EARLY FOUNTAIN GREEN SCHOOLS, part 2

 

Early Fountain Green Schools
continued

     In 1874 my mother, then Lillie Latherow sixteen years of age, went over to Hickory Grove School, about four miles north east to take an examination to teach that school.  A friend of Mothers had been over a week before and hadn't passed, she told Mother the questions asked and Mother learned the answers and was given the same ones when she went over.  The Mr. Aldrich, who gave the examination, gave her the school and later said "Miss. Latherow is the most thoroughly educated person I ever met."

     I can remember a few of those questions he asked, that Mother told me, and here they are:

     1. What is the capital of America?
     2. Where does Crooked Creek rise?
     3. Name eight townships in Hancock Co.
     4. Recite the Alphabet backwards.
     5. What state is across the Mississipi River from here?

Well, could you have passed it?

     She had to "board round" staying one week with each family.  She told of staying at one home where they had two big grown sons who were idiots, they would come near and stare at her with their big eyes and point their fingers at her dress or shoes and say "pretty, pretty".  She said she couldn't sleep or scarcely eat while she was there.

     At a Joe Duncan school reunion she told of whipping two young school criminals, they were Maurice Yetter and Ethelbert Dill, either one could have tied her in a knot but they stood graciously and took it.

     I started to school in 1895; it was the last year for the "Old Brick" as we later called it.  There seems to be no pictures of the Old Brick and the few of us living who went to school there can only agree on one thing.  "The older pupils were on the second story, we little folks below."  I never was upstairs, when the big boys were dismissed they came down those stairs in about three jumps and we little folks scattered like chickens from hawks.

     I had the nicest teacher a beginner could have, her name was Mary Tyler.  I wouldn't have done anything she wouldn't of for anything, but I had a slate and I wanted to draw some pictures.  I wasn't certain it was right to draw them but as our criminals of today think, "I won't get caught," I began my life of crime with one eye on Miss. Mary.  It was discouraging to have to erase one beautiful picture to draw another.  But little kids didn't have paper and pencils, just a slate and a slate pencil.  To erase it you spit on the slate, rubbed your sleeve over it a few times and you were ready for anouther picture but your first one was gone forever.  The girls used a piece of wet cloth for this, it was called a "slate rag," that was a sissy way of doing it, we boys thought.  I can see that picture.  A skunk under a bush and four hens looking at it.  I was finishing that picture and washolding it away in front so I could see it better when I discovered Miss. Mary looking over my shoulder.  I erased it as quickly as possible and had my face in my hands as the teacher said, "Why Allen, did you you erase it?  That was a fine picture."

     The seats held two pupils, this made it bad for us boys, we were always afraid we would sit down with a girl or she would sit down with us.

     They work high top button shoes, a long dress with long sleeves and long hair in two long braids hanging down their back that was always on the boy's desk behind them.  They had long finger nails and they would kick and scratch if the teacher wasn't looking just because you moved that braid of hair off your desk or tied the end of it down to keep it out of your way so you could study.

     Then they always had that wet rag they cleaned their slate with and rubbed it on your face, they left it anywhere and if you didn't look out you would sit down on it.  I hated girls.

     School though is a wonderful thing for girls, just six or eight years going to school completely changes the meanest of them into the kindest and most gracious little angels.  I'll always be in favor of school for girls.

     The boys wore high top button shoes, long black stockings and knee pants.  We soon learned to play tag, run sheepy run, black man or pum pum pull away jail, dar-a base and leter baseball.

     Until about 1905 it was thought very undignified for a teacher to play games with the pupils.  It was thought that they wouldn't mind him, but I loved that teacher who got out and played hard and set a fine example of good clean fair play.  Any child will always take a teachers decision if that teacher has always been honest with him.

     I am using the word pupil, that is modern.  The word scholar meant anyone who went to school years ago, but the word scholar has grown in prestige.  It no longer is a barefoot boy but a well educated well dressed Ph. D.

     Today, pupils are spoken of as kids.  That term (kid) was never used sixty years ago to mean a child, only a small goat.

     Another thing that was a study in itself and that was the carvings, etchings, hieroglyphics and just plain letters and pictures that were found on all old school desks, walls and toilets.  With an idea in his head and a knife in his hand, what stories were told, what memories carved for future generations to ponder over.

     There was no more delightful course to study.  In this "Yound American" sculpture, you learned letters, words, reading, observation, research, art appreciation and interpretation.

     After 1091 the Co. Supt. of schools examined all who wished to teach.  At first anyone who could pass the examination could get a certificate.  Later an 8th grade was mandatory, later a high school course, two years of College and today they must have a teachers training course.

     In 1902 Charles Champlin taught the advanced grades in Fountain Green.  After much study he divided us into grades.

     Many parents were not school minded, they kept their children out of school for butchering, oat seeding, wood cutting, corn husking and any other work.  Many had to be forced to send their children.  And when the parent wasn't interested the boy often took his dinner to town or a neighbor and never went near school just played hooky for weeks at a time.

     I never knew however, but one person of my age who couldn't read and write, he was capable but his parents didn't send him and he didn't go to school.

     After 1900 the children were divided into grades, they were given an examination each month in each subject and a report made to the parents of the grades made, the days attended and his deportment.  It was sent to the parent, signed by one of them and returned to the teacher, making it harder to play hooky.

     The State Course of Study came into general use about this time, after that all schools in any one grade were studying the same thing and if a pupil moved from one school to another or one county to another, he went ahead in the new school where he left off in the old.

     The law became so strict that after about 1905 there was no truancy problem.  The State Course of Study outlined what was to be taught in each grade and in what order.  Before its use one teacher might think, for example, that [illegible] parts or proportions were not important and not teach it, while another would.  In a short time all pupils in a given grade were being given the same instruction.

     To explain the purpose and advantages of the State Course of Study to parents was not hard but it threw much more work on the teacher; she must try hard to cover everything outlined and when a teacher had, as was often the case, thirty or forty pupils, divided into eight grades it just was not possible.

     The school began at 9 A. M. and it closed at 4 P. M. with two fifteen minute recesses and an hour noon, left only five and a half hours for recitations or 330 minutes for about thirty five classes, in a one room country school: less than 10 minutes for each class.  This could partially be helped by combining classes and alternating classes.  This was very hard to explain to parents and they opposed it in general.  The simplest explanation I could give briefly was as follows:

     If the seventh grade class was supposed to study South America in 1910 and the eighth study Europe in 1910, to avoid one class they let both classes study Europe in 1910 and in 1911 let the seventh (now eighth) and the new class (the former sixth grade) both take South America.  This alternation worked for reading, geography, phisology and history but was not workable in Grammar or Arithmetic.  This alternation could be carried out with the fifth and sixth in about two subjects.

     The school building erected in 1896 by John Tyler, a local contracter, was to me wonderful.  I did not know, when I entered it for my second year of school, that I would spend twenty three years more of my life in it, going to school and teaching for ten terms.

     This building was on the southwest corner of lot ten on the same spot as the Old Brick, it faced the west, two doors nicely porched over gave entrance to spacious vestibules, where the girls had one side and the both the other to hang their coats and hats and leave their dinner pail and overshoes.

     The little folks, the first four grades, occupied the south room of the building and the larger pupils the north.

     For about ten years, two stoves heated the building and then a furnace was installed under the north room to heat both rooms, entrance to the basement was thru the north hallway.  A large sliding door connected the two hallways.  A pump out on the platform between the porches furished water for all.  If the tin cups weren't hanging on the pump, they could usually be found on the ground.  If not to be found, you just put your left hand over the pump spout and slowly pumped with your right, the water being fresher, tasted better that way.

