Brush College School History
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, July 10, 1958.

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by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune


No records of Brush College school were obtainable. However, Abner Cunningham of Dawn was interviewed and was able to supply many interesting facts about the school's early history. It was his father, Abner T. Cunningham, who gave the acre of land for the school site, which is in Township 57, Range 25, District 49, and was 2 miles east of Mooresville on a main road where caravans of families went by in pioneer days on their way west. On the side of some of their wagons was the slogan, "Kansas or Bust", and Mr. Cunningham said when some returned on their way back the slogan was apt to read, "In God we trusted; in Kansas we busted". These movers often stopped at the Cunningham farm, which was one-fourth mile west of the school, to buy supplies for their use and for that of their livestock.

The first school building was of logs and was built in 1870. It faced the east, and was approximately l6x20, with a window in the center of the two sides about a foot square. It had a clapboard roof. Such a roof was split from lumber about 2 feet long and six inches wide and laid for shingles. The floor was of foot-wide boards of native lumber, with cracks about an inch wide between the lengths. The seats were hand-made benches without backs, each large enough to hold five students. There were 10 of them, five on either side of the room with an aisle down the center.

Students kept their books on the seat by their side. Wooden pegs projected from the logs on which the pupils hung their wraps. Dinner pails were placed on the floor in the comer of the room. Those dinner pails held such delicacies as hard-boiled eggs, sandwiches of home-baked bread spread with fresh, sweet better and jellies, jams, preserves, or stuffed with rounds of sausages, or slices of home-cured ham. Some contained crullers and cookies of various kinds or white butter cakes with luscious icings, fruit pies, popcorn balls and apples which were either winter kept in eaves or buried deep in mounds of hay in the open, they were apt to take on the taste of the sweet, scented, dried grasses which they were covered.

The writer recalls another delicacy that was popular with all the children during her school days in the country. A jar of cream was seasoned and sweetened and placed in the dinner pall and when it was time to eat lunch, snow was mixed with it until it was the right consistency to eat with a spoon. Mother sometimes cooked cornbread and saturated it with butter as she took it from the oven and wedges of it, which had been split and buttered while it was hot were most delicious. Though most of the families of the children, or perhaps all of them, had cows to milk, I can never remember having seen any children bringing milk in their dinner buckets. Surely the value of milk for growing children was not known, or at least not stressed in those days.

There were approximately 25 pupils enrolled at Brush College the first year and the attendance steadily increased to 40. Sig Mellon was the first teacher. He lived 1 east and south of the school and received a salary of $30 a month. The terms were of six months duration with no spring term. Other early teachers Mr. Cunningham remembered were Mary Albrittain, Helen Leeper, Florence Blackwell, Mr. Ramsey, Warren Hudgins, and Mr. Davis. Later Ethel Nagel, Fannie Reynolds, Nancy Willard, Mr. Houston and Mr. McHood taught. A. T. Cunningham, Asa Kirtley and Asa Rockhold were the first directors. Early taxpayers included the names of Cunningham, Rockhold, Mellon, Kirtley, Benson, Grigg, Potts, and Wells.

Some of his schoolmates were Nannie, Genevive, Carrie, May, Lucy and Lennie Rockhold; Bertha, Joe, Ben and Harry Cunningham; Iva, Hattie, May, Mattie and Birdie Kirtley; Bertha, Clara, Dorothy and Odessa Walz; Dora, Nellie, Robert and John Murray; Melvin, Homer, Neil and Pony Kirtley; Clara, Florence, Emma, Albert and Anna Blackwell; Anna Paynes; Ethel Wells; George, Albert, John, Frank and Charles Byron; Ray, Edith and Maude Galbreath; Florence, Hugh, John and Will Benson; Will and Julia Gregg; Spencer Golden; Charles Falconer; Walter Burnett; Eza Fish; Emerson Hart; Bert Warren; Will, Charles and Lou Maybay; Vern Sherman; Louis and Charles Osborn; Emma and Frank Murry; Belle and Frank Pulliam.

The second building was frame erected on the same site. It was approximately 20x30 and had three windows on the north and south sides. It faced the east with the door in that end. The building was weather boarded and painted white. The blackboard was of painted boards and extended across the west end of the room. The seats held two pupils each and they had a place for books underneath. A wood stove in the east end warmed the room. There was an anteroom for wraps and dinner pails. The girls used one side and the boys the other. The teacher's desk was in front of the room. There were maps on the wall. Water was carried about one-half mile by two pupils, in a cedar bucket with brass bands around it. Each day a different couple was privileged to go for the water. One tin dipper served all.

Games popular in Mr. Cunningham's day were drop-the handkerchief, blind-man's bluff, London bridge, dare base, shinny, crack-the-whip, and fox and geese, and the show was on. School activities included literary societies; school plays at Christmas with Santa and treats, arithmetic matches, debates, and basket dinners at the close of school. Singing school was held part of the time with Sig Mellon as teacher. Mr. Barrow taught instrumental music. Sunday School was held for years in the second building and Mr. Cunningham's father served as superintendent of it most of the time. The group eventually merged with the Mooresville Methodist Church and the Utica Baptist Church.

