Progress Notes



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


Monday, June 30, 2008

Progress Notes

My wife and I and her family were very excited and happy when the announcement was made that Matt Davis (photo 01) was chosen to be the new Eldon superintendent of schools replacing the present superintendent, C.J. Huff, who is accepting the same position with the Joplin school system.

01 Matt Davis; New Eldon School Superintendent
01 Matt Davis; New Eldon School Superintendent

Matt is the son of Judy's sister and brother-in-law, Janie (Steen) and Bob Davis. I had known how exceptional an educator Matt was when he was the agriculture and vocational teacher at my alma mater, Tuscumbia High School, several years ago. Matt was also a good basketball coach leading the eighth grade boys basketball team to an extremely successful season in 2004.

The problems modern educators face seem to me to be rather overwhelming compared to years ago when one considers the societal differences, modern cultural problems, and the involvement of state and national regulatory bodies. However, our first teachers faced their own unique situations and problems at some very basic levels such as even just getting to the school to begin with since no mode of transportation generally was present other than "Shanksmare" (an old term used for travel by foot) or occasionally horseback. The difficulties were especially significant for students and teachers at our one room country schools which for many years were the only source the county had for educating its students. Miller County had close to a hundred one room schools early on, each of which had its own local board made up of a few local neighbors to the school. You can read more about our one room schools at this location on our own website:

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/schools.html

We have had many exceptional teachers and educators in our Miller County school systems and I would not begin to name them all for fear of leaving someone off the list. More recent ones that do come to mind who were engaged for significant lengths of time at one or more of our local schools were Lyle Hensley at Eldon and School of the Osage, Leland Mills at School of the Osage, and Ray Doerhoff at St. Elizabeth. But when one goes back to the beginning of the last century some very significant educators stand out as well, and because of the length of time which has passed since then some of them may not be well remembered. So I thought I would review what we know about some of our earliest Miller County educators.

In Eldon, probably the most influential and capable early educator and administrator was T.E. Vaughan (photo 02).

02 T. E. Vaughan
02 T. E. Vaughan

Superintendent Vaughan's tenure at Eldon beginning in 1907 is summarized on our own website at this location:

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/schools/MCSS021.html#highschool

For convenience, I will copy here the segment of the narrative which describes this remarkable man's achievements at Eldon:

"In the fall of 1907 T. E. Vaughan was employed as superintendent of Eldon schools. In that year he completed plans for a graded system that had been begun by a predecessor, and he also laid the foundation for the Eldon High School. At the beginning of the school year 1907-8 the more advanced students were given credit for one year of high school work on the basis of subjects previously pursued. The enrollment of this class was twenty.

Superintendent Vaughan was the only instructor in the high school that year. The total school enrollment for 1907-8 was approximately 400. In the following year 1908-9, the enrollment in the high school had reached forty, and Miss Grace Scott became Mr. Vaughan's assistant. The total enrollment in the public schools was 486. The growth of the town made it necessary by 1908 to add four rooms and the basement auditorium to the school building. This building is now used for grades one to six. By 1909-10 the high school enrollment which had grown to fifty-seven made it necessary to add a third teacher to the high school faculty. H. E. Keltner (photo 03) became assistant in history in the high school and teacher of the eighth grade.

03 H. E. Keltner
03 H. E. Keltner

There were also eight other teachers in the grades and an average daily attendance in the entire school of 372. In the spring of 1910 Eldon High School graduated its first class, which consisted of Earl Collins, Griffith Carpenter, and Prue Helfrich. In the same year the high school was classified as a high school of the first-class. A letter written to H. D. Vowiel, Secretary of the Board of Education, on October 17, 1910, by Howard D. Gass, State Superintendent of Schools, reads in part as follows: "Dear Sir: Eldon High School has been inspected and classified as a high school of the first-class with the following units approved: English, 4; Algebra, 1%; Geometry, 1%; Ancient History, 1; Mediaeval and Modern History, 1; English History, 1; American History, 1; Latin, 4; Agriculture, 1; Physical Geography, 1; Reviews, 1; Total, 18. My inspector reports that your high school is in excellent condition and that it shows evidence of substantial growth. I trust that you will be able to maintain the high standard which has been reached in your high school."

From that time until the close of Mr. Vaughan's superintendence in 1924, Eldon Schools maintained the same high standard of scholarship. The next fourteen years saw a steady growth in enrollment of students and in number of teachers added to the staff. They were also to witness changes in the physical equipment of the schools and additions to the curriculum in both high school and grade school. In 1914 the district bought adjoining lots and enlarged the campus to 400 feet by 832 feet. The present high school building was begun in the same year and completed in the spring of 1915 (photo 04).

04 Eldon High School
04 Eldon High School
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It will always remain a monument to Mr. Vaughan's excellent and faithful service to Eldon schools and community. By that year the total enrollment in Eldon schools had reached 675. Of this number 144 students were in the high school. The first class to be graduated from the new building in May, 1915, numbered 17. The number of teachers in the high school had increased to six and in the grades to eleven.

In 1919-20 a change in the organization of the grades was effected. Departmental work was introduced into grades seven and eight, and the foundation for Eldon Junior High School was laid. Three teachers were employed for those grades.

Additions to and changes in the curriculum of Eldon High School are noteworthy and indicate the progressive policy of the administration. A half-year's course in civil government was offered in 1911-12, and two years' work in German and a year's work in domestic science were added the following year. The year 1913-14 saw the addition to the course of study of three teacher-training courses. A year's course in biology and a year's course in bookkeeping were added in 1916-17, and in that same year the courses in domestic Science were enlarged. A course in civics and social problems replaced the old course in English history in 1918-19. The next two years brought new offerings in the department of science when courses in physics and general science were added to the curriculum. Within the next few years further additions were made to the department of social science. In 1922-23 a semester's work in sociology was offered to upperclassmen and in the following year a course in citizenship and vocations and a half-year's work in American problems were added to the course of study.

During Mr. Vaughan's years of service from 1907-24 the total enrollment of Eldon schools had increased from approximately 400 to 810 and the high school enrollment from 20 to 228. The number of high school graduates had increased from three to thirty-eight. The number of high school teachers had grown from who was Mr. Vaughn himself to eight; the number of grade teachers from nine to fourteen, four of whom were teachers in the Eldon Junior High School."

Very few people are still alive who were students during the tenure of T.E. Vaughan as superintendent at Eldon. I have been unable to discover very much of his early history. I did find his name in a search of a list of late 19th century school teachers in Volume 2 of Clyde Lee Jenkins’ “History of Miller County” which indicates that T. E. Vaughan taught school at one of the early one room schools, Walnut Grove, near Bagnell in 1898 and also at Tuscumbia in 1899. However, one person is still with us who had T.E. Vaughan as a teacher. She is Helen (Fendorf) Phillips (photo 05), who with her husband Louis, originated and managed the Phillips Funeral Home of Eldon.

05 Helen Phillips
05 Helen Phillips

I talked to Helen recently, and she told me the following:

"Yes, I remember well Superintendent Vaughan. You see, to begin with, he attended Westminster College in Fulton with my father, Fred Fendorf. So as it happens, after my father passed away, my mother and I moved to Eldon. I began the third grade in Eldon in 1918 toward the end of the school year after we arrived. For some reason the regular teacher for the third grade was absent and Professor Vaughan was substituting. He was a very stern man and demanded perfect discipline in his class. In addition, he had a bad eye which was turned out so that when he looked at you his face was turned a funny way; I suppose this helped him focus better. At any rate, maybe because he knew me and my father, he wanted to give me attention. I don't know for sure. But anyway, he looked at me and asked me first before any other student every question for the entire day. I was frightened by his general demeanor and countenance to begin with, but when he directed his questioning to me I became a complete mute! It was absolutely awful! And, of course, being a new student at the school I knew absolutely no one in a school that was much larger than the one we had at Tuscumbia. But no doubt exists that he was a very competent teacher and administrator and I believe he was instrumental in the success of the Eldon School system in its earliest years."


Thanks for the information, Helen.

