10202 Briggs Road, Marion, IL 62959
618.521.2814  rich@jacobhuntertrust.org
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Boyd Knob School

By Leona Newton White

Leona Newton White was a granddaughter of Jacob Hunter (2)(b. 1-18-1809 d. 12-21-1874) and Mary Moore Duncan Hunter (b. 5-1-1814 d. 8-21-1896).  She was a daughter of Lucina Evaline Hunter Newton (1853-1933).

 Leona Estella Newton WhiteLeona Newton White (b. 1-5-1886 d. 5-29-1982) recorded her memories in notebooks that were passed down in her family.  Leona dedicated her writings to her daughter Pauline White Mason (b. 12-25-1911 d. 4-2-2003).  Leona’s notebooks were given to the Jacob Hunter Trust for copying by her grandson, James Mason of Indianapolis, IN.

The school I went to was a one-room schoolhouse with four large windows on each side and two front doors.  One was for the boys and the other for the girls.  There was a row of seats, each seat holding two pupils.  There was a large pot bellied stove in the center of the room for heat.

Two rows of seats in the middle of the room went down as far as the stove.  The boys sat on the north side of the room and the girls on the south.  The seats in the front of the school were smaller in size but just as long as the others so the small ones could sit three or four in each seat.

The seats when I first started to school were very crude and we used them for several years.  They were made of soft pine.  There was no back.  There were two boards on the side of the seat with a shelf with a top for use in writing.  There was no support for your back.  They were very uncomfortable and to sit all day without any rest for your back was tiring to say the least.

The teacher taught all eight grades although I was in my teens before the school was graded.  Our promotion went by our readers.  If you were smart, as your reading progressed so did your spelling and arithmetic.  But, some would be in the sixth reader and in the second grade speller or arithmetic.  You were promoted in whatever grade you excelled in.

Each class went up front to the recitation seat to recite when their class was called.  The recitation seat was an oak plank, two inches thick, 12 inches wide, and about 10 feet long.  The legs were stout wooden pegs.  It was just in front of the teacher’s desk.

If we didn’t have our lessons prepared we had to stand on the floor in front of the others and study until we got them.  We had visitors at the school quite often and Oh the degradation of being caught standing on the floor!  We were not allowed to whisper in school either and standing on the floor was a penalty for that also.

The teacher, in those days, stood for no foolishment, back talk, or sassing.  They were allowed to whip the pupils when they thought it necessary.  We children were always promised a whipping at home if we did any thing to merit one at school.  The teacher would send a couple of boys to the woods near by to cut a switch for the offender.  Sometimes it was the boy’s best friend that was to do the whipping.  If he brought back a switch that the teacher thought too small he was sent back by another.  Sad was the boy if the teacher sent a boy that was mad at him for he always got as large as he dared.

There was no running water or bathrooms at the country schools.  We brought our water from a neighbor’s well near the school.  There was a shelf built between the two doors at the back of the school room and a cedar water bucket holding about two gallons of water was kept there with a dipper in it.  We took turns getting a drink, everyone drinking out of the same dipper.  Two boys or two girls would go to get the water.  They would ask the teacher and considered it a privilege to go.  The well was in an apple orchard and the apples were delicious.  And, Aunt Ellen who owned the well would let us get the apples to eat.  The well had a pump and it was fun to pump it and see the water gush out.

Sometime during the afternoon, one of the pupils would ask permission to pass the water, and if the teacher would let them, they would get the bucket and go from seat to seat letting each one get a drink.  If they were mad at someone, they would pass by their seat.

There was no play equipment for us to use.  We made our own.  If we could get a small rubber ball we would ravel a sock or stocking and wind around it until it was the right size, then sew it around and around with twine.  Very few of us had one, but the one that owned one was boss of the ball game.

We used a small flat board for a bat and made our own rules before any game was started.  Sometimes we used our aprons held by each corner to catch the ball in.  We had a small piece of ground south of the schoolhouse for our ball ground.  We played many other games besides ball; such as crack the whip, here comes three dukes a roaming, drop the handkerchief, hide and go seek.

