Oak Grove School History Is Told by Mrs. Boone 
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, May 29, 1961.

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Oak Grove School History Is Told by Mrs. Boone

Operated from Before 1870 to Spring of 1958, Southeast of Chillicothe

by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune


Oak Grove school was located in District 2, Township 57, Range 23, three miles southeast of Chillicothe, three-fourths of a mile south of U. S. Highway 36.  The district was changed in later years to Number 50.

There is none living who knows the date the first school was in operation in the district.  An article written about the school, which appeared in the 1937 centennial edition of the Constitution-Tribune stated that it was believed to have been established about the year 1870.

Martha Ryan Jones, daughter of Isaac Ryan of Howard County, who settled in the district in 1836, gave an acre of ground for the school site, which was in the southeast corner of the northeast quarter of her father's farm.  A grove of oak trees grew on the site and the school got its name from them.  Mrs. Jones's six children, Harve, Louis, Isabelle, Lee, Ollie and Wade, and her granddaughter, Juanita Jones Telaneus, received their elementary education at Oak Grove, and her daughter, Isabelle, taught the school in 1892.  Between 65 and 70 pupils were enrolled during the early years of the school.

Mrs. Wilhite Collects Data

Mrs. Jewell (Cora Belle Wilhite) Miller of Chillicothe, through old school records and other documents has furnished most of the data for the history of this school.  She also wrote letters and made many phone calls and talked with different people in regard to information for the school.  She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen B. Wilhite, who lived across the field three-fourths of a mile southwest of the school, when she attended Oak Grove.  Her father served as clerk of the district for many years.  The couple had six other daughters and four sons, as well as four grandsons who were Oak Grove pupils.

Mrs. Lucy Holcomb Scott, attending Oak Grove homecoming in 1935, said that the firs school in the district was built of logs, though no one knows the exact location of that building.  She informed that a trail had to be blazed through the woods to reach it.  Mrs. Scott attended this school and later, in 1896, was one of the teachers in the first frame building erected.

This frame schoolhouse was built about the year 1870 and the firs teacher was Alamanda Fulkerson.  It was approximately 24x35 feet, painted white and faced the east, having one door in that end.  There were three windows with board shutters on the north and south sides.  The walls and ceiling of the school room were plastered and the flooring was of wide pine boards.  The four rows of stationery double desks, faced the west.  There were shelves beneath the tops for books.  There was a rostrum across the west end and above it was a blackboard with a chalk trough attached at the bottom.

There were two long recitation benches and the teacher's desk and chair that sat on the rostrum.  The desk had drawers down the sides and one across the center.  There were four bracket-type coal oil lamps with reflectors on the north and south walls and one chandelier type light.  Wraps were hung in the back of the room where dinner pails, the water bucket, dipper and washpan were also to be found.  The room was heated by a wood-burning stove.

There was a well with a chain pump back of the building near the north end.  However, during the interview with James Stewart, who lives in the district, it was found that much of the time water had to be carried from the Jones farm.  Mr. Stewart helped carry water and also did janitor work for some of the teachers.  His parents were Mr. and Mrs. John Stewart, who lived three-fourths of a mile southeast of the school.  He started in 1902 and had a brother and three sister who attended.  His daughter, Mary, also was a pupil of the school, and he reported that C. W. Stewart's children and grandchildren went to Oak Grove.

Oak and hickory trees grew on the north, south and west sides of the school ground, which was enclosed with a board fence.  A board walk led from the front door to a wooden stile near the road.

Mr. Stewart told of the first frame building burning one Sunday morning in December of 1901.  J. J. Jordan of Chillicothe was teaching the school at this time.  The origin of the fire was never known.  School was discontinued for the remainder of the term.

A new frame building was erected in 1902 on the same site, which, with repairs and remodeling, served the district until the school ceased to operate.  The building cost $1024, and was built by Bert Huggett and John Gier.

