Volume 5, Number 11 - Spring 1976

Before Flint Hill School Was Graded
By Almer A. Ridge

Sixty-five years ago the advancement of pupils at the Flint Hill School in Taney County was determined by the Jones Reader they studied. No attempt was made to grade pupils for advancement to High School.

The Flint Hill School District was one of the wealthier districts in Taney County with rich bottom lands of White River and delta bottom lands of Bull Creek within the district.

In September 1911, my sister and I began attending the Flint Hill School. We had moved from Iowa and had just completed the second grade with promotion to the third grade. I had started to school at the age of five and was small for my age of seven. There were two grades in the Iowa school room.

Our Father accompanied my sister and I to school and we found seventy pupils playing various games in the rocky glade that was Flint Hill school yard. The only fence was on the south, the other sides were unfenced and with free range we actually had several hundred acres of open spaces, The term had begun in early August.

Dad introduced himself and my sister and Ito Lunda Palmer who after one look at an undersized seven year old boy decided we should be in the second reader.

Actually at that time there were five different classifications for pupils ranging from beginners who were in the Jones First Reader to older and advanced pupils in the Jones Fifth Reader. All pupils studied Arithmetic and spelling in addition to reading with the advanced pupils taking American History, Grammar, Physiology and Geography. A teacher who had taught under this system told me that advancement was based on both age and ability to read.

Ages at the Flint Hill School ranged from six years to over twenty-one. Several of the older pupils had been in the Jones Fifth Reader several years. I now know that several of the older boys and young men attended because of the older girls and young women. If this created any problem for the teacher it was not apparent to a seven year old boy.

Classes were recited continuously during the day which began promptly at 9:00 A.M. and closed at 4:00 P.M. with one hour for noon and two fifteen minute recess periods.

Lunda Palmer was a strong teacher. If she had any discipline problems I did not know of them. The strain of hearing recitals all day and carrying on other duties must have been great.

I am glad that I attended this school I read the second reader in a few days. We purchased our books from an older pupil. I then borrowed a copy of Jones Third Reader and before school was Out I had read the Fourth and Fifth Readers. A new world of literature and poetry was opened to me. For the first time I learned of the Greek, Roman and Norse Heroes and Godesses and Gods. I read of King Arthur and his Knights and the American patriots. Selections from great books of literature were revealed to me. Very early I developed a thirst for reading that has been with me all of my life.

I also "listened in" to the American History, geography and other classes and received elementary knowledge in these fields.

I recently talked to a man who had spent five years in the study of the Jones Fifth Reader. He stated that owing to the practice of beginning at the first page of the geography book and the short terms he had never studied about Africa.


Recently I purchased copies of the Jones Third, Fourth and Fifth Readers and thoroughly enjoyed reading each book.

At least one of the larger pupils of the Flint Hill School, without other formal education of training took the County Teachers Examination, passed and became a successful teacher.

Before the school year was out in January my sister and I were promoted to the Third Reader.

With the close of the 1911-12 school year great changes were taking place in the schools of Taney County. John W. Bennett had been elected County Superintendent and he began at once to have the rural schools graded. This was no easy task. It required the convincing of school boards of the need for this action and the training of teachers. This was done by the annual meeting of teachers and board members and by actual visitation of schools. Mr. Bennett by his energy, knowledge and devotion to duty accomplished this in a short time. He was truly one of the great educators of Taney County.

A great change had also affected Flint Hill. Over at Powersite near Forsyth a great electricity producing Dam was being constructed. Backwaters from this dam covered all of the rich White River Bottom and the delta land at the mouth of Bull Creek from which Flint Hill received taxable income. The assessed valuation of Flint Hill dropped to less than $29,000 which on a 40 cent tax levy per $100.00 valuation provided tax for less than three month school. The attendance at Flint Hill School dropped to less than thirty pupils.

Lunda Palmer was the daughter of John Palmer, a Baptist Minister and later for many years, a Taney County Judge. Shortly after teaching the 1911-12 term at Flint Hill she married Charles Ingenthron. Her brother, Durward Palmer was earlier Taney County School Commissioner and later taught in the Taney County rural schools for many years.

Joe Hart, a veteran teacher of Taney County, taught the 1912-13 school term at Flint Hill. With only a three month term he made little change from the old school plans. School was Out before Christmas.

Dad made a trip to Forsyth and talked with County School Superintendent John W. Bennett about possibilities of a longer school term. Mr. Bennett stated that a new law made possible state aid for districts voting a 65 cent school levy. Dad then visited the voters in the Flint Hill School District and told them of the new school law. At the April school election the 65 cent levy was voted without opposition. Dad was also elected to the school board.

Mr. Bennett was again consulted about getting a teacher with either a first or second grade certificate. He recommended Claude C. Lethco, a Douglas County teacher. Mr. Lethco was employed and during the 1913-14 school year he started the grade school system at Flint Hill.

Mr. Lethco was an ideal teacher who was loved and respected by all. He supervised school ground activities by actually playing with the pupils. In the school room he insisted on pupil participation and study. A few books were purchased for the beginning of a school library. It was with regret that the pupils learned that he had elected to return to his home county. It was Claude Lethco and John W. Bennett who started Flint Hill as an eight month graded rural school.

Years later I made inquiry in Douglas County about Mr. Lethco and was told that he had taught school in Oklahoma for many years. Later as a rural school teacher I was able to use some of the methods used by Mr. Lethco. He was a great teacher.


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