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From Days Past...The One Room School House

October 8, 2010

The Year was 1910, one hundred years ago, and this is a historical timeline of some findings for Oktibbeha County Mississippi.

1910 Oktibbeha County Population was 19,676; beat 5- 4,270; beat 2-2,492; beat 3-3,726; beat 4-3,079; beat 1-6,109, Maben had 539; Sturgis 321; Starkville, 2,698
1910 City Grammar school enlarged (served both grammar and high school)
1910 Ground breaking of Episcopal Church of the Resurrection just off Main ST
1910 Bank of Sturgis was founded – it failed and a second bank was started in 1913
1910 Thomas Carroll appointed Judge of 16th District
1910 Transportation was still by horses with a few cars (first car was in 1906)
1912 Gravel road to Columbus
1912 Cooperative Creamery was established
1912 Oktibbeha County Agricultural High School was established at Longview
1913 First paved road – Main ST to campus
1913 P. H. Adams established the one and only Bank of Longview. It failed several weeks later and Adams was convicted of fraud.
1916 Sturgis Enterprise established by J. S. Foreshand – lasted several months
1916 First Electric Plant
1918 Severe epidemic of influenza struck Oktibbeha County in November

Going through some boxes at the museum, I discovered a small box filled with duplicate Pay Certificates of teachers paid in 1910. Information contained included teacher’s name, school, amount paid, and signed by County Superintendent, W. H. Miller. The list below was prepared from the duplicate pay certificates.
Oktibbeha County had around eighty one-room schoolhouses spread throughout the county as well as a city school. About twenty of these were African American and sixty were white. In addition to these, there were many private schools held in homes of which there are no records. Dr. Fenton Peters, a retired superintendent of the Starkville School District, provides his memories below of attending kindergarten in a private home school. Almost half of the teachers were single. The school term was January through April. The total amount of money collected for county children attending the city school was $556. Teachers were paid monthly and their salaries ranged from a high of $60 to a low of $5.
.1910 Oktibbeha County Schools, Teacher, and Monthly Salary
School Term was January-April (4 months) ~ Monthly Salary: High $60-Low $5
City of Starkville for county children attending city school $556*African American-School-Teacher-Monthly Salary
16th Section – Mary Johnson $18
Agency – Miss N. Cole $45
*Berea – S. P. Wesley $20
Bethel – A. S. Glover $27.50
Betts – Miss Ozie Jordan $50
*Black Jack –J. K. Hampton $25
Bluff Springs – A. N. Jordan $30
Bostick - Miss Marion Henry $40
Brown – Mary Davis $15
Bradley - Lelia Williams $25
Bush Arbor - Miss M. Washington $5
Cedar Grove -C. Rives $20
*Chapel Hill – Miss Letha Harrell $45
Chestnut Grove – Miss Gertrude Buck $28.75
Christopher - Miss Myrtis Crumpton $40
Comer – John McNichols $20
*Connor - John McNichols $20
Cooper – Miss Lillian Steadman $42.50
Cotton Mill – Miss Lillian Alston $47.50
Craig - Miss Mag Sullivan $50
Crigler – C. H. Rice $25
Crossroads – Miss E. Hammond $47.50
Daniel – Miss R. L. Livingston $45
Dido – E. F. Shoemaker $8
*Ebenezer - J. H. Hall $30
Edwards – G. W. Johnson $45
Emmaline - Miss Ina Harrell? $45
Ennis – Erma Lee Davis $35
Glennwood - Miss Lizzie Crow $50
Good Hope - Mr. M. R. Green $20
Greene –Morris Wills -$47.50
Gum Bottom – G. Shelton $20
Harpole Bishop - Miss Sallie B. Davis $40
Hefflin – Lena Smith $15
Henry – A. E. Green $50
John Ilwain - Miss Edna Hannah $47.50
*Josie Creek – O. V. Wesley $20
Kincannon – J. M. Burnside $20
Liberty - J. W. Murray $30
Lick Creek – A. F. Turner $27.50
Little Vine – Miss Sallie Triplett $8
Longview - Miss Emma Weaver $60
Lulu – Ellen Davis $18
Maben – Miss Ada Saunders $45
Macedonia - J. A. McReynolds $60
*McGee – M. Emmerson $27.50
McWilliams –M. Quinn $20
*Mhoom Farm – Maxine Johnson $18
Montgomery – Lucille Dennis $45
Morris - W. W. Gillespie $20
*Mt. Airy – G. W. Williams $27.50
Mt. Vernon – Miss Hassie Cotton $45
*Muldrow – W. M. Rice $25
*New Prospect – A. D. Thompson $25
New Salem – Annie Divine $25
Oktoc - Miss Fannie Randle $40
Osborn - Miss Laura Hartman $40
Pine Forest – Mrs. Maud Miller - $45.00
*Pine Grove – M. F. Jackson $20
*Plairs – Jesse Knox - $22.50
*Pleasant Grove - J. K. Keel $20
*Pleasant Hill – C. E. Scroggins $45
Preston – A. G. Smith $25
Providence - Mrs. A. E. Jenkins $45
*Rock Hill – J. L.Wynn---$27
Sand Creek – Miss Sallie Bevill $50
Sessums – Miss Lizzie McArm $47.50
Sikes Chapel – Miss Minnie Lee Harris $35
*St. Matthew – William Fair $30
Steels Mill – Miss Minnie Lee Richey $55
Sun Creek – G. H. Shaffer $7
Thomas - Mrs. Hattie Edwards $14.40
*Trim Cane - T. N. Edgar $20
*Turnpike – D. R. Rives $25.00
Watkins - Miss Ethel Lemmons $35
Weir Salem – Annie Divine $25
Whitfield – E. H. Hampton - $22.50
Zion–Mrs.MaggieCrow-$50
There is no precise definition of a one-room school but the one most accepted is that of learning at home from one’s family, to one-room schoolhouses that served communities. These schools contained pupils from different grades ranging from kindergarten to high school and sometimes a student would be older than the teacher.
