Even Grown Folks Attended
Rural Sneed School
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, March 23, 1954.
by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri
reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune
(Among teachers of district near Sampsel was General Crowder)
The square acre of land for the Sneed School site was deeded by W. B. Wilson. It was originally situated in District 6, now known as District 45, Township 58, Range 25, about one and one-fourth miles east and three-eighths mile south of Sampsel, or about three-fourth of a mile northeast of the old gravel pit. The schoolhouse was moved from this site in 1945, about a quarter of a mile west and one quarter mile north. This was done that the Cooley Gravel Company could make use of the land. The building still stands.
The school took its name from that of a venerable pioneer, Silas Sneed, who lived one-fourth mile west and one-fourth mile south of the school on what is now the gravel pit site. According to information given by J. A. Walker of Chillicothe, Missouri, in an interview, Mr. Sneed was the father of a very large family ranging in age from an elder son, Seeb Sneed, down to a set of twin daughters about four years old, at the time Mr. Walker first remembers the family around the year of 1882. Both Silas and his son Seeb, were wearing full beards at this time, (a custom of the day), which were snowy white and which reached almost to their waists.
Mr. Walker’s first teacher at Sneed School, was Miss Hattie Hale, who later married Tom Campbell, a dentist in Chillicothe. He attended school at Brown School his first year, and because the boundary of the two districts were changed at times, he sometimes was a pupil at Sneed School and again at Brown School. He was born in 1872, three-fourths mile east of Sampsel on the old Walker tract of land, which his grandfather, Amos Walker, obtained from the government. There were ten children in the family.
Mr. Walker stated that as many as 72 pupils were enrolled in the early years of the school, some of them grown men and women.
Mr. Walker’s latent talent for art was developed through study with one of Sneed School’s teachers who taught drawing in the school. Mr. Walker later established studios in various towns and taught chemical oil portrait painting. Afterwards, he served for 33 years on the police force at Chillicothe, being deputy sheriff under William Nothnagle, who was sheriff of Livingston County.
Most of Sneed School’s early history was furnished by the Rev. Leander C. Dryden of Denver and Estes Park, Colorado. Mr. Dryden started to Sneed School in 1888. His first teacher was Anna Stewart. She later taught in the public schools of Kansas City, and in various county teachers’ institutes. About 1902 she was married to Ira Williams and lived for many years in the Sampsel community.
It is noteworthy that Mr. Dryden was able to furnish a list of the teachers in an unbroken line from his first term at Sneed School in 1888 until he moved from the community in 1902.
Mr. Dryden’s second teacher was Lucy Holcomb, who taught the spring and winter terms of 1889. She was a graduate of Valparaiso, Indiana, Normal. She had taught an earlier term at Sneed School.
Kate Dryden, a cousin, taught the spring term of 1890. She later married Dr. R. L. Dowell of Chillicothe. She now lives in Oklahoma.
B. B. Smith taught the winter terms of 1890-91 and 1891-92. Though a Democrat, he had served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He became active in politics in Livingston County, serving as recorder of deeds sometime during the 1870’s. Mr. Dryden believes that he probably was postmaster at Chillicothe during Cleveland’s first administration. His son, Sherman Smith, was postmaster during Cleveland’s second administration. He maintained a home both in Chillicothe and on a farm near the gravel pit in Sampsel township for several years, ending in the spring of 1892. It was during his tenure that improvements were made at Sneed School, such as a cistern dug, a new yard fence made, a new roof, new desks, and a chart and dictionary purchased. Mr. Dryden writes that he was the one teacher who summoned the school "to books" by rapping the outside of the door with a rattan cane or stout switch, rather than by ringing a hand bell. Mr. Smith moved to Hennessee, Oklahoma, in 1892, where he was engaged in the real estate and abstract business.
Miss Emma Boettler, Mr. Smith’s star pupil, taught the following spring and winter term of 1892-93. Miss Flora Carpenter taught the spring of 1893. F. D. Daley, who had been city marshal of Chillicothe, taught the winter term of 1893-94. Mrs. Anna Williams taught the spring term of 1893 and the fall and winter term of 1894. Rachel Walker, who married Frank Mast, and later married a Mr. Minnick, taught the spring term of 1895.
J. H. Cusick, who was later a banker at Mooresville, taught the term of 1895-96. He taught in various rural schools in Livingston County during the late 1880’s and early 1890’s. He stressed painstaking work and regular attendance.
W. W. Dunn, later a mail carrier in Chillicothe for many years, taught the winter term of 1896-97 and 1897-98. Mr. Dryden asserts that both Mr. Dunn and Mr. Cusick were representative of the better-than-average rural school teacher of the 1890’s, stressing the fundamentals in practical education in and for the rural schools.
