Volume 3, Number 1
Work on tearing down the Old Branson School House, known as the Table Rock Community Building, has begun.
For the past year Members of the Table Rock Extension Club have been planning for a new building to replace the Historic Old Branson School House which was damaged beyond repair by a falling tree.
Proposed plans are to perpetuate the memory of the Old Branson School House by incorporating the design of the original front in the new building. Since an Extension Club under the supervision of the State University is not permitted to hold property, the club formed a corporation with elected Trustees. At the annual meeting in October, plans for the new building will be considered. To present the plans and promote interest in the new project, a Community Picnic will be held as a Reunion on the Club grounds, the last of October in honor of the first generation pupils of the Old Branson School.
Such a proposed celebration brings back memories and turns time back to the erection of the School building in 1896 and the purchase of the building by the Club members in 1936. Thirty- two years ago the members of the Table Rock Club purchased the one-acre tract and building from Mrs. J. C. Hull, owner of the former Henry Berry homestead, from which the acre of land had been deeded to the Old Branson School Board. However, it had never been recorded, consequently the acre reverted to the original homestead.
The Table Rock Club was organized as a University Extension club under the supervision of Mr. P. C. Spenny, District Extension Agent. One of the important objectives in organizing was to sponsor a Community center. For years this was the main subject of Community discussions, many session were held and many fund-raising activities were held. It was in 1926 when their hopes were raised in the consolidation of the Branson School District No. 3. However the school was continued as a grade school for six years, and then voted to transport the children in a bus. It was the priviledge of the School District in Branson to dispose of the building, but since the Old Branson School House had Historic value, it was the gesture of the School Board to turn it over to the Table Rock Club for preservation. It was then learned about the deed and that the acre and building had reverted to private ownership.
Eventually the Old School Building was purchased in 1936 and in 1941 the final payment was made and the ceremony of "burning the Mortage" was celebrated, with a program and pie supper.
However, this was not the first school west of White River, for Fall Creek had a school, but later to accommodate the children from Branson proper a log school was raised and located in what was later known as the John Wilhite pasture. It was to this school that Mr. McHaffie, father of Mrs. B. A. Parnell came, a fresh college graduate the first one in Taney County.
But when the School Board was given the acre of land by Henry Berry, even before he had proved up on his homestead, they immediately made plans for a new kind of a building to be built from planed pine. So John Boswell, Tom and Nathan Berry and Ruff Barker took three wagons and started to Springfield, over difficult roads, that took them three weeks. Finally, the planed lumber, shingles, nails, windows, and necessary equipment for the new school were on the ground and with plenty of volunteer help the new building was soon completed.
The school not only served the children of the immediate district but was the first school of the early town of Branson and was used until 1905 when the first school building was erected "on the hill" in the west part of the town. It is told that a hundred or more children were in attendance in the Old Branson school at one time.
The following is a partial roll of the first generation pupils of the new school: Mary Fausett, Roy, Loyd and Loren Crowder, Ivers, Velma Comp ton, Stella Compton Riggs, and Merle Compton Sands, Pauline, Bess and Myrtle Irwin, John and Inez Maddox, Mable Boswell Wilson, Ralph, Chester, Jim, and Dillard, and Mrs. Helen Boswell Stancill, Betty and Maude White, Jess Lewallen, Alta, Helen, Denzil Hefflin, John Hall, Ernest Jones and Minnie Hawkins.
Mr. John Boswell, president of the Board, served over thirty years with many other members, and was the moving spirit that kept the school up to its fine record. His understanding in the selection of the splendid and capable teachers through his long service was a record of unselfish loyalty to the Old Branson School District.
To Bill Bower goes the honor of being the first teacher, it is told, and then Mrs. Rebecca Hillhouse, wife of W.K.S. Hillhouse. Some of the later teachers were: Bertie Snapp, Albert Compton, Mrs. Lucy Anderson, Oscar, father of Mrs. Ora Hankins, Fay Rice, Mr. and Mrs. John Bennett, who were teaching in Washington at the time of
the close of the school 1932, R.N. Parsons, Mrs. J. W. Tavener, Miss Myrtle Compton, Mrs. Hugh Wilson, Miss Pauline Irwin, Miss Ruth Dickey, Mrs. Elizabeth Hoge Boswell, Mrs. Frances Evens Street, and the last teacher to close the school was Miss Verba Chaney, sister of Finis and Homer Chaney.
Everything has its compensation; if the old was good, the new is better, but there are still the memories and these are the spurs that encourage the members of the Table Rock Club to press on to the new goal of establishing a new Community Building.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly