Mere Mention November 28, 1890

Mere  Mention  November 28, 1890  Washington Standard

A medical commission decides that cigarette-smoking by boys and gum-chewing girls were born for each other.  So there is hope for the dudes and dudines of Olympia.

Early Education in Yelm by David Longmire – Washington Historical Quarterly

Education Memories by David Longmire – Washington Historical Quarterly

I have had but little educational advantages. I started to school first in a log cabin school house in Indiana. When father took up his claim on Yelm Prairie, I helped to cut down trees and dragged them to the place chosen and then helped to build a log school in which I became one of the first pupils. One of the teachers in that school was Dillis B. Ward, now a pioneer citizen of Seattle. Later I went to school at Chamber’s Prairie and part of the Indian war years I was in school at Olympia. Some of my pioneer schoolmates were John Yantis, John Miller Murphy, the veteran newspaper man, and Hazard Stevens, son of the Governor. Rev. George F. Whitworth was one of my teachers and so was Mrs. Hyde and Mr. Cornelius.

Signed by Superintendent of Public Instruction January 1, 1862

Signed by Superintendent of Public Instruction (Washington Standard January 1, 1862)

1.  Number of Children:

From the most reliable information at our command, we find that the number of children over the age of four and under twenty-one years is 2,141.

2.  Number of School-Houses:

We have about fifty-three school-houses in the Territory, and some of them are not worth so much as the name of a school-house.  The probable cost of these buildings will not amount to the sum of twenty-six thousand five hundred dollars.

As the country is yet new, and we have just begun to build our school-houses, we would suggest to the directors of school districts, that when you build school-houses, do it well – make them large and comfortable.  You may not have to stop in them, but your little ones do.  “The thing that is worth doing at all is worth doing well.”  Let us prove this in every school-house we build – let each one be an ornament to the district and to the Territory.

3.  Cost of Instruction:

From the very best information I have at hand, there is paid out annually about $9,638.22 for instruction out of public school fund.

4.  School Registers:

The law requires me to furnish county superintendents with forms for the district trustees and teachers, for keeping their accounts and registers.  These forms are to be delivered by the several county superintendents to all the districts throughout their representative counties.  This is an important provision, and in fact the only way we can arrive at all the important items of our common school system.

This duty I was unable to perform from want of means to purchase such forms.  I hope your honorable body will relive this office from that embarrassment in the future.

[Education] April 8, 1871

[Education]

Washington Standard April 8, 1871,

The following is the programme of exercises held at the Yelm Prairie School, on Friday, the 31st, at which the parents and friends of the school were present. After some general exercises in reading, geography and grammar, in which the pupils acquitted themselves tolerably well, the following compositions were read: “A Hunting Excursion,” Robert Grainger; “Yelm Prairie, and Things in General,” Mary O’Neal; “Gardens,” Rosa Girlock; “Fruit,” Willie O’Neal; “Mount Rainier,” Martha Longmire [the future wife of J. C. Conine]; “Birds,” Lizzie Lotz, and “A Letter,” by Lizzie Longmire. Then followed singing by the school, a dialogue by Lizzie and Martha Longmire, Mary O’Neal and Virinda Pollard, and the exhibition closed by declamations from Fred Girlock, Robert, Frank and George Longmire, Johnnie O’Neal, and others.

A lecture on “Education” was delivered here not long ago, for the benefit of the school, and the attendance indicated that nearly all the Yelmites appreciate efforts of an intellectual character. The proceeds were invested in some school furniture, which now renders the house quite comfortable.

Education in Yelm (From: The Story of Yelm)

Schools

By Len Longmire, Mrs. F. N. Edwards and Mrs. Jack Kettleman

Introduction:  The following is an excerpt from The Story of Yelm.

At least 22 schools have served the people of this community in the cause of education, and all have at this date been incorporated into the Yelm or rainier schools.  Oldest of all was the Yelm school, which was started as a private school in the Longmire log cabin (formerly McLean Chambers’ cabin).  One day when Mr. Longmire was in Olympia, he heard a man remark that he was a teacher by profession.

