Prior to 1887, the children of the pioneering families in Marceline, who desired to attend school, were obliged to attend the rural institution known as Hayden’s School which was across the street from where the residence of Don Taylor now stands, at the northern city limits, west of state highway No. 5. This being before schools were required to conform to a standard grading scale, the majority of the enrollment of twenty children of this first school attended only two or three terms, or until they had learned to read and write fairly well.
While the Hayden School was originally intended to serve a rural community, it was decided after the first year, with the children of railway employees attending there, that more pupils would attend the school if it were moved farther south, toward the rapidly growing city.
The one-room building was subsequently moved to the location currently occupied by the residence of Charles Wylie, and in the same block where the Charles Whisenand residence now is. R. J. Cunningham, whose home was near St. Catherine, began as teacher in the spring of 1887. He was succeeded by William E. Parks.
To accommodate the school children of Marceline, which had boomed from a sparsely settled farmland to a city of 2,500 in five months, twin frame schoolhouses were erected in time for the 1888-89 term. One of these buildings was located on the present site of Mrs. Stephen Wallar’s home on West Ritchie Street, west of the Masonic Temple. The other building was on East Howell Street, where the Second Baptist Church now stands. Joseph A. Neal and Miss Myrtle West taught at the school on West Ritchie Street while Miss Jo Baker and Miss Effie Pendleton taught at the school on East Howell Avenue.
As early as 1889, George Moorman, colored, taught the Negro children of Marceline in an abandoned carpenter shop on East Walker Street. Besides the first teacher, Mr. Moorman, George Leonard, Leon Bryant, William Neal, and Miss Dora Warfield also taught in the old shop-school.
Townspeople had long felt that this building was inadequate. Philip Urbach was given title to the old carpenter shop, for removing it and moving the hand-hewn Hayden School from the north end of town to the vacated lot. With the revamping of Hayden School, Miss Manae Carter was employed to teach the first term. She was succeeded by Miss Eustacia Carter, Mrs. L. A. Botts, Meredith Herndon, the Rev. Leroy Johnson, Miss Carrie Turpin, and Augustus Anderson, the present teacher of Lincoln School.
The mellowed old building, with native oak joists played a vital part in the early history of Marceline. It was destroyed by fire in September, 1931. The Negro school children attended classes in the Second Baptist Church for the next two terms, but this temporary inconvenience proved worthwhile when they were at last admitted to their new fire-proof building in September 1933.
With the moving of the old Hayden School to the south part of town, there once again re-occurred a shortage of schoolroom space. Until such time as the busy citizenry of Marceline could take time to erect another school building, a two-room brick building on West Santa Fe Street was rented from the late J. R. Wrenn. In the short time that the Wrenn building was used as a schoolhouse, the pupils were tutored by George Porter, L. D. Kennerly, and the Misses Jo Baker, Anna McLaughlin, Ada Sights, and Belle Wheelock (Miss Wheelock later became Mrs. R. J. Wheeler, of Brookfield). After the plans for the Central School building had been conceived and approved, faculty and furnishings were moved from the Wrenn Building to the second floor of the Alhambra Hotel at the corner of Gracia Street and Kansas Avenue – the corner now occupied by the Marceline Oil Company.
Classrooms on the second floor of the hotel Alhambra proved to be a little more than temporary as time went on, with very little progress made in the construction of the new building. The plans for the school were slow in taking form because investors lacked confidence in the bonds which were issued.
About this time, when the public schools were having so much difficulty with their housing program, two private schools were thriving very well in Marceline. One, St. Rose’s Hall, operated by Miss Bernadette Logsdon and Miss Nora Trew, served as a select finishing school, with a 12-year curriculum embracing religion, art, elocution, and music. Among the graduates of that school were Frank Steiner, Myrtle Sears (Steiner), Callie Griffin, and Pat Connelly. The other private school existing in Marceline at that time was Professor Rooney’s School of Business which taught advanced penmanship and bookkeeping to several of Marceline’s older citizens.
When the school children moved into the new Central grade building in October 1894, it was thought that this new “house of knowledge” would be sufficient to satisfy Marceline’s needs from that time on – they were reckoning without thought to the phenomenal growth Marceline was soon to experience.
Central Elementary and Junior High School
The Central School faculty for the balance of that 1894-95 term, the first one to occupy the new brick school building, consisted of Joseph A. Neal, – principal; William E. Parks (who had returned after a two-year absence), and the Misses Jo Baker, Grace Eagan, Lillian Maupin, Julian Gillispie, Anna Connelly, and Viola Kendrick. Of this group, Miss Connelly and W. E. Parks were of invaluable assistance in the compilation of this history. In January 1895, the principal, Mr. Neal resigned to accept the office of circuit clerk at Linneus. His vacancy was filled for the remainder of the term by Hugh Campbell from Kansas. The first graduating I class in the spring of 1896 consisted of the Misses Birdie Judah, Kate Davis, and Jennie Hemmings. Miss Hemmings later became Mrs. W. J. Randolph of Marceline; and Miss Davis, otherwise known as Mrs. F. B. Marshall, is principal of a grade school in Oklahoma City.
For the two decades following the construction of the Central School building, Marceline had a period of very rapid growth. So rapid was the growth of the Santa Fe’s favored Missouri town, that the Central building, which once was thought to be more than ample for this city’s needs, soon was badly overcrowded, in spite of the Ward School taught by Miss Nellie Moore (class of 1901) in a frame building on West Booker Street.
The year 1907 was significant in the history of Marceline’s schools, not only as the year in which the erection of the Park School building was started but also because it was the first year that Marceline High School (a mere sub-division of the public schools) was placed on the State Department of Education’s list of first class accredited schools. In other words, graduates of Marceline High School from the classes of the last thirty years have been eligible to enter colleges and universities throughout the country without taking additional high school preparatory work. This important advancement stands as a monument to the untiring efforts of L. A. Moorman, superintendent, and Miss Martha Smith, principal at that time.
The brick building at the corner of Chestnut Street and Ritchie Avenue was finished in 1908. The building was named Park School after the site on which it was erected. The Chautauquas were formerly presented in that block. Until the Park building was ready for occupancy, some of the school children who lived west of the Santa Fe tracks were obliged to attend classes in the frame building on Ritchie Avenue which also served as the First Baptist Church. The Park School faculty in that first completed term of 1908-09 consisted of the Misses Ora Davis, Irene Haney, Edith West, Verna Gibson, Iva Porter (Mrs. L. M. Maddock), Ethel Woodward, Martha Smith, and Miss Grace Truman.
While a four-year high school course had been offered in the attic of the old Central building since 1899 and another one was being offered in the Park building, the majority of the townspeople realized that Marceline offered rather poor accommodations for secondary scholars in comparison with other communities of this size. Little was done here toward paralleling the advances in education, as it was progressing elsewhere until conditions in the attic school became so undesirable that a special new high school building was planned in 1914.
The faculty for that first term in the separate old high school building, in 1915-16 consisted of F. E. Bridwell, superintendent; Miss Martha Smith, principal; Miss Bessie Crystal, Miss Hazel McAllister, and S. E. Wonder.
Through this era, and since, many improvements have been made in the high school curricula. The day had passed when a four-year high school course could be easily conducted in four or five rooms, without conflicts. From time to time, new elective courses were recommended by the State Department of Education – electives which would better train the students of high schools for the task of making a living. These new courses not only required expensive equipment, but extra floor space as well. It so happened that the old brick Central school building, which had been constructed almost forty years before, had aged and decayed so as to be an actual menace, both as a fire-trap and a source of real danger in time of storm.
The old Central building was razed, with the aid of dynamite, in the summer of 1929, and was replaced by the present beautiful new $90,000 fire-proof high school building the following year. All that remains of the old Central building is the iron bell, on its concrete base in the northwest corner of the schoolyard. This old bell’s life will be further preserved in years to come, as a result of the two coats of paint which upperclassmen apply each spring.
The new Marceline High School building was originally intended to house the seventh and eighth grades also, but increased enrollment and the addition of added electives to the course of study, made it necessary for the high school to utilize these extra four rooms, moving the junior high school back to the “East Side or Central” building. This very move illustrates the changes that have occurred in educational programs in the comparatively short time since the new building was erected in 1930.
The depression of the early thirties channeled many competent people into the teaching profession. This was reflected in the caliber of educational advancement that was enjoyed during the middle and late thirties. Many excellent administrative, teaching, counseling, accounting, and auditing practices were developed.
World War II and the Korean War hampered efforts to continue the progress in education registered in the 1930’s. Many students interrupted their education to serve in the armed forces. Much local, as well as national, effort was pointed toward the war effort. Defense plants and the armed services took prospective teachers out of the teaching field. New equipment became scarce and teaching materials and apparatus were depleted.
Educating veterans gave rise to adult classes in agriculture. These classes were started in the mid-forties and lasted until the mid-fifties.
The people of Marceline and the surrounding area began to press for a return to pre-war emphasis on education. Several state laws were passed in an effort to assist and persuade local schools to upgrade their buildings and improve their staffs and curriculum.
