Fayette County History & Genealogy

History of Fayette County


From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County

THE OLD SCHOOL HOUSE

During the initial steps toward educational advancement in this county, the facilities for literary attainments were not so varied as are thrown around the youth of to-day.

Following our cicerone along a blazed path through the woods to the old log school house; rapping, a voice from the far interior says, "Come in." We pull the latch-string, enter, and at the request of the "master," settle down upon a puncheon bench, the cynosure of all eyes. The first thing we observe is that nearly the whole end of the house is occupied by a fire-place, within whose capacious depths the crackling blaze sends forth light, heat, and cheerfulness. Our gaze being attracted to the outside, we look — not through French plate, but a hole, made by sawing out a log and replacing it with paper greased with lard. Our attention is recalled by a shrill voice: " Master, mayn't I git drink?" The urchin goes to the bucket, setting on a bench near the door, takes the tin from the accustomed peg, dips it full, drinks a few sups, holding it over the bucket meanwhile, pours the balance back, looks around awhile, goes back to his seat, and with his dog's-eared book close to his face, is soon lost in study.

We observe the benches are made out of flat rails and puncheons, with wooden pins in them for legs; backs they have none. The "master" has a table made by driving pins in the wall, and placing hewed puncheons on top of them. Under each window a similar contrivance accommodates the scholars.

While examining these unique writing-desks, we are again startled by a sharp cry, apparently in agony: " Master, please mayn't I go out? " Consent is given, and the boy hurriedly moves toward the door, pausing to take down a crooked stick and carry it out with him. Our curiosity is excited, and while the "master's" back is turned, we ask a big, white-headed boy near us what it is for, who, opening his mouth wide, and staring at us in blank amazement, says : " No other boy don't darst go out while that stick is gone."

As incentives to close application to study, we observe a rule of about a pound in weight, and a formidable-looking beechen rod, whose acquaintance every boy in school has long ago formed. Dilworth's Arithmetic, Webster's Spelling Book, and the Testament, were the text books. It seemed to be an expressly settled fact, that during a recitation a boy could get up a better spirit of inspiration by stentorian competition with his fellows; and in the spelling class, the boy that could spell the loudest should stand head. It was interesting to see the boys at the end of the bench standing on tiptoe, with every muscle in a quiver, waiting for the master to say " noon," in order to get out first and raise the biggest yell.