Progress Notes

Joe Pryor - News Tribune Article Monday, June 04, 2007

Monday, February 25, 2008

Progress Notes

We have a committee headed by Karen Smith devoted to organizing information about the almost one hundred one room schools which were dispersed throughout the county before consolidation occurred in the early 1950's. We encourage all our readers of this website to send us information and photos about any of the one room schools they or family members attended years ago. Already, we have collected a great deal of information and put it on our web site at:

Once in a while I will feature on this page one of these schools for which I have received some extra or particularly interesting information, many times submitted by someone who actually attended or taught at one of the schools. For example, a few weeks ago, the Bear one room school was featured in a narrative written by Doris (Wright) Clemens. Scroll down half way through the narrative on the following website to get to the part about the Bear school:

This week I would like to return to the Brown Road area located between Eldon and Tuscumbia to feature the Ginger Ridge one room school (photo 01).

01 Ginger Ridge School
01 Ginger Ridge School

The incentive to do so first was that I received a very well written narrative about the school by Elmer Brown, who once was a student there. And the other reason was that Ila Tucker Hill (photo 02), from whose book, "Our Memories," I quoted a long passage a couple of weeks ago concerning medical care in the first part of the last century, had with the help of her children, put together a very complete summary of facts about the Ginger Ridge School.

02 Ila Tucker Hill
02 Ila Tucker Hill

From the information she gathered she authored a very interesting book entitled, "Our Little School House". The book includes numerous essays of memories written by former students and teachers as well as good number photos of previous students and teachers. A copy of Ila's book can be obtained from her son, David Hill for a nominal charge. Below are David's address and email if you are interested in purchasing this book or any of the other four books that Ila wrote:

David Hill
28149 NE 212th Ave
Battle Ground, WA 98604


Our website also has some information about the Ginger Ridge School at the following web page:

Elmer (Dub) Brown, who was raised on Brown road (and I have always assumed it was his family name from where the name of the road was chosen), wrote his narrative and commentary about several of the years he attended Ginger Ridge School including anecdotes and commentary which I will copy here. First, though, I wanted to post a photo of Dub who has been very helpful to us in supplying information about the Ginger Ridge area (photo 03). A second photo Dub sent me was taken while he was vacationing in Alaska (photo 04).

03 Elmer Brown
03 Elmer Brown


04 Elmer on Train
04 Elmer on Train

He has this to say about that trip:

"I was stationed in Alaska in 1969 to 1971 and at that time, the Alaska Railroad was the only direct route between Anchorage and Fairbanks (Raymond Graves and his wife spent many construction seasons in AK on road construction). A highway route existed but it was almost twice as long as the train route. There was a considerable amount of romanticism associated with getting on the train and being dropped off at a point of your choosing out in the "bush". At some later time, you could hike back to the tracks, flag down the next train and hop aboard. I had thought about it over the years and decided that, should I ever get back to AK, I would make at least part of that trip by rail. Granted, as you can see by the luxurious dome car surroundings, it has been commercialized significantly since the early 70s, but I can remember that I was reminiscing about my earlier time there, as I sat reading the paper and looking out at the unspoiled wilderness."

Dub is one of those people who has a knack for writing in an interesting and engaging style. I asked him what was the incentive which inspired him to record memories of his early life in Miller County. This was his explanation:

"When I was a youngster growing up, I always enjoyed hearing members of the family who were older than I, they all were, tell stories about events that had occurred before I arrived on the scene. I particularly enjoyed hearing my mother and Aunt Belle talk about their early life in Scotland. I have often regretted that I did not take the time to write these stories down so they would not be lost.

With that in mind, I have decided to jot down as many of these as I can remember as well as my recollections of my own experience. If no one ever discovers them, or bothers to read them if they do, I won't be broken hearted. I will have had fun doing it and there will have been little cost except a computer disk, a bit of electricity, and some wear and tear on the computer. On the other hand, perhaps my typing skills will be refreshed a bit.

At the moment I am thinking only of getting down various isolated incidents and anecdotes. Perhaps as I do this some pattern for a larger endeavor will emerge."

Now for Dub's narrative of his memories of Ginger Ridge School:


Ginger Ridge was the grammar school I attended through the eighth grade. It was a one room facility located smack dab in the middle of the district. This meant that those who lived near the perimeter had over a mile to walk and in some cases nearly two since the district was three miles by three. This also meant that it was better than a mile from the nearest maintained road since they all seemed to be located along the perimeter. On occasion, if it wasn't too muddy or snowy, hardy souls would venture to drive there in a car. Even with the high ground clearance of the cars in those days it wasn't uncommon for them to get stuck in one of the many mud holes. Most frequently it was reached by "Shanks Mare", a walk through the woods.

