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Lima Iowa Country School
Lima, Albany, Frog Hollow, Westfield Township, Fayette County, Iowa history is included.


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Use the Fayette Index page to navigate to other pages.   This page last uploaded: 2/9/2003


Iowa Country Schools

The Common School in frontier America.
Pennsylvania was the second Colony to join the Union and included land from the Northwest Territory. When section 16 in each township with its 640 acres of land had been sold the money went to separate fund for the Common (country or peoples) Schools but no system for the use of the fund was in place. However in 1835 the use of the 'school funds' would change when  Joseph Ritner, whose father was of a German emigrant and ardent Revolutionary patriot, was elected governor of Pennsylvania. Joseph Ritner was a farmer and served seven months in the War of 1812, was elected to six terms in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.  He served as speaker for his last two terms. Governor Ritner with only a few months of formal education had a school on his farm attended by all ten of his children. During his two-year term he earned the title "father of the common school" in Pennsylvania. Governor Ritner encouraged the General Assembly to create a permanent fund of $100,000 annually for the common schools. This was added to the approximately $200,000 held by the State Common Fund to be distributed to the public common schools of the state. In 1835, when the bill was passed the Penn. had 762 common schools. By 1837 the number had increased to over 5,000.  Ritner lost the election for a second term as Governor of Pennsylvania and returned to his farm but was enlightened when he spoke of the progress of the common schools in America.

The Country School in Iowa
Iowa became the 29th state in 1846 with 30 counties already organized there were already number of country schools in each of the established counties.  Most of the early schools were private one teacher/one-room schools. The constitution of Iowa stated, "The General Assembly shall provide for a system of common (public) schools." The 67 counties organized in the new state included 16 or more townships each with 36 square miles or sections of land. This pattern, found in most of the earlier states, had been determined by the Northwest Ordinance of 1785.

Iowa passed a law in 1858 making the township the unit for the common school. Iowa had a School Land Fund which received the money paid to the state when section 16 land in each township were sold as provided by the Northwest Ordinance of 1785, and this was the pattern found in most of the earlier states to the east as in Pennsylvania and the Ohio territory. There was an allowance for towns of 1000 or more to create their own Independent School District to support their choice of schools and education. Generally each country included a range of four townships and a row of four townships for a total of 16 townships. Larger counties such as Fayette would contain 20 townships, 4 wide and 5 high. Each township included 36 square miles or 'sections'. Four square miles, or four sections, was the area chosen in Iowa for a school. If all the land in the county was farmed and populated a county would include as many as 144 school units and teachers. In 1901, the peak year for Iowa country schools was 1901, with 12,623 in operation, or about 125 per county as an average. In addition most of the villages and towns of the state supported public common schools which added another 900 districts serving elementary and secondary youth. In 1932, thirty years later the country school number had dropped to 9,279.  The general early rule of thumb was that no child would have to walk more than 2 miles to a school. With the farm boom in the early years of the 20th Century the rural country school began to change. The Country Life Commission of Teddy Roosevelt's time encouraged rural people to secure more than eight years of education for their children, thus there was a push to build high schools, usually in the larger villages.

By 1950 this number of Iowa schools had dropped to 4,870, and approaching 2002 it was 377. In the  beginning the many township districts supported one-room/one-teacher schools. The Iowa constitutions had designated the township as the unit to support schools. An early Iowa law allowed towns of 1000 or more to create their own independent districts for elementary and secondary education. Before 1875 new state laws had reduced the size of the town to 100 and had also allowed the nine attendance centers of the township to each become a Rural Independent District. This decentralization of education placed the control of schools in the hands of the 17,211 local school boards by 1904. The number in 1950 was roughly a 75 percent fewer because of the consolidation of many rural township districts which usually joined with the local village schools, and then villages consolidated there schools together as there was a push to cut costs, provide more high school services, etc.  Farm land was also being rapidly 'gobbled' up by big farmers, professionals with money, corporation, etc.

An Iowa law in 1953 created the concept of the Community School District with the direction that every public school district in the state become part of a high school district. The new Community District often continued one or more one-room/one-teacher country schools and village/town schools. As farming changed, the population decreased, teacher salaries increased, and the curriculum expanded, the Community District became more compact.

In 2000 Iowa still had around 40 one-room/one-teacher country schools were in operation, mainly by the Amish and Mennonites they were both public and private in nature.



