History of Hicks School
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, November 13, 1953.

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by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune


First building was log affair, present one completed in 1907

The present site of the Hicks School is in Jackson Township, Range 25, District 5, Section 34, five miles northwest of Springhill and fifteen miles west of Chillicothe.

Hicks School has had three buildings since the district first was organized. The first school was built of logs with windows in each side and a door in the north end. It had a puncheon floor. The back-less benches were hewn from logs. There was no blackboard. It was built by William Hicks and George Hobbs. This building stood a little west and across the road from the present site.

The school took its name from the man who deeded the half-acre of land for the school site, William James Hicks. This land is now owned by Harry Shuler.

Data for the school's early history was obtained from Mrs. Lura Cooper, 85 years old, of Trenton, Johnnie Gann, Pat Mallen, and Mrs. J. W. Cole, the latter having furnished important facts and names from old school records which are in her possession.

It was Lura Cooper's grandfather who gave land for the school site. Her father, Newt Hicks, attended school in the little log building.  She started to Hicks School in 1875 at the age of 7. Her parents lived just west of the schoolhouse and had a small store and post office called Genova. Her first teacher was Scott Miller. Other teachers she remembers were Arthur Henderson, Dora and Oss Sailor. Schoolmates recalled were Mary, Elizabeth, Bill and Ed Hicks; John, Chris, Con, and Walter Jackson; George, Mina and Nora Gann; Susie, Lewis and Ed Lish; Willie Wash, Annie, Joe, Jim and Ora Hobbs; John Loven; Charles, Virgil, Gertie, Scottie and John Piper; Josie, Mary, Nora and William Stevens; the two sets of Cusick twins - Jimmie and Jennie and Kate and Mike; Alpha and George Stout; Chubby, Ed and Oss Sailor; Rosy, Dick and Charles Grimes; Lewis, Ott and Daisy Brugh; Sign, Newt, Francis and James Hicks; Mary and Pat Mallen; John and James Hollis; Ronie and Lucy Donoho; Lee, Jennie and Annie McCracken; Joe and Jimmie Hobbs and Eugene Moore.

Johnnie Gann, who now lives between three and four miles north of the school, started to Hicks School in 1900 at the age of 6 years, and attended for 11 years. Five generations of his family have and are attending Hicks School: Annie and Tom Gann, their son George Gann, his son John F. Gann, his grandson Robert Gillilan, and his children, Ronald, Dixie, Bobble, Roberta and Sue Gillilan. When Johnny Gann went to school, his parents lived a mile east of the schoolhouse. His first teacher was Nora Graham. Other teachers named were Mary Horton, John Nosh, Roxie Horton, Frances Ricer, Nora Phelps, Ethel Jordan and Dave Johns.

Mrs. Cole, who was Grace Hicklin when she attended Hicks School, started to school in 1911, having attended eight days of the spring term under Miss Ethel Jordan. Her teacher that fall was Dave Johns. Mrs. Cole’s parents were Ed and Daisy (Brugh) Hicklin, who lived one-fourth mile north of the school. She later taught Hicks School six consecutive terms, from 1927 through 1933. Her daughter, Mildred, was graduated from the school last spring and her son Carl is attending this year.

The first frame building was in Section 28, it was approximately 20x30 feet, and faced east, with three windows on both the north and south sides having green shutters. The ceiling and wainscoting were painted green. The walls were plastered. The two rows of desks faced the west, with a double row behind the box-wood stove that was in the center of the room. Recitation benches were formed by fastening wide boards to the corners of the room along the south sides. The teacher’s desk was in the center of the room. It had a hinged lid with storage space beneath. The painted blackboard extended across the west end. The room was lighted by two bracket lamps on each side of the room.

Pat Mallen, who started to school in 1870, said that the pupils hung their wraps on hooks along the back and side walls of the room. Dinner pails were set on the floor at the back of the room, and during extremely cold weather, the contents would freeze and have to be thawed out around the old box stove before the food could be eaten. His first teacher was Mrs. Lilly McCloud, who with her husband lived near the school.

Pupils furnished their own books, and texts were changed frequently, however some studied during the early years at Hicks School were McGuffy’s readers and spellers, Ran’s arithmetic and later Franklin readers and Rand McNally’s geography. Subjects studied in addition to these were history, grammar, civil government, and, later, physiology, agriculture and algebra for advanced pupils. The school had maps and charts for the primary grades. Slates were used for seat work. Some pupils had single slates bound with felt, while others had had double slates which folded and made a place for storing the slate pencils. Water was carried from the James Hicks farm and from the Henry Jackson farm one-fourth mile from the school. Pupils were sent by twos to carry the water and this errand was always considered a great privilege as it always occurred during study periods. The bucket was often carried on a stick between the couple sent for the water.

