HISTORY OF SCHOOLS IN LUCE TOWNSHIP
From February 11, 1955 Centennial Edition The Rockport Democrat
(BY MRS. EMMA YEAGER)
Just prior to the battle of Tipecanoe, in 1811, a man of rare merit in company with other brave men from Kentucky, passed through Southern Indiana on the way north to join General Harrison in the famous battle against the Indians. This was David Luce who as a lad of ten had come West with his family and others in 1779, to live in Kentucky. He had come to maturity there, married, and established himself as a worthy and respected citizen of that new country. In 1817, David Luce came to Indiana, bringing his family, to live near Eureka.
In the previous year, 1816, a school, which is believed to have been the first in Spencer County was taught at or near Eureka by a women, Susan Tucker, who continued to teach there two more years.
Travel in that early time was largely by river, for Indian forays were still not unknown and the fertile soil around Eureka continued to attract settlers. Others of the Luce family came Benjamin and Abner Luce and all three showed the same public spirit and interest in those about them. All three were teachers as well as religious leaders. And when the first civil township was formed it was named for David Luce, by whom it was represented in the local government which at that time was seated in Boonville.
Varing reports of the fertility of Indiana had filtered back East, ranging from exuberant accounts of land of noble forests, rich green foliage and lush prairies, to equally depressing stories of barren flat lands, naked trees and oceans of mud. Neither description, of course, was entirely just, but was the result of persons of different temperaments viewing the land at different seasons of the year. The West had its lure and people continued to come, settle, and become established.
The new State Constitution made it the duty of the General Assembly to "pass such laws as shall be calculated to encourage intellectual, scientifical, and agricultural improvements" and to "provide by law for a general system of education ascending, in regular graduation, from township schools to a State University, wherein tuition shall be gratis and equally open to all." Part of the whole land was reserved in the several townships to be used to establish a common school system, and money accumulated from fines before Justice of the Peace, along with certain court fines, were to be used in establishing and maintaining County seminaries. The seminary fund grew with astonishing rapidity in the "fist and Skull" era, but the plan for the common school system languished. Children were reaching or had already come to school age and many parents, who felt their children should be receiving education, started subscription schools. A fee of one to two dollars per quarter was paid for each child to some one person in the community whom they felt to be qualified to assume the task of teaching. These first schools were usually held in homes; then as the number of children grew it became apparent that such conditions were not conducive to a good school atmosphere. Schools were moved to church buildings, anywhere a fire was available. Eventually, log school houses began to be erected. These had one room with split log seats and desks. Ventilation was provided by the simple procedure of sawing out almost the full length of one log on one side of the building. This was left entirely open, so that along with fresh air, "wind, rain, snow, fallen leaves, and bats were also admitted." The floor was usually the good earth. Later, oiled paper, then windows with real glass appeared. It was in this earlier period that Susan Tucker, the Luces, Willliam Bowland, Eldridge Hopkins, Joseph Arnold and, no doubt, others taught in Luce Township. There was not any particular uniformity as to text books, and parents often had their children take their Bibles, Bunyan’s "Pilgrims, Progress" or some other prized book from which to learn to read. General Veatch who went to school to both David and Benjamin Luce taught school during a little later period --his first school being at Eureka in 1839. Slates and noisy slate pencils began to be common, then poke berry ink and quill pens which it was the duty of the teacher to keep sharpened. He used actual store ink. Conditions in such schools naturally varied, some being of extremely poor quality where the teacher accepted as the criterion of good teaching, that maxim, "Spare the rod and spoil the child"; while, on the other hand, there were some where a man or woman would give of his or her best.
By now, there was a trend toward better education in the State as a whole. In 1847-1848, Indiana had a public poll on the proposition that enough money be raised by taxation to support common schools for "not less that three months nor more than six months annually." This passed in Luce Township and also in the Spencer County total vote. Presumably, it was a reflection of a state wide attitude for in 1852, on the basis of this poll, when a new Constitution was drafted, laws were passed which gave to the State a free public school system. By 1857, this plan was well under way in the townships. New frame buildings were erected. Uniformity of text books enabled teachers to arrange pupils into classes, decrease noise, and use improved methods of instruction. Teachers were examined for capability by examinations held in each County. And there was a new University in the State for the most ambitious to strive toward, although in 1848 there were only six seniors in the graduating class of that institution according to an old Gazeteer which was published about 1849 or 50.
