Lost River Schools

    The very first school house was built up by the hill, straight west of the Kyle place. James D. Martin, who later settled over by Craters of the Moon, has been credited to have been the first teacher in 1888. About 10 to 12 families lived here then.  Following is an article taken from an old Arco Advertiser. The article is written by J. D. Martin, the first Howe school teacher:


    I have promised a continuation of the story about the early day schools of this pan of the country back in the Territorial days. In a former article I have dealt with experiences with the first school in this, the Arco district. During the time I was engaged in teaching that school, the people on Little Lost River who had very recently settled in the neighborhood of Howe, had organized a school district with sixteen children of school age, numbered from the entire population of the valley at that time. With highly commendable enterprise and industry they had also erected a very creditable school house for that time and furnished it with seats and desks of home-made pattern and design. The school house was located near the present home of Charley Kyle upon land then owned by his father, John Kyle.


    I received from the trustees, Fletcher Irelanai, John Kyle and John R. Rodgers a letter offering me the school to teach with an intimation that there was there a very hard lot of untamed and unruly kids which would be hard to manage. I had also heard from other sources reports to the same effect. However, I did not allow myself be deterred by that.


    Upon the conclusion of my term here, I loaded my personal effects upon a cayuse and riding another one, I made my way over there and found quarters with a well known farmer of those days, John Briggs, who lived near the place where R.G. Mays now lives. A cattleman. named Dwight, together with two employees, also were staying with Mr. Briggs and pan of the time ! was with them, I did the greater pan of the cooking in payment for my own board.


    A post office had been established named Howe with Merton Hawley as postmaster, and was located near where the Webb families now live. The present site of the village of Howe was then occupied by a certain well known character of those days named McGovern, generally known as "The Black Diamond", who ran a wayside "whiskey joint" and did quite a business with the settlers as well as with prospectors and miners from the mountains around. The Daisy Black, later known as the Wilbert mine, was being worked to some extent at that time.


    Well, on the morning of the first Monday of February, 1888, with the school house key in my pocket, I walked up to the school house, a little more than a mile from where I lived, and found there gathered around the door, sixteen young, bright and expectant faces awaiting me. None of them showed to any degree, any of the embarrassment usually shown by children when meeting a stranger, and they, one and all, greeted me with'a chery "good mornin' school teacher."


    The morning was quite cold and soon a good warm fire was started in the stove and I commenced the work of organizing for the school work. Several cigarettes were then going and "the makins" were being passed from one to another. In the mildest manner possible, I explained to them that smoking could not be permitted during school hours. But when recess time came I soon found that none of them, even the very smallest, seemed to see any impropriety in the use of the most profane language.


    I soon found that I had something on my hands in the way of school management and discipline. I had been reading a certain brochure, popular in those days, entitled "A thousand ways of a thousand teachers." Well, here was room for the application of many more ways. One day a certain "cowpuncher" came along and presented me with a "cowboy" quirt recommending it as an effective "kid corrector." As he expressed it. Though I was never a believer in the effectiveness of corporal punishment of children, and the greatest fault ever found with me in my teaching experience was lack of control and proper discipline, I soon found that the use of the atbresaid "kid corrector" was an absolute necessity. Its effectiveness seemed amply demonstrated when one of the older boys of the school, years afterwards, when he became himself, a school trustee, wrote to me urging me to come again and teach that school. Doubtless he remembered something of the effectiveness of the "kid corrector" from his own personal experience.


    One more experience I must mention. On a Friday afternoon a delegation of the ladies---there were only about seven or eight of them of dancing age and inclination to the whole valley-- came to me and requested me to adjourn the school so that they could fix up the house for a leap year ball. I did so and assisted them all I could in preparing for the ball.


    That night there came a crowd, apparently the Whole. population of the valley, kids and all, together with miners and prospectors from the hills adjoining. It seemed that they were all provided with a liberal supply of the Black Diamond's stock in trade. Bottles were deposited in and about every, clump of sagebrush around the schoolhouse.


    During the night the kids found the bottles with the result that several of them were soon in a state of helpless intoxication and had to be brought into the house and placed under the table to save them from freezing. The ladies did all they could to give all a chance to dance, but many of them were soon too tired to dance. There was indeed "the sound of revelry by night": and it was kept up until morning with the result that the stove was kicked over and demolished, books were tom up and scattered, slates were broken, almost a wreck made of all the school furniture.
All this had been taken out of the house to make room for the dancers.


    School was adjourned tbr about a week for repairs to be made and new supplies provided. After that no more dances were allowed in the school. But the Briggs cabins soon became the favorite place for dancing and many quite enjoyable dances were held there.


