Lawrence County Historical Society
Volume 8 - Summer 1985
When coming home a week or so ago, I had received a letter from a member of the Lawrence County Historical Society asking me to write an article on the Mount Vernon one-noom country school, about any of its people I would wish to, and things I may know about its past. This is one thought I never had in my life before now. My first thought was "Why me?" The article would be published in their Historical Quarterly and kept. After two or three days of thinking it over, I decided to give it a try. The dates I may use could be 1 or 2 years off, but pretty close.
Mount Vernon - School History
Surname List Below
By Jullan Smith
The Mount Vernon School District was formed in March 1852 (this was 9 years before the Civil War and 13 years before the end of slavery) and for the past 133 years you can ask any of them where they live and they will proudly say Mount Vernon.
The first school board consisted of four men: Edward Holt, N.E. Steadman, L.S. Bobo, and Green R. Jones; these people will be known in this article as the First Party. On April 1, 1852, the First Party contracted the Second Party who was named James Underwood. They gave Mr. Underwood a contract to build a building out of hewed logs that were sound and strong. The building was to be 22 feet wide and 26 feet long and one and a half stories high. The first story was 9 feet from the first floor to the ceiling joist. The joist were to be floored also and it was to be 6 feet from the upper floor to the building plates. This was also called the attic and was to have a window 10" by 12" in each end for light. The lower story was to have one door on each of the two sides, with windows on both sides of each door, making four windows. The sash and light must be 10" by 12". The two doors were to be completed to fasten with lock and bolt.
To prepare and erect this building Mr. Underwood would be paid $1,852.00. $260.00 when all the logs were in place, another $260.00 when the shingles were all nailed on, and the balance to be paid when the building was finished. It was to have the opening between logs to be painted with cement and sand. It was to be erected on a lot of land that the First Party would select and pay for, The building had to be finished by October 1, 1852, erected length wise east and west. I'm almost 100% sure the lot was about 200 yards south of what people this day call the Dock Smith Place; it is now owned by his son, J.B. Dock Smith. As years passed by the building was gone and later Dock Smith started a family cemetery on what is believed to be the same place. I can remember as a small fry going to one funeral there - one of Dock Smith's sons. I think his name was Joe Smith who was killed in World War I; a year or so later his body was sent back home. The funeral was on a Sunday afternoon. The war was on everyone's mind very much. I can remember best of all what a large group of people attended the funeral.
But as always, time went by and sometime in the later years of 1800 another building was built on another lot of land about one-half mile north and east of the first building. It was erected of logs on the northeast corner of the farm now owned by J.B. (Bryan) Smith, about 100 yards south of the Mount Vernon Road.
In about 1892 the Frisco Railroad went through the Mount Vernon School District between Black Rock and Imboden and across three school districts. From that day until the schools were forced to consolidate, the school district got the tax from the amount of miles the railroad went crossing the school district. Mount Vernon's share of taxes began at the southeast corner of what most people still call the Bertha Langing Place and went to about 1 /4 mile or so where you used to cross the railroad to go to the Fairview Bridge to where the John McCarroll Place joined the Weir Farm. (This was about 3 3/4 miles). Districts with railroad tax soon became known wealthier districts than ones not having any railroad tax.
These districts such as Mount Vernon could vote a 1 mill school tax and have plenty of money to have 10 weeks Summer School and 5 months Winter School. Other districts would need to vote from 6 to 8 mill tax and still not have as much money to spend. I may also mention that Mr. Underwood's contract for the First Building included a large fireplace at one end of the building with a hearth - a large fireplace stone chimney, all to be native stone. Split logs seats with pegs on bottom side for the correct height.
In 10 or so years the districts that had railroads began to accumulate extra money and they all began to get rid of their log buildings and built more modern buildings of that day. Sometime about 1902 the school board of the Mount Vernon District bought a 10 acre tract of timber land (they still own it to this day) about 2 acres on the west end of said tract they cleared it off enough to build a one-room school house and play ground. This allowed the school board to get its winter supply of wood more cheaply. They owned their own timber for wood and it required less than '/4 mile haul to get the wood to the building.
