West Grove country school
Important Note: the following history of West Grove school, written in 1920, appears to contain errors regarding the school location. See the transcriber notes at the bottom for an explaination.
Early History of West Grove School
by A.M. May
Some four years ago County Superintendent W.L. Peck, sent out circulars to to the officers of the school districts asking for School House Statistics of Allamakee County given in answer to a list of questions contained in these circulars.
Up to this time the returns have not been very encouraging for so practical interesting and useful a proposition. Undoubedly numbers have done the best they could under circumstances, but in too many cases no attention has been paid to the request. This condition is to be much regretted, as the interest in them, and their importance would increase with the passing years, as they will be filed away with the records for public inspection in the years to come. Also many interesting chapters could be given to the public through the medium of the Allamakee County Historical and Archeological Society. Supt. Peck has handed to Mr. Ellison Orr, President of that Society, the returns he has so far received.
One of the most interesting of these is that from West Grove District, Post Township, which was sent in by Mrs. George Waters, Secretary. We give the list of questions of Supt. Peck's circular and her answers as follows:
1st. In what year was the first school house built in your district?
Ans. About 1850, or in the early fifties
2nd. Of what material was it built?
Ans. Frame, studded, lathed, and sided
3rd. What part of what 40 acres? Give Government description.
Ans. The plat accompanying the letter of W.W. Eaton of Boone, Iowa, a brother of Mrs. Waters shows this school house to [have] been located on or near the NE corner of NW NE Sec. 22-96-5 (*see transcriber notes at bottom), about the middle of SE SE.
4th. Is this building still standing? If not, when was it torn down?
Ans. No. Torn down about 1893.
5th. Where is the present building located? When built? Of what material?
Ans. Near the center of the east line of the NW of Sec. 35, Post township, near Bethel church. Built in 1893. Frame. (*see transcriber notes at bottom)
6th. If possible give a list of five earlier teachers in the order that they taught.
Ans. Samuel Cooker, Henry Dayton (His first school in Allamakee county, 1857/58; afterwards taught in Hardin, Lansing, then again in Hardin, and today is in an active law practive in Waukon. - A.M.M.), Caroline Dawson, Robert McGhee, Cassie Mitchell.
7th. Give any information of general interest in regard to location, way it was bult, organization to build, or any other matter connected with the building or location of it, or [illegible] pupils who afterward became men of note.
Ans. Correspondence of party below.
8th. give name or number of your district?
Ans. West Grove
Mrs. Waters was very fortunate in receiving a reply from her brother, W.W. Eaton of Boone, containing some very interesting reminesences of that first school house. He says:
"I cannot give you the exact date of any of the events relating thereto as I have no written record for reference. The old West Grove school house was bult in the early fifties at the site indicated on the enclosed plat, and governed by this I think you could go directly to the spot from where it was moved soon after we moved from the old log house to our new home when I was about eight and one-half years old.
While we still lived in the log house, sister Maria and I were sent to school at the old site. I cannot recall the name of any teacher before the house was moved, but very distinctly remember many things such as child's mind retains. The house on the old site was a 'community' school, for there were no Lybrand, Minert, Evergreen or Cherry Valley school houses at that time. It was used for religious meetings also, and people came long distances by wagon and those nearby on foot, bit, little, old and young. One of the preachers of that time was a big man named Dollarhide, and I remember of our folks entertaining him at the log house with its one room and stone fireplace.
The enclosed map shows the old road runing by the old site and on up to Lybrand, and just to the left near the foot of the little hill stood the school house with the end to the road and the door to the west. I well remember coasting down the hill in the winter on a big hand sled with the big boys, and [illegible] Harris would take me on his lap. I can see it all so plainly yet.
What conditions or changes brought about the removal of the house I never knew, but I was there, "Johnny on the spot" when it all happened. I cannot say whether it was moved in the spring or fall but I think it was in the fall of 1861. It was during war times and such a time as they had! Messrs. Amos, Howe, Stillions and Pa, I remember as distinctly active in the work. There were many others for it took lots of men those days to do a little with the things they had to do with. Ox teams in those days were much in use and it was planned to put long runners under the building and drag it to the new site on dry ground.
