Old Leaton School 
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, April 29, 1954.

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by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune

Now Belongs To A Womenís Club

History goes back a long way; had 100 pupils when railroad was built

Several hundred acres of land were given an Old Civil War veteran as back pay, more than a hundred years ago. He, in turn, deeded it to Hugh and Edith Leaton, pioneers from Virginia and Tennessee, who subsequently deeded one square acre of it for school purposes and thus Leaton School came into existence. Their daughter, Jane, was the first child born in Grand River township. She later became Mrs. William Barr, and then married Mr. Campbell and lived in Bedford. Mrs. Clarence McDuffey of Hale is a granddaughter or Hugh and Edith Leaton.

Leaton School is located in District 74, Township 56, Range 21, six miles northeast of hale and approximately four miles southwest of Sumner.

The earliest deed of land for the school site on record is the square acre deed by Sarah Simcox and husband an August 11, 1881.

Leatonís first school house was of logs. Lilly Toppas, Mary Silvey, Fulton and Mildred Bedell were among the pupils attending. the first term. In 1860 a frame building was erected. It was of native lumber with walnut weather-boarding. It was built by Alfred and John Bedell and James Toppas. It faced the east and was approximately 30x24 foot. There were two windows on the north and south sides. The front door was on the end of the building and there was a window south of the door. It was ceiled inside and had wainscoting painted a light green. A painted blackboard extended across the west end.

Since no early records of the Leaton School could be found, several former pupils who attended in the late 1870ís and through the 1880ís were interviewed for its early day history.  Mrs. Hininger, of Hale, and some of her family were associated with the school for three generations.  She, Saphrona Sawrey, and her twin sister, Sara, started to Leaton School in 1878. They were the youngest of eleven children and the only ones who attended that school. The twinsí parents lived two miles southeast of the school.

Their first teacher was John Lowe. Sixty-two pupils were enrolled their first term of school.

Some of their classmates were Alice, Jim and Sam Toppas, Ed Silvey, Eldridge and Ed Bedell and Gertrude and James Stanley.

One of Mrs. Hiningerís sons, Roy, was a pupil at Leaton School and later, the five children of her daughter Ruth, who married Dan Guilford, went to Leaton.

Dan Guilford now her son-in-law, also attended Leaton, starting to school in 1900. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Orlando Guilford, who lived one and one half miles southeast of the school. He had a brother, Charles of Hale, and two sisters, Mrs. Clarence Gray of Hale and Mrs. Willa Colliver of Marshall, who were Leaton pupils. Three of his teachers he recalled were Earl Kavanaugh, Preston Graham and Carl Taylor. Others teaching, after 1900, that he named, were Ethel Dougherty, Mary Calloway, Fannie Hoover, Roxie Eaton and Ruth Hawkins.

The eldest of his children, Elmo Guilford, started to Leaton in 1924. The two daughters, Gertrude and Lois, started a little later, and his son Kenneth and Ruth Ann, were attending when Leaton School closed its doors in 1950.

Elmoís first teacher was Lucy Bedell. Teachers who followed her, were Opal Crosby, Oletha Edwards, C. W. Ballew, Gertrude Wisehaupt, Annette (Smart) Epperson, Evelyn Munson and Mary Dinsmore.

Mrs. Bill King, who was Mary Bedell, started to Leaton in 1880. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Bedell, lived on a 40-acre farm one mile northwest of the school. Her father paid $6.00 an acre for the land. The house is still standing.

One preacher, Mrs. Pultz recalled, was Matthew Simpson of the Church of Christ.

The Thanksgiving suppers held annually at the school were outstanding. A program by the pupils always followed the supper. Mrs. Pultz informed that the origin of Thanksgiving Day was always told by one of the pupils. The programs consisted of songs (without instruments), plays and dialogues and recitations. Christmas programs were given too. There was always Christmas trees loaded with gift, which were passed out after the program. Pupils and patrons alike, helped string popcorn and cranberries to decorate the tree. Debating teams and literary societies were popular.

Mrs. Pultz recalled the following schoolmates: Minnie Woodward, Addie Bedell, Stella and Anna Vice, Mollie Smith, Nannie Wilson, Eva Durocher, Mill, Mike and Edgar Dougherty, Nora and Ed Wescott, Rye Nelson, Ella Eaton, Lilly Leaton, Marvin and Lettie Dougherty, Emmet, Mike, Tom, William, Edgar, Lizzie, Mollie and Cora Lester.

