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August 25, 2019

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Some information on the McElroy (Red) country school

By Leland Crouse

Liberty District No.1, commonly known as McElroy or Red School, was located at the intersection of County Roads 20 and 65. The land for the school was provided by D. McElroy, thus the name McElroy School.

The 1879 Hardin County Atlas provides the information that the first school in Liberty Township, a log cabin, was built here. The log school was eventually replaced by the Red School, on land now owned by the Jump family. The building is gone, but the water pump still remains.

A special thanks goes to Marilyn Bosse Johnson, who compiled the information she gathered from former Red School pupils, William Bosse, Marvin Bosse and Joan (Shaw) Reichert, into the following story.

The Red School Days

The Red School was an especially attractive frame school painted in red and trimmed in green. The entrance room, called the belfry, contained a ladder and rope to the bell tower. On each side was a cloakroom-one side for the girls and the other for the boys. Shelving held dinner buckets. The main room was laid out like most other schools.

After the ringing of the bell at 9 a.m. school started with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, the singing of: Star Spangled Banner,” “America,” or some patriotic song. Also, there was Bible reading by the teacher. Once a week each student would say a memorized Bible verse.

After lunch the pupils were free to play games such as marbles, jump rope, hide-and seek, tag games and baseball. In the winter sometimes, they skated on a nearby pond. Some of the boys liked to track rabbits in the woods across from the school. One time rabbits ran out of a brush pile and several children jumped on them and clubbed them. The teacher, Ruth Clark, hung the catch in the coal shed where it froze. Later she cooked them, and the students enjoyed a rabbit dinner. Other noontime activities were enjoyed by older boys (some attended until age 21). They liked to go out back to the privy to chew tobacco.

The teacher taught all eight grades, and had to come to school early to build the fire in the potbellied stove. One teacher, Lucille Barnes (Spar) lived with her family and walked two miles to school. The last teacher, Paul Motter lived in Ada. He drove an Essex and picked up students on his way to school. Joan Reichert remembers on a cold snowy day being picked up by the milkman, Clarence Stonehill, in his Model T truck.

Teachers were expected to be of good character and have high standards, but not all were so concerned about their image. One lady teacher walked the board fence around the school along with her students. William and Marvin Bosse both remembered the day in 1917 when teacher Ruth Clark heard an airplane and ran outside with all her students to see the novel invention.

Some other teachers at Red School in addition to Ruth Clark were Paul Ernsberger, Lucille Barnes, Phillip and Helen Reese (husband and wife), Sant Nelson, Clarabelle Norris, Rosa Boutwell, Mabel Kelly (Mayhorn) and Paul Motter.

The last day of school was April 15, much earlier than now so the boys could help get the farm crops planted.

The school year 1927-28 marked the end of the one-room schoolhouse era. The schools were centralized that year and afterwards Liberty Township students came to Ada.

The Red School stood for another 13 years, until it burned to the ground May 24, 1941.