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.

School Boards a Hundred Years Ago

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

Tuesday, September 19, 1911: Thought this would be the last day for our substitute, but afterwards learned that he is going to teach tomorrow instead of having it off for the fair.

Recent photo of building that once housed McEwensville School.

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

It sounds as if the teacher had the option of deciding whether to give students the day off to attend the fair in nearby Milton.

I don’t know why there was a substitute teacher for the first several weeks of the school year (the teacher from the previous year was slated to return the following week) — but Thomas Kramm, in his History of McEwensville Schools, wrote:

The election of a teacher from the available candidates sometimes became a serious problem. In 1901, a sixth ballot was required to break the previous five tie ballots. In 1904, seven ballots did not results in the an election of a teacher. All candidates were rejected, and a slate of new applicants was considered. Just before school was to start, the eight ballot resulted in an election. This suggestions that there were probably power struggles within the board membership.

. . . At least one teacher and perhaps more would not return to teach the following year because the school board refused to increase the teacher’s salary.

Throughout the United States in 1911 there were more school board members than teachers. This had both advantages and disadvantages.

For example, in McEwensville there were two teachers (an elementary and a high school teacher)–yet there probably were either 4 or 6 members on the board.

The community was very involved in ensuring that the schools were high quality and met the needs of the community–but they also sometimes micromanaged the schools and perhaps didn’t always make decisions in the best interest of the students (as suggested by the quote above).

The Lutheran Church in McEwensville

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

Sunday, June 18, 1911: Went to Sunday school this morning. Was over Stout’s this afternoon, and went up to the Lutheran church to witness their children’s day services this evening. Ma was my chaperone.

This used to be the Lutheran Church in McEwensville.

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

There is no longer a Lutheran church in McEwensville. Messiah Lutheran merged with the other church in the parish—St. James Lutheran (Turbotivlle) a few years ago. The combined congregation is now called Holy Spirit Lutheran. Holy Spirit built a building in out in the county half way between McEwensville and Turbotville.

The building is now used for antique storage.
An aside: I can remember eating snacks on this porch when I attended Vacation Bible School there as a child. (I wonder why minor random events sometimes pop into my memory.)


The Location of the Old McEwensville Baptist Church

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

Monday, May 22, 1911: Never have I felt less inclined to write in this diary than I do tonight.

The old McEwensville Baptist Church probably was located somewhere on the lot that currently contains this yard and white house.

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

Since Grandma didn’t have much to say a hundred years ago today, I’m going to partially resolve one of the mysteries that I’ve been grappling with.  Many of these mysteries are about minor things (and I keep telling myself they don’t really matter in the bigger scheme of things)—yet it’s always fun to resolve one of them.

The mystery that I’ve resolved (with Uncle Carl’s help) is the location of the old Baptist Church in McEwensville.

I think that Grandma attended the Baptist Church (see February 5 entry), but since the building was torn down many years ago I wasn’t even sure where in McEwensville the church had been located.

The Baptist Church is located near the top of the map on the lefthand side.

Uncle Carl recently loaned me a copy of an 1858 map of McEwensville that had the Baptist Church on it. The church was located on the east side of Main Street a little to the north of where the old road from Watsontown entered town. We assume that the building location on the map probably was the same in 1911.

I’ve updated the map on the Setting page to reflect the correct location.

An aside—It’s really cool how the old map lists all of the property owner’s names. Also, note how in the mid-1800s the very small streamlet that runs along the west side of the northern part of McEwensville had been dammed to provide water for a saw mill.