School is the source of so many memories that form the foundation upon which life is built.
Every year, students return to their old schools for reunions to relive those days when life was carefree and we were growing up with a special group of friends we saw every day at school.
For some older Jasper County residents, the schools they attended were much smaller than those students attend today.
Most were one room buildings, some with outhouses instead of restrooms, sitting on rural intersections in fields and on donated property. Most of those schools disappeared after school reorganization and consolidation in the mid-20th century.
The volunteers at the Jasper County Records Center in Carthage are trying to preserve the memory of those old one-room schools with a new book, called Echoes of School Bells, by Helen Hunter.
Hunter and Jasper County Records Center Director Steve Weldon introduced the 334-page book to the Jasper County Commission at their regular meeting on Dec. 17, 2013.
“I've taken the Jasper County Rural Schools from the very beginning of the conception of the county clear to today,” Hunter said. “And in the back of the book are stories that individuals who have gone to these schools have written and given us as a direct recollection of what took place in those rural schools. It's really fantastic reading.”
The book starts with a map of the county marking the location of schools, and continues with a decade-by-decade history of the development of schools in Jasper County, starting in the 1830s and wrapping up with the 1900s.
The chapter on the 1870s includes a list of the “Rules for Teachers 1872.”
Some of the rules:
• “Teachers each day will fill the lamps, trim the wicks, and clean the chimneys.”
• “Make your pens carefully. You may whittle the nibs to the individual taste of the pupil.”
• “Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings if they attend church regularly.”
• “Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.”
• “After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or any other good book.”
The book then includes 260 pages listing some kind of history, and pictures if they are available, from each of the 105 schools that dotted Jasper County in the 1800s and into the 1940s.
The schools are listed alphabetically, from Amity to White Hall.
Some entries, like the one on the Snowflake School, are only a half page with reports from the Jasper County Superintendent of Schools from a few years.
Page 2 of 2 - Other entries, like the report on the Summit School, include several pages of photos, official reports and stories from students who attended the schools.
The entry for the Cave Springs School, where Hunter attended elementary school, is 10 pages long and includes stories from Hunter and other former students.
Cave Springs School, which dates to the 1840s and served as a military headquarters in the Civil War and the Jasper County Seat in 1865 and 1866, is preserved as a historic site by several former students who have created the Eastern Jasper County Historic Sites Association.
“It's about the schools and the people that went to those schools and the stories that they so generously gave to us to put in the book,” Hunter said. “It's really hard to understand what went on back there without sitting down and actually reading their stories and reading what they remember. I think it's very important to their families to understand what they went through in school.”
The book is available online through Amazon.com by searching for “Echoes of Schools Bells Jasper County.” and will be available at the Jasper County Records Center, 125 N. Lincoln, and in other outlets soon. Cost of the book is $29.95.