     The school bell that began it's one hundred years of service in the belfry of the Old Brick was placed in a new home over the center of the roof of the new two room school and when this was torm down it was taken to the new consolidated school building where it was found after the fire of 1958, a black molten mass.  It fortunately was salvaged by Mac Hobart, an artist with wood and metal, and made into souvenirs.  Being his grade school teacher I was given one of these.  It was a mineature anvil, perfectly made and I took it to a jewler and had it engraved "1858-1958 Fountain Green School Bell made by Mac Hobart to Allen Geddes, teacher."  Needless to say I prize it highly.

     This bell could be heard over the entire district on a calm day.  A clock on the east wall never struck but was there to tell the teacher and pupils when it was time to take up or dismiss school. The first bell rang about a half minute at 8:30 to warn all mothers that only 30 mins. remained until take up time.

     It let the parents know that the teacher was there.  Many over the district set their watch by the teachers time and others wanted the teachers to set the clock by their time.  "I got it at the livery barn and I know it is right." To some it was a continual worry, too fast or too slow, its much better to have a signal that reaches only the length of the school yard.  Generally the more ignorant a person was in the early days, the more he tried to prove the teacher wrong.

     At five minutes of nine a tap of the bell alerted all pupils to get ready for school, and at nine the final take up tap.

     At recess from 10:30 to 10:45 was given the pupils and at 12:00 noon, one hour, during that hour the bell rang as it did in the morning, 30 mins. and five mins. before take up time at one o'clock.  At 2:30 the pupils were given a fifteen minute recess and dismissed at 4:00 o'clock.

     At noon the children that lived in town went home for dinner, those from the country grabbed their dinner bucket and ran to a shady place under a tree or a warm place in the school house, depending on the weather.  Lunch over they were ready for games.

     Often on Friday after recess in the advanced grades, the teacher would let them choose sides and have a spelling match or the teacher might name a state and the pupils give the capital or they would be given a city and the pupils tell in which state or country it was located.  This change in routine often broke the monotony and proved profitable, especially if told a week or so in advance so the pupils could prepare for it.

     Just how a teacher in a one or two room school could give instruction to so many pupils in all the grades and do as good a job as many did was wonderful.  But many of the best students in high school came from these little old country schools.  I offer one suggestion.

     No pupil studies all the time.  If the fifth grade pupil in a country school isn't studying his lesson he may listen to the seventh grade recite, hears words like Alleghany, Grant, Amazon, Douglas and a hundred other words from history, geography and phusiology, and a year or so later they study the same work.  Then when they are taking eight grade work they can lilsten to the fifth and hear them all over again.  The student had at first a "preview" then he took the work and then a "review".

     The girls attendance was more regular than the boys, the boys were kept out to do farm work and because of that they had less interest in school but often they would go thru the winter months until they were twenty or twenty one years old.  I have had pupils go to school to me who were older and much larger than I taking grade work.

     Of my early grade school teachers I have nothing but the finest memories.  There was Mary Tyler, Kate Bear, Kate Williams and Emma Callihan, they made you want to please them.

     One man teacher growled at us all the time and another who couldn't tell snow balling or wrestling from fighting.  We got afraid to play tag.  On one occasion a friend and I were snow balling, we got closer and closer and my "enemy" stopped and yelled, with a scared look, "Look out".  I turned around to find the teacher holding a large stove poker ove my head and yelling "stop! stop!"  He took us both into the school house "under arrest" and we two criminals were told to take off our coats, he said he would whip me first.  Sol. Wood and I did some fast talking proving our love for each other and were turned loose to prey on mankind ever since.

     About this time I didn't care to learn I could figure what grain or livestock would bring me if I sold them.  Why waste time when there was so much to do like hunting, skating or fishing.

     Then we had some wonderful teachers.  Teachers who made you feel you could never be content, you must know more and more.  One of these was Charles Champlin, a home boy who later became an osteopath.  The others were Clair Thomas, Damon Matthews and Justin Stewart.  These last two taught the ninth and tenth grade and tho we didn't get credit for this work, we either took exams on entrance to High School or were allowed to take advanced English or Algebra and got credit, providing we carried it with a grade of 85 or better.  If we failed we would have to take first and 2nd. years over.

