Ward School Near Chula Had Long, Colorful History
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, August 23, 1958.

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by Mrs. Luther Boone, Wheeling, Missouri

reprinted with the permission of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune




The oldest history for the story of Ward School was given in an interview with Mrs. Thirza St. John who lives with her daughter Mrs. Marshall Meservey, and family near Chula. Mrs. St. John, nee Thirza Ward, is 86 years old. Her grandfather Archibald Ward came from Kentucky and had four sons who grew up to homestead land in the district, her father P. D. Ward being one of them.

She and her brother R. D. Ward attended several terms of school in the old building before the new schoolhouse was built in the summer of 1860. When they became adults, she had the privilege of serving as clerk of the district for 17 years, and her brother was director of the school for more than 20 years. She continued to live in the home of her father until she married J. R. St. John in 1909 and moved to Colorado. However, the couple finally moved a mile north of the Ward school where he died in 1938. Since that time she has resided in the Meservey home.

Ward school is located in District 4, Township 59, Range 23, and is four miles northwest of Chula. The first site was one-half mile south of the present one, and the land for it was given by Aunt Betsy Ward, but it could not be determined in what year the land was deeded. The original district was two miles square, but later a half-mile on the northwest was given to the Farmersville district. The first building was frame and faced the west with a door in that end and three windows each on the north and sought sides.

A painted wooden blackboard extended across the east end of the room, with a smaller one on the west wall south of the door. Desks faced east. They were made in one piece, with a shelf beneath the top for books. There were two rows of them. The room was boxed inside. There were several narrow, back-less recitation benches with end pieces made of a solid board with a V-shape cut from it, which formed the legs. Home-molded candles furnished light for the room. These candles were in metal holders, which were fastened to the wall with reflectors behind them. The candle holder proper was in a cup-like apparatus that caught the melted tallow as the candles burned. These candles were molded six at a time and were about 12 inches long and slightly larger at the base than they were at the top. A loosely twisted cotton cord was drawn through them to form a wick.

Her first teacher was Rose Cunningham. Other early teachers she recalled were Clara Gordon, Maggie Hanna, Augusta and Maude Watson and George Davis. Other teachers mentioned were Dixie Wallace who later became a missionary to Chile, Zora Pond, Quintilla Patrick, Frank Sparling and Nannie Willard. School terms then were divided into winter and spring with an intermission between the terms. Usually the winter terms were of four months duration and the spring terms were either two or three months long. Teachers received more salary to teach the winter term than the spring term. Salaries in the early days were around $25.00 a month for winter terms and $20.00 for spring. Teachers "set" copies on the blackboard for pupils to put in the copybooks. Otherwise slates and pencils were used for seat work. McGuffy spellers and readers were used.

Some early taxpayers living in the district were those by the name of Alexander, Austin, Anderson, Baker, Bell, Breedlove, Burns, Elmore, Eubanks, Garry, Hammond, Holden, Johns, Jacob, Jarvis, Minor, Rockey, Ryan, Scarlott, Steen, Stuart, Tredway, Terry, Watson, Windson, and Ward.

Some of her schoolmates were Dehlia, Lewis, Rosie and Laura Bell; Oliver Darr, Ezra Jarvis; Will, Bell and Mary Jacobs; Mary, Donald, Dolphus, Eva, Belle, Minnie, Walter, Lizzie, and Noel Ward; George, Nannie and Maggie Ragan; Minnie and Al Hessenflow; Mary and Lizzie Stanley.

Among the early directors were Joe Ward, Isaac Baker and E. P. Elmore.

Spelling Matches with other schools and basket dinners at the close of the term constituted community activities.

Sunday school and church services were held for a long time at the school until New Providence church was built in 1876 adjoining the school grounds. It was said there was never a service missed there during the Civil War. John French and Thomas Montgomery, both living in the neighborhood, were two of the men who preached at the schoolhouse in the early days.

