The Independence School Flourished for 72 Years
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

District near Bedford got name from Centennial of Declaration signing

In an interview, Murray Aye of Wheeling stated that Independence school derives its name from the fact that it was established the year of the one hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Some time during the year 1876, Martin Yeiser, a native if Germany, who owned 320 acres of land in the district, deeded a square acre of land for Independence school site which is situated in the northwest corner of Section 5, Township56 and Range 22. The district is two miles west and slightly north of Bedford and chiefly south of the river.

Luther Wisehaupt, 1710 Jefferson Street, Kansas City, MO., a former pupil and later a district clerk and school director, stated that originally, Independence district was a part of Fairland district, the schoolhouse being located approximately ¾ mile west and one and one half miles south of the town of Bedford. The area forming Independence district, which was cut off from Fairland district, comprises four square miles. The school building is in the center of the district, being one mile from the north, south, east and west boundaries. Mr. Wisehaupt furnished most of the information regarding the early history of the school.

He was one of seven brothers attending Independence. The others were Frank and Thomas, now of Chillicothe, L. A. and Charles living in the neighborhood, William of Wheeling and John Wisehaupt, deceased. They were the sons of Mr. And Mrs. Leonard Wisehaupt.

Mr. Wisehaupt attended Wittenburg College at Springfield, Ohio, his father’s alma mater. The father, who spoke six different languages, was a retired Lutheran minister. He was forced to give up his work when his health failed. It was then he moved in 1880 to a farm located in Independence district. His son, Luther, was 10 years old at this time.

In an interview with Martin Utt, grandson of Martin Yeiser, it was learned that Mr. Yeiser was a carpenter as well as a farmer. It was he who built Independence School on the land he deeded for the site. He constructed a one-room frame building approximately 24x32 feet finished with a pine weather-boarding and covered with a pine shingled roof. When built, it faced the south. In 1883, it was moved east, just across the road and now faces the east. The original building is still in existence, though it has been covered with a brown color of asphalt brick siding.

Mr. Wisehaupt explained the contract let for the stove wood, bids were submitted at the annual April school meeting.  It was stipulated in the contract that the wood should be cut in two foot lengths and stacked on the grounds not later than the month of August. The fuel was received and paid for by the district clerk with an order on the “incidental fund.” which was in the hands of the district treasurer. He explained that all school supplies were paid for from this fund, since the “teacher’s fund” could not be used for such a purpose. On the other hand the incidental fund could be drawn upon to “eke out” the teacher's payment when needed. He stated that usually five cords of 128 cubic feet were sufficient for the school term. The cost varied through the years, ranging from $2.50 to $3.00 per cord.

The school ground was enclosed on the south and east by farm field fences, and was open to the road on the north and west. There were no shade trees in the yard. The entire area was used an a playground. Mr. Wisehaupt stated that the older pupils played “town ball” which differed somewhat from baseball as it is played today. It was a game played usually by the boys, however, some of the older girls would take part occasionally. He agreed they did a good job of base running, but added that their throwing and batting was debatable. He explained the game of anti-over.   This ball game was played by two teams or groups, one an each of two opposite sides of the building the ball was tossed over the building, and I caught, the “catchee” rushed to the opposite side to tag an opponent, who then joined his team. Blind man’s Bluff and drop-the-handkerchief are other games mentioned by him. Arthur Deal of Sumner, when interviewed, named several other games enjoyed such as dare base, fox-and-geese and draw base was played with snowballs.

Murray Aye insisted that the boys in those days got their gym and sitting-up exercises before and after school by milking cows and chopping wood. On Saturdays, he and his brother Charley would hitch up the team, go to the woods and by nightfall, have several loads of wood chopped and hauled to add to the woodpile’s supply.

There was no well on the school grounds until later years. Mr. Wisehaupt said water for drinking purpose was carried in a 12-quart, cedar bucket from a shallow, open spring or well, from which the water-carrier could reach down and dip a full bucket. The spring was one-fourth mile north of the school. By going a greater distance, water could be obtained from a regular well. Two boys were usually delegated to carry the water. Mr. Wisehaupt remarked that “they considered it quite a treat, as it meant from thirty minutes to an hour’s escape from school work. A common drinking cup or dipper was used.

The following texts were used in the early days of the school: Osgood’s Readers, McGuffy’s speller, Ray’s arithmetic, Montieth’s geography, Harvey’s Grammar and Quackenboss’ history. Physiology and civil government were also studied. Copy books displaying the Spencerian style of writing, were used.

