Blue Grass School - Kinderhook Township

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Written and Contributed by Anna Dolbeare Clark
Compiled 07 January 1992 - (Arthur Clark - Former student)
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I have appreciated the assistance and time given to me during the research on Blue Grass School. WIth the knowledge and encouragement of other people, I have been able to complete this paper.

Contributions have been given from Arthur Clark, my husband and former student of Blue Grass School, Lillian Oitker, Minnie Hunter, Elsie Maddox, Glenna Pullian, Minnie Fletcher, Anna Mae Kurtz, Bonnie Fee, Ted Clark, Jr., Mary Lou Lacy, Ruth Clary, Robert and Doris Hoskins, George Johnson, Walter Hinds, Gloria Coultas, Dorothy Elliston, Peggy Rawlings at the Barry Public Library, Staff at the Pittsfield Public Library, and the Staff at the County Clerk's Office.

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Though for no other cause, yet for this,
That posterity may know we have not loosely through silence.
Permitted, things to pass away as in a dream.
by Richard Hooker
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Hear Kinderhook, Illinois, is a vacant school ground, that was the Blue Grass School property. In the nineteenth century plans were made for the school, and as research was done on the school many interesting facts were uncovered. The area, its establishment, and school as an institution of learning, have played an important part in this rural community.

Blue Grass School was situated approximately one and three-fourth miles east of Kinderhook, Illinois, in Pike County, Illinois. The village of Kinderhook was founded in 1836 by Chester Churchill and Bridge Whitten, and Peter Harper was known as the first settler. Several stores, a flour mill, blacksmith shops and several other industries were located in the village. Two churches and a graded school were also part of the community. Most of Kinderhook is atop a high bluff overlooking rich farmlands and near the great Mississippi River

Soon afterwards the rural area started to be populated, and country schools were established. Pioneers should be given much credit for settling and clearing the country for usage. It has been written that Indians were plentiful, and oftentimes wild animals were here. The crude homes of the early pilgrims were made of logs with puncheon floors, clapboard doors held together with wooden pins, stick chimneys, and each home usually contained a single four-light window.

At that time early settlers used the road formerly known as the "coast to coast road" which ran east and west across the wide United States. It was the only road for people who journeyed from Kinderhook to Barry and vice versa. The old road, partly mud, partly graveled, was first traveled by walking and with horses. Although the road was passable by people and students as they came to school, a new highway 36 south of the road was in use in the 1920s. As of today, January 7, 1992, the Central Illinois Expressway has been laid north of the area, A few older residents remember the old "coast to coast road" and the adventures encountered, such as cars being stuck in the mud on the way to an important ball game in Barry. Segments of the old road are still used today.

It is worthwhile to consider the name of Blue Grass School, it being spelled with three words, Blue Grass School. The school was situated in a bluegrass area, and since it is widely used in lawns I will elaborate somewhat on bluegrass. The most important pasture and lawn grass in North America is Kentucky bluegrass. Throughout most of the United States, Canada, Europe, and the northern half of Asia the bluegrasses grow. It is believed that the cultivated variety of Kentucky bluegrass was introduced into North America by the early colonists. It does not thrive in arid regions and does not usually grow below the latitude of southern Tennessee. This grass is long-lived and flourishes in limestone soils. The bluegrass lives through severe winters and hot summers, can tolerate some shade but does better in open areas. It is assumed that the Blue Grass School was named because of the abundant bluegrass surrounding the country side. The name for the school was appropriate then and now as bluegrass still grows on the original school site. In fact, the lane leading to the former school ground is still referred to as "Bluegrass Lane"

Turning north and just a short distance from the old "coast to coast road" was Blue Grass School. On June 16, 1857, the School District Number 4 purchased one-half acre from James and Hannah Likes for the sum of one dollar. The school is shown in the 1872 Atlas Map. The land was located in the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 20. The school was established prior to the great Civil War. At that time in history, in 1857, President Franklin Pierce ended his presidency, and James Buchanan was president from 1857 to 1861. Two brothers, Ted Clark, Jr. of Hannibal, Missouri, former pupil, and Robert Clark, of Pittsfield, Illinois, own the property now.