It was painted white.  The paint used cost $1 per gallon.  It sat on a stone foundation.  Mrs. Miller described it as being approximately 26x40-14 feet, with a belfry 16x12x6 feet housing a large bell.  The schoolhouse faced the east, having double doors with transoms above them, on that end.  It had four windows on both the north and south sides with green shutters.  There were two cloakrooms, one for boys and one for girls, off either side of the entrance hallway.  These were entered through doors with transoms above them and a door, also with a transom, led from the hallway into the main schoolroom.  Each cloakroom had a window on the east.  All windows had shades and curtains.  The cloakrooms had hooks for wraps and long benches held dinner pails, the water bucket, dipper and wash pan.

The schoolroom's walls and arched ceiling were plastered.  The 34 double desks had ink-wells in them.  Singles desks were installed later.  The desks faced the west.  The four recitation benches were movable.  There was a rostrum across the west end with a painted blackboard above it having a chalk trough attached at the bottom.

The teacher's desk and chair sat on the rostrum.  The rostrum could be enclosed for entertainments by curtains on wires that could be drawn or opened as needed.  The flooring was of pine.  The room was heated by a large coal stove in the center of the room.  Oil heat was used later.  Bracket type coal oil lamps with reflectors were later replaced by ceiling mantle lamps that burned gas until the building was wired with electricity.

Gertrude White Smith was the first teacher in the new building.

Subjects studied then were reading, writing, arithmetic, history, geography, physiology, grammar and civil government.  Pen and ink were used for copy books, but slates with slate pencils, and tablets and lead pencils were used for other seat work.

Games popular were Crack the Whip, Baseball, Darebase, Black-man, Drop-the-handkerchief, anti-over and fox and geese.

A wide cement walk led from the front door to a cement stile near the road.  There was a coal house, with a shed attached for pupils and teacher's horses on the north by the fence.  There were flower beds along the front of the building.  In 1950 the schoolhouse was covered with green asbestos shingles.

From old records, the writer attempted to list the names of those serving either as chairman of annual meetings, or on the board of directors or clerks.  Names found of persons who served in these capacities from 1891 to1900, and a few after that date, follow:  W. B. Chase, John Ishmael, Graham Cooper, Flan Israel, George Porter, David Chase, A. E. Wanamaker, T. B. Hudson, Lawson Purcell, P. W. Wynn, Louis Jones, A. F. Summerville, John Yeoman, W. F. Israel, J. W. Winans, J. Stewart, J. F. Ware, O. F. Holcomb and S. B. Wilhite.  No records were available for the next 16 years.  For those after 1916, the writer found the following list:  L. M. Jones, L. A. Head, William Coberly, Paul Beier, Dowe Miller, Roy Cameron, S. Chase and children, Charles and C. W. Stewart.  Mrs. Miller supplied several names of those who served after 1935 and the two names that have not been mentioned were William Vorbeck and Milford Hamilton.

Mrs. Miller's list of some of the taxpayers and the names of their children who lived in the district between 1880 and 1891 follows:  Daniel Casey and son Joseph; W. S. Chase and children, Charles and Emma; James Blackwell and daughters Minnie and Bessie; S. A. Bayles and daughters, Burnice and Cordia, Graham Cooper and daughter, Effie; A. Alburn and children, Iona and James; K. O. Cranmer and daughter, Effie; J. H. Felt and children, Jessie, Frank and Sadie; Henry Gosmeyer and children, Annie, Mary, John and Carrie; Jeremiah Hawley and sons, Charles and James; T. B. Hudson and son, Robert; B. F. Head and son, Libia; Michael Hickey and daughter, Ella; Samuel Israel and sons, Edward and David; Louis Jones and children (already mentioned); Jack Jones and daughters, Adelia and Lizzie; Ed McCormick and children, Cora and James; John Stewart and daughters, Katie and Adella, who taught the school in 1894-95 and 1916; Henry Starke and children, Lizzie, Anna and Lewis; Isaac Winans and sons, Joseph; the Rev. P. W. Wynn and children, Alpha, Roberta and John.  (Mr. Wynn once held a protracted meeting at the schoolhouse).  J. J. Yeomans and children, George, John and Mabel, who later taught the school; Victor Young and children, Christina and Joseph.