The building itself was rectangular with a normal gable roof, a typical country school. The walls were poured concrete. I will always remember the prominent crack in the front which extended from near the gable peak to the top of the door. There was an iron rod with turnbuckle extending the width of the building which apparently kept the walls from falling outward.

About two thirds of the way up, the concrete along the crack had eroded to form a recess about six inches in diameter. One of our games was to see who could throw a ball and make it stick in the hole. Then of course, we had to go ask the teacher to let someone climb up into the attic to poke the ball through. As a boy, you had really achieved "Big Kid" status when you were entrusted to make that climb.

The interior was rather Spartan, to say the least. Four rows of double desks facing the teacher's table in the front. A globe, chalk boards on a couple of walls and two books cases which housed the library and the supply of text books. The only light available was what came in through the windows. We did have kerosene lamps but they were only used in the event there was some sort of meeting or social event held at night. The first couple of years I was there, heat was provided by a stove located in the middle of the room with the pipe suspended by wires in its run to the flue at the back end of the building.

Rest room facilities consisted of two "one holers" located behind the school.

Drinking water was drawn from a well. The first year or so I was there, this was accomplished by means of a bucket attached to a rope which ran over a pulley. The bucket was a long cylinder with a one way valve in the bottom. This would open as the bucket was lowered into the water allowing it to fill. As it was lifted, the weight of the water kept it closed. A rod was attached to the valve. This was pulled, opening the valve and allowing the water to empty into a bucket. It was always important to make sure there was a knot tied in the end of the rope not attached to the bucket. More than one well bucket has had to be fished out because the rope got away from the person drawing water.

I thought drawing water was very exciting, especially since we didn't have anything like this at home. I suspect part of the appeal was that only the bigger kids were allowed to draw water. It took quite a bit of strength and endurance to pull the weight of the bucket and three gallons of water almost a hundred feet. I was always a little disappointed that they had installed a hand pump by the time I got big enough to handle the bucket and rope.

The pump itself brought another challenge (photo 05). The yoke that attached the handle to the pump body would break on occasion leaving the whole thing inoperable.

05 Well Pump
05 Well Pump

Again, it was true "Big Boy" status to be entrusted to walk the approximate four miles into Tuscumbia, get the piece welded and walk back again. Though I don't remember how long it took, I do recall making the trip one time, probably when I was in seventh or eighth grade. I'm sure that if mother had tried to get me to do such a thing at home I would have found all sorts of excuses.

My teacher in first and second grade was Miss Beatrice Biddle (group photo 06). She was a young woman in what I remember as being her first teaching assignment. I think she had gone to college for two years at Central Missouri State Teacher's College in Warrensburg. I don't remember a lot about her except that she gave me the only whipping I ever received in school.

06 Ginger Ridge Teachers
06 Ginger Ridge Teachers

Fuel for the heating stove was wood which was always delivered in the early fall and stacked in neat ricks along one side of the playground. Harold Hill, Donny Simpson, Jared Thompson and I found this to be a wonderful building material supply and spent many of our recesses and lunch hours constructing houses. The firewood proved to be an excellent material for the walls and there were a number of planks and pieces of sheet metal lying around which made adequate roofing material. There were many oak trees on the grounds and a thick bed of their leaves served as a floor to keep us from feeling the cold ground.

Three of us were playing in one of our houses one day when the urge to go to the bathroom hit. Since we were on the other side of the grounds from the toilet and since we commonly went wherever we happened to be when we were in the woods, we thought nothing of going over behind a rick of firewood and doing our thing. I can't remember if we were particularly concerned about being seen or not but at any rate we were. Lyman Meyers, a boy about two years older than us, and one of my particular tormentors, ran gleefully to the teacher and reported us. We were called in and the paddle was applied. All the other students, probably about 30, were told to stay outside, but of course they knew what was going on and probably were looking in the windows and listening at the door.

Getting the whipping was bad enough. The humiliation was worse than the physical pain because we were subject to considerable ridicule from the other students. My worst fear though, was that my mother would find out about it. She believed strongly in backing the teacher in disciplinary matters and I had been promised in no uncertain terms when I started school that for every whipping I got at school there was another one waiting for me at home.