Mae Ebert
circa 1900
           There were three in that first graduating class out of a class of 14, May Ebert, Forrest Ruggles and yours truly, Allen Geddes.  That graduation was May 13, 1908 in the Presbyterian Church.  Each of us had to read a thesis.

     May's was "Industrial Education", Forrest's "Consolidation of Country Schools, mine "Improvement in Country Roads."  These were timely subjects but considered wild at the time, but how industrial education has advanced.

     These were still the days when the horse ruled supreme as a means of local travel.  Consolidated schools if only a mile or two apart was good, but consolidation on any scale must wait for good roads and bridges.  The car created a nation wide desire for good roads.

     In the paper I read on improved roads I told of a road I had traveled over in central New York in 1905.  I told of hills being cut through and low places filled as the railroads had done for their roadbed and the surface covered with crushed rock, an all weather highway of about 12 miles near Canandagua, N. Y.  I had been there a few years before.

     As Lacrosse, was our shipping point for all grain and livestock, it was to this station that our merchants had all their goods shipped.  It was there we boarded a train to all points of the compass, so I advocated a good gravel road between La Crosse and Fountain Green, and I said it would cost about $1000.00 per mile.  I based my estimates on what available government bulletins I could get.  There were no improved country roads in Illinois at that time.

     But when the car and truck came into the picture they bypassed LaCrosse.

     There were only two more graduation classes, in 1909 and 1910.  Then the graduation exercises were dispensed with, but for several years the ninth and tenth grades were taught.

     In the two years beginning in 1912 and 1913 I had a class in those grades and in 1919 to 1922 I still had pupils doing that work but discouraged it, if at all possible for them to go elsewhere to a good accredited school.

     Every year I taught the ninth and tenth grades until the High School was organized, we got up a play using all the 9th or 10th grade pupils and filling in with outsiders.  Those play were given in the Yetter Opera House in Fountain Green, in the halls at Webster, Burnside, Ferris and Tennessee.

The Fountain Green High School
Photo from The News, May 27, 1925

 

     In 1922 all the territory not in a regular high school district in this county was known as The Non-High School District of Hancock County.  Each year the elected directors of this district levied a tax to pay the tuition of any graduate of the 8th grade to any high school or academy the pupil might choose to attend in the state, or if a town in this district wished to employ a qualified teacher and had a place that would meet state requirements, to house the school, the non-high school tax would pay all the costs.

     There was not a building in Fountain Green that could be made to meet state specifications, and we didn't have enough pupils, only eight from our own school  A canvas was made of the nearby districts and twenty-five pupils in all with their parents consent let us know they would be happy to attend such a school.

     S. D. Ferris, County Superintendent of Schools, was also the chairman of the Non-High School Board, told us exactly what would be required and said the board would pay the teachers' salary, rent on building and fuel costs when the school was recognized by the State.  And he also guided us in determining the state's requirements.

     Bruce Murtland gave a long time lease on a portion of land directly east of the then grade school building and at the east end of South Main St.  Eleven men put up money to build this building, viz: Maurice Yetter, S. B. Duffy, Dr. A. W. Bouseman, R. H. Gordon, Allen Geddes, Wm. Jackson, T. J. Latherow, Guy Garrison, Godfrey Larson, Frank Wright and Frank Myers. Dozens of others donated the equipment and money to buy other fixtures and gave their services in labor and hauling, not just from their district but as far as the school drew pupils.

The directors, George Latherow, Ottis Burrow and Henry Gordon, had promised to employ a principal and school opened on September 18th of that year, 1922, with Lester E. Foote as principal of a class of twenty-five.  This school was a real success from the beginning.  Those who in the beginning were skeptical and often sullen or downright opposed to the school now crawled on the band wagon.

