Thursday, May 3, 2012

From the teacher's point of view

More on what education was like in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the rural United States.
This letter was written by Lula E. Massey on 21 Oct. 1900. She was a 24 year old teacher from Gervais in Marion County Oregon and was teaching at Whitaker, Linn County, Oregon. While teaching she is boarding with a local family.

Whitaker, Oregon Oct. 21, 1900
Sunday Morning

  • Dear Folks,
    I will try to write you a few lines this morning.
    Hallie I received your letter last tuesday evening and was glad to get that picture I think I shall have it framed.
    It is very stormy out this morning and the wind blows so hard there is church but I dont think I will go.
    They have been holding meeting down at Victor Point about two miles from here for the past week.
    It has almost rained continually for the last three days. I guess we are going to have to pay for those nice days we have been having.
    I suppose you all go to the church dedication this morning.
    Did Cora go home I thought of her yesterday when it was so stormy.
    Hallie, I will have to tell you about the prize fight we had at school last week. I had to laugh afterwards but I was mad at the time.
    One of the girls Mary Slagel is the largest girl coming to school she is only 15 but so large of her age she looks like she was 20 or more and Mabel Archibald is 13. I went out to the well to get a drink and all the scholars were in a bunch watching them and the two girls that were fighting were keeping watch so that I did not see them so Cassie Cooley told me after we came home and they did not see me at the well some of others did though but thought I was one of the scholars.
    I called to them and it made a sudden stop. I brought them in and they both cried a long time.
    I thought they were playing at first but I tell you they could come up with any boys.
    The scholars are good in school they whisper quite a bit but I guess they do not whisper at all as they did last term.
    Some of them have said so I was told that they could not move without I saw them.
    One little girl that had so much fun last term she would crawl under the seats and get the other childrens pencils and make the window blinds fly up in time of school told her mother so Mrs. Cooley told me that she did not have no fun this school because she could not do anything without I saw her.
    I expect you will soon sell the hops a number have sold around here lately getting 13 and 14 cts and they were quite mouldy too.
    There is quite a lot of hop yards around here.
    The people where I stay have a hop house but have plowed up their yard they said the first year they raised hops they got 37-1/2 cts and the next year 23 cts and after that they always went behind so plowed up their yard.
    The folks where I board have lots of good apples and more nice ripe pears they are going to make some cider next week I will be glad for I have been wanting some.
    Have you gathered the winter apples yet? and did you get the beans saved before it rained.
    Ma do you sell cream to the creamery now? The folks here make butter to sell.
    Have you brought the flowers in from the porch yet?
    I expect you have lots of pretty chrysanthemums now.
    I have had bouquets of the garnet and white ones for the last two weeks and lots of yellow and red dahlias brought to me.
    Mabel Archibald one of the director's kids and also the prize fighter brings me lots of pretty flowers.
    They bring me pansies just exactly like the colors we have at home it makes me think they have been pulled from our yard.
    We have quite a nice library at school but I have not read any of the books as I am tired of seeing books after school.
    After supper we sit by the  fire eat apples and play nine pins, fox and geese till bed time we go to bed about nine or ten and I generally get up about six or a little after in the morning I cannot think of a thing to write that would be news. I have not saw a Salem paper since I left home.
    I have not my books yet from Salem. Mrs Archibald were going down yesterday and I thought I would go with them but it was so stormy they did not go. I wanted to get some overgarters the mud sticks so bad I get mud on my shoes above my rubbers. They are cloth top and I can hardly get the mud out.
    I guess this is all for this time. Write soon
    Good bye,
    PS. Hallie, you can write if Ma is busy.

    The letter gives us an idea of what school was like from the teacher's perspective. According to the Lebanon (Oregon) Genealogical Society's website, "Statistics averaged for Linn county for five consecutive school years from 1899 and 1903 show that the county paid male teachers about $40 per month and female teacher $32 per month." Lula doesn't tell us how much she was paying for room and board. 

    Today Whitaker is a bend in the road in the foothills above Lebanon, Oregon. I'm still researching to see if the building that housed the school still exists.
    Lula Emma Massey was born in April 1876 Fairfield, Marion County, Oregon, the fourth of six children of William Pleasant and Lutharia Ann Ruggles Massey. Both sets of parents and grandparents had come across the Oregon Trail between 1850 and 1860. 

    This letter was among other discovered in the box belonging to her sister Cora Massey Branchflower that I posted about earlier.

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