While I was visiting Helen she gave me the opportunity to look at a couple of Eldon High School albums, 1912 and 1913. These albums are so old that I doubt many people living today have seen an edition of one of them. So I thought I would copy the photographs of the students attending then for the interest of any of their descendents who may be interested. T.E. Vaughan was the superintendent during these years. Here are the photos of the 1912 annual (photos 06-19):

06 The 1912 Yearbook
06 The 1912 Eldon High School Yearbook

 

07 E. H. S. Class of 1915
07 E. H. S. Class of 1915
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08 E. H. S. Basketball Team - 1912-1913
08 E. H. S. Basketball Team - 1912-1913
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09 E. H. S. Graduates - 1914
09 E. H. S. Graduates - 1914
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10 Freshman Photos 1
10 Freshman Photos
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11 Freshman Photos with Names
11 Freshman Photos with Names
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12 Junior Photos
12 Junior Photos
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13 Junior Photos
13 Junior Photos
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14 Senior Photos
14 Senior Photos
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15 Senior Photos
15 Senior Photos
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16 Senior Photos
16 Senior Photos
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17 Senior Photos
17 Senior Photos
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18 Sophomore Photos
18 Sophomore Photos
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19 Sophomore Photos Names
19 Sophomore Photos Names
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Now here are the photos for the 1913 annual (photo 20-28). Unfortunately, the Sophomore photos didn't scan well.

20 E. H. S. 1913 Yearbook Cover
20 E. H. S. 1913 Yearbook

 

21 Board of Education
21 Board of Education
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22 Faculty
22 Faculty
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23 Seniors
23 Seniors
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24 Seniors
24 Seniors
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25 Juniors
25 Juniors
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26 Juniors
26 Juniors
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27 Freshmen
27 Freshmen
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28 Freshmen
28 Freshmen
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Moving on down to Tuscumbia, most people would say that Tennyson Clay Wright (photo 29) was one of the most influential teachers in the school system there. Tennyson was a native of Tuscumbia whose father, James Pinkney Wright, was a well known newspaper owner and author well known himself throughout the county.

29 Tennyson Clay Wright
29 Tennyson Clay Wright

Tennyson was the grandson of James Lawrence Wright, the Wright family ancestor who moved to Miller County in the early 1800's. T.C., as he affectionately was known, exerted a very positive influential leadership style for hundreds of Tuscumbia students many of whom attribute their success in life to his example and teaching over the forty years he taught. He was born in 1889 and held his first teaching position at Bagnell at the age of 16. Later, he attended Westminster College in Fulton and the University of Missouri where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1923 specializing in Vocational Agriculture. At Tuscumbia, he taught from 1920 until his death in 1949 at the age of 59. He was well liked by the students because he could intermix with them in a collegial manner yet maintaining their respect because they so well appreciated his personal interest in their lives and futures. I have heard stories from many alumni about T.C., more than any other educator I have known who taught at Tuscumbia or anywhere else for that matter. It seemed to me important to get some of these stories and testimonies recorded. For that reason, I am devoting several pages here to the memories of him by several of his students. One of them, Maxine (Shackleford) McDonald, wrote a tribute to him several years ago which I copy here:

While visiting up at school the other day, I noticed the bronze plaque on the wall of the hall as you enter, there hanging among the pictures of some of the boys and girls he helped put on the right foot of life. I doubt if any graduate of Tuscumbia High School ever enters that school without some little memory of T.C. Wright popping into his mind.

He was always busy, leading assemblies, working with the F.F.A. boys, planning entertainment for the kids, scheduling ball games even softball games for the boys in the summer months, just something to keep the kids' minds occupied.

Believe you me, we needed it. For entertainment there was none here at home. He always stressed good sportsmanship above all things.

One Saturday afternoon a group of kids and myself were impatiently waiting for T.C. to get back from one of his numerous errands. We were supposed to get to go along with him to keep score for a softball game at Eugene. That was our excuse just to get to go along as he only had a pickup truck then. He told us it wouldn't be lady-like for us girls to ride in the back of the truck, but he'd squeeze in three of us up front.

We waited and waited and no T.C. We knew he had to eat his lunch and we just couldn't make it on time. He finally came, skipped his lunch period and we were at Eugene, playing softball on scheduled time.

He had patience with the kids. He had a smile and that familiar wave of the hand for old and young rich and poor. He once told a group of girls that the best place to pick their husbands was in their own school. At that time we sort of laughed, but looking back several did that very thing.

Mrs. T. C. Wright let me read some of the numerous letters she has received from graduates, teachers and friends of T.C.'s. Each one seemed to express the same thought. Each student wanted her to know how they felt about him, that they did appreciate all the time he had given to them, helping them with maybe their first big project or just a little advice. He was probably late for dinner many a time because of us.

T.C. came up the hard way. He was one of five children in his family. Mr. T.C. had a yearning to be a teacher. He gained most of his education by correspondence and summer schools. During this time he worked his way leading bands in towns such as Cisne, Ill., and was the song leader in revival services all over the country.

He attended one year at Westminster College in Fulton and received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Missouri in 1923. He taught his first school at Bagnell at the age of 16 years. He rode horseback to and from Bagnell each weekend. His earnings then were $20 per month and he paid $1 per week for his room and board. During the summer months he was home from teaching and trying to earn a little money. Also, as any young man this age, he was looking for a girl friend. He attended a four day G.A.R. Encampment at Brumley which was a big affair in those days and held by the Mill stream. At this encampment he was selling rubber return balls and flirting with a cute little lady whom he'd never yet been introduced to. It seems he sold the lady a return ball and inquired of an elderly lady who the young lady was. It so happened this older woman was the young Miss' grandmother. The grandmother stated "If you want to see more of her, just vote for her Dad this fall for county clerk and she'll be moving to Tuscumbia."

W.S. Spearman was a successful candidate and the Spearman family moved to 'Tuscumbia in 1906. Their daughter, Mary Paul, attended school here and T.C. was her teacher.

In 1915 they were quietly married in her home by the Rev. J.C. Thompson of near Ulman. Their favorite song was "Down by the Old Mill Stream." He sang it to her while they were courting because they first met on the banks of the Mill stream at Brumley. In later years this was the theme song of his band concerts

He taught more than 40 years in the Tuscumbia schools and at the time of his death was president of the Miller County Teacher's Association and a member of the Miller County textbook committee. He continued his work until the fall of 1949 when he died of carcinoma of the bone. He exerted a marked influence for good on all who knew him, especially on the hundreds of young men and women who knew him as a teacher.

One can't imagine the numerous letters Mrs. Wright has received since his death and the clippings from so many papers and magazines on his life. I'd like to share a few of these with you.

Asa Mayfield, El Reno Oklahoma, a former student: "We believe that Mr. Wright was chosen by the Ruler of our Universe, to do a particular job, that job was to mold the lives of the youth of Miller County. He did a good job. His greatest joy came in helping others."

Mrs. Ruby (Moles) Brown, principal of the Eldon elementary school: "We will cherish memories through our remaining years of an outstanding leader, friend and counselor."

Joseph E. Kallenbach, Ann Arbor, Michigan, a former pupil, now a professor in the Department of Political Science: "T.C. lived a rich life, a life consecrated to serving others. He lived by the Christian ideals which he believed in. He made his life a testimonial to the truth. 'He that would be greatest among you let him be servant of all.'"

Velma Veasman, Dixon, former teacher: "T.C. will be greatly missed. He rendered an invaluable service to mankind."

Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Howard, Kansas City, Kansas (former pupils and father of Dr. Paul Howard of Tuscumbia): "He was a person we admired very much, and the impression of his life we will carry with us through the years."

Grace Kleykamp Mueller, St. Louis, a former home economics teacher: "He was an inspiration to all who knew him, especially to young, inexperienced teachers, like myself, who had nothing to recommend them except perhaps their youth and their self-confidence. The young lives which he led and guided so patiently and carefully to maturity are a fitting monument to his memory."

A.F. Rowden, Evanston, Illinois: "He was the best friend a Miller County boy or man ever had."