Correspondence from Mrs. Sam Turner of Mooresville in regard to the school reveals that her mother, whose maiden name was Bertha Spears, attended Brush College in 1888 and 1889. Miss Mary Frances Albrittian was teaching there at that time. She had taught at Mooresville the previous year and some of her pupils were so fond of her that they followed her to attend at Brush College. Three boys, Oliver Spears, Ezra Fish and Walter Burnett, who lived in and around Mooresville, walked three miles and more to attend. Other pupils that year were Nan Rockhold; Fawn, Sadie and Charlie Benson; George Snead; Mattie, Florence and Emma Blackwell; Harry Cunningham; Robert and Nellie Kirtley; and Brenda Cunningham. Two girls from Mooresville, Julie Harold and Bertha Spears, boarded in the home of Asa Rockhold.

From 1907 to 1909, Bertha Spears returned to teach Brush College. She was now Mrs. Bertha Gibeaut, and she brought her little daughter, Edith, now Mrs. Turner, with her. They lived in the home of Asa Rockhold and later at the Becknell home which now belongs to Roy Moore. Other pupils then were Marjorie, Nellie, Maud and Effie Flenniken; Russell Umbarger; Walter Hanson; Arvole and Howard McDonald; Robert Kirtley; Genevieve, May and Eugene Rockhold; Lester Bicknell, George Rockhold; Frank Drury; Lawrence, Jr., Estelle and Nellie Bonderer; Dorothy and Clara Walz and Carol Hall. The directors at that time were L. F. Bonderer, Mr. Sherman and Mr. Flenniken. The building was just as it had been in earlier years.

No programs were held that year except on the last day of school, which was given in the forenoon followed by a basket dinner at noon.

Mrs. Gibeaut received several sterling silver spoons from different schools and these are now displayed in a spoon holder. One was from Brush College and has the name inscribed in the bowl. Mrs. Gibeaut is now 86 years of age.

Mrs. Turner stated that a favorite pastime with the boys then was to flip clay mud-balls from long pliant willow sticks which they found on the bank of a little branch near the schoolhouse.

Mrs. Nannie Hudgins of Utica was interviewed. She was Nannie Rockhold when she attended Brush College. Her parents were Mr. and Mrs. James Rockhold who lived one-fourth mile southeast of the school. Her first teacher was Miss Nann Willard. Other teachers she recalled who have not been mentioned were Miss Belle Hogan and Mr. Rumsey. Her father also attended the school and had four brothers and three sisters who also attended. In later years, these brothers' farm all joined each other's. Nannie Rockhold married one of the Brush College teachers, Warren Hudgins, and their two children, Harold and Catherine, also attended the school. Mr. Hudgins' pupils knew much about botany since he was a great lover of nature and taught them on field trips.

Vern Sherman, a former pupil was interviewed. He lives on the farm where he lived when he went to school. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. William Sherman who lived 1 miles southwest. He started in 1904 and his first teacher was Virgil Davis. His son, Weldon, also attended Brush College until it closed in 1931.

He told an amusing incident about a former pupil, Elmer Hanson, when he went to Chicago seeking a job with some railroad company. He was asked if he had ever attended college and he informed them that he had, having Brush College in mind of course. He was given the job and worked for the company many years. Mr. Cunningham told how the school got its name. First, the brush part came from the fact it was located in a thicket of hazel brush, black and red haw trees. Then, advanced subjects were offered its pupils that were not commonly taught in the surrounding rural schools, such as higher mathematics, algebra, geometry, physics, ancient history, literature, and anatomy, hence the name - Brush College.

Miss Nellie Bonderer, who attended Brush College at the same time as did Vern Sherman, named other teachers as follows: Ethel Coburn, Maude Haynes, Evelina Shafer, Carol Hall and Miss Mabel Cramner. Alzora Vadnais was the last teacher. She stated that the school was consolidated with Utica for some time before it closed. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. L. F. Bonderer, lived two miles northeast of the school and her father served as director for a long time. There were seven children in the family who attended.

She said there was always a Christmas program at the school when she attended. One year an igloo was constructed by the children and used instead of the tree and the presents were piled within it. In some manner it caught fire and there was quite some excitement until the fire was extinguished. There was always last-day-of- school entertainments, too. Box and pie suppers were popular then. Four boys and four girls graduated the year she finished.

The school board sold the building finally, to a Mr. Smith, who in turn sold it to Mr. Dameron. He remodeled it into a filling station. He sold it to Mr. H. B. Smith of Mooresville in 1943 who operated it as a filling station for a while. There were two cabins erected on the grounds. Mr. Smith sold the property to Miss Bernice Smith in 1953, who did extensive repairs to the building and landscaped the grounds. She had a cabinet shop in it. She owned it until late last year when the state highway department bought it from her, at which time she built a new residence a short distance from it. At this writing, the building has been razed by the highway department to make room for a new highway.