Westfield Township, Fayette County, Iowa
A brief history of early Fayette County gives a better understanding of the early schools.

The first Villages in the County---The early platted villages in Fayette county were: West Union-June 1850, Westfield-July 1851, Auburn-1851, Volga City (Lima)-Oct 1851, Taylorsville-Feb 1852, West Auburn-Sept 1853, Centerville (adjoining Taylorsville)-May 1854, Albany-July 1854, Elgin-Feb 1855, Fayette-June1855.

Note the Country Schools were numbered starting with school one in the NE corner on this 1878 map, ending with school seven in the SE corner.  The villages of Fayette, Albany and Lima had their own village school.  Only Fayette in Westfield Township would go on to have a high school.  The College Seminary construction was started in 1855 and in operation by 1857. 


Westfield Township, Fayette County, Iowa
From "1910 Fitch" with minor editing, bz/2000.

…The first settler who located in Westfield township was Franklin Wilcox, who came from Illinois, with other members of the Wilcox family, and built a house (double log cabin) on section 32 (1+mi SW of Westfield or Fayette on Alexander Creek), some time during the year of 1840. There were several Wilcox brothers (including Nathanial who would locate about 3+ miles east of Franklin), some of whom lived in the home of Franklin, at times: but the others being unmarried, and somewhat transitory as to habitation, Franklin is recognized as the first actual settler in Fayette County, though Robert Gamble accompanied him to this county, from Ead’s Grove in Delaware County, and located in Center Township (1+ miles NW of Westfield or Fayette).
…A post office was established in 1851 at the location where Robert Gamble settled, known as "Gamble’s Gorve," with Thomas Woodle as the postmaster. This post office was soon discontinued, and the name of the locality changed to Dunham’s Grove, and now knows. Gamble removed from the county (in 1842) after two years’ residence here.
…The Wilcox house, a double log structure, was the first house erected within the boundaries of Fayette County; and after the removal of Mr. Wilcox to another location in 1843, it became a sort of asylum for many of the newcomers to that locality, during the time they were selecting their land and building their houses thereon. It was occupied as a temporary home by the (Andrew) Hensely family, by Van Dorns, P. F. Newton, James and Samuel Robertson, (Robert Alexander). It was in this house that the Van Dorn child was born, (by some considered) the first birth of a white child in Fayette County.
…Soon after the arrival of Franklin Wilcox, with his wife and small daughter, James Beatty and William Orrear came and located a short distance south of Wilcox their location being just over the line in Smithfield Township. They built their cabin in the spring of 1842; and on the 25th of February, 1844, William Orrear and Miss Angelina Wilcox were married, the Rev. D. Lowry, of Fort Atkinson, officiating. Soon after his marriage Orrear bought Beatty’s interest in the claim which they had occupied jointly, and established quite an extensive dairying business (Orrear’s Dairy) which he and his wife conducted successfully for a number of years. They used the product of twenty to thirty cows in making butter and cheese, which they marketed, mostly at the fort where several hundred soldiers and officers were anxious to secure their "delicacies," as viewed from a soldier’s standpoint. (Ft. Atkinson was 25 miles N x NW up the old Mission Trail. The Wilcox Cabin sat immediately north of the trail and Beatty’s immediately south of the trail, thus most of the ox wagon traffic from Dububue to Ead’ s Grove to the Fort came by the "Wilcox Settlement.’)
…This couple led the vanguard in beginning the dairy business in Fayette County, an industry which has revolutionized the profits of general farming, as compared with wheat growing in early days. Beatty located a mile and a half north, on section 29, in Westfield township, and erected a house in what became the early-time village of Westfield. But this was several years before that village was laid out.

Early Land Values of Westfield Township, Fayette County, Iowa
…Westfield township was not surveyed, hence the land was not subject to entry, until 1848. But the earliest settlers occupied their lands under what is known as "squatter’s rights," which, among friends and neighbors, were almost universally respected. When the land came into market, the government price was $1.25 per acre, at which price a person could buy an unlimited number of acres. Many speculators who had means availed themselves of this privilege, and bought up thousands of acres of desirable land, without the remotest idea of every making a home upon it. But after the land had been open to entry for a certain length of time without being sold, the price was reduced to 75c an acre, and so remained until sold. A number of early settlers in Westfield Township procured their land at this price. This land coming into market soon after the close of the Mexican war, some returning veterans were able to procure their land on land warrants, and some were sold by soldiers who did not wish to use them. They guaranteed full ownership of one hundred and sixty acres of government domain.