Mr. Howe had a big ox team which was hitched next to the runner on one side. In all I think there were 14 spans of oxen - 7 span in a string on each side. To get across the creek at the Moulthrop place two temporary bridges were built of fence rails and covered with straw. After the start everything went lovely until they attempted to cross one of these bridges. Howe's team was pushed off over the end of the bridge and was left dangling from the yokes. Everything came to a halt and there was a great time to get them agoing again, and about half way up the hill stuck fast. Then the men took out the heavy seats and door, and with much "Gee and Haw" they got going again.
The dotted line on the map shows the route they took. Rail fences were torn down when in the way. The route was just south of your house and about where your wind mill is. A fence ran where you now have a row of willows and had to come down, and one farther east to let them into the Amos field at the last of the trip. It took two days to get the house onto the new site. I can vividly recall the scenes at that time.
The first term of school in the West Grove District was not held in a school house. An addition was built on Amos' old barn, and a summer term was taught by a woman that I do not now remember. Then, and for a time after the school house was moved, parents and patrons had to pay tuition for each scholar, an amount sufficient to run the school. The teacher boarded around and the firewood for winter was hauled in turn by the men of the families who patronized the school, and the large boys had to chop the wood up during the noon hour.
The plans for school buildings during those days were not well adapted for conservation of heat nor health. One of the early teachers would urge the pupils to come early so as to warm the room by breathing over the air.
Of the early families to attend and support the school were the Amos', two Eatons, Mitchell, Hammel, Baileys, McGhee, Mathers, Saucers, Cains, Stanleys, Howes, Johnsons, Bowman, Smith, Jamison, Girton, Shawans, Maxlers. There were others, but these with their large families made a plenty for one teacher and the size of the house.
In that day, the boys sat on one side of the room and the girls on the other. It was a punishment for a boy to be ordered to sit with the girls on the other side. How funny this seems to us in these days.
Of the early teachers, I think Caroline Dawson, Gene Read's mother, was the first to have charge. Tip Meyers was teacher for a winter term during the Civil War. Robert McGhee taught one term, Emma Pritchard, Orlando each, W.W. Lyons, now of Des Moines taught one term. Most of the teachers were men as it was thought a woman could not have good behavior from the big boys in the winter term.
Teaching methods were crude as compared with those of today. The scholars were poorly dressed. In many cases not cleanly kept and sometimes one could see vermin playing tag in the hair of a nearby pupil. A long plain board ran along the wall each side of the room with two short ones on the north of them with slab seats in front of them with round legs at each end. At the south end was a huge pupils desk and behind that a wall blackboard about 2X5 feet. Recitation seats were of slabs with three legs at each end. These seats served as the mourners bench during the winter revivals.
Children brought their dinners for the noon meal which usually consisted of bread and butter cookies and fried cakes. Some had to use corn bread, and one boy would often bring a half ear of corn and nibble a few kernels at a time.
No attention was paid to grading and everything was haphazard. Punishments were made on the most trivial acts that were not intended to bewrong on the part of the pupil. It was my lot to get three punishments in one day, and I have seen others get more. Our studies were reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic. One or two of the teachers made an effort to introduce grammar, but failed, usually because they knew so little about it themselves. Geography was not a regular study, but once in a while the teachers would coach us as to which was was north or south or straight up or down.
When I think it all over I wonder how we gained as much education and did as well as we did. We must not forget that all that wonderful sacrifice on the part of parents was made to help us to get the "little" we did.
Before Bethel church was built, West Grove was the center for religious gatherings in that section. Bethel (the name of the United Brethren church 4 miles northeast of Postville) ideas and plans were all worked out at that West Grove school house. I can remember of hearing the discussions pro and con about raising the means and carrying out the plans.
West Grove -- how it has quickened memory of long past years, the history of early days that shall never fade away. West Grove, I love thee still."
~Postville Review, April 30, 1920
~transcribed by S. Ferrall for Allamakee co. IAGenWeb
~transcriber notes: This accounting gives the location of West Grove school as being in Section 22. Although it may have originally been located there, the 1886 Warner & Foote, the 1903 Waukon Standard and 1917 Anderson Plat Maps all show West Grove school in the SE part of Section 23 just west of the section line between 23 & 24. The location given in the 5th Answer actually describes where the South Grove school was located on the 1886, 1903 & 1917 plat maps (center of Section 35).