S.A. Crouch, minister, El Campo Texas: "They say that the front door of a home-the approach to a home-makes a bit difference in one's introduction to that home. I was introduced to my ministry in Tuscumbia and Miller County through the personality of a great soul, Brother T.C. Wright. That introduction and approach made me a better man and a better minister, and added much to the success of my whole ministry."

Lester Maddox, vocational agriculture instructor, Mountain Grove, Missouri High School: "T.C. was loved by all of us. We shall greatly miss him. Our annual conference will not be the same without him. With us he was an institution, just as he was in his home community. He put life where it was needed and added enthusiasm when morale was at low ebb. I have often envied him for his ability to build character among his boys."

Riley Williams, Butler, Mo., former pupil: "This you may be sure, the ideals he worked for and the principles he taught shall forever remain a living monument in the hearts of all who loved him."

Helen Wells, Phoenix, Arizona, former pupil: "I would like to say that he was a wonderful man and at the crossroads helped many of us. His life was not a success only as an individual, but through so many young people he helped make a success in life."

The editor of the Missouri Ruralist wrote in the March issue, 1949: "The Missouri Ruralist editor feels a sense of personal loss in the passing of Tennyson Wright. We know this fine man passed up numerous opportunities to teach in larger school systems at higher salary because he loved his work and his community. No money can compensate a man like T.C.Wright for what he accomplished.

"During World War II we were invited to speak at the county grade school exercises and the Tuscumbia High School commencement. No music instructor was to be had and T.C. Wright had volunteered to add the music department to his work without compensation. He was doing a good job, too. This was typical of the man who chose a small town and a strictly rural community in which to live his life and rear his family. And the influence of T.C. Wright will be felt so long as his students, their sons and boys of coming generations shall live."

The editor was a personal friend of Mr. Wright.

This was clipped from the February issue of a service letter put out by the department of Agriculture and the State Department of Education: "T. C. Wright made many friends during his 42 years as a teacher in Miller County as was attested by the large crowd that attended his funeral. They went because they loved the man, not out of curiosity as some go to the funerals of men who have been in high places. For 30 minutes, on a cold and disagreeable day, his friends passed the bier containing his mortal remains. Old and young, rich and poor, erudite, and unlearned people went to pay their respects for the last time to a man they loved. It was a tribute far greater than that received by some men who went to their graves after having received great honors and having attained great wealth. Vocational Agriculture will miss T.C. Wright."

Mr. Wright served as a member of the first committee that established an FFA camp. He helped organize a night class consisting of boys and men ranging in age from 18 to 24, married or unmarried, to meet in the agriculture room at the school here each Monday night from 7 to 9 o'clock. Boys were returning from World War 11 and were unsettled as to what their occupation would be.

T.C. instructed the night classes, training them in the most recent developments in farming. Many of them held part time jobs and some farmed a little on the sideline to get the "knack" of things He was always on hand to diagnose the ailment of their cow or pig and to offer a remedy or get a crew together to help some fellow who had had a streak of bad luck.

He once remarked, "I've tried a little of everything-hunting, fishing, etc. but I always failed," he said, "except at working with my boys."

Mr. Wright only took one vacation and that was for only one week. During this trip with his wife and son, T.C. Jr. he passed through the town where Will Rogers Memorial is located. So at once he said, "We must stop here." In entering the building everything is very quiet and the first thing you see when inside is a large statue of Will Rogers. Underneath are these words, "I never saw a man I didn't like." Mrs. Wright said, "I nudged him on the arm and said very quietly, "Dad, that's just like you.'"

His love for everyone was behind the motive that caused the folks of the Tuscumbia community to honor him by placing a bronze plaque in the hall of the Tuscumbia High School. G. Berry, president of the Men's club, and Mrs. Denzle Slone, president of the Women's School Welfare Club, made the presentation at the commencement exercises.

In Memory of T.C. Wright

Born August 23, 1889 Died January 21, 1949

Taught in the Tuscumbia School over forty years
His life was a life of service to this community.

G.A. Berry said at the presentation, "We believe that his life was such that no monument of any kind is needed in order that the community will remember him, but to show our deep appreciation for his life of service spent in our midst, we, the Women's School Welfare Club and the Tuscumbia Men's Club, present to the Tuscumbia Public School this bronze plaque in memory of our beloved friend, Tennyson C. Wright."

On Easter Sunday 1949, Mrs. T.C. Wright and T.C. Wright Jr. presented a picture of Christ to the Tuscumbia Christian Church in his memory.

The Reverend John Jenkins, who spoke at his funeral best, expressed himself in the words of a beautiful poem, "A Real Man."

This is part of the letter written Mrs. T.C. form the Tuscumbia Men's Club. "He brought to our community club an accumulation of wisdom, gained through a long life time of efficient sincere services to his community, his school, his church, his club, the county, state and nation. His high conception of the basic aim of public education as an enlightening and safeguarding a true democracy was a powerful force in helping his club, community, school, church, county and state, throughout his exemplified life.

"Signed:
C.D. Snodgrass, President
Byron Hix, Vice President
E.A.Condra, Member

But to me the best words yet to describe him was the definition of success by Bessie A. Stanley and included by Mrs. Doris Clemens in her tribute to her uncle:

"He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much, who has gained the respect of intelligent men, the trust of pure women and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it, who has looked for the best in others and given them the best he had, whose life was an inspiration, whose memory is a benediction."

As we are making plans for our first meeting in establishing an Alumni at THS on December 17, we shall never forget the one man who has done so much for Tuscumbia schools. Although he is not with us in body, he will be in the hearts of those who knew and loved him.


Thanks Maxine.

Another commentary about T.C. Wright was given in a discussion between brothers David and Arthur Bear (photo 30):

30 Arthur and David Bear
30 Arthur and David Bear

David: Arthur, let's talk about some of the people in Tuscumbia who influenced you as you were growing up.

Arthur: Tennyson Clay Wright, known as T. C., probably had the greatest influence on me outside of my parents. I attended the last semester of the 8th grade in Tuscumbia, then on to high school where T. C. was the superintendent. He had a long tenure as superintendent, and was there for many years after I graduated. He was a gifted man. He taught vocational agriculture and also other classes when needed. It was a small school with only three teachers. My first year there, I had Joe Kallenbach, Stella Kallenbach, and T. C. Joe left the following year, and I can't remember who replaced him, but T. C. was there a long time. About once or twice a week we would have chapel, and he would usually read a favorite verse or verses of Scripture, trying to teach us lessons in character. He encouraged us to learn how to "think". One saying of his was, "Those who think will always govern those who toil." I don't know who first said it, but he went over this time and again. Chapel was scheduled for twenty minutes, but often it would last an hour. He didn't always break it off for the next class. Sometimes we would miss a whole classroom period. T. C. couldn't do that nowadays. Back then we had mostly Protestants in school, but there were a few Catholics. Charlie Tellman and his brother had a few children there, but they didn't seem to mind T. C.'s efforts. We all got along pretty good. Another man I admired very much was Walter Stillwell, an attorney in town and owner of an abstract of title business. He was a Presbyterian and superintendent of the Sunday School for many years. This was the church where we attended. He was an Elder on the church board which was called the session. He was a Christian man, very much reserved, but outspoken on issues that meant something to him. Tuscumbia had a community band which T. C. probably organized, and Mr. Stillwell was in the band, too. I played in the band a few years myself, probably five or six years. T. C.'s brother, Lawrence Wright, was in the band, and Bob Stillwell played. We had twenty-to-twenty-five in it. That was a good activity for those who participated in it. Let's see. Well, I think T. C. and Walter Stillwell were the two main persons.

David: Arthur, I would like to say a word or two about T. C. Besides my parents and grandfather, David C. Bear, I owe a debt of gratitude to T. C. who did much to shape my basic beliefs and character. T. C. didn't know that. I'm sure he had me dubbed a failure and he had good reason to suspect it. I was a shy, but stubborn, child, poorly motivated to study in high school. Mom pushed me, but it didn't help much. She wanted me in the glee club, and often pressured T. C. to get me in it. One day he walked up to me on the playground and said "sing Doooooooo." I purposely used a monotone voice in order to mislead him. He just shook his head and walked off. He probably knew I was being recalcitrant. In chapel, he said frequently that if you have nothing to do, just sit and think. Arthur referred to this already. Being an unmotivated person, I did a lot of daydreaming about a lot of things. I would sit in study hall, doing nothing but staring around thinking about a lot of things, including girls. T. C. liked that. He referred more than once to me as a person who could sit and think. If he only knew some of the things I was thinking! In spite of my rebellious behavior, I was absorbing much of T. C.'s philosophy. I can still sing "do" in a monotone.

