Smith School 
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, April 3, 1954.

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by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune

Five Generations of Smiths Attend Rural Smith School

On September 22, 1865, Washington Smith, a pioneer from Guernsey County, Ohio, bought a tract of land in Rich Hill township, and subsequently deeded one square acre in the northwest comer for school purposes, and Smith School has thus become a five-generation in the Smith family. It is located in District 3, Township 59, Range 23, Section 10, two miles north of Chula.

Washington Smith’s son, Robert, had three sons and a daughter who attended Smith School, his farm being located one-fourth mile east of the school site. The daughter, Mrs. Ethel Burgess, lives on the Robert Smith farm.

Mr. and Mrs. Brock Smith and Mrs. Frank Smith have been helpful in giving information for the school’s early history.

In an interview with Brock Smith, it was learned that not only did his children all attend Smith School, but also his grandson Joe Smith, son of Wade Smith, is now a pupil. Two of Brock’s teachers, Miss Lillie Ward and Miss Virginia Dell later became his sisters-in-law, marrying James Smith and Frank Smith respectively, and the third Smith School teacher, Miss Sarah Waite, became his wife.

He started to school in 1894. His first teacher was Miss Maggie Huff, who later married Mr. Slonaker. She drove to school from her home in Farmersville. Other teachers recalled by him were Leila Riley and Ida Ogan. Earlier teachers were Cyrus Rummage, Mr. Martin, Sam Eccles, and Frank Hortennstine, who later became superintendent of Linn County schools.

The frame weather-boarded building, approximately 30x36, set on wooden blocks, faced west. There were three windows on both the north and south sides, and a door in the west end. The plastered walls were unpainted. Wainscoting was used up as high as the bottoms of the windows.

The floor was of wide pine boards. A platform extended the full length of the east end, with a painted blackboard on the wall above it. Benches extended the full length of the building on the north and south sides.

Desks were double and the tops lowered. Shelves on the wall at either side of the door, held the children’s dinner pails. There were hooks beneath for wraps.

The building was heated by a wood-burning box-type stove, which stood in the center west end. It had a hearth in front and a large end door, which opened out.


There was a large ash tree back of the schoolhouse, two along the road on the north side of the school grounds and an elm on the south.  The first well was located on the northeast corner. Later a well was dug in the southwest corner.

Some of the games popular then were baseball, Blackman, dare base, Anti0over and Fox and geese.

Mr. Smith said that Franklin readers were used when he attended school. Spelling, language, history, geography, arithmetic, and physiology were studied.

Names of the earliest taxpayers included Bray, Oldaker, Martin, Russell, Smith, Kilburn, Tompkins, and Cassida. E. M. Martin was clerk of the school board for years.

The earliest record of Smith School, which could be found, was dated April 4, 1899. E. M. Martin was elected chairman of the meeting. S. W. Taylor served as secretary. William Pray was elected director for a term of three years. A seven months school was voted, the fall term to begin the first Monday in October and the spring term to start in April. It was voted to change the boundary line of the district, but no description was recorded.

Milt Ragan was given a contract to furnish five cords of wood at $1.30 per rack, and in the minutes of the 1901 meeting, Bruce Cassidy was given the contract to furnish five cords of hard wood, 20 inches long, at $1.25 per cord. An eight months school was voted.

On March 13, 1903, a special director’s meeting was called for the purpose of voting on a new schoolhouse and on April 7 of the same year, a vote of 12 to 2 was taken to secure a loan of $700.00 to build it.

The minutes of the April 4, 1905, sate that it was voted to sell the old building. Brock Smith stated that his father, Robert Smith, bought the old schoolhouse for $16.00 and moved it a quarter of a mile east across the field to his farm.  It was moved with a windlass. The schoolhouse was used as a shop.

A meeting called April 21, 1903, was for the purpose of issuing bonds to the amount of $700.00 numbering one to five with interest at 5˘ per annum. A levy of 40˘ on the $100.00 was ordered for payment of bonds and interest. Later it was recorded that bonds No. 1 and No. 2 were paid June 3, 1905; bond No. 3 paid June 2, 1906; bond No. 4 paid June 3, 1907; bond No. 5 paid July 1, 1908.

