First School Section Sold
The first sixteenth section of school lands sold in Jasper county was paid for in May. 1842. The land sold for $1.25 an acre and netted the county school fund $800. During 1842 the school fund was swelled to $870.48 by the payment of fines, donations and interest on the $800, which was at once loaned out. The interest collected for the year 1842 was $38.
Pioneer School Districts
The first school district to be organized was in congressional township 28 and range 29, in the east-central part of the county. The formal organization occurred in November, 1844, when the county court appointed William Maxwell school commissioner for the township and ordered that the same be divided into three school districts. District No. 1 embraced all of the territory north of Spring river; No. 2 the west half of the territory south of Spring river and No. 3 the east half.
School District No. 2 was the first to build a schoolhouse and hence has the honor of being the oldest school district in the county.
First School Described
Judge Jeremiah Cravens was one of the first school directors for this district and Samuel Teas was the first teacher. We give herewith a description of this first school written by H. M. Boyd, formerly of Sarcoxie and a pupil in the school back in the 'forties: '' Samuel Teas taught the first school in the county. The house was built of rough logs unhewn and was covered with clapboards held down on the roof with poles, as nails could not be obtained at this early day. The house had but one door; this was in the south side. In the west end one log was cut out the full length of the room for a window and this was left open summer and winter. Under this window there was a plank running the full length nailed to pins driven into the wall. This served as a writing desk. The fireplace was in the east end of the house and was wide enough to take a log a foot and a half thick and eight feet long.
"The jams on each side and the back were made of rough rock and the balance of the chimney was made of sticks daubed with red clay. The house was seated with split logs, the flat side up and the ends resting on chunks.
"In the side of the door a nail was driven into the wall and on this was suspended a little forked stick about six inches long, which every scholar took with him when he went out during the hours of study. No scholar was allowed to go out till this little fork was returned. This house stood on the east side of the road that ran from the Haskins house to the old ford on Center creek, known as the Boyd ford, and was about midway between the two. I attended this school and here I learned my ABC and received here my first flogging. The school was patronized by the Cravens, the Mills, the Brittons, the Boyds, the Haskins, Beasley and Prigmons.
"Mr. Teas was regarded as a successful teacher in that day and a fine scholar. He wrote a good hand and could cipher as far as the rule of three. The school was what might be called an old fashioned school; that is. all the students used the old blue back spelling book and studied it aloud.
"The school on each evening closed by the students standing in a line and spelling the words as they were given out by the teacher. Ten minutes were given to get the spelling lesson and as the announcement was made every boy and girl got his blue-back book and spelled aloud with all his might and they could easily be heard a quarter of a mile away."
The second township to be organized was township 29, range 33, in the west-central part of the county.
The order creating this district was made at the May term of the county court in 1845. Benjamin Turner was appointed the commissioner for the township and Samuel Bright and John R. Chenault, inspectors.
Samuel B. Cooley was the first teacher. It will be noted that all three members of the first county court participated in the organization of the school system, Judge Samuel B. Cooley, the first presiding judge, being a teacher, and Judges Bright and Cravens, members of the first school board in their respective districts.
This district was fortunate in having for its first teacher and leading spirit, Judge Cooley, for he was a man of great integrity and his influence on the rising generation was felt long after he had passed away.
The school was one of the pioneer log houses and at first, for the want of lumber, had no floor, the door and two openings for windows letting in the light. We are told by one of the old settlers that in winter time these windows were covered with gunny sacks, glass being a luxury known only to the most prosperous of the farmers and merchants.
The fireplace was an immense affair, where great logs five or six feet long were thrown in, and here the fire sparkled and roared throughout the cold winter day. The furniture was all home-made and scant at that; the seats, like those at the Teas school, were made by cutting a large log in two and driving pegs in the rounded parts.
Other districts soon were organized and when the war came on twenty-three school houses had been built. Among the districts organized in the 'forties were the Franklin school, near Castle Rock on Turkey creek, with Charles Harris as its teacher; Peace Church school, later called Enterprise; Spring River school, Carthage; the Black Jack in McDonald township; the Duval in the northwestern part of county and White Oak school, near Avilla.
The course of study was confined principally to the three R's, but as the county grew in population, wealth and importance, new branches were added and during the later 'fifties several of the schools included in their curriculum history, civil government, algebra and like studies.
In those days the rod was freely used and teachers were usually men, the school authorities holding to the old-fashioned theory of "no licking, no learning;" and muscle was as much needed by the teacher as a good certificate, in securing employment.
The modus operandi of conducting the school was quite different from the law and usage of today. In each township there was appointed a commissioner who exercised a supervision over the school. He employed the teacher, mapped out the course of study, made the rules and regulations and, in short, performed the duties now exercised by the school board.
There were also appointed two inspectors whose duty it was to visit the schools (at least once during the term) and report on the proficiency of the teacher and the progress made by the pupils.
A History of Jasper County, Missouri and Its People, Volume 1, by Joel Thomas Livingston.