T. C. was one of the most versatile men I have ever known. He taught vocational agriculture. He did most of the veterinary work around the area, and it was all done gratis. People just expected him to help if there were a sick animal around. Being a religious man, he preached funerals, organized choirs, conducted the community band, taught music in high school, and helped in all helpful community activities.

He was truly a man of many abilities, and he gave of himself freely. He lived across the street from the high school where he also had several acres of land. He always had agricultural projects going, and he used these to teach the boys in his "ag" classes. From him I learned how to caponize chickens, castrate hogs and sheep, and many things necessary to running a farm. Each boy in the class had to have an agriculture project with careful records kept. One of the objects was to make some money. He was way ahead of his time on ideas concerning farming.

I can recall back when I was young, the farmers each spring would burn off their pasture land to get rid of the dried grass. They thought that this was necessary to get good pasture growth in the summer. T. C. talked against this practice because it often started erosion and it destroyed the humus. He was ridiculed often for his beliefs. He believed in shallow plowing of corn. The farmers of the day believed in deep plowing. The boys in the vocational agriculture class nearly always reflected the views of their fathers, so many friendly arguments occurred in the classroom. Time proved T. C. right on most of the things he advocated and did. He believed strongly, as Arthur said, in character development. He thought that young people should go on to higher education. Many people did go on to college because of his teaching. His major goal, however, was for each person to be an honorable, upstanding citizen regardless of his vocation.


Thanks Arthur and David.

Another testimony about T.C. Wright is remembered by Susie Bear Pryor (photo 31):

31 Susie Bear Pryor
31 Susie Bear Pryor

"I will start out with my first remembrance of Mr. Wright for I was in the 1st. Grade & didn't know that around town & with older people he was called T.C. He must have sort of liked little kids for since he was a Democrat & the majority of people in Tuscumbia were Republican he for some reason liked to pick one of the 1st graders & sort of whisper the question in their ear if they were a Democrat or Republican & of course they would tell him something & it tickled him if he could get them to say they were a Democrat. And then he would go & tell their parents what they said. Of course they were apt to say anything for what did they know what they were?

I think probably he didn't pick up one of them & ask that unless he knew their parents. I wasn't the only one he did that to for he had asked others. For some reason he got a kick out of doing that.

I remember he would ever once in awhile come into Gardie Swanson's room where the first three grades were & just stand there & look around at us all & of course that tickled us. I remember thinking that was an honor for him to come in. He was there throughout all my years until I graduated. As I grew older I wasn't so shy around him. He was always on the go & in his shirt pocket he carried a small black notebook in which he wrote everything down and which he consulted many times a day. He was quite a leader here in town in many aspects. Every day when school opened at 9:00 o'clock he held what we called an Assembly. All the high school kids met in the gymnasium. First we would sing the school song & put our hands over our heart. Then he would proceed with whatever issue was on his heart & it varied every day but he was long on teaching us good morals & Christian themes. Sometimes he couldn't get stopped & may have held assembly for an hour. He had no set time to adjourn but just when he got through. One time during an assembly meeting Barbara Wright was sitting in a little room that was our library for that was her job. He was talking & she screamed out very loud. He ran over there to see what on earth the matter was. Then he came back up front carrying a little mouse by the tail & holding it up for all of us to see.

He was great on music & got up a glee club & most of the high school kid's were in it. Of course he was our leader. Then one time the School of the Osage was having something special where all the surrounding schools were invited to go. Well of course he wanted very much to take all of us over there for it was a competition thing. Then what happened was so embarrassing. There were several different high schools that had entered it. I can't remember that anybody particularly dressed up & I remember I just had on a sweater & skirt & not a new one at that. Well, Monday, when we all got back to school & our assembly started he came through the door & walked up to the front with his hands over his eyes trying to cover his shame. We were the only school that had entered that musical contest that didn't have uniforms so we would all look alike. Besides that our only music teacher had been Mr. Wright himself & I don't know why if he was going to take us that he didn't know we should not go if we couldn't be like the others. As far as I know Tuscumbia never attended another one of those concerts. I remember before I went I was wishing I had something a little nicer to wear for it wasn't even new.

But he never let that stop him from organizing more bands. He got quite a few of the town's people together & formed a band & they all had different instruments but of course they had to have bought them on their own (photo 31a). I actually thought they did quite well.

31a Tuscumbia Band -  T.C. Wright, L.A. Wright, W.S. Stillwell, Robert or Roger Stillwell
31a Tuscumbia Band - T.C. Wright, L.A. Wright, W.S. Stillwell, Robert or Roger Stillwell
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They were all business men of the town. I don't remember all of them that were in it but can name a few. Starting out first there were Mr. Walter Stillwell & a couple of his sons, Roger & Bob. Also there were Lawrence Wright & perhaps his oldest son, Gerald, Oliver Brockman, and my brother, Arthur, only to name a few.

Arthur (Bear) had a great big base horn & it was almost larger than he was. There was a fine band stand in our park that was built up high in the air & underneath it was an ice cream stand. Up there the band really showed off well & we could hear really good. That was something I remember that he had success doing.

His services were called upon often for Tuscumbia was a small town & we needed a community leader but not just anybody can render those services. He seemed an outgoing person & did many things for the town. He was called on to hold funerals for those who weren't connected to a church. That included many people that needed that service. Maybe it would come up at the last minute & certainly not planned far ahead & people all knew that Mr. Wright could do it & he would always agree. He would start calling that morning to get singers to volunteer. He would play the piano & lead the singers with them never having practiced together. He called me several times in the morning to meet that same day at wherever he decided to hold the service for you see he was the preacher too. He never turned anyone down & held many of those services for those who needed him.

He was never idle. His house was right across the street from the school & behind it was enough land that he had a pasture & had a cow or two. He got up early & I don't know, maybe he had some school kid to help him milk because he sold milk to all the stores in town & would deliver it every morning before school started. I hated to walk up all those steps leading from down town up the hill to get to school so I would try to time it so I could be right at the spot he would be coming by after his milk route so he would pick me up & save me from those horrible steps. Since he was the agriculture teacher there many of the farmers who would call on him to come to their place & treat a sick cow. He was a veterinarian to those all around. He certainly was a well respected man & all the kids that went to school in Tuscumbia always have had fond memories of him. He was a great Leader in Tuscumbia.


Thanks Mom.

Another very important person involved in the education process for Miller County children was C.D. Snodgrass of Tuscumbia. C.D. was county superintendent of schools for many years and in that role had significant influence on the quality and development of our country schools (photo 32).

32 C. D. Snodgrass
32 C. D. Snodgrass

Just about any teacher who was employed by the county during those years appreciated greatly his influence and leadership not only for the teachers themselves but for their students. C.D. was a very encouraging and inspirational leader for the students. He made them feel good about themselves when they studied hard and passed their examinations. In fact, he held an eighth grade graduation exercise every year at the courthouse in Tuscumbia as a means of emphasizing to the students the value of what they had accomplished by completing successfully the state requirements for graduation as well as passing a rigorous test required for receipt of the certificate of graduation. The following is a photograph of one of those graduation ceremonies. You can see C.D. standing at the far right of the photo. A short narrative on the back of the photo gives some extra details about the event (photo 33 and photo 34).

