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marker has the incorrect number 4 on the marker itself. The marker
is located at 1820 Mount Vernon Street, just west of the old Missouri
Pacific Railroad crossing.
The text of the marker reads as follows:
"225 FEET SOUTH OF THIS SPOT. THE FIRST SCHOOL-HOUSE IN GREENE
COUNTY WAS BUILT BY PIONEERS, 1831. SMALL CABIN, LOGS CUT OUT
FOR WINDOW AND DOOR OPENINGS. NO SHUTTER, DOOR OR CHIMNEY. DIRT
FLOOR, THREE-LEGGED BENCHES. FIRST TEACHER, JOSEPH ROUNTREE.
PUPILS FROM ROUNTREE, MILLER, FULBRIGHT AND WEAVER FAMILIES.
MARKER ERECTED, 1921, BY SPRINGFIELD UNIVERSITY CLUB."
In January, 1831, Joseph Rountree arrived in Greene County, Missouri.
During that same year, he and his pioneer friends built a crude
school house; and soon thereafter formal education began in Greene
County. According to one biographer, Joseph Rountree served as teacher
in the school for "two sessions."
Since this first school is so closely related to Rountree, it seems
appropriate to briefly examine his background and experience. He
was born in North Carolina in 1782, then at age 37 moved to Tennessee
where he remained until traveling to Missouri. He was reasonably
well-educated for that period and was reputed to be "very proficient
in mathematics and a good scribe." He taught school in both North
Carolina and Tennessee. He and his wife Nancy had a large family
- two girls and six or seven boys. They left for Missouri in 1830,
in search of "suitable lands upon which to locate." Trudging through
18 inches of snow, his family and the Sidney Ingram family arrived
in what was to be Greene County in late January of 1831.
Joseph Rountree was a mature, educated family man at age 49 and
was, no doubt, a welcome addition to the pioneer Ozarks community.
It is noteworthy that the school was built within the first year
of Rountree's residence in the area. Several pioneer families probably
cooperated in building and supporting the school. Most historians
mention the Rountree, Fulbright, Weaver and Miller families as instrumental
in undertaking the project and in supplying the first students.
The site of the first school house in Greene County was on property
settled by Joseph Miller, John Polk Campbell's brother-in-law. One
historian wrote that almost all of the pupils who attended Rountree's
school became prominent local citizens.
The school was not a public school but rather a private "pay school."
In pioneer Springfield and Greene County, most children were educated
"at the mother's knee" and/or "in the fields with father." The first
public schools did not appear until 1867.
From the beginning, Joseph Rountree was engaged in occupations
other than teaching. He was elected Justice of the Peace soon after
he arrived, and he developed an outstanding orchard on his farm
near Wilson's Creek. For a time he operated a general merchandise
store. In later years he became a judge of the county court. He
actually taught in the area for perhaps only two years. Apparently,
the monetary rewards from teaching were not sufficient to entice
him to remain in the teaching profession.
The significance of the first school in what was to become Greene
County is that it was built and put into operation within the first
two years of the settlement of the area; it is also noteworthy that
the community attracted a mature, experienced individual as the
first teacher in the first school, and that a contemporary school
bears his name.
Fairbanks and Tuck, History
of Greene County, 1915.
R.I. Holcombe (ed.), History
of Greene County, 1883.
E.M. Shepard, "Early Springfield", Missouri Historical Review,
R.C. Glazier, "An Almost Condensed History of the Queen City of
the Ozarks", Guide to Springfield, 1993.
--Prepared by Charles E. Gray
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