School Systems

This page was created January 22, 2004

For the most part, although the early settlers valued education- the typical schoolhouse as we know it didn't exist right away.

The areas of shelter and food for survival were normally addressed first. As with any civilization, the parents then wanted the best for their children-much as they do today.

Many of the pioneer women of the time were school teachers themselves in their youth. This was one of the few acceptable fields of employment for a woman. However, no female teacher was allowed to be married, so therefore many of them stopped teaching at that time. This training however, did come in handy as many of them taught their children in the home as time allowed. Most times this was limited to reading and basic arithmetic.

The School

It was not long after the settlers invaded a wilderness area though, that schoolhouses made their appearances. Even with this improvement in the school system, muchwas still left to be desired. The typical early schoolhouses were log cabins and in some instancesin the western areas of migration, simply an abandoned claim shanty. The school term was short- about 3 months if the children were lucky. In the very early days, the schools were warmed by huge fireplaces and later they had the addition of the centrally located stove. The seats were created by large rough puncheonsand were without desks. (This allowed for open range if the need was found for the teacher to use his "wrathful rod" in the course of correction.) Children were expected to sit perfectly still in their attention to instruction.The boys and girls were separated on either side of the room, with the younger children towards the front of the class and the older ones in the rear.

The only other items found in the school at the time was the teachers desk and the blackboard. In many areas,the "blackboard" was no more then boards that were painted black. Some schools also had the addition of the "coat room" for holding the students dinners and outer apparel. The other "accessory" in the classroom was the bucket of water and dipper, many times this had to be brought in by someone walking down the road to a nearby neighbor who had a well. Everyone drank from the same dipper-- if one person got a cold, everybody got a cold.It is not difficult to see how area epidemics were quickly spread.

There ARE some of the older school buildings still left standing today..albeit they resemble nothing close to a school houseand none of them, of course, are still functional. On a recent visit to the area, I was able to enter what at one time was the LOPOSSA SCHOOLit appears to be something of a storage unit for a local farmer's tractor. It is derelict and close to falling down.

The old ASHER SCHOOL is currently being used as a community center and although it is nicely kept, it bears no resemblance whatsoeverto any form of a school--more on the order of a small white house.

The old #4 SCHOOL now looks exactly like someone's white garage.

Of the BEAMAN SCHOOL I have no information and don't know whether it is still standing or not.

These were the four schoolhouses in Harrison township prior to 1928. They all taught grades 1-8; after that timeand when children began riding buses, there were 2 schools maintained--one teaching grades 1-4 and the other 5-8.

The School Masters

The pay of the schoolmasters varied depending on communities and whether they were male or female. In 1882, the average pay in Owen county for the male schoolmaster was about $1.85 per day and for the female$1.57. In some areas, the teachers were boarded with the various families of the community and this was considered a portion of their pay--while in other instances, the teachers had to find their own lodging.

Sixteen was consider the age at which a person could take the teachers examination. Many of these early instructors werestill in school themselves. They had to depend on their ingenuity in teaching as there were no charts, maps or globes or other teaching supplies.

In addition to teaching there were other items that the teacher was expected to attend to. Keeping the school house clean wasone of them and getting there early enough in the mornings to start the fires. The early schoolmasters were also consided "inefficient" if they were not known to use corporal punishment among the students. At times, this was rather difficult as it was quite common that some of the older students were actually older and bigger then the instructors.

Rules for the Teacher~1915

The Students

The ages of the students varied depending on the population. Some areas had students as young as 4 or 5, but the average age beganat six years. Most early scholars were done with school by 16, sometimes younger based on the individual family's situation and the need for the child at home. As the school systems expanded, there were two terms of school- winter and spring. The males scholars most commonly attended in the winter as they were needed at home for the spring planting. In larger communities, this division of students was necessary as the schools were small and had a limited capacity for students.

Sometimes, lucky students were able to work as janitors of sorts at the schools earning a little extra money.

