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North Lincoln School
Otter Township
Source: Warren County Historical Library

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This is an excerpt from Memories of North Lincoln, written for the Warren County Historical Society by B. Clary Sill at the request of Edith Conn. The complete selection can be found in the Warren County Historical Library.
Transcribed by Juanita Ott


          As North Lincoln Schoolhouse and I appeared upon this earth within a few months from each other, I have always had a great interest in it. I was born January 9, 1896 and in a few months, the rock foundation was laid for the schoolhouse. It cost a few dollars...
          The schoolhouse was built on a small hill surrounded by timber. It is one of the dearest spots on earth to me as so many days of my life were spent there.
          Our schoolhouse was much better than the ones around us. The woodwork and wainscoting were varnished, not painted. The windows were built high so that pupils couldn't see passing traffic. A short way east of the schoolhouse was a road that had been traveled so long that it was quite a lot lower than banks on both sides. Teams and wagons traveled this road through the timber to cut off quite a distance on the real road. When a heavy wire cable was put along the south and west side of school grounds the sounds of harness rattling and wagon creaking were heard no more. The east side of the school ground was fenced by Loper's pasture fence. North of the schoolhouse there were trees and brush but I can not remember a fence there. A coalhouse was built in the South West corner of the grounds. Once in a while a teacher permitted boys to get on the roof and jump off. The outside door opened on a porch with boards to make a railing. The top board was wide enough that erasers were dusted there also that was a nice place to sit. Several steps led down to a board walk that was built to a loading stile at the edge of the ground. Here one could step from the stile into the vehicles alongside. One of our most exciting stunts was to run the length of the walk and jump over this stile. Although we landed in dirt, never was there a broken bone!
          West of the schoolhouse were many fine trees that shaded the 3 west windows from afternoon sun and also made bases for Wood Tag and Pussy Wants a Corner. Across the old road leading to the timber road was the big playground. All the years I spent there, I was never in NE corner of the ground and the only time anyone went to the east end was when a big boy knocked a ball down there. Every fall before school started, one of the directors would mow the ground and hire someone to clean the schoolhouse.

                    For years, the schoolroom was heated by a big stove set in center of the room. On bitter cold mornings, pupils farther from the stove were permitted to sit on the 2 recitation benches. These had no backs but a great improvement to the log benches used not many years before. The walls of the room were papered. Kerosene lamps on brackets on window frames was only light. Teacher's desk was in the front of the room...
          The only time in my life that I fainted, I was working arithmetic problems on the board when I became dizzy. When I fell, the teacher, Edith Loper and pupils crowded around me. When I opened my eyes, I couldn't think why they all looked so frightened. And I came to my senses just in time as a boy had the wash pan of dirty water ready to pour on my head.
          For some unknown (to us) reason, the Lincoln District was made extra large., the south boundary being what is now the paved road west of Milo, the northern boundary was north of Otter Creek, the eastern boundary was mile east of our homestead and the western boundary was just west of what was then the Devrough Farm a few miles east of Brown's Chapel. South Lincoln schoolhouse was built first. The old secretary book, that I have, starts at 1876 with Wm. Loper as  sec. It has record of "money on hand" and "money paid out" but only purchase listed is for coal $2.00 in October 1877.