Other Taxpayers

Additional names of taxpayers in the 1890's were J. O. Brown, F. C. Bayles, David Chase, J. F. Chase, G. R. Cornelius, John Childers, Daniel Casey, John Casey, T. H. Downing, Charles Hamilton, H. E. Hunt, Asa Holcomb, John Israel, H. J. Israel, H. A. Jones, Abner Morris, George Porter, George A. Pursley, Eli Pursel, Eugene Pursel, George Pursel, Jenny Phillips, J. W. Phillips, John Scott, A. F. Summerville, Nathan Thompson, William Vorbeck, William Walters, J. T. Ware, Lewis Williams, John Williams and J. A. Yeomans.  Some additional names after 1902 up to 1915 were Paul Beier, Joe Casey, William Coberly, Robert Gates, Edd Herriford, D. Morris, Elmer Mendenhall, Stephen Wilhite, Clayton Walters, Albert Fast, W. T. Cady, John Bucher, Elmer Roof, Bruce Bradbury and Joseph Winans.

Items of interest to the writer found in directors meetings and warrants recorded are given here:  

The first meeting recorded was that of April 7, 1891, with W. S. Chase acting as chairman.  John Ishmael was elected as director for three years and an 8-month school was voted, six months in the winter and two months in the spring.  John Lowe and L. A. Martin received votes for county school commissioner.  Others voted on through the years for this office included Professor Johnson, Miss Annie Stewart, Frank Sparling, Mr. Cusick, J. McCormick and J. J. Jordan.  The first minutes were signed by Gram Cooper, secretary.

Twenty-five dollars was voted at the 1893 meeting for a library and specifications for wood follows:  seven cords of green wood, half hickory and half oak.  The contract was given to John Scott at $2.90 per cord.

A Boundary Dispute

April 6, 1897, it was voted to change the boundary line in such a way as to make two districts, beginning at the northwest corner of Section 18, thence east two miles, thence south to Grand River, then west following siad river until it crossed section line between Range S 24 and 25, thence north to the place of the beginning.  The remaining part was as follows:  Beginning at the northwest corner of Section 6, east two miles, then south tow miles, west two miles, north two miles to the place of beginning, all in Range 23, Township 57.  Three days later patrons of the two new districts formed appealed to the county commissioner, F. H. Sparling, to settle the case, since the south district had voted against changing the boundary line, and the north district had voted for it.  Mr. Sparling received $5, the customary amount allowed for such a transaction, for giving his decision, but it is not clear to the writer which side won.

On May 22, 1897, a petition was presented by B. F. Head, requesting a special meeting to vote on, first, a new schoolhouse, and second, the amount of levy needed for building purposes.  The proposition lost since there was a tie vote.  It was voted on again June 7, 1898 and with 20 for, and 24 against, the proposition again lost.

Library rules were adopted at the meeting of October 28, 1892, with Flan Israel chosen as librarian for one year.  Missing window panes were replaced, the well cleaned and a pump installed at a cost of $14.85 in 1892.  School closed Feb. 10, 1893, for two weeks because of scarlet fever.

On Dec. 24, 1896, it was voted to discontinue having singing in the schoolhouse.  An arithmetic chart was purchased July 13, 1897, for $37.50.  The building was repaired in 1894 at an approximate cost of $170.

In 1904, Paul Byrd, who had purchased the Jones farm and therefore owned the land where the school had been built, gave a quit claim deed to the trustees of the school district for the sum of $1 for the square acre of land that constituted the school site.

Coal at $1.10 a Ton

The meeting of April 4, 1916, recorded that a contract for hauling coal was given to O. D. Jones at $1.10 per ton.  Free textbooks were voted in 1917 and a stove was purchased that year for $90.15.  School was closed for two weeks during March of 1919 because of the flu.

