Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

January 18, 1995, Page 20

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 



Good Old Days


By Dee Zimmerman


The country school house, very much a part of our history.  Years ago, there was a school building every few miles throughout the countryside with each township having three, four or maybe five districts.  They were usually built on the corner of a road intersection, often a cheese factory, or creamery would be on an opposite corner.


Clark County’s first Supt. of Schools was James O’Neill, in 1854.  The county then was comprised of an area referred to as Pine Valley.  Twenty years later, 1874, the school district was formed.  County records reveal the first school report was recorded in 1873.  There were 1,718 residents between ages 4 and 20 with 38 school houses in the county.  The townships were formed in 1868.  Most of the schoolhouses were built in the next 20 years.


The growth of rural schools continued.  In 1879 there were 63 school districts; in 1889 there were 106.  There were 3,204 children of school age in 1879 and 6,396, 10 years later in 1889.  Within that 10 year period, the graded schools grew from two to 10.  Each village or city within the county had a graded school and there were some parochial schools.


Fifty-years ago in 1945, there were 131 rural school districts, including the graded schools within the county.


Diplomas were presented to 457 eighth grade graduates in May 1945.  Graduation exercises were conducted at three centers in the county: May 21, Neillsville Armory; May 22, Withee High School auditorium and May 23, Greenwood High School auditorium, with the townships split into three districts.


Eugene W. Laurent, county superintendent, presented the diplomas.


One of Clark County’s earliest schools was in the Town of York, 3 ˝ miles north of Granton on Cty. Trunk “K,” District #3 or Merry Vale as it was named in later years.


Effie Allen and her pupils attended School District No. 3 in Town of York – 1880s.  It was located 3 ˝ miles north of Granton on Cty Trunk “K.”  Later, it was referred to as Merry Vale School in the community.  (Photo courtesy of Marcia Crothers)


It was organized about 1879 when farmers were clearing forests for dairying.  At the time a house was rented from Geo. Campbell for $8 and Arlette Verbeck was hired as teacher for 3 months, starting Dec. 1, 1879.  Teacher’s salary for 1879-80 was $125.


The first school board members were S. A. Gibson, clerk; C. H. Ide, director and H. S. Chase, treasurer.


The first school house was built in 1880 and 1881 for $295, erected by Joseph Marsh who also furnished all the materials and labor.  It was furnished with $63.25 worth of furniture including “12 patent” seats.


The enrollment soon outgrew the original wood frame school.  In 1888, a new school house 26 x 40 feet was built.


Six jobs were let on the building project.  The first job was for 30 wagon loads of sand to H. A. King at 75˘ per load to be delivered by June 1889.  The second job for eight cords of good quarry stone to A. W. Hales at $6.50 per cord.  The third job of furnishing 14,000 brick was to August Schoengarth for $98.  Seth Chapel jobbed the white oak timbers at $17.20 delivered.  H. Windover hauled lime for 15˘ per barrel.  G. A. Root supplied and delivered lumber from Loyal or Spokeville (lath, lumber and shingles) at $1.39 per M.


In 1890, the old, original school house was sold for $50 to Bert (A. H.) Hales to be used as a granary, for many years. 


Those of us who went to the rural schools have shared the same experiences, I’m sure.


Most of us walked to and from school.  Living on a dairy farm, doing chores was time consuming for dad, even if he would have had time, the car wouldn’t have started in the cold weather or the driveway wouldn’t have been plowed out.  The way to school, by road, was 3 ˝ miles, but across pasture and fields it was 2 ˝ miles.  Besides, the walk was good for us, as we were told.  As long as we were dressed properly to withstand the cold and snow, the fresh air and exercise “did us good.”  Wearing a good winter coat, snow pants stocking cap, wool scarf, overshoes to the knees and a pair of wood chipper mittens with wool liners was enough to keep a body warm.  We wouldn’t have won any fashion show, but that wasn’t important, as we all dressed the same.  My chopper mittens embarrassed me, but I tried to hide them under my desk before we were excused to go home.  In our school, everyone had to put on their overshoes, coats, etc., then return to our desks before being excused for the day.  That was probably so the teacher could check, making sure we were fully prepared to walk the long trek home.