In researching, the libraries for information, several interesting articles were found, concerning the school and its activities, There was more available material in the later years of the school. From a Catalogue of the Public School, year 1883-84, compiled by R. M. Hitch, there was this description of Blue Grass School:

District Number 4 in Barry Township:
Blue Grass School
Directors - W, O. Ferguson, Kinderhook
Thomas Hawkins, Kinderhook
B. C. Guthrie, Kinderhook
Teacher: Mary McMahon, Barry
About 35 pupils, school has good name. Large frame house, well furnished.
Pupils fairly interested. No apparatus.

Information from a former student, Mrs. Glenna (Bonifield) Pulllam, of Barry, Illinois, stated that there was one large room with a small room adjoining it used as a cloak room. The main entrance was a south door, and an exit door was on the north side. A coal stove furnished the room with heat, and a jacket was around the stove for the safety of the students. Mrs. Pulliam said the teacher often lived in a neighboring home, and the teacher would walk to the school for the day. Mrs. Pulliam also told of a sweet apple tree on the school grounds, two outhouses, a big school yard, south and east of the school, Mrs. Pulliam said that all eight grades were taught, and graduation exercises were held in the Kinderhook School building.

Mrs. Minnie Hunter of Barry, Illinois, a farmer teacher at Blue Grass School, related some data about the school. She mentioned that there was a well with a pump on the property, but sometimes water was carried from a rural home west of the school. Mrs, Hunter remembered the hot tasty lunches served to the teacher and pupils, and the cooks at one time were Mrs. Beulah Belts and Mrs. Bertha Hull. For activities, children played the old game of andy over, baseball, snow games and other sports. Other entertainment for adults included regular PTA meetings, box suppers, and notable holiday programs,

Mrs. Anna Mae Kurtz, a local resident whose daughters attended the school, was helpful in giving information about the "Sleeping Beauty" operetta that was presented April 7, 1937, in Kinderhook, and on April 9, 1937, in Barry in conjunction with Mound School, There was a small admission charge to the event. Mrs. Kurtz and Mrs. Dorothy (Sisk) Elliston of Barry, Illinois, had identical pictures of the participants in the play, and recalled that the play was a highlight of the school days.

From an account in the Pike County Republican, County School News, of October 24, 1934, there was this article: (p 7)

The people of the Blue Grass district and surrounding community enjoyed a delightful Halloween party at the schoolhouse on Friday night. The school room was gayly decorated with materials in keeping with the season. The first part of the program consisted of giving the identity of the fifteen masked persons. There was a short business meeting, and your county superintendent made a short talk. There were songs, tap dancing, acrobatic stunts, music by the kitchen band, piano music, violin music, dialogs and other numbers, all enjoyable and all appreciated. In order to secure funds for the PTA, invitations were sent out several days before the meeting and attached to each invitation was a small stocking. Each person was supposed to return the stocking with as many cents in it as twice the size of the stocking he or she wore. This plan brought a total of $7,00. Following the program refreshments of sandwiches, pie and coffee were served.

In the Pike County Republican of September 22, 1936, this article was printed in the County School News: (p 2)

The Parent Teacher Community Club of the Blue Grass School held its January meeting on the 10th. A program was furnished by Mr. Spann, Mr. Waggoner, and Miss Alexander, consisting of music and songs. The annual election of officers was held, and the following were elected:

Cornelia Baker, the teacher.
President Lewis Smith, Vice-President
Viola Kurtz, Secretary
Mary Smith, Treasurer
Refreshments of chili, pickles, celery and coffee were served. (Anna Mae Kurtz told me later that she was secretary at that time.)
Blue Grass School at one time issued a school paper according to an article in the Pike County Republican dated October 20, 1937, in the County School Hews. (p 7)
This week we have received school papers and bulletins as follows;
Blue Grass School news from the Blue Grass School
In a November 23, 1938, issue of the Pike County Republican in the County Schools News, there was this data; (p 7)
In recent visitation of schools we have found the following additions and. improvements .. Blue Grass has a new basement furnace, maps and a set of extension books.
In the February 1, 1939, issue of the Pike County Republican in the County School News, there was another interesting article: (p 7)
Minnie G, Hunter, teacher of Blue Grass School, reports that her first and second, grade pupils have been studying about animals and in their study they have told true stories, and riddles, books and poems. She submits three of the poems as follows: Divider Line
My Dog
I have a little dog,
He is black and white.
I pick him up in my arms
and hold him very tight.
----- Thomas Clary, age 8, grade 2
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My Cat
I have a cat,
She likes to eat
I feed her bread and milk,
And sometimes cream of wheat.
----- Cleo Belts, age 7, grade 2
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The Runt
I have a little pig
He says grunt, grunt,
I can't think of a good name,
So I call him Runt.
----- Buddy Snow, age 6, grade 2
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There was additional information in the Pike County Republican, February 22, 1939 in the County School News: (p 6)

