Fairland School History Goes
Back to at Least 1846
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, June 22, 1953.
by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri
reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune
Studies, Trudges in the Snow and Building are recalled today
Fairland, situated in District 1, Section 8, Township 56, Range 22, 2˝ miles southwest of Bedford, is one of the largest and oldest of the school districts in Livingston County.
Much of the school’s early history was furnished by J. L. Myers, M. D. of Mission, Kansas, a former pupil, who started to school at Fairland in 1877 at the age of five. Simeon Myers, his father, taught Fairland school in the late sixties after he came to Missouri from Illinois in 1866 and Susan Alexander Myers, his mother, attended the school in her youth. His five brothers were also pupils at Fairland.
Parker Myers of Wheeling, who started to school there in 1866, is to be commended for his untiring efforts in supplying pertinent data for the school’s history. He is the son of the late William Myers and his brothers, Calvin, Floyd and Simeon, also went to Fairland.
Fairland district is three miles in distance from the extreme east to the extreme west. It is two miles north to south except a half-mile square in the northeast comer was eliminated. The minutes of the director’s meeting of April 15, 1876 state that it was voted at that time not to change the boundary line. The minutes of April 1885 meeting state, however, that it was voted to change its boundaries and a complete description of them is recorded in the minutes. The petition was presented by W. W. Randolph.
There is a difference of opinion as to who deeded the land for the school site but the only record the writer could find recorded, states that the two square acres situated in the northwest comer of the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section eight were deeded to the trustees of Fairland school by William W. Walden and Sarah Ann, his wife, on March 27, 1846. The trustees were George Munro, Abner Johnson and William L. Brown. Some think the land for the school was deeded by Spencer Alexander, the grandfather of Dr. Myers.
The first school building was a log structure which burned. Since the earliest record preserved begins in the year 1876, it could not be determined when the first school was destroyed. A frame building was erected, which later was blown from its foundation when a tornado hit the Bedford community in 1880. A new foundation was laid and the building placed upon it and repaired. That was 75 years ago and the building still stands. It was purchased by Stanley Singleton in 1950 and when he started to remove the floor that he might use the building for a machine shed, he found three layers of flooring, all of white oak. He states that the joists of the building are solid. He also found the old foundation slightly to the side of the present one buried in the weed growth of many years.
The building, approximately 40x20 feet, faced the east. It was weather-boarded and painted white and had four windows each on the north and south. Two doors led from a hall into the main room. There was a slate blackboard on the wall between the doors. Later when the partition was removed, the boards were used to make two desks eight feet long. Sheepskin erasers were used in the early days of the school.
There was a low platform about six inches high and five feet wide across the west end of the building. Two desks facing each other were upon the platform with the teacher’s desk in the center facing east. Back-less recitation benches were against the west wall on the platform. On October 1, 1884, lumber was ordered to make four seats and two desks eight feet long. Two years later, June 6, 1886, $150.00 was appropriated for repairing the schoolhouse and purchasing new seats. Twenty-one desks with seats attached were ordered through John Collar, agent for the Kane Manufacturing Company, at a cost of $99.75. A Victor teacher’s desk was ordered for the sum of $10.00, to be delivered by September 1st of that year. At this time the walls were covered with thick paper and ceiled.
When the cloakroom partition was removed, nails were placed in cleats on the wall at the east end of the building also, for the pupils’ lunch pails and on cold days the contents would freeze.
Drinking water was carried from Bill Sterling’s pasture for many years. In 1883 a cistern was dug. The contract was let to R. R. Singleton for the sum of $28.50. B. B. Alexander of Portland, Oregon, who started to Fairland in 1892, writes that the cistern was always dry during September, October and November and the drinking water had to be carried in the wooden water bucket from a well located about a quarter of a mile from the schoolhouse. The teacher would choose certain pupils, (usually in pairs), to go for the water. Since the water was carried such a distance, the bucket was never more than two-thirds full when it reached the school and two or three trips a day was necessary. Some of the pupils, desiring to kill time out of school, would make it a point to fall with the bucket and spill the water just before they reached the schoolhouse so that they would have to make a trip back to the well after more water. This became such a frequent occurrence that the teacher finally decided to send one of the older pupils alone after water, which pretty well put an end to the water spilling.
