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JIM: The Great School Day Rally, 1914

The event was a combined Columbia Graded School and The Lindsey Wilson Training School, and brought to town teachers and students of nearly all of the 80 (yes, eighty) Adair County School Districts, and included a mass march from the Columbia Square to the Fairgrounds. Some great names of the past in this article: W.H. Wilson, R.R. Moss, Miss Laura Smythe, T.C. Coats, Marie rose, Cymbaline Moss, Flossie Dehoney, Shreve Davis, Edgar Royce, and more. There may never have been a day like before or since in Adair County History, as told by master history weaver and seguetarian JIM. -CM

By JIM

A solid mass of humanity: the great School Day Rally, 1914

The 1914 School Day Rally, held in Columbia on Friday, October 30, 1914, was a day of social enjoyment for the teachers and students of the rural schools of Adair County. It packed the Square, pleased the attendants, and was "carried out to perfection."


The event, proposed at the (county) Teachers' Institute in August and organized by W.H. Wilson, principal of the Columbia Graded School, and R.R. Moss, co-principal of the Lindsey Wilson Training School, was preceded by a series of district rallies. By the time October 30th arrived, school rally fever consumed the county and brought to town that day the teachers and students of nearly all the of 80 or thereabouts Adair County school districts. Wrote the News,

Early in the morning teachers with their schools commenced to arrive, each school carrying the stars and stripes...At 10 o'clock the public square was a solid mass of humanity..It was a fine body of young boys and girls, the teachers, of course, feeling justifiably proud of them.

And children weren't the only students present. In late 1914, moonlight schools -- evening classes (and thus "moonlight") designed specifically to teach illiterate adults to read and write -- were on the ascendency. Observed the News, "Miss Laura Smythe, who teaches the Keltner school...had in her number twenty-five or thirty moonlight pupils, ranging in age from forty to seventy-eight, Mr. John Keltner being the oldest."

The News also took pains to mention that while the students were on the Square, Miss Smythe's class "drew up in front of the News office, gave a drill and rendered a beautiful song." The article also stated that "The pupils of all the schools were neatly attired, showing that they were caring for their bodies as they gained in knowledge."

(As an aside: the newspaper commented in passing that "Many children were present who had never before been in Columbia," a statement very nearly impossible to comprehend now, when few if any residents of old Adair between Casey Creek and Cumberland Cumberland are as much as half an hour away from the county seat.)

From seven to ten that fine October morn, the Graded School and the Lindsey Wilson hosted open houses with displays of student work from those institutions--displays that showed "excellent constructive work, and artistic skills." Hundreds of people attended these open houses and the overwhelming consensus was that "the children and grown pupils were being most excellently trained."

About eleven that morning, the students and attendant adults marched as a body from the Square to the Fairgrounds, where the rest of the day was spent in a wide range of exhibitions and friendly competitions--athletic, academic, and otherwise. The events included a spelling contest, essays on illiteracy, best foods (apple pie, light bread, and biscuits, for examples); best agricultural products; best sewing (several categories); a declamatory content for the young men and a recitation contest for the young ladies; and purely-for-fun activities such as sack races, a teachers' race, 100 yard dashes, wheelbarrow races (girls only, 15 & over) and egg races. In addition, "Mr. T.C. Coats...a member of the state Educational Board, delivered a fine address" to the folks assembled at the Fairgrounds.

Misses Marie Rose, Cymbaline Moss, and Flossie Dehoney gave readings; Shreve Davis, of the Graded School (High School division), exhibited an 80 pound pumpkin he had grown; Edgar Royce displayed a violin he had hand crafted; Willie Gowen of the Wilson school district proudly shown a dozen Irish potatoes he had grown, the six having a combined weight of very nearly four pounds; and "The boneless chicken exhibited by the Graded School was so perfectly built as to attract special attention."

All in all, "It was the greatest display of educational interest ever pulled off in Adair County...This was such a successful gathering the teachers have certainly been stimulated, the children made happy, and insures another coming-together next year."

That the Rally drew one of the largest gathering ever assembled in Columbia can hardly be denied. Stated the writ of November 4th, 1914,

Evidently there were more people in Columbia last Friday than seen here before for many years, and there were more children here than ever before known in the history of the town. We had several parties to estimate the number of people present and not one put the crowd [at] less than five thousand.

- Story fabric spun by Jim, from the ether-warp words of the News and the vapor-woof of time.


This story was posted on 2011-11-06 06:18:00
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