It didn't take long. Naturally, I didn't say anything about it at home that night. However, my sisters Kathleen and Marie still lived there and rode to work with the Meyers kids' mother. The next evening at the supper table they started inquiring if anything had happened at school recently that I wanted to talk about. I can still remember the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I tried to bluff it through, but of course, was unsuccessful. I don't remember if I received the promised whipping from Mother or not but the ordeal of being found out was bad enough.

When I reached third grade, progress or greater enrollment, I was never sure which, dictated that we would have two rooms and two teachers. This was accomplished by installing a new heating plant in one corner of the building and a plywood partition on tracks down the middle of the building. The sections of this partition could be slid out to open the room up for social events such as pie supper and play. My teacher in third and fourth grade was Mrs. Henry (Lois) Thompson. I fell madly in love with her. The facts that she had a husband and a small son with another baby on the way didn't deter me one bit. As was not uncommon in those days, she boarded with one of the district families, in this case the Oscar Hill family. It just happened that they lived along my route to school. You can bet I was never tardy. I made sure to be there early enough to walk to school with Mrs. Thompson.

At the end of two years, either because enrollment had dropped or due to the shortage of teachers caused by World War II, we reverted to one teacher. It turned out to be Mrs. Lulu Farmer who lived with her husband John on one of the larger farms in the district.

Mrs. Farmer was a small woman in her early sixties with snow-white hair and snapping dark eyes. She and my mother were good friends which turned out to be both a blessing and a curse; a blessing in that she was a known quantity but a curse in that I was sure any misbehavior on my part would be reported directly to my mother. To the best of my recollection that never happened though I'm sure there were opportunities. She had her own ideas about what should be taught in school and since she was partial to woodworking and nature study, I learned a lot more about small project carpentry, trees, birds and other wildlife than I did English and Arithmetic. In fact, when I got to high school and first encountered the parts of speech, I panicked. I spent several evenings with Frieda Hill, a neighbor girl who was three years ahead of me, getting a crash course in diagramming sentences.

Like the rest of us Mrs. Farmer walked to school. It seemed that though it was rain or shine, blizzard or drought, she always wore "gum" boots to and from school. As I look back, it made perfect sense a good share of the time. She had to cross several creeks in the mile and a half she had to cover. But we kids thought it was strange behavior and made fun of her behind her back.

One thing no one ever made fun of was her ability as a cook. And especially her angel food cake! She had a reputation throughout the area as the best at that particular product. Like all kids, I had a sweet tooth. There was never a shortage of pies, cakes and cookies at our house but angel food was a rarity. My mother could not see the sense of wasting the whites of a dozen eggs on a cake and then feeding the yolks to the hogs. That dozen eggs represented a cash income of probably fifty cents, which to us in those days was a lot of money. So, anytime the Farmers were coming for Sunday dinner or we were going to their house I was always hopeful that Mrs. Farmer would produce a cake.

The teacher my eighth grade year was Mrs. Charles (Leola) Slote, another resident of the district. It was 1944, the last year of WW II and most of the qualified teachers were in the military or making lots more money working in defense industry. It was her first year of teaching and the fact that her little girl was a first grader complicated her job because her daughter, naturally, didn't understand that mom had to be in a different role while at school. The state had granted emergency certifications to a number of people in order to keep the schools open because there was no other option. Mrs. Slote continued with her education and taught for several more years being regarded as a respected and admired teacher.

A few years after I graduated, Ginger Ridge went the way of most one-room country schools. It fell victim to consolidation. This did not occur easily. There were a number of people in the district who felt that the one room school had been good enough for them and therefore it was good enough for their kids. Bert Hill, our next-door neighbor, was on the school board at the time and was very outspoken in this particular belief. My mother was just as strong in her belief that consolidation would result in better education for the children. Neighborly relations were a bit strained for a while.

The building was sold and converted into a residence, which has been inhabited off and on during the years. David Hill, Bert's youngest son, now owns it. I'm not sure what he had in mind when he bought the place for he lives somewhere in the state of Washington. I know that in the summer of 1996 he and his mother, Ila, who at a very spry 96, organized a reunion of all who had ever had any association with the place. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, I was not able to attend.

(Note: The reason David bought the school when it came on the market is very interesting and is recounted in David's narrative about his experience at the school as a child which is included as part of Ila's book. I mention this as a teaser to encourage the readers of this website to purchase the book from David, whose address is listed above. You won't be sorry. David is a very good writer).