At first the building was about two-thirds the length it is today. The first remembrance I have of the Mount Vernon one-room school was in about 1916 with the Pleasant Hill School and the Mount Vernon School. All of the people in each district was very close and friendly. In the summer term of school the boys in the upper grades (a lot of them 16 or 17 years old) would play match games of baseball with the other district. I can well remember that when it was time to go play at Mount Vernon always on a Friday afternoon, our school would completely let out and most everyone went to the ball game ta yell for our team. The dust was usually one or two inches deep - no gravel. We would all be barefooted but I can remember the dust did not create any problem to us kids who were overjoyed to get to go to the ball game.
The Mount Vernon ball diamond was on the Frank Long Farm. Most people today would know it as the C.C. Guthrie Place. I well remember how the Pleasant Hill crowd would all get on one side of the ball diamond; the Mount Vernon people would get on the other side. As far as friendship was concerned, it was forgotten about until an hour or so after the game. I can almost see the old men of that day gather around third base and when one of their team came running "hard to scare" they would almost keep up with the runner and would be waving their big old hats - far above their heads and yelling (you could hear them for a quarter of a mile). On the next Friday afternoon the game would be at Pleasant Hill; the same thing existed then, friendship would disappear for about 2'/z hours.
I can remember back about 1920 when for some reason the Mount Vernon Community had their Sunday School and Church in the afternoon. A lot of people would go , especially young people. You would go up 5 or 6 steps about 6 feet long. You would then be on a 6 ft by 9 ft. porch. They had stout banisters around the porch. The men especially would sit all around on this before service started and some would not go for service but stayed out on the porch.
I can remember some of the families that lived there back in perhaps 1920 such as: the John McCarroll family, Dan Beeler, Andrew Stratton, Frank Long, Mose Robertson, Bill McLaughlin, the Bertha Langing Family, Will Weir, Pat Kildow, Dock Smith, Jim Phillips. I'm sure I am leaving out some of them. Time moved on, I grew up and married and in about 1934 had a contract to teach school at Mount Vernon.
I remember we had about 60 children to go to school. I can remember that summer there was still a depression on; it was so hot and dry. I have seen the men who would have 5 or 6 head of cattle and no grass what-so-ever, go out each morning and cut down a few small trees, some 15 to 18 feet high, and let the livestock eat the leaves. The cattle would just swarm these young trees for their leaves.
In about 1936 I lived in Mount Vernon district. At that time some of us wanted to vote 1 1/2 mill tax and make the one-room building larger. Some of the real old people would not go for it, but the 1 1/2 mill carried anyway. They spent the money by adding about 20 feet to the length of the building. They made the school room part about 8 feet longer and put a 12 foot stage at one end of the building. They had a large curtain for the stage painted real pretty and would let up and down with a heavy cord or small rope. It was real modern for a country school at that time.
The old wooden steps and front porch was done away with and they put real nice concrete steps. They are used to this day. After the stage was built every one - school board and everyone wanted us to have programs by the school children old and young every two or three Friday nights. This was so their young people would have a place to go. The house nearly everytime would have standing room only.
Our 8th grade boys and girls would always want to have a minstrel for their part.; they soon became real good. I can remember that when the word got out we were going to entertain on Friday night, you could catch the older boys and girls gathering up old cork bottle stoppers getting ready to black their face and hands. (They became very good at this).
But soon perhaps about 1948 the one-room country school was forced to consolidate with the town school. The Mount Vernon School now at that time had been going on for perhaps 96 or so years, was always the center of the community. Some were used also for Sunday School, Church revivals, and almost every one-room school would have a Christmas program, which was most like the largest crowd for the year.