    My school continued for four months when the funds were exhausted. I have always regarded my teaching there to have been quite a success in every way in spite of such things as I have related here. There were also pleasant experiences connected with it. The people of that locality were upon the whole not by any means exceptional. The most generous hospitality and friendliness were always in order. They and their children had simply become inured to life in the open spaces and had not become acquainted with the restraints which a more advanced civilization imposes.


    The half century of time, which has elapsed since them, has indeed brought a changed world. The old time phrase, "The wild and woolly west" was to them something of, a reality and not the mere traditional legend it has now become.


    Anna: In the beginning, school age children either walked or rode horse back to school, mostly. Clam Hocking tells of one teacher that picked up the kids on his way in a horse drawn wagon.


    Spelling bees, box socials and seasonal programs were popular entertainment for  all.  Many of the very early students have mentioned how fun it was to chase antelope horseback during recess and after school. Grandpa would laugh and tell about one time he and the others were mounting up to go and the teacher called them to stop and come back in and they just ignored him, he called some more and rang the bell, they went right on, he yelled really loud and continued to ring the bell and by that time the kids had started after a little bunch so he just shut the door, got on his horse and joined them and they all chased antelope all the rest of the day.

    One incident that the 'old timers' loved to relive was during that time when there were lots of rabid coyotes. Some of the kids, including, Tom Cowgill, Harley and Ruth Kyle were playing up behind the school house by the ditch and a coyote jumped out of the sagebrush to get a drink at the ditch (I've always been told that rabid animals are very thirsty all the time). The kids ran inside the schoolhouse as fast s they could. The teacher watched as he wandered around behind and to the side of the schoolhouse opposite where the horses were tied and she boosted Harley out the window. He ran and got on his horse and ran it down to the hotel and got the owner (Mr. McBeth) and he came up and shot it. The boys piled sagebrush on it right on the spot where it died and burned it. That practice seemed to be the way they dealt with any rabid carcass. I remember Aunt Ruth saying, "Oh .... we were so scared..."

 
    When the buildings got a little bigger, each one had a big, pot-bellied stove for heat. You could put a lot of wood in one of those and heat they did .... for about 6 or 8 feet out and then the room got cooler and colder as you moved out. As a result, during parties and dances that worked fine, but during school hours on cold days everyone moved close into a circle around the stove, moving closer or farther away as each pleased. "


    A favorite trick was to put a bullet in the stove or a can of beans. I remember when Jay Little put a 22 shell in the one at Howe and livened up the humdrum of the moment.


    There were, of course, many teachers that came and went, most liked and respected, a few definitely not an advantage to the students. As I did interviews a few names kept being mentioned by many. They were, Clyde Budd(Catron) (Budd Jones), Muriel Silver. later Taylor (Howe. Catron & Clyde). She did a lot of little extras like teaching some of the boys and girls to tap dance and play harmonicas. A Mrs. Hartwell (at Catron). Mrs. Ray Dietrich. Minnie Brown and many more. Often there were two teachers at Bernice. Mrs. Snodgrass, Unity Kyle, Homer Mays, and Alta Stauffer were a few at Bernice. Some others are mentioned throughout), one teaching 1 st through 4th grades and the other 5th through 8th, where in the other schools one teacher taught all 8 grades. Yes, reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, geography (I still have to say. "George Edwards old Grandmother -rode a pig home yesterday ", to spell that one) art. music and 1 think Mom (Unity Farr,. Kyle) was the first one to introduce some P.E. in form of standing up occasionally and stretching and doing fun coordinating games, etc., outside at recess times, oh, and penmanship, we spent hours learning to write using the fleshy part of our arm on the desk rather than our wrist. Some very sad times and unproductive penmanship were the results of an old time belief that those who were left handed should be made to write with their right hand. It seems like such an unintelligent notion now, thank heavens! Grandpa Kyle was one of those that suffered through that. I remember Anne Mays was the one at our age that was an exceptionally pretty left handed writer and we were all fascinated the way she would curve her hand up around the top of her paper and write with her hand and pen almost upside down in comparison to the way the rest of us wrote. The teachers managed to get all of that in during the week 

 

In my day, the usual day went:

     Come in, get settled in desk, teacher would read from the bible. I don't think anyone really realized just how much that helped set the tone for the day or gave nourishment to the soul. Next, we'd sing some songs and have "health inspection." Monitor's were appointed each week to walk around to each desk and see if hands and finger nails were clean, If  not, they were sometimes sent to clean them, no small task, as water was packed in a bucket and a dipper was used both to drink out of and pour water over hands to wash. Later on. we brought our own cups.   but several generations used the "dipper."

