The Old Time Schools. Transcribed by Sue Jones from the Robinson Argus January 1893 and in the Crawford Co. Historical Society files.

On the subject of our public schools there is, perhaps less said, written or thought about than on any other matter of so great importance. The schools of Crawford county are claimed to have attained a high standard of excellence. Brick and frame school houses, with all the latest improvements and with facilities to enable the pupil to gain an education, are to be found in every neighborhood, and from these schools go out young men and women qualified to fill important places of trust and honor.

With all these facts before us, let us go back to the early days of schools in the county, for by contrasting the disadvantages of that day with the advantages of the present time we may be enabled to discover that "Tall oaks from little acorns grow."

The log school house is now a thing of the past, and we find the old-time school master, as he kept school and boarded around with his patrons, was esteemed an important personage, as he took upon himself the task of keeping school and keeping in subjection the unrestrained element that was so prominent, for many of the children had "jess growed up," like Topsy, and to have the hickory ready for use was deemed a necessity. "No lickin', no larnin'," was the first rule of the master, and barring out the master on Christmas, and having a jolly time, was the law of the big boys.

In seeking for information of the early schools, I find the old men and women of that time have about all passed away, and but few have much recollection on the subject.

The people of Palestine took an early interest in schools, as among the first settlers were an unusual number of persons of education and culture, and we find that Palestine has furnished quite a number who have been called to fill prominent positions of honor and trust. About 1818 it seems, a log school house was built on what is now called the Tindolph lot, being the first in the county, as well as can be ascertained. Edward M. Cullom, one of the leading men of the time, seems to have been the first teacher in Crawford county. He was followed by a Mr. Patrick and Mr. Blackburn. The log house has passed away, and the names of the old 'masters' who followed them are not remembered.

A two-story frame was then built, the upper story being used by the Masonic order, and among the teachers in that house we find the names of Dr. Cosens, Valmore Norton and Peter Grigg. The Old Red School house has also been removed, and the old-time masters are no more.

About 1828, William and John Fox kept winter schools near where Wesley Chapel now stands. That neighborhood then built a school house on the land of Daniel Funk, but he refusing to make a deed for the half acre unless the tribe of the Seven Jessies were debarred from attending the school, the house was abandoned, and one built at the Camp Spring, near Mr. Cobb's. Among the teachers at the Funk and Camp Spring schools were Rudy, Dr. Peck, Highsmith, Dyer, J. N. Grimes and Stephen Kennedy.

At the Camp Spring the writer had his trial at teaching "Loud School." Where seats were flat rails, on which a whole class would sit to study their spellin', each one swaying the body back and forth, studying "out loud," the one making the most noise being thought the hardest student.

The Clayton school house, near Morea, about 1833 was in full running order. It was built of round logs, and greased paper was used for light instead of glass. On a dark day the boys would sit on the ends of the back log, and study from the light that came down the chimney. Deacon Highsmith and Humble Johnson were the masters, and did up the "thrashin'" for the boys in good style. See Nim Seaney for the facts.

The "Old Baptist Meetin' House," near Wm. Lynch's, was also a place of great resort. In it were held preaching' by Stephen Kennedy, singin' schools, debates and winter schools. Dr. Dyer, Harrison, Malcom, Dr. Cosson, J. N. Grimes and Stephen Kennedy were the teachers. Stephen Kennedy was one of the leading men o' that day, a worthy citizen and an able preacher and teacher. He also laid out the City of Vernon, on the "Vinsan" road, and built a two-story frame house, where he lived and preached to the people. It was a place of importance for a while, but Kennedy died and rested from his labor, and Vernon is only remembered by the older people of today.

About 1830, in the Adams and Shaw settlement, a school was started in a cabin. Larry Dubois, Hamilton, Bryant and Erastus Logan were teachers. The school house caught fire one day, and after getting the children out, Logan (being a cripple) got out on a big stump and sat and whistled while the house burned. Old Uncle Joe Shaw tells the story, and we who remember how the "Squire" enjoyed whistling, when pleased, can well believe the story. A frame house was then built, and good schools have been kept up ever since.

A good log house was built near "Brashear's Hoss Mill." Mr. Middleton, Bax. Brashears, Jones, Norton, Nancy Grimes and O. W. Gogin were the teachers up to 1845.

William Funk was an early teacher in the south part of the county, and has a lively remembrance of the old-time "spellins'" held in that neighborhood.

The Kincaid school house was built in 1843, on Congress land, just across the field, east of the Wheeler school. The neighbors turned out with axes, and in a few days had a house ready for school. It was built of round logs. The floor was split logs, laid flat side up, the splinters and knots scutched off with an ax, so that the scholars would not fall over them. We cut out a space on three sides large enough to set in twelve glasses 8x10, this being the only light but what came down the huge chimney. We built a stone wall against one end of the house for a fire place, when on a cold day we used about a cord of wood. The opening between the logs was daubed with clay, and the chimney was built of sticks and daubed with mud, using our hands for trowels. This was called a "Cat and clay chimbly." The door was hung on huge wooden hinges, that in opening made a great racket, so the boys at dinner time would take the "butter off'en their bread to grease the hinges, so they wouldn't screak so loud." We pinned a slab against the wall for a writing desk, and made our seats from flat rails, or a split sapling, and on these rough seats, without any support for their backs, and often their feet not reaching the floor, the scholars would sit out a winter's school, with their backs humped up higher than a mad cat's back. No wonder that so many of the old settlers have "humped backs." Miss Mercy Barlow kept the first school here.

In the fall of 1844, O. W. Gogin was solicited to "take up" the winter school, but having a spell of "fever'n ager," and his corn not gathered, the neighbors came in and "snap-shucked" his corn crop. He then started out with a subscription paper, agreeing to "take up" a winter school and to teach spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic and geography for the sum of $2.00 per scholar, the Seminary fund paying about one-third. The balance to be paid in trade, such as wheat, jeans, a pig or calf - anything that came handy. As for money, there was none worth talking about. The winter's school amounted to about sixty dollars. The Elementary Spelling Book and Testament were the reading books, with now and then a reader that would be "swapped," so that another could use it. One boy, having no book, brought the "Vin-san" Sun, as he called it, to read in, telling me that his "daddy said it was jess good 'nuff readin' for anybody." The master "set" all the copies, and made the pens from goose quills. For ink was boiled down maple bark, and when the master wrote out a certificate for head of the class, and flourished it with red ink made from poke-berries, it was deemed a prize. The one that received it was thought to be one of the "peart" ones. Dr. Hawley was at that time Commissioner of Schools. Dr. Logan came next, and an excellent one he was.

The time of "No lickin' no larnin'" having passed away, but little punishment was necessary. The children loved well to attend school, and learned fast. Many happy days has the writer spent in that log house with children who are now the gray headed men and women of this county.

When a school of small children was "taken up," the Directors might examine the teacher and if not competent, they could call in some one who was. So the writer was summoned to the Brashear school house to examine a Miss N. G....., who had applied for the school. She commenced to read the preface in the spelling book, but they wanted her to read "out'en out the Testa-ment, as a'most anybody kin read out'en a spellin' book." So she read a chapter out'en the Testament. She then spelled a column of words of six and seven syllables and ciphered a sum. They "lowe'ed" she was "a right peart gal," and told me to write out a certificate, which was done, and after their names were written for them, each one made his mark.

Spelling matches were our greatest entertainment's. Our school used to come six miles to "spell agin" Peter Grigg's school. We met in the old Methodist church, and it was always crowded. Our children could spell anything that was spellable.

These old-time school masters deserve remembrance, as they did the best that could be done under such adverse conditions. They planted the corner-stones and landmarks that have guided others at this day, but very few of them are now to be found. With the most of them "school is out."