History of Kirk School
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, October 17, 1956.

Return to Schools page


by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune

First term was in 1871, but in earlier years it was in old Harper District

Miss Birdie Shumate, RFD 4 Chillicothe, a former pupil of the Kirk School, furnished data for a brief history of the old Harper School district, since, originally Kirk School, with several school districts, were included in its territory.

Miss Shumate’s parents, William and Susan (Hale) Shumate, came to Missouri in 1855 from Giles County, Virginia, by steamboat down the Ohio River the up the Missouri River to Brunswick. They eventually settled on the farm where Miss Shumate lives, which is a short distance from the Kirk School site. She is the youngest of a family of eleven children. Her first teacher was Charles Patten, who taught Kirk School in the early 1880’s. He later studied medicine and practiced in Livingston County as long as he lived. Mrs. J. P. Morgan, one of his daughters, lives in Chillicothe.

A part of Harper’s history appeared in the Constitution-Tribune’s Centennial edition of September 1937. This date was furnished Miss Shumate by J. W. Bills, a former pupil of Kirk School (now deceased).

Harper School was a crude structure, built of hewn logs. It had a puncheon, or split log, floor and a clapboard roof. The back-less seats and benches were also of split logs with holes bored underneath for pegs which were inserted for legs. There was a wide door in one end of the building and a fireplace, with a stick chimney in the other. Light was admitted through a small window on the west.

This little schoolhouse stood near the head of Penitentiary Branch of land, which at that time, belonged to George Harper. When heavy rains or melting snows made swollen streams of this branch to the west and Indian Creek to the east, it was difficult and sometimes impossible for some of the pupils to get to school, since these streams either had to be crossed or forded on foot-logs.

There are only two former pupils of Harper School now living. They are Mrs. Nancy M. Kirk, 94, of Sacramento, California, and Mrs. Rebecca Thompson, 97 years old , Milan, Missouri.

Some of Harper School early teachers included Mollie Harper, Ann Martin, Sally Gibbons, Tom Dent, Florence Peery, Sally Ware, Walt Peery, Jennie Kirk, T. G. Phelps (who later practiced medicine in Chillicothe), Charles Patton, who also became a doctor; Major Vaseret, John Gilchrist, and B. W. Porterfield. The teachers at this time paid no board, but stayed a week at a time in the home of first one, then the other of the school patrons. One teacher, Enoch Crowder, who at the time was teaching in an adjoining district, and who in later life became an illustrious general of World War I. Drafter of the Selective Service bill, was the overnight guest of Walt Peery Harper's teacher for that term, in the home of J. H. Kirk.

Early patrons of the school included families by the name of McCollum, Gann, Duckworth, Thompson, Peery, Bills, Pepper, Slattery, Kirk, Miller, Lay, Johnson, Gibson, Shumate, Starlings Hoskins, Rupe, Gibbs, Riddle, Weaver, Wigfield, Fields, Arr and Frith. Two of the early directors were J. H. Kirk And Robert Duckworth. Who served almost continuously during their lifetime.

Harper school was used for religious meeting, especially by the Baptist denomination, since, at that time, there were no churches near. Rev. Crouch and Rev. Booth both held stirring revivals in the little schoolhouse from which congregation the church now known as Pleasant Ridge Baptist, obtained its charter members.

As the population of the community grew, crowded made it necessary to hold school in homes of the respective communities. Mr. Bills recalled that school was held in his father’s home, the home of J. H. Kirk, Henry Gann and others.

When Harper School was abandoned, Brookshire, Raulie and Kirk districts were formed, each district building its own schoolhouse.

With the help of old records which are in possession of Mrs. Ed Lay, Mrs. Jeff Walker, RFD Chillicothe, a former pupil of Kirk School, furnished data for its history. Three generations of her family attended this school, namely, Sarah Duckworth, Hannah Johnson and Celia Johnson, (now Mrs. Walker). She started to school in 1890 and Ben Porterfield was her first teacher. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Johnson, live one and one-fourth miles southwest of the school. Her father came from Sweden in 1869. She had two brothers, Ota and Jewell, and two sisters, Mollie and Hannah, who also were pupils of Kirk School.

Her father built the first Kirk School in 1871 and also made the twenty soft pine desks and two recitation benches as well as the teacher’s desk, which was in the north end of the room. The building was a frame structure, approximately 20x,24. The exterior was painted white. It faced the south with a door in that end. There were three windows with solid shutters painted green on the east and west sides. Inside, the walls and ceilings were ceiled instead of plastered. The walls, to the height of the desks, were painted pink as were the desks. The remainder of walls and the and ceiling were painted white.

The recitation benches extended almost the width of the room. Mr. Bills recalled that they were always crowded since the enrollment was often as many as seventy-five, in the early days of the school.

Dinner pails were placed behind the center row of desks. Nails along the walls held the wraps.   Lamps and lanterns were brought by patrons when needed. A large wood-burning stove heated the room.

There was a large painted blackboard across the north wall in the rear of the room, with a smaller one on the west wall. Mr. Bills believed “it would mystify many high school graduates of today to have seen that large board almost half covered with figures, as some fifth grade pupil worked out a problem from Ray's Practical Arithmetic; then taking the teacher's pointer, would explain the process step by step to an amazed and wondering last-day-of-school audience of parents and friends.