Land Entries in Westfield Township, Fayette County, Iowa
…Robert Alexander made the first land entry of record in Westfield township, this being on the 9th of July, 1849. But there were several other entries made on the same date, probably by non-residents, and John W. Lane and Horace Andrus made entries during the year 1849. On the 8th of October, 1850, the board of county commissioners created, by proclamation, the election precinct of Westfield. This included, for election purposes, the townships of Smithfield, Center and Westfield, the election to be held at the house of Stephen Ludlow, and Michael Hinman, Stephen H. Ludlow and Andrew Hensely were appointed judges. The first election was held in April, 1851, and the August election which followed, the same year, was held at the home of Clark Newcomb. It seems that the development of this township commenced simultaneously at Westfield village (the area immediately to the west of the 2000 Hwy 150 bridge across the Volga River, plus part of Klock’s Island park), and Lightville, which would changed to Volga City and then the Lima we know today.

Lima, Iowa

Lima, Westfield Township, Fayette County, Iowa
…During 1849, Thomas R. Talbott, E. A. Light and H. W. Light located homes near the present site of Lima. The Lights being the most numerous family in the community, the locality came to be known, locally, as Lightville, and retained that appellation until after the village had passed through the ordeal of a county-seat contest, in which it " tied" West Union, but lost the prize when all other contestants except West Union were eliminated. The community next chose the name Volga City, but when apprised that Clayton County people had recently installed such a "city," the name was changed to Lima by action of the Iowa State Legislature.

The Light brothers built a saw mill on the banks of the Volga River at this point in 1849-1850. T. R. Talbott was interested in the erection of this first mill, and some controversy arose as to whether it should be built at Talbott’s ford (which was about a mile down river or east of the Lima ford). Mr. Talbott forced the initial mill building at the point originally agreed upon (Talbott’s ford), and also secured a bonus of fifty dollars for delay and disappointment.
…A sawmill was a much needed pioneer enterprise in the community, as the adjacent land was nearly all heavily timbered, and lumber was in great demand in building homes for the incoming settlers. It is understood that the Lights also put in a small stock of mercantile goods and started the first store in Lightville/Lima. Ben Reeves was one of the earliest merchants there, but he and his partner, young Hyde, were soon closed out by their creditors. Stephen Ludlow was a "squatter" on some land in the vicinity of Lima, but sold his interest to Robert Alexander, and then bought the mill property. This is the land upon which Reuben R. Hensely has lived for so many years. Through various changes in proprietorship, there has always been one general store in Lima, the Oelbergs, having conducted the mercantile business there for a great many years.

…There was a post office and since the completion of the railroad to that point, a lumber and stock business. P.H. Hastings, an early pioneer in Illyria Township (just to the east, the Wadena area), conducts the later (stock business).
In 1852, Andrew J. Hensely built a flouring-mill at this place (about 40 yards north of the original bridges, about 100 yards north of the 2000 bridge). But soon the mill was sold to P. H. Durfey and Son. Mr. Hensely again assumed the proprietorship of the mills in 1878, but has long since retired from active business. The mill had been rebuilt in 1865.

…Lima has one church building, originally erected for the Congregationalists, Rev. S. D. Helms having organized a congregation of that faith in 1857. Winslow Stearns and wife, E. Hyde, wife and daughter, and Rev. S. S. Helms and wife, were the organizing members. The old church succumbed to the ravages of time, and a new church appeared in its stead. Here all denominations sustain a union Sunday school and attend other religious services as propounded from the pulpit by Methodists, United Brethren, or other advocates.

…The first school house in Westfield township was built at Lightville (Lima) in 1850, with E. H. Light the first teacher. Others followed as settlements were made, until there were at one time 8 sub-districts in the district township, but this number was reduced to 7 with the organization of the independent district of Fayette, and so remains. These 7 schools were taught, during the last year (1909), an average 7.4 months, by one male teacher and ten females, the salaries paid being $40 per month in the male teacher, and $35 to the females. The 7 school houses are valued at three $3500, and the school apparatus at $1000. The district libraries comprise 635 volumes. Of 185 pupils in the district township, 154 were enrolled in the schools, with an average daily attendance of 99. The average cost of tuition per month of each pupil was $2.74.

