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Channelview ISD opens new McGhee Elementary

Sixty plus McGhee family members gather for the McGhee School ribbon cutting. (Photo by Allan Jamail)

Building combines the history of the past with vision of the future

By Allan Jamail

Channelview, TX – August 8, 2022, three hundred plus people came to participate in the new CVISD McGhee elementary school’s ribbon cutting (1045 Sheldon Rd.). It was constructed as part of a 75 percent voter-approved 2019 Bond election for 195 million dollars.

The ceremony began with the Channelview ISD (CVISD) Color Guard posting the colors, pledge to USA & Texas flags, and a prayer led by Chaplain Pct. 3 Eric Goodwine of Constable Sherman Eagleton’s Office. Introduction speeches were made by Supt. Dr. Tory C. Hill, CVISD Board of Trustees President Patrick Lacy, McGhee Elem. Prin. Lizette Castelline and other school officials.

The campus is named after Joe McGhee, the man who donated the land for the original tiny wooden school in which his grandson also named Joe McGhee helped build. It was built for AfricanAmerican kids before Black kids were allowed to mix with white kids. Years later the first AfricanAmerican student to enroll in CVISD was a descendent of Peter McGhee. Artifacts from the original Joe McGhee School including the school bell are now in the new school’s in-house museum.

Over 60 decedents of Peter, his eldest son Joe and his wife Eliza McGhee gathered to participate. Ms. Richie “McGhee” Gradney, Great Grandaughter of Joe McGhee and Great Great Granddaughter Ms. Tammie Mac presented the family’s history.

Ms. Gradney said, “This new school isn’t our only claim to fame when it comes to Texas history. Joe’s father was Peter McGhee born in 1800, a slave of General Sam Houston, who traveled with Houston taking care of mules on the military campaign that resulted in the independence of Texas from Mexico at the battle of San Jacinto. After the Civil War, many ex-slaves like Peter McGhee and his wife Frances moved into metropolitan areas to find work; they first settled in Galveston.”

“A storm from September 14-17, 1875 brought strong winds and flooding waters to Galveston and flooded the poorer section of town where the McGhee’s and many other families lived in shanty houses. They had to climb on top of their houses to avoid drowning in the rising water. After numerous moves caused by flooding storms they eventually settled in Channelview,” Gradney said.

“Joe McGhee, Peter’s eldest son, was born about 1864, his wife Eliza, and the rest of the McGhee family purchased a 60 acre tract of land in about 1880 which became the McGhee homestead. Joe McGhee’s son Peter is named after his grandfather and is my grandfather, born in 1884 on the homestead, Joe McGhee died in 1922,” Gradney said.

Ms. Gradney continued saying, “Channelview’s original McGhee School was built on a 100 X 100 foot lot of land consigned to the state by Joe McGhee about 1916. The school also served as a community center and a church; with a **bell differentiating the various functions. The McGhee School was part of District 18 until it was closed in 1942 when the District was consolidated with the CVISD. The McGhee School is recorded with The State of Texas Historical Marker 5201010725, in 1979.”

Great Great Granddaughter Tammi Mac spoke of the fun times she remembered. “The McGhee’s eating chittlin’s, having fish frys, stuffed crabs and the best cornbread made in America. I remember listening to James Brown, hairstyles like Afros, Lena Horne roller sets and lye slick back hair and Fedora style hats worn by aunts and uncles. The big legged grandma’s with coco brown and light yella skin. I remember some wash houses, feed houses, boat houses, chicken coops, hog pins, pecan tree growing, grandma Sadie’s egg gathering and Uncle Henry and Pete San Jacinto River fly fishing, Mac said.”

Attendees were given a tour of the school and the McGhee family was given souvenirs bearing the school’s name and a private reception with refreshments.

The program was exceptionally outstanding, flawlessly put together by the CVISD Communication Dept. of Lila Hollin – Exec., Teresa Gomez – Com. Specialist, Anthony Mireles – Coordinator and Dalia Castillo – Admin. Assist. to the Exec. Dir.

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