     A winning baseball team "The All Stars" helped to advertise the school and there was so much praise of the school that the next year was another problem.  Another room was needed and another class was coming.  To enlarge the school house by building on an extra room it was decided to sell stock to finance this.  This was done and the directors employed Nellie Gittings, as a second teacher.  The Department of Public Instruction recognized it as a three year high school and that is what it became the next year.  Prof. Foote was especially able in journalism and in 1923 the High School under his direction began publishing a weekly paper, "The News".  It soon had subscribers in every state in the Union.  This paper due to the depression and high cost of printing folded up in 1928.

     Other teachers in the high school were Earl L. Kennedy, Chas. Wilson, Emma Grauf, Hollis Melvin.  In 1939 the voters approved a bond issue to build a new high school.  It was erected a little west and north of the first one.  It had a fine gymasium also used as an assembly hall and a place to serve hot lunch, with spacious well-lighted and heated class rooms.  It also had a fine stage for plays and entertainment much needed since the Yetter Opera House had been torn down.  This was a wooden building (the new high school) 70 x 64 ft. with a 62 x 40 ft. basket ball floor.  The pupils and teachers, Prof. L. E. Foote and C. B. [Cliff] Latherow moved in Feb. 12, 1940.  The gymnasium had been in use for about 3 months before classes were held.

     In 1948 the State would no longer recognize a three year high school and we faced the possibility of being gobbled up by any nearby high school, so we voted ourselves into the La Harpe High School District.  From that date our high school pupils were taken by bus to La Harpe.

     That year an invitation was sent to all nearby grade school districts to consider consolidating.   The State law was bearing down on the country grade schools.  They must meet certain requirements as to heat, light, ventilation and sanitary requirements and they had to have a certain enrollment or they could not receive their share of state school funds.  This coupled with a gradually shrinking population and teacher salaries rising rapidly and being set by the state it was impossible for small one-room schools to operate.

     Fountain Green had a new building that met all requirements, but could not be used for a high school any longer.  These grade schools might be voted into a city district to which they might not wish to belong.  No pressure was used, these surrounding districts that had happily sent their eighth grade graduates here for their high school now were asked to go back home and vote to find out if their district wanted to consolidate with our district and use this new building and help pay for the unpaid bonds against the building.

     It was good business for our district and an opportunity to the neighbor districts.  They were promised that should they decide to vote themselves out later it would not be challenged by this school.  The following school districts voted their approval of the plan: Eagle, Hickory Grove, Webster, Joe Duncan, Elder Grove in Fountain Green Township and Walnut, Pennsylvania, Oak Grove, Liberty and Hobart in Hancock Township.

     This district's vote approved the consolidation and so was born the Fountain Green Consolidated School District No. 318.  Elder Grove and Hickory Grove later wished to join the Blandinsville school system and did so.  This merger was accomplished with no hard feelings such as happens to so many communities.

     In 1958 on the morning of February 16th, this building burned to the ground and even the school buses parked nearby.  Carthage, La Harpe, Plymouth, Dallas City all offered more help than could be accepted.  Part of the pupils were taken to Carthage in a bus, some teachers held classes in the Presbyterian Church and a room above the filling station.  Mrs. Gladys McConnell, principal of the school, aided by fast working school board and help from the neighboring schools and local people, had the school going on Tuesday morning, just one day of school missed.  Kermit Bouseman, our No. 1 businessman, bought two buses in Moline before the flames died down and made them available to the school board.

     The teachers who taught in the High School Building built in 1939 and burned in 1958 were L. E. Foote, Cliff Latherow, Wendell Spangler, Mrs. Walter Hardy and Mrs. Robert Doud, the last a part-time music instructor.

     A $100,000. bond issue voted soon after the school fire made it possible to build the present new brick building and have it ready for use exactly 1 year from the day the old building burned, dedication Feb. 16, 1959.

     In 1961, this district (No. 318) with the exception of a small territory on the far south was voted into the La Harpe School District No. 335.

