1910 Colfax
Ilene Wood
Ada Meharry

Past History of the Colfax School

By Mildred Small, 1920

     About six years before the opening of the Civil War a small 
frame building was built by donation just south and a little east
of the present residence of Mr. Roy Henderson and about one 
hundred yards north of where the road now is. This was the William 
Wiley School House and was within the present limits of what is 
now known as the Colfax District. The school house was about 
18 X 22. The lumber had been sawed at the mill a few miles away. 
The frame was of oak, and the siding and shingles were of black 
walnut. The furniture, while not of the most approved kind, was 
at that time the most fashionable sort, and consisted of a few 
benches made of thick slabs from the sawmill about fourteen feet 
long. Holes were bored near the ends, into which long pins were 
driven for legs. The legs of the different benches were made of 
lengths best suited to the various sizes of the pupils. The back 
was left on the slabs, but the soft or sawed side was up. The desk 
was one table about sixteen feet long and three feet wide of rough 
walnut lumber, and would accomodate about a dozen pupils at one 
time seated on both sides.

     The teacher received about eighteen dollars a month and 
boarded round. The patrons who owned timber hauled in wood for the 
use of the school, load about, and the big boys took turns 
chopping it morning, noons and evenings. The house was also used 
as a church. Of the heads of the families residing in the district 
at that time were: Mrs. Nancy Wiley, Mr. and Mrs. W.G. Anderson, 
Mr. and Mrs. James R. Williams. The teachers from that time 
forward were Messrs. Wise, Henry Rich, Mahan, Stroud and James 
Green and Mr. W.H. Anderson in 1862-3-4. At this time there were 
sixty-five pupils enrolled of whom sixty were regular attendants. 
The house and benches were taxed to their utmost. Some of the 
pupils were Richard Williams, J.M. Williams, Mrs. J.W. Puett, 
William R. Wiley, Mrs. Alex Gillan, J.J. Wiley, Mrs. Lena Fincham, 
J.A. Thompson, R.P. Wood, Mrs. W.H. Anderson, Mrs. A.F. Anderson, 
Mrs. John Langstaff, M.F. Anderson, Ezra Henline, John T. Henline, 
Henry Henline and Mr. and Mrs. John T. Johnson. The teachers from 
that time to 1866 include Miss Taylor, Miss Hamilton, Nathan 
Ridgeway, Jane Benson and Jesse Benson.

     In the spring of 1866 it was decided to build a new 
schoolhouse and a site was selected on the Harpole land near 
where Mr. J.A. Harris now lives. The directors were James R. 
Williams, W.G. Anderson and John Bradford. The building was put 
up by Mr. Phillips and was about 20 X 36 with a stone foundation, 
equipped with patent seats and desks. It cost $1350 and the 
money was borrowed from a Bloomington bank, the directors giving 
their personal notes.

     The first teacher resigned after teaching two weeks and Mr.
W.H. Anderson was employed for the winter of 1866-7-7-9. M.F. 
Anderson taught the winter term of 1870-1 then R. Williams three
terms, Mr. Duffy and others.

     In the summer of 1881 the house was moved to Colfax, which
had been established eighteen months before and was placed on a
lot immediately west of the Methodist Church. George Loar taught
in the summer of 1881 and was followed by H.W.Langstaff and J.W.
Labertew. The town and school grew so fast it became necessary
to rent a room downtown and hire an additional teacher, Miss
Rose Clarke. Then it was decided to build a new school house 
which was built in the present location in 1883. T.J. Loar was
the first principal and was followed by Mr. Gamble, Mrs. Jennie
Green, Miss Nettie Bills, L.W. Haviland and F.C. Prowdley.
     The old school building was added to at various times 
until it was considered a veritable fire trap. On October 18,
1900 it took fire in the roof and was totally consumed. Although
the fire occurred at eleven o'clock in the morning, all the 
pupils and teachers escaped unharmed and the greater part of the
books and apparatus were saved.

     The new building, costing over $20,000 was erected and
ready for occupation November 25, 1901. The faculty for 1901
was: Superintendent, Prowdley; High School, May Hotsenpiller
and Harriet Stowell; 7th and 8th grades, Emma Tompkins; 5th
and 6th grades, Sadie Hall; 4th and 5th grades, Rose Covington; 
3rd and 2nd grades, Mrs. Cora Smith; 1st and 2nd, Lida 

     Credit should be given to the deceased W.H. Anderson for
the above early history of the Colfax Schools. 

     Superintendents of the Colfax School to 1921 were: May
Hotenpiller, 1902-3-4-5; Mr. Alvia Ragsdale, 1906-7; Jack
Pennington, 1908; James Smith, 1909-10-11; A.M. Wells, 1912;
P.M. Hoke, 1913-14-15-16-17-18; V.L. Smith, 1919; L.W. Hacker,

     On Monday morning, January 26, 1903 the aforesaid $20,000
building was burned to the ground. The time and place of its
starting showed it could not have been an accident but its 
origin was never discovered. Nothing was saved and over five 
hundred dollars worth of reference books owned by the teachers
were destroyed. 

     Frank H. Jahr and L.N. Cope were the contractors for the
present schoolhouse. It is built on the same plan as the 
former except it has only two stories in place of three. Some
of the outside walls are a part of the former building. The
equipments are not as many or nice but this was impossible
because the community was in such a great debt not having
paid scarcely any on the debt contracted in building the
former school. It is not so costly or large but still a build-
ing for Colfax to be justly proud of as well as of the many
successes of the community people due largely to the training
received there.

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