Give the Fort Mill School Board credit in its choices for the district’s two new schools: What they lack in creativity they make up for in institutional blandness.
Yes, Dobys Bridge and Tega Cay elementary schools are functional names and make no mistake about geographic location, but there’s a back story to one of the names that leaves much to be desired in the choice. Dobys Bridge Elementary will purposely be misspelled by not including the apostrophe that properly belongs in “Doby’s Bridge Road.”
A district spokesperson said that after Superintendent Chuck Epps determined that the school’s official Post Office address does not contain the apostrophe, the board didn’t see any point in including it in the school’s name. This makes it a classic case of two wrongs do not make a right.
Let’s make one thing clear: The proper name of the road is “Doby’s Bridge Road.” We documented that nearly a decade ago when we reported that mistakes in creating the signs that can be seen along the road resulted in three different spellings – “Doby’s”, “Dobys” and “Doby.” Only Doby’s is correct and although officials acknowledged that at the time, they also said that no one saw the need to spend the extra money it would take to make the signs uniformly correct.
For the record, and for the benefit of newer residents and any anyone else unfamiliar with Fort Mill Township history, the name refers to the Doby family. Here’s an excerpt from a piece we published by noted local historian Louise Pettus:
“Shortly before the American Revolution, three large and interconnected families by the names Doby, Massey and Cureton, all Whigs, came into the Waxhaws of Lancaster county as planters. Others of the family settled in Camden and became merchants. The merchants were often planters.”
(Not coincidentally, the new elementary school being built on Doby’s Bridge Road is on land that was part of what is now a subdivision called Massey).
In the 1850s, a descendent of the Doby family, John Doby, made a wise business decision. Again, we quote from Pettus:
“To make it possible for surrounding farmers to come to his mill, [John] Doby’s workers cleared space for a wagon road and built a bridge across Sugar Creek. The road soon became known as Doby’s Road, a name that still identifies a road that leaves Tom Hall Street in Fort Mill and heads to Highway 521 with its terminus alongside Indian Land High School.”
There you have it. The original “Doby’s Road” became “Doby’s Bridge Road” and any public structure, such as this new school, that uses the name should use the proper noun.
We also want to note that William Bradford Jr., whose father founded our newspaper 120 years ago, and who literally wrote the book on Fort Mill, has long endorsed “Doby’s Bridge Road” over any other spelling. Good enough for him, good enough for us.
What’s really important here, though, is that our school district should have made a decision based on proper grammar. What kind of top-down example is being set by promoting grammar that’s incorrect? How can the district ask students – many of whom will at some point rebel at the requirement that they learn the rules of grammar and demonstrate their knowledge by composing grammatically sound sentences – to respect what they hear in English composition lessons?
The argument that the school is being named according to the Post Office address is weak. We checked with the Fort Mill Post Office and officials there said they are going by the county map, which they agree is flawed by not using the apostrophe in “Doby’s.” They also assured us that the school will still receive its mail if the name on the school – and its stationery and website – says “Doby’s Bridge Road Elementary School.”
In other words, there’s no good reason for not getting it right.