Volume 8, Number 6, Winter 1984
In my first installment of White Oak School I should have named Alexander C. Gideon as a contemporary of Washington M. Wade and Louis Hendrex. I thought he was in a later age bracket. So, I would name those three as the creators of an impetus to education that was to last throughout the life of the school. W. M. Wade went from White Oak School directly to Marionville College, a Methodist-sponsored institution in neighboring Lawrence County. The other found instruction in Springfield.
Whiskey was a serious menace in the hills and in Springfield, but I never heard of one of these men touching a drop. All returned to their district school as teachers.
I suggested the heuristic method of learning as being responsible for their learning in the atmosphere of the primitive schoolhouse, but I am puzzled about the source of their study materials. Books were a most uncommon object in the wilderness. It may be reasonably doubted that there were three dictionaries in all of White Oak District. My first notice of a dictionary was when I was eight years old, and that book wasnt worth a nickel, meaning it was worthless. The next one in our home was one I bought for $1.50 when I was seventeen. I believe that the natives used to laugh behind their hands at any one who ventured to display a dictionary. A man was once taken before the County Court in Christian County and charged with insanity because, among other oddities, he owned a dictionary. The County Health Officer, a physician, examined him orally and asked him to define some of the words he used in his answers. The doctor decided the man was smarter than his detractors, and the Court released him. This was fifty years after White Oak School was opened.
Ironically, W. M. Wades acquaintances, upon his graduation from college, touted him as knowing all there was to know. They may have realized, as time went on, that there were other educated individuals, but they never thought less of "Wash".
Louis Hendrex was born in 1861, near the site of Linden, north of Ozark, MO. His father, Joe Hendrex, homesteaded 160 acres of government land in the future White Oak District. The family later ran a store at Eau de Vie, a village in the hills ten miles south of Ozark. Louis clerked in the store and taught a term of school in the village, and one term at White Oak. The father died at the age of 42 and Louis took over the farm. It must have been a formidable prospect, acres and acres of big oaks to fell and turn into farmland. He tackled the job single-handed and succeeded. Maybe the tussle with education had schooled him for the hardships of running a farm. Abandoned cabins and week-grown fields near by furnished ample proof that many people did not consider farming a picnic in the Ozarks. I can count at least ten clearings and their cabins that I could have reached on foot in one day - all abandoned! I never saw Louis at that stage of his career, but when I knew him in later life, he never seemed to be frantic or appalled.
I get the impression that most farmers, having acquired 481 acres, are prone to mortgage the farm to buy more land. Mr. Hendrex seemed happy with his lot. When he died at the age of 74, the land was productive and free from debt. There had been good years and lean years, but never a disaster.
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