Possum Trot School

Farm kids attended classes in one room

About 100 years before Westlake Academy opened its doors, the last school in Westlake was getting ready to shut its door forever.

The one-room Possum Trot School was established in Westlake in 1890 to educate children from the surrounding farms. But like many other frontier schools, it was short-lived and closed in 1905.

"It had no enrollment for its last three years," said Bert Schultz, president of the Westlake Historical Preservation Society.

Although the school and building are long gone, town officials and preservationists have made sure that it is not forgotten. A Westlake historic marker was dedicated earlier this month to Possum Trot.

The marker is the third that the town of Westlake has installed as part of a four-year effort to recognize its important historic sites. Possum Trot was chosen this year in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of Westlake Academy, Schultz said.

The marker is at the corner of North Pearson and Dove Road, the site where Possum Trot School once stood. At the time Possum Trot operated, it was located on what was known as the Grapevine to Roanoke Road, according to the preservation society.

Possum Trot was the lone school in Phillips School District No. 84, which was established on Feb. 11, 1890 as a result of a citizen petition to the Tarrant County Commissioners Court.

Preservation society members discovered the petition for the school, which stated: "they had a school building big enough to accommodate the new school district, and in condition to conduct school in any season of the year with plenty of lasting water convenient."

Preservation society researchers also found a 1879 newspaper mention of a school known as Medlin Mound, leading to speculation that the same schoolhouse was recycled for Possum Trot, according to the society.

The Phillips district was created through the removal of the far northern portion of the Mount Gilead District No. 5. The Mount Gilead district, in what is now Keller, was seven miles away and too long a distance for that time, Schultz said.

About 15 students between the ages of 8 and 13 attended Possum Trot School each year.

The school was only open 60 to 90 days a year because the children were needed to work on the family farm the rest of year.

Students paid tuition of $1 to $3 per month, used split logs for benches and slate boards for writing. Subjects taught were reading, spelling and grammar.

The teacher typically had a second or third grade certificate and earned $30 to $45 a month.

It is uncertain why the school was named Possum Trot.

"The school was near a creek so there may have been a possum run nearby," Schultz said.

Also unknown: why enrollment ceased in 1902. Three years later, the school closed and the district was divided between Mount Gilead to the south and Sam's School District No. 6 to the east.