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Livingston County History
Celebrating 150 Years, 1821-1981
Published by The Retired Senior Volunteer Program
The one room school had an early start in Livingston County. Some of the early records show the earliest schools were Chillicothe, Black, and Blackburn. There were at least ten rural schools in the county before 1855.
Descriptions of schools show the early ones were very similar. They were built of rough logs with dirt or split log floors and a clapboard roof. Benches were split logs with pegs for legs. Often there was only one or two desks where students could write. Slates were used. Fireplaces were the only heat and wall reflector oil lamps were used occasionally for night meetings. Schools were used on Sunday and during the summer for church and Sunday Schools and later for community meetings such as the Grange.
There were at least 99 school districts within the county, excluding the Chillicothe district, at the height of population about the turn of the century.
Many of the earliest schools were subscription schools where payment was required for each student and books were provided by the family, each according to what they had available.
Classes were not always divided according to eight grades or classes. Ages varied from five to twenty years, with schools having an enrollment as high as fifty to seventy-five students. If the teacher kept order and taught the three “R’s” they had met the local requirements.
School terms were often five months in winter with a two-three month spring term. Salaries in the ‘80’s varied from $20 to $40 per month with few earning the higher salary. Janitorial work was expected of the teacher; this included sweeping, fixing fires and emptying ashes.
Not only were reading writing and arithmetic taught, so were geography, grammar, history and government. Goose quills were often used as pens and ink was made from local berries.
Many of the early schools were named for the people who donated land for the school. A few examples would be Smith, Gibbs, Slagle, Warner, Wye, Baxter and Hicks. One of the most unusual school names was Hog Skin Hollow. It had two other names, Brassfield and later, Happy Hollow. The origin of the name is unclear.
General Enoch Crowder of military fame was a teacher at Sneed School in the early 1870’s before he attended West Point. Another national figure was included in the history of a school. Grover Cleveland visited Stone School south of Dawn on October 18, 1887, during his first term as president. The teacher at the time was R. Morgan Jr. Why he stopped has been lost as far as local history is concerned, perhaps a study of the president’s papers might show why.
Memory chords are often struck by mention of McGuffy Readers, basket dinners, Christmas programs, Spencerian writing, games played at recess, ciphering and spelling matches, box suppers and school board elections. A red letter day at school was the visit of the county superintendent because the teacher wanted to make a good impression.
The State Department of Education developed as the years went on and provided a state guide for the teachers. Students who completed the eighth grade had to successfully pass a state examination before they could go on to high school. High Schools were organized in most of the villages in the county; at first they were only two-year schools, but by the 1920’s, there were several four-year high schools. The first twelfth grade graduation in Dawn was in 1919, and in 1922, in Ludlow.
About the time that high schools were expanding, the movement toward consolidation started. There was a great deal of conflict within some districts over the move. One consideration that led to dissatisfaction was that consolidation often resulted in higher school taxes.
Another change that came with consolidation and high schools was more educational requirements for the teachers to be qualified. Early teachers only needed to convince the school’s patrons that they could teach. As time went on college credit became a requirement. Local tests, administered by the county superintendents, were given each summer for prospective teachers. Passing the test and a summer of college was all that was required for a high school graduate to teach the following year in a rural school. The teachers were given a county certificate if they had passed the exam; a passing grade in college classes exempted them from parts of the test. Sixty hours of college credit were considered necessary for teaching high schools, but as time passed, a college degree in education became the goal of the consolidated districts and the high schools.
Information of specific schools and their individual history can be found in several places in the area. Chillicothe Constitution Tribune in its centennial edition (1937), had a great deal of information about the area schools. This paper is laminated and available in the county library and is also on microfilm there. In Roof’s Past and Present in Livingston County, published in 1913, there is material in volume 1, pages 174-190. It includes the names of most of the districts and who the teachers were and the presidents of the school board. In 1958-59 the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune published Mrs. Luther Boone’s histories of local schools. These have been collected by the library and are available there as well as on microfilm. The county clerk has the old records of the rural schools on file and they are available for research.
-- M. S. Jones
Following the great American tradition the early settlers of Livingston County were interested in the education of their children, thus the schools followed the homes and the churches in this area.
The first mention of a public school in Chillicothe is in 1841, when the first county courthouse, erected at the cost of $50.00 was turned over to the citizens of Chillicothe for a “Public School.” This log structure was located on Lot 5, Block 11 of the old survey of Chillicothe. This site was between Cooper and Calhoun streets on the west side of Walnut Street.