33 Eighth Grade Graduates - 1929 - Rural Schools
33 Eighth Grade Graduates - 1929 - Rural Schools
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34 C. D. Snodgrass; Supt. Country Schools
34 C. D. Snodgrass; Supt. Country Schools

I have been told by some of the teachers who were employed in the country school system at the time he was superintendent that he was very attentive to their needs and made regular visits to each school in the county. C.D. was county superintendent of schools for Miller County from 1927 to 1950. After that time he practiced law until his retirement maintaining an office and home across the street from the courthouse in Tuscumbia. He had attended the state college at Warrensburg and later the University of Missouri. He obtained his law degree before completing his education. C.D. also was a candidate for State Superintendent of Schools in 1938 (photo 35).

35 Campaign Flier
35 Campaign Flier
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We have a couple of biographies on our own website about C.D. Snodgrass to which you can refer for further information:

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/bios/bio_s.html

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/people/bio_s.html

One thing I remember about C.D. is that in his later years he had "Lou Gehrig's Disease" which caused him to limp as it progressed. I still remember him gamely climbing the outside steps to his office even though his legs were very weak. The disease, known in the past as "Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis" and more recently as "Motor Neuron Disease," usually is fatal and this is what the cause of his death was.

C.D. Snodgrass's son, LeRoy, also was a well known attorney in Tuscumbia having been elected to the office of Prosecuting Attorney for a number of years.


Traveling south of the river to Brumley another Miller County resident of the past deserves to be remembered as an outstanding educator. The story of Cynthia Hawkins (photo 36) is one of the most inspiring one can imagine regarding how the traits of perseverance and attitude can lead to success.

36 Cynthia Hawkins Spearman
36 Cynthia Hawkins Spearman

Mrs. Hawkins was severely injured as a child when her hands and forearms were crushed in a cane mill. Both of them had to be amputated at the elbow. But she completed her schooling and began teaching at the age of 16. Further education led to more success. In the Vindicator, a newspaper at Tuscumbia, it was reported that "Miss Hawkins is one of our most successful teachers." (Vindicator, July 11, 1881). At the time Cynthia was teaching at the one room school at Hickory Point. She continued teaching at various schools in the county and as an example of the respect she had earned from the parents of her students she was elected county school commissioner in 1895, the first woman ever to hold public office in Miller County, and just think…at this time, women weren't even allowed to vote!!

In 1937 at the Miller County Centennial celebration pageant Cynthia was selected for the role of "Pioneer School Teacher."

You can read more about Cynthia at this location on our own website:

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/people/bio_s.html

(Scroll about half way down the page to find the article).

We have Cynthia's photo on our wall at the museum as a means of demonstrating our respect for her accomplishments (photo 37).

37 Cynthia Hawkins Spearman
37 Cynthia Hawkins Spearman

Another teacher who suffered a physical impairment but minimized her disability through determination and perseverance was Gardie Swanson of Tuscumbia. Gardie had polio early in life such that her left leg was withered and weak. She had a noticeable limp when she walked and had to use an ambulatory aid at times. However, she was one of the best early grade teachers ever to teach at Tuscumbia. Almost every one of her students could read well due to her teaching method which emphasized recognizing vowel sounds. She taught from 1919 to 1958. Many families in Tuscumbia have three and even four generations whose first experience in school was the first grade under "Miss Gardie." My first exposure to school was under Miss Gardie. So was she my mother's and her brother's and sisters' first grade teacher. Here is a copy of her retirement ceremony from the Autogram in 1958 (photo 38).

38 Gardie Swanson Retirement
38 Gardie Swanson Retirement
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In the south part of the county at Iberia probably most would agree that Professor G. Byron Smith was the most influential educator of the area and most likely not only the entire County but state as well (photo 39).

39 G. Byron Smith
39 G. Byron Smith

He is the one who started the Iberia Academy and Junior College. Many of his students went on to very successful careers throughout the state and the country. Almost everyone who successfully completed the Junior College did well when they later attended the University. The Academy was started in 1891 and was in operation for the next sixty years until 1951 when Professor Smith retired. It is an amazing testament to his leadership skills that the Academy closed its doors not long after that, even though attempts were made to have it continue. The best narrative about the Academy and Junior College was written by Peggy Hake and is on our own website:

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/schools/MCUN019.html

Be sure and read this article by Peggy, who is an Iberia native, as she has researched the story of the Academy completely and also includes many interesting photographs of the campus. I am including one photograph here which was taken at the last graduation ceremony because it is of special interest to me. My Aunt Bonnie (Bear) Tyler is the young woman on the right sitting with two of her class mates awaiting the graduation ceremonies later that day (photo 40).

40 Juanita Morrow, Luella Condra and Bonnnie Bear
40 Juanita Morrow, Luella Condra and Bonnie Bear
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One of the most energetic teachers during the first half of the last century in my opinion was Maude Wright (photo 41). Maude was born in 1896 near Spring Garden into somewhat deprived circumstances but due to her constant and persistent efforts to continue her education after the 8th grade became one of Miller County's most well known teachers.

41 Photo from T.H.S. Album - 1956
41 Photo from T.H.S. Album - 1956

She was the daughter of Joseph Lee Wright and a great granddaughter of James Lawrence Wright, the first one of the Miller County Wright family to arrive here in the middle 1800's. The Wright family originally came from Pennsylvania to Brazito, Missouri around 1840. James Lawrence moved to the Little Saline Creek sometime later and that location is where he built his well known carding mill.

As noted earlier, T.C. Wright, the very popular superintendent at Tuscumbia during the first half of the last century, also was a descendent of James Lawrence Wright.

Maude taught for 48 years at many Miller County Schools especially having spent most of her time teaching in the one room schools scattered around the county. She was my 7th grade teacher at Tuscumbia in 1956. I include her as one of the exceptional Miller County educators not only for her long career in teaching but also because she intuitively seemed to know how to deal with school children no matter what might have been their personality quirks or personal problems. She had worked hard to earn the necessary education credits to become a teacher but she also had that something extra which endeared her to her students. Many of the one room school teachers only taught for a few years and then went on to other careers but Maude remained a teacher all her life, most of her career having been spent in the one room schools. Before her death in 1999 at the age of 102, Maude wrote a short autobiography which is interesting in that it portrays in some detail the problems and experiences faced by these unique educators of the past who were the "one room school teachers." The modern school and the contemporary student of today have little in common with their rural antecedents of yesteryear.

My Story

By Maude Wright

Having taught school as a profession most of the earlier years of my life, I decided to write about the schools I attended and where I taught.

I was born on a farm of 60 acres purchased by my papa for taxes against it at the courthouse. There was no town of Eugene then. Spring Garden and Olean were our trade centers. There was a bank and mill at Olean that were in great use.

This land extended to the Cole County line a short distance from our house. The candidates of Cole County often came to our house when campaigning, not knowing they were in Miller County. The house on this land was a long log room with a large fireplace at the east end, and a "lean to" was at the south for a kitchen. My pap built a bedroom to the west of this room later, and made other changes.

On the eve of September 3, 1896, my mother told father she was going to give birth to their first child. All children were born at the homes then, as there were few doctors or hospitals. My father walked over three miles through fields and woods to get my grandma, Ann Simpson, and an Aunt. When they got to the home my father then rode 3 miles to Spring Garden for a doctor, Frank Devillies, who rode back with him. The doctor soon after making a check announced the baby wouldn't be born for a while and he went to bed. At 2:00 the next morning my grandma woke the doctor and I arrived soon after and was named Dessia Maude Wright. I also had a sister born June 18, 1898 and a brother born April 23, 1905.

The school we had to attend was over three miles west of our home. I didn't attend a whole term till I was seven years old. I attended three months and then my father taught me at home. When my sister was 5 years and nine months old we both attended school together.

This school land was given by Mr. Jim Dooley and it was a cleared place on a rocky hill with woods all around it. It was called "Flint Rock" School; also Hinds School as a number of Hinds children attended there. Where the school yard was there were tall stumps where trees had been cut. Children liked to stand on these. They were used as bases when playing ball, also. There were two strands of barbed wire fastened to trees all around the school yard. The school house was built facing the south. Large windows were located on both the east and west sides of the house. A large box stove sat in the center of the house and a large painted black board extended across the north end of the house. A long bench called the "recitation bench" faced the black board, where all students sat while reciting. The teacher sat in a chair between the black board and the recitation bench. Chalk was scarce. Some students had pieces of "cotton rock," a soft kind of rock they used in place of chalk. Those that could afford them had slates, some had double ones.