“Then come and teach for me,” said the pioneer.  “You can board at my house and all your pupils will be Longmires.  My children went to school in Fountain County, Indiana, and while we were forted up in Olympia but have had no schooling since.”  The man accepted, but his name, unfortunately has been forgotten.

When a schoolhouse was finally built, sometime in the early [18]60’s it was down on Yelm Prairie, a log structure located across from the present site of the Adventist Church.  Several years later a frame building was erected here and was used also as a church and meeting place for the first Grange organization.  Very few dates are available for this period but the school was a going concern by 1872 when J. C. Conine taught the first of his four terms there.

Other teachers recalled by old-timers as having taught here are: Lou Jackson (Longmire), Amelia Ditman of Olympia, Anne Broden, Miss Shelton (Van Trump), Seymour Stone, Mrs. Stoddard, Anna Hart, Mrs. M. Alberta Johnson, Clara McKenzie, Zouy Jackson, Lizzie Waddell and Fred Brown.

The Des Chutes district school was the next in the point of time in this vicinity.  It too was a log cabin, built in 1876.  The site was later occupied by the Morehead school and was a part of the ranch known successively as the Hazlin, Medley and Jensen place.  Here the first teacher was Renny Pollard.

The second teacher proved to be the most famous ever to instruct the youth of this locality.  She was Ada Woodruff (Anderson), author of “Heart of the Red Firs” and other novels.  The scene of her books was laid in the Bald Hill country and one of the families described was the Longmire  family with whom the author boarded.  The gold mine discussed was an actual one and the disappearance was just as authentic.

Following her was Harry Garfield, nephew of James A. Garfield, at that time governor of Ohio and later president. He was a gay Lothario whom the country girls did not seem to appreciate.

Following him were Victor Bunnell; Bill Hart of San Francisco, and Harry Hart his cousin, who claimed some connection with the family of President Wm. Harrison; then Amelia Ditmana and Emma Chitman.

The families of La Blanch Reil and Chadotte Winnue, relatives of Joe Laramie; Johnny Milkain and George Leslie, nephews of Yelm Jim; Fred and Dora Berchti (McVittie); the Gardner girls, Moses Kabana and Dick Fiander
were the first attending this school.

The Des Chutes district was subsequently broken up into four schools:  Laramie, first teacher, Edith Corbett; Moorehead first teacher, Emma Chitman; Bald Hill, first teacher, Ethel Ross; Longmire, first teacher Bertie Cooper; and Hull, first teacher, Fred Grass.  These were in turn combined in the Lakamas school where a modern building was erected and where one year of high school was taught.  This building is still used as a community center.

The District School

Other schools to the North and east, but nearer to Yelm, were: Smith Prairie, Lawrence Lake (Bob Smith), Kandle (Tony), Eureka, Forest, Willow Lawn, and Hewitt (Cook); and in Pierce County, Lieber and McKenna.

West of Yelm were Wells, Rathbun-Morgan, and Lindstrum.  All three of these were at various times presided over by Mrs. Alberta Johnson, a very superior woman.  Out towards Rainier was the Mt. View School.

When the old Yelm school became so crowded that classes had to be held in the cloak room, the primary grades 1, 2, 3 and 4 were moved to a room in the home of Mrs. Anna Coates which had been furnished for their use.  This was about 1899.

Eventually, a new building was erected, but on the present site, which act cause some opposition in the town.  This two  room building was later enlarged to four, and the “shop” annex used as a classroom before the new High School was erected in 1920.

Collins (Freedom) School Memories By Mrs. D.M. Kagy

Collins (Freedom) School Memories By Mrs. D.M. Kagy

The first School meeting to organize a school district and elect directors was held at the home of Mr. J.H. Conner.  William White, J.H. Conner and Marcus McMillan were elected directors and the school was called Freedom District.  July 29, 1854

William S. Parsons, Sec.

This was the third school district organized in the county.  Copied from the old school district Secretary’s report book:

“The first school building was a log house in the North East corner of the Marcus McMillan homestead (now owned by Charles Rawlings.)  It was a low straight building with the door in one (this description was…..there) end and a large cobble stone fireplace in the other end.  The chimney was made of sticks and clay.  There was a row of small windows on each side.  The seats were benches along the side of the wall, and there were six or seven clumsy home made desks with a shelf for books.  One low bench had a back and could be moved around.  It was used by the smallest children.  There was no well on the grounds so each child carried his own individual water bottle which was placed on a bench in one corner of the room.  When we wanted a drink all we had to do was walk over there and find our own bottle.  My recollection is that we were permitted to drink when ever we wished.  There was quite a rivalry among the pupils as to who had the finest bottle.  There was a ball around in front and teeters on the fence back of the house.”

This description was given to me by my sister Flora Parsons, who attended school there.  She has very happy recollections oh her school days in the little log cabin with only about a dozen pupils.  Her first teacher was Stephen Ruddell, son of the man who gave the plot for the Pioneer Cemetery.

In 1875 as most of the pupils were in the south end of the district, it was decided……location.  Therefore they leased two acres of land from Nathan Eaton situated in the north west corner of the field south of the Old Fort site and the Yelm road.  The building was blocked up on rollers and hauled to the new location.  It was somewhat wrecked but was repaired and used until the present building was erected.  Some of the happiest days of my life were spent in that old school building.  The days were never so stormy but what we were glad to walk a mile and a half to school rather than miss a day.  The old log forts were our play houses.  Two of them were still standing at that time.

Office of Public Instruction – 1861

Washington Standard Olympia, W.T., December 10, 1861

To the Honorable the Legislature of the Territory of Washington

The act to create the office of Public Instruction makes it the duty of the Superintendent to collect all such information as may be deemed important in reference to common schools, especially the number of children; the number and quality of schools, the number of scholars in attendance; the amount paid for tuition, also, to collect information of the number of school houses, and the amount expended from year to year for the erection and repairing of school houses, and all other matters in reference to the operation and effect of the Common School system, and report annually to the Legislature . . . . .

My report, from the nature of the case, will be very unsatisfactory, from the fact that out Common School system is not yet matured, and the act to create county Superintendents does not make it their duty to report to this office. I have corresponded with all the county Superintendents during the year, requesting of them such information as desired by law. . . .

We have been enabled to visit a number of schools in the Territory, and we are gratified to notice the interest on the subject of education among the people.

Too much can hardly be said in favor of Popular Education. It dissipates the evils of ignorance, which are the greatest hindrances to the progress of our free institutions. It increases the productiveness of labor in all the industrial pursuits of civilized life. When its appliances are wisely arranged it always tends to diminish pauperism and crime, and to promote human happiness. Hence we would urge upon you the importance of developing our educational interests. . . .

We have about fifty three school houses in the Territory, and some of them are not worth so much as the name of a school house. The probable cost of these buildings will not amount to the sum of twenty-six thousand five hundred dollars.

As the country is yet new, and we have just begun to build out school-houses, we would suggest to the directors of school districts that when you build school-houses, do it well-make them large and comfortable. “The thing that is worth doing is worth doing well.” Let us prove this in every school-house we build-let each one be an ornaments to the district and to the Territory.

Collins #12

Collins #12

Introduction: The westernmost limit of the modern Yelm school district borders that of North Thurston along the Yelm Highway near Pattison’s Lake. Along the Yelm highway, just east of Eaton Creek stands a white, two story family residence sitting among some trees on the south side of that road. This building was the last of the school houses in the Freedom, or Collins, district #12. For decades the building serviced the children of the Freedom Community. (Today often referred to as the Evergreen Valley area)

The Freedom District was originally organized in 1854 and was one of the first districts in Thurston County. The first school was made of logs and located on the corner of the Marcus McMillan homestead. Mrs. H. R. Kagy, longtime resident of the Freedom Community wrote about the school in the 1930s. She quoted at length the memories of Flora Parsons who had attended that school:

It was a low straight building with the door in one (this description was…..there) end and a large cobble stone fireplace in the other end. The chimney was made of sticks and clay. There was a row of small windows on each side. The seats were benches along the side of the wall, and there were six or seven clumsy home made desks with a shelf for books. One low bench had a back and could be moved around. It was used by the smallest children. There was no well on the grounds so each child carried his own individual water bottle which was placed on a bench in one corner of the room. When we wanted a drink all we had to do was walk over there and find our own bottle. My recollection is that we were permitted to drink when ever we wished. There was quite a rivalry among the pupils as to who had the finest bottle. There was a ball around in front and teeters on the fence back of the house.

