My last article left off with the clearing of timber for cropland and the planting of cotton and corn. You have to remember that corn, in any fashion, was a staple for the frontier as it could be kept in a dry state for a long period of time, and especially during travel, could be eaten directly off the cob as was evidenced in the march of Gen. Houston to San Jacinto.
Along with the production of the crops, it became necessary to cultivate a crop of kids as well to do the chores, such as slop the hogs, pull careless weeds for them, cut stove wood, get the milk cows in to pen and it always seemed that cockle burrs were to be pulled and when the crops were ready to harvest, it was time to make hay, pick cotton and gather corn along with a million other chores such as working cattle or shearing sheep. It seems that 6 to 8 kids was the norm for each family so by early 1880, there became needs for schools as the juvenile population began to expand, so the State created school districts about 8 miles apart beginning in about 1882.
It appears that the schools began west of Mason at Grit, Streeter, Ranch Branch, l0 Mile, Hext, Haystack, Long Mt, Leon, Little Saline, London, Red Creek, which had the dubious name of TOAD LEVEL, Ivy and Blue Mountain. There was a school of a short duration at Double Knobs when the Fisher family settled there before moving on Kimble County where Tea Cup was established. Some of the buildings are still in existence today, either fallen down or run down state and a few are still used as community centers.
The Ivy School is still being used and now referred to as Ivy Chappell. Toad Level school is non-existent. Blue Mountain still stands and is located on private property. Tea Cup has fallen down and only the rubble marks the spot of higher education. The London School was built near the present Methodist Church and a new building was constructed in 1926 at the south edge of town. This building burned about 1975. The Little Saline School was originally built on the bank of the Little Saline Creek about a half-mile south of the present building and was called Pleasant Valley. It was moved to the present location in 1903 and is now used as the Saline Community Council. The Leon School was built about a mile west and a half-mile north of Erna at the foot of Gentry Point on the Old Erna Road near Leon Creek. Long Mt. School was built in 1882 as District 13 and the building was located about 100 yards NE of the present Long Mt. Cemetery. Long Mt. and Leon consolidated in 1915 and the old building became a Methodist Church and about 1934 or 5, and it mysteriously went up in flames and only the outline of the foundation remains. The Long Mt. Building still remains and is used as a community center. Haystack was located at the end of the present Hungry Hollow Lane and it merged with Long Mt. in 1929. Ranch Branch school is only recognizable by the rubble on site. The Streeter school is still standing but not in use. Grit and Hext are still being used as a center The 10 Mile School was located about 6 miles east of Hext on Block House Rd. and is now in use as a private residence.
The Long Mt. School merged with Mason in 1946. Little Saline merged with Menard and the students went to the London School in 1943. Both school buildings still have on display the stage curtains, which were covered with advertising by the local merchants of the area. The studies at all the schools were the same basic readin, writin and arithmetic with a little deportment thrown in. The rod for use was the rule rather than the exception to make a few attitude adjustments. ACLU was not active back in the 1880’s so the teacher ruled the classroom.
Of course, with the advancement of higher education, renovation was about to take place in many ways. I remember that my dad went to Little Saline and he never referred to school as grade levels. He went thru the third reader and graduated at about 10 years of age after completing the third reader. He was ready for farm life and no need to waste any further time. As a youngster in the 1930’s, I had the honor of hearing a few stories about the Good Ole Days and I remember once Dad telling about a School Christmas and they had one student that did not master the first reader ever and he received a nicely wrapped present and after he opened it, he was asked what was in the package, as if no one knew, and he said “I had a little pony but he got away.” Only the dumpling was left. I am sure that he graduated with that answer.