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April 14, 1983


PIX #1 - Pictured is the Class of 1909-1910 at rural Bethel School. They are (front row, left to right): Carl Corey, Charles Easelbaugh, Ralph Graber, Pete Flechtner, Ethel Glassburn, Laura Rouser, Florence Lellus. Second row: Wayne Landis, Arthur Graber, Orlo Hatfield, Mabel Cochard, Goldie Rouser, Garland Helfer, Helen Adams, Jeannette Hershberger, Elnora Hammer. Back row: John Sellers, Daniel Cochard, Fred Brandeberry, George Graber, Fran Sellers, Blanche Flechtner, Gladys Brandeberry, and Nancy Jenkins, teacher.

Author's Note: This is the second and last article about country schools, especially Possum Hill, as told by Captain F.R. Stewart who was educated in one and told about it at one of his classmate's reunions in 1921.

Spelling schools were a leading diversion for the pupils and their elders. We went five or six miles, piling into big sleighs in the winter, to engage in contests with other schools.

When it came time to "take up school" the teacher would rap his ruler on the wall or side of the door. The house had no bell, and there were no handbells until a few years later.

Contrary to what you expect me to say, there was no whipping or similar pun- ishment. The teacher did have a whip, but seldom used it. The tricks on the teacher, such as smoking him out, did not exist in early school days.

The last school day was celebrated more elaborately in later years. The dis- tribution of pictures by the teacher to the pupils on the last day became a custom. The girl who beat me in spelling got a prize and I got a consolation prize, but the teacher handed them over privately and without ceremony. We spelled by syllables. We had school about every other Saturday, as well as five days a week.

Of all the pupils who attended Possum Hill in the fall and winter of 1842-43 my sister Mrs. Rose Caldwell of Toledo and myself are alone among the living. Those 79 years have witnessed many changes. I can remember four wars in which our country was engaged, and I was in one of them. One day when Rose and I were hoeing corn I socked my hoe into the ground and told her that if I were eight years older it should stick there--that I would go to war. It was the Mexican war, and I was only 11 years old.

I am many years older now, but my education is still going on and will go on to the end. Everyone here finds one of the joys of life in going back in memory to his or her school days of old Possum Hill. My memory goes back 79 years with scarcely an effort, and I love to live over again those days at Possum Hill in 1842 and the years that followed.

Where fields and farmhouses surround us today, I can see the trackless forest with towering oaks and thickstanding trees whose branches waved over the log cabin that was dedicated to the education of the children of the pioneers. I can see and hear the merry, sturdy laughing boys and girls at their games and see their heads bent over their books. Trees and youth are nearly all gone and the log school house was twice been replaced. The education which was begun then and continued since has lasted and developed, and its work and re- wards are as great in 1921 as in 1842. The youngest little "possum" who starts to school this fall will have about the same things to learn out of books and out of life; the same games, and the same kinds of a future as the "possum" who started in the year after the first school was built.


There is perhaps no rural school district in Seneca County the name of which is more familiar to the inhabitants than that of Possum Hill District of Clin- ton Township. This was especially true 60 years ago. I think it was the only district in which the first school house was erected in the woods without a single rod of cleared land.

Not only the location, but the school building with its environments were characteristic of pioneer life. The district is located in the northeast cor- ner of Clinton Township, extending 1 1/2 miles west and south from the north- east corner of the township and numbered school district No. 9.

On Sept. 18, 1840, a quorum of the property owners of the district met at the home of Matthew Earl for the purpose of organizing a school board and arrang- ing for the erection of a school building. Nicholas Goetschius was appointed chairman and James Goetschius secretary.

At the meeting, James Goetschius, Matthew Earl and John Willow were elected directors of School District No. 9 of Clinton Township, Seneca County. They unanimously voted to levy a tax of $75 on the property owners of the district for the purpose of erecting and equipping a suitable building which was to be built of hewed logs, 18 x 22 feet with a shingle roof.

The contractor for the building was Hezechiah Dern and James Goetshius for the sum of $58. The clearing of the group and equipment for the schoolroom cost $24, making a total of $82.

The building was furnished in the summer of 1841. It stood alone in the woods with a door in the center of the east front, with three windows on the south and north sides and two in the west end. For writing desks, a two-inch plank 30 inches wide was placed on each side. The rear end was supported by strong braces extending from the mop-board to the outer edge of the plank. In front of the desks was a long bench made out of a slat with two pins in each end, one in the center to serve as seats for the larger pupils. In front of the two side benchs was a similar bench not so high for the smaller pupils.

This temple for intellectual development, surrounded by native forests, stood as a harbinger for the intellectual and moral development of both the present and future generations, approachable only by pathways marked by blazed trees and leading to every point of the compass.

This renowed edifice was dedicated on Oct. 1, 1941, by Henry Duel as its first teacher at the magnificent salary of $10 per month and board with the families of the district, each in proportion to the number of pupils attending school.