Two one-room school buildings still remain of which I am aware and possibly there are others. The ones of which I am familiar are The Oktoc Community Club House and the Sessums Community Club House. Visiting the Club Houses for one of their monthly meetings, I witnessed how the people of these communities come together and enjoy home cooked meals, fellowship and reminiscing of long ago within the walls of these old one-room school buildings. If only these walls could talk, we would know so much more! In 1910, Miss Fannie Randle was the teacher at Oktoc with a monthly salary of $40, while at Sessums, Miss Lizzie McArm was the teacher with a monthly salary of $47.50. Take a drive on Oktoc Road and Sessums Road through the winding rolling hills to Oktoc and Sessums passing through the landscape where diary farmers thrived in years past until you reach the club houses where you will recognize their one-room school houses of the past.
On the national scene, there were 190,000 one-room schools and only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school. In South Carolina and Mississippi more than half the population was black at the beginning of the decade. The South was handicapped by dire poverty, with incomes averaging just $3,449 per school-age child in the eleven southern states in 1912 (an amount derived by dividing the states’ total incomes by the number of children in those states), compared to the wealth in Iowa at the same time of $13,473 per school-age child. All public schools in the South suffered from decades of poor economic conditions.
According to “School The Story of American Public Education,” rural communities did not have a lot of resources. Some of the basic items found in the schoolhouse were slate, chalk and a few books. Both learning and teaching usually consisted of arithmetic, “good manners”, penmanship, and literacy. The students participated in oral recitation and oral quizzes. The Bible was the first book taught in the classroom, and the students also learned form the McGuffey Reader. This reader allowed the teacher to have flexibility needed to move throughout the classroom and teach different grade levels during the day. The classrooms did not have cafeterias, so the students all brought their lunches from home. Lunches sometimes contained meat sandwiches or bread with jam, dill pickles and hard-boiled eggs. All of this was carried in a sturdy metal bucket. Students did not receive a large amount of homework because they were needed to do work on the farm when they returned home from school. During this time a teacher could use a paddle to discipline students who misbehaved.
It was in 1910 that the United States was first considered a world leader.  Many of the issues of 1910 are ones we face today: including the escalation of immigration and poverty, labor and monopoly battles, work safety and child labor problems.  World War I - the first ‘war to end all wars’ raged. The 1910s were the decade America came of age. Some of the statistics given for 1910 include the following.
• The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.
• Fuel for this car was sold in drug stores only.
• Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.
• Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.
• There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.
• The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
• The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower!
• The average US wage was 22 cents per hour.
• The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
• A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year.
• A dentist $2,500/year, a veterinarian between $1,500-$4,000/year, a mechanical engineer $5,000/year.
• More than 95 percent of all births took place at HOME.
• Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION! Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as ‘substandard.’
• Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
• Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.
The Five leading causes of death were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke
• The American flag had 45 stars.
• The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30!
• Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented yet.
• There was no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
• Two out of every 10 adults couldn’t read or write
• Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores.
• Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.
• There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A.!
• From my computer, this article will be sent email to Gwen Sisson at the Starkville Daily News and from there it will be printed hardcopy and distributed and put online available to anyone in the world instantly. What will 100 more years bring?

William Haynes Herbert Remembers...

William Haynes Herbert Remembered in 1987 at the age of 74. The campus was a great place to grow up. As a child my friends were allowed to use the campus athletic fields, tennis courts, library and gyms. It was like a small community. I went to a one-room school on campus where four grades were taught for faculty children. I was one of two students there my last year. Note: On a sketch map drawn to scale entitled “Campus of the Mississippi A. and M. College, the key shows No. 16 as the Primary School located on the west side of the Lloyd-Ricks Building directly south of the football stadium.

Dr. Fenton Peters Remembers...