…Westfield township is traversed by 4.39 miles of the Volga Valley branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad, and 4.11 miles of the Davenport line of the same system. They are assessed for taxation purposes at $15,365, and $16,448, respectively. The incorporation of Fayette has 1.17 miles of the last mentioned line. The same mileage of the United States Express Company is assessed at $337.45 for the 9.67 miles and the Western Union Telegraph Company is assessed at $80 per mile.

…There are four telephone companies doing business in the town and township with a total mileage of 43.5 miles of lines. Of this, 12.75 miles of this system are inside the corporation of Fayette.

…It seems strange that two small villages should be brought into existence within a miles of each other, and both survive the pioneer period, yet without development in later years, though still surviving. Albany and Lima have lived, side by side, for 56 years, yet neither is as populous now (1910) as in early days. Each village had a good mill in "middle life, " and probably these had something to do with holding the villages together. During the struggle for county-seat honors, Lima was quite an important town, as compared with other towns of that day; and under the domination of the Lights, Laceys and Hopkinses, it put up a strong fight for the distinction it sought.

Albany, Iowa

Albany, Westfield Township, Fayette County, Iowa

…The village of Albany commenced its existence as such in 1854. Albert Albertson and Edwin Smith were the founders. Mr. Albertson sold his property in the fall of 1855, and removed from Fayette county. Richard Earle purchased Albertson’s property, and for many years he was the principal business man in that section of the county, having built the flouring mill at Albany and owned and operated it during the remainder of his life. He served several terms as a member of the county board of supervisors, under the policy of one member from each township, which succeeded the county commissioner system, and was a zealous worker for the removal of the county-seat to Fayette.
Simon Nefzgar was an early and successful merchant at Albany, and J. B. Oelberg kept a merchant tailoring establishment there in the early days. Like its twin sister, Lima, there has always been a blacksmith and repair shop in Albany. George Dow and R. E. Matsel were early, and later, operatives in this line.

…When the township of Westfield was divided for voting purposes, in 1877, Albany was designated as the polling place for the voting precinct outside the corporate limits of the town of Fayette. The board of supervisors, under whose jurisdiction this action was taken, appointed as judges of the first election under the new regime, J. J. Epps, Richard Earle and John Orr.

…When the Volga Valley branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad was built through Lima, in 1881, and missed the village of Albany by more than a mile, the prestige of the former as a trading point assumed the ascendancy. But many tender memories of early times center about these tow primitive villages, and some stirring scenes in pioneer life were there enacted.


Lima Country School

....The first school in Westfield Township and actually in Fayette County, was held in 1850 at the Light's home in Lightville and was taught by E.H. Light, the first teacher.  Shortly after that in the same year the first school house in  Westfield Township was built on the north side of the Volga River at Lima.  This first school would have been a log school, and would have been on the flood plain along the river to the SxSW of the present cemetery, bz/1999.


The first school at Lima was a log structure built on the north side of the river in the flood plain along edge of trees near the white line at the top left third of the picture (the 1970's gravel road cut from the Church road directly to the south hills.  The second and permanent Lima country school was located on the south side of the river in about 1860, about a hundreds yards downstream or east of the Lima mill which had already been operating for ten years.  With the mill dam and fords in this area there was a great deal of pioneer traffic across the river.  In 1865, the first bridge located and built between the school and mill sites.  The school site would have been just below the hill, on the south side of the Volga about straight up from the right edge of the left stone in the Lima cemetery.

...In later years this building would be moved to the T.W. Potter farm and used as a grainery.  This was the original A.J. (Jack) Hensley farm, who was Mrs. Potter's father. 

...In reference the to following excerpt from 'Chats', the first school apparently was moved to the Hensley/Potter farm, just north of the present cemetery. The information reported to 'Chats' shows how data can get misinterpreted through time/bz/2001....The First School?--Roy R. Fussell told me (O.W. Stevenson from Chats with Old Timers), last April (1938), that his father, Martin H. Fussell told of what he believed to be the first school in Fayette county, was on a spot a few rods southeast of the Susi Hensley Potter farm home, east of Lima, on the SE 1/4 of the NW 1/4 of Sec. 13-93-8. Roy has been told that there is a trace of a depression in the ground indicating where a building may have stood. He thinks this was a public school house.