Two 8-foot benches were made in 1923.  The schoolhouse was floored that year at a cost of $197.33 and the World Book Encyclopedia was purchased for $66.  An organ was bought from the Chillicothe Music Company in 1917 for $95.15.  The building was shingled in 1921, labor costing $43.40 and material $38.12.  A piano was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Hooker in 1922 for $104.50.  The well was cased in 1926, material costing $88.92, labor for drilling by John McCarty, $150.50 and cost of pump $67.50.  In 1927 the interior of the school was painted and varnished at a cost of $168.44.  A new heater was purchased in 1928 for $70 and the schoolhouse was painted in 1929 for $70.50.

Teachers Of The School

Mrs. Miller was able to obtain a complete list of all Oak Grove teachers from 1891 until the school ceased to operate at the end of the 1958-59 term.  Names of teachers obtained before that date include Miss Whittenberg, Miss Retta Willett, Miss Alice Woodford, Miss Mary Smith who later married Edd Herriford, George Myers and Dick Jones.

A few books of teachers' reports were available and some information from them will be given after the teachers' names.  The list follows:  Miss Ella Casey, 5-month term in 1891.  She received $35 per month.  There were 86 school-age children enumerated in the district that year.  Belle Jones, spring term of three months, 1892, salary $20.  A. E. Wanamaker, winter term of 1892, salary $45 per month, Mr. Stewart related that he was an excellent penman and made certificates of honor for the students in different subjects.  Nat Thompson, fall term of five months, 1893 at $40 per month.  Twenty-seven boys and 24 girls were enrolled during this term.  Della Stewart, spring term of three months, 1894, salary, $25.  Nat Thompson also taught the fall term of six months in 1894, but resigned in October to carry mail in Chillicothe.  W. E. Hunt taught the remainder of that term at a salary of $40.

Mabel Yeomans, spring term of two months, 1895, salary, $25.  Della Stewart, fall term of five months, 1895, salary $35.  She also taught the spring term of three months in 1896.

Miss Lucy Holcomb taught the fall term of six months, 1896, salary $45.  There were 97 school-age children enumerated in the district that year.  Berta Wynn, spring term of two months in 1897, salary, $25.  Ella Casey fall term of six months in 1897, salary, $40; Alpha Wynn, spring term of two months 1898, salary, $25; Ed F. Daly, who was sheriff of Livingston County when he taught, fall term of eight months, 1898, salary, $50.

John McBride, fall term of six months in 1899, salary $50.  Mabel Yeomans, spring term of two months, 1900, $25; Mrs. J. W. (Alpha) McCormick, fall term of six months, 1900, salary not given.

All the above teachers taught in the first frame building and did their own janitor work.

J. J. Jordan was teaching the winter term of 1901 when the building burned and the school was discontinued until the new building was ready for occupancy in 1902.  Several names follow with no exact date as to when they taught, but it was between 1901 and 1914:  Miss Gertrude White, $50; Myrtle Deardorff, Clarence Powell, $50; Dorothy Pomrosy, spring term at salary of $30; E. B. Currin of Chillicothe, $50 and $55 salary; Mrs. Mary Beauchamp of near Avalon, who rode horseback or drove horse and buggy to and from school.  Mrs. Iva Hargrove Clute, Miss Elsie Faulkner who boarded in the home of Louis Jones; Elsie Bradbury, J. W. Jones, Mrs. Annie Allen, who boarded in the home of Robert Gates; Emily Allen, boarded with the Flan Israels.  Kate Hapes of Chillicothe taught the fall term of 1914, Kate Slattery the spring term of 1915.  Elsie Bradbury, who had moved into the district and taught the fall term of 1915, salary $55.  Subjects taught were reading, spelling, language, arithmetic, history, geography, agriculture, physiology, writing.  Henry Stewart, 1916.

