With her family’s ties to Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center, Joy Hill Watson is excited to serve as the venue’s new curator. Citing her love of “history, particularly black history and genealogy” as the reason for pursuing the position, the Cartersville resident assumed her duties on Jan. 5.
“One of the builders of the school is related to me on my mother’s side, and there is a lot of my daddy’s family history there,” Watson said, referring to her father, the late Matthew D. Hill, a retired Cartersville educator and school board member. “Dr. Susie Wheeler was related to me on my daddy’s side.“One of my first memories of visiting the museum is seeing a picture of daddy’s mother. I never got to meet her because she died when daddy was 6 years old. I’ve attended and sung there at various meetings and for the Unsung Heroes award ceremony.”A graduate of Tuskegee University, Watson was the curator of the Summer Hill Heritage Museum since April 2010. Her community service efforts include being a coordinator for the Cartersville branch of “Go Girl Go” Inc. and a member of St. Luke A.M.E. Church, where she has been the choir director since 2009. She also was the editor of OurSay Magazine from January 2004 to 2010.“We had a variety of excellent candidates to consider, so the process was very challenging; however, after much prayer and discussion, we feel that we made a wise decision by choosing to hire Joy Hill Watson as the director for the historic Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center,” said Louise Young Harris, president of the Noble Hill Foundation Board. “Mrs. Hill Watson brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, humanitarian views, exposure, personality, passion for history [and] will enlighten and take Noble Hill-Wheeler to the next historic level.”Now serving as a cultural museum, the Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center’s building — originally named Cassville Colored School and later referred to as the Noble Hill School — provided instruction for black children in the first through seventh grades from 1923 to the mid-1950s.Known as the first Rosenwald School in northwest Georgia, Noble Hill cost $2,036.35 to construct. The Rosenwald Fund contributed $700, with the remainder raised by the Cassville community. Built in 1923, the school stayed in operation until the educational site was consolidated into Bartow Elementary School in 1955.After sitting vacant for more than 25 years, the building at 2361 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cassville was transformed into its present state with the help of state grants, private donations and fundraisers. Dr. Susie Wheeler, who had attended the former elementary school in the 1920s, spearheaded the community-wide fundraising project in the mid-1980s. Today, the venue — renamed Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center — reveals what life and education was like for black residents during the early to mid-1900s.“My short-term goals include getting the Internet/Wi-Fi installed and a website,” Watson said. “My long-term goals include securing much needed grants and increasing the number of visitors.“... Noble Hill is unique in that it was the first Rosenwald school built in northwest Georgia, and it’s still standing and being utilized. Many others have either been destroyed or haven’t been preserved. Bartow residents need to learn about the history and feel the nostalgia. You can almost imagine hearing children’s voices in the classrooms.”Watson’s hiring follows the retirement of Noble Hill’s longtime curator, Marian Coleman, on Dec. 31.“If I had to describe a rare jewel, Mrs. Marian Coleman is definitely one of a kind,” Harris said. “In my opinion, Mrs. Coleman is Noble Hill-Wheeler. Indeed, myself and board of directors are very thankful for Mrs. Coleman’s excellent leadership for 21 years. We wish Mrs. Coleman the best upon her retirement, and we are planning to salute her in the near future.”Open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Noble Hill requires no admission fees but donations are appreciated. For more information about the center, call 770-382-3392.