont School was built in the 1890's. It was a white frame building with one classroom but soon expanded to three classrooms. Children did most of their lessons orally and did little writing. They had to memorize much of their work. The school had a log stove in it to keep the children warm in the winter. The fathers would take turns bringing wood to school and the older boys would chop it. The school year lasted about six to nine weeks.
In 1913 the school district voted for a special tax and building began for a new school on the present site of Claremont Elementary today. Men hauled sand to build the new school for one dollar a day for each man and mule team. The men worked from sunup to sundown. When the building was finished, it had four classrooms on the lower floor and an auditorium on the top floor. The school was called the Claremont Graded School and contained grades one through eight.
In front of the building was a water pump, and the children brought little metal cups to catch a drink of water from the pump. Those who forgot their cups had to stick their heads under the water and drink. The lack of indoor plumbing necessitated the use of outdoor toilets as well.
Children went home for lunch or carried their lunch to school with them. They usually had about an hour to eat. The school day lasted from about 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. The school year was now 24 weeks long because the children were needed to work on the farms. In fact, they got a month off at planting time and at harvest time to tend to their farm work.
The school was always a center of community involvement, and the people of Claremont have always supported it. Parents still hauled wood to the school, and the boys chopped it so that the building could be kept warm.
By 1920, the Claremont Graded School had expanded into a high school. A room was built in the southwest corner of the upstairs auditorium to house grades eight through ten, and the school was first called Claremont High School. This was possible because the principal, Mr. A.P. Whisehunt, donated his personal library to the school. He also allowed the students in the sixth grade to advance to the eighth grade so there would be enough students to meet the requirements for establishing a high school. In 1922, the first student graduated from Claremont High School, with credits from another school.
The nearby schools of Witherspoon, Bethlehem, and Southern Grove consolidated with Claremont in 1924. When this happened, the county provided the school with two school buses to transport students who lived too far away to walk to school. The upstairs auditorium was further remodeled into four classrooms and a library. All of the bussed students ate in the classrooms, and some of the children who walked looked forward to bad weather so they could carry their lunch and eat in the classrooms as well. During this same year the eleventh grade was added to Claremont School.
The school continued to grow after consolidation. The community of Claremont built a gymnasium for the school in 1928. This gymnasium is still in use today and is referred to as the "old gym". It was the site of many of the famous rivalry games between Claremont and the nearby schools, especially Oxford.
In 1933, the present Catawba County School system took control of the school, and the community gave up its control. The county school system built four more classrooms on the east wing of the auditorium to house increased enrollment in 1936.
In 1945, WWII was over. Boys came home from the war, and interest in education grew. These were years of rapid change. They came to be known as "the baby-boomer" years because so many knew babies were born. This rapid rise in the birth rate would have an effect on the schools in a few more years. The full force of the post war baby boom began to be felt in 1955. It was in this year that Claremont High School, Oxford High School, and Catawba High School consolidated to form Bunker Hill High School. So great were the existing rivalries between the three schools that Bunker Hill has a Claremont address, a Catawba phone number, and is located in the Oxford community. The mascot emblem of the Bears is also the former emblem of Claremont.
With the opening of Bunker Hill, Claremont became an elementary school once more. It included grades one through eight. Just as increased enrollment made it necessary to build a new high school, the increased enrollment of the 1950's and the years that were to follow created changes in the elementary school. Accreditation by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges had taken place in 1953, and curriculum became more and more specialized. Claremont School had entered a new period of growth and progress.
In the course of the daily school life, old ideas and new ideas blended well. Classrooms were still self-contained with children spending the entire day with one teacher, but curriculum began to be controlled more tightly by the state. Students continued to memorize a good deal of material, and emphasis in the study of English and in North Carolina and U.S. History was especially strong. At the same time, America was becoming more and more interested in science as the Cold War progressed. The space race became a national obsession, and nearly every student who attended school at this time can remember assembling in the auditorium to watch the first American space shot as well as many of the subsequent space shots.
In the year 1965, the first black student entered Claremont School. With integration came a gradual change in the attitudes of people toward education. More emphasis was put on consistency of educational experiences across the county, state and nation. Federal monies allowed expansion at an increasing rate.
By 1975, the seventh and eighth grades moved to Catawba Middle School. The moving of theses two grades and the rapid construction was just the start of the population boom Claremont and Catawba County would experience in the next 20 years.
The 1990's Catawba County Schools entered into a cutting edge technological world. The use of computers and other technologies has increased and we are seen as a model of how to use technology in the classroom.
Claremont is still rich with tradition and community members continue to be impressed by what comes out of the school. Rapid expansion and increasing population continue to put demands on the school system. If Claremont School has come a long way, it is because it has been built on a past rich in the love and support of the community. Claremont has a strong volunteer base in our community. This is in the same tradition as the fathers who brought the loads of wood to heat the classrooms back in the 1890's and who worked from sunup to sundown for a dollar a day in 1913 to build the first building on the present plot of land that Claremont sits today.
Claremont Elementary continues to be the center of the community for the town of Claremont. Many more great things are in store for Claremont. Thank you for your interest in Claremont Elementary.