 
     Hair was checked to see if it was combed and we were asked if we had brushed our teeth and we gave a toothy smile for proof or reproof.

 

    Mildred Shannon Mays (Homer's wife) made little paper airplanes with a door that opened and closed on the side of it. She took pictures of each of us on the steps of the schoolhouse and put the pictures behind the doors inside the plane. If we passed our morning inspection, the door was open all day and our pictures for all to enjoy. If not, the door was closed for the day. The planes were suspended from a string across a clothesline on one side of the room.

 
    After these opening exercises we were down to academics for the day. The highlight of the year was when the "new book order" came in. Usually we had just so much money to order from Caxton's Printers in Nampa, Idaho, for new library books. We could go get and read a library book off the shelf anytime as long as our assignments were done.


    A Halloween program and party were held each season. At least one play and then several poems and songs were the program. The party was always fun, traditional bobbing for apples. eating apples off a string with our hands behind our backs, fish ponds, etc. A couple of years some of us, seems like Ada Ruth, Metta and I, spent all one week writing fortunes on white slips of paper with lemon juice for ink. It dried almost clear, then we were fortune tellers and when someone would come, they would pick a paper up out of a jack-o-lantern and we would hold it
over one that the candle was lit and the juice would turn brown and we'd tell their fortune.


    Thanksgiving was just left to home and families.


    Christmas was a big deal with lots of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas being spent on the program. It was at least one 3-act play, quite often a one act play also and then the Nativity play. Everyone had at least one poem to solo and then there were a few chorus readings. The whole school would sing several songs and when some of the older girls took piano lessons. at least a couple would play piano solos.


    Most years this was presented at the Howe Pool Hall on that really neat stage. One time in the middle of the program someone looked out the back window behind the curtains and saw that an old barn was on fire. One of the town drunks had been in there smoking and fallen asleep and the manure caught On fire. The men all left and put it out while we went on with the program.


    There was always a dance afterwards and sometimes a Santa Claus. It was so cute one time when Edra and Kenneth McKinley were about 2 and 3 or 4 years old. Tony Fallert was Santa Claus. Because he was from up the river, the grownups thought the kids couldn't guess in 'a million years who he was. He walked out on the floor and started passing out treats along to the ones seated on the sidelines. Here came Edra and Kenneth trotting along behind him coaxing loudly, "Give us some too, Unc'a Tony, give us some too." There was no doubt in their minds who he was.


    Mildred Shannon, later Mays, was my first grade teacher. My first grade year there were only 5 students in the whole school. Josephine O'Maley was in the 8th grade. Floyd Hansen, Louise O'Maley and Mary Lee Amy were in the 4th and I was in 1st. At Christmas time we joined with Catron, who had a few more, as I remember, the Hall family, Metta & Martin Hocking, Ada Ruth Mays, Dick & Rodney Romney, Hartwell's (the teacher's children) and I don't remember if any others were there or not.


    We little girls were dolls that Christmas time and Grandma made me a blue, velvet dress. Talk about elegant! I stood by the little Hartwell girl. She Was 5 years and I six and she kept reaching over and running her hand over my side to feel the velvet. When it came time for Santa (Dick Romney) to go, he got a big, wool sack (his pack) and put the dolls in it. I don't remember about getting out, only about us all being put in that sack!


    It was So much fun when Mildred Mays' birthday came. For a couple of weeks we planned a peanut shower for her.

 

It worked like this:
    That morning we all brought a bag of peanuts and slipped them into our desks. After the afternoon recess, Floyd Hansen took his and asked permission to go out to the outhouse. He waited a few minutes and then knocked on the door. When she opened it we all yelled, "Happy Birthday!" and threw the peanuts at her. She ducked her head buy the side of the door and we all thought she looked so cute and pretty. Of course, we also got to party the rest of the day.


    Faye Hansen Pieper remembers she was only five when she started school. They needed her to make 10 pupils at Howe. Some of the others were Lela Hawley, Clarence (Scrub) Hawley, George Gilman, Jean Little and Doris Casper.


    Etta Wright was her first grade teacher and for discipline problems she would make the kids stand with their noses on the chalk board and she also, at times, used a yard stick and swatted them across their legs with it.


    Faye remembers that Jean Little had a pretty pile lined coat one winter and it seemed to Faye that she flaunted it in front of the other girls, at least it definitely was finer than the ones the others had, so Faye had had enough one day and she threw the coat down the toilet. (Those holes were really deep too, as I remember.) Faye got the full-blown discipline treatment over that. She was left handed and Etta would tie her left hand behind her back with a belt to make sure she wrote with her right hand.

