Country Schools of Hornet, Missouri
An article by Letha A. Moss Fly
Another great institution is passing from the American countryside-the one room, log school or country school-which,
during its heyday, was the community center. Such is not the case in one little spot of our Ozark foothills. In the Hornet
community, just eight miles south of Joplin in Newton county, some one-room schools still are active. The pupils and
teachers of those one-room schools formed a closeness of friendship that entwines and endures for a lifetime-which
has a semblance of kinship.
Meet in Annual Reunion
Many of those scholars and teachers met again last fall, this time to celebrate the silver anniversary of their reunion and
homecoming of the seven old schools of the Hornet community. Many warm handclasps, of hands not too strong anymore,
eyes twinkling and broad, warm smiles were in evidence that Sunday afternoon, bespeaking a warmth that we younger
people probably will never experience. Even a stranger such as I was taken into the fold. And of all the reminiscing! Those
oldsters were scholars at one or more of those seven schools back in the gay '90s, and the not so gay '80s, and, as one
elderly former pupil, said, "The not gay '70s." A group of former residents of the East View school first met more than 25
years ago to organize. So, it was that a very formal invitation such as this was sent out: "Classmates and teachers of the '80s
and up to the present time. There will be an all-day reunion and home-coming at East View (Krill) schoolhouse, July 30, 1930."
The invitations were signed by Mrs. Lucy Shrock Gatliff, Mrs. Viola Smith Munson and Miss Jewell Higginbotham. One family
was reached through this invitation that had not been heard of in 39 years, according to Mrs. Gatliff. One of the "boys" had
become a famous doctor in a large northern city, and as he put it, "I'm most happy to be back with the home folks, and be in
school once more."
Seven Schools in Group
In all probability the other six schools in this area might not have been asked to join the East Viewers in those reunions, but
someone came along during the WPA days and cut all the trees from the picnic grounds at the school (they decided it was
community property, no doubt). The reunion group decided to use the Hornet Community Center building and grounds, and
it was then that the other six schools were asked to join in the reunions. They were Warren's Branch, Five Mile, Round Prairie,
Frog Pond, Spring City and Greenwood. The names of those old schools were most intriguing. Why and how were they
named? Why were those buildings moved? These questions were asked by the younger pupils, as well as by myself. Five
Mile, the oldest school in the area, was moved twice and its name changed each time. The first one-room log building was
situated about two miles east of the Kansas state line, on the old stagecoach road. It was built on a hillside overlooking Five
Mile creek, in about 1859, according to F. W. Mizer. Otha K. Smith said: "Old schools such as Five Mile were built by the men
of the community. It seems that where there was a settlement that wanted a school, the men simply got together, cut the logs
and built one."
Five Mile school as it appeared in 1892.
Creek Five Mile Long
"Why was this school named Five Mile?" I asked. "Well, lady, " he replied, "Five Mile was named Five Mile because Five
Mile is five miles long." I discovered that he meant the creek that runs in front of the schoolhouse.
A Subscription School
This school in the beginning, however, was not a district school, but a subscription school. If and when an itinerant teacher
came through the community and desired to teach school, he would contact the various residents, and have them subscribe
$1 a month per pupil for a term. If there were quite a few children in one family-and in most of the families there were-the
parents would only subscribe for half the family. In that way, half of the children would attend school for half a term, then the
other half would go to school. Most of those early day settlers had plenty of food, clothing and the necessities of life, but cash
was scarce. The War Between the States disrupted most of the schooling. After the war, more families began coming into
the area, and about the only real business enterprise was timber cutting. There were great oak forests, virgin timber that
had never seen man or ax. This lumber was cut for buildings, rail fences and railroad ties. Most of the lumber was sent to
Baxter Springs, Kan. In 1867, a young man, Calvin W. Smith, decided to leave his home in Dundee, N. Y., and go as far west
as the railroad would take him. That was Fort Scott, Kan. He was a graduate of Starkey Seminary in Eddietown, N. Y., and
had taught several terms of school there before he decided to go west for his health.
Stomach Trouble Changes Course
After he got to Fort Scott, he met a man who needed a hand hauling a boiler that had come from St. Louis and was on its
way to Baxter Springs by ox team. Young Smith's stomach began to bother him again (today we would say it was a case
of war nerves), but his new found friend assured him he would be all right when they got to Baxter Springs. In the course
of conversation, as Otha K. Smith of Neosho, son of Calvin W. Smith, related to me, "He found out that father was good
at ciphering, and he told him he knew a man who owned a saw mill and that Mr. Smith could get a job from him keeping
books." After they arrived at Baxter Springs, Mr. Smith began to inquire about a lodging house or inn where they served
good food. A man from Missouri happened to overhear him. It was that one little statement that set Mr. Smith's life's course,
and that of many other people in his new-found area. This man's name was John Hayes. He had hauled a load of lumber
to Baxter Springs. He told Mr. Smith, "You just come over into Missouri with me. There you can eat good cornbread, Irish
taters and fresh meat, and drink plenty of fresh spring branch water and buttermilk." Sure enough, in a little while Mr. Smith's
health had improved, and many people in the area were besieging him to teach school at Five Mile. So there in the fall of
1867 he taught his first of many terms of school-43 in all-in and near Five Mile in Newton county.
School is Moved
About 1870, the saw mills were seeking more timber. So, the operators moved farther north, taking their families with them,
and the school, too. By that time, the district had a little more money, so it was decided to build a better school building.
Cement was brought in by mule train and ox-cart, and a native rock concrete building was built shortly after 1870. It was
named Rock Branch. This building stood until 1891. Mrs. Lucy Shrock Gatliff was the last teacher to teach in that building.
A small fire damage, and a new German settlement farther south, were good excuses to move the school. Again the school,
Rock Branch, was moved, this time to a permanent location, only one mile west of the Five Mile log school. The name was
changed back to Five Mile. A. Michael Keegan gave the ground from his almost 1,000 acres. The new building was built in
1892, where it still stands on a high knoll in an oak timber clearing, overlooking Five Mile creek and along the old stage coach
route from Independence and Baxter Springs through the Hornet Trading Post, which consisted of Andrew (Jack) Buzzard's
stage coach barn (some of the logs still are in use today in a barn on the Wineland farm at Hornet), Heidreich's general
merchandise store and Willy's blacksmith shop. The stage coach route continued to Neosho, Granby, Pierce City and on
toward Lynn Creek, to the north, and forked south toward Pea Ridge and Fayetteville, Ark. Many prominent family names
appeared on the application as the founders and school board members of the present Five Mile school. They included
Sam Coghill, John Roff, D. A. Chappell, R. C. Anderson, A. C. Hetherington, John Mizer and M. A. Vance.
East View school, built in 1882
Three in a Seat
This school still had the wooden seats that will hold three pupils; ink well in the center of each desk; and window blind roll
maps in a case that hangs on the wall; a fine wood-burning furnace, and a good water pump over the deep well. East View
school-so many of the former scholars assert-was the best school in the whole area. That district had the most money and
could pay its teacher the highest salaries in the county, $40 a month each. The teachers had to pay their board, room and
laundry out of the $40, which was about $1.50 to $3 a week. East View had its beginning in Stump Grove school district,
in a one-room log school, so named because some trees were cut in the yard, leaving the stumps. That was about 1874.
Again, big families and pressure were responsible for moving the school district, and the schoolhouse. A deed recorded
at Neosho shows that Judge Nicholas Krill gave an acre of ground for the school building in 1879. Thus the school was
moved into his district. In 1882, a modern clapboard, one-room building was built. That one-room held as many as 60 pupils.
The name was changed from Stump Grove to Krill school. As the claims continued that September afternoon last fall, it "had
the best teachers anywhere". Another teacher by the name of Smith arrived in the district. He was no relative of Calvin W.
Smith, Sr. He came under an assumed name, having had a misunderstanding over the settlement of a family estate back in
Ohio. Peter Smith, who was a small man in stature, spent the remainder of his life in his adopted community and died in
1900 and is buried in Burkhart cemetery at Racine, Mo.
An Eastern Educator
To this day, his former pupils speak with pride and admiration of Peter Smith, who was a graduate of Ohio university. He
taught any grade or subject at the school, from grade and high school, up to and including normal. By mail he would order
textbooks that could not be had locally and for them himself, in order that the pupils might have the best. Within six years
he had select pupils from his classes who showed promise of becoming teachers. He taught the subjects they needed
and saw to it that they took their county examinations under the county superintendent. You should have seen and heard
him after one of us had finished our examinations one of his former pupils told, "He would fire questions at the superintendents
they couldn't answer. But he did it in a nice, refined, quiet sort of was." A total count of 22 pupil-teachers passed their
examination to become teachers. Many of them remained in the community to teach. Peter Smith's services were much
sought after. Before he had finished his first term at Krill school, the school board from Cedar Creek district had hired him
at a higher salary for the next school term, long before the Krill district school board knew anything about it. So, for the
remainder of his teaching years he shuttled back and forth between the two schools, at a raise in salary each time. He
bought a nice saddle horse, and if school was not being held in one district, he would go by and pick up as many pupils
as he could and all would ride to school, while he walked.
Other District Teachers
Wayne Shrock of St. Joseph, Mo., provided much of this information. He also said that, at one time, his brother, Watson
Grant Shrock, Peter Smith and Leslie Burns bought a drill rig and did some prospecting for ore around here, most of it
in and near Carl Junction (Mo.). Prospecting was Mr. Smith's second love, after teaching. He had done some prospecting
for gold in Colorado before he came here. Other well remembered teachers of this district were Mrs. Ida Saxton, C. M. Hoadley
and Miss Winnie Carney. It was Mrs. Saxton who renamed the school. As she looked out across the green fields to the east,
she said, "My, what a pretty east view!" So, today, it is known as East View. The oldest living pupil of the old log school,
Stump Grove, is Mrs. Emma Cloeman of Miami, Okla. She attended there in 1877 and, according to her, the log school had
been in existence several years before she started to school. The collective property of the Krill school in the gay '90s consisted
of one acre of ground, a one-room school building, a woodburning stove, a dipper and water bucket, a few wooden seats and
several wall bracket kerosene lamps. Some of the co-founders and backers of this school district were Calvin W. Smith, Sr.,
S. E. Shrock, Nicholas Krill, George Baker, Oscar Higginbotham, Dudley Belton and James Hawes. Warren's Branch was a
one-room, log school, dating back to 1860. It was founded as a subscription school.
Warren's Branch school
Recalls School Days
According to Mrs. Cynthia Lodge Hensen, better known in the community as "Mama Hensen, " said, "Why, I can remember
that old school. The desks were long pieces of smooth lumber built right, into the sides of the walls, with a smaller board
shelf underneath to hold our books and dinner buckets. A little space was left at the east end of the building to hand out coats
and hats. The blackboard was at the west end of the room. "There were split plank board seats that held three pupils, and
about three of these seats on either side of the room. A boxwood stove was in the center of the room. When they fired it up,
it almost roasted our backs. A water bucket and dipper were kept by the door, and it was a treat to be selected as the one
to carry the bucket and dipper to all the pupils to let them have a drink. The water was carried from Warren's spring branch.
One of the greatest events of the community in winter was the 'ciphering match' or the 'spelling bee.' Everybody would come
horseback or in wagons, and would bring their barn lanterns. We would keep our feet warm to and from the school with the
lantern, then use it for a light in the school building, along with several coal oil wall bracket lamps that the school owned."
Their name was "James"
One day, when on our way to school, some nice young men came by on horses and asked Mr. John and Milton Dickson where
they could get a good drink of spring water. They were directed to the Dickson springs, which heads Warren's branch. I heard
later that they stopped at the blacksmith shop at Hornet to have their horses shod, and their name was "James." "Where did
the name Warren's Branch come from?", I asked. "From a family of Warrens, who stayed only long enough to leave their name,
then headed west to the gold fields." Mrs. Henson said. A Mr. Heath was a teacher there in 1870. This school, too, was a
subscription school part of the time in its early days. Mrs. Henson attended her first year of school there, in 1875, and she was
the oldest pupil to attend the reunion of pupils last fall. The full 10 grades were taught. Warren's Branch was moved, too. In fact,
it was moved log by log across the creek to the north side. The reason: There were more children living on the north side of the
creek, and the creek flooded at times, and the children from the north couldn't go to school. So, those children living south of the
creek were give two new foot-logs to cross the branch to school. Today, however, there are two good foot bridges for the children
to use, and they have a nice, white clapboard one-room building. The ground for this school was given by a Mr. "Penny" Smith,
no kin to the other Smith's in this story.
Frog Pond School, 1886
Buzzard's Roost and Frog Pond
Buzzard's Roost was another old school, very modern back in 1875. There were several families in the community by the name
of Buzzard, so that is the reason for the name. Again the population shifted, so the schoolhouse was moved. In the process of
moving it, however, after it was loaded on the moving equipment, a man inquired, "Where to?" Someone suggested to "take it
up by the old frog pond." Thus, in 1886, the school's name became and still is Frog Pond. In discussing the Greenwood school,
no one could give a definite reason for its name. Some said a family by the name of Greenwood gave the ground. Others said
it was because of the beautiful green timber nearby. Mrs. Clarence Pearson of Stark City said: "I taught in both the old school
down by the creek (Shoal Creek) and the new one up on the road. I blush today when I think of teaching my first class up there.
Why, I was only 16 years old. I had some pupils older than I was, and the boys were much larger than I was, but I kept good order."
I'll wager those boys thought they had a mighty nice looking teacher because she still is good looking today. Clarence Pearson is
another retired teacher of that area. Spring City is the newest school of the group. According to Earl Cornell, part of the Redings
Mill and Krill districts consolidated in 1902 to form Spring City. Charlie Byers, John Cornell and a Mr. Wattle formed the district
and served as the first school board. A one-room school was built and used until it burned a few years ago, and a yellow brick,
four-room building stands today in its place. It is a fully approved grade A-1 school, complete with cafeteria. During World War II,
extra teacher were brought into the district and taught up to and including the eleventh grade. The the children took the county
examinations from the county superintendent.
North Star Now Spring City
Spring City was plotted and recorded in Neosho in 1882 as North Star. A post office was set up there, with mail delivery three
times a week. The mail was brought in my a Mr. Hays, riding an old brown horse. The name North Star had to be changed later,
however, because a city in northern Missouri already had been registered by the same name. There are many fine springs to
the east and north of Spring City, hence its name. In the early 1920's there was a pay roll of 1,700 miner in and near the Spring City
district, and for a time it was one of the wealthiest school districts in Newton county.
Round Prairie school, 1915
A new school was built in 1915 across the road from the old school. It, too, was a white clapboard building. Calvin W. Smith, Jr.,
taught the first term in the new building. Calvin Smith, III, is a teacher in the Joplin school system. He is presently teaching at
East Junior High. Mr. Smith, III, has two brothers who are teachers. One is teaching at Canby, Ore., and the other is at Overland
Park, Kan. Mr. Smith, Sr., was a farmer as well as teacher in his early days here. I do believe these older teachers knew what
is was to be underpaid.
Calvin West Smith, Sr. Calvin West Smith, Jr. Calvin West Smith, III
Three Generations of Smiths
These three Smiths--grandfather, father and grandson--have given 88 years of service as school teachers to this area within a
radius of less than 25 miles. By a strange coincidence, and it was recorded by Ripley's "Believe It or Not." each of these three
men married women by the name of Johnson, yet none of the women could trace any kinship. Calvin W. Smith, Jr., has retired
after teaching 37 years in this area. Mr. Smith, Sr.'s father, Mr. Nehemiah Smith, back in New York also was a teacher, making
four generations of teachers in this family.
Yesteryear's School Problems
Calvin W. Smith, Jr., related some of his trials and tribulations as a teacher. "One year I had 64 boys in my school, and all of
them chewed tobacco except two." he said. "Another time I had girls in my classroom larger than I was. I remember only too
well a school that I took over about 20 miles south of here. They had run every teacher off the four previous years. I made up
my mind when I took that school I was going to stay. I had 104 pupils in one room, and 114 chastisements were given that year.
Next year, I had 100 pupils and only two had to be chastised the whole year. I learned to love all of them, and I believe that they
learned to like and respect me. "My first job paid $2 a day, and I contracted to teach by the month. At that, I got more than my
father did. "I had pupils from 5 to 23 years of age. When farm crops had been laid by, the young people would come back to
school; and they learned, too.
Hand Pump at Spring
"At one school where I taught, the school board decided it was a little inconvenient for the children to have to go down to the
spring for a drink, because it was between two small ravines. So, they built a heavy plank floor with wide cracks in it, rested
it on top of the two ravines, installed a hand pump, and furnished one tin cup. At recess and noon, one of the larger boys would
man the pump handle, and would keep a steady stream of water going, while the pupils stood around waiting their turn for a
drink. The favorite pastime was washing their feet under this stream of water. The water dripped back through the cracks into
the spring then it was pumped up again and the children drank it. Strangest thing of all was that hardly ever a child missed
school because of illness. "Transportation was no problem, nor was school lunches. Many a time when a snow came, some
of the larger boys would drag a fence rail along to break a trail for the girls; but if the snow was too deep, a neighboring farmer
would remove the wheels from a farm wagon, put on runners, tie a set of sleigh bells on the horses and take the children to
school. Another farmer would come and take them home--and they would sing most of the way. "Lunches were food the
children carried from home. Sandwiches were made of homemade bread or biscuits, butter, jelly, meat, sometimes deer
meat or cured meats, and a small glass of stewed dried fruit.
Tracy's School Record Book
Calvin W. Smith, Sr., is becoming almost a legend in Newton county. His son has his little blue school book, Tracy's School
Record Book, dated 1869. There he had kept the record of every pupil he had taught from 1870 on. A little mark indicated
if they were present, and a dot meant they were absent. I also noted on the fly leaf that he recorded 14 terms that he taught
in the community before he started keeping this complete record. A term of school I learned, too, was not designated by the
calendar, but by the purse of the district. I saw where he had taught school in June, July and August. He taught several terms
at Shoalsburg school, which is now Redings Mill. Mr. Smith, Sr., never rode a horse; he was afraid of them. Nor would he drive
a team. He would ride, however, if someone invited him to ride. He walked many miles, and one of his former pupils told me
that he decided she should be in school, so he would come by and get her and take her to the district where he happened to
be teaching. He did this for other children, too. In later years, Mr. Smith became associate judge of the Western district of
Newton county, and many times he had walked the 16 miles to Neosho and back in one day, if no one happened to come
along and offer him a ride.
Many Make Mark in World
His son told me that his father blazed the trail between what is now Spring City and Redings Mill, which is a part of highway
43 today. Because of those teacher and Peter Smith, and many, many more like them in this little spot in our Ozark foothills
many of these pupils have gone out from here to become preachers, teacher, doctors, lawyers, mayors, nurses and members
of many other professions, while some of the good folks have stayed on, some of them still are on the farms where they were
born. The have become good farmers and merchants, and have upheld the good traditions of the community, where they are
keeping these little schools going, as well as churches and community centers.