(I dedicate the following story to one who loved education. My dad, Cletus W. Hahs, was a one-room schoolteacher from 1939-1943 at the rural school, Williams Creek, located east of Jackson, close to Old McKendree Chapel. Mother helped to organize and help with their pie suppers and Christmas programs given every year.)
In the area of Jackson, the landscape was basically rural. Most parents were of the opinion that hard work was more important than book learning. Agriculture depended on considerable labor. Large families were important as the older children took their place beside the adult laborers in the field. Formal education was generally scoffed at. Even so, some residents believed in the importance of education. Thus, began the organization of schools.
Schools attached to churches
The first catalysts of education were the churches of German families who were the majority who populated the area. Parochial schools such as Trinity Lutheran School in Cape Girardeau was founded in 1854. The church-based schools emphasized teaching the Bible as well as the fundamentals of education.
First English school
An American moved into the area and established the first English-speaking school west of the Mississippi River. Andrew Ramsay, a Virginian, moved from the east onto his Spanish land grant in 1795. On this property near Mt. Tabor Park, he erected a small log structure for the education of his and his neighbor’s children in the nearby area. Teachers were hired and lived with families who had children in the school. This was part of the teacher’s pay. Many schools were conducted for only about four to six months during the winter. The rural school was usually built on land donated by a farmer.
According to Louis Houck’s History of Missouri. Rev. Thomas Parish Green taught school in territorial Missouri in 1820, advertising in the newspaper, “ten or twelve students can yet be received at my school. In 1820, Beverly Allen advertised in the Missouri Herald she taught Latin.
Subscription schools & academies
Subscription schools, private schools, provided education a little beyond the basics. In Jackson, Henry Sanford established the first grammar school. Mrs. John Scribbs, Mrs. Edward Criddle, Mrs. Wathern and Miss Rhoda Ranney operated primary schools. Parents paid per scholar for however many days they attended. This was accommodating the rural schools as many children may have to miss to help with farm chores.
Academies were popular private institutions. In 1820, the Jackson Academy was established; however, the charter lapsed. In 1827, the legislature began to incorporate academies. In 1839, the Jackson Academy was incorporated in a new two story brick building. J.G. Gardiner was principal and Miss Elmira Gregory was his assistant. According to the Cape Girardeau Republican, Gardiner’s school had a good reputation until after the Civil War, when the building and grounds were turned over to the public school. For a time, the Methodist Church operated the school.
Two private schools were established that handled a secondary education. The Methodists established the groundwork in 1892 for a school known as the Carlisle Training School for men and women. Tuition, room and board cost $150 per semester. A large range of studies were available including reading, declamation, religion, music and physical education. The first graduates were Miss Margaret Ruff, Miss Adelaide LaPierre, Glen Seibert, Miss Christine Medley, Miss Emma Howard, Joseph H. Byrd and A.R. Byrd.
In 1897, a major fire took a major portion of the building, but Jackson citizens assisted the institution with funds to rebuild a three-story building for classrooms as well as dormitory.
The 1898-99 catalog stated they obtained high ideals and stiff guidelines for parents and students. The school’s mission was to have an educational boarding school in Southeast Missouri to educate brothers and sisters.They required strict obedience and did not want any unmanageable children. The school had rules that were to be abided. A shortage of funds caused the school to close in 1899.
According to the History of Jackson, the buildings were turned over to the Jackson Military Academy. Beginning in 1899, they took students at age twelve. Enrollment was 85 students, 55 males and 25 females. Tuition was $250 per year for room and board. It was proud of a beautiful campus on a knoll overlooking the city. A dormitory accommodated 55 cadets. On the third floor was the chapel which also served as a place where recitals were held.
The military academy provided a very complete curriculum: fine arts, business studies, and foreign languages. The academy had a strong athletic program which provided a foundation for sports in later years. In 1904 some of the players were names many would recognize: Taylor, Bacon, Medley, Byrd, English, Limbaugh, Litzelfelner, Williams, Kipping, Hoffman, Horrell, Oliver and Bingenheimer. In 1908, the only team that scored any points against them was Perryville. They also provided the women with a beginning basketball team.
In 1909 a tragic accident happened that was part of the demise of the school. One of the cadets accidentally shot and killed himself while cleaning a pistol in his room. That year, the Missouri Cash-Book stated the school would close as the directors had finished their contracts. The Jackson Board of Education purchased the property.
Early on problems
By the 1840’s, 50% of the children of Cape Girardeau County were not sent to school by the parents.
The Eagle Newspaper in 1849 made the following observation:
“One of the strongest pillars of a Republic is intelligence and parents are culpably negligent who permit their children to grow up in ignorance…while the facilities for acquiring an education are so great… We are aware that there are many sparsely settled neighborhoods in which there are no schools, and parents are too poor to send their children to boarding school, but often is the case that there is the same neglect where there is no such excuse…if there are any whose means are limited, let them economize, let them deprive themselves even of some of the comforts of life to educate their children.”
An example of a teacher’s contract in 1847 stated “there would be a limit of 25 students. Six months of teaching would give the teacher pay of $2.50 per student per quarter or three months. Spelling, reading, writing, and the rudiments of arithmetic would be taught. Compensation would come in the form of cash, pork, beef hides, deer skins, mink skins, coon skins or any other fur if in good condition. Also jeans, cloth or young cattle one year old, a young beef steer or cow. Fuel furnished when needed at the school.” (Rural Schools and Communities in Cape Girardeau County by Christ-obel Lacy and Bob White.)
Many schools did not remain open during the Civil War.
Jackson Public School
Following the war, the Jackson Public Schools were established in 1867. In the Jackson Magnet, the yearbook of Jackson High at the time, stated a three-year program began in 1903 in one classroom with one teacher. Lewis Reed was the first graduate in 1906. In 1909 the high school was moved into the Jackson Military Academy building where a four-year program was offered with multiple teachers. The elementary classes remain in the old building until 1881, with a new building constructed.
In 1920 the first part of the second high school building was constructed, with an addition in 1929. It stood until the next new high school was completed a few years ago. The football stadium was built by the WPA in the 1930s. Under the bleachers there originally was a cannery.
In 1954, approval was given by the State Board of Education for a reorganization plan consolidating the 17 smaller rural schools creating a Jackson Reorganized R-2 District of Cape Girardeau County. An election was called and was passed. Within a year, five more districts were added with Millersville joining in 1957.