Mrs. J. H. Cowley of Chillicothe, who was Willie Creason when she was a pupil at Fairland, writes that “although all of us drank from the same dipper, we were a healthy bunch and never caught any germs from the common drinking cup.” She remarks that one thing they did in those days however, to “keep off disease,” was to wear a little bag of asafetida on a string around the neck.
The school building was heated by a large, heavy, iron box, wood burning stove. Wood for it was cut in 2˝-foot lengths, and it was always written in the directors’ minutes that the wood was to be prepared for the stove in the right lengths, and corded on the school grounds before a certain date. Minutes of the August 25, 1882 meeting record that the contract was let to J. J. Singleton for five cords of wood at $3.75 per cord which was to be corded on the school grounds before the fifteenth day of October.
Mr. Alexander writes that during the winter months when the snow was deep and the weather extremely cold, the two long recitation benches would be moved down from the platform and placed on either side of the stove so that the pupils whose desks were farthest from the stove could set on these benches to keep warm. He writes that in fact “they kept most uncomfortably hot, but it was an occasion to get to occupy them.” He states that there would be several pairs of leather, copper-toed boots setting along beside the stove, drying out after they had become full of snow on the trip to school and that frost bitten toes and heels were not unusual.
The Myers’ and Randolph children walked the farthest distance to school; however, Mrs. Cowley writes that she and her sister, Elizabeth (Bettie) Creason, walked two miles on top of deep drifts which covered the fences. Sometimes their father would come for them riding a horse and leading one, and as many as could clinch on the horses’ back would have a “lift” home. She declares the children did not suffer from the cold because they wore woolen dresses, flannel petticoats, long woolen underwear and woolen stockings which their mothers knit for them. Woolen hoods and gloves or mittens completed their wardrobe. They wore high-topped overshoes. The girls’ wardrobes changed in the spring to homemade gingham and calico dresses, sunbonnets and aprons.
The school grounds sloped from east to west. There two trees in front of the schoolhouse. They were almost directly in front of the door and about 20 feet apart, the first one being about thirty feet from the door. Mrs. Cowley writes that there were plenty of hazelnut bushes just “west of the school grounds,” and that sometimes the teacher would send one of the pupils out to get a switch when someone had to be punished. The shrubs furnished the pupils with nuts, which was often the cause of them having to “stand on the floor” for cracking them with their teeth and eating them during school hours.
Mrs. Maude Singleton Taggart of Chillicothe, who was Maude Hicks when she attended Fairland, described how a length of fence on the north side of the building, which was used for a hitching rack, also served the boys and girls who were “sweet” on each other as a telephone system. The railing was of a hollow gas pipe running through the posts. Private conversations could be held by speaking through the pipe and then listening through the tube to what the other had to say.
Some of the games enjoyed were shinny, anti-over, drop-the-handkerchief, draw (something like dare base), wrestling, cross tag, town ball and whip-cracks. During the winter months, skating was enjoyed on a pond just outside the school grounds. Regardless of the cold weather, most of the pupils were eager to play games out-of-doors at the noon hour. Mr. Alexander writes that they would choose sides and have snow battles and that Fox and Geese were greatly enjoyed. Dr. Myers described the game of Battle and Wedge. It was played at the end of a wrestling game. Down on hands and knees, the victor became the wedge. The defeated one was swung by hands and feet as the maul, and when the wedge and maul made the contact, the jarring result was often anything but pleasant for the participants, but Dr. Myers declares, “lots of fun to watch”.
S. M. Curry, who taught at Fairland in 1879 listed the following tests used that year: Mr. McGuffey’s Spellers and a series of readers; Ray’s Arithmetic; Montieth’s Geography; Harvey’s English Grammar; and J. T. Rothwell who taught in 1879 added Quackenboes’ U. S. History and Civil Government. Slates, pens and pencils and foolscap paper were used in the early days.
It could not be determined who was Fairland’s first teacher in 1846. The earliest one recorded was J. F. Ford in 1876 who received a salary of $35.00. From that date until 1888 the following teachers are listed: J. B. Van Papelandam, S. M. Curry, J. T. Rothwell, Anna Stone, Fanny Hawkins, W. A. Dixon, M. K. Crouch, J. T. Smith and Mary Hawkins. Directors for the year of 1876 were G. W. Wolfskill, S. A. Alexander and J. A. Duncan.
Date of the first enumeration of the children of the district recorded was March 31, 1879 naming 32 boys and 22 girls.
