Beginning of Union School
THE MEXICO WEEKLY LEDGER, Feb. 21, 1929 pg 8 cols 2 & 3
RECALLS FIRST SCHOOL, SOUTH OF HERE
The recent death of Mrs. Frances Cassidy Clark, the daughter of John Cassidy, an Audrain pioneer, has recalled to Joe Lee Bomar, the Ledger's Ryan Ridge correspondent and historical writer, some facts concerning Audrain County's first school, taught by John Cassidy. The story as told by Mr. Bomar is of interest to Audrain Countians, and follows:
The Mrs. Frances Cassidy Clark, who died recently at her son's home at Topeka, Kansas, was the daughter of John Cassidy, who resided on the Ridge about 1/2 mile north of the White Oak Branch rebel camp. The Cassidy home land is now owned by Ben Adams. Mr. Cassidy was a pioneer and an Audrain County school teacher. As far as I know he was the teacher of the first rural school in Audrain County, first near the persimmon grove on the line of Mitt Harrison and C. H. Crum. Afterwards a union of so called districts was formed in order to get a teacher. A new log cabin 30 by 24 feet was built by the father patrons 1/4 mile north of the Marsh Calvert place (now the Perry Riggs place) and named Union for the 3 or 4 small settlements, wide apart, that furnished pupils. George Bomar, my grandfather, Charles McIntyre and Richard Byars, Sr., were the first three directors. The new school house had a fireplace of stone 10 feet broad, topped out with a pole or steck chimney, cracks daubed with clay and a gravel hearth. About one half of the back part had a puncheon floor, the rest and the boys' side, a dirt floor. Split and hewed logs a foot to 15 inches in diameter, with a few of the worst knots and splinters knocked off and 2 inch auger holes bored in the halves and two at each end and legs 18 to 20 inches long inserted in the holes made the seats. The broom of fine buck brush fiber was used for sweeping.
The big boys felled and chopped the wood in the near by timber, small boys and girls carried or dragged it to the school house. The teacher had an extra seat and small 3 legged table. White oak spits bestowed his chair. Copy books were home made, some of brown paper and those that were more financially able had what was known as foolscap paper. The teacher sat all copies for the pupils to copy after, goose quill pens, poke berry ink or blueing ink. Yellow was made by compounding the juices of bitter sweets and walnuts and jet black by boiling the sumac berries. A bit of whiskey or alcohol was put in the ink jars to keep it from freezing. Too much booze caused the ink to spread in a wide jagged line. All this was told to me by my father, Alex Bomar, who attended several of the schools taught at Union by John Cassidy.
Some of the pupils that attended school at Union at the time of my father, George Bomar, Rollin and Charles McIntyre, Cassidy, Joe Smith and Joe Surber, Sims, Harrison, Eller, Burst, Cowles, Jas. Tyra, B. Evans, Major Evans, Joe Watts, Sr., Brooks, Skelly, Lochridge and the Hall children and many others, from 10 to 35 years old.
Instruction went as high as the 3rd reader down to the ABCs.
THE EARLIEST SCHOOL
Webster's spelling books, oral or mental arithmetic, and writing were taught.
Cole red and yellow, a kind of soap stone found in creek gravel, was used on the black board, for chalk was not to be had.
Male pupils carried axes and guns to and from school, usually having a line of traps, snares and deadfalls to take game and fur bearing animals as the country abounded in rich profusion in wild animal and fowl life.
Mustaches were then in vogue in the school as was knitting and sewing by the fairer sex, who knit as they walked to and fro to school and at home, sewed at noon as if they were at school.
Athletics were encouraged by the teacher, and when a group of men visited the school, with a view of starting one nearby, the teacher informed them of an exhibition, a debate and a big supper to be in their honor. Temple Wayne, a renowned hunter, and Blue Wilson, of a like caliber, organized a bunch of good shots, debaters, and athletes, to entertain for the full day.
A deer, turkey and pheasant hunt was staged at the Cardwell Rough farm, now the Fred Brand place, which was very successful.
Lige Harrison, slave of Bill Harrison and Henry Irby, slave of George Bomar, were chefs and prepared the gigantic supper.
Joe Watts, Charles McIntyre and George Bomar furnished 15 or 20 gallons of good whiskey, others gave eggs and maple sugar and Old Book, a slave of Joe Watts, Sr., prepared the egg nog. Nearly all brought their own gourds. No one drunk in the outfit, except Book, and he said the aroma of the fumes were what made him that way.
Great treat and great feast, but not until the "big boys" ducked the teacher in the creek, through the ice. Frank Watts could throw a rock the farthest, having killed an Indian 113 yards with a rock on the wing, while going to the Mexican War. Wm. Eller was the best wood chopper. Abe Eller could split more wood than anyone. Dick Watts was the best with a broad axe, Joe Watts, Jr. the best tree climber, Alex Bomar the best rifle shot, Dick McIntosh and Joe McGee tied for pistol marksmanship. Tom Stone and Surber knew more about trapping, George Bomar the best tobacco judge, Alex Day the best clog dancer. The Eller girls and Tyra Evans' girls were the best dressers and most cultured.
The debate on "Resolved, that the earth is flat and not round," was a hot one. Ab Cassidy, Dan and Tom McIntyre and a Rogers boy, Jim Gilmore and Caney Brooks took the round side and the rest of the participants the flat side. 13 judges appointed by the teacher judged the argument. The flats were about to cop the honors until Thomas McIntyre came forward with a Dr. Ben Franklin Almanac that said the world was round. The judge said they yet believed it was flat, however they said the rounds had the best argument.
Cassidy and wife and other members of his family are buried at the Cassidy-Lochridge graveyard and as long as Ab Cassidy lived he yearly contributed to the upkeep of the yard.
THE EARLIEST SCHOOL
It was at Union school house, as they called it, for there was no school after Cassidy died, that the votes in the presidential election of 1832 were counted for all of the near section, south of where Mexico now stands. Richard Byars was one of the judges or counters, as they called it then. Jackson received all but 3 of the 40 votes, as was told to my father and to me. The best I can remember it and I think it correct, 37 votes for Jackson and 3 Whig votes. I suppose the Whig votes were cast by George Bomar and Rolin and Charles McIntyre.
Jackson Thomas, grandfather of J. R. Thomas, formerly of Mexico, conducted the 1st Sunday School south of Mexico. His son, Jas., a Cassidy pupil, taught school for years, and John P. Jesse delivered the first sermon in the old school house long ago.
Home made shoes were worn by all or moccasins, Abe Cassidy and Dock Evans only pupils having boots.
Home spun garb was the clothing out and out for the Cassidy pupils. Jeans, hoop skirts and shawls were worn by the weaker sex of the school. Hospitality, truth, virtue and honor were the cardinal principles of the school. Great were such fathers and mothers, for we owe much to them today for their endeavors and sacrifices. Only one of the 150 or more of Cassidy pupils remain alive. Lloyd McIntosh, and he is also the lone survivor of the Ham Brown murder. Mrs. Martha Evans was another alive when we last heard of her. She, too, was connected with the renowned old Audrain Co. Confederate flag. Pickett Jackson's girl and John Thomas Watts were the smallest of the pupils. Gone but we will not forget them.