Close Relationship Between School and Community

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, January 24, 1913: Didn’t have any visitors at our literary meeting this afternoon, and I was rather glad that we didn’t.

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Recent photo of old McEwensville School building.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Members of the Literary Society at Grandma’s high school presented recitations and dialogues at their meetings. Apparently, guests were always welcome.

Grandma’s went to a tiny one-room high school (The high school was on the second floor of the building; there was a primary school on the first floor).

The school was such an integral part of the social fabric of the community that it merited mention in the diary not when there were visitors at the meeting, but rather when there were none.

The school obviously had many limitations, yet I have a gut feeling there was something special about the small community-based schools a hundred years ago.

According to the June, 1913 issue of The Rural Educator:

We must, at the outset, recognize that the social institutions are the machines through which social energy works. There is abundant social energy in every rural community. The center of intellectual activities of the community should be the rural school.

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12 Responses

  1. You have the greatest family collection.

  2. Wonder why your grandma was happy there weren’t any visitors?

  3. PS. I meant to tell you: in one of your Grandma’s entries, she mentioned playing the game “Flinch”. I’d never heard of it, and don’t know if it’s still around or not. But I saw one for sale at an antique shop last weekend, and thought about you…well, I thought about your Grandma and your blog!

  4. Methinks your Grandma was bored with visitor recitations? :)

  5. My high school graduating class was almost 800! That’s just seniors. I can’t imagine going to a one-room high school. Actually sounds nice!

  6. I can’t even imagine what a one room high school must have been like! By the way, a very close friend of my family passed away two weeks ago a day shy of her 99th birthday. She was born on January 15, 1914 and we buried her on January 15, 2013. She grew up in a major city, which is quite different from the world your grandmother knew, but I often wonder what her response would have been to your grandmother’s diary entries from 100-years-old. My guess is that they wouldn’t have seemed as distant to her as they do to me.

    • I’d like to extend my sympathy. It’s always difficult to lose a friend–no matter what their age. It would have have been interesting to know how similar Grandma’s experiences were to hers. I think that people in urban areas were more likely to have electricity and indoor plumbing a hundred years ago than people in rural areas.

  7. Before rural schools were consolidated in Kansas, it was common to have the primary grades consolidated in one building and the high-school in another. My parents wanted my brothers and myself to have a chance of getting into a good college and surviving once we arrived there. They had to pay out-or-district tuition for us to drive 40 miles one way to go to school. It was a hardship on them but at the end of 5th grade I went from a class of 3 to a class of 476 in the 6th grade. It took a bit of adjusting but I’ve always been glad my parents believed in education. Had I been born 100 years sooner, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to seek a higher education in the rural environment we lived in.

    • It must have been a real change to go from a class 3 to one of 486.You were very fortunate that your parents cared so much about ensuring that you got a good education.

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