Miss Daisy Hopper taught the spring term of 1897. Herman Elliott taught the spring and winter terms of 1898-99. John Noah taught the spring term of 1899. Clarence Powell taught the fall term of 1899-1900.
Having attended the Chillicothe Normal, Mr. Dryden taught Sneed School two terms, 1900-01 and 1901-02. J. W. McCormick, county commissioner of education at the time, signed his first teaching certificate. Then, having received a life certificate at the Central
Missouri Teachers College in 1905, he taught four years at Drexel and Doniphan, serving as principal.
He later entered the ministry, receiving his Master of Theology degree at Iliff School of Theology in Denver in 1918. Since then he has held pastorates in Kansas, Wyoming and Colorado, retiring in 1943.
An earlier teacher recalled by Mr. Dryden was Elizabeth Wolcott. J. A. Boucher, a former county superintendent of schools of Livingston County, wrote Mr. Dryden that General Enoch Herbert Crowder taught Sneed School sometime in the 1870’s. He boarded with Mr. Dryden’s grandmother’s family, who lived in the Brown School district. General Crowder was born in Missouri in 1859. In 1881 he was graduated from West Point and received a degree in law from Missouri University in 1886. From the time he was sent to the Philippines at the outbreak of the Spanish-American war, where he served as secretary to the military governor, until his retirement in 1927, he held many positions of note, among them, provost marshal during World War I, and United States ambassador to Cuba in 1920.
The records between the years of 1913 and 1918 list the following teachers: Mabel Reilley, Foy Trimble, Emily Ulman, Leta Maharg, Drury Wilson, Grace Mast and Mrs. F. H. Morgan.
The Sneed building is approximately 20x30 feet. It originally faced south, with a door at the east end of the south front. There were three windows on each side. The building was on the north side of a road running east from the vicinity of Sampsel.
The schoolroom floor was of six-inch pine boards. The first desks and seats were of walnut and had stationary tops. Later desks with tops that lowered were installed. They had troughs below, which held books and supplies.
The first blackboard was made of five planks lx12 inches painted black. Slate blackboards were installed during the term of 1899-1900 when Clarence Powell taught.
Kerosene lamps on either side of the building in brackets, with reflectors, furnished light for the room when needed.
Slates were used for nearly all written seat work until about 1895 when note books and pencil tablets began to be used. Ink was associated almost entirely with copy books and foolscap paper was used by the more advanced pupils for practice in penmanship. This paper got its name from fact that it was watermarked with a fool’s-cap. The size of the paper varied from 12x15 to 17x14 inches in size. Spencerian penmanship was used until 1898 when the Vertical style came into vogue.
School records varied in shape and size and were usually official. The one most frequently used were published by Donohue and Renneberry.
Prior to 1891 some of the textbooks were: Harvey’s Grammar, Monteith’s Geography, in a series of three; Ray’s Arithmetic, in a series of three; the new McGuffy readers through the fifth; Quackenboes’ U. S. History. The fall of 1891 saw the coming of Butler’s Geography in a series of two; Ray’s series of three Arithmetics revised; the series of Franklin’s reader; Steele’s Physiology, Townsend’s Civil Government and Barnes’ U. S. History.
A chart mounted on a steel tripod furnished supplementary work in reading, writing, arithmetic, drawing, geography, history, government and physiology. It was installed in 1891 and was still in use when Mr. Dryden taught Sneed School. He said that it and Webster’s standard dictionary, purchased about the same time, had an equal amount of usefulness.
An interesting custom followed at Sneed School by Mr. Dryden was that of reading to the pupils for a few minutes just before the close of school on days when time afforded. Hiawatha and much of Hawthorne’s Wonder Book were covered in this way. Classics as such had not permeated the rural schools as yet, he writes, and all this was new and strange to most of the pupils.
One program, which stands out vividly in the memory of Mr. Dryden, was the one given on Longfellow’s anniversary, when Lucy Holcomb was teacher in 1889. The entire program was made up of Longfellow’s writings. The room was decorated with freshly cut green boughs and the word "Welcome" in large letters was tacked high on the front wall above the blackboard. Numbers on the program were all recited from memory. One section of Hiawatha - "Picture writing" had samples drawn on the blackboard, "Probably much as the Indians themselves had been used to doing."
The playground most used was between the front of the building and the road. It was worn bare the year around, except at the lower, west end. Other comers of the yard were used for games which did not require much space to play. In the yard back of the building, which space was most seldom used, wild strawberries, wild onions and wild flowers grew. Mr. Walker said the ball ground most used by the pupils was across a ditch just west of the school in a meadow belonging to William Wilson.
