Edith Buchanan Bingaman wrote an article about the one room country schools and prepared this map for publication in the Neoga News. She was the mother of my good school friends John and Dorothy Ann Bingaman. None of these country schools are active today following the consolidation of county schools in the 1940s.
These country school houses were all built on the same plan, consisting of one large room with a small enclosed entrance. The heating system was a large coal-burning furnace situated in the back of the room. The teacher was the janitor, making the fires, carrying in buckets of coal and carrying out pans of ashes each morning. Sweeping the board floor with a broom and dusting the children's desks was also part of the day's work. Hooks on the wall at the back of the room provided space for the children's coats and caps to be hung. There were also shelves for their lunch pails and a place for a bucket of drinking water which had to be carried in from outside. A pump was located in front of the school building. Individual drinking cups belonging to the children were used; they were filled from the uncovered water bucket by means of a large dipper. .
There were blackboards on one end of the building. These were in use constantly by one of the eight grades of children. The chalk, which was used to write on the boards, created a large amount of dust and the erasers were taken outdoors daily and the dust removed from them. The chalk was purchased by the school directors and came in small wooden boxes. It was expensive and the school board was unhappy if they thought the children were using too much. Each child had his or her own small slate at their desk to be used to work problems at their seats. Chalk was also used to write on the slates.
Each schoolhouse had two large pictures hanging above the blackboards. The pictures were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. There was a United States flag in one corner of the room. The pledge of allegiance was recited each morning. There was one large dictionary and a globe of the world. The school library consisted of a smal! bookcase with glass doors. The children read the few books eagerly.
Each child had his or her own desk; however, some schools had double desks in the back of the room for the larger pupils. The teacher had his own desk and chair. On the desk was a hand bell which was rung when school was to begin or "take up" as the saying was. These hand bells have now become collector's items. In front of the teacher's desk was a long "recitation" bench". When a class was called for their lesson, they came to the front of the room and sat on this bench to recite their lessons.
On the playground the children often were divided into two groups to play games. One favorite game was ante-over. One group stood on one side of the schoolhouse. The second group stood on the opposite side. A ball was thrown over the building and if the other group caught it, they would run to the other side. Anyone on that side that was touched by the ball was caught and had to go to the other side. The side that got all the players from the opposite side won the game. Another favorite game was baseball. There was no playground equipment of any kind at the schools. In the winter when snow was on the ground they played "fox and goose." They were country children and loved the outdoors.
Sometimes there would be a "lean-to" on the side of the coal shed. This was for the teacher's horse. When the dirt roads were muddy, the teacher rode horseback. When the roads were dry, the teacher might drive a horse hitched to a buggy. If this was the case, the horse was unhitched and put in the shed during the day.
For the opening exercises each morning the children might sing patriotic songs such as America, Star Spangled Banner, or Illinois. In the early days, there were no musical instruments in the schools. Later on, many schools had a piano and the children were taught to sing with the piano. The teacher would sometimes read a story for opening exercises. For a special treat. on Friday afternoons the children would be divided into two groups or sides and have a spelling bee. The teacher would pronounce the words and if a child spelled the word incorrectly, he would have to take his seat. The last pupil on the floor was the winner.
Since there was no indoor plumbing, two "out-houses" provided toilets for the students. These were placed on opposite corners of the large yard. A protective board fence was placed in front of each.
On one side of the schoolhouse was a small building which housed or contained coal for the furnace. The coal came in large chunks and often had to be broken up in order to get it into the coal buckets.
In 1917 a beginning teacher was paid $45 a month for teaching and doing the janitor work. A year later, the salary was raised to $60 a month.
