Madison County History and Genealogy

History and Genealogy

Somerford Township Schools

From History of Madison County, W. H. Beers & Co, Chicago, 1883

The early settlers of Somerford Township to a great extent were from Virginia and Kentucky, having been raised in those States, where slavery was a legal institution, and where there was no free school system and no encouragement or support given by their governments to the work of education; hence the masses of the people were generally uneducated, and among this class of honest, yet illiterate people were many who were dissatisfied with the institution of slavery and its incubus of ignorance, and were anxious to free their children and their posterity of their baneful effect. They learned of the rich and fertile soil of Ohio and its freedom from slavery, and a flood of emigration set in, and these then Western wilds were rapidly peopled by these sturdy yeomanry, and Madison County and Somerford Township were the recipients of a goodly number of them. Here was the untutored savage, and the primitive wildness of all his surroundings, and the white settler here stood as "master of the field." He felt the responsibility that rested upon him in the work before him, of preparing homes and creating political institutions, whose benign influences should bless his posterity for ages to come; and he fully realized his lack of education to till intelligently the various political offices of this new yet rapidly growing country. Hence we find them early taking steps for the education of their children. There were no schoolhouses, and the first settlers were generally poor, and it was about as much as they could do at first to keep "body and soul together." But as soon as was possible, a few neighbors would unite in their efforts, by each subscribing a certain amount toward hiring a teacher to hold school in one of their houses, a rude log cabin, where he would receive the children of said subscribers, and from the most primitive books teach them the first rudiments of an education. These first teachers were usually paid from $8 to $12 per month, and "boarded around." For many years schools were supported entirely by subscription, till finally the people saw a necessity of a public and general provision for educating the masses. As by the first process of supporting schools by subscription, many were too poor to contribute, and others were too ignorant or penurious, and hence the children of such were deprived of all advantages of schooling. So, through the legislative power of the State, laws were enacted, and, from time to time, provisions made, until the present free school system of Ohio has been reached, and now no child is debarred from the privilege of attending school from six to twenty-one years of age.

It is believed that the first school ever held in what is now Somerford Township was in the Arbuckle neighborhood. The first house erected for school purposes was about 1818, when a round-log house was built on the place now owned by C. Arbuckle. This was of the most primitive kind, with greased paper for windows. This house was succeeded by several others, each a little better constructed than its predecessor, till about 1850 a neat and comfortable frame house was erected near where the present house stands. This frame house was occupied till about 1872 when the present brick house was erected. This is known as District No. 3. It now enumerates thirty-six scholars. Present Board of Directors: Martin Gowens, M. Goodyear and — — Gardner. Another early established school was the one in Mr. Potee's neighborhood. The first session of school held here was about the year 1828, which was in an old round-log house, built by Mr. Umble for a dwelling. About 1825, a good hewed-log house was erected on the northwest corner of Valentine Wilson's farm, for school purposes, which remained in use for at least fifteen years, when it was burned down. Then another hewed-log house was erected on the same farm, which had been built for the purpose of a church, but was never used but little as such, and was appropriated for school purposes, and remained in use as such till 1859, when a frame house was erected on Mr. Potee's land, which was used till 1873, when the present neat brick house was erected. The present Board of Directors are James Prugh, William Tingly and Philip Markle.

The above schools in Districts No. 3 and 4 are an illustration of the beginning and progress of the schools of the township from its first settlement down to the present time. Now the township has six good school-houses—four brick and two frame. The schoolhouse at Somerford is a two-story brick, having one room above and one below. It was erected in 1872. This had been preceded by two frame houses, the last of which was built in 1870. and, in two years after, caught fire and burned down, and then the above-mentioned brick house was erected. Present Board of Directors are Dr. E. G. KiefFer, M. V. Fauver and James Arbuckle.

This township can now compare favorably with any other in the county in the quality of her schoolhouses, and in the condition and progress of her schools. And what a contrast in the school privileges of to-day and those of seventy-five years ago! It would be useless to attempt to portray it: language is inadequate to express it, and the minds of the rising generation can but imperfectly realize it. Then the child had to go miles through the woods, and over almost impassable mud roads; enter a rough log schoolhouse; sit upon a slab seat; warm before a fire-place which occupied all one end of the house, where were piled logs which it took two or three big boys to roll in; learn what little he could from the simple and primitive books of that day: all that was his privilege, just for a few days in the winter, when his father had nothing for him to do at home, or when the weather was so bad and inclement that it was impossible to work out of doors. And further, if in participating in the above the child's conduct or behavior did not come up to the standard which the teacher thought it ought to, he had the sure privilege of a thorough application of a good hickory switch, which were then very plentiful, and in the dextrous use of which the schoolmaster of that day was very proficient. The child of today has a fine brick schoolhouse near his father's fine residence, or but a short distance from it, over a solid gravel road, where he enters and enjoys the finest of furniture, and the room heated by a good coal stove to any degree of comfort; has the best improved books, from which the lessons are explained and illustrated by charts, maps, globes and other apparatus to elucidate and make clear to the mind of each child the subject of the lesson. And not only this, but these privileges are extended to him from six to nine months every year. The rod is seldom used by the teacher of today. He studies the mind of his pupil, understands his nature, gains his confidence and controls him by love. Truly, the child of to-day, as compared with that of seventy-five years ago, lives in a golden age.

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