Rachel Oakes and Red Hill School

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

Thursday, August 8, 1912:  Hardly worth while and not worth the effort.

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

Since Grandma didn’t have much to say a hundred years ago today, I’m again going to go off on a tangent. I’m always intrigued by what happened to the friends that Grandma mentioned in the diary. 

I recently found a picture of one friend,  Rachel Oakes, when she was an elderly woman. (She’s the one on the left.) It was taken in 1978 at a Red Hill School reunion. Red Hill School was a one-room school located at the southern end of McEwensville.

According to the History of the McEwensville Schools, Rachel taught at Red Hill School during the 1909-10 school year.  Later, during the 1910-11 and 1911-12 school years, she was the primary school teacher at McEwensville School. I suppose that it was considered more prestigious to teach at the larger McEwensville School.

Rachel must have been a few years older than Grandma and  her sister Ruth. (Ruth graduated from high school in 1911—and Grandma graduated in 1913.)

Note that the article mentions Ruth Gauger—that was Grandma’s sister Ruth’s married name. According to the History of the McEwensville Schools, Ruth taught at Red Hill School during the 1914-15 school year (and her other sister Besse taught there from 1906-09).

Recent photo of building that once housed Red Hill School. It is now a home.

Didn’t Have a Good Time at the McEwensville Festival

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

Saturday, July 27, 1912:  Ruth and I went to a festival this evening up at McEwensville. I didn’t have a very good time, and Ruth said she didn’t either.

Recent photo of the McEwensville Community Hall and picnic grove. The festival probably was held in this small park.

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

I wonder why neither Grandma nor her sister Ruth had a good time. Weren’t their friends there? . . . Did the cute guys ignore them . . .

When I was a child there was an old-fashioned  carnival at McEwensville each summer.. I imagine it being similar to the festival a hundred years ago. .

There was lots of great food– barbequed chicken, chicken corn soup, cakes, pies. . .

And, a cake walk, penny throws, balloon boards . . .

There’s no longer a festival or carnival in McEwensville, but the sign is still stored in the rafters of the picnic shelter.

And, music, good times with friends . . .

There was a dunk tank. They were always looking for kids willing to be dunked. Sometimes my cousin sat in the dunking chair.  I never was brave enough to do it.

Inside McEwensville High School

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

Friday, May 31, 1912:Today seemed like Monday to me, as I didn’t do much work yesterday. Went over to see Carrie.

Grandma’s gravestone is in the foreground. The brick building in the background once housed the high school that she attended.

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

I’d like to tell you some more about last week-end. I got to tour the inside of the building that once housed McEwensville High School!

The school building is next to McEwensville Cemetery and  is now empty, but from the late 1950s until a few years ago it housed the McEwensville Fire Department.

When I went to the cemetery to put  flowers on relatives graves for Memorial Day, I noticed that the building doors were open and that there was a garage sale taking place inside.

With my heart beating rapidly I went into the garage sale, and told the story of Grandma and her diary.

I met a wonderful family, including Vincent Emery, who had purchased the building several years ago. He even gave me a tour of the second floor where the high school was located (the primary school was on the first floor).

Vincent Emery giving me the tour.

As I ascended the stairs, my whole body tingled with excitement. I finally was going to be in the room that Grandma had written so much about. Some things had changed since Grandma’s time. The stairs had been moved to enable the building to serve as a fire truck garage and the tile ceiling was from a later time.

But much appeared to be the same as it had been when it was a school. . . . wooden wainscoting . . . the chalk board . . .

The old slate chalkboard now sits on the floor.

The hole in the wall where the chalkboard once hung.

I thought about the times Grandma sat at in this room and worried about tests . . .  the time  a boy chased her around the wood or coal stove . . . the time she teased her teacher about drawing a picture of a ring, the times wind rattled the windows, the time she cheated on a test . . .

Whew, even now, five days later, I’m still in awe that I actually stood in the same room where Grandma attended school.

Could Hardly Get Through the Mud

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

Friday, February 23, 1912:  It was so awful muddy this afternoon. Didn’t hardly know how I would get through mud and everything else coming home from school.