There were no built toilets at this school. The boys were told to go to the woods north of the school and the girls south for toilet needs. The lunch pails were placed on a shelf like place near the door at the south west corner of the room. All seats were for two persons, with a place for the books. Also, the top could be let down. A great draw back to this school was the lack of a well. A cistern was dug a short distance from the house and during vacation the rain water was caught on the house roof which then ran into the cistern through a trough made of lumber. There were three school board members and their one task was to see that the cistern was cleaned when school closed. There was a pump on the cistern. Also, we occasionally took a large bucket to a spring on the Sullens farm. By the time they got back a lot of the water had splashed out and not all students got a dipper of water. Everyone would want a drink, whether they were thirsty or not. The three board members were usually the same ones from year to year. I remember Mr. Jim Dooley, Jimmie Miller, and Will Sullens when I attended. The term of school was 6 months long and sometimes there were 3 months of the term in the fall then three months in the spring skipping the winter months December, January and February.

Occasionally a teacher would plan a program and invite the parents on Friday afternoon. Sometimes there would be sides chosen for spelling and ciphering matches. The winning person of a side was honored with a prize of candy or a toy. Sometimes one student would say a poem and one of the parents would give a talk. A few times a basket dinner was held the last day of school. Here the parents visited and expressed opinions about the school.

We were at the extreme edge of the district and had to go three and a half miles to school. We went only a short distance on the public road, and then we went through the woods on a road over land where the owners hauled wood or went to the fields with to plow or cut hay. We two were joined by several other children where the public road and this road junctioned. The Simpsons, Henleys, Jenkins, and Sullens children joined us. In all there were as many as 15 pupils in this group. There were some students eighteen years old.

Our lunches were not prepared foods. We had biscuit and meat sandwiches with boiled egg and pickles. Some bought molasses and butter and bottles of milk. Most all had some kind of fruit such as apples, plums, or grapes. All these were plentiful on most farms. My first teacher was Miss Anna Shubert from south of the river. She boarded at one of the patron's homes. She was very strict as to discipline but gave time to all alike. She had some students almost as old as she but they were studious. The average attendance when I started was 52 pupils. This number continued until the early 1900's when the Rock Island railroad was built. The people working on the railroad lived in tents near their place of work as there were some large cuts and fills and two bridges to be built. Our school was crowded with the children of these workers. There were so many extras at "Flint Rock" that the younger students had to sit on sawed off trunks of trees around the sides of the room. The completion of the railroad had a great effect on the lives of the people in our area. The town of Eugene came into being when a Mr. Ritchie built a flour mill there. Farmers began to raise more farm animals. A cattle pen at Eugene was seldom empty as some one always had cattle or hogs to ship to large markets. St. Louis seemed to be the best market in the early 1900's.

Most of my teachers after Miss Schubert were women teachers: Ellie Miller, Nancy Simpson, Ada Simpson, Sylvia Lumpkin, and Gertie Brockman were some of my teachers. Mr. Tilden Lumkin was my only man teacher. He was very strict but well liked. Most teachers would teach more than one term. With the completion of the railroad our school began to deteriorate.

The County Superintendent of Schools began to talk consolidating the schools. This meant dividing some schools and sending the students to the next nearest school. "Flint Rock" was divided. The students in the north part of the district were sent to Spring Garden; those on the south to Gageville; those on the east to Eugene and those on the west to Etterville. I was in the eighth grade when this happened. Now I had to go only an eighth of a mile to a school located in Cole County. However, in Cole County we had to be voted into the Eugene district at the April election before we could attend so my father had to pay tuition for me until this happened. The Eugene students had already taken the required 8th grade examinations so Cobe Miller and I went to Etterville and took this examination with the students there to be admitted that coming term at Eugene as high school students.

I was anxious to go to the Eugene High School; it was much nearer. However, one very sad memory of attending there was when my sister, Lucile, was killed by lightning coming home from school, November 21, 1908. Mr. O.O. McMillian was the superintendent at Eugene the following term when I attended.

So much for where I went to school; now I'll write of where I taught. I will tell some interesting events I remember while at each school and name a few students.

Near the close of the school year of 1913-14 I went to Jefferson City and took the teachers' examinations in March and received a second grade teaching certificate. Before this I had read the required pedagogy books and thought about teaching as a career.

One day Miss Dorsie Scott Etter, who was the lower grades' teacher had a dental appointment at Eldon on a Friday afternoon. These grades were on the lower floor. She went upstairs and asked that some students be sent to take over her room as teacher from 1: 30 to 4:00. She wanted to go to Eldon by train at 1:30 and return on the local at 5:30. Mr. McMillian, the superintendent sent me. I was glad to go. I had just taught two classes when three school board members came to visit. They were Jonathan Roberts, John Bill Rush, and Tolbert Binkley. All had children in this room. I was nervous but went ahead and the longer I tried the easier it became. At 4:00 p.m. the men visited a while with me and Mr. McMillian. Early Monday morning Mr. John Bill Rush came to our home and asked me to make an application for a teaching job for the next year as the board was meeting that night. I thought it over and after school that day I filled out an application and took it to Mr. Binkley who lived only three houses away. I was informed in a few days I had a job for the year beginning September 7 to April 23, 1915. I had one pupil almost as old as I was, Vasca Thompson. I had several cousins and my brother Nile was in this room. I had trouble with several beginners knowing the letters "B" from "D" in words. I made some cards with the drawing of a "Bee" and the letters on each. If after several days they still didn't know these letters they wore the card with a string attached which they put around their necks for a day. If they still didn't know they were told a spanking was to come later. I spanked three of these 21 finally and one was a cousin of mine, Prue Wright Sanning. Her mother called that night asking how I was for she said Prue reported my arm was blue when I got to her. I had a register for several years to show how crowded this room was.

I took courses by mail and attended night classes till I had credits for completion of high school. I attended school at Warrensburg each summer. The next year I left Cole County and went to Mt. Pleasant in Miller County. Here I had all grades, but few in each grade. Mary Wetzel Jones came, who was only 5 years old, but cried when her brother and sister were gone.

I was told not to give much time to those who were not regular students. I boarded across the street from the school with the George and Rena Miller family. Jessie Miller, their daughter, married Allie Bacon November 7, 1915. Two other weddings were held that same evening on nearby farms. Armond Haynes married Myrtle Brown and a Madole boy was getting married. Different groups were going to charivari at all three. Some were at one place and another group at another place so each had three charivaries. I next taught school at Spring Garden. Here I had students I had gone to school with at Flint Rock. Raymond and Mildred Sullen were two of these. The school room here once was part of The Miller County Institute. There was an upper floor but the steps leading there were behind a locked door. The room was large but more comfortable than at Flint Rock. The stove was in the middle of the room. It was here, I think, hot meals for students started. Students and I who wanted a change, brought bottles or cans of soup of various kinds. I had a large kettle I put all the soups in and at the noon hour would put a dipper of their soup into a dish they had brought. This they ate with their sandwiches and dessert. The parents seemed to like this idea and would gladly furnish good food. My second year here was started in the fall in early August.

As I would get out early the next year, the County Superintendent of Schools and the three board members of the Harmony School came after me to finish a term there as the teacher there was released for many reasons, one being her inability to control the older boys. After thinking about this, I consented and went. I boarded at the home of a Mr. Walter Craig, not too far from the school house. The older boys, who had caused so much trouble, became obedient to my commands and were my good friends. Afterwards, I was asked to stay for the following term, but was under contract to go back to Spring Garden.

I remember a small store at Spring Garden was located nearby. It was hard to keep the children from crossing the road and going to the store for gum or candy or maybe a pencil as an excuse at recess. I was at Spring Garden 4 years in all. While there Ruth Hill who had been exposed to the smallpox came to visit and entered school there. Her brother lived nearby. She took the smallpox and the entire school became victims. This disease swept through entire families. I and Edith Henley Groose, a beginner, were the last to have the disease. I went to Eldon when I was able to see Dr. Allee to find out if it really was smallpox and it proved to be.