When my family and I visited Mother and Marie over the years we would often walk through the woods to the school. My kids would always tease me about walking three miles, up hill in both directions and through the deep snow but I don't think they ever got the full flavor of the place. However, I never took that hike but what I was transformed back through time and felt the presence of those people I had known there.

Thanks Dub.

One interesting thing about the old one room schools was not only that the teachers set discipline rules for students which were very strict but that the teachers themselves were expected to follow strict standards as well. I became aware of this custom some time ago when I was reading the minutes of one of the meetings of the Hickory Point School recorded in the very early part of the last century in which the behavior expected of teachers was well defined and restrictive. The following is a compilation of some of the rules and duties teachers had to follow in those early days which commonly were imposed not just in Miller County but in general in rural America. I copied these rules from a list that was on display in the Henry County Museum:

1. Teachers each day will fill lamps and clean chimneys.

2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day's session.

3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.

4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.

5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.

6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

7. Every teacher should lay aside from each day's pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.

8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.

9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

I also saw one school board record of minutes which required a teacher to resign if she became pregnant. I think this rule may have lasted quite a while extending even into more recent times according to my sister-in-law, Sharon Holder, who taught third grade at Eldon for many years.

I was sad to learn of the fire which destroyed the historic Nixdorf home in Ulman last week (photo 07).

07 Nixdorf Home - 19 Feb. 2008
07 Nixdorf Home - 19 Feb. 2008

Mrs. Herbert Nixdorf and her son, James, were living in the home once owned by Dr. A.P. Nixdorf (photo 08), one of the first physicians in Miller County, and the home has remained in the Nixdorf family for almost a hundred years.

08 A.P. Nixdorf M.D. Picture and Certificate
08 A.P. Nixdorf M.D. Picture and Certificate
Click on image for larger PDF formatted file

My great great uncle Simeon Bear bought the house in 1908 maybe from William Coburn who had built it in 1871. After Simeon's death, my great grandfather, David C. Bear, who was a brother of Simeon, bought the house in 1919 from Simeon's heirs and lived in it until about 1925 when he sold it to Dr. Nixdorf. I have two photos of the home from my family's collection but I am not sure of the dates although the photo with the car would indicate that particular photo was taken in the 1970's (photo 09 and photo 10).

09 Nixdorf House Hotel
09 Nixdorf House Hotel


10 Nixdorf Home - 1970's
10 Nixdorf Home - 1970's

Attached is a narrative of the history of the home written several years ago by Roger Dillon for a publication of the Lake of the Ozarks Council of Local Governments Historical Preservation Program (photo 11 of article).

11 Nixdorf Bear House
11 Nixdorf Bear House
Click on image for larger PDF formated file

At the time of this writing I haven't read a newspaper account of the fire, but neighbors told me that Mrs. Nixdorf suffered smoke inhalation and was hospitalized for a while. The family lost all their possessions in the fire. They are members of the Ulman Christian Church where donations can be sent in their name.

We were pleased to meet this last week with representatives of York Cemetery Services, Wayne York and Clancy Boots (Company phone number: 573 291-0254), for the purpose of having some old tombstones rehabilitated (photo 12).

12 Wayne York and Clancy Boots
12 Wayne York and Clancy Boots

Accompanying Wayne York was Clancy Boots who originally was from the Old Bagnell area. These gentlemen are experts in restoring old tombstones and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to consult with them about our particular needs. I enjoyed talking with Clancy about Old Bagnell; the Boots family were some of the original residents of the area. Clancy's grandfather at one time was town marshal during the building of the dam.

Last week the Miller County Historical Society held its monthly meeting in the multifunction area of the lower floor of the new addition (photo 13).

13 MCHS Board - 20 Feb. 2008
13 MCHS Board - 20 Feb. 2008

Left to right going around the table are Joe Cochran, Donna Carrender, Judy Pryor, Wanda Wright, Carl McDonald, Jim Clark, Helen Schulte, Peggy Hake, Nancy Thompson, and Betty Kallenbach. One of the most exciting items discussed were the plans for the ongoing renovation of the original museum area of the old Anchor Mill Hardware store. Work has progressed such that we now have most of the wiring placed for new lighting and the dry wall and insulation is going to be installed next week. Architectural plans have been completed as to the layout and design of the seven model rooms which will represent historically accurate types of homes and stores of the county one hundred years ago.

That’s all for this week.

Joe Pryor

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