At an election held in August 1951, the patrons of the Marceline School District and those of the surrounding rural school districts of Linn and Chariton Counties voted to become the Marceline Reorganized District R-V of Linn County. Phis greatly enlarged the area of the district and was the first important step in providing an improved school program for all pupils in the area. An election was called and the board elected for the newly Reorganized District R-V was made up as follows: O. E. Downing, J. O. Williamson, C. R. Machen, John Washburn, L. C. Bond, and R. H. Schutte. L. C. Bond was chosen the president and J. O. Williamson vice-president of the new board. Richard Schutte was elected secretary and O. E. Downing treasurer of the new board.
In 1952 the board decided to build a new industrial arts shop and the new building was located at the northeast corner of the high school building. It was completed in 1953 and makes a fine addition to the school plant.
Integration was started in the Marceline High School during the year of 1953-54. At the beginning of the 1955-56 school year the Lincoln Elementary pupils were integrated and later in the year the Lincoln Building and grounds were sold. Due to ill health, Mr. W. E. Moore was forced to give up his duties as superintendent at the end of the 1953-54 school year. Eldred Sage became the superintendent July 1, 1955.
Walt Disney Elementary School
The district tried from 1953 to vote a bond issue to build a new elementary school and a new vocational ag shop. As the bond issue was defeated each time, it became apparent that the state requirements for a vocational ag shop could not be met, so vocational agriculture was dropped from the curriculum at the end of the 1955-56 school year.
On October 21, 1958, the patrons of the Marceline R-5 School District voted bonds in the amount of $298,000 to acquire land, build, and equip a new elementary school. Work on this new building was begun about June 1, 1959. People are indeed proud of this new building as it is the first elementary school building constructed by the district in the twentieth century.
The new Walt Disney Elementary School was constructed during the 1959-60 school term. School opened in this building on August 29, 1960, but the lunchroom was not completed and the first lunches were not served in the building until two weeks later.
The dedication of this new building was held on Sunday afternoon, October 16, 1960. The dedicatory address was made by Hubert Wheeler, Commissioner of Education of the State of Missouri, and Walt Disney presented the “Mickey Mouse” flag and made a short speech to the assembled crowd.
With the acquisition of the Walt Disney Elementary School, the old Park School building was sold. The entire school system is now located in a campus style setting at the southeast corner of the junction of Missouri Avenue and Santa Fe Street.
The technical advances of the fifties and the accompanying spotlight on education has created the healthy attitudes prevalent today. During recent years a renewed effort has been made to attain favorable objectives in relation to curriculum, staff, and pupil achievement.
The people of Marceline can be justly proud of the outstanding effort they have made in an attempt to educate the young people of this community.
(This history is a continuation of the HISTORY OF MARCELINE SCHOOLS as it was written by W. D. Foster for the Marceline News in 1938. Observations made since that time are those of Paul K. Johnson, present Superintendent of Schools.)
Dedication of the Walt Disney Elementary School
The day of dedication of the new Walt Disney Elementary School began with the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Walt Disney on the Santa Fe Chief at 7:30 A.M. on Sunday, October 16, 1960. The Marceline High School Band and many citizens were at the depot to give them a rousing welcome.
Following a busy morning of informal welcomes, breakfast at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Rush Johnson, pictures and autographs, the distinguished guests were taken on a tour of the new school building which bears the famous artist’s name.
At noon a luncheon for the school personnel and invited guests was served in the cafeteria of the new building.
The official program of the dedication began in the early afternoon with a band concert by the Marceline High School Band. The invocation was by Rev. Harold Scott; presentation of the flag, Judge Paul van Osdol; National Anthem, Marceline High School Band; advance of colors, American Legion Theodore Roosevelt Post No. 264; cornerstone ceremony, Bruce H. Hunt, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri A. F. and A. M.; musical interlude; building design of the Walt Disney School, Bruce Barnes, architect; introduction of platform guests, Eldred Sage, superintendent of schools; dedicatory address, Dr. Hubert Wheeler, Commissioner of Education, State of Missouri; introduction of Mr. Disney, Harry Porter; address, Walt Disney; presentation of building to the Board of Education, Don L. Bron, Bron Construction Company; acceptance of building for District R-5, Bill Toops, president of the Board of Education; benediction, Rev. Charles Weston.
After the dedication the Jaycees and their wives served barbecued ribs with all the trimmings at the Walt Disney Municipal Park. The Ararat Shrine Drum and Bugle Corps of Kansas City furnished the entertainment. Walt Disney mingled with the people and visited in the friendly homeown fashion.
The eventful day was continued with a tour for Mr. Disney »of places of his boyhood recollections and wad concluded with a buffet dinner at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Gene T. Malone.