The first section of the April 20, 1984, issue of the Record and Landmark carried a photo and an obituary of a woman known well to the people throughout the northern half of Iredell County, as she had probably taught them or their children or their parents. Her name was Miss Della Bell Arnold, and she taught school for 55 years. Born in 1885, she passed away at the age of 98 and was buried in the Flat Rock Baptist Church cemetery in Hamptonville.
A native of Yadkin County, Miss Della was a daughter of William Smith Arnold and Martha Evans Arnold. She had four brothers and two sisters. Only one brother survived her.
Besides spanning a large number of years, Della’s classroom career spanned a number of counties: Yadkin, Wilkes, Iredell and Davidson. She also taught at one time at the Harmony Farm Life Boarding School and for one year in Georgia. She was one of those “old maid school ‘marms’” that every rural community and a few city systems used to have.
Around 1975 she was interviewed, and thus part of her life story has been saved for posterity:
“I am Miss Della Arnold, but I helped to raise more children than any set of parents. I was born about two miles east of Hamptonville, down in the sticks, in Yadkin County. A poor girl on a poor farm. A bad cripple. I know what poverty is. I went to school in Hamptonville. One teacher school. Home-made desks — two or three of us to a desk … sometimes one of us would fall off, get up and go back and sit and nobody would pay any attention! One teacher had seven grades. We worked hard for our education.
“Went to Boonville to school a while, boarding at old Professor Dixon’s house, then after working a while, I went to Greensboro College for Women. I came to Harmony (in northern part of Iredell) in the fall of 1922 to teach. Professor Langford was the principal. We had no electric lights and we had lamps in the school house. We didn’t have any telephone nor graded road to Statesville.
“It took all day to go to Statesville in a cart or buggy. At Five Mile Branch, you might have to be pulled out of the mud! A man lived near the branch and he made his living pulling folks out of the mud! Most of the people were farmers then. Leb and Charlie Gross ran the general store where now they have the headquarters for the Water Works.
“I taught for 49 years in North Carolina and one year in Georgia when I stayed near a doctor who had performed an operation on my crippled foot. I started teaching over in North Iredell for 20 dollars a month at what is known as the old Steelman’s School. We only had school four months, so I made $80.00 for a year of work!
“We had a boarding school at Harmony and people came here from all around to come to school. It was a co-educational school run by Mr. and Mrs. Gaither.
“When I first came to Harmony, cotton was the main crop. Children would have to miss school in the fall so much that it was hard for them to make up the work. But they had to pick the cotton to be able to buy their clothes to wear to school. It was the main source of income. We didn’t have much money; didn’t buy much!
“Reverend Grady White did a great work in this and other communities. He greatly influenced the rural people. He spent a very useful life. He came from up above Harmony.
“I remember in childhood seeing my grandmother weaving on a loom. They took the cotton, carded it into rolls and then took the rolls and the spinning wheel and spun it into thread. Then they wove it into cloth and would often color it by using roots or leaves or sometimes vegetables.
“Harmony has handled integration wonderfully well with no trouble.
“Mail came on horseback, buggy or cart — one time a day. The [news]paper came in the mail. Not many people took a daily paper for several reasons: they couldn’t read and they couldn’t pay for the paper anyway.”
Record & Landmark, March 10, 1967, written by Mrs. White: “Grady was born near Eupeptic Springs in Olin, the 10th of 11 children. He attended Poplar Springs, Hopewell and Eupeptic Springs schools. He was a farmer. In a plain ceremony he married Mary Jane Holland on February 28, 1915. He was ordained at Hams Grove Baptist Church on December 17, 1927.