A subscription school was held in 1879 the term before the new schoolhouse was built because of insufficient funds to operate the school. Onie Jarvis started it. From 10 to 12 pupils were enrolled and Mrs. St. John was one of them. Mrs. St. John furnished the following list of Ward pupils who later became teachers: Eva Ward, Lillie Ward, Tad Scarlott, Lucille Pray, Margaret Pray, Florence Bell, Virginia Bell, Wilma Spencer, Mildred Spencer, Lorene Spencer, Ruth Ward, Helen Ward and Flossie Ward.

The earliest district school record available was that of April 2, 1889. J. H. Bell presided as chairman, and L. Scarlott was secretary. J. P. Alexander was elected a director for three years at this meeting, and a 7-month school was voted. The highest enumeration of school-age children from 1891 to 1896 was 32 in 1884, from 6 to 17 years of age.

At the meeting of April 9, 1890, the building was insured with Dwelling House Insurance Co., of Boston for $500.00 at a cost of $16.25. Other items voted by the school board through the earlier years were as follows. Library voted by the school board through the earlier years were as follows: library started in 1890; stone pillars 1x2 feet, with 2-inch burr oak underpinnings were put under the schoolhouse in 1890. The contract was let to L. Scarlott for $9.95. The blackboard and outside of the building was painted in 1892; a woodshed large enough to hold 10 cords of wood was build in 1893; contract was let to William Kline for $30.00; new seats were purchased in 1898 at a cost of $28.10; the schoolhouse was painted and shutters were put on the building in 1903; a well was dug in 1909, a warrant for $52.00 for same drawn to Granville Graham; a coal stove was purchased in 1912 for $20.45; a new fence was build around the schoolyard in 1913 and a new bookcase purchased in 1915; free textbooks were voted in 1917, and that year a new foundation was put under the house, a platform put over the well; walks laid to the school- house. Martin Ward purchased the old window shutters at 25 cents each.

In 1915 David Ward bought 10 window sashes for $2.00. A new blackboard was purchased in 1924 for $14.40, and a new desk and chair in 1926 for $30.46. A heating plant was bought from Markey’s at Chillicothe in 1938 for $183.90. A piano was purchased in 1939 and rhythm band instruments; new sets were put in and lights installed in 1940, also a first-aide kit purchased. Books, maps, play equipment and new chairs were also purchased that year. An electric pump was installed in 1942 and a teacher’s desk bought in 1943. A two-burner oil furnace was bought in 1949.

Text books used in 1905 included Milne Arithmetic, Hunt’s speller, Jones Readers, Reed & Kellogg Language and Grammar, Fry’s Geography, Rader’s Civil Government, Baldwin’s Psychology, Stowell’s Advanced Psychology, Gordy’s History, Medial Slant Copy Books.

Added in 1916 was Benson and Betts Agriculture. Spellers were then Progressive. There were Hamilton’s Arithmetic, McMurry’s Geography, Alvan and Cole’s Psychology and Brook’s Readers.

A partial list, at least, of those long serving as directors and clerks through the years follows: J. H. Bell, J. M. Alexander, L. Scarlott, R. A. Ward, E. L. Tredway, J. O. Ward, Thomas Rockey, E. P. Elmore, Finis Ward, Thirza Ward, Gus St. John, Frank Scarlott, R. D. Ward. Ephriam Wallace, I. I. Baker, Martin Ward, Reggie Garr, William Pray, Mrs. Belle Pray, E. H. Ward, D. L. Ward, Harry Scoville, Charles Spencer, George Terry, Elmer Ward, E. J. Dickman, Charles Adams, Joe Kilburn, Ralph Ward, Edgar Kilburn, Kenneth White and Lorene Sherrow.

Through old records, it was possible to obtain an almost complete list of teachers from 1890 on to the close of the 1956-57 term, with the exception of a four-year period from 1911 to 1915.