I next taught at an adjoining school called the "Bond" or "Klindt" school. I had bought an old Model T Ford car and it was a snowy winter and at times I had trouble getting there on time. I enjoyed the year there with children of the Miller, Gaither, Klindt and other families.

In between some of these terms I went back to Cole County at Eugene. I taught at Harbison while living in Eldon and drove a car daily to school. One cold snowy morning I got to the long hill south of Eldon on the old road and the car slid to the edge of the road. I got out and walked to the Little Buck Horn Café at the top of the hill I had come down. I called Tomkins Chevrolet Garage for help. As I was going to make the call I noticed two other cars behind me on the hill were in the ditch also. These people asked me to call certain persons and deliver certain messages. Tompkins' couldn't come for a while. As I walked back the road grader had come while I was putting in the calls and the others in the ditch were gone. I finally got to the school at 10:15. A note was written on the blackboard by Mrs. Nellie Jones, the mother of Jane and Bobby Jones saying she kept the students until 10:00 and dismissed them.

I finished college at Warrensburg in June 1925 with a B.S. in Education and taught high school 4 years at Barnett, Missouri. The Superintendent was Robert Jordan for 2 years and Gentry Lowe was Superintendent the last 2 years there. I and Mr. Lowe went to the Olean School in 1930-31. I boarded with Mannie Broox and Mr. Bill Renkin. One morning my plate at the breakfast table was turned upside down. When I turned it over there was a card with the Baptist Creed on it. A Mr. Prat Amos had given it to Broox and said tell me I was a Baptist and didn't know it. I stayed there three years.

I taught at Gageville when the building located there now was just finished. The board members painted the door and window facings on Saturday before school was to start on Monday; a sign "fresh paint" was at the side of the door. Every child that was barefoot (and most of them were) seemed to doubt the sign and had to test the paint by stepping on instead of over the threshold. By the time school closed on Monday the board at the bottom of the door opening was covered with black dirt and I'm sure many little toes that night required special washing. This house was made of cement blocks made by a Mr. Wilds.

I was principal at the Tuscumbia High School the year Mr. Churchill gave his famous address at Fulton, Missouri. Miss Eska Helsel Fendorf was the Superintendent. All superintendents got free tickets to Fulton to hear the address. Eska went leaving me in charge. She gave us all a report of the address later.

I became a candidate for County Superintendent of Schools in 1935 upon the urging of friends. There were two men opponents and one had been my Superintendent at Barnett. I was asked to drop out and throw my influence to one of these, but I refused. I was badly defeated partly due to stories started about another Wright girl reported to be me. I went back to Morgan County for a while and then later taught 7th grade at Tuscumbia. I retired in 1960 after teaching again in Barnett the lower grades. Some of the students I had who became teachers were: Otto Jobe, Tirzah Spalding, Mildred Graham, Flora Groose Queen, Ester Binkley, James Dawson, Edna Stevens, Glenn Thomas, Myron Taylor, and Lena Spalding.

Some of the best students I recall were: Clyde Lee Jenkins, Herman Schulte, Hazel Kallenbach, Johnnie Setser, Joe Riffle, Clara Burks, Warren Kallenbach and Willard Schulte. In fact, I had no student I didn't like but I had some about whom I didn't like some of the things they did. The fussing of the children came with consolidation of the schools which changed teaching greatly.

I attended Chicago University one summer and started work on my master's degree, but didn't finish all the required work. That fall I started with a primary room and very fortuitously that year went to Superintendent of the school from December to May. How it happened was that Mr. Crooks, the Superintendent at Eugene was from Putman County and ran for representative there and was elected. Since I was the principle he told the board I could finish that year as he wanted to be released in December. I sent in my resignation since I thought this was too much work. The board wouldn't accept this and promised me extra help.

Now for the materials used during the above mentioned days and who was responsible for some of these changes made. There were no hot meals, parent teacher meetings, athletic tournaments, libraries, course of studies, aptitude tests and teachers' meetings. Certain State Superintendents of Schools and also the County Superintendent of Schools had a lot to do with the changes that came. W.P. Evans was state Superintendent of Schools in 1913. He worked for the consolidation of schools. Many small schools were done away with but larger schools were the result. Charles A. Lee was State Superintendent o schools in the early 20's. He worked for the improvement of all schools and especially the training of teachers. Libraries and courses of study were introduced during this time. The two county Superintendent of Schools that were in office when I taught were John Lumpkins of Cole County, James Messersmith and Charles Snodgrass of Miller County.

Every student had his own book. The books were passed from one person in the family to the next. The first book a student had was called a primer. It had simple stories with pictures to illustrate the stories. These were all in black and white, no colors. Many of the lessons were about animals such as "The Hare and the Tortoise," and the "Lion and the Mouse." There were some religious stories also. The first readers I remember were the "Health Readers," followed by"The Chores Readers." There was no uniformity until the consolidation of schools came; then a course of study was made available telling what and when such subjects were to be taught. Most early books and materials were kept at the drug store. There were never many on hand. During the Christmas Holidays there were many little booklets and picture books easy to obtain here. They were in colors that were appealing. They had the letters of the alphabet with the picture of something beginning with a certain letter like "A" for apple. Many children learned their letters this way. At home nursery rhymes were a great part of these booklets.

With the coming of the "State Course of Study" the libraries became a need. It was thought more knowledge of writers and their works were needed so a book called "Literature and Life" was to be taught in the High School. This included works of all great writers from all countries like Shakespeare, Tennyson, Browning, Longfellow, Whittier, and Mark Levain. The libraries became enlarged as many more writers' works were in demand. Harold Bell Wright, Zane Gray and Mark Twain wrote a series of books which were used. Book reports were required in high school English classes.

Our slates were used in Arithmetic, Spelling, and Reading classes. The teacher put small problems on the board and the students copied them on the slates with the answer. We learned to count to 10 by their fingers and perform subtraction. After slates came jumbo tablets. Every inch of the tablet was used. The little ones up to the third grade used only slates.

My first spelling book was called "Progressive Speller." It had two rows of 6 words each printed in semi-large letters and then these words were written. Sometimes a few lines would be written using the words in rows. As we progressed more books were added.

A world globe and large maps were a part of the library needs in the early 30's. All students took their books home with them at night in a book satchel made of blue denim. It had a strap that went around the neck. The parents would help the children at home if they could. It seemed the students then seemed eager to learn. Copy books came into being in the early 30's. These were helpful to the young student. The capital letters and small letters were used in various sentences showing that all sentences should begin with capital letters as well as the name of important places and people etc. Children were told to copy from these books on to their slates of paper and take to the teacher and parents for inspection.

The first library in any school I taught was at Eugene. There was a large box nailed in one corner of the room. It had a top which opened into the room and also made a case for the books. Into this box books were donated by families of the district whose children no longer read them. They were very simple like" Little Black Sambo," "Cinderella," "The House that Jack Built" and 'The Seven Dwarfs." Those who had no books liked to read these. They were checked out at intermission and placed on the teacher's desk when school closed daily. Soon all schools had libraries and the district bought the books.

Now as to discipline. No student talked back to his teacher or refused to obey. No student used vulgar language or tried to hurt another student. No fighting was allowed but it would happen occasionally. Whippings were allowed by the teacher then. Detention after school and standing in the corner of the room sometimes with a fool's cap on were used. Many parents would also punish their children if they were punished at school. There were few drop outs or expelled pupils unless they were above the real school age and disturbing.

Games in the early days were played with great determination; Anthony Over, Blackman, Stealing Sticks, and many kinds of ball games were played. The balls were made of cloth sewn together and wrapped with the unraveled tops of the cloth sewn together and then wrapped with the unraveled tops of the worn out socks of the family. Then they were carefully sewn with carpet wrap. They were cared for by the owners. Whistles were made from the hickory limbs in early spring. Swings were made from hickory bark also.

Most teachers had switches on hand and paddles to use if needed at any time. Spanking and shakings with the hands were used, often more so on the younger disobedient students.