Records of the meeting of the board of directors on November 5, 1904, state that the school was received from the contractor, G. W. Harmon for $700.00, the order signed by J. H. Oldaker, J. M. Kilburn and A. R. Tompkins.

The new building, set on a new foundation, was constructed on the site of the old one. A cloakroom was added.

The minutes of the January 2, 1905 meeting state that a warrant was drawn for $59.45 for desks and seats.

Coal was first used as fuel at the Smith School in 1905 and the minutes of the April 4 meeting of that year state that 105 pounds of coal at $3.25 per ton was purchased and payment of 50 cents a ton for delivering. At this meeting it was voted to fence the school grounds with four No. 9 wires twisted together, nailed on substantial burr oak posts, set twelve feet apart. It was also voted to dig a cistern and build a coal house.

The minutes of the April 6, 1909, meeting record that it was voted to buy a Webster’s International dictionary and a map of the world.

The first teacher beginning in 1899 was Miss Lillie Ward.  She was followed by Ella Lou Reed, Virginia Bell, Bessie St. Clair, Pearl Altman, Lillie Ward Smith, Leila Riley, Nettie Graham, W. A. Shiflet, Grover Kinsey, Lottie Myers and Cara Davis.  Salaries ranged from $25.00 to $40.00.

Three serving as directors during a period of seventeen years were Andrew Tomkins, J. M. Kilburn, Milton Ragan, J. H. Oldaker, Frank Scarlette, J. A. Smith, W. M. Martin, L. D. Tompkins, William Harris, Horace Tate, F. C. Smith and William Fray.

The earliest enumeration of children recorded was March 7, 1902, listing 28 boys and 21 girls as follows: William and Edith Stapleton; L. V., Roy, Benjamin and Cordelia Dudley; William Harbert; F. C. and C. L. Bartley; Harvey and Charles Long; Vida, Oscar, Archer and Ida Ragan; Harry Burgess; Albert, Charles, Grace, Naoma, Edna and Roy Wilburn; Louise and Myrtle Shelton; H. R., Laura and J. A. Oldaker; Ethel, Brock, Mary, Eva, Nora and Rob Smith; Sadie and Claude Jones; Clarence, Claude, Grace, Nora and Earl Russell; Charles Nichols; Lucy Tomkins; Agnes, Hugh, Asa and Gretchen Martin; and Roy Smith.

Resident taxpayers for 1900 were Sherm Bridewell; John Basins; Jack, Dallas and Ross Cassiday; Oliver Coberly; Frank Harbot; Aaron Ishmael; William Jones; Henry and Joe Johnson; James and Lewis Kilburn; John Long; Morris Martin; Jacob Oldaker; George, William and Ed Pray; Charles and Albert Russell; Frank Scarlette; Austin Shelton; John, Robert, J. W., James and Frank Smith; Arthur Turner; Ward Taylor; Abe, Andrew and Lewis Tompkins; Peter Cotterill; Ed Norville; Milton Ragan; Milton Raymo; George Bethard; J. F. Bartley; W. L. Dudley; J. W. Burgess; Edward Balman; Frank Harbert; Walter and Dick Loving; Edward Norville; Clarence, Elmer and B. Stapleton; George W, Smith; Horace Tate; and C. D. Williams.

Mrs. Clarence ward is Smith School’s present teacher.  She has supplied the facts regarding the school’s present history.

This is Mrs. Ward’s second consecutive term at Smith School. She has taught school for the last fifteen years, four years at the State Training School for Girls at Chillicothe, and the others in the public schools of Livingston County.

In addition to teaching school, Mrs. Ward keeps a modern six-room house her husband and a son, Don, who is now a student in the college of Agriculture at Missouri University. Mrs. Ward lives two miles west of the schoolhouse.

Children and flowers are her hobbies. She says they seem to remind her of each other. Last summer when the writer called on her, she had a flower garden of 2,000 gladioli and numerous other flowers.

She also teaches a Sunday School class of adults at the New Providence Presbyterian Church which is one mile south of her home. Previous to her three years as teacher of this class, she taught a children’s Bible class.

Grades 1, 2, 4, 5, and 5 are being taught this year with the following pupils enrolled:

1st grade – Scott Garr and Joe Smith.

2nd grade – Steven Garr.