The writer will greatly appreciate hearing from anyone who can supply the names of teachers thus omitted. The list follows: Florence Keyte, Laura Moore, Anna Clark, Ella Burgess, Lydia Hagaman, Alpha Winn, Maude Withers, Rosa Harmon, Anna Selby, Jennie Emly, Anna Sturgis, Blanche Robertson, Eugenia Hart, Lenora Turner, Verna Mae Bryan, Edna Kilburn, Anna Hutchinson, Harriett Hawker, Amy Casebeer, Anna Richeson, Vena Phillips, Lena Lucille Pray, Margaret Pray, Nettie Postlewaite, Mary Wooden, Floyd Harris, Estille Popham, Eva Ward, Florence Loomis, also Lillian Loomis, Lorraine Bush, Goldie Trumbo, Florence Flentze, Helena McCully, Hope Terry, Ardath Lehr, Geneva Cooper and Mrs. Naomi Mack.

Some of these teachers taught several terms consecutively, and others taught more than one term, though not consecutively. The teacher who taught the longest period of time during the early years was Jennie Emly, teaching both winter and spring terms from 1899 until 1902.

Winter and spring terms were combined without intermission during the term of 1907-1908. Lorene Sherrow taught the longest period consecutively, six terms, from 1945 to 1951. Salaries through the years range from $20 per month to $245 monthly the last term of school. Mrs. Naomi Mack taught from 1952 until Ward school was closed in the spring of 1957.

Both Mrs. Oliver Jones of Trenton and her brother, Vernon Pray, were interviewed. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Pray lived where Vernon Pray now lives, one-half mile west of the school. Vernon started to school in 1906 and Mrs. Jones in 1912. They had two sisters, Lucille, now Mrs. Franklin Davis of Naches, Washington, and Margaret, now Mrs. C. L. Creed of Kansas City, who later were teachers at Ward. Their brother, Ivan Pray, was a pupil at Ward.

Their father was director of the school for many years and their mother, Mrs. Belle Pray, served as clerk for a long time. She, too, was a former pupil at Ward School. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Ward, had come from Kentucky and settled in the district. There have been three generations of the Pray family attending the school, Donna, daughter of Vernon, being one of the last six pupils who attended the last term taught at Ward.

Mrs. Merle Bowman of Wheeling, who was Gertrude Scoville when she was a pupil at Ward School, was able to give a description of the second building. It faced the south with an anteroom approximately 8x10 feet attached, having one outside door. There were two doors, which led from the anteroom into the main classroom. Corner shelves were used for dinner pails and there were hooks for wraps. The schoolhouse had three windows on the east and west with green shutters, which were removed in later years. The school room floor was oiled to keep down dust. There were two long rows and a short row of desks facing north, approximately 16 in all, each seating two pupils. There was a rostrum across the north end of the room and the teacher’s desk sat on it. A blackboard extended across the end above the rostrum. The stove she remembers when she first started to school there in 1908 was a long narrow wood stove with a hearth extending out in front. Long sticks of wood could be used in it, s the end door was quite wide. A coal stove was used in later years, then a jacketed stove and finally an oil furnace was installed. The walls had wainscoting extending several feet from the floor. The rest of the wall was painted as was the ceiling. There were coal-oil lamps fastened in brackets to the wall and having reflectors behind them. There was a library case on the northeast end of the rostrum.

There was an old well with a pump back of the schoolhouse when she first started to school. Often, however, water was carried from Elmer Ward’s home because the pump would not work.

The new well was dug in front of the schoolhouse, which had large pumps.

Drop-the-handkerchief, ring-around-the rosy, darebase, anti-over and ball were favorite games then.

Mrs. Bowman’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Scoville, lived a mile south of the school. They had four other children who attended Ward: Lena, Dorothy, Mildred and Glenn. Mrs. Bowman started to school in the spring of 1908. Harriet Hawker was her first teacher. In the interview with Mrs. Bowman, a very interesting community event was mentioned by her. In 1915 a club was formed which was called the Cornalfa Livestock Farmer’s Club. One of the highlights of community life was the Corn Show it sponsored each fall. A large tent housed displays of garden and field products. Merchants, bankers and individuals from several towns and communities furnished premiums for exhibitors in four distinct classes. Class A included grains, grasses and legumes; Class B, vegetables and fruits; Class C, domestic science; Class D, school and miscellaneous. Some of the classes had as many as 32 entries listed.