According to Parsons about a dozen children attended the school during her time there. The log cabin was abandoned in 1869 when a new frame school was erected on the property of William Parsons, southeast of Long Lake. The first teacher at that school was Maggie O’Neal, daughter of Abijah O’Neal of Yelm.

With most of the students living in the southern end of the Freedom District the above school was moved. This time it was located near old Fort Eaton on the road to Yelm. H. R. Kagy recalled that event:

The building was blocked up on rollers and hauled to the new location. It was somewhat wrecked but was repaired and used until the present building was erected. Some of the happiest days of my life were spent in that old school building. The days were never so stormy but what we were glad to walk a mile and a half to school rather than miss a day. The old log forts were our play houses. Two of them were still standing at that time.

In 1917 a new school was built. That building still stands on the south side of the Yelm Highway. The school contained two classrooms and usually employed two teachers. One of the teachers there was Harry Southworth.

The Collins District was eventually broken up with part of it joining the North Thurston District and part of it being consolidated with Yelm District #400. Yelm School Board Minutes from November 29, 1950 contain the following:

Collins school board Mrs. Boyles, Phil Layne, and H. F. Hastings met with the Yelm board to discuss the proposition of consolidating the Collins school district and the transfer of some of Collins to Lacey. After considerable discussion it was decided that Yelm board would all try to be present at the reorganization hearing on Dec. 11, 1950 at the courthouse in Olympia. The Yelm board also indicated that should consolidation take place they would be willing to maintain two teachers at Collins as long as the attendance warranted it.

Collins continued to operate within the Yelm District for several years, but by the mid 1950’s the school was headed for the same fate as the Lackamas School. Board minutes from 1955, read, in part, “A group from the Collins area came to protest any action to close the Collins School. After and extended discussion Chairman Phillips called for a motion to decide the issue.” They were unsuccessful in their attempt to keep the school open. The Yelm board of directors had decided it was more cost effective to bus the students from the Freedom Community to Yelm Elementary, than to keep the building open. Eventually the building was sold to a family, marking the end of the Collins District.

Documents

Collins District #12, outline map

Collins District Map

Record of Teacher’s Contracts, 1899-1916


Collins School Students (Courtesy of the Lacey Museum)


Collins School Students (Courtesy of the Lacey Museum)


Collins School Students (Courtesy of the Lacey Museum)


Yelm’s Pioneer Teachers

Pioneer Teachers

by Ed Bergh

“Our calling creeps low and hath pain for a companion, still thrust to the wall, though still confessed good. Our comfort perforce is that these things be good things, which want no praising, though they go a-cold for want of happing. [covering].”

Anonymous Teacher Quoted in Notestein, Wallace. The English People on the Eve of Colonization (1603-1630) New York, Harper & Row, 1954.

Teaching on the Prairie

Teachers have been working on the Yelm prairie nearly a century and a half.

The names of early teachers who worked at the school is another interesting historical puzzle. Local historians place J. C. Conine at the school in 1872. According to one, he taught for three terms. This meant that he worked possibly three months, per term, teaching, but census data shows he considered himself a “farmer.” Another account places him at the school in 1872.

More recently, evidence has surfaced that places Dillis B. Ward in the Yelm school house in 1863. There is ‘a short reference to Ward in Early School in the Washington Territory. The author states that after Dillis B. Ward left his recently closed school in Seattle he “taught at Yelm prairie.” David Longmire, writing in 1917, identified Ward as “one of the teachers at that [Yelm prairie school] school.” In 1957, the Seattle Times profiled Dillis Ward’s daughter, Maud Ward Dickey, who shared part of her family’s past with the reporter. Among the paper legacy she presented were letters written by Dillis to his fiance é living in Grand Mound. The letters, dated 1863, Yelm prairie, make him, for now, the earliest known teacher on the Yelm Prairie.

Lew Longmire, Mrs. F. N. Edwards, and Mrs. Jack Kettleman wrote the essay on education for Loutzenhizer’s The Story of Yelm. In their chapter they listed teachers that long time residents linked to the schools of the area. Their collective memories produced the following list of instructors. The year that follows each name represents a year that that their employment was documented on county teacher rolls.

Lou Jackson (Longmire)

Amelia Dittman (1891)

Anne Broden

Miss Shelton (Van Trump)

Seymour Stone (1903)

Mrs. [Calla] Stoddard (1906)

Anna[ie] Hart[t] (1904)

Mrs. M. Alberta Johnson (1906)

Clara McKenzie (1904)

Zouy Jackson

Lizzie Waddell (1896)

Fred Brown (1893)

The Teaching Profession

The fluctuations of the school year and salaries may have discouraged, but did not deter, teachers from pursuing their craft. Edith Corbett (the second woman to successfully climb Mt. Rainier) worked at the Morehead School in 1891 and 1892, taught the children of the Smith Prairie school in 1893, and was at her third school, in as many years, Mountain View, in 1894. May Collins, who had failed to be licensed in 1891 at the age of 17, eventually became a teacher, beginning her career at the Eureka school at the age of 19, but moved on to the Smith Prairie school in 1899. Belle Melvin had been certified to teach in 1895 at the age of 18. Two years later she was working at Willow Lawn, but moved to the Mountain View. If you believe the ages of the teachers sounds rather young. You are right. A sample taken from the county register of new teachers in 1895 shows that the average age of recently certified teachers was only 21 years of age. Those who failed to pass the test averaged only 20 years of age.

The career of a teacher was one of constant change. In the small rural schools of the Yelm area teachers seldom taught more than one or two terms. Some were teaching in the forests and prairies of the region hoping for jobs in more urban settings. Some were women helping their family make ends meet. Other women were entering the world of work as their right. Some teachers were relatively more educated citizens who found a haven between opportunities. This problem was scathingly critiqued in 1895 in a Northwest Journal of Education editorial. With economic hard times in the land the unemployed were flooding the teaching job market. The author wrote:

What a revelation to many teachers have been the hard time? We had talked of our profession, of professional work, etc., and what do we see today? Lawyers, real estate agents, insurance agents, book agents, farmers, doctors and barbers have become teachers—yes teachers.

There are one large class and two small classes of people today. The large class is made up of those that can get third grade certificates. Of the other two classes one is in the asylum for the feeble minded and the other has higher grade certificates to teach.

People are teaching for every conceivable object: to pay taxes; to tide over the hard times; to get a trousseau; to get money to go to school with; because they can’t find anything else to do. Yes, they are teaching for every possible reason under the sun, except the proper reason, which should alone induce a person to teach, viz.—‘Because he loves to teach.’

One would hope that schools in and around Yelm was free of such professional gold diggers, but that is unlikely. Certainly the schools drew from the surrounding community, particularly Olympia, but less than professional instructors must have been hired. When the section on education in The Story of Yelm was written in 1948 one wonders the authors commented that an early teacher at the Deschutes School was Harry Garfield, “a lothario country girls did not care for.”

Records from the schools of the area paint an interesting picture of the rhythms of the school year. Those of us used to school starting around the beginning of September might be surprised to find school starting in October, December, or even April. One of the reasons for these variable school terms was the result of a lack of financing. An example from the Olympia district in 1871 points to the problems faced by schools at this time. The Washington Standard, June 10, 1871, reported, “The district school of Olympia, taught by Mr. Brown and Misses O’Neal and Stevens, closed its term yesterday. There will be a vacation of two months, we understand, in consequence of the school fund being inadequate to pay the teachers’ salary for another quarter, even with the usual proportion collected from the scholars.”

In the French District, Abigal Eddy was hired in October 1891 to teach for two months. That term of school would have ended in December of that year. She was rehired in December 1892 to teach for four months. Leaving the school permanently in the spring of 1892, a replacement opened the school doors in the fall of that year. A shortage of teachers might have also contributed to delays in schools opening on a regular basis.