Evangelists and “walking preachers” taught many of the boys and girls of the pioneers. They started schools in abandoned hunter’s shacks, in homes and other available buildings where the pupils learned their A.B.C’s, read Aesops Fables and the Bible.
The subscription schools where the parents paid according to the number of children from the family that attended the school followed the early preachers. This type of school was the general accepted practice until the General Assembly in 1853, provided for a uniform system of public schools throughout the early state and set aside funds for their maintenance. This rule governed Chillicothe schools until after the Civil War but in 1865 a special charter was given which exempted it from many provisions of the general law.
The building of new grade school buildings immediately followed the passing of the special charter and in 1865 the second, third and fourth ward schools were built but the first ward pupils attended school in the Garr building on the corner of Locust and Calhoun. At the same time the high school met in the basement of the First Methodist Church which stood at the corner of Webster and Cherry.
In 1876 the new public high school was completed at a cost of $35,000 on the square bounded by Ann, Elm, Vine, and Third streets. That new building was regarded as the finest public school building in the state outside of St. Louis. It was three stories high, of brick, with a tower at the front and one at the back and high basement where the library was installed. This building was in constant use from 1877 until the close of school in 1923 when it was condemned and shortly afterwards razed.
On the same lot with Old Central in the year 1900, a new high school building was built at a cost of $25,000. In 1914, an addition costing $33,000 completed the structure. This building was razed in the summer of 1951.
In 1923 bonds in the amount of $300,000 were voted to build the present high school building which was opened for use January 5, 1925.
The board of education in 1875 was authorized by a vote of the people to issue bonds to the amount of $30,000 for the erection of “old Central”. In 1878 some question came up about the legality of the issuance with a view of having the ten per cent rate of interest reduced by compromise.
The holder of the bonds, Mr. W. B. Hazelton of Tarrytown, New York, proposed to donate two percent of the interest upon all of the bonds then unpaid, upon the condition that such donations should be used in the purchase of a library to be known as the Hazelton Public School Library. The proposition was accepted.
In 1880, the Library had 5,000 books purchased from this fund. The close of the school year in May, 1937, 11,980 books had been accessioned according to Miss Josephine Norville, English teacher, who was in charge of the library. There are 2,000 books not accessioned from the original library.
In 1924, the school board was advised that in the estate of Ellen V. D. Hazelton of New York was a bequest of $25,000 to the Hazelton Library. Early school librarians were Miss Annie Broaddus, Miss Coral Ellett, and Miss Carrie Brant.
“The Cresset” which is the high school yearbook was first published in 1905 by the Senior class. The following year the Junior Class edited the annual. Mrs. Belle (Hogan) Reed suggested the name “The Cresset”.
--1937 Centennial edition, Constitution Tribune
Many dramatic changes occurred to the Chillicothe Schools during the past thirty years. The “one room” schools were reorganized with the high school districts within the county, and riding the yellow bus to schools became a way of life for the rural children.
Student enrollments gradually increased following World War II and reached its peak of 2,690 in the 1972 school year. A gradual decline followed with 2,186 students being enrolled at the beginning of the 1980 school year.
The cost of education, like most other economic areas was caught in the inflation spiral of the past three decades. The Board of Education minutes of 1949 state “The per pupil cost of instruction was studied . . . The figures show that the high school per pupil cost was $150., also that the elementary student was over $100. With this information in mind, on the motion of Mr. Frith, seconded by Mr. Scruby, it was unanimously voted to increase the elementary tuition to $90. per year and the high school tuition to $95. per year.” By comparison, the tuition during the 1980 school year is $1,520. for elementary and $2,130, for high school students.
Members of the Board of Education, during the past thirty years, have included: Lee Jackson, Merl Jones, W. L. Shaffer, Jr., George K. Minershagen, Joseph Gale, Robert Frith, Stanley Scruby, Melvin Grace, Kirk Winkelmeyer, Bruce Allen, Russell Potter, Ben Wood Jones, Earl Hill, Gilbert Olenhouse, John R. Neal, Sam Long, Bill Coleman, Dale Ream, Joe Singer, Lloyd Cleaveland, Dale Whiteside, W. L. Altheide, Billie Fair, Merle Doughty, Don Chapman, Jr., John E. Cook, David Macoubrie, Clithro Anderson, Kitty Hofheins, Edwin Clark, Melvin McDonnal, Paul Steele, and Betty Preston.