Mrs. Emma Thompson of Chillicothe has the pamphlet published by the club for the year of 1916, containing rules and regulations of the show as well as listing all premiums under the different classifications. The show was in cooperation with the Missouri State Board of Agriculture who furnished the judges. Speakers that year were from the State Board and from the Extension Service Department of the State Agricultural College. George S. Terry, Mrs. Thompson’s father, was president that year and R. R. Garr, secretary. Class superintendents were R. S. Casebeer, Herman Spencer, Anna Ward and C. R. Adams. Mrs. Thompson has pictures showing the large tent on the schoolhouse grounds and one of the large crowds gathered for the basket dinner. Once, when the club was organized alfalfa tea and cookies were served.

She also told of the community house built just across the road from the schoolhouse by the men of the neighborhood. During the war it was used as Red Cross headquarters for the community. Women met to sew and knit for the Red Cross. Supplies were brought from Chillicothe by horse and buggy. Her mother, Mrs. Harry Scoville, was one of the chairmen for a long time. Mrs. Joseph Kilburn was vice chairman. The building, erected in 1922, was abandoned in 1944 or 45 and was purchased by Kenneth Hurst of the Chula neighborhood, who used part of the lumber to build a garage. Mrs. Vernon Pray informed that a barbeque was held to help raise money for the building and that William Pray, father of Vernon, donated the land for it. There was also a Thanksgiving dinner served.

Ward school was closed for a 6-year period from 1932 to 1936 because there were not enough pupils in the district for the school to operate. When it was again opened, Hope Terry, now Mrs. Donald Crawford of the Trenton neighborhood, was teacher.

In 1939 community meetings were organized with Mrs. Joe Kilburn as president. Mrs. Vernon Pray who lives in the district, and who was most helpful in assisting the writer to gather data for the school’s history, served as president of this organization the last five years the school was in operation. It met once a month at night, and varied programs were given. In later years the club fixed boxes of candy and fruit at Christmas-time for shut-ins in the community, and had a

Christmas gift exchange. The September meeting would usually be a fish fry with representatives from several districts attending. Through winter months, soup, waffles, pancakes and sausage suppers, also oyster suppers were enjoyed, and in the summer, ice-cream socials were given.

As was true of all rural schools which have closed in the last few years, records of the last years of Ward School reveal the struggle to comply more and more with the policies, rules and regulations of the progressive education program of the state for required classification in order to continue operating. After 1952 many improvements were undertaken. The walks to toilets and coal house, and driveway were graveled; playground equipment was repaired, the flag pole reset, a metal cabinet for the schoolroom was purchased, and the project of establishing an art library was attempted. Besides small expenditures and the monthly salary of the teacher in the last five years of the school’s operation, a quick rundown of warrants issued for the four major expenditures, namely: fuel oil, light bills, tuition and transportation were upwards of $2,500. The school qualified for the AA classification during the term of 1954-55.

In addition to the outdoor equipment mentioned, the Show-Me 4-H club, with the help of Lorene Sherrow, teacher and Ted Hatfield, built an outdoor fireplace, and also planted trees on the school ground.

Mrs. May described the interior of the school room as it was when the school closed: the walls were papered and wainscoting painted a light green. The pine floors were oiled. The 17 desks were varnished and fastened to board runners so that they could be moved at will. They were in three rows, five double and twelve single. The three-section blackboard was above the 12-foot long rostrum in the front of the room. The two bulletin boards were between windows on the south and were used for art and unit work. There were 36 lights in three rows running east and west. The 2-burner oil heater was in the southwest corner of the room and there was a 250-gallon oil tank outside the building. There were five framed pictures on the walls. The three windows on both the north and south sides had light tan shades that when pulled darkened the room for the showing of films. Schoolroom equipment included a large dining room table with extra leaves which was used by the pupils for both study and lunches, and also used by the community club for monthly dinners or refreshments at the school. It was by the north wall with a long bench to the west and a large bookcase with glass doors to the east of it.