My mother and father, Cora and Pellum Peters, started early looking out for my best interest by teaching me what they could at home after getting off work. My grandmother kept me while my parents worked and she also taught me basic things (alphabet, numbers, etc.).
My parents then enrolled me in a private neighborhood kindergarten operated by a Mrs. Bessie Scruggs. This would have taken place about 1940 when I was five years old. Mrs. Scruggs operated this school out of her house, which was located on the northeast corner of Fellowship and Gillespie Streets. The church I currently attend, the First Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A., now occupies the lot adjacent to the property on which Mrs. Scruggs’ house/school sat. This is directly across the street from (due north) the current Wilson Ashford’s residence. The property was purchased by the Corherns and is used by and large for parking during home games by Mississippi State University. As best I can recall, Mrs. Scruggs had a wide range of students. I can remember students who were my age and others who were older. We were taught basics (alphabet, numbers, syllables, phonics, addition, subtraction, etc.)
Our parents would take us to the school in the morning and get us back home before noon. We had to take our lunch. We were living on Hancock Street and my grandmother was living on Jarnigan Street at that time so Mrs. Scruggs’ house/school was easily accessible to us. I saw my parents pay for my attendance but I have not the slightest idea how much.

Sessums Schools Remembered

(From History of Sessums Community through 1976 by Mrs. Morris Seitz)
There seems to have been at least four schools in the early days of Sessums. Mrs. Brooks and her sister, Miss Margaret McKnight, remember walking down the railroad to a little school on the “west side of the road. just before you make the curve” to the Morris Seitz house coming from Sessums on the gravel road where an African American family now live. Mrs. Frank Castles remembered that Miss Minnie Washington taught there and perhaps boarded with the Foxes. Mrs. Brooks mentioned that the Fox handyman brought water to the school each day. Then the sisters remembered going up the railroad to a school. There was a school called the Ridgeway School behind the Ridgeway place, which lasted two years. Mrs. Spencer Murray remembered that the first six grades were taught there and that these subjects were taught: geography, reading, writing, arithmetic, English, and spelling with a spelling bee every Friday. She remembered some of the students being Elizabeth and Frank Castles, Wilbur and Florence Davidson from Georgia, nephews of Mrs. J. P. Castles, Joe Ellis, the Winstons, the Ridgeways and the Reese children. Miss Grace Winston taught. In 1905 an old cabin was made into a schoolhouse in Sessums where the Sessums Community House is now. Mrs. Castles remembers going there with her brother, Francis, for one year before going to Starkville, as he was beyond the grades taught there. Susan Koblentz and the Quayles gave the land to the school. Mrs. Murray remembers riding on a horse behind the teacher, Miss Elzena Ellis, who rode a sidesaddle. Mrs. Nora Martin Nowlin remembers these students at the Sessums school: Cecelia Martin, Nora Martin, H. A. Martin, Lewis Henderson and Louise Henderson. Some of the teachers at Sessums were Miss Elzena Ellis, who taught algebra, although she was not required to; Miss Lula Jones, 1912-13, Miss Lillian Austin, Miss Lizzie McArm and Miss Mary Sullivan who later married Henry Miller, the County Superintendent of Education. History, reading, writing, arithmetic and English were taught. Mrs. Castles remembers these students attending Sessums School in 1905: Elizabeth Castles, Florence Davidson, Joe Ellis, Jessie Ware, Robert Lloyd Eastis, Kitty Eastis, Agnew Harrell, Lizzie Frye, Mary Linderman; Eavette Linderman, Augusta McKnight, Margaret McKnight, Harold McKnight, Henry Tumlinson, Johnnie Tumlinson, Lucy Stiles and Francis Stiles. This Sessums School closed in September of 1924-25 session. Afterwards many from the community attended Oktibbeha County Agricultural High School, a boarding school, at Longview, until transportation was furnished into Starkville. The school building, now used as the Community House, was built many years earlier, certainly before 1914. On the road, near the present home of the Kenneth Pyrons, is the ruins of the McKell School. It seems, according to Miss Elise Price, that Miss Ruby Gladney taught the first year in a cabin on the Joyner place with the building mentioned above being built in 1914. Mrs. Maggie Decker, mother of Blanche, Charles, Bertha, Eleanor, and Rose, started this school naming it for her mother, Mrs. Kate McKell. The first eight grades were taught with geography, English, reading, spelling, history, arithmetic, and hygiene being taught. Miss Lillian Junkins taught two years here. She became Mrs. J. T. Crowe and died recently. Mrs. Mary Dille, Corwin’s wife, taught part of a year which was finished by a Mrs. Crosby. Students remembered here in 1912-13 were: Elise Price, Robert Price, May Price, Jim Price, the Winstons, Hamilton Shephard, Lula Ellis’s nephew, E. A. Q. and Jessie Mitchener, Don, Randolph, and Andrew Echols, Mary Wilder, and Maggie Ellis. In Carroll’s Historical Sketches of Oktibbeha County, we find: “At the Watt or Dille place, Harriette, wife of Major Watt, taught in 1866. And about this time, someone conducted a school at Red Acre, a mile north of where Sessums is.” I found no one who knew anything about these schools of post-Civil War period.

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