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

Mud was a huge problem a  hundred years ago. Neither the streets in McEwensville nor the rural roads that Grandma needed to walk to get home from school were paved.

A muddy Main street in McEwensville in the early 1900s. Photo from Watsontown, McEwensville, and Delaware Township: A real Photo Postcard History by Robert Swope, Jr. (Photo used with permission)

Recent photo showing the same section of Main Street. The paved road is a definite improvement on muddy late winter days.

School Had Financial Problems

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

Sunday, February 18, 1912:  Went to Sunday School this afternoon. The roads are rather muddy. Went over to see Carrie this afternoon. I mean I went to Sunday School this morning. I wonder what will happen tomorrow at school I just wonder if Mr. Forest Dunkel (that’s his name) is going to be stern and terrible.

Grandma would have walked down this road to church--EXCEPT in those days it wasn't paved.

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

Forest Dunkel was going to be the new teacher at McEwensville High School. The previous teacher had quit mid-year.

As I told you several days ago, McEwensville School had a difficult time keeping teachers because of the low teacher salary. Here’s a little more information about the school’s financial problems:

Sometimes the school board was unable to pay the teachers at the appropriate time and could do so only when there was again enough money in the treasury. The McEwensville school board had difficulty collecting tuitions due from the directors for pupils attending from Delaware Township. At one time McEwensville even considered going to court to collect these monies, but concluded that it would not be worth the legal expense involved.

The History of the McEwensville Schools (2000)  by Thomas Kramm

Grandma’s family lived in Delaware Township, so she would have been one of the students that the school was having difficulty getting the township to pay for in a timely manner.

Carrie Stout was a friend of Grandma’s who lived on a nearby farm.

High Teacher Turnover

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

Friday, February 16, 1912: And this is the last day of that wonderful teacher of ours. I wonder how he felt this afternoon. I expected he would give some kind of an address, but he didn’t. Oh well, I don’t think I’ll be sorry of his leaving if the next one comes up to the average.  

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

Grandma wrote the previous Friday that her old teacher was staying for one more week.

I learned a little more about the mid-year change in teachers in the  History of the McEwensville Schools by Thomas Kramm:

. . . The high teacher turnover rate, especially in the high school prior to 1916, resulted in a new teacher almost every year. At least one teacher, and perhaps more, would not return to teach the following school year because the school board refused to increase the teacher’s salary. Although it did not occur often, when a teacher resigned in mid-term it was sometimes a challenge to find a replacement. During the 1911-12 school year, when high school teacher Howard Northrop wanted to resign mid-term, his resignation was not permitted until he personally recruited his own replacement.

Whew, it doesn’t sound like the school board did much vetting of teachers. Hopefully the new teacher will be good.

Pull the Blinds–There’s a Burial in the Cemetery

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

Tuesday, September 26, 1911:  Was in doubts and fears as to how Mollie would act when I commenced to milk her. Pop milked her last night, but I had to do it after that, so I got up early this morning, resolving to come off conquering and I did. Hurrah. She didn’t kick.

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

The calf of Grandma’s cow Mollie was sold the previous day. It sounds like Mollie is adjusting to the change.

The previous day’s issue of the Milton Evening Standard had a front page article about the death of John Sheep, the grandfather of Grandma’s friend Helen  “Tweet” Wesner.  It says that Mr. Sheep died at his home after a long illness.

Milton Evening Standard (September 25, 1911)

I wonder if Tweet was upset—though I suppose that she probably was expecting it.

The article indicates that Mr. Sheep was buried on this date in the cemetery next to the McEwensville school.

My father says that when he was a child attending this same school that the classroom blinds were always drawn whenever there was an interment to keep the children from getting upset. It probably was the same a generation earlier when Grandma was a student.

The brick building in the background once housed McEwensville School.

It seems like it would be equally upsetting to know why the blinds had been drawn but not be allowed to see it—but I guess that people handled death differently back then.

In many ways death was closer to people a hundred years ago. Most people died at home —yet the community apparently tried to protect children from death by doing things like pulling the blinds.

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