....In 1860, the permanent school that Lima would know, was erected on the high bank on the south side of the Volga, in the SE junction of the east and south roads our of Lima.  The school was added to in the 1890's, and was utilized as a functional country school into the 1950's, becoming a storage building for machinery in the 1970's, and torn down for county road construction..

Country School

Coming to school from the south...
Today a 1970 gravel road cuts across the old Lima country school site.  The superimposed picture is near the location of the school, but the front door would have been oriented 90 degrees to the left and facing the original road down the the mill and the bridge, being the road into the village of Lima, which is just to the left of the picture.


If one walked north down to the Volga and looked upriver, west, the bridge would be in view.  The old mill would have been seen trough the right half of the bridge.  Just under the bridge is the remains of the old mill dam, just over the mill pond, and the slim strip of open water under the bridge on the right would have been the mill race.  This bridge site was first used in 1865.  The bridge washed out in the later 1800's and was rebuilt, then washed out again in 1947, to be reset and rebuilt.  It was utilized until the new gravel road and bridge came through in the 1970's.  You are standing on the new bridge looking west.

Coming to the south from the Lima village one would cross the bridge to reach the school. 

The mill site is to the left of the bridge, the school up the grade to the left of the bridge.

1900, March 16, Lima
Mr. Bishop (Lima school teacher) closed a very successful term of school at this place Monday last. 

When the Albany school and other surrounding country schools near Lima closed down, the students came to the Lima school or moved to one of the surrounding larger towns.  Before that, the eight grade students, especially in the mid-decades of the 1900's would go to high school in surrounding towns.  Most of the members of the 1958 Lima class would come to Fayette and graduate.

Early Schools, Fayette Co, Iowa
...Transcribed from articles from Fitch and others.

…The pioneers of Fayette Co. were used to good school in the countries from which they came and many of them were well educated, so one of the first things these settlers did was to build a schoolhouse. Note: Well educated at this time for pioneers was perhaps the ability to read, write and do basic math.

…In 1850, just two years after the Winnebagoes were removed again northward to Minnesota, one of the first schoolhouses was build in Fayette County, in Union Township at West Union. This schoolhouse, which was 18 x 20 feet, was built of logs placed close together with clay/straw chinking between, just like the pioneer’s cabins. It was heated by a large fireplace built in one end. Like the schoolhouse, the chimney was built of logs and clay mud. The roof was covered with rough hewn clapboards (split lengths of logs hewn or shaped with an axe). The roof of such cabins was often then shingled with oak shakes split out of round log sections. The rough floor was made of "puncheons". There were windows on two sides made by cutting out some logs and covering the opening with greased paper.

...Another one of the typical pioneer first schoolhouses was in Jefferson Township (Oelwein area) built in 1854 by several of the settlers who decided they needed a schoolhouse thus donating logs and labor.

…Like furniture of the cabin homes, the furniture of the early schoolhouse was very plain and simple. There were no chairs, desks, books, maps, nor blackboards as we have known. The seats were made of "puncheons" (split thick often round length sections of logs) with long wooden pegs driven in holes on the under side for legs. The desks if even present were basswood boards placed on pegs which were drilled into the walls on three sides of the room. Often when no desks were present the pupils just placed what books, slates, chalk beside them on the benches. The benches would have no backs so it was hard work to sit still all day.

…The girls sat on one side of the room and the boys on the other. Sometimes if a boy or girl did not obey the rules the boy was put over on the girls’ side, or the girl was made to sit with the boys. This was nearly always considered a great punishment.

…If they were lucky enough to have a blackboard, it was made of a plank or two nailed on the wall and painted black. Old felt boots of the larger boys or men were cut in squares and fastened to chunks of wood for erasers.

…The boys and girls did not play together in these days. The boys played on one side of the playground, and the girls on the other. They would often come to school early in the morning and play games before the school opened. Some of the most popular games were hide and seek, dare base, pull-a-way, mumblepeg and ball. In the winter it was great fun to slide down hill, snowball, play fox and geese.

…There were no regular textbooks, for each pupil brought from home whatever books they happened to have. In one school there was 16 pupils, and almost as many different kinds of readers. Later on when they decided they could all buy the same kind of book, they chose McGuffy’s reader for their textbook in reading. This reader became a great favorite and was the one most of the pupils used for about 35 years.

