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HISTORICAL MARKERS OF SPRINGFIELD & GREENE COUNTY, MISSOURI

MARKER NUMBER FIVE

FIRST SCHOOL IN SPRINGFIELD


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The first school in Springfield was located on the northwest corner of what is now the intersection of College Street and Main Avenue. The legal location was NE 1/4, SEC 23, T29, R22W. At the time the historical marker designating the site of the building was erected in 1921 by the Springfield Public Schools, the corporate city limits of Springfield did not include the site of what is now designated as the location of the "first school in Greene County". At that time the latter site was about 1 1/4 miles west of the city limits. Now that the city limits have been extended to include the "Greene County" site, it could be argued that the school at College and Main was the "second school in Springfield". However this is undoubtedly a moot point.

The permanent concrete marker is located on the corner of an empty lot (formerly occupied by a service station); it is in excellent condition. The text of the marker reads as follows:

"SITE OF FIRST SCHOOL IN WHAT IS NOW SPRINGFIELD, BUILT BY PIONEERS, 1832, OF SMALL LOGS WITH MUD AND STICK CHIMNEY, LOOSE PLANK FLOOR, AND THREE-LEGGED BENCHES. JOSEPH ROUNTREE FIRST TEACHER. MARKER ERECTED 1921 BY THE SPRINGFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS."

There is evidence that the building constructed in 1832 at College and Main was an improvement over that built in 1831, 1 1/4 miles west and identified by a marker as "the first school in Greene County". A Mr. John H. Miller described the 1831 school as having "a dirt floor; one log cut out for a window; no shutter to the door and no chimney!" Mr. Miller reported that the new building at College and Main "had a loose plank floor; a door shutter, and a mud and stick chimney!"

At both of the locations, the teacher was Joseph Rountree. Some of the pupils taught by Mr. Rountree included Henry Fulbright and some of his younger brothers, the Rountree boys, John Miller, J.J. Weaver and his two older sisters (Louisiana and Jane) and a few others. One source indicates that there may have been a total of eleven pupils. Little information exists regarding the curriculum of the first school, but one written source says the pupils taught by Uncle Joe "learned to spell, read, write and cipher in Pikes' arithmetic, on three-legged benches."

References:

Miriam Brown, The Story of Springfield

George Escott, History and Directory of Springfield

Jonathan Fairbanks, Past and Present of Greene County, 1915.

—Prepared by Owen Case

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