Mrs. Honor Israel, Chillicothe, taught the term of 1917-18, salary $60.  Two days of school were dismissed for the Farm Congress in September, and two days for teachers' meeting in Kansas City in November, one day in March dismissed for the funeral of Floyd Reeves, and one day in April for examinations at Butler school.  Additional subjects recorded in 1915 were drawing, vocal music, civics.  Three hundred books were reported in the library that year.  Twenty-six pupils were enrolled.  Two boys were graduated that year and there were 44 visitors registered.  Lorene Roof taught in 1918-19, salary $60.  School was dismissed for two weeks in April of that term because of the flu.  Pictures purchased from the proceeds of a box supper were those of Washing, Lincoln and Wilson, also a map of Asia and a pencil sharpener.  Miss Roof lived with her grandfather in Chillicothe.  Minnie Howell taught the term of 1919-20, salary, $75.  She boarded in the W. T. Cady home.  Ethel Mitzenberg, who had been hired for the term at $70, resigned, and Miss Howell taught that term.  Miss Howell also taught the next term at a salary of $110.

Mrs. Mamie Beier taught the 1921 term at $100.  Thirty-four were enrolled that term.  Mildred Brown, 1922, salary, $100.  She boarded at Libia Head's.  Thirty-six pupils were enrolled.  Lucille Mergenthal taught in 1923 at a salary of $90.  She boarded in the home of Joseph Winans.  She left a note stating, "We have spelling every day, reading and arithmetic one day and language and history the next and agriculture and geography the next.  This gives us 30 minutes for all classes in the higher grades."  She also gave an inventory of the condition of the school furniture, and stated that there were 235 supplementary books in the library, also maps, globe and charts.

Inventory Includes Trees

Elsie Darr taught the two following terms, 1924 through 1926 at salaries of $85 and $90.  She boarded as the Louis Joneses.  Marjorie Ceasar taught three consecutive terms, from 1927 through 1930.  Directors were Dowe Miller, Charles Stewart, W. R. Grace and S. B. Wilhite, clerk.  Her inventory follows:  eight trees on schoolground, eight windows, six doors, 21 pupil desks, nine chairs, 34 reference books, four dictionaries, 100 desk books, 210 library books, five maps, one spelling chart, a flag, small table, curtains, tow rubber balls, one football, bat, baseball glove, volleyball and net.

Graduates listed during those terms were Eileen Egbert, Lotta Wilhite, Helen Cox, Mary Stewart, Blanche Thompson, Elsie Rittman, Harold Miller, Ernest Beier, W. R. Grace, Ruth Cox, Alec Cameron, Grace Warren, Donald Israel and Charles Vorbeck.  Mary Ballew taught from 1930 through 1932, salary, $95.  Vaida Bowman, 1932.  She boarded with Libia Head.  Garnett Bowen, a niece of Paul byrd who deeded the acre of land for an extended playground, taught in 1933.  There was no record of her salary.  Violet Olenhouse taught in 1934.  She boarded in the home of Libia Head.

Edith Mammen taught the term of 1934-35 and received $400 for the term.  She had a teacher's training certificate.  Directors that year were John Israel, William Vorbeck, Glenn Thompson and S. B. Wilhite clerk.  Mrs. Russell Hanson, at a salary of $55, taught from 1937 through 1939.  Information from the register of her first term included:  Two graduates, 22 enrolled; board members, John Israel, Charles Stewart, William Vorbeck, S. B. Wilhite.  Fifty text books were purchased that year at a cost of $90.  Paul Israel, Bobby Elliott and Jerry Vorbeck were neither absent or tardy during the term.

Taught for $65 a Month

Mrs. Jack (Sylvia) Reece of Meadville taught the 1939-40 term at a salary of $65.  She boarded in the home of E. E. Sallee of Chillicothe.  There were 16 pupils enrolled.  Mrs. Elliott was president of the P.T.A. that term.  School equipment added were bulletin boards and new books.  The blackboards were painted.  A notation stated that Paul Israel died Jan. 6, 1940.  He was 12 years old and in the eighth grade.  His grades were all marked either excellent or superior.  Workbooks were used that term in English, reading, arithmetic, spelling and geography.  Twenty library books were purchased for $23.