4th grade – Irvin Meservey.

5th grade – Ronald Lame.

6th grade – Barbara Lame and James Meservey.

The new building constructed in 1904 has an excellent foundation. It is approximately the size of the first building except for the cloakroom, which was added at the time the present building was erected.

The cloakroom is also used as a washroom by the children.  Extra folding chairs are stored there when not in use, as is such equipment as balls, bats, and gloves, and cleaning equipment for the schoolroom. There is a shelf the full length the full length of the cloakroom, where cups and cooking utensils, used by the community club at its meetings, are kept.  The floor of the cloakroom is covered with linoleum.

Two doors lead from this room into the main room. Both rooms have walls of ivory and wainscoting and woodwork are painted an olive brown. Windows are equipped with tight blinds of a light color which when drawn, make the bookmobile films shown more vivid. The room is lighted with electricity and heated by a Lennox automatic heating system. On the wall, just back of the heating system, are two lunch buckets. There is an excellent collection of wall pictures. There are new single desks for the pupils and a teacher’s desk. There is a large built-in bookcase in the southwest corner of the room and a sectional bookcase on the south. Primary pupils are well equipped with an oak table and eight chairs, and a new supply of primary study materials was added last year. Mrs. Ward believes that “90 per-cent of the child’s school difficulties are overcome by laying a good foundation in the primary year.”

The floor is of hardwood. The school has a new set of Compton Encyclopedias, an excellent library, a globe, a good collection of maps, a slate blackboard and a goodly supply of bulletin boards which hold posters made by the different grades on the subject of courtesy, good citizenship, safety, health and illustrated poems.

One such poem was on Missouri, and built-in historical posters were made on early American explorers, that supplemented the children’s written stories of each, which were placed in the booklets with attractive covers. Mrs. Ward states that this made the study of early history more interesting and more easily remembered.

Cut-out posters were made which told the story of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. The children this year, have illustrated the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” with free hand drawings. Maps of Livingston County were made by the different grades showing the production of livestock and grain, according to the latest census available. Blackboard borders and window decorations are changed each month in keeping with the seasons.

Other handicrafts enjoyed included cutting out wooden objects with a coping saw and painting them, and the making of paper animals.  This activity was inspired by the film “Aminules” which was shown by the Livingston County Memorial Library last November. The project took the form of a contest, with various rural schools in the county competing. When entries were judged March 21 of this year, Barbara Lame, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C. Lame, and 8th grade pupil at Smith School, won first place in the most original category.

Music notebooks were made following the suggestions offered by the State Course of Study. The school has a piano and an electric record player.

Playground equipment includes a Merry-Go-Round and Teeter Boards. There is a flag and pole.

Outdoor games played are baseball, Blackman, and Cheese Box.  Indoor games enjoyed include Checkers, Animal Rummy, Monopoly and Bingo.

Mrs. Ward gives an demonstration of school work each year for the patrons, at the community meetings held monthly. She remarked that “the parents are so busy earning a living for their adorable children, that some of them are unable to visit the School. I believe the parents are entitled to know exactly what goes on in the schoolroom.”

Reading and arithmetic demonstrations follow the regular procedure of class-work. This year, in addition to the reading lessons given, poems, which had been memorized during the term, were recited. Classes in arithmetic demonstrate their work at the blackboard. Parents examine both text books and work books used by the children.

Parents were invited to three special programs this term, Christmas, Valentine, and Parent’s Day, held January 19. One-hundred per-cent of the parents attended.  The program for this event included regular school work.

Patrons of the school look forward to the regular monthly community meetings which were started in 1937. The first president was Esther Beier, now deceased. The president this year is Mrs. Marshall Meservey. The patrons have charge of the meetings.

An old-fashioned cyphering match was an interesting program at one of these meetings. Sides were chosen by H. F. Lightner and J. W. Garr.

Mrs. Ward has this to say of Smith School’s school board: “Smith School has one of the best school boards in the county. Mr. Marshall Meservey and Mr. Harry Lightner have served on the board for a number of years, and much credit is due them for our excellent school equipment. All the board members are interested in the school, and are always ready to be of service in any way.” Other members of the board this year are Jimmie Garr and Mrs. Sarah Smith, clerk.

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