IAGenWeb Project

Adair County Iowa

USGenWeb Project



By 1875 all nine school districts in Jefferson Township had good white wooden frame school buildings. Nearby was a small white building for wood and coal and outhouses, mostly situated on a section corner conveniently accessible. Each school has its director, who hired the teacher for the term or year, and an over-all board of the township directors. Joe Geesman was treasurer for many years and wrote the checks monthly to the teachers in payment for their services.

The parents planned for no greater than two miles distance from school; so nine schools were set up on section corners.

Jefferson Township No. 1, named “Pleasant View,” on section corner 1.
Jefferson Township No. 2, named “Grandview,” on section corner 4.
Jefferson Township No. 3, named “Highland,” on section corner 5.
Jefferson Township No. 4 named “Pebble Point,” on section corner 18.
Jefferson Township No. 5 named “Center” on section corner 15.
Jefferson Township No. 6, named “Prairie Gem,” on section corner 14.
Jefferson Township No. 7, named “Hopewell,” on section corner 36.
Jefferson Township No. 8, named “Wahtawah,” on section corner 28.
Jefferson Township No. 9, named “Hillside,” on section corner 31.

Down through these years memories were formed by parents, teachers and the pupils, of which some have come to the surface: the parents support in clothing, food, and school supplies, and pupils’ learning experiences, be they good or be they sad. The learning of the three R’s (Reading, ‘Riting and “Rithmatic) enabled the boys and girls to become good, responsible citizens in Adair County. The games played, the jokes and teasing syndromes, illnesses, attendance, and programs all seem to have brought forth a fullness in life. Many times in the early days men taught the winter term to supplement their farming occupation; men taught full time to afford a higher education as well the women teachers. The teachers all took Normal Training examinations n their county. The teachers were paid according to the grade certificate.

Pleasant View in the ‘30s was taught by Lucille Bast. Some pupils attending then were: Jim and Betty Hilgren, Eloise Brinton, Larry Hammond, Mary Ida, Louise, Cheryle Kay and Clifford Welker, Jack, Billy and Bob Linn, Bob and Marjorie Ellis, and Mildred and Phyllis Twombly.

In 1944 Mrs. Mary Percy and pupils collected 50 bags of milkweed floss, winning second prize of $10.00. The floss was stored in a dry bin and taken to Greenfield and to Creston for shipment in November. The floss was used in place of Kapok, because of World War II shortage, in sleeping bags, life preservers and other things.

Highland School sat on the Rhody corner until the state highway 25 came through, which ruined the playground and entrance area. When the school was reopened, they moved the schoolhouse to the Cashman corner. Two of the Rhody girls taught in their own school when it was on their property. They were Veronica and Mariam Rhody. In 1945 it was sold and torn down and the lumber went to Greenfield to build a house.

Pebble Point School: In 1936 teacher Mable Perry and pupils gave an operetta entitled, “What’s the Matter with Sally”. In spite of the bad weather, many parents turned out. Mary Francis Boyd sang a song. Numbers were sold on a magazine holder. Lunch was sold for 5 cents.

Luke Dermody was school director for 31 years and president of the township school board for 2 years, and served on the Adair County school Board.

Center School: Bert Russell told about his father attending No. 5 School in the year of 1876, with Miss Ella Daniels, of Stuart, as his first term (fall) teacher, and Mr. Frank Hickcock, of Guthrie (Menlo), as his first man teacher (winter term). In those days the classroom attendance could be around 60 pupils. He remembered the reading of the Bible, with comment, each morning at the opening of school.

In the fall of 1941, five school district teachers and representatives were present to see the R.E.C. lunch program demonstration of an electric mill to grind wheat and corn for cereal; hot plates and an electric roaster. The R.E.A. would finance the two burner hot plate to serve hot lunch. At this time the Center School and township hall beside it had been wired for electricity.

The Center School is the only one left standing and kept up well, with the yard mowed, and used for voting and community purposes.

Mr. Leo Farrell tells of Rev. Ernest Smith’s father, Ed, who taught in the country schools in Walnut and Jefferson Townships. Mr. Smith was a strict and good teacher. He walked 1 ¼ miles to and from school each day in all kinds of weather, carrying his noonday lunch in a tin syrup bucket.

Leo’s first day of school memory was of a small boy who stuck his head up above the big desk and threw a piece of chalk at the teacher. Well, he never did that again?

Around the 1900s, families living around the Center School neighborhood were: Bolder, Stigers, Bosold, Gordons, Russells, Peters, Graves, Dougherty, Vanderpool, Doud, and Lenockers.

Jefferson No. 9‘s teacher, Bernice Coffman, and Jefferson No. 4’s teacher, Marilyn Herkleman, in 1946 had the Greenfield Service Club Christmas Party for children. They assembled in the high school auditorium; the band played and led the pupils around the square, seeing Santa Clause and receiving a sack of candy, and attending a movie in the theater. Mrs. Coffman’s class won the prize for having the largest enrollment and for coming the farthest, too.

Prairie Gem School: In the 1950s the pupils and their teacher, Mrs. Clara Whittum, made and painted paper mache puppets. They wrote their own story and made the garments to fit the characters. It was the Cinderella story for one. The first showing was to entertain their parents for their Christmas party. It was so much of a success that they were asked to show it several times and even went to the State Fair in Des Moines.

“Prairie Gem” students in about the year 1915
Catherine Lowe, Clarice Whittum, Isabell Varley, Jwanits Wilkins, Reva Draman, Wayne Whittum, Floyd Percy, Grace Percy, and Violet Draman.

In 1945 Life magazine researched a story in Adair County and took a picture of teacher, Miss M. McDonald, and Superintendent of Schools, Miss Edna Barns, with the pupils playing in the background.

