Eureka School District #21 was located in township #66, range
30, section 35. It was 1-1/2 miles east of Allendale, MO on what
is now highway 46 on the corner where the road turns north to
go to the Adams (Nation) School. At one time the corner was a
crossroad corner and the schoolhouse was in the northeast quadrant
and set on a 2-1/2 acre plot of ground.
The yard was outlined with maple trees and there were many other trees scattered at intervals over the spacious school grounds. The yard sloped westward to a brook. It was a beautiful site for a schoolyard. To the north of the Eureka District was the Adams District #20, to the west was Allendale District #22, to the south was the Dry District #40, and eastern boundary of the district was the Harrison County line.
My research for the deed to the grounds reveals: "that on the 26th day of March, 1857, Ulysses Pyle and wife, Ammelia, for the consideration of the sum of five dollars, sold the designated 2-1/2 acres for the school site to Richard Williams, Cortes Pyle and Uylsses Pyle, trustees of the said school district, and to their successors in office, and assigns forever."
I assume that the first schoolhouse was a log one such as described in related articles about the early schools. Nor have I learned when the neat, white, frame building was constructed. However, it was built in the customary style for school buildings of that day. A box-like rectangular building with two doors at the south end and three or four windows on each side.
Coat hooks were between the doors with a triangular shelf in the southwest corner where rested the water pail and dipper, along with an array of tin cups and glasses. A shelf underneath held the tin lunch pails. Slate blackboards were across the north wall with two additional sections of blackboard between the windows on each side. In front of the building was a wide concrete porch, the west end being elevated about three feet, which make a handy place from which to mount bareback ponies ridden by many of the children. Rural districts were usually two miles square, with the schoolhouse located near the center of the area, so many of the children had to walk 1-1/2 or 2 miles if they lived in the far corner of the district. Our home was closer to the Allendale School than the Eureka but I still had to make the trip to the Eureka. Sometime children could cut through the fields and save having to walk so far.
There were many homes in the district and families were large. Either the children walked or rode ponies although sometimes the parents brought them to school in buggies or spring wagons when the roads were muddy.
When I attended the Eureka School the enrollment was usually between 30 and 40 students, ranging in age from the six rear old "beginners" to young men and women in their late teens.
In earlier days there would be a fall term followed by a period when no school was in session and the older students helped with harvesting the crops. Then there would be a winter term and later a spring term. Sometimes there would be a short summer term. Later the rural schools adopted an 8-month school year with school being out in early April so students could help with the spring planting.
As in all rural schools, the Eureka was a social center for the community. In the fall a box and pie supper was an annual event and a source of extra money to add to the equipment, especially the library. A fine program that required much practice at shortened recesses and noon periods, plus some school time, was always presented.
It was an eagerly awaited social event in the community. Not only were the boxes and pies brought by the ladies auctioned but many moneymaking contests were held. At a penny a vote nominees were made in such categories as Most Popular Young Lady, the prize for this category usually being a box of chocolates. A pair of socks usually went to the Man With the Biggest Feet, or perhaps a slab of lye soap to the Man With the Dirtiest Feet. Usually the prize for the Most Lovesick Couple was a jar of pickles but once in awhile things got a little embarrassing when the prize was a tiny celluloid doll. Sometimes the contests became very close and exciting and a time limit would be set for all of the votes to be in.
Always the boxes and pies were sold by number and eager young swains tried to learn the number of the young lady's box or pie. Perhaps the young lady swirled the frosting high on her pie so that is could be identified, or confided the kind of pie she had brought, or possibly described the decoration she had on the box. Bidding very often was intense for a popular young lady's item. Sometimes a group of fellows would pool their money and "run-up" the price when they thought a young man was bidding on his sweetheart's pie. The young man would cleverly get around this by bidding up on other pies and "running it up" on the group. Sometimes he would buy several pies and would then resell the extras to reluctant bidders or give them to another chap who had less money. These were festive occasions that bring back many fond memories of the competition for the teacher's pie.