The boys had the north side of the schoolhouse for their games.  It was three or four times as large as ours.  The boys were not allowed to get on our playground nor we to get on theirs.  They were not allowed to play together, only the very small ones whose playground was in front of the schoolhouse.

For a time we had no toilets.  The boys used the woods and we girls used the fence corner up the road from the school.  One girl would have to stand in the road and keep watch to see no one was coming up the road.  The fences were made of fence rails laid zig zag.  Not much privacy, but it was all we had.  Then the directors built us two privies, one on the north side for the boys and one on the south side for the girls.  The boys named theirs Ike and the girls named theirs Sarah.  They were named for an old couple that once had a cabin on the spot where the school stands.

Our house was one-fourth mile north of the school.  There was a creek between our house and the school and the road would sometimes be covered in water when it rained.  There was a path about four feet wide from the school ground to the bridge.  I never knew who made it.  It was there when I started to school.

The dirt had been built up for about two feet and we school kids from the north used it to walk to school.  I remember one time when the water got so high it even got over the path and my father rode a horse to get Lula and me.  Lula rode behind him and I sat in front of him.

There have been three generations of my family attended that school but not the same building.  It has had three different buildings, all on the same spot, and they were all the Boyd Knob School.  I went to the first building, my children went to the second, and I kept two of my grandsons (Jim and Kenny) at different times and they went to the third building.  It is still standing but no longer used as a school as all the children are now taken by bus into the Johnston City School.

There has been two other schools built in the area that I know of.  The first was built near the cross roads just south of Boyd Knob School and was called the Sanders School for it was in the midst of a Sanders Settlement that was known as Sanders Nation.  Afterwards a schoolhouse was built on the north side of lick creek, one-fourth mile north and east of Boyd Knob.  It was near a steep bluff and they carried their drinking water from the well near my father’s log house.  My two half brothers attended this school and probably my oldest sister went there her first year of school.  Nothing remains of it now although when I was a child there was a spot where the coal was kept and no grass grew on it.  It was infested with doodlebugs with their little round mounds of black dirt.  We would get down over them and call “doodlebug doodlebug come and get your buttermilk.”  I guess it would be our breath blowing the dirt, but we firmly believed they were trying to come out.

There was a very large tree growing there by the creek and the story was that a large bobcat was laying on one of the limbs and one of my cousin’s husband shot and killed it.  It always gave us kids the shivers just to look at it.

Some of the boys and girls that went to the Boyd Knob School when it was a one-room school.  All were taught by one teacher:

(   )  notes in this section added by Pauline Mason, Leona White’s daughter

The teachers I remember are:

Lodge Grant, Cora Evans, Frank Atwood, Cap Simmons, Rose Felts,     Richard Jones (editor for many ears of Johnston City Progress), Miles Leigh, & Tom Kelly

The pupils were:

Ora Newton (Mama’s oldest sister), Lorin Newton (Mama’s oldest brother), Leborn Newton (brother), Lula Newton (sister), Leona Newton (Mama), Elsie Newton (next to the youngest sister), Gertie Newton (Mama’s baby sister), Jake Newton (brother), Henry Newton (Mama’s baby brother), Harry Sanders, George Sanders, Ira Sanders, Cora Sanders, Parlee Sanders, Dora Sanders, Hada Sanders, Robert Jones, Ralph Jones, Hazel Jones, John Barham (Mama’s second cousin), Mose Barham (John’s brother), Roy Nelson, Mary Reed, Gerlie (?) Boyd, Ada Murrah, Roy Woods, Bessie Chamness, Gene Chamness, Clarence Chamness, Ora Chamness, Bessie Murrah, Lestie Murrah, Mamie Fleming, Alice Fleming, John Fleming, Meg Fleming, Thomas Fleming, Bessie Fleming, Newton Fleming, Hugh Fleming, Will Odom, Lem Odom, Eva Odom, Ella Odom, Laura Odom, Nellie Odom, Anna Odom, Anna Thompson, Midge Thompson, Harry Thompson (Joyce’s grandfather Harry Thompson’s sisters), Clara Thompson, Rufus Duncan (Mama’s cousins), Trissie Duncan, Leamon Duncan, Herman Duncan, Ed Duncan, Lloyd Sanders, Mary Sanders, Lou Sanders, Lela Sanders, Bob Sanders, Riley Sanders, Robert Sanders, Harry Sanders, Jim Sanders, Tempa Keith, Clarence Davis, Bessie Davis, Ora Davis, Clyde Davis, Herman Davis, Nannie Sanders, Clauda Sanders, Freddy Sanders, Ada Sanders, Frank Sanders, Ed Sanders, John Sanders, Lee Sanders, Brack Sanders, Ora Sanders, Nora Sanders, Pearl Sanders, Ella Lewis, Gertie Lewis, Charley Frey, Ernest Frey, Nora Frey, Cora Frey, Edith Frey, Ella Frey, Monell Moore, Roy Moore, Nanny Moore, Bert Moore, Claudia Weaver, Mell Gwinn, Harry Gwinn, Edgar Gwinn, Ivy Gwinn, Lloyd Gwinn, Nora Cohoon, Leva Mann, Lora Mann, Mayme Helms, Sam Helms, Mellie Helms, Ida Helms, Freddy Helms, Mellie Simmons, Johnny Simmons, Charley Sanders, Lou Reed, Mary Allen, Martha Allen, Cleve Allen, Willie Allen, Joe Gower (?), Willie Gower (?), Mary Gower (?), Beliva Jacobs, Orville Jacobs, Daisy Barhamn, Dalton Murrah, Mettie Kern, Lum Kern, Mattie Boyd, Elic (?) Boyd, Amry (?), Mr. C. Carver (???), Cletis Holderfield, George Pipes, Mattie Mifflin, & George Childers.

There may be a few I missed.  There was a cedar bucket with brass bands and a tin dipper.  Each pupil took turns getting a drink, all drinking out of the same dipper.  When one got a cold or a sore throat, the whole school got it also.  Our seats and desks were made by a local carpenter.  Our stove was a potbelly stove.  The black board was made of oilcloth painted black and the recitation seat was a one-foot-wide, two-inch-thick oak plan with large pegs for legs.

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On January 6, 2012, James Mason, Leona Newton White’s grandson, described his memories of Boyd Knob School.

I went to Boyd Knob in either the winter of 1939 or 1940 for the first grade.  Mom was sick and I lived with Grandma and Grandpa White for a while.  I do not remember who kept my brother who was 1 or 2.  Grandma called it a one-room school but I remember it as a 2-room wooden structure school separated for the higher and lower grades.  [Leona described this as the third Boyd Knob School built on the same lot.  Her school was a one room school that was torn down prior to the 2nd and 3rd school building on that site] They were separated by a coat room/hall.  Each classroom was heated with a coal stove.  I do not remember if there were benches or desks. There may have been 2 different schools or they may have added on to the existing Boyd Knob School.  I do not know.  I also do not know how it got its name. We got our drinking water from a well (cistern) with a bucket and dipper and there were only outdoor facilities.  I had to walk to school behind 2 adult women who had something to do with the school.  Grandma’s house was 2-2 1/2 miles from the school.

Boyd Knob School was probably 1/2-3/4 mile north from the Prosperity road/Herrin road and on the right.  It was a fairly large high roofed clapboard structure probably 50-60 feet long with a central entryway.  I do not know in what time frame it was no longer used as a school but it had to be in the mid to late 40’s.  It served as a dwelling for some length of time and people lived in it.  I would assume it has fallen into deep disrepair and is no longer being used if not having been torn down by now.

Boyd Knob School today (2-3-2012):