 
    During the war years the 3 schools consolidated and Agnes Harrell and Mom taught at Howe. The men made two moveable partitions and put down the middle of the room so 1 through 4 and then 5 through 8 could be taught at the same time. This lasted for a few years and then we went back to one room and one teacher.


    When the war was at it's peak two very popular songs were, "There's a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" and "Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer". We had learned them during regular singing time and when it came time to decide what Christmas songs we'd sing at the Christmas program we kids insisted on singing those two songs also. The teacher tried to point out that they were not appropriate for the Christmas program and we didn't care one bit. I can feel it yet, it was our way of showing our patriotism at the time. She let us, as I think she caught on to how important that was to us.


    Our sign that spring was truly here was when after 2 weeks of coaxing the teacher finally let us climb the hill back of the school. The first climb was usually at noon hour, which always took more than an hour, but we were forgiven.

 
    Mays' ditch was deep and wide and had big sagebrush along its' banks and was fun to play in when it was dry. It ran up behind the toilets and the water cistern. When it was full it ran deep and swift, only a few spots where only the bigger kids could jump across. One time some of the little boys were playing up there and one little guy bet another $50 that he couldn't jump that ditch flat-footed. The bet was on and he made a valiant effort and jumped about square in the middle, clear up to his chin.


    We loved eating our lunches up on the grassy banks of Cowgill's ditch. Cowgill's ran in front of the outhouses and had some grass and big cottonwood trees and seemed really a lovely spot to be. There used to be water skippers on it and once we teased Robert Amy into eating one. That sure seemed brave to me.

 

    Rusty: Those ditches got me in a whole heap of trouble once. I was going up to the outhouse and Herbert Hansen was being a boy and stood in front of the board plank and would fit let us go across, so 1 pushed him in the ditch. Mother was our teacher and since she didn't see the event and it was Herbert's word against mine. she made both of us stay in the next recess with our heads down on our desks. I don't know whether I was the most angry at Mom or at Herbert.


    Anna: One spring a muskrat had a nest of babies under the bridge going to the boy's outhouse. We discovered it one day when Jay Little was absent from school. As he was already an experienced trapper, we were sure if he found out, he'd trap them. We made a plan for one of the boys to always be with him when he went to the toilet and we'd play away from that site. It must have worked, they were still there when school was out.


    Those that rode horses to school tied them at fence posts for years and then when th. ere got to be too many after consolidation, Charlie O'Maley built us a neat hitching rack. Someone's horse, I can't remember whose for sure. kept trying to crowd out the ones by him, so he got banished back to the fence.


    Ada Ruth and Peggy Mays and Metta and Martin Hocking rode after the first year of coming down here. The school paid Agnes Harrell a small amount for picking the kids up in her car that first year of consolidation. When the kids rode the school paid their parents $5 a month · instead.


    One day. Dennis Pope. Carl Mays' stepson (Veima's oldest boy) was running down the hillside by the school house and fell and cut his knee clear to the bone. The teachers didn't know what else to do. so they put him on his horse and sent him home. He rode all that way (to Mays' ranch), but never said a word about it until bedtime and then Velma saw it. He was off of riding horses for quite sometime.


    Just a bit more here about him. Dennis was of a really sweet disposition and everyone loved him. We were all really concemed and cared about this accident, but the worst was yet to come. Sometime later, he and some others were playing up in the loft of the barn, it was a long way down from the window where they rolled the hay in and as little boys will, he dared to jump out of it. The impact broke both of his heels and other foot bones. It was a long time'before he could walk again. At between the age of 12 & 13, he was driving a tractor and it turned over on him. He was crushed so terribly, was in the hospital for a time, but just too much injury to survive. When time came for 8th grade graduation all the school ';vas still rather in mourning. Mr. Keithley considered putting his chair ia the circle of graduates in his honor, but decided it would be too emotional for all involved, never-the-less he was their in their hearts.
    The Howe schoolhouse was used a little for community functions. We had a few really fun square dances in there before there were so many people came (joined the square dance club) that we had to move it down to the gym in the new building. Charlie O'Maley bought the whole school site which was school yard, house, log teacherage, log wood and coal shed that was perfect to play, Ante-I-Over on. We played a lot of games around that building and even sat on top of the west side of the roof to eat lunches in the springtime. Charlie sold it to Don Owens and wife, who lived in the teacherage for awhile and converted the school to a garage. Steve Abby recently purchased it and is in the process of renovating the teacherage.
 

There are many very nice pictures of the different Teachers, classes and School houses.
Many different years of class mates standing out front of the school house.
I must says this Book is a job well done.

 

 

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