Gish School 
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, October 25, 1952.

Return to Schools page


by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune



Providing schools for their children was one of the first concerns of the foundling fathers. Down through the years, this problem has always been given serious consideration by the American people.

The first schools were either supported by the churches or were private schools maintained by subscriptions.  Later, when the state took over, there finally came into existence the public school free to all.

It is thought that the first school to be established in Missouri was probably  on the present site of the city of St. Louis in 1774. The first schoolhouses, like their patrons dwellings, were of necessity crude affairs, There were no saw mills nor brick kilns, and building hardware, such, as nails and hinges, as well as glass, were either unobtainable or too expensive to use.  Many of the first structures were built of logs chinked with clay. Floors were often laid with split logs, the smooth side up. Desks in some of the schools were slanted boards pegged into the logs and seats were straight benches without backs. Children hung their wraps on pegs driven into the logs. and used slates for their handwork.

Schools greatly improved in structure, equipment and curriculum after the Civil War. Little one roomed rural schools rapidly dotted the countryside until they were finally built in such close proximity that no child was compelled to walk a long distance to attend school. These little schools continued to flourish and to function admirably until the advent of improved methods of farming and transportation which resulted in a great influx of farmers into cities and towns.  This in turn caused the rural districts to become so sparsely settled, that the need of consolidation and centralization become apparent. Many of these rural schools however, continued to function until the Missouri school law known as Senate Bill No. 307 was enacted In July of 1948, which provided for school district reorganization and which has resulted in various rural schools in a community being grouped into one consolidated district.

From that date until the present time, rural schools have been rapidly closing their doors never to open again to the resounding bells on the first Monday in September.  So swiftly has this situation come about that with their work ended in many instances the story of their early history will be lost to future generations, unless some one records it while old records are obtainable (which are very few as of now), and while interviews are yet possible with those who went to school in them in the long ago.

Since these rural schools have been a dynamic force in the shaping of our “American way of life," their beginnings and achievements are worthy of note.  By their precepts and high ideals, scores of distinguished men and women who taught in them, influenced and modeled characters of many of their pupils to the extent that they too went out into the world to become great and goo citizens.  Some of these boys and girls grew up to become such illustrious individuals, that their names have been and are being recorded in the annals of our American History.

The early history and final disposition of three of these rural schools which have closed their doors in Reorganized District R-IV in Livingston County follows, first with the Gish School:


The square acre of for the Gish or North Wheeling School, which is situated two miles north of Wheeling, was given by Dr. John C. Gish in 1856. 

Much of the information obtained about this school’s history came from an interview with Miss Emma Lowry at Wheeling, who went to school at Gish School in 1865 at the age of 5 years.

The frame building had furniture made of box lumber.  There was a desk the full length of the room on the north, which was fastened to the wall in a slanted position.  The pupils sat on benches with their books piled at their sides.  There were windows on two sides of the building with blackboards painted on the walls between them.  Heat was furnished by a box stove in the center of the room.  Pupils hung their wraps on nails at the back of the room.  There was also a bench in the back which held the dinner pails.

Water was carried a short distance from the Joel Gish farm in an oaken bucket for drinking purposes.  The boys and girls took turns drinking from the one dipper the school afforded.  When lights were need for an evening’s entertainment at the schoolhouse, coal oil lamps were brought from the homes of the patrons attending.

Other that the textbooks and slates used, Miss Lowry does not recall other school equipment, such as maps, globes, etc.

They studied geography.  Ray’s oral and written arithmetic.  McGuffy’s readers and spellers.  The teachers set the copies in their copybooks, and since each teacher wrote a different hand, it was difficult for the pupils to develop a skill in handwriting.

Miss Lowry’s first teacher was a Mr. Bashfield.  Some time later Miss Harriet Allen of LaPort, Indiana, who was a niece of Mrs. Sam Gish living in the district, taught two terms of school.  Misses Minnie and Alice, they were two other early teachers.

The fall and winter school term lasted from September through December.  The spring term began in April and continued through May.  The larger pupils had to miss several weeks of school during the busy season to help with farm work.  Corn in those days was planted with a hoe.

School activities included spelling matches, singing schools and a basket dinner followed with a program by the pupils on the last day of school.  The programs consisted of recitation, dialogues and talks by the patrons and teacher.  Church services and Sunday School were also held at intervals in the school building.  Miss Lowry could recall but one game played by the pupils during intermission.  That was Anti-over.

Some of the early patrons of the district were J. C. Gish, George Gish, Joel Gish, (all relatives of Miss Lowry) Jack and Rem Cooper, William Evans, Willis Patterson, and the Carlyle family.

The first school building was blown from its foundation by a tornado in 1875;  however it was repaired and used until it burned in 1884.  The new building was erected 1885 and it was used until the school ceased to function at the close of the school term in April of 1940, it having been voted on July 9, 1940 with a vote of 93 for and 28 against, to discontinue having school there.  The school district had been consolidated with the Wheeling School in 1916, but continued to function until the year of 1940.  That fall pupils from the district were transported by bus to the Wheeling School.  The first bus driver was Edwin Keeler of Bedford.

The last teacher for the school was Mrs. Mildred Templeton.  The board of directors at the at time of its closing consisted of the following members: Forrest Sensenich, Mont warren, Ernest Timmons, Frank Smiley Jr., Clarence Davis and Glen Watson.

The school building and land were sold to Glen Cutsall in 1943.  The family converted its interior into rooms and lived there in it for some time.  Finall Mr. Cutsall razed the building and erected a one-story dwelling from the schoolhouse lumber.  The house is located just north of the old schoolhouse site