IAGenWeb Project

Shelby County


1915 History Index



One of the distinctive educational features during the decades between 1870 (or slightly earlier) and 1890, was the spelling schools. These schools were held practically throughout the county. In connection with them a good deal of attention was paid to the definition of words and to correct pronunciation. This author has little doubt that such contests were of more value than many present-day educators are wont to believe. They, no doubt, not only encouraged boys and girls to note the printed form of words, but greatly favored the acquisition of a wider vocabulary.

It may prove not uninteresting to preserve some facts with reference to a noted spelling school, held at the Harlan opera house on December 31, 1886. This contest was open to all residents of the county. In spite of the fact that there was a heavy fall of snow and the weather intensely cold, there was a large attendance. The rules governing the contest, as published, were as follows:

“1. Words must be given out alternately to gentleman and lady.

“2. Spellers will be provided with seats and in their turn will rise to their feet, spell the word given out and resume the seat.

“3. Should the word be missed, those missing will retire to the audience.

“4. In case of dispute as to the correctness of the ruling, the appeal must be made while the contestant is upon the floor, and will remain standing until the referees give a decision.

“5. When a word is missed, a new word will be given to the next speller.

“6. Webster’s unabridged dictionary will be authority.”

Music was given by the orchestra. The forty spellers entered were about equally divided between men and women. Mrs. Warner and Mrs. J. W. Jones were referees. Applause was given over amusing breaks and episodes. The first prize was one by Miss M. O. King, Miss Ina Fritz the second, Mrs. J. W. Jones the third. George Stamm won the boy’s prize, and Helen McArthur, the girl’s prize. The following were the contestants: Mesdames Fred Eidamiller, E. A. Cobb, Clyde Mosby, Mary Wyland, J. Turner, T. H. Smith, W. H. Cockerell, J. W. Jones, J. H. McArthur; the Misses Ina Fritz, Mamie Fritz, M. O. King, Ada French, Linnie Long, Cora Ramsey, Pearl French, Maude French, Lettie Smith, Kate Holtschneider, Helen McArthur, Sarah Grant; Messrs. Lewis Gingery, S. A. Burke, Fred French, J. I. Myerly, E. B. Wicks, A. N. Stamm, Porter Gray, Fred Blackstone, B. F. Eshelman, George Stamm, H. Ramsey, J. S. Mills, O. S. Donahue, E. A. Reynolds, T. H. Smith, Charles Reynolds, Guy Martin, Ira Smith, George Chatburn, E. J. Smith, D. B. Sheller and Wilson Young.

The words missed were: Dial, dual, sequel, despair, decency, sphinx, valise, irksome, cuticle, symmetry, breathe, chasm, colossus, treacle, silex, rarely, cede, feign, octavos, miracle, pelican, seraphim, halloo, auxiliary, main, omniscient, mementos, porticoes, traceable, compelled, Buddhism, posthumously, misspell, bifid, gaseous, raillery, cupola, fetish, deficit, sumach, syrup, viscount, pyrites, phosphorus, plebeian.

Transcribed by Denise Wurner, October 2013 from the Past and Present of Shelby County, Iowa, by Edward S. White, P.A., LL. B.,Volume 1, Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen & Co., 1915, pp. 421-422.


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