Black School Was Started 112 Years Ago, Ended in 1910
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, October 5, 1954.

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by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune


(Number of pupils there became teachers, doctors and well-known citizens)

It was quite by chance that the writer found there had ever existed a school by the name of Black.  No plat or record of the school could be found to establish its location as to district, township and range.  However, through Mrs. Sallie Wigfield of 917 Locust Street, Chillicothe, the information finally came to light.  Mrs. Wigfield has furnished most of the data for the school’s history.

The school derived its name from Willis Black, a pioneer from Kentucky, who gave the land for the school site about the year of 1842.  The school was located in Jackson Township, Section 14, Township 59, and Range 25.  It was approximately 14 miles north of Chillicothe, and northwest of Pinkley school.  In the year of 1910 the southeast portion of Black became a part of Pinkley district and the rest of the district merged with Blackburn.

Mrs. Frances Girdner of Chillicothe, who is a niece of Willis Black, said when Black school ceased to function, the building was moved one-half mile south to the farm of Mr. Black and used for a shop.  Mrs. Girdner was Frances Black when she attended the school.  One of her teachers, Dr. William Girdner, later became her husband.  At the age of 17, he was graduated from the Gem City Business College at Quincy and then later was graduated from the Kansas City Medical College.  He practiced medicine first in Springhill and then in Chillicothe for many years until his death.

Barbee Boyle, now Mrs. W. C. Hutchinson of Kansas City, Missouri, started to Black in 1876.  Her first teacher was Wright Smith who taught two terms there.  Other teachers she mentions were Miss Mary Allbritain, John Frances, Mr. Worthy, Henry O’Neal and Hattie Thompson.  She entered Stanberry Normal in 1886, attending through 1888 and then taught a subscription spring term at Black with some twelve pupils enrolled.  She continued teaching in rural schools until her marriage to Mr. Hutchinson in 1896.  Mr. Hutchinson lived in the Blackburn district.

Sallie Hicklin, now Mrs. Wigfield, started to Black in 1878.  She later taught two terms at Black.  She was married to John Wigfield in 1903.

Mrs. Wigfield said the school terms in those days were divided into about four months of winter and two or three of spring.  Her first teacher was Wright Smith.  She considers Henry O’Neal one of her outstanding teachers.  He was school commissioner when he taught Black.  Seven of his eighth grade pupils became teachers, namely T. L. Hicklin, Robert Lee Black, Richard Frances, Thomas McCarthy, Barbee Boyle, W. H. Anderson and Nannie Wingo.  Robert Lee Black became an outstanding citizen in his community.  Richard Frances later became a doctor.  He first practiced in Springhill and then went to Arizona in 1892.  Other teachers named by Mrs. Wigfield were Ed Sailor, Catherine Shay, Hattie Thompson, Dr. F. G. Phelps, Ben Porterfield, Annie Stewart Williams, who was then county superintendent of schools in 1894, J. H. Cusick, Gertie Hutchinson, Sally Hicklin, Bettie Herring, Boyd Wingo, Jone Hines, Nevin Wetzel, who later studied medicine and practiced in Springfield.

Mrs. Wigfield said that Dr. T. J. Phelps taught the children to sing.  He used a tuning fork.  She has a copy of the songbook which was used, “Golden Songs”.

Mrs. Nannie White of Chillicothe, who was Nannie Massingill, started to Black in 1884 after having attended Pinkley her first two years.  Her father, Porter Massingill, paid taxes in this district that she might attend Black, since it was much nearer the home than was Pinkley.  Her parents lived ¾ mile from the school in an old log house.  Some of the logs from this house were used later in building the Campbell Country Club house.

Her father owned a mill and people came from far and near with horses and ox teams bringing corn to be ground into meal.

Her first teacher at Black was Miss Laura Miller who later married Lewis Boyle.  Miss Eva Gamble was her next teacher.  She said there were approximately 35 pupils attending school.

The schoolhouse was built by the neighbors.  It was a frame, weather-boarded building of native lumber.  It faced the south and seated forty pupils.  Some of the time four pupils sat on one bench.  The benches were of pine and oak.  Mrs. Girdner said new benches were made later by Lee Black.  The floor was of six-inch boards.  There painted blackboards on either side of the south door.  Sheep skin erasers were used until 1881 when felt ones were purchased.