Pupil activity programs carried out were citizenship and music club with tonette band.  Trees were set in the yard.  Phyllis Reger of Newtown, Mo., taught the 1940-41 term.  Twenty-three were enrolled.  Board members were John Yeomans, William Vorbeck, W. T. Cady and S. B. Wilhite.  Ruth Garvin of Brunswick taught 1941-42 at a salary of $75.  She boarded in the home of Eli Skinner of Chillicothe.  Hallowe'en and Christmas programs were given that year.  Margaret Stewart was neither absent nor tardy.  Pupil activities included a literature club.  Reading Circle books were purchased, also a water cooler.  Mrs. John Yeomans was president of the P. T. A.

The teacher gave a textbook inventory by grades as follows:  First grade, art stories, "Early Journeys in Science," "Stories in Health," Elson primer and reader; second grade, number stories, art stories, health sotires and Elson reader.  Third grade, number stories and arithmetic study, art stories, "Early Journeys in Science," health sotries and Elson reader.  "Neighborhood Stories" comprised the geography period.  Fourth and 5th grades, arithmetic study, "Early Journeys in Science," English Activities," "Game of Healthy Living," Elson readers.  History study in the fourth grade was "Glimpses into Long Ago"; fifth grade, "Young Land," geography, "Home Life in Far-Away Lands" and a "Study of the Americas"; sixth grade, arithmetic study, "Habits of Living," Elson reader, "A Full Grown Nation," "Nations Beyond the Seas"; seventh grade, arithmetic study, "English Activities," "Laws of Healthy Living," "Fact and Story Reader," "America's Heritage from Long Ago," and "Conquest of America."

Eighth grade, "Practical Farming," arithmetic study, "English Activities," American history, "America's March Toward Democracy" and "Sapp and Fair Civics."  Notebook speller was used by Silaer Burdett Co., and the Palmer "Method of Writing."  The music hour was for all pupils, a 1-book course.  Subjects covered by the textbooks named were arithmetic, elementary science, art, English, health, reading, history, geography, civics and agriculture.  Three pupils were graduated that term.  Mrs. Laura Ogan followed, then Mrs. Mary Yeomans, Mrs. Clyde Harper, Mrs. Appolonia Moylan, Mrs. Grace VanEaton and Miss Irene Cooper.  Some of these teachers taught more than one term at Oak Grove.

Community activities at the schoolhouse in the early days consisted of cyphering and spelling matches with other schools, literary societies, singing school, basket dinners on the last day of school and miscellaneous program on special occasions through the year.  Elections as well as preaching and Sunday school services part of the time were held, too.  Pie and pound, and also box suppers, and farmer's meeting were held later and Mrs. Stewart told of community club meetings and meeting of the P.T.A.

The last teacher of the school was Mrs. Fred McCullough of Chillicothe.  She taught from 1956 through 1958.  The school ceased to operate at the close of the 1957-58 term.  Pupils of the last term were Ann Hamilton, Beth Hamilton, Marilyn Hendrix, Marie Marsh, Annette Davenport, Dwane Davenport, Susan Hawk, Marsha Mumpower, Mary Ann Graves, Ada Bell Graves, Emanuel Graves, Darrell Alnutt, Mike Murphy, Martha Chapin, Lonnie Chapin and Jimmy Dowell.  Directors the last term were Milford Hamilton, Walter Case and Voyle Grothe, clerk.

Interesting district history was made by the little hamlet of Jimtown near Grand River, southwest of Oak Graove school.  The first bricks made in the vicinity were made there by William Blackwell who operated the kiln.  Some of the brick buildings erected in Chillicothe in 1865 were made of bricks from the Jimtown kiln.  The town also had a grocery store and a blacksmith shop.  John Ryan ran a carding machine near by.

Pupils living who attended Oak Grove in 1880 are Mrs. Emma (Chase) Carr, Mrs. Della (Stewart) Lair, who taught the school, later, Mrs. Addie (Purcell) Chase and John Wynn.  These early day pupils tell of walking to school on frozen snow over rail fences.

Roy Frazier bought the school building and the acre of ground for $2,800 Sept. 25, 1959, and it is now a residence.

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