     This Fountain Green Township School History written in 1966, I feel gives some light on the birth and growth of the common school.  I will add to it as I find material.

Additions:

     Fountain Green School Treasurers: Benj. F. March, the county school commissioner whose office had been created by the three county commissioners in 1834, appointed Mathew McClaughry the first treasurer of this township.  He served until 1861.  Others in order:
     Oct. 1861 Thomas J. Campbell
     Oct. 1863 C. C. Tyler
     Oct. 1917 Martha Walker
     Dec. 1948 Nellie Bouseman, Treas. of Dist. #318 to June 29, 1954
     June 1954 Helen (Mrs. Brice) Latherow, until 1961 when it became Dist. No. 335.

     The county school commissioners appointed by the three County Commissioners from 1834 to 1845 were as follows:
     1834-39 Benjamin F. Marsh
     1839-41 Richard Wilton
     1842-43 Franklin Bartlett
     1843-44 Robert Foster
     1844-45 Chauncy Robison.
The last named Robison was a Mormon as was all the county commissioners and their appointees.

     In 1845 the General Assembly voted that the County School Commissioner should be elected for a term of two years and these were as follows:
     1845-47 Jason H. Sherman
     1847-51 Michael Richards
     1851-53 John M. Ferris
     1853-57 John S. Spangler
     1857-59 Asa N. Hawley
     1859-61 Geo. W. Bachelder
     1861-63 William Scott
     1863-65 Geo. W. Bachelder

     In 1860 Hancock County School Commissioner Geo. W. Bachelder in his report to the State Superintendent's Office made this recommendation: The school law should be amended to make the County School Commissioners Superintendents, with a salary sufficient to devote their full time to the schools, as it is now a commissioner can hardly afford to pay that attention with is absolutely demanded.

     This was done in 1865 by Act of the General Assembly, the name of County School Commissioner was changed to County Superintendent of Schools, the term changed to four years.

     Samuel Layton served nine years, eight by election, one by appointment, so this office would be elected the same time other County Offices were elected.

Other Data in 1860


Township
Ft. Green
LaHarpe (Country)
Hancock
Pilot Grove
Hancock Co.
No.
Schools
8
12
5
9
140

Pupils
517
210
204
290
8416
Men
Teachers
3
2
4
4
39

Salary
30.00
35.00
28.00
21.00
Women
Teachers
5
1
2
5

Salary
16.00
25.00
20.00
18.00
135.00
Months
Taught
6
6
6
7 1/2
6
Total
Expense
  1155.
  990.
  943.
  880.
24,468.

In 1919-20
Fountain Green had
Pilot Grove
Hancock Twp.
La Harpe (town incl)
174 pupils in
146
110
402
8 schools and
9
6
7
9 teachers.
10
6
19

In 1919-20
Dist. #92 Elder Grove
93 Rossville
94 McGuffy
95 Eagle
96 Hickory Grove
97 Joe Duncan
98 Ft. Green (2 rms.)
99 Webster
Teacher
Bessie Wright
Nellie Ranson
E. Lloyd Rich
Jessie (McConnell) Hasten
Bernice(Lenox) Hungate (later Kimler)
Zelma Knobbe Hodges
Allen Geddes, Ruby (Day) Hobart
Helen (Lenox) White
Pupils
10
12
21
24
14
11
43
39

The average number of pupils per teacher in 1860 was 38, largest number with one teacher was 84. There were then 17 log, 108 frame, 12 brick and 3 stone school houses; of these, 125 were one-room.

Highest salary for men $70.00, lowest $15.00.
Highest salary for women $40.00, lowest $6.00

There were more pupils enrolled in our schools in Fountain Green Township in 1860 (517) than the total population in 1960 (508).

 

Early Fountain Green
Schools - Part 1
Ft. Green Families
News, Memorabilia A-F
Ft. Green Families
News, Memorabilia G-L
Ft. Green Families
News, Memorabilia M-S
Ft. Green Families
News, Memorabilia T-Z