The farming community of Bartlett was founded in 1882 when the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad reached the town, which is situated on the county line between Bell and Williamson counties. By 1912, a second railway served the town, and Bartlett became a shipping point for area farm and ranch products.
When the Bartlett public school built a brick schoolhouse in 1909, the school district moved its existing six-room frame classroom building to this site to become the first local school for African American students. When the six-room schoolhouse burned in 1919, Dave Johnson was given the contract to build a new one-story, four-room structure using recycled lumber. Decades later, in 1945, half of a building from the Goodeville school district was moved to the site to serve as a shop and vocational agriculture building.
The Bartlett Colored School, unaccredited at that time, only went through the tenth grade; few students from area rural populations could get to the schoolhouse, and fewer still made the trip to Temple or Austin to complete their education and graduate. Parents and teachers, united through a parent teacher association formed in 1933, continued improvements and attracted a dedicated couple form Prairie View A&M to move to Bartlett in 1946. Gentry "Prof" Powell, Sr. (1909-1976), and his wife acted as principals, teachers and coaches. They brought in students from the area with a school bus and driver granted by the school district at the start of the 1946-47 school year. By summer 1947, attendance had doubled to more than 160, and the school became an accredited 12-grade system. With a strong curriculum and new sports programs, the Bartlett school grew, moving in 1949 to the north side of the city, on Cryer Drive.