The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Herrity

September 5, 2013

The one room schoolhouse

Out by Almont, there once stood two one-room schoolhouses. Almont South was near the limestone house of Highway 67 on the west side of the road, and Almont North was on the east side about two miles north at the junction between the gas station, the road west to Almont and the highway north. My mother, Ruth McClintock Herrity, once taught at the Modoc school farther north and east near the hills. Her sisters, Martha Quinn and Mary Doe, as well as thousands of other women, also taught in the one-room schoolhouses, where students ranged from five to twenty years old and were in all grades. The young woman was the principal, custodian, teacher and disciplinarian. She was helped by her students, who invariably walked to school through all kinds of weather …. many from long distances. They came early and cut firewood, stoked the pot-bellied stove, swept the floor, washed the blackboards, pumped water from the well, and found time to study too. Their teacher usually had only a two-year degree from a local college like Mount St. Clare.

The Flannery School at the Nature Center near Eagle Point Park honors those early teachers, as does the “Skunk Hollow” School at Heritage Canyon in Fulton. All over the country, people remember and revere this vestige of times-past… when both academics and character were molded into the rural children who made America strong! These students stood for hours reciting spelling words and principle parts of verbs. Very few of them grew up to say such things as “he don’t” or “them guys.”

My mother went to ‘The Mount’ in 1915, at the time the “new” building was built. Prior to that, she’d walked to class through Springdale Cemetery, when the girls still lived in Judge Chase’s old mansion to the south of the cemetery. Often, these teachers taught for just a few years and then retired to raise their own families, never returning to teaching. My mother did that, but her sister Martha Quinn returned and taught for many years in the Clinton School System.

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