Since 1947, the Chillicothe School District has had two School Superintendents; Raymond E. Houston, 1947-1969, and James E. Eden, 1969 to the present. -- Dr. James Eden
Father J. J. Hogan opened the first Catholic school in Chillicothe in 1861. The public school had been closed because of dissention during the Civil War and the children were running the streets. His school lasted for two years and taught a wide variety of subjects to Catholics and non-Catholics.
A parochial school was started by the Sisters of the Holy Humility of Mary, known as the Blue Sisters. They came to Chillicothe in December, 1869, and taught school in an abandoned church south of the railroad tracks. They left Chillicothe in December, 1870, leaving some of their materials in an old hotel, the Redding House. In January of 1871, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet came to establish a school in the Redding House, which was located east of Central School. They had to spend some time readying the old building to make it usuable, and school opened in February, 1871. The same year the sisters purchased a lot at Ninth and Vine Streets, and started building St. Joseph’s Academy. The Academy opened in January, 1872. It was open to young ladies only, no boys were allowed until 1917. The Academy taught grammar, French, German, Latin, evolution, history, algebra, physiology, literature, philosophy, chemistry, botany, astronomy, geometry, trigonometry and music. St. Joseph’s Academy was fully accredited by the University of Missouri in 1921. It was closed for two years in 1929-1931.
The first parish school, St. Columban’s School, was built in 1880, when Father Francis Moenning was pastor and, due to structural damage, was rebuilt on the same site in 1913. In 1958, the high school, St. Joseph’s Academy, was moved to the St. Columban’s School building and remained there until its closing in 1969. The grade school, St. Columban’s, was renamed Bishop Hogan Memorial School in 1957 when the cornerstone was laid for the new building. The principal of Bishop Hogan Memorial School in 1980, is Sister Kathleen Reichert, O.S.F.
Mrs. C. W. Robinson, one of Chillicothe’s most beloved school teachers, organized the “Tiny Tot” Kindergarten, a private kindergarten, the first one in Chillicothe, in September 1922 at her home on 1803 Calhoun street. It moved to 905 Washington street, when the Robinson’s moved there in 1936. Mrs. Robinson was instrumental in starting hundreds of children, who progressed thru the years and have gone forth to achieve fame in different walks of life. Some of her students were Allen Moore III, Charles G. Adams, Don Chapman, Jr., Nolan Chapman, Jr., Vincent Moore, Dr. Ken Rinehart, Jr., Jim Fish, Dr. Charles Melvin Grace and Don Gordon, and his daughter Karen. Now, Elizabeth Tiberghien is teaching his grandchildren.
Mrs. Robinson was past president of Central School Parent Teacher Association, where she was a faculty member. She played an active part, in all community projects and was instrumental in the organization of The Visiting Nurse Board, Livingston County Memorial Library Board, held many offices in the Missouri Federation of Women’s Clubs and was an active member of the First Methodist Church. She was a person of high ideals and was known for her meticulous workmanship, in anything, she undertook.
Mrs. Robinson was born in Villisca, Iowa in 1876, the daughter of Honorable Franklin Pierce and Alice R. Greenlee. She graduated from the Villisca High School, University of Nebraska, served as a principal and teacher in Iowa, Georgia, and the Chillicothe Public schools.
Mr. Robinson was born in Neward, Ohio in 1865 and was Traveling Freight and Passenger Agent with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. He died February 2, 1954.
Mrs. Robinson continued to teach the “Tiny Tots” until her death July 28, 1964. The “Tiny Tot” Kindergarten has since been operated by Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Mrs. Donald (Elizabeth) Tiberghien at her home on 701 West View. The traditions of the kindergarten have been continued with celebration of holidays, participation in the March of Dimes, Red Cross and other community projects. Each year Mrs. Tiberghien has nine months of school for twenty or more, four and five year olds.Mrs. Tiberghien’s daughter, Betty Don, is also a teacher. She received her B.S. degree from Northeast State University at Kirksville, Missouri. Mr. Tiberghien was born in Chillicothe, July 10, 1913. He was foreman at the North American Aviation Company in Kansas City, Missouri, and owner of the Chillicothe Upholstery Company, at the time of his death, February 16, 1969.