Tells the Story of Blackoak (Kapp) School Near Avalon
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, December 2, 1952.

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by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune



Martin Kapp, a pioneer from Pennsylvania, and R. R. Browning, a settler in the school district in 1850, each gave one-half an acre of land for the Blackoak or Kapp school. Mr. Kapp was an uncle of F. W. Rickenbrode of Avalon, and Mr. Browning was the father of S. A. Browning of Chillicothe and Sam Browning of Avalon.

The school, which was situated two miles south of Avalon, was built in the fall of 1869 by Jim Fullerton, who lived in the neighborhood. Before this building was erected, a log schoolhouse, which was about twenty rods south of the new school site, was used; one of the first schools built in the Avalon district before the Civil War.

The new building, wooden in structure, was set on pillars. It was approximately 22x30 feet and faced east. It was weather-boarded and ceiled on the inside. There were no shades for the four windows on either side of the house, and newspapers were used over the south window to keep out the sun. The floor was made of six-inch pine boards.

The parents made the first seats for their children from sawed lumber. They were benches with backs. A slanted board along the wall answered for a writing desk. There were long back-less recitation benches, a desk for the teacher and smaller seats for the little ones. In 1871, manufactured desks were installed, however, the hand-made teacherís desk, the blackboard and recitation benches continued in use much longer.

The blackboard, which was on the west end of the building, was made of three 12-inch boards about eight feet long, nailed together and painted black. Carpenterís chalk was used, which the pupils furnished. Erasers were made of sheep skin tacked on blocks of wood. Wraps were hung on nails, which were driven in two by fours on the wall on either side of the entrance.

The building was heated by a wood-burning box stove in the center of the room. There were three coal-oil lamps in brackets with reflectors, which furnished light for night entertainments at the school. Water was carried in a cedar bucket from the Kapp farm, which was directly across the road from the school. All drank from one dipper.

The playground was on the south side of the building. Games enjoyed were baseball, Blackman, Dare Base, Drop-the handkerchief, and Cat-a Corner, a ball game played with paddles. North of the school was timberland, where the teacher allowed the boys to go rabbit hunting at the noon hour. Once there was bedlam when a live opossum was captured and turned loose in the school.

The first teacher was Millard Rohrer, who later was mayor of Council Bluffs. He was the son of Judge Rohrer. Then followed in succession, Miss Jones who married Charles Walston of Hale; R. T. Miller, Dwight Wilson, George Hill, John D. Keller, whose daughter is Mrs. N. C. Barnes of Meadville; William Millay and H. F. Kapp. In recalling these teachers, F. W. Rickenbrode said that while none were high school graduates, all were excellent teachers. Early outstanding teachers named by the Browning brothers were Sally Ray, Misses Mary and Mabel Hawkins, F. W. Rickenbrode of Avalon, Miss Jennie R? of Bedford, who now resides in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Miss Olive Green. The latter married G. W. Rambo and they were the parents of Mrs. Rambo Cook of Austin, Texas, formerly of Chillicothe.

The average teacherís salary during the schoolís early years was from $25.00 to $30.00 a month. Most of the teachers boarded at the R. H. Browning home. They usually paid $1.50 a week for room and board.

Names of some of the early patrons of the district were Rickenbrode, Browning, Kidwell, Spears, Rawlins, Piper, Banks, Corning, Carpenter, G?, Plummer and Powers. The Kidwell children walked the farthest to school, a distance of two miles.

Tests studied at that time were McGuffy readers and spellers, Rayís Arithmetics, including mental and higher, Stoddardís Intellectual Arithmetic, Montiethís Geography, Civil Government, Grammar, Physiology, Algebra and Barnes American History. Spencerian copybooks were used.

People came for miles (in bobsleds when the snow was on) to attend community activities held at the school. Among them were spelling schools, literary societies, exhibitions, and, later, pie and box suppers. Basket dinners were given the last day of school.