Too, Christmas programs were a community must, with a program and the teacher treating the pupils with popcorn, candy or apples. Popular was the teacher who passed around a tray of candy to the parents. Santa Claus was as eagerly awaited then as now a days, arriving in a buggy, spring wagon, or if there was snow on the ground, in a sleigh, pulled by a team of horses.
Recess and noon break were game times-usually unsupervised--the teacher needed a breather. Most popular games with the older pupils were baseball and dare base. Sometimes all of the students participated in Blackman, Steal Stick, Red Rover, New Orleans, Three Deep or Flying Dutchman. Usually the smaller pupils had a playhouse under the trees, complete with dolls, dishes and broken tid-bits.
Then, too, there was the brook to dabble in, wade, build dams, or float make-believe boats downstream. Sometimes the dams would become dangerously deep and so well constructed that a rain would cause the water to overflow into the road until the irate parents on the north road would ask the teacher to have the dam demolished.
Another springtime activity for anyone who could bring a small bottle--pop bottles were rare--was when the maple sap began to flow. A branch was broken to fit into the bottleneck and one could get perhaps a teaspoon full of sap by the last recess. The early arrivals at school could find the most delicious maple-sap icicles, about two or three inches long, that were simply luscious.
There was very little playground equipment. Perhaps the box and pie supper money would buy a bat and a couple of balls. Sometimes there was a teeter-totter board. We also had a Giant Stride which was homemade by the directors. It was made from a cultivator wheel placed atop a sturdy post with ropes attached to the steel spokes. This was quite a popular piece of playground equipment until one day the wheel fell off, severely injuring a classmate, Fern Craven. That was the end of the Giant Stride.
Always a pot-bellied stove stood near the center of the room and the larger boys were allowed to go outside during school time to bring in wood to refill the stove--if they had behaved well. This was a coveted task. Also, two children were allowed to go "fetch" a pail of water. This too, was an eagerly sought job. One could escape class if their arithmetic problems were ready to hand in. the pail was usually carried on a short stick held between the two students and a lot of water "slushed out" on the return trip of at least a quarter of a mile from John Rankin's well. Often, Aunt Becky would give us cookies. After a leisurely stroll, with frequent stops to rest, the water arrived at school.
Supposedly, the students were to use the dipper to fill the individual cups but many sneaked a drink from the dipper. During the hot fall days one pail-full was hardly enough for all of the students to have any more than one cup full. During the coldest weather we ate icicles from the dripping eaves of the schoolhouse roof or the outhouses. On occasion we even ate snow and sometimes it wasn't too clean. Not a very sanitary water supply, whatever the source, but we all lived through the germ sharing.
During the winter months pupils huddled around the stove to warm cold toes or to dry socks sodden from wading snow drifts enroute to school. Many of the older boys visited their traps on the way to school. Unlucky us if they had been lucky enough to catch a skunk. The odor from their clothes and shoes would be nauseating as they warmed around the stove. Many times someone was sent home for the day or to at least change their clothes. Sometimes setting their shoes outside would suffice.
The playground and adjacent field, alongside the road and along the stream, was a natural wonderland for flowers in the spring. Violets, Sweet Williams, Easter Lilies and Dandelions were picked and competed for space on the teacher's desk. Robin nests were in the maple trees, oriole nests swinging from branches, along with tadpoles to frogs to watch in the brook. The rural pupils had an appreciation for nature that was untaught.
The time after the last recess on Friday was eagerly anticipated. Spelling matches and ciphering matches were held. Two older pupils were allowed to choose sides, selecting pupils, one by one, for their side to compete with each other. Sometimes the teacher pronounced the words but Railroad Style spelldown was the most popular. One of the leaders would spell the word R-A-I-L-R-O-A-D and the first person on the other side had to spell a word beginning with the letter d. One had to listen carefully to hear the last letter because starting with the wrong letter, spelling a word that had already been spelled, or spelling a word incorrectly put you "down".
One soon learned to try to spell words which ended in x, y, or z because it was difficult to think of very many words which began with those letters.