A double door wood cabinet painted white, which was made by Opal Dickman was used to store utilities needed for the community meals served. Articles included cups, paper plates, coffee pots, napkins, coffee, soap powder and towels. In addition there was a steel, two-door utility cabinet painted white which held miscellaneous articles needed for school work. In the southeast corner was a bookcase and a guest chair which had been donated by some school patron. There was an old library table and a long seat along the south side. The teacher’s desk was varnished and it and the chair set in front of the stage to the west. There were 18 wooden folding chairs, together with 24 steel chairs, 12 of which the community purchased, and twelve were bought by the pupils from the proceeds of a box supper.

The water fountain, washpan and soap dispenser were on a shelf north of the north door. Above this shelf was a steel medicine cabinet. The piano was near the stage. The rhythm band consisted of sand blocks, tambourine, triangle, rhythm sticks and cymbals. The school building proper was of frame painted white approximately 24x30 feet. It was situated in the northeast corner of cross rods. It faced the west with a vestibule approximately 10 feet square attached to the front having one outside door and two doors, which led into the school room proper. It was used for wraps and dinner buckets. Old books not in use were stored on a shelf above the two doors. There was a cement porch with no roof in front of the vestibule. The well was several feet southwest from the porch and the flag pole was near the pump. On the north were two teeter boards, two chain swings and a trapeze bar in tubular steel uprights. In the southeast corner of the yard was a pole, which could be used for a volley ball net. The grounds had four Chinese Elms and a Cottonwood tree, which had to be cut down to avoid interference from the two light poles.

Mrs. Naomi Mack taught the last five terms at Ward School. She lives on a 240 acre farm about 14 miles north and west of Chillicothe. She drove her car to and from school every day the entire five years of school. Mrs. Mack is a graduate of Kirksville State Teacher’s College and has a BS degree in Education. She has taught 21 years in Grundy and Livingston County schools. She has been a leader of a 4-H club for 20 years and has taught the Young People’s Sunday School Class at Liberty Chapel where she has been a member for 30 years.

She sent the following information about Ward school: each of the elementary grades was taught within the five years varying in the number of pupils from year to year. Games played included Blackman, dare base, ten steps, sheep-in-my-pen, red rover, three deep, fire on the mountain, cat and mouse, drop the handkerchief, baseball, kick ball, volley ball, aerial tennis, pussy-wants-a-corner, upset the fruit basket, wink-em, clap in and clap out, seven-up, New Orleans, and May I.

The nine-point health system was followed and health clinics held at Chula. Corrections were made by the parents and all children received the nine point buttons.

Readings clubs were organized and carried on by the pupils. One period one day a week was given over to special art and handicrafts including finger painting, paper-mache, woodwork, tempera painting, murals and free-hand drawing. Notebooks and scrapbooks were kept on various subjects such as social studies, science and agriculture.

A trip was taken by pupils and teacher each year of the five Mrs. Mack taught. The first year pupils were taken in her car and the following years a school bus was hired, which made room for any of the mothers who wished to go. The trips listed consecutively are: Hannibal, Des Moines, Jefferson City, Kansas City, and the last year, a second trip to Hannibal.

Pupils attending the last term were Irvin Meservey, Billie Joe Pray, Karen Arr, Gary Arr, Donna Kay Pray and Larry Ward. The last semester these five pupils from Farmersville attended: Linda Hatfield, Gary Wimmer, Johnny, Jimmy and Donnie Fry.

The schoolhouse and the acre of ground were sold July 18, 1958, to Bob Sherrow for the sum of $295.00.

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