Failure of the pupil to have lessons prepared entailed penalties ranging from having to remain seated (ostensibly studying) during recess, or the noon hour, or on occasion, having to remain with the teacher for a study session after school was dismissed. Corporal punishment was very rare.

Attendance during the early years of the school varied from 25 to 40. If funds were sufficient (and they usually were), a six-month term was held, otherwise it was of five-month duration.

Several early teachers were named by Mr. Wisehaupt in his report. The first one listed is Inez Greenlee. Some of these teachers taught more than one term. Clara Dunn, who was Murray Aye’s first teacher taught in 1882 and 1883. Frank Bradley later became a minister and preached in the school where he had once taught, when he came back to the Independence neighborhood on a visit. Mary Smith later married Ed Hereford of Chillicothe. Miss Sina E. Barnes, who was one of the early teachers, studied medicine and practiced successfully in Maryville, Missouri, and other places, finally locating in southern California. Ed Bedell, of Hale taught Independence School in 1891. He is considered one of its outstanding teachers by former pupils interviewed. Oscar Hargrove was Martin Utt’s first teacher, in 1896.

Lula Canning Gray, Anne Dunlap, Mattie Sweeney and Belle White were other early teachers, Dell Vernard taught the school in 1902. Mrs. Grace (Sheets) Donovan of Chillicothe is Murray Aye’s only former teacher still living. Early teachers usually boarded at the home of Elliott Boggs. Gertrude Wisehaupt, daughter of Al Wisehaupt of near Wheeling, who is now Mrs. Virgil Hallenberg of Chillicothe, taught in later years.

Spelling bees were popular in the early days. They were held at night. Teams from adjoining districts would contest, sometimes students from Avalon College participating. Mr. Deal informed that in such contests, Luther Wisehaupt of Independence School, who was an excellent speller, was usually the winner. Much stress was put upon spelling in those days. The teachers frequently gave prizes to the pupil receiving the most headmarks in spelling. Mr. Deal recalled that once he received the prize instead of Mr. Wisehaupt simply because he was at school one more day than his classmate. His prize was an autograph album. Murray Aye won three prizes when Miss Smith taught. They wee an autograph album and two books, one of which he still has.

Singing schools were held now and then. Ross Aye, brother of Murray and Charley, conducted one in the early 90’s.

Literary societies flourished. In later years box and pie suppers were held to swell the school’s treasury.

Preaching services and prayer meetings were held quite often at the school, and through the summer. Sunday School was held, Jacob Aye, father of Murray and Charley, was the superintendent for a number of years. John Waltz, father of Mrs. John Nibarger of Wheeling, who was a Disciple of Christ minister, John Sprague of near Chillicothe, a Methodist minister, J. D. Marquis, a Disciple of Christ minister who lived in the neighborhood, and W. W. Waldon, Baptist minister who lived south of Bedford on a farm and preached at Independence during its early years.

Some of the school directors in the late 80’s and early 90’s were Robert Hussey, A. L. Utt and Jacob Aye, who served as clerk for many years. Later, his son Ross was clerk of the district.

Early school patrons included the names of George Akerson, who had five children; Jacob Aye, 3; Elliott Boggs,1; Elbert Campbell, 2; Ezra Cleveland, 3; John Dewey, 3; Henry Gray, 8; Isaac Harris, 3; Robert Hussey, 5; William Hemphill, 4; Daniel Ingram, 3; John Kohl, 2; Herman Kesler, 3; Samuel Lemaster, 1; Thomas Singleton, 4; Tucker Singleton, 5; Ambrose Utt, 1; Leonard Wisehaupt, 7; Martin Yeiser, 4; Jesse Walden, 5; William Munro, Mr. Wells, Mur Duncan, Itha Shepard, Lewis Deal, David Green and William Wright.

William Munro became a Livingston County office holder. He later moved to Excelsior Springs where he, for years, managed the Elms Hotel.

William Wright also became an office holder in the county.

Mr. Wisehaupt stated that an item of passing historical interest within the district, lies in the fact that the route used by the Mormon Church people, in their flight from Nauvoo, Illinois, westward, (eventually to Salt Lake City, Utah), crossed Independence district west of Bedford and was known locally as the Mormon Trail. This event happened about the year of 1847. Evidently it was over this same trail that Andrew Leeper of Chillicothe freighted from Chillicothe to Brunswick, with a team of oxen, years and years ago.

Another item of interest is that the Munro cemetery of pre-Civil War days is located at the west side of the district on the George F. Munro farm.

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