Patrons of the school included the names of Leaton, Eaton, Toppas, Bedell, Wescott, Silvey, Dougherty, Douglass and Turner.

The second building was repaired in 1897 at a cost of $75.00, after an attempt failed the year before to raise the levy for a new building. The vote was taken each year until 1904 when the levy carried. J. J. Brown was president, E. B. Wescott, clerk, C. W. Farbee and W. P. Wescott, members of the board. J. E. Toppas, William Leaton and A. B. Pancoast were members of the building committee.  The brick and stucco building which stands today was built about the year of 1904 or 1905. It is weather-boarded from the eaves up at the ends.

Mrs. Elmo Guilford, of Wheeling, who was Miss Doris Dimitt when she taught Leaton School during the term of 1939-40, and again in 1941-42, furnished the description of the present building. Mr. and Mrs. Guilford owned the farm which adjoins the school on the east, when they were first married. The schoolyard is in the southwest corner of the farm.

It has five windows on the west. It faces the south, with two windows and a door in the south end. There is one window on the east side. There was once a cloakroom but the partition was removed later and it became a part of the main room.

It has a built-in library in the southeast corner. The school has a piano. Pupils enjoyed the rhythm band. When Miss Dimitt taught, there were teeter-totters on the school-ground. She had thirteen pupils in attendance her last term.

Leaton School float won first prize in the Hale Fair parade contest in 1939. It was decorated to represent a large flag, with a pupil dressed as Uncle Sam, and some war veterans riding on it.

Box suppers and pie suppers were popular money-making projects. There was a picnic dinner and program at the close of school.

When she taught, Kenneth Hoyt, Merle Crosby and Frank Judy were the directors. She boarded in the home of O. N. Crosby who lived north of the school.

Miss Virginia Moore taught the term of 1940-41 and Miss Dimitt taught again in 1941-42.  New agriculture texts and new fiction books were purchased, and a new flag. She had six boys and four girls enrolled.

Miss Anna M. Dienst was teacher for the 1944-45 term with fifteen pupils, ten boys and five girls enrolled. School began August 28 and closed April 11.

Miss Phyllis Fifer taught the 1946-47 and the 1947-48 terms. School began September 2 and closed April 4, 1947. She had eight boys and seven girls enrolled. Fred Alter, Frank Judy and William Phillips were directors. A box supper was given November 14, and a Christmas program December 20. Improvements made during her first term were a new stage and curtains, new games and books, a new flag rope a cooler. A program was given the last day of school. Subjects taught were arithmetic, health, general science, fine arts, language, reading, spelling, writing, social studies and drawing.

Her second term began September 1, 1947, and closed April 16, 1948. There were nine boys and five girls enrolled. She taught the 1-2-4-5 and 7th grades. Geography was added to the study course that term. Her salary was $150.00 per month. There were four PTA meetings held during the term and a program at the close of school.

Mrs. Viola Harris taught the 1948-49 term at a salary of $180.00 per month. The term began September 10, 1946 and closed April 16, 1949.  Mrs. Harris was a graduate of the Carrollton High School, the Central State Teacherís College and had attended the Maryville College and the University of Missouri. Board members were John Swearingin, Bill Phillips, Clarence McDuffy and Mrs. Alma Phillips, clerk. The 1-2-3-6-8 grades were taught. Graduates that year were Betty Lou Judy and Ray and Roy Utley (twins).   She listed framed pictures as being "The Reapers" "Going Home From Church" and "Spring."

Leaton Schoolís last teacher was Mrs. Virginia Bonderer a graduate of the St. Joseph Academy at Chillicothe. She had studied at Maryville and Warrenburg. Her salary was $180.00 per month. Directors during her term were John Swearingen, Roy Guilford, Clarence McDuffy, and Carl Bennett, clerk. She taught general science, health, safety, art, music, reading, written language, spelling, handwriting, history and geography. She taught the grades 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. Activities that term included pie and box suppers and meetings of the community club. Pupils were Graham Alter, Mavis Phillips, Gary Phillips, Kenneth Guilford, Larry Guilford, Ruth Ann Guilford, Joan Swearingen, Billy Bennett, Joyce Brown, and Larry Saunders. School began September 5, 1949 and closed April 21, 1950.

The school now is a part of the Hale district.

The Leaton School building now belongs to the Leaton Homemakers Club. They received the bill of sale for the property in December of 1953. Mrs. Earl Auwater, Mrs. John Guilford, and Mrs. Fred Alter were elected as an executive board.

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