As late as 1888 there was an abandoned well, nearly filled with water, about ten feet back of the building. Water was carried once or twice a day from a well on the Jim Sneed place, about 40 rods southeast of the school. In 1891 a cistern was dug about 15 feet from the northeast comer of the building.
Mr. Dryden states that black haw trees grew at "a somewhat risky distance beyond the meadow south of the public road," and that trees inside the yard were mostly maple and sumac. Slippery elm trees grew just outside the yard to the north.
The yard was fenced while B. B. Smith taught. Records of the meeting of April 6, 1915 states that a new fence was built, the contract awarded to Charles Rice and the specifications were as follows: Posts to be of hedge, line posts to be six feet long, four inches at the top. The comer posts were to be eight feet long, six inches at the top. Six brace posts ten feet long. Mr. Rice received $24.75 for the work and material.
Ball was the favorite game, usually "Long-Town" or "Rounders." Mr. Dryden stated that practically all playground equipment was home-made and individually owned. Balls were sewn or covered, bats were whittled paddle-shaped or approximating baseball bats. Other games played were Crack-the-Whip, Bull Pen, Dare Base, Black Man, Shinny and Duck-on-the-Rock.
Commonest among community activities in those days was "the last day of school" often featured with a basket dinner. Parents began to arrive late in the forenoon. At the noon hour planks were laid along the tops of the desks and the feast was spread. The afternoon would be given to a school program of songs, dialogues, recitations pantomines etc. Spelling matches which often occurred on Friday after the last recess, were sometimes extended to Friday evenings with the public invited to attend and take part.
Writing school was taught by a Mr. Ben Smith, who also taught the boys the art of boxing. These writing schools were held at night two evenings a week during the terms of 1890 and 1891.
Literary societies were held on Friday evenings about the year of 1886-1887 and during the terms of 1896-97, 1897-98. The main feature was a debate with speakers assigned a week in advance. There were quotations, recitations. dialogues and violin music, which Mr. Walker states that he furnished. Mr. Walker still plays the violin for various entertainments and once played over KCMO radio station at Kansas City. During all those early years, there was no organ or piano in the school.
Spelling bees between school districts were popular. There were some excellent spellers in the different schools, who acted as "cappers." Mr. Walker explained that a capper took his or her place at the foot of the line on the opposing side, after sides had been chosen. When the speller next to the capper missed a word, the capper stepped up the line to the place where a speller had first missed the word. When the capper reached the head of the line, the opposing side won, or the side which the capper was representing.
Special church services were conducted during the winter of 1894-95 by the Rev. Reuben McCoskrie of Mooresville, and volunteered Sunday afternoon services were held the summer following. Rev. George W. Mast conducted special evening services during the winter of 1902-03.
Christmas programs were held occasionally, though not traditionally.
Some of the early patron-families of the school were: Sneed, Walker, Wilson, Allnutt, Boettler, Troeger, Cunningham, Dryden, Slifer, Gibbons and Dayton.
Some Sneed School pupils who later became Sneed teachers were Maude Slifer, Kate Dryden, Emma Boettler, Rachel Walker and Leander Dryden.
The earliest school minutes that could be found records the meeting of April 1, 1913, at which time an eight-mouth term of school was voted to begin the middle of September. John Zullig was elected director at this meeting and a twenty-five cent levy was voted for the purpose of obtaining water on the school ground.
Free text books were voted at the annual school meeting April 3, 1917 and a thirty-five cent levy voted for that purpose.
The largest recorded enumeration of the district was in 1914 with 67 school-age children listed.
Taxpayers that year were Marion, Andrew and Albert Walker, Dave Reece, Dave Matthews, Alfred Dryden, James Trimble, Peter Troeger, Frank Wagner, Charles Wilson, John Trager, John Zullig, Charles Rice, Samuel Harlow, William Woolard, Ed Wilson, William Hart, Ed Metzler, Thomas Sampson, William Walker, Luther Stevens, Lee Dowell and J. W. Cox. Directors at that time were Jeff Walker, E. H. Wilson and John Zullig.
Mrs. Arlo Dryden, Sneed’s present clerk, supplied the last bit of news of the school. She informed that Mrs. Gladys Lucas, living in the neighborhood was the school’s last teacher, the term ending April 9, 1948. The Thirteen pupils attending the last term were: Margaret Goodman, Marjorie Powers, Bettie Troeger, Joyce Walker, Marietta Douglas, Bernice James, Jerry Walker, Jimmie Douglas, Vera Rupe, Elaine Cox, Bobby Walker, Tom Beedle and Vernon Hines. Since the school closing, pupils in the district have been transported to Sampsel school.
Present directors for Sneed district are: Jeff Walker, president, Mrs. Arlo Dryden, clerk, Arlo Dryden and Arnold Stephens.