Sadly, some students never got the education that they desired or were able to reach their full potential and benefit from education. For the female student- too much education was considered useless and in many instances damaging as it would encourage them to pursue interests away from home. It was alsoconsidered dangerous for the female to continue school due to the lack of transportation and she would sometimes have to walk miles (alone) or through fields with "mean cows". I know of one instance that a daughter chose to attend the eighth grade AGAIN, simply because her father didn't believe in further education and she loved learning so much and was very intelligent.

Another detterent to rural children not obtaining a full education is that it was at one time the practice that any student finishing the eighthgrade had to present a certificate to the trustee to enable them to attend high school. The certificate costed $100.00!

When faced with feeding the family or getting the certificate, it is understable why some students just completed the eighth grade. Many of these students fortunately went on to continue their education on their own through reading and conversing with others--viewing every opportunity as one for further their education.

Rules for the Students~1915

The Basic Daily Curriculum

McGuffey Reader


The branches of study normally taught were simply reading, writing and arithmetic. The basic sections of the day were broken into study and recitation, interruptedby a morning recess, dinner, recess and a repeat of the morning curriculum. Children were "loosely" divided into classes (or grades) based on their ages/learning levels-each group takingtheir turn at individual recitation at the teacher's desk.

Although the McGuffey Reader was widely used in the early schools, some students simply used the same books that their parents had learned with. The common theory was the "a sum is a sum" irregardless of which book it came out of. Some schools also relied simply on the blackboard instruction of the teacher. So the teacher was most of the time teaching a classwhere any number of different textbooks were in use. Siblings of a family, quite commonly shared a textbook. The younger one in the front section and the older in the back section; the did this by holding up the "in between" section as each studied accordingly.

The Memories

I have attempted to speak to various persons regarding their school days and the memories that they still have. Even in some instances of 50-60 years later, they all carry found memories for the most part. Many times, the teacher became a parent figure for some children if there were family problems.

Of the persons I have spoke with, one teacher's name comes up quite frequently with the best of memories--and that is Ruby Shuler who began teaching in 1927.

Below are some of the memories from various persons--

  • In one particular instance, there was a teacher who was even willing to adopt one of her students when their mother passed on.

  • Have you ever eaten a biscuit sandwich for lunch that was frozen from sitting in the coat room all morning?

  • I still carry a scar in my hand from an injury received while playing baseball at recess on the chipped asphalt covering on the ground there.

  • Sister didn't start school till she was 7. The distance was far to walk and she was small; Dad usually went with her as it required walking across a property where the owner had some dangerous livestock.

  • We normally left home before the break of dawn and returned home around dark on the "shorter" days.

  • I had only one pair of pants to wear-my teacher gave me $5.00 to buy another pair.

  • Daddy walked eight miles each way while he attended Gosport High School

  • We didn't have a coat room, just hooks and our dinner buckets were on the floor.

  • When it was dark or stormy, we couldn't read like today, we would then have ciphering matches or spelling bees.

  • I got 5 cents a day for sweeping the schoolhouse and my sister got 5 cents for building the fire.

  • We often learned by listening to the other students recite over and over.

  • I think that we learned basics better by the time we were out of the 8th grade then most seniors in High School do today.

  • We shocked wheat when I was young, I missed a lot of school doing that.

  • Mother would never go to school with me-she didn't think she was smart enough to talk to a school teacher.

  • I walked by myself 2 and a half miles from home to school my first year. It was dark when I left in the morning and dark when I went home.

  • Some of the favorite recess games were: Rover, Rover; Anti Over; Hi Hi Ho; Stink Base and Marbles.

  • I remember:"I had only one school dress and it was worn all week long; never at home though.

  • Water for the school often came from the neighbors well- going to fetch it was a much sought after chore.

  • I remember back in 1918, there was so much sickness in the school- flu and all. Well the closed the school one time as only a few of us could attend. Butafter they opened back up, the snow was so deep in places; 4-5 feet, that we could walk to school right over the top of the fence rails!

    Above are just some of the local memories, as I have more submitted to me, I will break them into subject matter.


    Debbie Jennings

    Website Coordinator