Jimmy Jones understands the importance of history. Jones’ scholastic journey began in Hamilton, Frisco’s historic African American community, in a one-room schoolhouse — a schoolhouse that educated Black children until the mid-1960s and a place that was thought to have been lost forever.
Surrounded by railroad tracks, the Frisco Heritage Museum and Center captures the ambiance of a lost history. While visiting the museum, Jones noticed a photo within an exhibit panel. It stated the former schoolhouse was bulldozed after segregation ended in 1964. This was wrong. The school hadn’t been demolished but moved, Jones told the museum.
After verification by another longtime Hamilton resident, the Heritage Association of Frisco (HAF), a nonprofit committed to preserving the city’s heritage, embarked on a quest to locate the original Hamilton schoolhouse.
“What is really exciting about this story, is that there’s absolutely a legacy here,” stated Donna Anderson, a nonprofit arts expert and volunteer for the museum. “I love seeing the family connected to the community. I think it’s a wonderful story.” Anderson admits that African American genealogy can be difficult to trace. She currently serves on HAF’s board of directors, tasked with researching and preserving the history and heritage of Frisco.
As you exit Frisco Square Boulevard and turn right onto First Street, a vacant lot at 8800 Elm Street awaits. This plot formerly housed both a calaboose, built in 1912, and a cotton gin. Today, a replica of the jail is shown on the grounds of Frisco Heritage Village. The entry to the community also serves as a reminder of the segregated past — and connection to the African American community of Hamilton.
Minister Jack Hamilton founded a church in 1914, and in 1924 built a place of worship for Sundays. During weekdays, the building was known as Hamilton Elementary School and used to educate children entering kindergarten through 8th grade. It was a wooden building with two rooms split down the middle by a breezeway with no running water and no heat. Educational resources consisted of used books donated from the all-white school.
When students reached ninth grade they were bused to all African American high schools in either Plano or McKinney. On weekends it was transformed back to Hamilton Chapel Baptist Church. The Frisco ISD School Board voted to integrate Frisco schools on August 31, 1964 and was fully desegregated by September 1, 1965.
After visiting with community members and scouring records, the schoolhouse-turned-house was discovered only a few streets over from the church and the museum. There it was, the entire time.
Today, the neighborhood is reflective and reminiscent and different. It’s busy, yet, quiet. Most of the houses appear to be original structures. The road is clogged with large trucks and construction crews in hard hats. I walk up the street and notice a new rock façade, and see it, the schoolhouse from the old photo I saw. The sideyard has a pile of mountain bikes. Skateboards and fishing poles adorn the front porch. The residence doesn’t look like a schoolhouse. People live here.
I knock on the door. Through the front glass, the inside is dark. I hear a dog yap. I knock again and wait. No answer. And so I leave. Do the current residents know they are living in an important piece of Black history — a piece that was thought to be lost forever, but there was, all along, right here?
To preserve the legacy of the Hamilton community, HAF hopes to place a marker on the schoolhouse. However, due to a lack of organizational funding, the nonprofit needs to raise $1,000.
The Hamilton Chapel Baptist Church, built sometime after 1964, still offers an active membership, led by Minister Henry Thomas. Along with Jack Hamilton, Jimmy and Clara Jones also have strong ties to the Hamilton Chapel Baptist Church. Jones is the great-nephew of Hamilton and the family’s contributions benefitted the city, as well as Frisco ISD.
According to a city staff member, the Frisco Park and Trail Naming Committee reviewed over 36 applications with 12 proposed names. In March 2021, to honor the impact and extraordinary legacy of the Hamilton and Jones families, the Frisco City Council approved the renaming of First Street Park as Jack Hamilton Park. Additionally, the council renamed the park behind Frisco City Hall as Jimmy and Clara Jones Park.
Jimmy and Clara Jones Park is impressive: a huge sign adorns their names and red benches welcome visitors. The vast landscape is manicured; beautiful waterscapes take shape along the perimeter. A sense of serenity lingers.
The renaming of these two parks established a historical and significant accomplishment for African Americans in the city of Frisco, Texas.
Jones and the students that attended Hamilton Elementary are now adults. HAF’s interest to honor the schoolhouse reflects Frisco’s rich heritage and the opportunity for future generations to preserve the past.