Wallace Hooker Tells History of the Center District 
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, November 20, 1957.

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Wallace Hooker Tells History of the Center District 

by Wallace T. Hooker

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune

The following article was prepared by Wallace Hooker for a school event.  Center district, in northern Livingston County, within the last year has become a part of the Livingston R-III school district and friends have urged that Mr. Hooker's information be recorded in print.

With the passing of Center school district, Cream Ridge township, into the recently formed R-III consolidated district, it might be of interest to some to very briefly review the history of the district, from the Indians to consolidation.  Data was obtained from Rader's "Civil Government and History of Missouri," "History of Livingston and Caldwell Counties" and old clerk records in preparing this article.  This article pertains solely to the happenings within the limits of Sections 17, 18, 19, and 20, Cream Ridge township.

It's not my privilege to know of what race or color were the little boys and girls who romped the old Center school grounds before little Geronimo and little Sitting Bull chose up sides to play "scalp the paleface."

Center school district has been inhabited by at least two races, the red race and the white race.  Center has been a territorial possession of both Spain and France, having been twice owned by France.  Napoleon Bonaparte of France, needing some quick money, sold Center to President Jefferson for about 38c per acre.  Center has been in both a territory and a state.  Since Missouri became a territory, Center has been in four different counties; Howard, Ray, Carroll and Livingston.  Since Livingston became a county, Center has been in two different townships, Chillicothe and Cream Ridge.  Since organization, Center has been known under two different numbers, six and 15, and has held school in two houses.

Center has furnished free educational privileges to children of the district for 86 years, employed at leasat 70 teachers; 13 men and 57 women of which 11 of the women were married.  Monthly wages paid teachers ranged from $18.50 to $265.

First a Subscription School

Before the Civil War, a group of men organized a subscription school 1/2 mile due south of Center school, agreeing to pay a teacher a stipulated amount of money for a specified length of time, and boarding the teacher for free.  A man by the name of David Wright was said to have been one of the teachers who taught there.  Only occasional pieces of crumbling brick and sandrock bear mute testimony of its once existence.

Settlement of Center began in 1838, but mass settlement did not begin until the late 40s or early 50s.  Francis Preston was the first man to settle in Center on the SW1/4 of the SW1/4, Section 19, in 1838.  The Preston family was followed by Josiah Austin in 1839 on the SW1/4 of the SW1/4 of Section 18.  Gabriel May settled the SW1/4 of Section 20 in 1840.  He was followed by Solomen R. Hooker, who settled the NE1/4 of Section 19 in 1841.  For many years these four families comprised the sole inhabitants of old Center.

The first wedding in Center was that of Margaret Preston, daughter of Francis Preston, to George P. Pullian.

Susan, an old slave woman belong to Francis Preston, was the first death.

Church Formed in 1840

The first religious service held in Center district was in the home of Francis Preston.  The Rev. Ruben Aldridge, a Baptist minister, conducted the service.  In this home history records, a Baptist church was organized in 1840 by the name of the Chillicothe Church.  This church is known today as Union Baptist Church.

The first building to be erected solely for religious purposes was the M.E. South Church, St. Paul, in 1874.  The church organized in 1871 and held services in the Center schoolhouse until 1874.  Only a sugar maple tree marks its passing.

Center school district was organized in 1871.  The following men were chosen as directors:  Wm. F. McGee, president; James May, clerk, and Purnell Hill, member.  A schoolhouse was built costing $434.  A well was dug, labor and material costing $42.  A stove was purchased costing $19.  A contract was let for wood for fuel for $14.  Warrant No. 1 drawn for $25 was made payable to Louisa Austin for teaching the month of September.  Andrew Mires, for reasons ungiven, was employed to teach the three remaining months of October, November and December for $40 per month.  Warrant No. 30, dated March 11, 1873, payable to Wm. Vance, was drawn for the sum of $3 for a deed to the acre of school ground.  The same year Solomen R. Hooker was given a contract to fence the school yard for $45, the north side to be of plank and the south and east sides of rails.

Fire Destroyed First Building

Also in 1873 a vestibule (the old antiroom) was added to the schoolhouse.  In 1878 the school house was painted.  One hundred pounds of white lead and seven gallons of linseed oil cost $14.  Labor cost $8.25.  This house burned in the spring of 1921 and was replaced by the present building the same year.

When Center district was dissolved, the following persons were directors:  Richard Hargrave, president; Mrs. Gerald Graham, clerk, and Joseph J. Hinnen, Jr., member.  Mrs. Lydia Tharpe was the last teacher.

Following is a roster of teachers known to have taught Center:  Louisa Austin, Andrew Mires, John Reed, Augustus Burris, Hattie Sawyer, Wm. T. Harper, Sylvia Gifford, Wm. Allbritton, Maggie Hanna, George Muers, C.B. Wallace, Taylor Hooker, Alice Bradford, John J. May, Janie McGee, Della Cosgrove, Mrs. Elva Hanna, Eva Ward, Dixie Wallace, Frank Hortenstein, Jennie Phillips, Melda Cole, Maude Knaus, Kate May, Minta Ballenger, Rosa Harmon, Joseph Duzenberry.

Etta Pearcy, Jennie Emely, Adelia Moore, Virginia Bell, Guyle P. Foster, Annie Hutchison, Ethel Terrill, Carl C. Myers, Dell Venard, Lizzie Morris, Elsie Bradbury, Rosa Martin, Grace Cleveland, Ella Case, Alice Terrill, Helen Ward, Lulu McCoy, Prof. Hart, Mrs. Roberta Jones, Bertha Case, Mrs. Florence Ward Wyeth, Bernice Smith, Helen Owens, Cleo Dickman, Mildred Steele, Edythe Mammen, Velda Gudgell.

Isabelle Ruddy, Ruth Lawler, Mrs. Ray Holder, Mrs. John Hutchinson, Ardith Lair, Virginia Cloud, Mrs. Lorene Sherrow, Doris Kilburn, Frances Cook, Mrs. Frances Maupin, Mrs. Ruth Barnett, Delphi Odell, Mrs. Marie Warner, Mrs. Mildred Haas, and Mrs. Lydia Tharpe.

Pupils Past 70

This article would not be complete without paying tribute to a group of pupils of Old Center who have far outlived their allotted three score and ten years.

Mrs. Amy May, age 96, was a pupil of Andrew Mires in the early 70s.

Lemuel S. Taylor, 90 in August, started to Center in the early 80s.  His first teacher was C.B. Wallace.

Lewis Graham, 90 next September, started to Center in the early 80s.

Mrs. Anna Thieme Broyles, 87, started to Center as a second term pupil in the early 80s.  Her first teacher at Center was Dixie Wallace.

Mrs. Mary Broyles Taylor, 87, attended Center in the early 80s.  Her first teacher was Alice Bradford.

James E. May, 79, attended Center in the later 80s.  His first teacher was John J. May.


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