Hopewell School: In 1945 it was on WHO radio station during a noon telecast as one of the high ten schools in the state of Iowa in the Fire Prevention Week campaign in the fall. Miss Jane Nolan (Mrs. Bob Oberwetter) was the teacher. This school made 40 fire prevention inspections in the district. Bernard Volz made 17 of them. This learning experience was sponsored by our Adair County Farm Bureau organization.
They build a schoolhouse for $2,500 in the year 1917.
In 1901 there were these students attending the school: Willis Low, Ollie Richmond, Roy Laughlin, Albert Putney, Louis Herrick, Ina McGinnis, Clista Low, Lucy Campbell, Lulu McGinnis, Pearl Richmond, Rila Herrick, Nellie Loucks, Clara Herrick, Eva McGinnis, Elmer Wilson, Pearl McGinnis, Grace Herrick, Florence Draman, Elmer Herrick, Jay Wilson, and Ralph Campbell. Teacher was F. C. Humphrey.

Wahtawan School: in the year 1940 this school’s pupils bought War Saving Stamps 100%. Teacher was Juanita Forcht (Gilman).

Mr. Lindsey’s scholars in the year 1881 had a pleasant time at school one afternoon in the teacher’s short time absence about 3 p.m. The students borrowed a violin of Robert Breen and danced till 5 PM when the director was seen winding his way to the school. They all departed with violin under a pupil’s coat.


Fifth and sixth grade pupils of Jefferson No. 9, assisted by their teacher, Mrs. Hazel Geesman, have enjoyed writing the history of the school, dating back to September, 1873. George B. Wilson was the board member who proposed that a schoolhouse be build. John M. Crabb was secretary of the board. James R Bateham was appointed to buy the school site of one acre, which he secured for $15. The board voted a levy of $464 to be used in building a schoolhouse at No. 9. The contractor was Paul Taylor, carpenter, whose son, A. A. Taylor, later became superintendent of Adair County Schools.

The building was completed in 1876. Jennie H. Dutton was the first teacher. Salary at that time was $25 per month.

At the annual meeting, March 10, 1913, plans were made for a new and better building. Walter H. Russell made a motion that $2,000 be voted for its erection. Thom Delaney seconded the motion, which carried. J. L. Winn, director at No. 9, and J. A. Lynam, secretary of the board, were appointed as a committee to submit plans for the new building to the county superintendent of schools, Mrs. Mina Whittum, Jack Harkins of Menlo was awarded the contract. After much delay, the new building was completed in September, 1914 and the fall term opened with an enrollment of twenty-four pupils, with Miss Hazel Wilkins as teacher. Douglas and Laurence Bateham, fifth and Sixth grade pupils who assisted with this history, represent the fourth generation of the James Bateham family who have attended school at No. 9. Others who assisted with this history were Eugene Skellenger, Marion Roberts and Merle Adamson.

Hazel Wilkins Geesman taught a total of 8 years at Jefferson No. 9. She was the first and last to teach at this school. Jefferson No. 9 was one of many rural schools consolidated into the Menlo Community School of 1955.

The schoolhouse was purchased by Joe Geesman. After being idle for several years, the building was sold to Nell Wallace. She had the building moved to Greenfield in 1963. She had it remodeled into a home, but didn’t get to enjoy it long, as she passed away. After her death, it was moved to the Quentin Wakefield farm in Grove Township.

The schoolhouse was moved past the home of Mr. and Mrs. Everett V. Guthrie. The truck and load stopped in order that the men could raise the electric wires for the load to pass under them.

Mrs. Guthrie took a photo of the load. Their son, Lee, attended here for nine years and was the only one in his class. Hazel was the teacher at the time of his graduation from the eighth grade in 1953.
                                                                                                                                                    Written by Lee Guthrie


On September 6, 1916, the first annual Jefferson Township picnic was help in the Charles Varley, Jr., grove one half mile north of Jefferson Center school.

After the Civil War period there was a black family, the Peter Bells, who were very poor, They had come north for freedom and to live; he did day labor for a living to support his family. The family was large. They attended different schools around this part of Jefferson and near Lincoln Township schools. He had a son John. Peter made salve from the pitch of corn stalk and peddled jars of salve to help support his family. It had a healing quality, so we are told. The Bell’s children and descendants moved to Des Moines and several became lawyers and teachers.

Around the year 1915 the State Legislature passed a law that all schools were to teach home economics and manual training. So Jefferson School district built good school buildings with basements and put in some equipment. It seems this law was hard to enforce in the small country school districts so that the teaching of these two necessary needs went by the wayside in many township schools. Several Jefferson Township school pupils remember making gifts for loved ones out of wood at Christmas time.

Teachers and directors for the year 1946 were No. 1-Mrs. Harry Estes, teacher; Mark Welker, director; No. 2-Mrs. Robert Miller, teacher, Raymond Taylor, director; No. 3-closed, Ed Cashman, director; No. 4-Pat Walters and Marilyn Herkelman, teachers, Luke Dermody, directory; No. 5-closed, George Wilkie, director; No. 6-LaVaun Farwell, teacher, Waldo Herkelman, director: No. 7-Darlene Hamlin, teacher, John Gilliam, directory; No. 8-Reva Caviness, teacher, John Starr, directory: No. 9-Mrs. Winfield Coffman, teacher, Everett Guthrie, directory.

This year was our Iowa Centennial year and the eighth grade grauates were Louise Welker, Jack Steward, James Cline, Eugene Fett, Betty Lou Taylor, Richard Kunkle, Dale McAtee, Bernard Volz, Marjorie Varley and LaVerne Roberts.

Transcribed from Adair County History, 1976 by volunteer Mary Chochran

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