I can remember how the small children would wait for Santa Claus's Reindeer to land on the housetop and for Santa to slide down the chimney to give out his presents and shake hands with the children. The only thing so noticeable was everyone wanted to be children just then. Soon Santa was gone. Even if there was one-room school by the hundreds you could always be sure he would visit your gathering - just exactly on time. It was now about 100 years since the Mount Vernon District was formed, most all the boys and girls of that community have passed through these doors on their way to getting what education they would get. Perhaps 90% or more of them would never enter high school or college but a few did both. It was now 1948, the day of the one-room country school was over. Community spirit dropped to a very low point. Some of the old school houses were being torn down for the lumber, some burned down, and some just flat falling in. Soon 99% of them were gone, but can remember going by Mount Vernon along then and seeing the country people of that community, some were painting the buildings, some were putting on a new roof, some were on the inside of the building redoing the wall and ceiling, taking out the old school seats, putting in church pews. I talked to some of them along then; I found the men all willing to help, but I can assure you it was the church women that were pushing the work. They were determined to not let their building go as some were. They left the old stage, it still stands today and somehow, I'm proud they did. They changed it from Mount Vernon School house to the Mount Vernon Church house.
This is all the present generation of the last near 40 years have ever known it to be. Today it stands out as a "landmark" to the one-room school buildings well kept. The people are still very proud to tell you they live in Mount Vernon. They still have their Sunday School, Church Services, and Christmas tree and program every Christmas Eve.
As I sit here tonight finishing this article up, I think I can see old Santa Claus at Christmas time 1984 bring his reindeer to the top of the old one-room school house and sliding down the chimney to give out his presents as usual and going back up the chimney to the roof top where his reindeer are prancing to get going, but he stops before climbing into his sleigh and offers up thanks to God that there still are people like the ones who live at Mount Vernon. I am very glad tonight that I cannot write the last chapter to this grand old building. Perhaps some day I hope after many, many church programs and Christmas Eve programs and years have passed by, someone can sit down and write the last chapter to this building.
May God Bless You
Surname List Provided by Judy White
Mount Vernon School Teachers:
Ruth Andrews, Dula Baker, Mr. Virgil Baker, Lucy Beller, Josie Jane Brannon, Mrs. Carson, John (J.C.) Claude, Grover Davis, Joe Dent, Farris Herren, Beatrice Harris, S.H. Kosser, R.W. (Bob) Moore, Frank Noblin, Ruth Price, Julian Smith, Virginia Smith, Mrs. Stanford, Clarence Taylor, Bob Underwood, Jewel Verkler, .
Edith Beeler, Albert Beeler, Esmon
Beeler, Lela Beeler, Ella Berget, Zora Brady, Hazel Farmer,
Jno. Farmer, Monchie Farmer, Myrtle Gibbs, Earnest Gibbs, Alford
Graddy, Iller,Gray, Marion Gray, Bertha Holstine, Edna
Holstine, Faye Holstine, Roy Holstine, Dock Howell,
Kildow, Dewey Kildow, Hazel Kildow, Jewel Laird, Pearl Laird,
Roscoe Laird, Earl Long, Cody Long, Ira Long, Irene McLaughlin,
Louis Miller, Herbert Noble, Mary Noble, Ruby Noble,
Leora Prichard, Lee Manford Ray, Ollie Ray, Willie Ray, Millie Ray, Dorse
Robertson, T. J. Robertson, George Root, Will Songer,
Eddie Slayton, Fannie Slayton, Claud Smith, Ethel Smith,
Mary Smith, Vina Smith, Arney Smith, Bryan Smith, Jessie
Smith, Laulie Smith, Lettiea Smith, Lulu Smith, Mae Smith,
Maxie Smith, Gracie Songer, Ray Stephens, Rosey Stephens, Will Stephens,
Lanie Stratton, Lannie Stratton, Zellie Stratton, Charley
Talbert, Roy Talbert, Hubert Weir, Maud Woodson, Carl
Woodson, Cleff Woodson, Eve Woodson, Taylor Woodson
School Board Members
L.S. Bobo, Edward Holt, Green R. Jones, N.E. Steadmanand, James Underwood.
Others in Mount Vernon - School History
Dan Beeler, C. C. Guthrie, Pat Kildow, Bertha Langing Family,Frank Long, John McCarroll family, Bill McLaughlin, Jim Phillips, Mose Robertson, J. B. Dock Smith, Joe Smith, Andrew Stratton, Will Weir.
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