Games played were Crack-the-Whip, Clap-In-Clap-Out, Blackman, Dare Base, Andy Over, drop-the-Handkerchief, and Needles Eye. Since the school-ground was too small for a baseball diamond, the game was played on land belonging to Ed Hicklin, just across the road from the schoolhouse. One team included Bryan and Leo Tout, George Slattery, John and Harry Cyphers, Paul Lipka, Lester Jackson, Johnny Gann and Willis Cole.

Spelling and cyphering matches were held often with other schools. The Hicks School pupils were adept at cyphering since it was enjoyed as a game when the weather was unfit to play out-of-doors. Mr. Gann states that some of the pupils became so proficient that they could call out the answer to any problem as soon as it was given.   They were good at spelling, too. He related that the pupils of Kirk School were “spelled down” on one occasion and at another time the pupils drove to Ware School and “spelled down” the school. For this event, Gay Cole drove a team of horses belonging to Willis Cole drawing a large farm wagon which was roomy enough to accommodate the entire school.

Literary societies, with hot debates, basket dinners at the close of school, shows of various kinds, political speakings with slide pictures or sleight-of-hand performances. Sunday School and Church services were among the community activities enjoyed at the schoolhouse. Mr. Gann recalls that a revival meeting was held in 1920 with two ministers in charge. Later box and pie suppers were popular. Joe Jackson of Chillicothe was usually the auctioneer for these occasions

When Mrs. Cole went to school, much was made of last-day-of-school noon basket dinners, with school programs following. Wilkie Owens of Sampsel was the rural mail carrier who came by the school on his rounds, arriving usually around noon. He was always invited to stay and eat. One year a posse of men were out hunting for chicken thieves came by the schoolhouse while the basket dinner was being enjoyed and they were invited to partake.

The Christmas program with presents on the Christmas tree being passed out after the program was another eventful occasion. Decorating the Christmas tree was a great deal of work for the women and the older pupils of the district, which Mrs. Cole remarked was always done cheerfully. An oak or some other tree instead of an evergreen was selected and the branches were wrapped with cotton batting and the decorated.

The school ground was level and had a good many hickory trees growing near, according to Mrs. Cole, teaching to the tune of a hickory stick. She wrote that Frank Jordan, one of the teachers often made or helped the pupils make hickory whistles in the spring of the year. Willis Cole, one of his pupils recalls that he made a whistle from a big sprout once. which he was unable to cut off. Mrs. Cole wonders if a good wind might have been able to play “Happy Tunes of the Hickory Stick,” on it.

Some of the earliest directors of the school named by Mrs. Cole were Mike Donoho, Martin Piper, James Hicks, W. H. Jackson, George Brush and John Pfister. Earliest recorded directors were W. J. Hicks, W. H. Pancler and Willis Cole (1893). Mr. Donoho served on the school board for thirty years, and some of the others served a long time also.

Early patrons included Henry Taylor, Mrs. Pepper, Mrs. Hobbs and Mrs. Cusick.

Mr. Gann believes that children in the early days , certainly earned what education they received at Hicks School, since roads were bad, hills were steep, there were treacherous creeks to ford and there was the ever-present danger of being bitten by some poisonous snake, such as a rattler, water moccasin, spreading viper or copperhead, of which were numerous in that section of the country. He tells of an incident when a small girl stepped on a rattler.   Her older sister grabbed the snake by the tail and popped off its head. Mrs. Cole writes that three rattlers were killed last year by two of the school patrons and the teacher, and that a copperhead was killed in midwinter when it crawled from its den and lay sunning itself. Mr. Gann relates that when the creeks were swollen, parents placed foot-logs from bank to bank so that their children might cross on their way to and from school.

The school site was moved in 1907 one-fourth mile east and one-fourth mile south of the of the old site. The contract was let in 1906 with the stipulation that it was to be completed by January 1, 1907. Dave Gilbert was paid $35.00 for the half-acre of land. The frame structure was built by Lewis Ott and George Pepper for the sum of 4530.00 including the labor and materials. This old building and half-acre of the second school site, was included in the sale of the Hicks farm to Henry Jackson.

Directors at the time the new school house was built, were Harve Jackson, clerk; Lewis Ott, John Tout and Chris Jackson.

The new building inspired one of the pupils, Hazel Lipke (now Mrs. Perry) to write the following poem:

The Hicks

There’s a schoolhouse among these

hill which was built in 1906,

It was finished in less than a year,

and its name – it is, “The Hicks.”

It was built in a rough little corner

Down by the “Robert’s Dell”

All fixed up in style on the inside,

And has a tower and a bell.

We have had all kinds of good teachers,

Some with experience – a lot,

And although we’re the very best children,

Sometimes we make things “too hot.”

We are trying to make our grades better,

But sometimes things jumble and mix,

We want to be ready for High School,

But – we hate to leave “The Hicks.

The present building and grounds were described by Jack St. John, teacher for 1953-54 and 1954-55 terms.   The building faces the north with the outside door in the east end of the anteroom which extends the full length of the north end of the building.

