New found research reveals that Royal has an African Royalty heritage. Were our early ancestors Africans? Were they of African royalty? Were they African Kings and Queens? Was it called Royal before 1835? Yes, yes, yes and yes. The story reads: "Before the War Between the States, the Long Hammock settlement of Blacks that had first been quietly known as “Royalville” had become known as “Picketsville”. After the war, residents quietly changed its name back to “Royal”, and documented it by 1880. It was done so future generations of all races would always know some of the first Blacks at least, were of African Royalty"as told by Hulon Nichols in the book entitled 'Long Hammock Memories'.
Click here for written presentation and/or here for PowerPoint given during the Royal Homecoming 2013 worship service.
Founded in 1865, the Community of Royal was originally known as Picketsville which was named for the white picket fences that marked its 40-acre homesteads. A post office was established on June 26, 1891, and the community was called Royal by the late 1880's. The community's first settlers were former slaves from the Old Green Plantation located on the Withlacoochee River. The first settling families were the Harleys, the Andersons and the Pickets. They built log cabins for houses and dug wells for water. The community's first industries were farming, logging, and naval stores. Pictured below: Mother Polly Patterson Wideman's childhood home and Memorial pictures of Rev. Mathew Beard & Mother Wideman, permanent collection at the Alonzo A. Young, Sr. Enrichment & Historical Center.
In 1874, the Reverend Alfred Brown built the community's first school, a one-room schoolhouse. Because the school was centrally located, children, staff and teachers were able to walk to school. Later, a three-room school constructed of wooden planks and board windows was built. Perman E. Williams, the school's first officially appointed principal, served during the 1937-38 school year. Men from the community, along with Principal Williams, served as trustees for the school. During the 1930s, the trustees requested and received approval from the Sumter County School Board to build a new Royal School.
The last and largest Royal School was built following an agreement that Sumter County would furnish the materials and the Royal community would provide the labor to construct the new school. Richard Smith donated the land for the school and workers from the Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) joined a group of local volunteers to build the facility. The ten-room school was constructed of wooden planks and accommodated 108 students. In 1947, Alonzo A. Young, Sr. began his tenure as the school's last principal. In 1954, the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in the Brown vs. Board of Education case ended years of organized segregation in public education. At the time there were eight black schools in Sumter County. However, the county did not embrace integration until mandated by law during the 1970-71 school year. Following integration, students from the Royal School transferred to the Wildwood Elementary, Middle and High Schools. In 1984, the Royal School was torn down and a community Center and a fire station were built on the site.
The school's 1945 cafeteria, a seperate building, was retained and still stands at its original location. In 2007, the cafeteria building was donated to Young Performing Artists (YPAs), Inc. in collaboration with the Royal Library Association (RLA) and named a Governor's Point of Light Project. In 2009, the building was renovated via collaboration between the Sumter Board of County Commissioners, Carlos Beruff, President of Sumter, LLC and Terry Yoder, President of T & D Concrete.
Alonzo A. Young, Sr. Enrichment & Historical Center
9569 County Road 235
Wildwood (Royal), FL 34785
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