Sometimes contests were held between the Eureka School and the Adams School. Many times the adults participated. Such rivalry! Such pleasant memories!
April brought school election time. Annually a director was elected for a three-year term. Sometimes competition was very keen, especially when a tax-levy increase was needed or when consolidated in 1923 to fund a two-year high school in Allendale and again in 1951 when the county school system was reorganized.
Mrs. Orral Campbell and Mrs. Letha Weddle recalled some of the earlier teachers. Ella Wachholtz (Farrell), Maude (Hatton) Hauber, Flora Dangy, Jesse Davidson, Maude and Edna Milligan, Gilbert Roberts, Clyde Hastings, Anna Wood (Dawson), Harry Long, and Della Wilkinson (Hobbs).
Old records also indicate that Ulysses Pyle and Richard Williams taught. As stated previously, both were trustees of the school at the time the deed was made, March 26, 1857.
I entered school in 1917 and following is a listing of the teachers from that time: Nova Adams, Susie Swift Combs, Ruth Son (Mercer), Gertrude Scadden (Harvey), Pluma Barnes (Conn), Aubrey Hammer, Dorothy Bryant, Francis Uhlig, Eunice Wells Dawson, Helen Slagle (Teasley), Doris Hastings, Alice Methner, Janie Bell Harris, Elenor Hastings Lopsteich, Clella Haley (Combs). In 1935 Eunice Dawson again became the teacher at the Eureka and continued as the teacher until the consolidation in 1951 when the schoolhouse was moved into Allendale.
In 1923 the Eureka district, along with the Center East, Adams (Nation), Jones East and part of the Amity, joined with Allendale in a quasi-consolidation to establish and maintain a two-year high school in Allendale. The high school operated in Allendale for about ten years and when it was disbanded so was the consolidated district. During the years of consolidation all of the rural schools in the consolidation continued to operate.
During the 1920's the State Department of Education began to exercise stronger control of the rural schools. Classification for schools was established and there were criterion for each class. The criterion established standards for teacher qualifications, curriculum and physical standards for the school building and the playground.
The Eureka school was one of the first rural schools in Worth County to earn a first-class certification. Several physical changes had to be made to the schoolhouse. The windows on one side of the building had to be closed and extra windows added on the other side to eliminate cross lighting. An approved heating system was installed which required a fresh-air intake and a foul-air discharge.
Additional playground equipment was provided and a well was located on the schoolyard.
Additional books were added to the library and the books had to be from different approved categories. A phonograph became part of the school scene and was used to play musical as well as teaching records. Up to date maps and globes were also required.
It was also during this period that free textbooks became available for the students. This required some additional taxation.
A health program was also established. The county health nurse came periodically to check vision, hearing, and the general welfare of the students.
In the 1930's the government began to distribute commodities to the schools to supplement a hot-lunch program. Eureka became a "model" for schools wishing to start the program. In addition to the government commodities, the parents donated canned vegetables, potatoes, meat and fruit. A minimal fee was sometimes charged each pupil to help pay the cook. Many of the mothers were so happy with the hot lunch program that they volunteered in helping the cook.
The Eureka School was the subject of an article appearing in the April 1950, issue of MISSOURI SCHOOLS, the official publication of the Missouri State Education Department. Homer Boolean, the state elementary supervisor, wrote the article. Boolean had earlier been a teacher at Worth and was personally acquainted with the Eureka school.
When Eunice Dawson was a little girl she longed for the day
when she could become a teacher. Her years of training in Worth
County schools and Teacher's College were spent in purposeful
learning and happy anticipation of the time when she could be
a rural schoolteacher.
Mrs. Dawson is now teaching her twenty-third year in northwest Missouri schools and hundreds of boys and girls have been fortunate to be in her classes. She taught in the Adams and Hass schools in Worth County and the Bram School in Harrison County before coming to the Eureka school nine years ago. (Ed. Note: Eunice had also taught previously at the Eureka school).
Eureka is a one room rural school, eight miles east of Grant City. There is nothing to distinguish it from other country schools in northwest Missouri in outward appearance, but when you step into the classroom you will wonder how a rural school with one teacher can have so much for fifteen pupils.