Something in my brother and I learned, walking during the winter, was to make a path after the first snowfall and follow that same path every day.  As the snow falls accumulated, the snow got deeper and if we accidentally stepped off the path, we sank down, struggling to get back up on the path.  The trodden snow path packed, so that we had only the latest snow fall to walk through.  There was usually a tell-tale sign, indentation, as to where the old path existed.


Carrying the lunch bucket was also a must.  The empty Karo syrup pails made ideal lunch boxes.  Then, we received fancy store-bought lunch boxes with thermoses in each.  It was good to have a cup of hot cocoa or soup on a cold day.  One problem was that each was twice as heavy as the Karo pails.


Peanut butter sandwiches were a lunch mainstay.  We never had to eat yellow mustard or lard sandwiches as some had to do – I felt sorry for those who had only tat on slices of bread.  Needless to say, I couldn’t feel sorry for any of our kids when they occasionally complained about what they had for hot lunch at school on some given day.  I would think about the lard or mustard sandwiches and they got no sympathy from me.  I would assure them that it could be worse.


There wee many fun times shared with school mates.  The school programs with some hours of practice, the outdoor games during recess.  Do kids now know how to play “Ante-Ante-Over,” “Red Rover, Red Rover?”  Those are all of the past, I’m sure, just as the rural school is something of the past in Clark County.


A sense of humor is a sense of proportion. – Kahlil Gibran


Where sense is wanting, everything is wanting. – Lord Halifax


Grandview School – 1924, located 1 ˝ miles west of Neillsville.  First row: (L to R) Virginia Milton, Clemence Walters, Bobby Allen, Wendell Palmer, Pauline Wittke, Dorothy Wood, Billy Arndt.  Second row: Mildred Kapfer, Doris Wood, (unknown), Genevieve Oldham, Gilbert Wren, Louis Zank, Albert Zank.  Third row: Elmo Gates, Raymond Milton, Lucille Milton, (unknown), Hedy Wren, Charles Oldham, Ethel Platt (teacher), Fourth row: (unknown), Robert Richmond, Esther Seif, Meta Schultz.  Back row: Lee Kapfer, Esther Bissell, Frances Walters, Ruth Wood, Andrew Walters, (unknown).  The Grandview School is now the Pine Valley Town Hall.  At one time the enrollment was 52 with one teacher teaching all eight grades.  (Photo courtesy of Mrs. Rahn)




Forman School - It was 52 years ago when students at the Forman School gathered for a session with the photographer in the photo below.  It was the fall season, marked by sweatered children and corn shock decorations above the blackboard.  The rural school was typical of those back in that era with ink bottles on the desks, a globe hung from the metal-work ceiling, a small record player in the corner and a kerosene lamp ready for the darker days.


In the photo are (back row, l to r) Erna Diercks, Theda Forman, Vera Diercks, Leora Brown, Marcella Schaefer, Alice Joyce, Alfred Boon, Edna Kurth (teacher), Lucille Lueck, Dorothy Boon, Hilton Wacholtz, Ray Hetzel, Gordon Hannah, Willie Joyce, Clayton Boon and Robert Hannah.  They were joined by (front row, l to r) Johnny Hannah, Dorothy Hannah, Donald Holt, Vilma Bird, Audrey Sly, Clifford Braun, Elaine Wacholtz, Floyd Boon, Douglas Buddinger, Edna Brown, Marie Diercks, Devere Sischo, Dorothy Buelow, Janet Buelow and Wilbur Joyce.


This photo was taken in 1930 and was loaned to The Press by both Bill Joyce and  Clayton Boon, Rt. 1, Greenwood




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