Minnie G. Hunter, teacher of Blue Grass School, was unable to teach two days last week, because of an infection. Her sister, Lena F. Brown, taught for her. The Blue Grass Community Club met February 10 with a large crowd present in spite of cold weather. The Barry Girl Scouts presented a very enjoyable program consisting of songs, dances, amd a shadow play entitled "Cinderella." The teacher - and pupils of the school enjoyed a Valentine party with the Spring Valley School. After the games and contests pink and white ice cream and angel food cake were served. The Blue Grass School is glad to welcome three new pupils, Bonnie, Jennie and Winnie DeJaynes. Jennie and Winnie are in the 6th grade. They were in a class with twins, Ross and Rachel Martin, age 12, at the Boulware School, and are now in a class with twins, Paul and Pauline Radefeld, age 12, at the Blue Grass School,

In the April 19, 1939, issue of the Pike County Republican, there was this article: (p 6)

County School Hews - Hospital Builders Since the last issue of the County School News the following pupils of Pike County Schools have contributed to the Illini Community Hospital fund. We give herewith the schools, . . . Blue Grass, the teacher, (Minnie G. Hunter) and the pupils contributing: Dorothy Clary, Frances Ann Hull, Cleo Belts, Bonnie, Winnie and Jennie DeJaynes, Glarla Dee and Lowell Lev/ton, James, Rita and Roy Sisk, Grace and Buddy Snow, Junior and Bobby Clark, Pauline, Paul and Anna Radefeld.

There was the reference to a puppet show being given on March 10, 1943, by the children of the Blue Grass School, Mrs. Frances L, Young, teacher, was in charge.

During the World War II years, patriotic acts by the teachers arid pupils were demonstrated such as collecting scrap iron, tin and rubber for the war effort. There was mention of pupils collecting milkweed pods to help the cause. Two bags of milkweed pods furnished sufficient material to make one life jacket. There was a total of 820 bags of milkweed pods collected in Pike County. R, C. Gray of Pittsfield offered his shop for a storage center, and the pods would be sent onto Jacksonville, Illinois.

The last known teacher was hired for Blue Grass School July 31, 1946, and she was Mrs. Lillian Oitker, I interviewed Mrs. Oitker on December 18, 1991, and she also confirmed that she was the last teacher of Blue Grass School. Mrs. Oitker came to attend the funeral of a brother, Alvie Hinds, a farmer pupil here.

One of the final articles that I found was in the April 30, 1947 issue of the Pike County Republican, in the Kinderhook news by Mrs. Mildred Burgesser, - a former teacher. (p 3)

8th grade graduation exercises will be held at school gym Friday evening . . . Blue Grass graduates are Norma Oitker and Mary Jo Fletcher.

The last article copied from the Pike County Republican of April 28, 1948, County School News, was this one: (p 12)

At the time of this writing these news notes, the Community Unit School Districts have been formed in the following areas: West Pike, including Hull, Kinderhoak, and. New Canton, the Barry area...

In 1949 George Hoskins of Barry, Illinois, bought the vacated school building, and his son and daughter-in-law, Robert and Doris Hoskins, local residents, told of the moving of Blue Grass School from the original site to their farm north of the grounds and making it their residence. According to Robert Hoskins, the building was jacked up and loaded on a lowboy truck pulled by a contractor, Mr. Hockgraver, of Quincy, Illinois. The Hoskins family had to obtain permission to travel on a public road for such a purpose, and Mr. Raskins says it was tight traveling between the fence rows north of the site. The building was moved as far as the Wilbert Moyer farm, and left in the road until the moving could be finished the next day. The coal furnace was also moved and was used for some time. The schoolhouse was partitioned off, and several rooms were added. The Robert Hoskins family made it their home until 1977. Mrs. Crockett Best owns and resides in the residence now.

