150 years of tradition

Wednesday, August 15, 2018
The Cassville school district is celebrating 150 years of operation this year.

Cassville school district celebrates sesquicentennial, planning 25-year time capsule

The Cassville school district is celebrating a special birthday this school year.

The first school records date back to April 1869, when the school was built on Gravel Street after the Civil War. Now, 150 years later, current school administrators are looking to celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary.

Richard Asbill, Cassville superintendent, asked all the teachers and school board members present at the district-wide lunch on Monday to sing “Happy Birthday” in honor of the district celebrating its 150th year of operation. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

“We’re looking at it as 150 years of tradition,” said Richard Asbill, Cassville superintendent. “Like the stories of our past, we must continue to share, learn, and grow into our future. The ‘rich history’ did not come without our struggles — floods, drought, Civil War, World Wars, movements, conflicts, and terrorism. These struggles are part of our history. They make us, but they do not define us.”

Asbill said the milestone offers the opportunity for theme events throughout the year.

“We’ll have an anniversary cake at the board meeting on Thursday, and we had a kickoff with the teachers and staff on Monday and Tuesday,” he said. “We’re also planning to do a 25-year time capsule with all the students participating.”

Stephanie Marple, preschool teacher, sets up a large flip book in her room as she prepares for students to arrive this week. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Asbill said the events will include special homecoming and tip-off recognitions, where alumni will be invited, and the district is asking for the community to share their stories and knowledge about the school’s history.

For the time capsule, Asbill said students in each grade level will get to include something important to them.

“We want to also include things that are relative to now, like maybe an old cell phone,” Asbill said. “In 25 years, will they look at that in the same way as we look at old rotary phones? We’ll also include some Wildcat gear so they can see the look, and some magazines and news articles about the current trends and events.

Hundreds of Cassville school district faculty enjoyed a catered lunch on Monday, leading up to the first day of school. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

“We hope that when it’s opened in 25 years, people will say, ‘Not only did they care 150 years ago, but even in 2018, they cared and did good things in the community.’”

Asbill said there are a couple locations in front of the central office being considered for the time capsule, and the district plans to have it installed by the end of 2018. In 2019, the district is encouraging all alumni to return in May for the annual banquet.

On Monday and Tuesday, teachers returned to a banner recognizing the sesquicentennial, and the faculty discussed tradition and shared a cake with a “birthday to the school district” theme.

District history

As part of the tradition of the district, Asbill shared a 1966 article from the Golden Echo, the school newspaper at that time. The article, written by the late Emory Melton, detailed the beginnings of the district around Civil War times, and it included a letter from a former superintendent, I. C. Wilson, who discussed what school was like in the early 1900s.

Melton said just one year after Cassville was platted, the six-square-mile municipal township organized a school in 1846, known as School Township No. 3 of Barry County.

“During the early years of the County, the old-time subscription school was the only institution of learning known here,” Melton wrote. “Prior to the Civil War (1861-1865) and during the war years, the public schools in Cassville consisted largely of meeting in residential dwellings. History of public school records in Cassville dates back to April of 1869.”

The earliest school building of consequence, Melton said, was constructed after the Civil War on the west side of Gravel Street, north of Ninth Street. In 1871, there were three teachers, paid between $25 and $40, and a principal, paid $80.

By 1875, there were three high schools in the county — Cassville, Corsicana and Washburn — which were more like post-graduate sessions with emphasis on rudimentary subjects, as compared to high school as the term is used today.

The district saw a 20-year period of growth beginning in 1881, under the direction fo Professor Noah Maiden. Maiden had come from Greene County and was an ex-Confederate soldier who had lost his left arm below the elbow in the Battle of the Wilderness. He was 37 when he arrived in Cassville and attended Emory and Henry College in Virginia.

In 1886, a meeting was called to consider building a new schoolhouse, and a bond issue for $5,200 passed 103-11. This made possible the construction of a building on “the old schoolhouse hill,” where the water towers now stand in the city.

“The Cassville district received what was generally regarded at the time one of the finest buildings in southwest Missouri,” Melton wrote. “[Before 1900, Maiden] had given the community a top-notch high school and had established summer teachers’ institutes.

Buildings continued to change, with a new one built in 1914 and demolished after the 1960s-era grade school was built in 1932. The high school was also moved to a new building in 1926. Shortly after 1900, Cassville became a four-year high school, rather than a three-year institution.

Wilson recounted those days, as he was superintendent in 1915. He was one of eight teachers in 1914, which included the superintendent, who Wilson said was little more than a high school teacher as well.

“The school building being built at the top of the hill west of the square was not ready for use, so classes were held in churches and halls,” Wilson wrote. “The high school used what was then known as the old opera house, located over the stores on the east side of the square. The stage was one classroom, and the auditorium part was a combined study hall and classroom. A third classroom was a small room across a hall from the stage. There were three of us who taught the high school subjects — the superintendent was one of the three.”

Wilson said at that time, there were no play areas or facilities for extracurricular activities, hence, no physical education program. There were no programs in manual arts or music, no testing, no home arts, no counseling and no health program.

“I was proud of the fact that a P.T.A. was organized while I was there,” Wilson said. “About its first activity was to promote a dental clinic.”

Melton also discussed the historic liberty bell, which was purchased by the public in 1868 and was mounted on a bell post in on the southeast corner of the public square, used to call children to school and worshippers to church.

The bell did have a dark moment in history, when George Moore was hanged on the post by a mob after Moore killed a young couple running a store in Shell Knob. Family of the victims converged on the jail where Moore was held, a wooden structure on the square, then forcibly took Moore and lynched him.

In 1877, the bell was moved off the square and donated to the school district.

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