First School of Johnson District Was Log Building
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, March 18, 1953.

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by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune

Before 1879, the boys and girls of the Johnson School neighborhood attended school in a little log building which stood on the George Johnson farm, a mile west of the present school site.

Isaac Johnson, father of Fred W. Johnson, who lives within a stone’s throw of the schoolhouse, gave the land for the school site, and the house was built in 1870 by a Mr. Van Fleet and a Mr. Tracy.

Fred Johnson attended the first term of the school taught in the new building.  Dan McCulley was the first teacher.  He lived just south of where Ludlow now stands.  He taught the fall term of five months, beginning in September.  Miss Libby Barr taught the first spring term of two months.  The school’s first enrollment was between 60 and 65.

J. J. Welles was the second teacher.  Other early teachers were Oliver Chapman (brother of Helen and Don Chapman of Chillicothe), Evan James, Dan Morgan, George Poole, and a Mr. Howard from Michigan, who bought a farm near Plymouth before the school term ended, and his wife came and finished the term for him.

When the weather was too bad for the teachers to go home, they usually boarded in the Isaac Johnson home.  They paid around $2.50 a week for room and board.

The frame building, which faced the south, was approximately 24x30 feet with a shingled roof.  There were three windows on each side.  Desks were made of rough boards, with eight benches for seats.

There was a raised platform in the north end of the building and a blackboard, which was painted on the plaster, extended the full length of the end of the schoolhouse.  The floor was of six inch pine boards.

Fred Johnson, who furnished the early history of the school, has his history and his third grade arithmetic he used in this school.  He informed that McGuffy readers and spellers and Ray’s arithmetic were texts used in those days.  Other subjects studied were grammar, geography and history.

Water for drinking purposes was carried from the Dan Johnson farm which was about thirty rods east of the schoolhouse.  It was drawn from the two bucket, dug well and carried in a cedar bucket.

Wall lamps, set in brackets with reflectors, furnished the light for the evening entertainments.

Games enjoyed by the pupils in those days included Blackman, ball, Old Cat, Fox and Geese, Anti-Over, and Drop-the Handkerchief.

Some of the early patrons of the school were Isaac Johnson, George Johnson, Dan Johnson, John Blann, Adam Peare, and families by the names of Travilla, Fisher, Brown, Thomas, Barr, Snyder, Shafner and Butchell.

Community activities held in the schoolhouse included spelling schools, literary societies and singing schools, with John Collier as one of the teachers.  Sunday School and church services were held at the schoolhouse part of the time.  The first Sunday School group was made up of mostly Methodists.  The last Sunday School group, using the schoolhouse, was Baptist.  They met there for several years before the groups disbanded to join other congregations. 

This school building was blown away by a cyclone on June 20, 1883.  The storm struck at night.  It was so severe that several persons in the neighborhood were killed and there was extensive property damage.

A new building, which was erected on the old site that same year is still standing.  It is located in District No. 5 (now No. 99), Monroe Township, No. 56, Range 25 and Section 25, four miles southwest of Dawn.  The school was built by a Mr. Drake.

The oldest school record found was a teacher’s daily record for the spring term of 1896, with Anna Plummer as teacher.  Twenty-four girls, ranging in age from five years to fourteen years, and nine boys from the ages of five to ten years of age were recorded.  The term started March 21 and ended June 19.  The fall term for that year started on September 12, with W. W. Johnson teacher.  Forty-nine pupils from the ages of six to sixteen years were enrolled.

The oldest district record obtainable begins with the year of 1900.  The first minutes inform that at the annual meeting on April 3 of that year Mr. Lewis was elected clerk and S. D. Johnson was elected director for three years.  The minutes also state that the other members of the board at that time were Ben D. Davis, of Dawn elected president in 1899 and William Goldsmith of Dawn, elected in 1899.  The first enumeration recorded in this book lists thirty female and twenty-three males, making a total of fifty-three.  The minutes also state that Frank Bealer was to furnish ten cords of two-foot length stove wood at $1.20 per cord.

On April 1, 1902, it was voted to bore a well on the school grounds. John Lane did the work for $30.50. In 1912 a cistern was built.

The schoolhouse was re-shingled and plastered in 1908 by James Roberts at a cost of $116.39. At a meeting on April 4, 1905, it was voted to build a vestibule on the front of the schoolhouse. This room was about 6x8 feet and was used to hang up the pupils wraps and to store the dinner pails.

A puzzling item to the writer was found in the minutes of April 2, 1906, stating: “motion made that John Jones be elected Governor of Egypt and motion carried.”  The previous minutes of April 4, 1905 stated that “Rufus Buck was elected Governor of the town for the term of one year,” and again in the minutes of April 6, 1909 is this statement: Henry Morse was elected Governor of Egypt and John Jones, Lieutenant-Governor.”

In 1908 it was voted to buy a coal stove for the school and the minutes of April 6, 1909 states coal was to be hauled by Rufus Buck at $2.00 per load.

Teachers’ salaries ranged from $25.00 in 1900 to $50.00 in 1917. Teachers during this period were Mabel Williams, Nora Davis, Ethel Brownfield, Bessie Lewis, J. W. Wilson. W. E. Hoover, Mary Griffith, Trix Marker, Oakland Mossbarger, Docia Griffith (who taught four consecutive terms), Lena Johnson, Lena Moss and Galena Wamick.

Mr. Johnson, who is 89, stated that he has only three schoolmates living. They are Mrs. Hattie Mead of Dawn, Mrs. Nellie Lewis of Ludlow, and Mrs. Emma Mathews of California. Mr. Johnson lives alone in a comfortable one-room house that he had built a year ago. It sits in the yard of his nephew, Eugene Johnson, with whom he boards.

Clarence Wilson, a farmer living near the school, also furnished some information as well as the school picture, which accompanies this history. He started to the Johnson School in 1907. His first teacher was Andrew Forman. He considers Miss Theodocia Griffith one of his outstanding teachers.

Mr. Lewis has an Uncle Thomas Lewis, a former teacher of the school, who later distinguished himself as an educator. He received part of his education in Germany and came back to serve as president of Granville University until his recent retirement. He now writes for numerous magazines. A brother, Sam Lewis, is a former pupil of the school who made good. He became a doctor and practiced in Columbia Junction, Iowa, until his death in 1945.

Mrs. Thelma Radabaugh, who also lives near the school, and who is serving as its present clerk, famished the latest history of the school.

The Johnson School closed in the spring of 1945. Dora Warren, whose married name is Macklin, was the last teacher. She lived with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Warren on a farm south of Dawn, in the Dawn Consolidated district, and boarded at home. She taught the last two terms and received a salary of $90.00 the last year she taught.

The last school board members were Taft Sprouse, Fred Lewis and Lowell Morse, with Mrs. Helen Lewis as clerk.

The district still maintains a school board being Eugene Johnson, president, I. M. Radabaugh, Charles Skinner, Mrs. Thelma Radabaugh, clerk.

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