           The first teacher recorded is for 1880, Carrie Flager, who received $20 a month. Because of large farms in southern part of the district, there were few pupils while in northern and smaller places and more families accounted for many more. I don't know where any of these went to school, but I do know my sister Jessie and cousin Ethel Clary, walked through the timber, crossed Lick Branch on a fallen tree and went to McClelland east of us until North Lincoln was built...
          The spring after North Lincoln was finished, the entire neighborhood turned out to have a picnic and clean up all the place. This picnic was a tradition on the last day of school for many years. The teacher and pupils prepared a program. Most of the fathers that came would leave after eating but the mothers remained for the program. The men drove stakes and nailed a board across and fixed for a long table back of schoolhouse. Mr. Loper always had native lumber that he brought and placed on three supports. Mothers brought so much good food but there was no potato salad as that recipe didn't reach our corner of the world until a few years afterward. Lopers had an ice house and cut ice from Otter Creek to use in summer. They usually brought a 5 gal. cream can of lemonade with ice in it. Nowadays we would not think of using river ice, but we knew no better!! Mrs. Loper always brought a white layer cake with lemon filling and frosting. Mrs. Freeborn never came to any meeting but she always sent a yellow cake with tiny colored candy in the frosting. We youngsters would almost fight for a  piece of that cake! As no one else had ice nor refrigerators, I would think chicken was the meat served. I can't remember all the things we had but do remember all the things we had but do remember it was a bountiful meal...
          At that time and for many years, the school year consisted of 3 terms: 2 months fall, 3 months winter, 2 months spring. Many years we had a different teacher every term. Minnie told me the directors feared she couldn't manage the big boys that came in the winter so hired Pope that first winter. But Minnie taught many terms and also winter terms. Girls went to school as long as they wanted to. Big boys had to help with farm work spring and fall but came to school in winter until they were 18 or 19 years old. That is, some boys did. I was astonished to learn years after I left school that North Lincoln School in the woods was a hard school to teach!!
          One fall morning in 1900 my education began when, with sister Jessie and brothers John and Fred, I trudged the long mile from our home to North Lincoln . Minnie Holcombe was again the teacher as she was for many terms. For a few years I did not attend the winter term as every winter I had "Lung Fever" (pneumonia). l But I remember one winter morning when Minnie's brother Charlie, a big boy, put me on his long red coaster and pulled me to school. It was the only coaster in school that was not home made. The Queen of Sheba could not have been prouder than I!
          I attended North Lincoln until I took 8th grade examination in the summer of 1909. June Loper and I went to Indianola for 2 days to take the examinations. That fall I went to Milo to live with Sister Jessie and attend High School. But the next year my parents didn't feel able to pay my tuition. Therefore, I came back to North Lincoln for the next year. It was that year that Iowa legislature passed a law that a school board must pay tuition for any pupil attending high school. I graduated in May 1905 and that fall taught my first term class at North Lincoln . At that time the 7 months school year consisted of 3 months in the fall and 3 months in the spring. I was to teach the spring term but County Superintendent , Mr. McGee sent me to another school where the teacher was ill and I stayed there the rest of the year...
          Some teachers called the roll every morning and we answered with a memory gem. Some I still remember. Often we sang a few songs. When Alice or Edith Loper was the teacher, they brought an organ and our music sounded a little better.
          As there was no water on the school grounds we carried water from the Loper farm. Someone would ask to go for water in the morning and again afternoon. That person would choose a good friend to go to help. Once in a while we had a teacher who sent the pair before school started but usually it was during school hours. When the water came, someone asked to "Pass the water" and with one, or sometimes 2 tin cups, he passed up and down the aisles, everyone drinking from the same cup. Then someone asked to "Pass the wash pan." Everyone used slates. We would have one tablet that was used for language or grammar work. The Loper children usually had sponges but the rest of us had a rag with which to clean our slates. As the pan passed, everyone dampened the rage. During the last year I attended North Lincoln we had a water cooler and many had folding cups to use.
          Brother John was rather accident prone and twice he was injured and Dad took him to the doctor. Both times he brought back something for the whole school, one time mumps and one time whooping cough. By using the same drinking cup, soon everyone, except a very few who were immune, was having swollen jaws and coughing until we thought we could never get another breath.
          During the 15 minute recesses morning and afternoon and the noon hour, we had fun playing games. Some we played were Sheep in my Pen, Hiding and Seek, Red Man, Black Man, Steel Sticks, May I, Ante Over the Schoolhouse, and the heavy cable was a great place for little ones to play Skin the Cat. When a fresh snow fell, the first ones to school marked out a Fox and Geese ring and what grand times we had. When weather was too bad, we played games in the schoolroom. When we played work up ball, everything was fine but as soon as teams were chosen, then quarrels began. We little ones never got more than one swing at the ball, then we were out and were sent out to be fielders. The big boys were batters 9/10 of the time!
