American Bottoms School
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, April 3, 1956.
by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri
reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune
This history of Livingston County’s American Bottoms School as told by Mrs. Boone. Started in 1865, west of Chula and the last term was 1939-40.
Most of the information for American Bottoms School history was furnished by Mrs. Mary Case of Chula, with the aid of Mrs. Mattie Ishmael, who was Mattie Fritz when she attended the school. Mrs. Ishmael’s father, Willie Fritz the acre of land for the school site, about the year 1865, which was in Cream Ridge Township 59, Range 24, Section 13, three miles west of Chula.
The Fritz family lived a short distance west of the school. Her four sisters, Ida, Minnie, Linnie and Cordia, were also pupils of the school.
Mrs. Ishmael states that the school took its name from the American Bottoms in that vicinity.
All men in the neighborhood helped to cut the lumber for the schoolhouse and also helped build it.
The work was under the supervision of a Mr. Davis. All the framework was of native lumber and the floor, door and window finishings were of pine. Painted pine boards were used for the blackboard which extended across the North end of the building.
There was a three foot wainscoting around the room and the walls and ceiling were plastered. The schoolhouse faced the south, with a door in that end. There were three windows on both the east and west sides. There were approximately ten double seats on either sides of the room. A postern was built across the north end and two long benches were on either end of it. The teacher’s desk was in the center. It was built with a drawer to hold school supplies.
The room was heated by a large, box-type wood burning stove. Hooks on the walls held the children’s wraps.
Patrons of the school furnished lanterns for the schoolroom’s light when needed for night entertainments. Water was carried in a tin pail from the well.
Twelve to fifteen pupils were enrolled the first term of school, the six-month term being divided into three months of spring and three of fall.
Some of the early teachers of the school were Edd Sparling, Jane Coltrane, Mandy Brown, Lydia Curry, Dell Ware, John May, Maude Cashman, Katie May, Miss McGee, Elvira May, Verna Bell and Gladys Cox. All these were teachers in American Bottoms’ first school and lived near the school and therefore did not board in the district. None are now living except Gladys Cox, now Mrs. Gladys Casebeer of Trenton. These teachers also did the janitor work. Their salaries ranged from $15 to $25 per month.
Among patrons of the first school were a Mr. Schowell, N. Davis, Jacob Lamp, Miles Darr, John Wilcox, Edd Austin and Norman Thieme. First directors of the school were a Mr. McAllister, William Fritz and J. J. Coltrane.
Gladys Cox was the last teacher in the first school, The building was struck by lightning in the spring, of 1907 and burned to the ground, destroying all books and records.
Lee Taylor and Bill Thieme built the second schoolhouse in 1908. It was located 1¼ miles west of the first site. John Creig gave the acre of ground for the site. This frame structure was approximately 24 x 30 and in addition to the main room had two cloak-rooms for wraps and shelves for dinner pails. Each had a window for light and a door which led into the hall that separated them. The hall's outside door faced the north and had a transom above it to admit light. The walls and ceilings of the classroom, and cloakrooms were plastered. The building had a cupola and a bell.
The main room was heated by a jacketed wood stove. Later coal was used for fuel. Bracket type coal-oil lamps with reflectors on the walls furnished light. A slate blackboard extended across the south wall. Felt erasers were used.
An organ was purchased and opening exercises each morning included the singing of hymns. School entertainments included literary programs with debate a main feature. Miscellaneous programs were enjoyed and later pie and box suppers were held in connection with the program as the money-making projects. Sunday school and preaching services were held at the school for several years.
Pupils paid for their own books until free textbooks were purchased for schools. The usual subjects of reading, arithmetic, spelling, writing, and for advanced pupils, agriculture, physiology and civil government were studied.
Mrs. Mary Case and her husband, J. W. with their seven children lived 1½ west and 1 mile south of the second school site and all her children attended American Bottoms School. They are Mrs. Edna Hooker, Chula; Mrs. Bertha Eccles, Meadville; Mrs. Ethel Bommer, Edwards, Mississippi; Clifford Case, Chula; Raymond and Walter Case, Chillicothe, and Floyd Case of Los Angeles, California. Mrs. Eccles furnished the photo for the history.
Mrs. Case informs that a well was dug on the second school site and a pump was installed. Each child had an individual drinking cup.
Some games played were Dare Base, Baseball, Fox and Geese, Follow the Leader and Catch.
She states that the highest enrollment in the second schoolhouse was thirty-five for the term of 1912-13, and that teachers’ salaries at this time ranged from $35 to $40. They paid from $2.50 to $3.50 weekly for room and board.
Mrs. Zeffie Lamp, who has a farm in the district and who served as clerk of the school for a long time, and also Mrs. Mabel Foster, present clerk of the district, furnished some records of the school. The earliest one is that of 1914 when thirty schoolage children were enumerated, fifteen girls and fifteen boys. The highest enumeration for a period of 21 years was that of 1915 with 34 enumerated.
This old record describes the second school site as being located in District 14, Section 23, Township 29 and Range 24.
The first annual school meeting remaining in historical records is that of April 7, 1914, which states that j. J. Phillips was elected director for three years, J. J. Robertson was president of the board and J. S. Long, secretary. This record covers the years from 1914 to 1935. Other directors, clerks and secretaries serving during this period were James Coltrane, Fred Shinneman, Miles Darr, I. L. Hilt, John Case, j. B. Patterson, J. W. Johnson, J. A. Lamp, W. McCulley, C. E. Stroud, Wilbur Johnson, J. M. Singleton, K. M Hicklin, Ben McCulley, Daisy Hicklin, Mirl Hicklin, T. R. McCulley, Leigh Johnson, A. F. Sharrow, Zeffie Lamp, J. D. Ishmael, Earl. Diegelman, James Travis, Helena McCully, Earl Gates, Franklin Davis, O. B. McCoy.
Patrons of this period include the names of Phillips, Johnson, Long, Robertson, Nickerson, Harrison, Lamp, Case, Powell, Davis, Vaun, Jones, McCully, Snook, Stroud, Cooper, Graves, Williams, Schniter. Prewitt, Fitzpatrick, Hicklin, Cox, Hines, Sharrow, Mang, French and Ishmael.
In 1909 the bottoms were flooded to such an extent that water stood almost three feet deep in the school house.
Minutes of the April 1, 1919, meeting state that 160 acres of land on which Cal Cooper lived, were voted into the district.
Some patrons who served as directors after the second schoolhouse was built were James Long, James Coltrane. John Case, John Robertson, Earl Hicklin, Marion Lamp, J. W. Johnson, Earl Gates and James Travis.
Teachers from 1914 to 1928 included C. B. Perryman, Verna Diehl, Bertha Jones, Mae Amick, Ruth Piper, Grace Hicklin and Mildred Spencer.