Thursday, December 10, 2020

Quick-thinking teacher saves the Lucas school

Goodness only knows teachers face many challenges in these troublesome times, but at least contending with temperamental heating stoves, one per classroom, is no longer an issue.

That was not the case at Lucas back on Wednesday, the 4th of December, 1901, when a quick-thinking teacher, aided by the janitor, kept the village school from going up in smoke.

This is how the school looked five years later, during 1906. It had taken form during 1896 when two identical four-room school building (two up and down) --- one on the hilltop school site in Lucas and the other, moved in from the declining mining town of Cleveland just to the east --- had been joined to form an eight-room t-shaped structure.

Here's The Chariton Leader report of this near miss, published on Dec. 5, 1901:


The school house came near being destroyed by fire Tuesday morning. That it was not is entirely due to the timely and persistent efforts of Prof. Baynor and the janitor.

It seems that the stove in the high school room has been unsafe for some time, and it was while waiting for repairs for it that the accident happened. The professor had just crossed the room when he heard an unusual noise which attracted his attention, and as he turned to look from whence it came and what was the cause, he was startled to see the stove on the verge of falling over.

In a moment more it was upon the floor in several pieces with at least a bushel of live coals to contend with. No sooner had it happened than the room was filled with the stifling smoke from the coals, making it almost impossible to do anything; but, regardless of this, he attempted to and succeeded in saving the building.

The coals had no sooner struck the floor that it took fire. With due presence of mind he raked the shovel out from under the debris, burning his hand quite badly in doing so, and began removing the fire as much as he could. By this time the janitor had arrived with water, the use of which checked the fire enough that it was gotten under control and extinguished.

It was only presence of mind and quick action that saved the building from total destruction, which would have made a loss of some $6,000 to the town, as it would have taken that much to replace it. This occurrence should be enough to prove the advisability of sinking a good well on the premises, thus making it unnecessary for water to have to be brought so far.


Lucas got 31 more more years of use out of this building, covered as the years passed with stucco and served eventually by a basement furnace. A free-standing gymnasium also was built nearby.

But on the morning of Dec. 12, 1932, that new-fangled furnace overheated, the building caught fire and this time it burned to the ground. Firefighters were able to save the gymnasium.

The Lucas school building that still stands was built during 1933 and until it was completed, students met for classes at scattered locations around town.

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