          In the winter, all sleds in the neighborhood were brought to school and we were fortunate to have a big hill nearby. Sometimes all the sleds and coasters were tied together, a big boy acted as driver, and rest piled on 2 deep, and down the hill we went and part way up the hill where schoolhouse stood. The only accident I remember is when sleds upset at foot of the hill and Wayland Halterman cut his upper lip through to teeth. The teacher sent a big boy home with him.
         One winter the teacher let us bigger ones go to a bayou about one half mile west of the school grounds to skate. None of us had watches and we seldom got back by 1 PM when school took up. Then one day it was nearly time for afternoon recess when we came in. The school board heard about this and we were not permitted to leave school grounds afterward. Sometimes when we had coasted and made the hill so slick that teams couldn't get up the hill, then we had to quit for quite a while.
          Our father always told all 5 of us that if we got a whipping at school he gave us another that night. Needless to say, none of us ever was whipped as we very rarely wished a whipping from Dad as we knew what it was. But one term, Annie Baysinger had few books. As she was in some of my classes the teacher had her sit with me to study, which we would do for a while, then we would begin giggling. The next thing we knew, we were standing in the front of the room in a circle drawn with chalk, just large enough for our four feet and we didn't dare step over that circle.
          Everyone traveled at his own speed in all subjects. He might be in 6th grade Reading and 3rd grade Arithmetic. When a boy or girl had attended the required years, they just quit attending.
          At the southeast corner of the school house was a tree that had a hole about 1/3 of the way up. Here the only flying squirrels that I ever saw furnished entertainment for us as we watched them fly from limb to limb.
          Back of the schoolhouse some distance was a pile of large rocks. Also there were big lovely pine trees that had shaded the home of the Byers. Part of the foundation of the home was still there. Many times, especially on Arbor Day, the teacher and we pupils took our dinner buckets and hurried through the timber and down a hill to this spot. The first ones there were the lucky ones who sat on the rocks to eat dinner. It was a lovely spot but lonely, knowing the home and family were gone and the grave of an infant by the rocks added to this feeling. The rocks are now covered with a pond but I do not know about the trees. Several times we older pupils waded snow at Christmas time to get pine branches with which to decorate the schoolroom.
          In the winter we would have a program and box supper. Girls would cover a box, usually a shoe box, with bright paper and fill it with chicken, sandwiches, cake or pie, apples or oranges which were a great treat. Some man would auction off the boxes and the money was used to purchase something for the schoolroom. If a boy knew which box was his sweethearts he might pay $2.00 or more for it. That was a magnificent sum then.
          One year the McClelland School just east of North Lincoln bought a big bell and a belfry was added to the school house and the bell hung. On still days we who lived east of North Lincoln could hear the bell. Of course we pupils were very anxious to have a bell on our school house so we had box suppers and pie suppers that winter until we had accumulated the necessary amount.
          It is a mystery to me now why the school board built the belfry on the back end of school house and hung the bell a very amusing sight. If anyone knows why this was done, I would like to know. A hole was made through roof and ceiling and a rope attached to bell hung down in the back of the school room. Needless to say that it was a great honor to ring the bell when time for school hours.
          We also had Spelldowns and Ciphering in the winters. Some of the parents would consent to be drawn on one of the 2 sides competing. One night a group of pupils and their teachers came. The teacher was chosen on one side. How shocked we were when the teachers misspelled a word but when the one pronouncing the words asked her to spell it again, as she wasn't sure it was wrong, the teacher spelled it correctly and insisted she had the first time. No political scandal of this time ever shocked and disturbed a group more than that did us pupils. At that time, teachers were held in respect.
          Our father was the only one who conveyed his children to and from school in bad weather. He wanted us all to receive an education. When a hard rain or heavy snow came in the morning, he would hitch the old gray team to a spring wagon, lumber wagon or sled and take us to school. If a storm came in the afternoon, we knew Dad and the gray team would be waiting at the loading stile when school was out. As most of the pupils lived east of the school house everyone that could crowd in rode to the corner. One winter the snow drifted over the fences and road was blocked. Dad walked with us through the fields and over fences to see us safely to school.
          The memory of a May evening in 1908 has remained clear all these years. Sister Jessie was the teacher. It was the last week of school and we had the program prepared for the annual picnic. It wasn't raining when we were dismissed but Dad and the gray team were waiting for us. Brother Fred had been ill for 4 years but had become worse and the doctor said his time here was short. Dad had contacted the other directors and they said for Jessie to dismiss for the summer. On May 28, 1908, Brother Fred left us forever. I don't remember of any other death of a pupil all the years I attended North Lincoln .
          One winter we had a teacher who kept one or more of the big boys in after school nearly every evening. She would tell the rest of us to go on home. But we would go to the foot of the hill to wait for the boys. Sometimes one of the big boys would have matches and he would start a little fire. Any crust or apple left in any dinner bucket was stuck on a stick and roasted.
          Some of our teachers had a cardboard 5 point star and a box of colored chalk and, believe it or not, these made better spellers of us! Our names were written on the front blackboard and a star drawn after it. Every time we had a perfect spelling lesson, a point of our star was colored. Sometimes we were even given the privilege of coloring it as we liked. Every week we could have a whole star colored!