Amusing things happened daily. I will tell of some of the unusual things that happened in my school teaching at Barnett. There were two students who were extremely romantic; the boy was custodian of the building. The superintendent one day asked me to go talk to this boy who was in the coal shed getting fuel. She said he would listen to me, but disliked her discipline. I went and began to ask him how he thought the actions he and his girlfriend had been doing looked to others, like holding hands, hugging etc. He listened and then said almost crying, "you don't know how I love Beauly." I turned and said no more; I guess he did love her for they married later.

One day when teaching American Problems we were studying means of transportation. We had discussed Indian trails and river boats, and were to study railroads the next day The Rock Island Railroad tracks were being laid at the east side of the town of Henley. An engine with a flat car loaded with ties and railings would go over the tracks already placed and leave what would be used next. A Mr. Looten came to town in a one horse buggy this day. He had never seen a train and fearing his horse would be frightened he unhitched his horse and left the buggy and horse behind the blacksmith shop. He got a hair cut, bought his groceries and some socks at the store, and visited with friends around town. By the time to go home the railroad tracks had been placed through the small town of Henley. He got between the shafts of the buggy to pull it up to the horse when the engine blew a whistle and Mr. Looten ran away with the buggy breaking the shafts. He now had to have the blacksmith help him repair things so he could go home. A number of students vouched for this being true.

Another time in an English class we were to study, "Elegy Written in a Church Yard" by Gray. In preparation I gave some words to look up the meaning like eulogy elegy, epitaph, etc. The next day I began to ask the meanings of these words. One student kept wiggling his hands wanting to answer so I called on him to recite. Several had told of epitaphs they had read on tombstones so this student did the same. He told the cemetery name and the place this epitaph would be found:"Here Lies a Mother of 28; there might have been more but now it's too late." Of course, all the rest roared laughing, but another student volunteered the same facts, and challenged all to go see for themselves.

Every school has its student of students who is mischievous and sometimes really bad. At Olean I had a student who was part of every disturbing happening. However, he never told me a lie. If asked if he were guilty, he would reply"yes". Now the room assigned me at Olean had the best up to date teacher's desk of any place I taught. Beside the desk was a waste basket made of reeds woven in rows not too close together, leaving a little space between the rows. This container was about 18 inches high. One day I found the papers in it because it had not been emptied. I concluded the janitor forgot it. Soon after school began this paper basket began to move. It would go maybe 4 inches then stop for a while, then go again. Soon all the children were conscious of it moving and were looking. This one boy wanted me so badly to go see what was the cause but I appeared unconcerned. At recess when all were out of the room I went to investigate and placed the basket by the desk. At the bottom of the basket was a large terrapin. It was really beautiful. He could put his leg through the space between the rows of reeds and his claws would touch the floor so the basket moved. I put the terrapin in the desk until noon. This boy asked if I found out why the basket had moved after all the students had returned and I knew he was the culprit. Later I freed the terrapin after school although in way I hated to see it crawl away; it was so beautiful!

The most disturbed I ever was while teaching involved a little 7 year old girl. 'Dotty Kallenbach's home was only 4 houses from the school yard. At the last recess she failed to be in the school when classes resumed. Her teacher searched as all the rest of us did when notified. Finally, I said let's go to the home. Her teacher and brother went to the home and found her in bed. When questioned she said, "I got sleepy." Her mother was at the grocery store and was as surprised as the teacher when she returned.

Students can be impressive, some more than others. There was a certain student at Eugene who I had to punish so often I felt badly . He left the year following graduation for the navy. I got a letter thanking me for what I did for him. I often said to a lazy student, "You will never amount to anything if you won't work." One student I said this to often said to himself, "I'll show her," and became a great business man. To some this sentence meant nothing. I hope what I said and did were helpful to all. It was hard not to be partial to those who obeyed and tried to learn. At heart there are few really bad students. If I hurt any student in anyway I ask forgiveness and wish them well.

I taught at all these schools in Miller County: Spring Garden, Bond or Klint School, Mt. Pleasant, Harbison, Harmony, Gageville, and 3 times at Tuscumbia. I taught at Barnett in Morgan county three times and at Eugene in 'Cole County three times. I never applied for a school but twice. I am grateful to these districts for hiring me and hope I was worthy of my labor. '

I began with a salary of $30 a month at Eugene and did my own janitor's work. I finished at Barnett with a salary of $140. This amount was huge to me.

I had these as Superintendent where I taught: O.O. McMillian, Robert Lee Jordan, Tennyson Wright, Gentry Lowe, and Forest Crooks. Some were more cooperative than others. Some when they saw a mistake I made, would call me into their office for discussion of the problem; these I was partial to as I had trust in them.

The following teachers I can't forget as they helped me share problems with them: Nettie Clemens, a home economics teacher, and Miss Marjorie Roberts, a math teacher at Eugene, were a great inspiration to me. Jessie Nixdorf and Frank Newell Wright at Tuscumbia helped me in many ways. Binford White at Barnett was never too busy to listen to my problems.

Elisha Taylor, Emma Dunstan, John Bill Rush, Emil Shell, Val Kallenback, and Dwight Jenkins were board members I greatly respected. They didn't hesitate to tell me about mistakes and how to overcome them. There are many students and parents who I can't forget who I haven't named but are still in my memory. I pray that Miller, Cole, and Morgan County are all better for my being there.

God bless you all.

Maude Wright


Thanks Maude. One more thing about Maude. She was raised in the north part of Miller County around Spring Garden where a number of black families lived at the time. We have on our website a series of articles about some of the Miller County black families who stayed here to live after the Civil War. One of these articles was written by Maude Wright and is very interesting. You can read it at this location on our website:

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/bios/bio_black.html

You will need to scroll a short distance down the page to read Maude's article.

You can read more about the schools where Maude taught at this location on our website:

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/schools.html

After reading this introductory page about the general history of the one room schools, click on the heading at the top of the page which gets you to this site:

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/schools/orsp.html

On this site is where each one room school is listed which, after clicking on the school name, you will bring up a page with that school's history. Many of these narratives also include photos of the schools and occasionally class photos as well.


One of the interesting things we feature at the museum is a guided tour of the old Lupardus Cabin given by Sharon Steen Holder. Sharon's grandparents, Willard and Maggie Boyd (parents of Sharon's mother, Elva Boyd Steen), lived in the old cabin for quite a few years and their grandson, Gary Flaugher, still owns the farm. Gary was the one who donated the cabin to the museum. You can schedule your group for a personal tour of the cabin given by Sharon by calling her number: 573 392 6002. Below are a couple of recent photos of Sharon giving her lecture/tours (photo 42 and photo 43).

42 Sharon Holder with Class of 9th St. Christian Church
42 Sharon Holder with Class of 9th St. Christian Church

 

43 Sharon Holder with Lizzie and Hanna
43 Sharon Holder with Lizzie and Hanna

Coincidental to the above, we recently received as a donation an old framed photo graph of Willard Boyd, Sharon's grandfather, when he was only two years old. Also donated was the actual baby garment Willard was wearing in the photo. Another photo accompanying these pictures features Willard as a baby sitting together with his parents, John and Zell Boyd (photo 44, photo 45 and photo 46).

44 Willard Boyd - Age 2
44 Willard Boyd - Age 2

 

45 Willard Boyd Baby Garment
45 Willard Boyd Baby Garment

 

46 John and Dell Wickham Boyd with son Willard
46 John and Dell Wickham Boyd with son Willard

We have been having really good turnouts of visitors every day we've been open recently. One group which visited us last week was the Tuscumbia 7th and 8th grade summer school classes (photo 47).

47 Tuscumbia Summer School Students
47 Tuscumbia Summer School Students

Lewis Wall of Iberia donated an old toy double barrel shotgun given him the Christmas of 1936 (photo 48).

48 Lewis Wall and Old Toy Cork Shotgun
48 Lewis Wall and Old Toy Cork Shotgun

The miniature gun shoots corks out of the barrels. Lewis said that it also could shoot rocks out the barrels too, something the manufacturer probably never intended, but probably helped Lewis knock down a rat or two a little better than a cork.

That's all for this week.

Joe Pryor



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