Equally flexible were teacher’s salaries. When Abigal Eddy signed her contract in the fall of 1891 she received $40 per month. This, however, was before the depression of 1893. as the depression deepened, revenues to the county declined. Counties tightened their belts. Counties and the districts lowered wages. When Bige Eddy signed his contract in 1893 the salary had been lowered a little over ten percent to 35 dollars per month. That, however, was just the beginning. By April 1894 teachers received $25 for the pedagogical efforts. The bottom was reached in 1897. By that year a teacher’s pay had been reduced by 50% from their 1891 peak. The contract signed that year also included “board” (a teacher would live with a local family). Some family was making an attempt to help lure teachers to help their children.

The turnover of teachers, even in good times, had been noted years earlier. Writing to the state superintendent the head of county education John R. Thompson summarized these issues in letter on September 1, 1881:

Dear Sir:

…There are thirty-four organized districts in this county, in all of which with two exceptions, at least three months school has been taught during the year just closed. A number have maintained two terms (six months) of school. Last year the average term of tuition though all the districts was frequently over four and one-half months.

The frequent changes in teachers made in many of our districts is an evil which ought to be ended as soon as possible. Not a few of our schools employ two or more different teachers during the year, each one of whom must spend half a term, more or less, studying the characters of the pupils in order to know how best to draw out their mental powers….The reason often given for the frequent changes of teachers is that they do not give satisfaction. I do not pretend to say that the teachers of Thurston County are all perfect…They are fully as good as we ought to expect, for the money we pay them…Some districts think they can pay for the time occupied in teaching, as well as time and cash spent in getting ready to teach, with a smaller salary than is paid to some Chinese cooks in this same county of Thurston . . . But it is not fair to expect a first-grade teacher for a less salary than is paid to a Chinaman…

Jno. R. Thompson,

Supt. Schools, Thurston County, W.T.

It would have been hard for a teacher to make a family supporting career working in one of these small schools. For one thing the pay was lower than in urban areas. This can be inferred from data collected by Alexander Pouw-Bray in Change in the Common School System of Washington State, 1889-1899. According to his estimates the average male teacher in the state received, at the bottom of the 1893 depression in 1895-96, between 44 and 47 dollars per month. His female counterpart received between 38 and 42 dollars. Records show that some teachers in the Yelm vicinity were being paid as little as 27 dollars or even as low as 20 dollars a month.

The fluctuations of the school year and salaries may have discouraged, but did not deter teachers from pursuing their craft. Edith Corbett worked at the Deschutes (Morehead) school in 1891 and 1892, taught the children of the Smith Prairie School in 1893, and was at her third school, in as many years, Mountain View, in 1894. May Collins, who had failed to be licensed in 1891 at the age of 17, eventually became a teacher. She began her career at the Eureka school at the age of 19, but moved on to the Smith Prairie School in 1899.

If you believe the ages of the teachers’ sounds rather young, you are right. A sample taken from the county register of new teachers in 1895 shows that the average age of recently certified teachers was only 21 years of age. Those who failed to pass the test averaged only 20 years of age.

Teacher Mobility

The following list demonstrates the mobility of teachers in the late 19th century. The names and dates were gathered from school records available at the state archives in Olympia.

Birdie Cooper

1898 – District #42 – Smith Prairie

1901 – District #14 – Rainier

1903 – District #42 – Mountain View

Edith Corbett

1892 – District #28 – Deschutes/Morehead

1893 – District #41 – Smith Prairie

1894 – District #42 – Mountain View

May Collins

1897 – District #43 – Eureka

1899 – District #41 – Smith Prairie

Bige Eddy

1892 – District #43 – Eureka

1893 – District #34 – French

Belle Melvin

1896 – District #40 – Willow Lawn

1898 -District #42 – Mountain View

1899 – District #14 – Rainier

Elmer Ralston

1891 – District #41 – Smith Prairie

1892 – District #43 – Eureka

Hannah Morrison

1893 – District #43 – Eureka

1898 – District #40 – Willow Lawn

Supporting Documents

1895 – Teacher’s scores for Thurston County (Birdie Cooper is the one teacher from Yelm taking the test at that time)

1891 – Teacher Contract for Edith Corbett