The schoolroom has three windows on both the east and west sides. The schoolroom's two doors lead into the anteroom, which is used for wraps.

The interior of the schoolroom is painted white, with gray wainscoting. There are individual desks, except for five double ones. The floor is of smooth oak boards. A wood-burning stove is in the north end of the room. Other school furnishings are a teachers desk and chair, a piano, a drinking fountain, three library shelves and several framed pictures on the walls. The blackboard extends around approximately one-fourth of the wall space. It has been placed at varying heights to accommodate children of different ages. When the school was first built, a gasoline torch belonging to Lewis Ott was used to light the building when necessary. Later bracket lamps were used and in 1952 electricity was installed. Water for drinking purposes is still carried from a springfed well near the school.

There is a tower and a bell on the school grounds near the building on the northeast. Swings made by the patrons of the district, and a teeter-totter constitute the playground equipment.

There is a 12x8 wood shed in the southeast comer of the yard and toilets for girls and boys to the west of it. The toilets have wooden screens, which were made by the patrons of the district. There is a dirt road running east and west by the schoolhouse on the north. Mr. St. John declared except for the mud he had to fight often in getting to and from school, the two terms he taught Hicks School were among the happiest of his life. He had fourteen pupils enrolled during the 1954-55 term, two in the first grade, one in the second, four in the third, one in the fourth, three in the sixth, one in the seventh and four in the eighth.

Some very early teachers at Hicks School mentioned by Mrs. Cole were Anna Pfister, who taught a subscription school, Scott Miller, 1875, W. B. Brassfield, Laura Cravens and Dora and Oss Saylor. From Roof's History of Livingston County she found that Charles Hutchinson taught Hicks School before the Civil War. He and the directors drew up an elaborate set of rules, one of them being that using profane language on the school grounds was strictly forbidden.

With the aid of old records, Mrs. Cole was able to furnish names of teachers from 1895 down to the present term. They follow: Eva Castle, D. F. Brookshier, Granville Matthews, Ben Porterfield, James Cusick, Miss Celia Black, Rhoda Ragan, Stella Hale, C. F. Coon, Bell Shea, Horace Dowell, Georgia Crill, Lena Eads, Mary Martin, Claudie Offield, Alice Dunn, Mary Horton, Roxie Horton, John Noah, Nora Graham, F. H. Jordin, Nate Slattery, Frances Rider, Nora Phelps, Ethel Jordin, Dave Johns, Anna Dunbar, Leroy Smith, Blanch Smith, Kate Donoho, Mrs. Ola Young, Frank Jordin, Thelma Wise, Leah Teals, Faye Cusick, Eunice Akers, Ray Trimble, Grace Hicklin, Ruth Pultz, Ruth Lawler, Mrs. Celia Pryor, Mrs. Iris Breeden, Mrs. Louise Nibarger, Kathryn Hoch, Marian Beckner, Beatrice Figg, Ilda Stoffregen, John Barlow, Mrs. Pinkie Cole, Mary Bonnart, Claude Eckert and Jack St. John. Quite a few of the listed teachers, taught more than one term, Mrs. Cole heading the list with six consecutive terms. Salaries ranged from $33.00 in 1885 to $50.00 in 1911. Salaries for the later years were not listed by her. F. H. Jordin taught the last term in the old building and the first term in the new. Dave Johns taught the last divided term in 1912 and the first full term in 1912-13. None of these teachers are still teaching. Most of them came from Livingston and adjacent counties.

Pupils who later taught their home school were Christian Jackson, wallows, Oregon; Grace Hicklin Cole, R. R. Chillicothe; Kathryn Hoch of Chicago, Illinois and James Cusick, who later became a banker at Mooresville.

Mrs. Cole also furnished a list of school clerks and presidents of the board from 1885 to 1911 which follows: John Pfister, W. H. Jackson, Sailor, Hicks, Jos. Tout, L. F. Ott, Charles Lipke. Some of them served for years on the board. Present directors are Elmer Stoffregen, president, Dan Hurley and J. W. Cole. Miss Maude Tout has been clerk for many years.

Mrs. Cole writes that Ben Porterfield must have been an outstanding teacher as his pupils still speak of him as being a fine teacher, and some pupils outside the district came to Hicks School because he was considered outstanding.

Miss Anna Dunser, a former teacher, is now art supervisor in the Maplewood-Richmond Heights School in St. Louis. She is also associate editor of an art magazine and sells articles to various publications.

Horace Dowell, a Hicks teacher, 1897, is now a doctor in Chillicothe.

Mrs. Iris Breeden is the teacher. She lives with her sister 1 and one-fourth miles north and west of the school. She has three children who went to school at Hicks School. She also taught the term 1941-42. 

There are thirteen enrolled and Joyce Miller will be the only eighth grade graduate this term.