The penmanship classes for adults, held at the schoolhouse at night, were outstanding. These classes were held one night a week for a period of some ten weeks. Each student paid a small fee to attend. Sometimes the enrollment numbered from twenty to thirty. Two outstanding penmanship teachers were Manlove Butler and F. E. Riley, who later was cashier at the Citizenís National Bank in Chillicothe.

The earliest enumeration obtainable was taken from a Daily Register for the year of 1875, beginning September 6. It was recorded by George G. Millay, teacher, as follows:

William J. Rawlins, 14; Fielding Rawlins, 6; Edward Heath, 13; Elmer Schultz, 11; Warren C. Kapp, 8; Willie Rickenbrode, 9; Frank R. Plummer, 10; John C. Plummer, 7; Robert H. Browning, 11; Alonzo C. Kidwell, 11; Charles Hereford, 18; George Corning, 12; Web Rickenbrode, 15; Clara E. Kapp, 18; Alice L. Spears, 10; Nora S. Spears, 8; Loulou Spears, 5; Amanda Browning, 13; Ella Browning, 9; Katie Browning, 7; Lizzie Browning, 5; Lottie A. Rickenbrode, 10; Lilly Schultz, 9; Nettie Odell, 9; Mary Broaddus, 9.

R. H. Browning, Sol Rickenbrode, and Stewart Plummer were among the earliest patrons to serve on the school board. Mr. Rickenbrode served as clerk for a number of years.

In 1915 Kapp was consolidated with the Avalon School district. Later the building was sold to Ola Burgard who razed it.

No doubt through the years, any number of boys and girls have gone out from this school to become distinguished citizens in their communities. Sam Browning told of one such pupil, his seatmate, the late Charles Banks of St. Louis, who distinguished himself by serving as superintendent of the school of University City for twenty-five years. Value and interest would be added to this history should those of you who know former pupils who have or are outstanding citizens, add your contribution.

Five former pupils of the Kapp school were interviewed for this history, namely: Mr. and Mrs. Guy Snyder, who furnished the picture for the history, the Browning brothers, S. A. of Chillicothe and Sam of Avalon, and F. W. Rickenbrode of Avalon, who also taught in the school in 1884-86-87, after his graduation from the Avalon College.

Mr. and Mrs. Snyder and Sam Browning are enterprising farmers in the Avalon community. Mr. Snyder now owns the farm which his grandfather, George Corning, purchased from Martin Kapp.

S. A. Browning started to Kapp school in 1880. After graduating from Avalon College and Central Christian College at Albany, he became a successful business man at Avalon. For years he was director of the Citizens Bank of Avalon, which institution weathered the depression. He served his county as state representative and served in the 57th and special terms of the General Assembly. Later, as receiver, under the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, he successfully supervised and liquidated some 17 banks. At present he is in the insurance business in Chillicothe.

F. W. Rickenbrode of Avalon, who celebrated his 92nd birthday on August 6 of this year, started to Kapp school in 1870 when he moved with his parents from Pennsylvania to a farm in the Avalon neighborhood. He has all the books he ever studied, back to his McGuffyís First Reader. He was president of his graduating class at Avalon College in 1885 and also president of his Alumni Association. A farmer, Mr. Rickenbrode has been an outstanding agricultural, civic, social and religious leader in this community and county.

He was the Farm Bureauís first county president and was chosen its delegate to the state and also the national convention at Chicago. He also served as a state board member of the Missouri Farmerís Association.

He was organizer and secretary-treasurer of the board of Producerís Creamery in Chillicothe.

In his community he taught music in his younger days and was leader of the Avalon band and sang tenor in cantatas given at the Avalon College. He served as president of the Avalon School Board for many years, was president of the board of the Avalon Exchange and was township Republican committeeman for several years.

He served the Avalon Presbyterian Church as treasurer for 14 years and for fifty years was its Sunday School superintendent.

His travels have taken him to Canada and Mexico and in all but five of the States.

He is widely read, and has an extensive personal library in his home in the north part of Avalon.