A look back in time at the schools of Blue Mound.
As in most rural areas in the 1800’s, education for their children was important to early settlers in our country. And, at that time, much of it occurred in someone’s home or in a log cabin built for that purpose. Typically, log cabin schools were built of round logs chinked and daubed with mud and floors were bare earth. Seats were often stools constructed by splitting a log, trimming off a flat side and adding four pegs on the rounded bottom side for legs. We did not find any records of a log cabin school in Blue Mound, but assume that there may have been one. Later, frame wooden buildings became the norm. In Blue Mound, published records reveal an early school in the area named the Burner School.
We faced several questions when it came to developing the history of schools of Blue Mound: How many school houses were there? Where were they located? When were they built? What was the fate of each? And, when did the name change from Burner School to Blue Mound School?
After diligent efforts to find information, much of it from the archives of this newspaper, we came to the conclusion that there have been four different schoolhouses in Blue Mound. They are discussed below.
Burner School Number One
Burner was the name of an early school about a half mile north and west of the Blue Mound four corners. We found a record dated June 13, 1851 where Jacob S. Burner and his wife Eliza, deeded land to the “Pleasant Hill Schoolhouse District, In consideration of their desire to promote education and knowledge among children of the district.” (That was about eight years after Blue Mound Township was officially formed, although some early settlers had been in the area since 1836.) We are not sure when the Burner School building was built, but most likely by at least 1852. We did not find any records about the students or teachers of that first school. The area this building occupied is now surrounded by the Blue Mound Cemetery. No physical evidence of a building exists today. The land belonged to the Blue Mound School District and was deeded back to the cemetery in 1935.
Leo Hopper in his book, “Rural and Small Town Schools in Livingston County”, mentioned an early school in the area named the Burner School. (He also mentioned that it once served as a post office.) Burner School was also mentioned on Page 551 in “A History of Northwest Missouri (Volume I)” edited by Walter Williams, and also noted in the 1937 Centennial Constitution-Tribune edition as an early school in Livingston County.
Burner School Number Two
The 1878 Livingston County Platt map shows a schoolhouse west of Blue Mound four corners, just north of the current Cowboy Church, but none at the cemetery. We found further evidence for this second school in a deed, dated May 30, 1874, that transferred one acre of ground in this location to the Board of Directors of District No. 6 to be used for school purposes. We have found no record of when this school was built, but we think that it was most likely built in 1875. Johnny Hoyt in his book, “Not Much of Anything – A History of My Life”, mentions that the local residents held church services in this building until they built a church across the road in 1885. The only other mention of this schoolhouse is in the accounts of the Great Tornado of 1883. Both the original account published in the Chillicothe Crises on June 28, 1883 and Jim Jones’s “100-year reflection” published in the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune on the June 15, 1983, revealed that this Burner School was destroyed by the 1883 tornado. The map of the tornado’s path indicates that the one destroyed was not the original schoolhouse but was this second one built nearer to the center of Blue Mound proper.
At this date, we have been unable to locate any teacher or student records for either of the Burner Schools.
Blue Mound School Number One
After the destruction of the second Burner School House in June of 1883 (just west of Blue Mound), we found a deed dated September 3, 1883 in which Joseph A. Knox and his wife Sarah B. Knox sold the School District No. 6 an acre of ground for $15. (The existing school building is on this land.) We have no information when this replacement building was built, but assume it was somewhere on that acre of ground. We do have a photo of a Blue Mound School House dated 1910, which is obviously not the present one but is most likely the Blue Mound school house number one.
Blue Mound School Number Two
Evidence for this, the fourth school house to be built, was found in a Chillicothe newspaper article dated April 6, 1911, which stated that the school district voted to build a new school house to be erected this summer. There was no mention of why they needed a new one. Then, another newspaper article dated December 6, 1911, stated that the new school house had been finished, and was moved into on Monday. The article went on to say, “Our district is proud of having the best school house in the district with new seats, a large library and all the wood-work varnished; also a large bell, that can be heard for several miles.”
This article was followed by another one dated December 20, 1991, stating that the old school house was sold to Donald Barnes for $35.
As of this writing (2019), this school house is still standing (barely) and is 108 years old. It is located on the southeast side of the Blue Mound four corners. Other evidence of this building comes from a 1913 Chillicothe Chamber of Commerce map that shows a school at the present location and 1917 and 1930 plat maps showing a school house at the present location.
Also, Donald Barnes told us in an interview that he started first grade at the Blue Mound School in 1922 at the same location and in the building that is there today. And, Howard Brown told us in an interview that at age 6 he started at the Blue Mound School in 1923 at the same location and in the building that is there today.
After the school closed in the spring of 1957, it was purchased by Mr. Clarence Christmas (1883 - 1958) and converted into a home. Mr. Christmas was struck by an automobile and killed about a year later while he was crossing the road after leaving church. The Reverend and Mrs. James W. Porter (1916 -1997) purchased the building from Mr. Christmas’s daughter (Mrs. Zullig). They converted the building by making the anteroom into a bathroom and changed the entrance to the south side. They also ran a dog kennel at his location for many years. Reverend Porter passed away and Estella A. Porter (1917 - 2000) sold the property in 1998/99 to the Green’s (early owners of the Blue Mound rock quarry).
At this time the building is owned by Hunt Midwest Mining, a Division of Hunt Enterprises (which includes the Kansas City Chiefs) and was used as a lab for rock inspection and storage. It is abandoned and in poor shape.
Note to readers: Their upcoming book, “The History of Blue Mound Missouri” will include a listing of the teachers (including teacher salaries, which ranged from $320 in 1933 to $1,600 in 1950!) and students from 1932-1957 era as well as section on the memories of some of the former teachers and students. Most interesting! Senior author, Joe G. Dillard, would appreciate receiving any suggestions you have for corrections or additions. Those may be sent to: Joe G. Dillard, 3535 West Arbor Way, Columbia MO 65203 or DillardJ@missouri.edu.