…The pupils did not study as many different subjects as they do today (1910). Usually only reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught. These were called the three R’s. However, sometimes a few of the larger pupils were taught U.S. history, grammar, and geography.

…Since there were no high schools some very large boys and girls went to these one-room schools. The schoolhouses were very far apart and often the boys and girls had to walk three or four miles to school and did not think that this was a long way to walk. (Generally not true as the Iowa ‘law’ of the time was that no student would have to go more than two miles to school, thus about ten school country school districts were established in Fayette Co. The distances were however still fairly long, especially in weather extremes.)

…When the weather was warm enough, many of the pupils would go barefoot to school. Usually the teacher and pupils who wore shoes would walk most of the way to school barefoot and carry their shoes. When they came within a short distance of the school, they would stop and put on their shoes and stockings. This made their shoes last longer.

…The first schools were called subscription schools. That meant that the teachers were paid by the parents instead of by the school district. Each family paid according to the number of children they sent to school. The salary of the teacher was very small. Sometimes it was only about four dollars a month. Usually the teachers boarded in the homes of the pioneers. Each family would keep him part of the time.

…Often the teacher was a man, for some of the large boys who went to school in the winter would not obey unless the teacher was large enough to punish them. The pupils were not only punished for misbehavior, but they were punished if they failed to learn their lessons. Sometimes they were whipped on the palm of the hand with a ruler, and sometimes they were whipped with a long switch. The parents did not think they had a good teacher if he did not whip any of the pupils.

…Many of the older pupils liked to spell and could spell very well. Sometimes the teacher and pupils would decide to have a spelling bee. All the neighbors came to see who was the best speller. The teacher picked tow leaders who chose everyone who wanted to spell. If anyone could not spell a word he had to sit down, so the last one to stand up was the best speller.

…The school terms were very short. Usually school was open only three or four months in the winter and two months in the summer. Most of the boys and girls did not get to go to school many years, for as soon as they were large enough to work they had to stay at home and help with all the work that the pioneer father and mother had to do. Many of these girls and boys wanted to go to school longer for they knew that they needed more education.

…Some Fayette County areas had better schoolhouses and better schools. Before long high schools were built in the towns. However, many of our leading pioneer men and women received all their education in these one-room country schools.

Frog Hollow Country School

Westfield Township School #2, in the SW corner of Section 2, was two miles north of the Albany School.
Today the land sits at the southern edge of the Volga 'pond' created by the Ia Cons Com in the 1970's.

Frog Hollow and an early school in Westfield Township, Fayette Co, Iowa
The Valley to the north of Albany became know as Frog Hollow, it probably received it name from Debater’s Speech in 1874.
Pioneer Resident, R. E. Thorp, recalls early school life of oldsters. R.E. Throp, was living in Lansing, Iowa, as the time.
From the West Union paper about 1940.

…I received your letter (Union editor) asking my age and what I know about the history of Frog Hollow. I was born in Westfield Township, Fayette County, November 7, 1861, on the farm now owned by Martin Hutchinson. I was born in a log house on the bank of the creek 20 or 25 rods (100-130 yards) west of where the Hutchison house now stands (1940+). It was a one-room log house, not a nail or screw used in its construction. Even the hinges on the doors were wood.

…According to tradition (Abe Lincoln), this should have made a good background to put me in line for the presidency or at least to have attained fame in some other line. Maybe the star I was born under was more potent in shaping my career than being born in a log house or again maybe there was too stiff competition, for I remember as a small boy of 10 other log houses in that school district and remember just who lived in each of them. I do not think a trace of any of them is left.

This is the one room log school house at Lincoln's New Salem Village near Springfield, Illinois, and a good example of the first frontier schools.


…Don’t think from what I have written that I am feeling bad because being born in a log house did not bring me fame and renown, for I am not. I am in my 79th year, and I still get quit a lot of kick out of life.

…When school was out in March, I knew just who my playmates would be when the winter term began, for each family owned their home. I do not think there was a mortgage in the district.

…My reminiscences have brought to mind things almost forgotten, and caused me to right more in detail than I expected to, but each little event seemed to be connected with the others, so now I come to the winter of 1874, when the debating society was organized in the school district. Interest soon spread beyond the school districts boundaries, so that West Union was quite frequently represented by one or more who took part in the discussions. Among the regular members was young Ed Crowe, so called to distinguish him from an elder Ed Crowe.

