Spurrier School - A One Room School House
While at Liberty Hall, visitors can explore a one room country school house. Students and teachers are encouraged to visit the school and programs can be tailored to fit the needs of visiting groups.
Spurrier School was one of several used in the vicinity of Fayette and nearby townships in the 1870s. It is actually two buildings. Originally called Barr School, it was later called Spurrier School because it sat on land owned by the Spurrier family. It was used as a school until 1930 then as a polling place and for community gatherings.
Liberty Hall was given the building in 1973-4 by Dale and Frances Moon who owned the farm. The school was in poor condition but the Moons did not want it destroyed since some of the family had attended it. (The names of Willard and Walter on tin lunch buckets are in remembrance of two of the family.)
Some children of Joseph Smith III, including Hale, Israel, Bertha Azuba, and Lucy Yeteve, likely went to the school. David Carlos, Mary Audentia also may have gone, but being older may have gone to a temporary school in town. Spurrier's school yard may have been where Bertha Azuba Smith had the accident which led to her death shortly before she was six years old.
The teacher may have sat at the front of the room where the desk is now. The children would do their writing or sums in groups at the blackboards.
Typically, grades 1 through 8 would be in the same room. The age range was a challenge for the teachers who also had to teach all the subjects. Several age groups usually would be combined and be studying the same subjects at the same time. Older children might be called on to help the younger ones. By about 1890 Lamoni town schools were boasting that the schools were graded. Today students move from one grade to another as they learn and pass, but it was not as common then. Many children did not go on past the 8th grade, and they might have most of their schooling during the fall and winter when there was no planting or harvesting to be done on the farm.
Teachers in the country schools had to get the school ready by lighting the fire in the stove or have an older student do it. They might bring some food like soup to cook on the stove to supplement what the students brought. Water came from the pump, put in a pail and the students all drank from a common dipper. Teachers were supposed to know all the important subjects like reading, writing, arithmetic, history, science, spelling, grammar, and geography. They might have art and plan music and drama presentations for the students to put on during the holidays.
Teachers had to oversee recesses, stop fights, and discipline students. The last was not always easy since some students might be bigger than the teacher. Teachers often roomed and boarded at the home where students lived. Many teachers were women, but not always, and in many schools once a woman teacher was married she would not be eligible for teaching. One teacher we know of got $40 a month.
There is a bookshelf in the middle of the room in Spurrier School. That was because on top of the wood pillar at one time was a stack of bricks used as a chimney. Since the building was two schools joined together there were two places for chimneys. No one knows which chimney was used or when and where the pot belly stove was.
Also, in the school there are maps, some old grade cards, some whips for punishing students, and some slate pencils. Students would write on their personal slate boards with these slate pencils rather than chalk, because chalk took up too much space. There are also some geography cards. These show students had to learn a lot about different places in the world. The maps in Spurrier School are a little bit later than our time period of 1881- 1905, but give an idea of what kind of maps at least some schools would have had.