Water for drinking purposes was carried in a wooden bucket from either the Rupe property, one-fourth mile north of the school, or from the spring on the Duckworth farm. A well had been dug on the school grounds but it was dry.

Land for the school site was given by J. M. Girdner, but because there was another school southeast of Springhill by the name of Girdner, the district became known as Kirk. Mr. Bills believed, the name was selected for the reason that, before the school was built, school was held more often in the Kirk home than any other in the community. Then too, the Kirk family owned much land which surrounded the school site.

Kirk school is located in District 26, Township 58, Range 25, Section 4, twelve miles northwest of Chillicothe. The first school election was held in 1870 with R. N. Lay, R. G. Chumley and R. D. Duckworth elected as directors. Mr. Duckworth was the school’s first clerk

Its first teacher was T. J. Dent in 1871. Other early teachers of Kirk School included Joseph Martin, N. A. Peery, W. S. Morgan, Sallie Gibbons, Florence Perry, Charles Patton, Harry Boorn, Michael Gilchrist, T. G. Phelps and John Gilchrist. Beginning in 1891 through 1913, the following teachers are found in the records: Harry Ewing, Rhoda Ragan, B. W. Porterfield, J. H. Cusick, Anna Belle Edwards, R. B. Jones, John Noah, Charles Kirk, Inez Boucher, Kate Shea, Roxie Horton, Edna Waddell, T. B. Tye, Oscar Thompson, Mary Higgins, Grace Linville, Foy Trimble, A. W. Powell, Alice Dunn, James Thompson, E. A. Hart, Lela Minnick and Maud Tye. Later teachers included Ray Trimble, Frances Rupe, Fred Hiskett, Blanche McCarthy, Frances McCarthy, Iris Breeden, Ronald Underwood, Naomi Gibbs, Grace Mast, Lena Teal, Gertie Jones, Edwin Wilson, Nellie Myers, Anna, Dunwer, Leta Maharg and Addie Maharg. Three and four generations of some families in the district attended Kirk School. The three generations of the R.N. Lay family were W. S. Lay and Mary Grace and sister Marjorie Lay. W. S. Lay served on the school board for 30 years as clerk. The three generations of the Bills family attending were J. W. Bills, Press Bills and Marion Lee Bills. The four generations of the R. D. Duckworth family who were Kirk School pupils were Mrs. Rebecca Thompson, Mrs. Gary Wilson, Mrs. Ralph Wilson, R. J. and sister Geraldine Wilson.

Among those attending Kirk School in earlier years still residing in Livingston County are Miss Shumate and Mrs. Lena Anderson. Included among the first pupils attending Kirk School were Emma Peery, Andrew Peery, J. W. Bills, M. D. Duckworth, Jennie Kirk, Blanche Kirk, Joseph Sharp, Elisabeth Shumate, Henry Shumate, Thomas Kirk, George Slattery, Patrick Slattery, S. Offield, J. Offield, Ellen Slattery and Lily Bills.

Miss Shumate writes that ball games were the greatest source of game activities in the days when she attended school. The schoolhouse was situated in deep woods, and the girls enjoyed building playhouses there. The walls of the rooms were of sticks placed between the trees usually built shoulder high. Floors of the rooms were carpeted with moss which was gathered from the moist ground. She also adds that those were the days of the old-fashioned spelling schools and debating societies, when the schoolhouse was packed to overflowing to see who could “stand up” the longest in a spelling match or which side would win the debate. Last day of school activities included exhibitions with a miscellaneous program including music. At these affairs Jim and Billy Offield playing “fiddles,” and Joel Stephens the big bass viol, were popular entertainers. Basket dinners were the rule at last-day-of-school activities followed with a program by the pupils.

For a time prior to 1888 the schoolhouse was used for church services, being a part of the Springhill Methodist circuit, the church territory embraced the Kirk, Ware and Brookshire school districts. With the erection of Central Chapel Church in 1886, church services were transferred there.

A new building replaced the first one in 1907. The old one was sold to A.J. Tompson, who moved it to his farm near the school site and used it for a machine shed. The new building was erected on the same site and is still standing. It is 22x30 feet, a frame structure facing the east with an east door, two small windows on the north and seven windows on the south. It has a bell and belfry. The walls and ceiling are plastered and painted tan. It has wainscoting three feet high around the room. There is a blackboard on the west wall back of the teacher's desk. There are three rows of double desks and a recitation bench. The room contains a piano and radio and has electric lights. There are seven oak trees and two elms on the school ground. Playground equipment includes two swings a trapeze and a teeter-totter.

In 1920, Kirk School was consolidated with the Sampsel school. It was voted out of the consolidated district on April 25,1933, and operated until 1951.

The last teacher was Ronald Underwood. Pupils the last term were David and Dannie Anderson, Delbert, June and Joyce Miller, Carol Sue Mumpower and Marjorie Powers. The last school board was Roger Trimble, president; Sam Gibson, clerk; Ralph Wilson and Archie Crumpacker, members. A homecoming is being planned this year.

Since Miss Shumate mentioned the stick playhouses the girls enjoyed building on the school-ground, the writer, who attended different. rural schools in Clinton County, feels the reader would be interested in a more detailed description of them which is contained in the following poem written by her and first appearing in the Continental Congress News, Los Angeles, California.

Return to Top