May 1, 1842, Joseph Lorn was employed to teach a two-month summer school for $8 per month. On Nov. 28, 1842, Joel Keller was employed to teach three months at $13 per month. He was succeeded in the fall of 1843 by Nicholas Goetschius for $12 per month. He was succeeded in 1844 by A.F. Brown at $16 per month. Elias Hyter followed Goetschius at a salary of $14 per month. Following him was: A.F. Brown, $15 per month; George A. Meacham, $15.50 per month; Samuel Lapin, $15; James Stewart, $14; Thomas Strong, $20; Ann Rumel with a four-month summer school at $1.75 per week. She was succeeded by George Mersitt at $1 per day.

During the summer of 1855, the school building was sold to George Corthell for $1.75 and a contract let to Lott Norris to erect a frame building on the same ground 28 x 30 feet for the sum of $375.

The new frame building was completed and ready for occupancy Jan. 1, 1856. James Stinchcomb had the honor of dedicating it as its first teacher at a sal- ary of $28 per month.

In the meantime, the aggressive farmers had enlarged their cultivated fields so that the school house no longer stood in the midst of a forest.

No school directors could have been more faithful to their official trust. During the life of the first school building the directorate circulated among Matthew Earl, William Park, John Willow, James Goetschius and Thomas D. Stewart. Lewis Holtz, Thomas W. Egbert, George Corthell and A.F. Baker were on the board of directors after the new building was erected.

The pupils who attended school in the forest school house were an aggressive, wide awake and intelligent group of young people. Surely, the boys and girls of the early days of Possum Hill have been an important factor in the develop- ment of Seneca County. Captain F.R. Stewart


The lead story today about Possum Hill School continued from last week, had no direct connection with this part which pertains to another rural schol in this area, Bethel. It was located on what is now McCutchenville Road at Pelton Road, across from the Wigwam.

Bethel School was built in 1880 and used until 1936, at which time students were sent to Perry Center School which had two rooms. Perry Center School closed in 1946 and then the students were brought to Fostoria schools by bus.

Bethel School stood vacant until the John F. Florea family converted in into a residence. Denver House bought it from the Floreas in 1973 and still re- sides there.

Since I didn't have a picture of Possum Hill School; I decided to make Bethel School a part of this article. Mrs. Wade Loe, Eastwood Drive, had offered the use of her pictures of Bethel School when I worked with her on another arti- cle.

The accompanying photo shows the students who attended Bethel in 1909-10. Mrs. Loe said school reunions were held regulary for many years, but recently it has been difficult to get students who once attended there to come to re- unions.

Mrs. Loe has other photos, all with the students identified. The following is a list of students, other than those shown, who attended Bethel.

Class 1907: Joe Hammer, Merlin Hefer, Clarence Hammer, Hazel Shook, Stella Hammer, Ed Hammer, Nova Mizer, Joe Mizer, Willie Welch, Celia Flechtner, Pearl Graber, Pearl Bairs.

Class 1911: Cecil Hatfield, Raymond Rouser, Wade Baker, Gilbert Rouser, Helen Johnston, Walter Piper, Hazel Johnston, Ruth Sellers, Kathryn Stainbrook, Maurice Adams, Harold Shoemaker, Lulu Piper, James Carper, Fred Munger, Cletus Stainbrook, Florence Sellers, Ralph Stainbrook.

Class of 1914-15: James Thomas Fisher, Elizabeth Fisher, Ruth Shoemaker, Ruth Piper, Glada Piper, Stella Windsor, Naomi Fahle, Stanley Hartman, Emerson Hill, Jeff Windsor, Ward Steward, Kenneth Rowe, Bernice Connor, Billie Hart- man.

In reviewing the photo and list, readers may recall names, faces, and memories of the past.

Teachers in earlier days weren't paid very handsomely--they must have been in- wardly rewarded for their jobs well done with their students. There are still a few of those old teachers who taught in rural schools around, including Vera Eger, Edna Gilhuly, Oneita Whiteman, Mildred Smothers, Elsie Schubert and perhaps others.


I know things about the daily life of teachers back then, since my sister Ruth served her apprenticeship in several rural schools in Seneca and Hancock counties.

The day started early. They walked, rode a streetcar, hitched a ride or what- ever could be arranged to get to their teaching posts.

When Ruth taught two miles south of Bascom, she rode the TF&E streetcar to the village then hiked the two miles. In winter, it meant battling snow drifts, knee deep snow. I recall going with her in the winter when we had holidays in town. Before we would reach the school, we would have icicles hanging from our noses.

After arriving at the school, the first job was to get a fire started in the stove which heated the one big room, so it would be warm when the children arrived. When the weather was too bad in winter, Ruth stayed with any farm family close to the school who would provide her room and food.



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