Friday, October 21, 2016

Reading, writing, arithmetic --- and whippings

I found this little memoir again while moving school-related items from one archival binder to another yesterday at the museum and thought it worth reproducing. It is among numerous oral and written histories collected by Warren S. Dungan, founder of Lucas County's first historical society, then read at annual old settler reunions, held regularly during the very late 19th and early 20th centuries. This one is undated and typed (I recognize a product of Col. Dungan's typewriter when I see it). The heading reads, "Statement of George B. Tout."


George B. Tout was born Sept. 1st, 1853, at Danville, Hendricks County, Indiana, and came to Chariton, Iowa, June 4th, 1857.

The teachers in Chariton to whom he went were, to the best of his recollection, as follows:

Miss Nan Mitchell in 1858 in a little house on the square --- north side.

Miss Thorpe in the old M.E. church in 1859. She was red-headed and a terror to evil-doers. She was great for whippings. She sometimes whipped the whole school during one day. After whipping one scholar, she stood him on the platform to watch the others and when he discovered another scholar doing something forbidden, the scholar disobeying was called out, whipped and stood on the platform and the other relieved. And so the process went on until the whole school had taken their medicine.

Miss Emma Hosner was one of the pupils who was pointed out for a whipping. Instead of submitting gracefully, she darted out at an open window and made good her escape. He does not remember the finale to this little episode.

Miss Lizzie McCormick was his next teacher. Miss McCormick taught in the Pennsylvania House, so called, which was put up for a hotel on Lot 7, Block 16, where Dr. Perry's residence now stands.

S.D. Hickman and wife were also his teachers.

John Matson was next and then T. Park Coin, but the time he cannot remember. Charles H. Sorenson was another of his teachers.

J.P. Simpson was his last teacher. He taught in the basement of the Presbyterian Church.

John Matson was cross-eyed, and when Tout thought he was looking away from him he was looking directly at him. Matson had that advantage of his pupils.


Public schools were among the first things organized after Lucas County was settled, but it took a number of years for substantial buildings to be erected in Chariton. The big building known as "South School" on the current site of Columbus School (top), completed in 1867, was in fact the first.

Until then, schools moved from place to place. As Tout reports, the original First Methodist Church, located on the approximate site of Johnson Machine Works headquarters, was recycled into a school after the new brick church was constructed and he attended classes there.

Chariton High School did not graduate its first four-year class until 1878 and even then attendance was spotty because many families preferred to enroll their scholars in one of the private academies then operating. George Tout's narrative suggests that he completed his education in the academy operated by Prof. Joseph Parke Stout Simpson --- an uncle of mine some generations removed.

George was a son of William H. and Sarah (Kite) Tout. He eventually settled in Ottumwa with his wife and daughter, but died on Nov. 25, 1911, age 58, at the state hospital for the insane in Mount Pleasant of "softening of the brain" --- something we'd probably call Alzheimer's today. He is buried in the Ottumwa City Cemetery.

No comments: