The town of Belleville began in the early 1880's. "The History of Jasper County" reports that Belleville
was named after the mining superintendent who developed the area. The town grew rapidly and boasted
more than 1,000 residents at one time. The post office was established under the name of Zincite.
The 1895 Jasper County Atlas shows the location of the Belleville/Zincite school as Township 28N,
Range 34W, Section 25. Today this site would be near the intersection of Fountain Road and P Highway.
Apparently the original school house was replaced by a new building, built by the Works Progress Administration.
The Belleville/Zincite school was closed in 1953 after residents voted to incorporate with the Carl Junction School District.
Zincite school, District No. 96, Jesse L. Pierce and Zella Strater, teachers. No. months in present position, 19. Salary paid,
$65-$50. Vols, in library, 34. Value of library, $15. Assessed valuation, $139,220. Estimated value of school property, $1,400.
1910 Missouri State Superintendents Report
A History of Jasper County, Missouri and Its People, Volume 1, page 440, pub. 1912, by Joel Thomas Livingston.
The following article is from The Joplin Globe, March 3, 1994, by Mary Guccione. (note the spelling of Belleville)
They can tear it down, but they can't bulldoze away any of the memories Betty Starchman Lett has of her years at
Belville School. "We went up there to pie suppers, " recalls Mrs. Lett. "We had chicken and noodle suppers. That
was great because everybody brought something and we had supper. We'd go to town and get gifts for prizes for
bingo and games. It was a social thing.....the money went for equipment for the school."
After Mrs. Lett's husband, Clifford, was injured in the mines, the two accepted janitorial jobs at the school, keeping it
clean and, perhaps more important, the fire burning. The school was heated by a coal-burning furnace in the basement.
During their years as school employees, the Letts took part in the Parent-Teacher Association and other school functions.
However, Mrs. Lett's fondest memories of the school stem from years before, when she and her husband first met.
"I remember pie suppers," she says. "The girls would always make sandwiches and pies and put them in a fancy box,
and they would be auctioned off and the boys would bid on them. If (the auctioneers) found out that a boy wanted a
particular box, they would raise the cost on them and (the boys) would end up paying dearly." A young Clifford "Cedar" Lett
bid on Betty Starchman's pie. The dined together that night and many nights after that at the school and their home.
But before pie suppers and chalkboards, there was land, nothing but land when George Davidson came to Belville. He bought
the land, only to sell later to the Works Progress Administration which built the Belville school, known to some as Zincite school.
"As Joplin grew as a mining town, zinc and ore were discovered in what is called Belville," says Jerry Dean, local historian.
"The oldtimers call it Zincite School, which it, I assume, a long word for zinc."
Records indicating when the school was built are scarce. However, the town of Belville began in the early 1880's. "The
History of Jasper County" reports that Belville was named after the mining superintendent who developed the area.
Belville grew rapidly and boasted more than 1,000 residents at one time.
The post office was established under the name Zincite, and in 1886, a newspaper was started. Zincite had three lodges,
a playhouse with a seating capacity of 400, two churches and several businesses. Zincite/Belville thried for about 20 years
before declining, finally becoming a little more that a cluster of houses along the road.
When school was in session, young people from the surrounding hills walked to school to learn the basics and to occasionally
look out the windows and daydream of playing ball and catching butterflies. The school became an important part of the
A great-great-granddaughter of George Davidson, Gwen Coureton attended the school with her sister. Ms. Coureton particulary
remembers 1950. "Inez Rogers was the only teacher who would let me play ball with the boys and that was the year we won
the championship," says Ms. Coureton. "The Globe has a picture of me with a ball cap on, and you can't even tell I'm a girl."
"It was a good old school house at that time," recalls Ms Coureton's grandmother, Bertha Pratt, 93. She graduated from the
eighth grade at Belvill School. "They could open a bunch of doors that folded and it would give you the whole length of the
building," she recalls. "We had some awful good times there."
When classes were out, the school was a community center, serving as host to pie suppers, chicken dinners, dances and
meetings. The school bell rand for the last time in 1953 after residents voted to close the school and incorporate with
Carl Junction School District. For four years after that, the four-room building lay vacant until Everett Shira stepped in with
Shira had been discharged from the Navy during World War II with rheumatic fever. Unable to find employment with others
because of complications from his illness, Shira operated several businessess with his wife. When he saw Belville School
something inside him clicked.
"I feel like it saved his life," says his wife, Bess. "There were times when he would get real nervous and he would go out there
and work, clearing things and be out in the open with the trees and the birds...it was a big help in soothing his nerves." At first
the land was called "Everett's Dreamland" because his dream was to clear the land, build a lake and convert the school into
a club house. It was to be a therapeutic getaway for the Shira family. But the dream was never realized. While waiting for his
dream to come true, Shira opened the school as a community center, calling it "Teentown."
From 1957 to 1958, young people from Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri frequented the old school and danced to the latest
tunes blasting from the juke box. Friday and Saturday nights were reserved for dancing and dating. On Sunday nights, the
school grounds were covered with kids playing ball. However, due to failing health, Shira was not able to keep up the building
and its grounds, so he sold them in 1958 to Tom Rhinehart and Roger Smith.
Rooms where the three "R's" were once taught were converted into areas used for making dog food. Recently, developer
Daily Doss bought the property to build his own dream: a Belville subdivision. "We're going to build approximately 12 new
homes," says Doss. "It's the prettiest piece of property I've every owned." Soon the school will be gone, replaced with
two-car garages and neatly trimmed lawns. Says Mrs. Lett: "Now all I have left is memories and they can't take that away