When my mind wanders back to the pioneer days when I was a little fellow, I wonder how it was that a few parents ever succeeded in giving their children some education in spite of all adverse circumstances. Hundreds of little fellows received no education at all. We have often met people of an advanced age that could not write their names or read print. I have met some few old people that said they did not know their A. B. Cs. I have heard a number of men and women complain of a lack of education and I have always felt sorrow for those who wanted an education and was too late now to obtain one when they was standing on the brink of the grave. Luckily a few old timers took an interest in the welfare of their little ones and would employ a teacher and have a small subscription school taught in their neighborhood. Those who were in favor of their children learning something would patronize the school, while others would refuse to send them. They seemed to have opposed the teacher, discipline and education and kept their children at home, or send them into the woods to hunt rabbits or allow them to gossip about their neighbors business rather than give them a chance to have the benefit and liberty of looking into a spelling book. In some cases in those early days a teacher had to accept his pay "in chips and whet stones". A few of these teachers could not teach further than Baker in the Blue Back spelling Book and their discipline was slack in the school room and therefore they deserved small pay, while others were better teachers and were given better pay.
We feel thankful that the children of the present day have such greater oppertunities to secure an education than children of years gone by had. That day and time now belongs to history. The wealth of the country and the interest in school matters have so increased that our law makers have given much time to enact wholesome school laws so that we find no reason that a child should be deprived of a common school education. This is as it should be and we hope the interest will continue to grow until all parents will have no desire to prevent their children from attending school and that all competent teachers may receive pay worthy of their work and that all others who take no interest in the school room except for the pay without giving equal dilligence and labor for the money received should be set aside and allow more worthy teachers to take their places. We will now give a few incidents as indicated at the head of this chapter.
I am told that the first school house built in Taney County Mo. was erected at Walnut Shade in 1842, and Prof. Packwood taught the first public school in this same house the same year. The trustees were Nathaniel Haggard, McDonald Clevinger and Samuel T. Weatherman.
I well remember the first school I ever attended. My parents were living at the mouth of Beaver Creek. In the early part of 1849 a few citizens employed Bill Wheeler who had a little education to teach a small subscription school in a little log hut near Bob Thurmans. This was the first school in that vicinity and my parents sent me there five days in succession. I was to much astonished to think of anything except the noise made in the hut. Though I was not five years old, I remember that school distinctly for three reasons lst because it was the first school I went to. 2ed because I did not learn my A. B. Cs. and the teacher accused me of "Sucking the hind teat." That is I lagged behind all the other scholars. 3erd because the students were allowed to spell as loud as their vocal organs would permit, thus making a mighty racket during school hours. Some of the scholars that I particularly recollect attending this term of school were James Harvey Laughlin and his two sisters Margarette and Elizabeth who were cousins to the writer.
In the summer and fall of 1860, I attended a three months school which was taught in a dilapidated log house near this same spot by a man of the name of McDonald. But the custom in the school room had changed and there was no spelling aloud this time. McDonald taught under the free school system which was in existence then.
As stated above a few settlers in the early days took an interest in school matters, but parents who did take action in having a school taught had nothing like the oppertunity to school their children that they have now. When the public school system was ushered into existence citizens became interested in organizing school districts and the desire to form new school districts gradually increased. The incipient formation of some of the districts are worthy of mention and we will relate one incident here. In one settlement in Taney County, the settlers held quite an interesting school meeting in 1850 which is told of by W. Thurman.
Mr. Thurman said that a few citizens, who lived on the South side of the river from Forsyth met one day for the purpose of organizing a school district. They assembled about two miles from Forsyth. "I was only 12 years old then, said Mr. Thurman, "and of course aid not count for a man but I was present at that meeting and saw and heard all the proceedings. There were eleven men there and a peculiar and strange feature of this gathering to me was that the men had on their hunting garbs and all wore moccasins, boy like I thought they ought to have on their Sunday clothes. Ten of them carried their rifles.
The most amusing part of this assembly was the discussion the men had over the game they killed as they went to the designated place of meeting. Harrison (hack) Snapp killed four squirrels; two of the Haworth boys, Absalom and Jim, killed two squirrels each: Z. P. Moore, Dave Wood and Jim Phillips killed a turkey apiece: Elisha Thurman and Ward Stover each killed a deer: Ben Chenoworth and John Mitchell brought in a deer between them. When the settlers met they put the dead squirrels turkeys and deer together compared notes and counted their game and found that there were eight squirrels, three turkeys and three deer or an aggregate of fourteen. This showed that if the men could not succeed at one thing they could another. The name of the man who did not bring his gun was Harkness Ogle.
"Though this was the first school meeting held in that neighborhood, yet it was a lively one, from the fact that the men had a warm discussion over their game as well as a funny debate about school matters."
Springfield-Greene County Library