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Hardscrabble Schooling

June 2024
1min read

I read an article in the October/ November 1981 issue of AMERICAN HERITAGE about one-room schools of the West. The pictures you show are palaces in comparison with the facts as I knew them.

I started in a one-room log building in Lakeview, Idaho, a small mining town, in 1900. Now there are a few summer homes there. My first school ran three months in the summer. The teacher got thirty-five dollars a month and boarded around. That is one week at one home and the next at another. No charge. The cabin is in a sad state now. About five or six children.

We moved in 1906 to a small farming area along Penderielle Lake in Idaho. It was a larger log cabin—thirty to forty children. Summer term started in May.

The teacher in her first term was usually about eighteen or nineteen years old. I was in third grade alone, so I took third and fourth at the same time. For discipline the teacher had a long whip, which she used often. The older children taught the younger ones. We all used slates, too. We had reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, geography, history, and physiology.

One of the girls wrote a jingle which we all learned—“Oh Lord of love look down from above upon us poor little scholars/Who hired a fool to teach our School and paid her $35.00.”

Those teachers had a hard job, and I felt sorry for them.

When school started May 1 of 1910,1 was ready for the eighth grade. The teacher asked me if I wanted to finish in June with the city schools. I said yes. I was the only one in that grade (age seventeen). I took the state examination in June and passed with a good grade.

This has been just a quick sketch of a pioneer schooling. And I hope it helps some.

I am eighty-nine years old now.

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