The list follows: William Canning, C. W. Canning, Thomas Canning, Josephine Creason, Nancy Creason, Elizabeth Creason, Molly Coon, George Clevenger, K. Alexander, George Alexander, Spencer Alexander, Mary Ingram, Nettie Chambers, Hattie Chambers, J. M. Myers, C. L. Myers, J. L. Myers, Emma Wright, Mary Wright, Robert Sweeney, Mattie Sweeney, Miller Sweeney, Maria Kerlin, Agnes Merlin, Sally Kerlin, Frank Kerlin, Bob Kerlin, George Wardrip, Priscella Troombly, George Troombly, Elizah Wolfskill, John Singleton, Dan Singleton, Kate Singleton, Bettie Singleton, Wesley Singleton, Robert Singleton, Melissa Harris, John Harris, James Harris, James Anderson, William Anderson, Cooper Anderson, Jennie Gray, Lalla Gray, Robert Gray, William Gray, John Wilson, Willie Walden, Rebecca Sterling, William Sterling, George Sterling, James Sterling and John Sterling.
There were 60 children listed in 1882.
Mr. Alexander states that pupils in those days were not advanced by grades, but rather by their ability in mastering the subjects they studied. Usually when a pupil had completed the 5th reader about three times, he was ready to graduate.
Taxpayers of the district in 1882 were S. A. Alexander, George Alexander, William Alexander, John Alexander, John Anderson, Reuben Brown, Ross Canning, Charles Chambers, D. A. Creason, Henry Billow, S. A. Gray, Robert Davis, V. B. Knott, Oscar Knott, Amos Keiser, William Lanter, Simeon Myers, B. C. Myers, Adam Nebergall, D. A. Singleton (senior and junior), Tyree Singleton, J. J. Singleton, R. R. Singleton, William Sterling, J. R. Sweeney, Ithar Shepard, S. A. Troombly, Arsenith Troombly, G. W. Wolfskill (senior and junior), William Wright, Joseph Williams, John King, Thomas Crowley, John Powell, Seton Rowsey, Marion Clothiers and Charles Gleason.
Parker Myers says that small picture cards were given weekly to the pupil winning the most in headmarks in spelling. At the end of the month, larger cards were given the winners and at the end of the term the winners usually received a book as a prize. Mrs. Bill Zweifel of Chillicothe who started to Fairland years later and whose first teacher was Dell Vernard, states that her father, Mac Singleton, won the classic, “Evangeline”, in this way. Both her parents attended Fairland. In later life her father carried mail for eleven years to the school he attended in his youth. James Sterling, also a former Fairland pupil, was his substitute.
The directors of the school often came to pay a visit on Friday afternoons. Mrs. Cowley states that she could never quite enjoy these visits because at such times the pupils were called upon to sing or recite and that she invariably had “stage fright” to such a degree she usually had to be prompted when giving her “speech.”
Literary and debating societies were popular in the early days and Dr. Myers remembers that one subject for debate was “Resolved that the mare is more valuable than the cow.”
While singing schools were not held at Fairland, many from the district attended those at the Bedford school. Mrs. Zweifel has her father’s tuning fork which he used on such occasions.
Church services were held irregularly at the schoolhouse.
Christmas programs were looked forward to with eagerness by pupils and parents alike, since every child was included in them in songs, recitations or dialogues.
Basket dinners, followed by afternoon programs, were enjoyed at the close of the school terms.
Miss Clara Phillips, who later became Mrs. John VanDyke of Chillicothe, taught Fairland the first year it was consolidated with Bedford in 1915. She not only has the distinction of helping to organize the first consolidated school in the county, but also had the first graduating class in such a district.
Mrs. Goldie Dye was Fairland’s last teacher. Its last directors were Irvin Knox, Mac Singleton and John Ackerson.
Luther Creason, a Fairland teacher, later went to Kansas City and became a leading lumben-nan there.
John Linton, another teacher, was an official for the Illinois Central Railroad Company.
Three of Simeon Myers’ sons are leading doctors in Kansas City. Dr. Ben Myers is a surgeon, Dr. Alex Myers is a general practitioner, and Dr. John Myers is an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist. Together they formed and have operated the well-known Myers’ Clinic at Eleventh and Grand for many years.
The writer welcomes additional information regarding Fairland School through the pages of the Constitution-Tribune, for since these histories of Livingston County’s little rural schools are being written with the thought of them standing as permanent records, it is important that they are made as complete and accurate as possible.