          One year we had a teacher whose entire education had been obtained in Indianola schools and she had never been in a rural school room. The first week many in the upper grades had never recited one lesson as she began by having either or hour recitations! She didn't see how she could have 8 reading classes and 2 history ones in the period from 9 AM to 10:30 AM when recess came. Then all the arithmetic classes from 10:45 AM to noon when we had an hour in which to eat our cold diners and play games. At 1 PM some kind of instruction was given the 1st and 2nd graders then the other pupils had language or grammar classes and upper grades had physiology. If enough time, we had writing exercise. Recess was from 2:30 to 2:45 PM Then 1st and 2nd usually had story telling time or something then, in nice weather they often were sent outdoors and the other pupils had geography and spelling lessons. School was dismissed at 4 PM.
          Sometimes, especially in winter, we had Spelldowns or Ciphering after the last recess. As young people can see, we had no field trips, no bands, no time out of schoolroom for fun learning. During my last years in North Lincoln , Civics and a little instruction in music were squeezed in somewhere in the week. I'm certain none of today's pupils enjoy their music more than we did as we sometimes had a Sing-a-long when school first "took up" and though many might be slightly "off key," we enjoyed it.
          Many times we had a teacher who began the day reading from the Bible, something which has been declared unconstitutional, much to the disgrace of U.S.A.
          One of the highlights of the school year for me was when a girl friend came home with me or I went home with her to spend the night. The two friends with whom I shared this pleasure were Lula DeVore and James Loper.
          One Halloween the big boys in the neighborhood had located several piles of fence posts and that night carried them and piled them on the school house porch. I don't remember how Dad got the word that the teacher couldn't get into the school room the next morning but I know he helped remove all of them.
          Although there was a big key that folded for the door and all the windows were high from the ground and locked, sometimes a tramp broke in and spent the night. Teachers usually had buckets of coal carried in for morning and he would use the coal during the night. I can't remember of anything being harmed except one time when all the old registers had been burned.
          After the Dilly Bridge was destroyed there were few people passing the schoolhouse. It was in a lonely spot as no homes in sight. Often during the summer, many window panes would be broken. Therefore heavy shutters were installed on all windows.
          When I started to school I remember sitting on Minnie Holcom's lap while I read.
          Handy Morgan lived at east edge of Hammondsburg Cemetery and therefore was in McClelland district as was the Holcombe farm. But because it was closer to North Lincoln, Minnie told me that one winter Handy and Minnie drove an ill matched team to North Lincoln,. I think one had a pony and one a horse...
          Because the district was so large, many pupils had a long way to walk. We had a mile but we were the only family whose father took us to and from by a team and wagon or sled, At one time, a family of Clarkes, Mae, Edith, Arthur, lived near Lick Branch in NE corner of district and had a long way to walk. Nancy Baysinger lived in NW corner and walked the long distance for a short time. Others living near her home on the road west of Dilly Bridge had a long way. At one time, Carl and Annie Baysinger lived in a house on a creek off the road south and west of Hammondsburg Church . It would have been a very long way by road but they cut through fields, pastures and timber and came out to road east of the schoolhouse. Sidney Freeborn also lived a long way south and should have had a long way by road but he also cut through and came out across the road south of school house. He was seldom late but if he happened to be he wouldn't come in, he would sit on the porch until recess. The ones across Otter Creek south part of district received transportation money if the parents brought them or if they rode horseback. The old register shows that sometimes they attended Burgess School , school south of Lincoln . Minnie Holcombe married Ray Wilbur, went to Texas to live for a while. When they returned to Iowa , they lived with her parents and she taught South Lincoln for a while. It wasn't always open as too few pupils in southern part.
          The only man teacher I ever had was Elmer Jones. His sister Ica , also taught North Lincoln . Both were well liked. Ica took some of the larger girls to her home in Des Moines on weekends. That meant a train ride from Indianola to Des Moines and being in a city a grand treat to the ones who went. But the weekend I was to go I was sick and very disappointed.
          One October 1st the teacher took us larger ones through Harley Van Syoc farm to Lick Branch. It was a beautiful place at that time a natural road bridge the salt lick where deer came for salt lovely trees.
          The only really embarrassing incident I remember was when a girl was leaving the room and about halfway between the front seat and hall door her petticoat came unfastened and dropped around her feet. She picked it up and fled out the door.
          Walter McGee was Superintendent of schools. One of his duties was to visit every school in the county once a year. As his only means of transportation was a brown horse and a top buggy, it is doubtful he accomplished this. As I see it now, his visit couldn't have been an evaluation of the teacher's ability as we had no classes while he was there. The teachers always asked him "to say a few words to us," which he did and would then leave. One picnic day he brought his wife and 4 children to partake of our bountiful dinner.