By 1865, Luce Township had thirteen school districts, with twelve schools in operation and one new building had just been erected. The total amount paid for tuition was $1196.52. The estimated value of the twelve school houses, including seats, desks, etc. was $2900. The new school building, presumably at Richland, was estimated and $1325. The monthly tuition per child was $2.50. The first County Institute was held in that year under the management of Thomas D. Bayer and was a regular annual affair thereafter. These were interesting and well attended. Preceding and during this time, the Methodist Church was a great factor in promoting interest in education and especially in advocating better education of women than had previously been the custom. During this time, and for man years after, children walked, or rode horseback to these district schools. And as Mr. "Fid" Pattie told me of an even later period many times they "cooned a rail fence" to cross stretches of water. One or two district schools were added later. The names of these were Enterprise, California, Nunn, Graft, Ebenezer, Eureka, Taylorsport, Crowder, Carter, Hedrick, Independence, No. 9, No. 12, Hatfield, and Richland. These names were given by some of the teachers who had taught in many of the schools.
The pupils of Mrs. Maud E. (Lang) Smith congregated outside Ebenezer school to have their picture taken. Miss Lang was the teacher then, during 1909 and 1910.
Top row, left: Orville Driscoll, Otto Lloyd, Herrell Parker, Tollie Taylor, Susie Richeson and Dora Richeson.
Front row left: Flora Welch, Margueretta Taylor, Pearl Taylor, Katie Richeson, Mildred Rasor, Elzada Richeson and Knapp Baker
There have been two frame school houses at Eureka, the date the first building was erected is not known. The second was built in 1883 or 1884. Rebecca Keith, who later married Dr. Killian, taught the primary grades in the first building with Jacob Scamahorn teaching the older grades. J. B. Mattingly had taught there at an earlier date and aslo a Mr. Huff from Yankeetown. This building was abandoned when the new one was built but both teachers continued their work in the new building. Others of the earlier principals were J. D. Brant, R. L. McCoy, J. B. Mattingly, S. L. Crooks, Daniel M. Deeg, Louis E. Bays, Elijah Hatfield, and Tom Oskins. These are not given in chronological order. Miss Susie Shook also taught for many years in "the little room." In 1904 the first brick building was completed, while Fred Crowder was trustee, and the frame building was moved downtown and used as a negro schoolhouse. In 1920, a fire destroyed this brick building which was replaced by the present structure. At that time some of the country schools in the vicinity were closed and the children came into Eureka.
Present Eureka teachers are, Robert Pattie, Mounsey Haines, and Edith Leaf.
The original school building at Hatfield was a one room frame building. After a few years a partition was placed in it to divide it into two rooms. A new two room frame building was erected on this site, the first one having been moved across the high-way to be used as the Christian Church. When Milt Thrailkill was trustee, a third room was added and then in 1913, the present brick structure was built. The first principal at Hatfield was T. P. Littlepage and others of the earlier principals have been R. L. McCoy, L. H. Crooks, Curtis Cox, Hilbert Benett, J. W. Herrell, Thomas H. Fortune and Monte Baker. Mrs. Orpha McKenney has also taught there for many years.
Present teachers at Hatfield are Margarine Clark, Orpha McKenney, Imogene Smith and Alma Cain.
It was probably between 1830 and 1840 when the first settlers came north from the river and settled at Richland. The fertile soil soon attracted many more and Richland began to grow quickly and prosper. By 1865 or 1870, two large tobacco factories were located there and many negroes came into the community. Later, a tile mill was built and the nearby flat lands were drained and brought into production.
Before 1865, the town children had gone out to the country schools, but in that year a good two story frame building was erected in the town proper. There were two large rooms and the first teachers were J. W. Wilson and Maria Pattee. A high standard of teaching was maintained from the beginning. In 1875, a two story brick building was erected and the frame building was used as a negro schoolhouse. About 1880, Professor Stonecypher was principal at Richland, and others whose addresses are listed at Lake, were Florence Reavis, Jim Morgan McKenney, Lafe Moffat, Jacob Lang, and Ola Lang. Probably several of these taught at district schools outside of the town proper. From this same list those who gave the address of Eureka, were Betty McKenny, Lulu S. Morgan, and Elijah Hatfield, with Jennie Wheeler at Enterprise. The school at Richland began to attract students, some of whom came from other townships. A "ninth grade" and "Spring courses" were offered to those who planned to go into teaching. These were preparatory courses as well for entry into college. At that time, students could, after graduation from the eighth grade, take County examinations and qualify for a six month license, a years license or two years, the length of licenses being determined by the ability of the applicant. The salary varied correspondingly. Mrs. Della Oldham told of a visit of Mr. John Wyttenbach to the school at Richland when she was a very young student there. He had all the pupils to stand along the walls while he gave them an oral examination. She especially remembered Dan Deeg for coming through with flying colors.
