Volume 1


Fourth Edition Printed by the Clio Press Iowa City, Iowa 1920
Copyright 1917 by Clarence Ray Aurner

Transcribed by Sharon Elijah, submitted April, 2013


When the settlers came to Iowa from their old homes they brought along the books they happened to have, and these were ready to be taken to the first school. But the children of the household had to wait some time before there was any teacher. Perhaps the mother or father would be the teacher until there were families enough to make a neighborhood school; and then some one would hear classes in a settler�s home until a log school house could be built. Every one would help to build the house, for there was no money to use for that purpose. The school room was built of logs with a fire place in one end, much the same as an ordinary log dwelling. The seats were long benches running the entire length of the room and desks were made by placing puncheons or planks on supports fastened to the log walls.

Some of the pupils of that time say that they could face either way, toward the center of the room or when they wanted to use the desk toward the wall. In their work there were no maps, crayons, or other helps such as children now have. The blackboard might be no better than a plank put against the wall and painted black. One has been described as being only two feet wide and four feet long. The erasers, perhaps, were made from sheepskin nailed to a block with wool outward, and the chalk was in chunks very awkward to handle. But it was real chalk instead of crayon.

In the first country schools the children came from long distances; for three or four miles was not believed to be a very long way to go to school. There were many large pupils too, since there were no high schools then and any school was thought good enough for all to attend. The teacher had to hear the pupils recite in whatever books the first settlers had brought and of course there were many kinds of books in the same school. The teacher could not ask them to buy books all alike, because there was no way to get them. But there were many good scholars in such schools in spite of the hard times. They knew their arithmetic very well; and they could spell all the words in the books. In those days not much time was spent on grammar or language, because this was not so important, it was thought, as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

The fine buildings of today, costing very many thousands of dollars, had not been thought of by anyone. And then parents had to pay for each pupil for the time he attended, because there were no taxes to pay teachers. Besides, the pupils or their parents must bring their share of the wood for the school house stove. In some places also the use of the stove was a part of the expense. An account of that time shows ten cents for the use of the stove for each pupil who attended the school.

The teachers did not receive much pay and women always had less than men. Of course they �boarded around� among the families of the pupils and in that way they had few expenses. Men usually taught the winter schools, since there were very many large pupils and people had not learned that women were as able as men to manage large boys. But there were good times at school when many boys and girls brought their small brothers and sisters and all went to the same teacher. There were no graded schools then; such schools were not opened in Iowa until after 1850.

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