          When I returned in 1929 to teach North Lincoln , the school year was 9 months with one teacher. The hall partition had been torn out and also the shelves where dinner buckets, water bucket and wash pan had been set. And the small porch had been torn off and a room built to the south. There were seats, or shelves, built on east and west walls. Here dinner buckets, water cooler and wash pan were placed. In severe weather, our dinners and our overshoes froze out there, something that never happened in the hall.
          The old register lists quite a bill for lumber in 1927 and I assume that was when the new room was built. 1934 was last entry in old register and just the last few years it was given for what the money was spent. In 1929, it listed a stove $100. That was the pretty brown finished coal heater much more attractive than the old black pot-bellied stove that had served for years.
          I remember one winter we had been practicing for Christmas program. But the week before program, flu struck our school and many were absent. All plans for program were given up but we would have our gift exchange and I would give each one a gift and a sack of candy and nuts and perhaps an orange. On Friday morning, several of the ones who had been sick came back to school. Before time for 1st recess, the stove was smoking and soot was falling over the room. I turned the damper but that did not help. The coal gas and smoke caused the ones who had been sick to cough so hard. Windows were partly opened, gifts given and I dismissed long before noon. When a director came to see what the trouble was, he found the damper had stuck straight across the pipe handle would turn, but damper wouldn't. I melted snow to clean the room.
          Another Christmas we were offered a large pine tree that grew on farm northwest of schoolhouse. Someone brought an ax and the entire school and I went through the timber road. The boys cut it down and we dragged it back. We had such a time getting it through the door, then it was too tall and had to be cut again. Then getting it anchored in something was another problem. It reached the ceiling and nearly filled the front of the room. But it was beautiful the night of the program.
          Most of the time I taught, I walked 1 mile to and fro from Holcombe farm to schoolhouse. But one fall for a short time I drove our family horse, Minnie, hitched to the buggy. One morning I had picked up some pupils on the way. When we were nearly to schoolhouse someone on horseback came up back of us. Minnie always enjoyed a race and also running away. So away she went, even though I tried to let her know I didn't approve of a race! Just in front of the schoolhouse she ran upon bank and upset the buggy on the bank, broke harness and ran one up to top of little hill where a gate went through Loper's woods. There she stopped, looked back at me and waited for someone to come for her. Luckily none of us were injured...
          One time a fire broke out in the timber near the schoolhouse and the men of the neighborhood quickly gathered and put out the fire.
          1914 The first month I taught at North Lincoln I received $45.10. The amount determined by so much cash times the average of the grades on my certificate. The last month I taught (1931) I received $92,50. The depression was upon the country then. I had a 1st grade certificated by then and could not teach for less than a certain amount. The school board thought it best to hire a teacher with 3rd grade certificate so I was not hired again. I always wanted to teach my last year there but that dream didn't come true.
          It is strange how many more memories I have of events 75 years ago when I was a pupil than of 45 years ago when I was the teacher. No doubt some of my pupils have more than I have! Could it be that I have few memories as a teacher because my mind was so occupied with responsibilities: lesson plans, recitations, discipline, cleaning school room, carrying in coal and kindling, building fires???
          Years ago, one winter, the teacher, (I think it was either Alice or Edith Loper) organized a religious club of older girls who met after school and studied the Bible and had prayer. Each member had a round blue pin with a gold star in center and the name of the club. It seems the name was Sunshine, but I'm not certain. I was a little girl then, not a member. One evening I decided to stay. It was dark when I left the school house and I remember I was alone and scared. About half way home I met Dad on horseback. He had become worried about me and came to find me. I'll never forget how safe I felt when he pulled me up behind him. l I never stayed again.
          Every winter when a heavy snow fell, the boys would build 2 snow forts and have battles with snowballs. We never thought that some of these same boys would someday be in a real battle, years later. Two of my pupils, Merle Bown and Clifford Borrall were killed in accidents while serving in U.S.A. service. Other served in army or navy but I can't think of any other deaths.
          Although I did not want the school house moved, I am glad it has the honor of giving today's generation a glimpse of what school life was at the beginning of this century... The building will be cared for in its present location which is a good thing.
          Many, many feet crossed the threshold of North Lincoln and pupils scattered over the country. So few of my classmates are not living and they are scattered from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Many lie in graves through out the U.S.A.

          Additional notes about North Lincoln (author unknown)        

         The newest school house in the township was North Lincoln , built in 1896 by Mr. Fridley at a cost of $450. It was named for a family by the name of Lincoln but was often called the Loper School as it was from Loper's farm that the children carried water.

          It was a well built building, tucked away in the woods. Nature study was easy a walk during the lunch hour was ideal to study the leaves of trees, flowers, birds and rocks in their natural habitat. The large school yard afforded plenty of space for ball games and other games. The large hills to the east were ideal for sledding.

          The school was closed in 1955. Several years later, the owner, Howard Lester, gave the building to the Iowa State Fair and it was moved to the fairgrounds and is preserved there.

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