There was one window in the north end of the building and three on both the east and west sides.  There were nails in the spaces between the windows for wraps.  The building was heated by a box type wood-burning stove with a drum on top.  Mrs. White said it was often used by pupils to thaw out the apples which would freeze in their dinner pails.

The building was lighted when necessary with two small lamps which belonged to the school.  They set on small homemade shelves on the wall.  Patrons brought lamp and lanterns when entertainments were held at the school at night.  Mrs. Wigfield has the small lamp which was carried to the school from her parents’ home on many occasions.  It is about 85 years old.

The school never had a well.  Children would speak ahead for the privilege of going with another schoolmate to carry a bucket of water from some well near the school.  The water was carried in a wooden bucket, and a pole was thrust under the handle of the bucket to make carrying easier.

A cottonwood tree, which stood on the school ground when the land was deeded, remained alive until the school ceased to function. 

Games played in Mrs. Wigfield’s day were Town Ball, Ring-Around-The-Rosy, Dare Base and Andiover.

Subjects studied during her schooldays were history, Harvey’s Grammar, Ray’s series of Arithmetics, spelling, McGuffey’s series of readers and Montieth’s Geography, which was graded.  She said the pupils learned to spell the word geography by memorizing the following sentence: “George Elliot’s old grandmother rode a pony home yesterday.”

Mrs. Wigfield has her McGuffey’s fourth reader, as well as Ray’s Progressive Reader and Definer for Infant and Primary school, which text was used by both her mother and father when they attended school in a little log building about seven miles northwest of Springhill.

When the writer inquired how the book could have been so well preserved all these years, Mrs. Wigfield explained that children in those days had a cloth cover on all their books, and used thumb cards to protect the leaves.  The thumb cards used by Mrs. Wigfield in her books were given by general merchandise stores.  They were small picture cards.

She had double slate bound with red felt.  The slate pencils were kept between the two slates which were laced together.

Headmark winners were often rewarded by the teacher who gave them small tickets.  When a pupil received ten of these, these were traded for a large card.  When ten large cards were earned, the pupil received a prize of some kind, usually a book.  Mrs. Wigfield won several books in this manner and also a 2 ½ pound box of candy, which in those days was certainly a treat.

Mrs. Wigfield has in her possession a rare merit card which belonged to Lizzie Cravens.  It has her name written on it and also the name of Dora B. Saylor, teacher.  There is no date to tell when the merit award was won, but Mrs. Wigfield said it was before her school days.  It resembles a check.  Written in rather large letters are the words “National Bank of Merit.  Four shares of Stock to the Holder”.  Just below this is the statement, “God offers Reward.  They both encourage me.  My teacher also.”  Pictured on the slip of paper is a little girl seated among roses, her hat at her feet and holding a book.  She is looking up.  On the other side is pictured a boy and girl looking at a large book together.  In the lower left hand corner is a picture of a train.  Mrs. Wigfield thinks this merit award must be at least 80 years old. 

Spelling matches were popular in the early days.  They were considered great entertainment for all.  They were usually held on Friday afternoon.  Each side had a trapper, an excellent speller.  These trappers caught the misspelled word, spell it correctly and passed toward the head of the row of spellers to the place where the word had first been misspelled.  The trapper reaching the head of the line first won the game for his or her side.

Basket dinners were enjoyed at the close of the school term.  A short program would follow the dinner, or an exhibition would be given at night.  The entertainment included dialogues, recitations, and songs.  Other community activities at the school were literary societies, spelling matches with nearby schools including Hicks, Potter, Happy Hollow and Hosman.

Once in a while protracted meetings were held at the schoolhouse and Sunday School through the summer months.  Mrs. Wigfield recalls two ministers who preached at Black, namely Brother Griner and Rev. Taylor.

Among early taxpayers were J. F. Black, Porter Massingill, J. B. Frances, James Ramsey, Lank White, Lewis Boyle, Wilson Black, Bill McCarthy, who served as director for many years, and Andrew Young.

Schoolmates she recalled were Barbee, Ethel and Josie Boyle; Pet and Nell Black; W. H. Drury; Joe, Frank, Orin, Mamie and Bessie Anderson; Emma, Tilda, Kate, Andy, Mart, Ben Reuben and Bill Young; Nannie and Daniel Massingill; tom, Bill, Ed, Jennie, Bettie and Lula Hicklin; Bill, Mark, Charles, Tom, John, Fannie, Lyda and Mattie White.

Among early directors were Frank and Wm. Hicklin whose father was among the first pioneers of Jackson township.