First Tonerville School Was a Log Building Constructed in 1880's
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, February 18, 1953.

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by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune

A log building served the children of Tonerville community as a subscription school before the frame building, now standing, was erected sometime between the years of 1881 and 1885.

The former pupils of the little log school still live in the immediate neighborhood, namely Mrs. Minerva Earl of Breckenridge and Mr. Fred Toner of Ludlow, who owns the telephone exchange there.

Miss Flora Culling, who later married Banford Smith, was one of the teachers in the log school. She was the grandmother of Miss Bernice Smith, whose parents, Mr. and Mrs. Earl Smith, live in the district. Miss Smith a former pupil and teacher of Tonerville School, now owns and operates a cabinet shop at Utica known as “B’s Cabinet Shop.”

The earliest records of Tonerville School, together with the deed to the school grounds, were burned in a fire which destroyed the home of Mr. McClellan, March 4, 1907, who at the time was clerk of the district.

This school, in District 6, (now numbered 62), Township 57, Range 25, Section 31, is unique, in that the district embraces a part of both Livingston and Caldwell Counties and is in four townships, namely, Monroe, Mooresville, Fairview and Breckenridge. Its boundaries comprise 3165 acres of land. The school is situated five miles southwest of Mooresville and five miles northwest of Ludlow.

The acre of land for the school site was purchased from Carl Bray, and the frame schoolhouse that was built on it still stands.

It is approximately 20x36 feet, with three windows on either side. The building faces south. An entrance at the front of the building served for wraps and dinner pails. During the coldest weather, the food in the dinner pails would freeze and the pupils would have to thaw it out on the old box-stove with a drum, which stood in the center of the main building. The floor was of wide pine boards. The manufactured desks seated approximately pupils. During several terms of school, long benches had to be pressed into service to seat pupils who had no desks. They sat with their books piled at their sides.

Blackboards filled the space between the front window and the door on either side and there was a blackboard between the doors. Slates were used for seat work.

Lamps set in brackets with reflectors, furnished light.

Water was carried a half-mile from either the McClellan or the Isaac Bryan farm. The pupils thought it a great treat to go for water, always going by twos. When they returned, they were allowed to pass the dipper from pupil to pupil until the thirst of all was quenched. In 1908 a Mr. Bose bored and drilled a 29˝ foot well on the school ground for the sum of $30.35. The next year the well was drilled 79 feet deeper at a cost of $20.25.

Black oak, walnut and ash trees grew in the yard. Part of the school-yard was reserved for a ball ground. Sometimes the pupils played in a field directly across from the school ground. Other than ball, Black-man, Anti-over and Drop-the-Handkerchief were played.

McGuffey readers and spellers and Ray’s Arithmetic were used as texts.  Other subjects studied were grammar, history, geography, civil government and physiology copy books were used.

Suspended from the center of the ceiling, was a large tellurion, which was lowered with the aid of a rope and pulleys when needed for the study of geography.  A heavy weight in the form of an iron ball, which fastened on the end of the rope, kept the globe in place when not in use. The pupil’s favorite nickname for the globe was “Old T Bundy.” When the interviewer asked if it was a favorite target for paper wads, the reply was, “No indeed! In those days, the teacher’s pride was strict discipline, and should a pupil attempt anything like that, punishment would have resulted.”

Early teachers were Emma Dietrich of Utica, who boarded at the George Balkey home; Dall Terwilliger of Utica; Sarah Wilson of Ludlow; Perry Borders, Mary Murphy, John Nance; Nettie Vanderhoof; Lucy Cranmer; I. D. Parks and Effie Handy, now Mrs. Effie Pilcher of Breckenridge. Teachers in the early days of the school received from $25.00 to $30.00 salary per month and paid from $2.50 to $3.00 per week for room and board. 

Community activities held at the schoolhouse were numerous and well-attended.  There were ciphering matches, spelling bees, literary societies and exhibitions at certain times throughout the school year.

Clinton White conducted a singing school in the early days of the school, and later at different times, John Rudolph and Mr. and Mrs. Hardin Rudolph gave instructions.

Before the Molo Church, which is ˝ mile east of the school, was built sixty years ago, Sunday School, church services, prayer meetings and protracted meetings were held at the schoolhouse. T. P. Toner was superintendent of the Sunday School for years. The organization was known as the Eureka Union Sunday School. The Sunday School picnics were eagerly awaited. Rev, French, Albert Ragan and Rev. Adkins were early preachers.

Christmas dinner at the school preceding the programs, were among the outstanding events of the year. Trimming the tree was fun. It was festooned with strings of popcorn, colored field corn, cranberries and paper chains.

Early patrons of the school included the names of Darnell, Roath, Bryan, Robinson, McClelland, Stockwell, Higgins, Pryor, Earl, Ward, Smith, Toner, Powell, Fitzpatrick and McCoskrie.

The clay hills were often full of mud holes, making transportation to and from school extremely difficult at certain times of the year, and snowdrifts would often stay on for weeks. Sometimes they were so deep they covered the fences, and by constant freezing, became rigid enough to walk upon. This elevation gave the small pedestrians the sensation of being “on top of the world.”

The school’s early history was obtained through interviews with three of its former pupils, namely, J. S. McCoskrie, Mrs. Aurie Toner, Mrs. Marshall Bryan, all living within the district. Some information was obtained also from Mrs. Earl Smith. Mrs. Eva Earl, present school clerk, furnished the school’s latest history.

The oldest record book preserved, begins in 1907. Miss Iris Pehry was employed as teacher for the spring term and Miss Sadie Perkins taught the five-month winter term for $40.00 per month, which included the pay for janitor work. Coal was purchased by the bushel, the coal ranging from 5˘ to 16˘ per bushel.

The first enumeration of pupils recorded is for the year of 1907, listing forty-two. The names of parents or guardians are written at the left of the list opposite the pupils’ names.

The school continued to operate until the spring of 1938. There were only two pupils who attended the last term of school, Ruth Moore and Frances Dale.

The last teacher was Miss Renna Sparks of Braymer, who boarded in the home of Mrs. Bertha McClelland. She received $45.00 per month, including janitor’s fee. The term was eight months. The board of directors for the last term was John McCoskrie, Clay Clark and C. A. Earl.

The district continues to keep the building in repair and the board of directors have their meetings there. Business of the present consists mainly of paying tuition and transportation for the pupils, in the district, to the several schools nearby. At present there are three in high-school and four in grade school. The present board of directors is Alton Bray, E. S. Copple, C. A. Earl and Eva Earl, Clerk.

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