The school system in Wayne County has evolved from a beginning as insignificant as the proverbal mustard seed into its present status which, to continue the comparison, more nearly represents a full grown tree.
From puncheon floors to hardwood; from greased paper to window glass; from two and three months to nine months terms; from no text books to a system of study which compares well with that in any part of the country; from the "babbling school" and the "subscription " school to the modern, efficiently organized educational system; in short, from nothing to something. Thus has the school system in this county been developed into its present usefulness.
Only a little over a century has elapsed since civilization first darted a ray of light into the wilderness of what is now Wayne County, and that light has been shining brighter and brighter as years have passed.
By virtue of a decree of King George of England, Wayne was once a part of Fincastle County, Virginia, but later under the Virginia government, it became a part of Cabell County until the Virginia Assembly, by an Act passed June 18, 1842, made it Wayne County.
Here amid the hills and valleys freedom was sought and found in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Among the pioneers who settled here were the names of Spurlock, Hatton, Newman, Wellman, Ferguson, Perry, Artrip, Lycans, Wilson, Damron, Adkins, Watts, Booton, Plymale, Crockett, Napier, Bartram, Thompson, Lambert, and Stephens. The decendants of those old pioneers are at the present time legion.
Although typical mountaineers, they did not permit education to be burried (sic) with their fathers, for we learn how they brought with them the old time school masters. They devised means as best they could whereby their children could be instructed in the rudiments of an English education.
Thomas Napier, who settled in what is now Stonewall District; Stephen Bean, who settled in Butler District; and John Deering were the first school teachers.
The first schools in the county were taught in Butler District. A school house was built in 1805 near Fort Gay and Thomas Napier taught there, the first school in Wayne County. Napier taught another term at Tabors Creek the same year. John Deering also taught a term on Whites Crk. near the town of that name in 1805. Ceredo claims a term taught at Krouts Creek, 1813, by a man named Charley Walker, but the first building for school purposes was mid-way between Ceredo and Sandy River. Union is next in order. Thomas Napier taught a term on Beech Fork in 1818, but Buffalo Shoals claims the first school building in 1823 where Napier was also the first to teach. Lincoln and Stonewall divide honors in primitive school history. A school was taught by Henry Hampton on the banks of Mill Creek, 1820, but the first school building was built on the banks of Joes Fork, 1822, while Stonewall comes in with a term at Lick Creek, 1820, taught by Napier.
Stephen Bean taught on Mill Creek about the year 1810. It can not be learned where the first school was taught in Grant District.
Establishing a school in those days was a simple matter. After securing a sufficient number of pupils, the parents met together and erected a structure of round logs, generally of the five corner model. This plan was followed for several years until a more perfect plan of architecture was worked out. The new plan was to build houses with only four sides.
One entire side was taken up by the fireplace where the great logs burned to heat the room. Seats were made by splitting logs of the desired length and inserting legs in the round side, the split flat side being used for the seat. On one side of the house was an opening over which was a sheet of paper, greased with hogs' lard to make it semi-transparent. This served for a window. Under the window was a writing desk which was made by boring holes in the wall in which pins were inserted. A puncheon was then placed upon the pins and fastened. The floors were also puncheon (when they had such).
Near the end of the room sat the grim old "master," generally close to the fire. He was "monarch of all he surveyed". Nothing escaped his watchful eye.
Those pedagogs of primitive Wayne County read their Bibles as well as their text books--when such books were to be had. They believed that the sparing of the rod meant the spoiling of the child; the rod of correction, therefore, was always to be found near the teacher's desk on in a special rack, and as Irving describes it in his Sleepy Hollow Legend, "a passerby might at any hour of the day behold the master" urging some urchin along the pathway of knowledge and hear the stern command, "Get to saying that lesson." For, in those days they "said" their lessons instead of reciting them. The schools were known as "loud" or "babbling" schools, each pupil "saying" or repeating his lesson in an audible voice that resembled the approach of a swarming bee hive.
The schools taught by Napier and his co-workers were of the babbling kind, but about the year 1865 they gave way to the more modern "silent" school.
Some of those now living who remember the babbling schools are Rev. William Jarrell and M. D. Jarrell, of Effie; W. S. Napier, of East Lynn; and Judge P. H. Napier of Wayne.
First under the old "subscription" method, no examination was required of a teacher. He simply announced that he was prepared to teach and proceeded to "make up a school."
After the formation of the State of West Virginia and at the first session of the Legislature, a bill introduced by Z. D. Ramsdall of Ceredo, which passed the Legislature, created our first school system. Under this system teachers were required to pass a written examination, but in many instances the law was abused, the superintendent sometimes meeting an applicant in the field, proceeded to grant him a certificate.
This abuse of our free school system continued, more or less, until a few years ago, when our present uniform examination law was passed. Under this system of testing an applicant's proficiency, the standard has been raised considerably. Although this may not be a perfect plan for the examination of teachers, still under the new provision, requiring teachers to attend Normal Schools, it is thought conditions will be further improved.
We have at the present 231 teachers of all grades employed in this county, quite a number of them being Normal School graduates, one County Superintendent and two District Supervisors. Two hundred buildings adorn the mountains and valleys, among them 35 graded schools, two High Schools, and three Junior High schools.
The amount spent in the running of our schools has passed the $100,000 mark, the total expended last year being $112,117.67.
Farmers in this section are busy gathering in the crops and making molasses.
Rev. J. S. Puckett has returned from Huntington, where he served on the federal grand jury.
Burnie Osborn, who had a bad cut on his leg some time ago, is improving.
Delbert Huff has returned from Kansas City, Mo., where he has been attending an auto school.
Our Sunday school at Greenbrier is progressing nicely with Freelin Bartram as superintendent.
Gordon Osborn, James Johnson, Trida Osborn, and Volhe Ellis attended the ice cream social at Patrick Saturday night.
Anthony Plymale had the misfortune to back his car over a high bank at Christian hill last week. No one was hurt.
Born to Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Hooser a fine baby boy, Oct 10.
James and John Johnson have returned from Mingo Junction, Ohio, where they have been employed.
Andy Lycan, who is working at Akron, Ohio, was home on a short visit last week.
Evan Ball has returned home from Williamson to help his father gather crops.
The Camp Creek School which is taught by L. B. Tabor is progressing nicely although the whooping cough has cut down the attendance.
Elmer Tabor and Asa Morrison are on Beech Fork very often.
The champion boxers of Camp Creek meet every Saturday night at the Butterick school house for a few bouts.
Our Sunday School is progressing nicely with W. W. Tabor as superintendent.
Our Children's Day, October 11, was a grand success. The main feature of the program was the music furnished by Monroe Frye, a returned soldier.
Prof. J. N. Tabor, who has been on the sick list, is recovering nicely.
Mr. Wayne Osburn is seen on our creek very often.
Mr. Burgess Adkins, a member of the East Lynn Sunday school has become a great helper in the Camp Creek Choir.
Mr. Floyd Richards, of this creek, who was injured in the East Lynn mines, is recovering rapidly.
Transcription by June White
Wayne County News