Volume 31, Number 4 - Summer 1992

Rural Schools
A Taney Sampler
By Lynn Morrow

Almost everyone has strong memories of school, some good, some bad, and some in between. In the following photo essay the Quarterly takes a brief look at rural schools. Society member Jerry Gideon supplied photographs from his collection and other information is from official state board of education reports. This look backward focuses on two general periods: One, the early part of the century, c. 1909-1913, when rural schools dotted the cultural landscape and when some of the earlier school pictures in this article were taken, and two, c. 1948-1949, when consolidation had become a powerful social and historical force in the Ozarks.

In 1913, Taney County had almost 3,200 students in school. Terms were shorter than today and the average number of days attendance per pupil enrolled was 86.5 (St. Louis city led the state in this statistical category with 158.1 days in attendance).

Joseph Gideon comprised the first and entire graduating class of Forsyth in 1913. He quickly became a teacher himself and wrote an account that described the educational situation locally.

Taney County

One improvement of the first importance is our well. Before it was drilled water was secured from the farmhouses nearby. Now we have an inexhaustible supply of good cold water.

Our library has been greatly enlarged in the last few years. At present we have more than one hundred volumes of well selected books. One recent addition to our library was an International Dictionary. We have an excellent bookcase, large enough to hold all our library. The school is well supplied with maps, charts and pictures. We have an assortment of maps on rollers, all of which are enclosed in a case attached to the wall of the schoolhouse. The charts are of the ordinary up-to-date class, that are useful in all grades. We have quite a variety of pictures, composed of animals, birds, landscapes, leading men of the United States and England; many of these have been secured during the last two years.

The inside of our schoolhouse was painted last year; up to that time it never had been painted inside. The teacher’s desk made by the local carpenters has been displaced by an up-to-date desk. Patent desks have taken the place of homemade ones. We have secured an organ and a globe, both of which have an important place in our school. Our schoolhouse has plenty of good lamps, which have proved to be an important adjunct, inasmuch as we are trying to make the schoolhouse the social center of the community.

The last addition to our equipment was a blackboard and basket ball outfit. The well, seats, blackboard, and most of the library was paid for by a levy voted for that purpose. The remainder was paid for by having pie socials or by private donations.

—Joseph Gideon, Teacher

Gideon’s "social center" did become a reality as most rural schools became a dominant institution amidst the citizens.

Some thirty-five years later, the school year of 1948-1949 was very different. Length of term was then 180 days in the towns— Bradleyville, Branson, Forsyth and Hollister—and 160 in the country schools. Enrollment in the county was about 2,400 students with 354 in Forsyth. Graduates in Forsyth had climbed from one in 1913 to 26 in 1949.


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