One of the oldest schools in Seguin is Ball High School, established in the late 1880s and located on North Saunders Street. For many years the campus was called Lincoln School, headed by William B. Ball. The school was renamed in his honor in 1925.
William Ball was born into slavery in 1839 in Danville, Kentucky, where he grew up. When the Civil War started, he was assigned to Maj. Darius Warner as a servant. After Maj. Warner was wounded in the Battle of Chicamauga, Ball escorted him home to London, Ohio. Ball then enlisted in the 16th Colored Infantry. After the Civil War ended, Ball enlisted in the 38th Infantry Unit with duty in San Antonio where he rose to the rank of company sergeant.
After serving his enlistment, Ball remained in the San Antonio area and began teaching recently-freed former slaves in several one-room school houses in the area. Ball moved to New Berlin where he lived with the family of Moses Johns and taught in the elementary school. While he was teaching school, he also trained for the ministry and was licensed to preach in September 1875. He served Baptist churches in Luling, Zion Hill, Capote and Seguin, where he served as pastor of the Second Baptist Church from 1886 to 1923, a total of 37 years. The church, located on South Guadalupe Street, has 153 years of history and was recognized by the Texas Historical Commission as a historical location.
In 1871, Ball married Rachel Ellen Cartwright and the couple had 10 children. He soon organized the first school for Black students, which became one of the oldest schools in Seguin. Later, in 1939, a new campus was built for Ball High School and a swimming pool and combination gymnasium-auditorium was added. In the 1950s, new classrooms were added and a gym was built to replace the one that had been destroyed in a fire. The new Ball High School for Blacks was built a few blocks north between Krezdorn and San Antonio streets.
The old school building on Saunders Street was later demolished and a new building on the site became an elementary school named for Lizzie Burges, born on March 4, 1883, on a farm to Harry and Mary Burges. Her entire education was at Abraham Lincoln School and Guadalupe College, where she earned her B.A. degree in 1904. She never married, but dedicated her life to teaching at the Lincoln School for 44 years under seven principals. She lived on Jefferson Avenue where she died on Feb. 23, 1948. Burges was buried in Riverside Cemetery alongside other members of her family.
A good friend and fellow Rotarian, Clarence Little, graduated from Ball High in 1949, then attended Huston-Tillotson University for a degree in education. Little taught school in Lockhart before returning to Seguin where he taught and became the principal for Lizzie Burges Elementary School. From Lizzie Burges, Little became principal for Mary B. Erskine Elementary School located on east College Street. In 1979, the school district was reorganized and Little moved to Ball Elementary as principal, where he served until retirement.
Ball High students played their first football game in 1931 and in the 1940s and 1950s, Ball High athletes were outstanding in many sports under Coach Leslie “Goldie” Harris, who coached there from 1945 to 1966. In 1950, the football team won the district championship. Under the direction of Coach Lenola Wilson, Ball High girls won first place in track and set a new record for the 200 yard relay. The Ball High Dragonettes were championship winners in District 6-AA basketball. This championship was repeated two years later.
During the football season, Ball High students would play their games on Thursday night, the Matadors would play on Friday nights, and Texas Lutheran College (now Texas Lutheran University) would play on Saturday nights. All played in the old Matador Stadium located between West Court Street and Mountain Street on the west side of Joe F. Saergert. I and many of the other Matador football players would always be at the Thursday night games and had many friends on the Ball High team.
The Lizzie Burges Elementary and Ball High Schools were very successful academically and many graduates later attended college. Others went on to have careers in the military or civil service. One graduate was Frank F. Fennell. After he graduated from Ball High, he received his Bachelor of Science degree from Tuskegee Institute. He entered the Air Force and became a Master Navigator at the time I was in pilot training. We both served in Vietnam at the same time and after serving for 28 years, Fennell retired with the rank of colonel.
He died in January of this year. His sister, Marian Henderson, still lives in Seguin. (One of his sons attended the Air Force Academy and another son attended the Naval Academy.)
In 1884, Ball and a group of Black Baptists founded the Negro Baptist College at the site of present day Joe F. Saegert Middle School on Court Street. In 1887, it was reorganized as the Guadalupe Colored College. Philanthropist George W. Brackenridge funded the expansion of the college and provided funds for the purchase of a new site for the institution. Brackenridge donated generously to the institution and development of the college, and further donated a 216-acre tract of land on the Guadalupe River west of town where the college was relocated. Fire destroyed the main building on Feb. 9, 1936. The ruins of the burned building still stand. The Great Depression left the college hard pressed for funds and the college failed. Ball had served as the president of the college for eight years, from 1906 to 1914.
In 1920, he resigned his position as pastor of the second Baptist Church in Seguin. Ball died at his home on Court Street on Jan., 26, 1923, and was buried in Riverside Cemetery. The marker in Riverside reads: Dr. W. B. Ball, Soldier, Educator.