When the school was reconstructed, signatures of Raymond (Slim) and Russell Newman were found, their names being on some of the sheeting when weather boarding was removed. A notable picture "End of the Trail" which had hung on the schoolhouse walls was salvaged, A few other miscellaneous pieces were saved going to various ones connected with the school.

Several teachers' names have been remembered during the years, but only a few known are still living, namely:

Mrs. Minnie Hunter of Barry, Illinois

Mrs. Lillian Qitker of Derby, Kansas
Mrs. Elsie Maddox of Kinderhook, Illinois

Other teachers listed were found from research and from former-people associated, with the school but not necessarily enumerated in the order of teaching were Letha Mae Gallaher, Cornelia Baker, Mildred Seeley Burgesser, Walter Fitch, James Bothwick, Roy Likes, Frances Young, Pauline Cook Wallace, Grace Jennings, Feme Hull, Edith Mitchell, Mildred Nobis and Charles Kelly. Several student names were given, but I will not attempt to list them since several names would be missed.

Mrs. Elsie Maddox of Kinderhook, Illinois, a former teacher, told about the registers that were kept at the school, registering every student from the school's early days. Those lost records would have been a tremendous help in preparing the history of the school.

I express my appreciation to those who have given information and recalled the busy times at the Blue Grass School. The people that I interviewed remembered happy and different times during the school days. I am fortunate as I can easily walk to the former site, still see the bluegrass growing, think of the former camaraderie and the historical imprint of Blue Grass School near Kinderhook, Illinois.

Bibliography:
1. Craven, Margaret, Again Calls the Owl, G. K, Hall and Co., Boston, Massachusetts 1980, p 106
2. Author not listed, History of Pike County, Illinois, Charles. C. Chapman and Co, , Chicago, Illinois, 1880, p 854
3.Author not listed, History of Pike County, Illinois Charles C. Chapman and Co., Chicago, Illinois, 1880, page 853
4. Clark, Arthur, former pupil of Blue Grass School, Kinderhook, Illinois, personal interview, January 18, 1991
5. Erbe, Lawrence, Encyclopedia Americana, 1989, No. 4, ?? Inc. Danbury Connecticut 06816, p 112
6. Clark, Ted; Jr. . ( former student of Blue Grass School and present pwner, Hannibal, Missouri, personal interview April 4, 1991 and Deed Record, Book 51, County Clerk's Office, Court House, Pittsfield, Illinois, p 482
7. County Clerk's Office, Court House, Pittsf ield, Illinois, 1872 Atlas Map of Pike County, Illinois, p 104
8. R. M Hitch, Catalogue of the Public Schools, Pike County, Illinois, for the year 1883-84, p 46
9. Pulliam, Glenna. former student of Blue Grass School, Barry, Illinois, personal interview, February 3, 1991
10. Hunter, Minnie G. , former teacher of Blue Grass School, Barry, Illinois, personal interview, January 28, 1991
11. Kurtz, Anna Mae, Barry, Illinois, personal interview, February 18, 1991
12. Ellisten, Dorothy, former student of Blue Grass School, Barry, Illinois, personal interview, September 20, 1991
13. Pike County Republican, Pittsfield Public Library, Pittsf ield, Illinois, March 10, 1943, p 6
14.Pike County Republican, Pittsfield Public Library, Pittsfield, Illinois, March 17, 1943, p 6
15. Pike County Republican, Pittsfield Public Library, Pittsfield, Illinois, November 15, 1944, p 7
16.Pike County Republican, Pittsfield Public Library, Pittsfield, Illinois, January 3, 1945, p 8
17. Pike County Republican, Pittsfield Public Library Pittsfield, Illinois, July 31, 1946, p 10
18. Hoskins, Robert and Doris Kinderhook, Illinois, personal interview, August 29, 1991
19. Hoskins, Robert and Doris Kinderhook, Illinois, personal interview, Septermber 20, 1991
20. Maqddox, Elsie, former teacher of Blue Grass School, Kinderhook, Illinois, personal interview September 10, 1991