The living room unit on one side of the schoolroom is near the library. It is equipped with a studio divan, a printed linoleum rug, a walnut table, table lamp and other items of furniture. The sofa pillows and teddy bear are on the divan and the gold fish bowl is on the table. Children naturally "feel at home" in Eureka school. The divan serves as a comfortable place to study or it may serve as a bed for a child who becomes ill. The children sometimes sit on the rug to do handwork during class time or play on it with blocks or jacks at recess period.
One corner of the room has been partitioned to provide a kitchen with outside entrance. A plywood screen has been installed in another corner of the room to serve as a cloak and washroom. The room is heated by an oil-burning stove which has a fresh air inlet and a foul air outlet to facilitate proper ventilation. All floors are sealed and waxed.
The homemade chairs (Ed. Note: Not to be confused with the regular school desks) were constructed by the boys of the school from orange crates. The lunch cloths and dishtowels were made by the girls. Caring for the potted plants and changing the water in the goldfish bowl are so much a part of the school routine that the children hardly know when they do them. At lunchtime the cook passes food through a small window between the kitchen and the schoolroom. Food is placed on the dining table and served by the girls of the school. Menus for the lunch program are planned by the health classes with the help of the teacher. Health inspection is a regular part of each day's program.
County Superintendent Kenton Thompson said Mrs. Dawson enlists the help of professional people and service agencies whenever she sees an opportunity to get new information to the pupils of her school.
A few months ago she asked the county health nurse, Mrs. Inez Moore, to help teach the value of good food habits. Two young albino rats were obtained. The rats were placed in separate cages in the schoolroom. The cages were constructed by the boys and they cleaned them daily. The children fed one rat a balanced diet of food from the lunchroom. The other rat was fed a poor diet consisting of high carbohydrate foods, such as bread, jelly rolls and candy. Coffee and soft drinks were served instead of milk. "Fluffy", the rat which received the balanced diet, grew by leaps and bounds. "Squirt", the rat which received the poor diet, grew slowly. His tail became scaly and he was always sleepy. In addition to learning the value of proper diet, the children received valuable instruction in scientific procedure, learned much about weights and measurements and graph making. The rats became pets and the children were soon interested in the study of rodents of all kinds. Many interesting themes were written as a result of these studies. Other schools in the county became interested and the rats were displayed in the city schools as well as the other rural schools.
Mrs. Dawson cooperates actively with Wilma Ketchum, education advisor for the Missouri Conservation Commission in northwest Missouri. Eureka schoolchildren are members of a Nature Nights Club.
Eureka school is the center of community affairs. The electric lights, hot lunch facilities, and pleasant surroundings make it an ideal spot for community activities. The teacher is usually a member of the program committee. The school furnished the entire program twice each year.
Mrs. Dawson takes an active part in the County Teacher's Association and the Missouri State Teacher's Association. She enrolls in all extension and in-service classes offered in the county. She is one of the most frequent callers at County Superintendent Thompson's office and her request brings the state supervisor to her school several times each year. Everyone helps Eunice Dawson because she demands the best for Eureka school children.
Mrs. Dawson points out that Eureka is a good school because many have helped to make it that way. When she needs some small item the Community Club sees that she gets it. When a larger purchase is necessary the board of education sees that it is quickly supplied. The present members of the Eureka school board are Fred Maudlin, S.A. Maudlin, and Walter Sowards.
The lunchroom receives many donations and Mrs. S.A. Maudlin is willing to cook the food for very little salary in order that her own and the other children may have a hot lunch each day.
The rural school alone, because of its peculiar set-up, has the best opportunity to develop wholesome training for community and family life. The tragedy is that in so many of our rural schools this opportunity is lost due to poorly trained teachers, inadequate financial and community support, and the lack of sufficient children to provide the necessary learning challenge. In the Eureka school the great outdoors and the community become the school laboratory. The range of ages and interests of the children is used by the resourceful teacher to provide the life-situation environment so necessary for the proper development of future citizens.