School "took up" at eight o'clock and was dismissed at four o'clock. School was in session seven months of the year. Most teachers got their teaching certificates by writing on a state examination which was held at Toledo (the County Seat). Many went to Eastern (State Teachers College) for a twele week summer term where they observed staff teachers teaching children in a model school. There was a week's institute held every August at Toledo for the teachers in Cumberland County. The teachers also attended Reading Circle meetings at which various books were studied. A course of study was sent to each I teacher every fall giving lesson plans and suggestions for the school year. These rural teachers were very dedicated people who loved the country children very much and did their best to teach them.
By Edith Buchanan Bingaman
           By Sara Elsie Husband
(From the 1914 NEO-GIAN NTHS Annual)
"The one who pioneers the way in the schools of a community deserves as much honor, though only armed with a primer, as the soldier in full military array," and this honor in Neoga belongs to Miss Mary Ann Ewing who assisted in organizing the school and taught the first term, with an enrollment of eight pupils, in 1857. in "the little red school house" which stood where the Foster Swengel residence now stands. The directors who employed her were Capt. Philip Welshimer, Mr. James Orr and Mr. John W. Brannen.
Capt. Welshimer was the second teacher. From 1857 to 1867 this one room frame building accommodated the pupils of the village. but in 1867 a two story frame building of two rooms, with a large porch extending along the east side on both stories, was built, A. Y. Hart and Ed Miller being the contractors. Two lots for school purposes were donated to the village, where the grade school now stands, by Ephraim Jennings. In later years two adjoining lots were purchased by the board for a play ground. During the erection of this building, school was held in the upper room of the old poultry house opposite the I. C. depot where the Smith barber shop is now located. From here the school with W. B. Robe as principal and Miss Clara Goodrich in charge of the younger pupils was moved into the new building,
The next year the attendance grew so another room was needed and the first grade was sent to the"Tin shop," a building which stood north of Dr. Dougherty's office. In 1869 a south wing of two stories was added, the contractor being Robt. McAllister. In 1884. the school. under G.W. Monroe, was carefully regraded and a high school was planned. At this time the large porch upstairs was enclosed to provide a recitation room. On Sept. 24, 1896 this building and contents were destroyed by fire and the remainder of the year the several grades were held in the Presbyterian, Methodist and Christian Churches and one room of the house now occupied by Mrs. Jennie Wallace. In the spring of 1897 bonds were voted for the erection of an date brick building, which, when completed, cost $11,000. On Oct. l8, 1897, the new eight roomed building was dedicated.
The high school dates from 1884, when G. W. Monroe planned a three years' course. In 1887 six girls, Ada Wright McCord, Minnie Smith Brown, Alice Bradman Storm, Cora Hancock Hittson, Carrie Hancock Harris. and S. Elsie Husband completed the course and the first commencement exercises were held in the Methodist Episcopal Church, thus establishing a precedent, not only for the Neoga schools. but also for Cumberland County as well. The principal at this time was C. F. Hobart. The board of directors was composed of W. H. Singer. C. D. Green, and Joseph Wilson, and Lewis Decius acted as county superintendent.
On account of the manner of grading, commencement exercises were held biennially until 1901, since which time they have been annual occasions. The Neoga Alumni Association was organized by E. C. Cavins and the first meeting was held at the home of L. F. Good in honor of the class of
1899. The total alumni up to the present year are 160. The first Baccalaureate exercises were held by the class of 1895 in the Presbyterian Church, Rev. R. T. Milness of the Methodist Church delivering the sermon.
The several principals to whom we are indebted for the growth of Neoga schools from an ungraded one of two teachers to a standard grade school of eight instructors, and a Township High School of five instructors, are W. B. Robe, Mark Sperry, Clinton Woods, Mr. English. E. S. Evans, G. Troop, John Carruthers, C. F. Church, .J. P Sparr, W. B Robe, G. W. Monroe, C. F. Hobart, H. H Brown, S. S. Frederickc, Chas. Coley, R. R. Tiffany, E, C, Cavins, C. H. Cavins. C. H. Hittson, John Keller, G. W, Sutton, John Scrngham, Gus S. Brown, Dean M. Inman and Walter Hagan.
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