Riverton School History

    Riverton School History
    1918 - 2016

    The history from 1918 through 1973 is taken from the booklet commissioned by the 1972 Riverton PTA under the leadership of W. W. Wales, President. The committee consisted of Mrs. Sam W. Smith, Jr., Chairperson, Mrs. Joe Jones, Mrs. Leo Lawler, Mrs. Ray Renfroe, Mrs. Jim Sisco, and Miss Grace Whitfield.
    The Beginnings
    During the years 1916-1917, the Superintendent of Madison County Schools, S. R. Butler, and the patrons of Oliver Bierne Patton Academy at Bell Factory, Nolen's Chapel, near Chase, Locust Grove near Deposit, and Central near Moore's Mill, Alabama had many meetings to discuss and plan for a centrally located high school. Because of its accessibility to the four communities, as well as to a railroad for the transportation of teachers, Riverton was chosen as the best site. Later, Bloucher's Ford became the fifth school to join the centrally located school at Riverton.

    The original purchase of land to build the school on was 5.36 acres and was from J. E. McCaleb and wife. Since that time additional purchases of 1.54, 5.57, and 7.89 acres were made from J. E. McCaleb and wife, bringing the acreage owned by the school system to a total of 20.36 acres.

    The history of Bell Factory Land Company was to be entwined in the history of the school since the company's 500-pound bell was donated to the school system. The family of C. R. Williams, who worked for the company, remembers his efforts to make this possible. The bell was carried from Bell Factory to Oliver Bierne Patton Academy and was used there until the county sold the building to F. Stephenson in 1917, reserving the right to keep the bell. The bell was then moved to Riverton where the workers beat on it with hammers to call construction workers to lunch.

    This bell holds many memories for people in the community. Alice Williams Lay relates, "How well I remember hearing the ringing of the bell on the morning of November 11, 1918, when Dad and my brothers went to the school at 4 AM and rang it, spreading the news that World War I had ended."

    riverton bell

    Bell donated by the Bell Factory Land Company
    bell tower at RES plaque at RES
    Bell Tower and plaque at Riverton Elementary School

    Some questions about the date 1880 which is inscribed on the bell were raised when the bell was removed from the tower in 1972. Bell Factory was incorporated in 1832 and was still in operation in 1885. Talmadge Smithey did research on this and came up with the conclusion that the bell at the factory in 1832 was either confiscated or donated to be cast into cannons to help the Confederate cause since many church bells were donated for this reason. If this is the case, the bell at Riverton is the one used to replace the original bell at the factory.

    The first unit of six rooms and an auditorium was completed in the fall of 1918. The first term opened in December of 1918. Mrs. Lucien Hewlett and Mrs. Etta D. Moore had suggested the name Riverton for the new school since the site was on the Barron Fork of the Flint River.

    Jim Patterson tells of the problems of transporting children from the five areas of the county to the new Riverton School. "I drove the first bus that carried the children from Central and Bloucher's Ford to Riverton in 1918. It wasn't too hard on me, but the children had it rough. The roads were dirt and we would go through fields or any way we could when the ruts in the road got too deep to go through. If the bus got stuck, the children would get off and push us out and we would go merrily on our way. The old tires were solid rubber and sometimes I would just put chains on them and leave them on until they wore off."

    model t school bus
    Before the next school year, two more classrooms, an office, and an expansion of the auditorium were completed.

    The school soon became the social center of the area. Talmadge Smithey recalled how people would flock to the kerosene-lighted auditorium to see a magician, fiddling contest, play or even a movie. This was exciting entertainment for ten to twenty-five cents.

    Riverton became an accredited high school during the 1921-22 school year. It was the first consolidated high school in Madison County to become accredited. (Madison County High School at Gurley had been accredited for many years.)

    Riverton High School and an early student body

    Riverton High School and an early student body

    As the enrollment of students increased to about 400 in 1928, something exciting happened. Alabama Power Company ran the first power line in this community allowing the Delco lighting system to be replaced with electric lights in 1927. The following summer, a central steam heating system replaced the old inconvenient and dangerous stoves in the classroom.

    The gymnasium was build in 1936-37 by the WPA with the help of the community and $1,000 given by the county. This structure was given the name Thompson Gymnasium in honor of the man who was principal at the time. The elementary building was erected in 1935 by the county with the aid of the National Recovery Administration. The cost to the County was about five thousand dollars. Restrooms were added to this building in 1952.
    1940's high school students
    (credit for this photo:  Patti Dean Citrano.  Her aunt is the 3rd from
    the right side.  Her aunt graduated in 1946.)
    Riverton reverted to a junior high school in 1958 when Buckhorn was opened for grades 10 through 12 from Riverton, New Market, Central, and Walnut Grove.

    The first black student to attend Riverton was Ruby Friend in 1967. Two black teachers joined the faculty in 1968. Total integration was accomplished when Madison County became a unitary school system in 1970.

    The old two story building was vacated in December 1972. It was demolished to make way for a new building that housed the principal and secretary's offices, bathrooms and several classrooms.

    old high school entrance
    Riverton High School showing the columns at the entrance that were built by the WPA. The blocks came from the archway under Bell Factory that carried the mill race.
    Riverton Middle School
    The Riverton community continued to grow. By the early 1990s, it was obvious that the school needed to be divided into an elementary school and a new middle school. A site was chosen on Homer Nance Road, plans were decided on, and the new Riverton Middle School was ready for students in the fall of 1995. It opened with Richard Medlen as the principal. Grades 5 - 8 occupied the 4 identical halls of the building, 5th and 6th downstairs, 7th and 8th upstairs. The center areas contained offices, art, science lab, technology lab, band, music room, and a home economics kitchen. A huge gym, cafetorium and special education wing were upstairs at the back of the building.

    An early picture of the new Riverton Middle School.
    Riverton Middle School 1995
    The picture below was taken in 2007
    .Riverton Intermediate 2007
    Riverton Middle School was home to grades 6-8. The 5th graders went to the elementary schools. 
    And now, Riverton Intermediate School!

    Riverton Intermediate School was formed when Buckhorn Middle School was built to house the 7th and 8th grades. In the fall of 2010, Riverton Intermediate became home to 5th and 6th grades. For the 2011/2012 school year, the fourth graders were moved to RIS, completing the transition to an intermediate school. Our feeder schools are Mt. Carmel and Riverton Elementary. Riverton Intermediate will continue the legacy that started a long time ago when Riverton High School was founded. 

    Riverton Intermediate School today:RIS today
    Riverton Principals:
    Richard Medlen
    Todd Markham
    Randy Hill
    Michelle Stovall
    Jennifer West