The Passing of an Era
Article from The Golden City Herald, August 8, 1963
This Saturday morning of August 10, the chant of the auctioneer will ring the final
curtain on another chapter of the American way of life that is rapidly disappearing
from our rural areas.
Unity school building, its equipment and fixtures, located six miles south of Golden
City, or one mile west of Dudenville, is to be sold this Saturday morning.
The seats, bell, desks, everything will be sold. The land reverts back to the original
For more than 90 years, Unity school was the hub of the Dudenville community.
From the days following the Civil War, when trails became dirt roads, roads nearly
impassable in rainy weather to horse and buggy method of travel. Then came the
Model T Fords, and with the need of better roads came graveled roads, then a
conversion to a numbered system of highways, and then the present blacktop.
Change in automobiles paralled the change in harvesting from puffing threshing machine
engines to combines.
School terms would end a month early to the delight of the children while those in town
had to attend a month longer. The stable behind the school housed the teacher's horse
and maybe some of the more fortunate kids who had a horse they could ride to school.
Unity was always known as a 'big' school, meaning they had 25 or more students in
attendance. In recalling the early days of Unity one man said he recalled one winter term,
when the father of some students attending, decided to attend. At the weekly spelling bee
it came the turn of a young boy to spell down his dad. The lad hung back but finally came
up with the correct spelling.
In 1897 the school had 45 students of assorted sizes and ages.
This is perhaps an incomplete list of all who attended Unity school in 1897, as recalled by
W. H. Salow:
Julia, Ben, and Ida Sites, Willie Bawbell, Will Salow, Sylvia Wilson, Nellie, Mamie, Lorin, and
Jimmie Cunningham, Lewis, Elmer, Mary Korah, Hattie, and Lema Hough, Osie and Addie
Chambers, Nina, Orlie, Earl, and Roy Confer, Elsie and Clyde Larson, Earl and Ernest Maddox,
Myrtle Frazier, Jessie, Walter, Chas., Alien, Luther, Maggie, and Ruth Stemmons, J.B., Leta, and
Clara Pattison, John Wright.
Some of the early day teachers included a Miss Fugate (later identified as Gertrude Fugit who
later taught school at Washington school in Carthage Mo.), Lizzie Hemphill, Elmer Brown, Edna
Shands. Some of the other teachers who taught one or more terms at Unity included:
A. J. Keeling; Martha Brown, 1907; Bertha Ring, 1911; Hallie Raney, 1913; Ada Beckham, 1915;
Lema Withers, 1924; Alice Salow, 1925; Pearl Busby, 1926; Helen Mae Wolfe, 1936.
Mae Hope was the last teacher of Unity school, and she has taught there for 16 consecutive years,
from 1947 to the present time. This fall she will teach here in Golden City.
Founding of the Unity School
Unity School District was organized May 1, 1872. A meeting was held with O. Little as chairman
and James R. Williams as secretary, for the purpose of organizing a school district. The site as
approved, was located at the northeast corner of W. Clark's land, to be known as Sub District No. 2,
Twp 30, Range 29. (This is practically the present day site). The first board of directors was O. Little,
T. J. Cunningham and J. R. Williams. The selection of the name Unity probably came about in this
way: The War Between The States had ended only seven years previous, and feeling had been evenly
divided in Jasper county. The prairie was now beginning to fill with settlers, some being Federal soldiers
of the late war, who had acquired acreage cheaply by reason of army service. Unity naturally was the
thought uppermost in the minds of many, and it seemed only proper that such a name should be given
to this new school district.
This school was one mile west of Dudenville, or Chambersburg as it was called by many. The name
Chambersburg was first applied to that community when the post office was in a store on the east side
of the road. Then Duden, who had a store on the west side of the road got the post office, and the
name was changed to Dudenville. For years, both names applied.
Length of Terms
It was in 1875 that the district voted in favor of changing from a four months school term, to a seven
months term. However it was a few years before this change was made, probably due to lack of funds
to pay for the extra teaching time.
In 1880 the board voted to go to an eight months term of school, and also voted to retain all McGuffey
books. In 1883 the board voted to again change the term, going back to a seven months school, with a
new schedule of four months in the winter and three months in the summer. One can see the boards of
the early day schools must have been under constant pressure as to the lengthening or shortening of
school terms, depending on how badly the youngsters were needed at home for work.
A Well is Dug
In 1878, James Winant was awarded a contract to dig a well, wall same, build platform, and guarantee
an adequate supply of water, for $40. We are told the well is in use today, and had never failed.
Original Building Burned
The original building burned around 1901. From the beginning, coal was used to fuel the stove. The
building burned at night. When the new building was erected, it was relocated to the south a short
distance. Two reasons were set forth for relocating a short distance to the south. One, the gumbo
condition of the schoolyard caused youngsters to get stuck in the mud when at play in the yard, and
two, the fact the branch to the north of the building often went out of bank and flooded a portion of
the schoolyard. The school was relocated to the south.
Report of September 30, 1873
The clerk's report, as of September 30, 1873, showed an enrollment of 19 boys and 10 girls under the
age of 21 years. The teacher had been paid $28 a month the past term. School was held in a new one
room frame building, erected at a cost of $558.44. The teacher had been employed for three months
at a total salary of $84 which had been paid.
Early Day Happenings
O. F. Morgan taught a 4 1/2 month term of school for a sum of $135 commencing October 4, 1876.
Josie Dinsmoor was teacher in the fall of 1875. October 3, 1881 Dora Botts was named as teacher,
school to start on that day, and her salary was $30 a month. Her contract read, she was to receive $120,
on or before February 1, 1882, the term being of four months duration. Belle Aldred of Golden City was
hired as teacher in the fall of 1879 at a salary of $25 a month. Other teachers before the turn of the century
included J. C. Willoughby, Mollie Miller, Wm. Scantlin, Henry Upp, Pearl M. Hall.
The school district was an area three miles square with the school building as near the center as possible.
The original building stood at the corner north of the present building. It burned in 1901. A new building
was immediately constructed, but a short distance to the south, as the former corner was a gumbo area
and children got stuck in the mud on the playground.
The new building had the front porch enclosed a few years ago. The one room country schoolhouse was
a world within itself. The teacher was instructor, doctor, the herdess, the one who would listen and soothe
the feeling of the youngsters, she was the one who stood out in the community. How well she taught is
reflected in the many honor students in high school that have come from Unity, as well as the many other
one room school.
When storm clouds drew near, when rains came in torrents, when lightning flashed and thunder roared,
when snows piled deep, or the first front of autumn came, the small world engulfed in that one room
schoolhouse, became the domain of the teacher.
June 6, 1960 Unity district voted to annex with Golden City R6 district. It was stated at the time, altho
we doubt if it was ever more than just talk, that Unity school would be kept open as long as the patrons
of that area wanted it kept open. No method was reported as to how that opinion was to be found. Anyway,
Unity school is now, no more, all students will come to Golden City this year. For the first time in 91 years,
there will be no Unity school. It is also to be remembered that in the immediate years prior to 1960, a
school district to the west of Unity, combined with Unity, sending the pupils of both districts to Unity.
This September the door of Unity school will not open. The shouts of children at play will be no more.
Only a touch of nostalgia will remain, as thoughts turn back to the day of when Unity school was a dominant
factor in the community, a gathering place of common interest and understanding. Pull down the curtains, a
last look at the clock on the wall, the lights grow dim, darkness envelopes. The door is closed.