…At that time the Crowe family lived on a farm on the Elkader road (hill ridge road from West Union to Elkader), the farm now occupied (1940’s) by Len Wilbur the last I knew.

…One of the subjects discussed at one of the debate meetings was, "Resolved, that art is more pleasing to the eye than nature."

Ed Crowe was on the affirmative side. When he took the floor, wheat he said was a mixture of wit and sarcasm. The crowd gave him a big hand. In the course of his speech, he told the judges and audience, "They would get up in these hills and look down the Frog Hollow, and behold it in all its glory."

…That was 66 years ago. The name has stuck ever since. With the exception of three years on a sheep ranch in Oregon, and two years in Minnesota, I lived there all my life (in Frog Hollow, just to the north of Albany, and to the west of Lima), until I came to Lansing in 1918.

…It always seemed a pretty place to me, nothing to suggest the name. Joel Cornish is the only one I now of still living who took an active part in this debate society. There may be others, but I doubt it.

…When I was in my fourth year (1865), my father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Thorp, moved from the log house to a farm father bought from Sidney Hopkins, a mile north and what is now part of the J. F. Stearns farm. When I was old enough to prowl along the creeks and in that wood, I sometimes saw the old log house where I was born. The only remembrance I have at ever living there is a time mother and father were trying to catch some horses in a corral by the house.

…It seems the house must have made part of one side of the corral, for the horses bolted in at the north door and out at the south door, knocking me down in their progress. I think many of us if we would let out memories drift back over the road we have traveled, would find that same shock or fright we got in our childhood is the earliest recollection.

…When father bought the farm of Mr. Hopkins, the Hopkins’ drifted south to the Ozark Mountains and established there. He was a cooper by trade, and left a house on the place he had used for a cooper shop.

…When school district No. 2 in Westfield Township was organized it became possessed of the cooper shop and it was used as a school house until the one now in use was built in 1876. At that time father bought the old school house and moved it to use as a granary as long as I was at home. I think it is so used yet on the Joe Stearn’s farm. I think the building was 16 x 26 feet. A good many that I used to know, received all the schooling they ever got in that old cooper shop.

…The first terms I went to school, there were no desks, just slabs sawed from logs, and legs under them, and the smooth side up to sit on. If not too crowded we could put our books on the seat beside us, or put them on the floor if crowded.

Lincoln's New Salem Village school master.

…We used slates to work out arithmetic problems. The blackboard wa20s two wide boards nailed to two tow-by-fours and leaned against the wall on one end of the room. To draw a picture was against the rules, and any infringement of the rules was punished quite severely. That was left to the teacher’s judgment and no questions asked.

…School equipment of this kind would seem exceedingly crude today, but I think the scholars of that time would rate favorably with the high school graduates of today. The whole effort was concentrated on reading, writing, arithmetic and spelling.

…It was thought if one were fairly proficient in these four studies, he would be equipped to do most any kind of business.

…At that time the school year was divided in two terms, three and one-half months in winter, and three months in the summer. Nearly always a man taught the winter term and a woman the summer. About $40 in winter and $22 in the summer was the salary. Girls and boys went until they were 21.

...Mrs. Stearns gives a little description of the old school house made out of the Frog Hollow cooper shop, where for a while sixty pupils, ages 5-12, were accommodated. There were no desks or tables. Pupils sat closely together on benches made of slabs with peg legs and without backs. And the benches re as close together as they could be put, to accommodate the crowd, making many rows of seats in a small room.

...The three Chauncey Smith girls---Mesdames King, Conkey and Miller---in their recent talk referred to the part of that old school house building, now used as a granary on the Stearns farm, in which some of the old school day writing on walls could still be found. It was in that old cooper shop-school house-grannary room that the speech was made that started the name "Frog Hollow."


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All of my direct surnames were very early pioneers into Fayette Co, generally in the mid 1850's.  Growing up in Fayette and trekking the hills, prairies, streams throughout the county when the small villages and farms were so active and functional before the 1960's, the now lost history and memories of the pioneer generations and lifestyles from 1840-1960 continue to hold my interests.
Barry Zbornik
625 N. Section
Hannibal, MO  63401

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