About 1900, the first brick building was abandoned, and a second four room structure was erected. Later, an ell of two more rooms were added.
Part of the building was used for classes in high school subjects. Some high school work was taught in other schools in the township as well. About 1901-1902, a two year course was offered at Richland. Mr. Talmadge P. Littlepage and Danice Deeg were teachers. Charles Abshire, former postmaster at Richland, who at present operates a store and restaurant here, took this course. Algebra, Latin, Ancient History, and English were taught. He also told of cleaning one of the teachers’ rooms daily when he was in grade school for the phenomenal sum of one dollar per month. That included "sweeping out" half the hall. An interest in the high school grew, a three year course was started in 1906. Teachers for this course were Joeseph S. Johnson, principal, Alvin Branch, and Miss Geneva Kimble. Starting with that class was one student who had completed two years of high school work at Chrisney, so in the spring of 1907, a rather unusual situation occurred. There was a graduating class of only one member, Miss Velvia Lloyd. This was repeated in 1908, the lone graduate being Roy Burkhart. This was an accredited course. There was no graduating class in 1909 for the course was changed to a four year certified course with the first class graduating in the spring of 1910. Members of that first class were Vernon Nunn, Rex Winchell, Flora Swallow, Lora Kelly, John Yeager, and Charles Boyd and Clyde Ricker. The course was academic--first year algebra, rhetoric, Latin, physical geography, 2nd year advanced algebra, American Literature, Latin, physics, 3rd year, plane geometry, Ceasar, general history, and English, 4th year, advanced physics, geometry, 3rd year, Latin and English. A credit in music and drawing was also obtainable.
As the number of students and teachers increased, they outgrew accommodations in the grade school building and for two years the Baptist Church, which at that time had suspended services, rented the church building to be used as a school. The east end of the church was divided into recitation rooms with the balance of the church being used as a study hall. This was done for two years. Teachers at this time were Geneva Kimble, Principal, Margaret Kimble, and Jim Adams.
At this time, Mr. F. C. Ferguson, who at that time as a today, owned and operated a grocery store across the street from the grade building, built a second story above the store to be used by the high school. The teachers during this period were Mr. Hilbert Bennett, Mr. John Bays, Miss Lena Deeg, and Miss Lucille Ayer. Mr. Bennett was principal two and one half years and was succeeded by Mr. C. O. Atkinson. During this time, every effort was being made to develop the school into a fully commissioned high school. Citizens of the town backed the effort whole heartedly and in the fall of 1914, the new brick township high school building was completed. A course in home economics was added that fall with Lottie Alexander as teacher. In 1919, a Smith-Hughes course in vocationel work was added to the curriculum with Mr. A. A. Smith as teacher. Mr. David I. Day was principal at that time.
In 1924, the second grade school building was condemned and the present fine structure was erected in the following year. Educational requirements for teachers have continued to become more and more rigid. Grade school teachers at present are Mr. Lawrence Goldman, Mrs. Anna Winsett, Mrs. Sadie Haines, Miss Evelyn Johnson, and Mrs. Marian Fortune, Mr. A. R. Glenn taught many years as principal there.
The present teachers at the high school are Mr. Robert Harris, principal, Mrs. Byron Pattie, Mr. Edgar Lautner, Mr. Thornton Patberg, Miss Emma Waters, Miss Virginia Mattingly, Mrs. Judith Thurman and Mrs. Louise Richardson.
Four courses of study are now offered by the present enlarged high school. These are a broadened college preparatory course, the vocational course, a course in home economics, and the commercial course. The college preparatory is – English basic, with two years of mathematics, not more than two years of Latin, one year of General Science, one year of biology, and two years of social studies which include one year of United States History and one year of United States Government.
The vocational has four years of vocational work – filling in with English, one year mathematics, one year science, and two years of social studies.
The Home economics curriculum consists of four years of classroom work with the same type of fill in studies as the vocational course.
The commercial course has one year elective, then one year general business, one year bookkeeping, one year of shorthand, filling in with English and social studies.
Physical education, Health and Safety are taught with all. The endeavor is being made to meet the basic educational needs of pupils, to give them a balanced training, and to fit them as well as possible for the life ahead.
RICHLAND GRADUATING CLASS
This group had just received diplomas from the old Richland high school and made up the second class to graduate from that institution. (According to other records, this was the sixth class to graduate. - Ed.)
They are back row, left to right; Marian DeTar, Richard Atkinson, Amos Hodges, Ivan Rasor, and John Frasier.
Front row left to right: Sina Ellis (Farmer), Hazel Tullis (Bates), and Lena Lloyd (Melton).