Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Teaching in Bovina's One-room Schools

In the interest of full disclosure, this blog entry is a variation on an article I did for the Bovina UP Church Newsletter in 2006.

With 13 common school districts, Bovina had numerous teachers during its history. In the early years, there were two school terms, winter and summer. Teachers for the winter term usually were men. It was felt they could better handle the larger boys. The boys had to work the fields in the summer, so they weren’t as likely to be in school. In the 1865-66 school year, William Seacord taught the winter term at District 4 (the school in the Bovina Center hamlet) from December 1865 to March 1866. Maggie Scott taught the spring term from April to September 1866. This was not always the case. District 6 (Lake Delaware) that same year had women teaching both in the winter and summer terms.

The rate of pay for male teachers was higher than that for females. Bovina district 7 (Russell Hill Road) in the 1877-78 school year paid Thomas Ormiston for the winter term $9 per week, including room and board. The wages and room and board it paid Mary Gladstone for the spring term was $6 per week. In 1890-91, district 6 was paying its male teacher $3 more per week than its female teacher. As Bovina and the rest of the world moved into the 20th century, this gender difference in salaries was not always the case. In 1908-09, District 2 (Pink Street) paid John McCune $336 for 160 days or $2.10 a day. That same school year, Kathryn Reynolds in district 4 was paid $527 for 185 days, or $2.84 each day. In 1925-26, district 4 had one male and one female teacher; both paid the same - $1140 each per year.

Teaching tended to run in families. Thomas Gordon taught in Bovina schools in the 1870s and 80s. His daughter Margaret taught Social Studies to many students at Delaware Academy from the 1940s to the 1970s. Three of teacher Thomas Ormiston’s daughters, Lois Davidson, Ruth Monroe and Marjorie Whalley, all taught in Bovina.

Lois recollected her time as a teacher in notes she wrote in the early 1970s and transcribed by her son Allan: “I graduated in 1915 [from the teacher-training program at Walton High School] and was hired to teach at the Miller Avenue district at $10 a week. We had to do our own janitor work. I well remember coming home from school the first day saying I would rather earn my living doing manual labor. I eventually grew to like it and taught six years ending with a salary of $20 a week.”

Among the last Bovina common school teachers were Grace Coulter Roberts, who taught in Bovina’s district 4 in the 1930s, Stella McPherson, who taught there in the 1940s and Edward Schenider, brother of Lillian Hilson, who was the last teacher at the Maynard (District 1) school, teaching through the 1958-59 school year. Mary Hyzer Jardine was the last teacher to teach in a Bovina common school, teaching at district 4. It was the end of an era when district 4 closed in June of 1961.


  1. Marian McPherson, the sister of Frank McPherson, taught at District #3 for many years. A Miss Patterson taught at District #1 for several years, then married Leonard Archibald of Treadwell where they farmed for many years.

  2. Hi Charlie - Are you the Charles Rabeler that lived up Mountain Brook not too far from George LaFever? Nice to hear from you. If you have any pictures of the one-room schools, I'm always looking to add to my collection. Thanks for the information. I knew about Marion but hadn't heard of Miss Patterson.