FORMER STUDENT OF CARRUTH SCHOOL, OSAGE, WRITES INTERESTINGLY OF THE PAST
I just can't resist the temptation to add a considerable bit to the write-up of the old Osage days (see Osage Then and Now), if you will please allow.
I attended the Major Carruth School from the day it opened (Fall of 1874) to its close, June. 1879. The school was patronized within a radius of one hundred miles. Most. homes housed the boarders; Major Carruth kept many of them. Major Carruth was a high-toned and cultivated christian gentleman, an elder in the Presbyterian Church. He was a splendid disciplinarian and taught many fine and valuable rules for life. He came to Osage direct from Clinton, De Witt county, where for six years he taught school right in the midst of the celebrated Taylor and Sutton vendetta. When he arrived there he was called upon by each of these factions and commanded to join them. He refused. He told them he had come there to teach school, not to fight. He had children of each faction in the school. One of the armed factions demanded of him that he not use corporal punishment on their children. This he refused to concede. Major Carruth never spared the rod in any case where it was needed.
The Major Carruth home at Osage was a two-story house and was originally the McClellan store, and afterwards the Burford & Hartfield store, in which was the postoffice. The upper story at that time was occupied by the Masonic Lodge. I can remember seeing the window panes painted blue to keep out the view. The Colquest home was, at the time of the school, called “the Manse", and was occupied by Dan Monroe, father of Sam Monroe. who married Miss Nettle Little of Columbus, and who now lives in Houston. Afterwards the house was occupied by the Keenan[sic] family for years.
One of the regular preachers at the annual camp meeting was "Old Brother" Wesley (nicknamed "Cedar-Top" -he had dark red hair) Smith, who lived a few miles north and was pastor of the Methodist Church at Osage. He had been an early-day militant circuit rider--a most Godly man. I can see him now as he held up his arms to pronounce the benediction at the regular weekly morning service.
The curriculum of the Major Carruth School was the best selected of any I have ever known. It included Webster's Blue Back Spelling Book, all the McGuffey's Readers, history, geography. grammar, rhetoric, elementary and higher mathematics and Latin. It was the only school I ever heard of in which mental arithmetic was taught--a most healthy and highly profitable mental exercise. When you finished that course you knew something--far more than the present day high school graduate--and it stuck to you through life. It would be an ideal course of instruction for our present day CCC boys.
Major Carruth was especially painstaking in his teaching of penmanship, using the "muscular movement" and the running style of script. This type is evidenced even to this day in the handwriting of many of his former scholars.
Friday afternoon was given over to declamations by the younger boys and girls and compositions by the older ones. One time Detie Fisher read a composition entitled "I Do Not Mean Half I Say", which was one of the most cleverly conceived and the wittiest things I ever heard. Mollie Neal was the wit of the school and when she was not laughing herself, was making somebody else laugh.
The games played by the boys were town ball, shinny. hot ball, bull pen. rolley-holey, leap-frog. marbles for "keeps" and acting on a horizontal bar. There was a wide, deep, beautifully shaded swimming hole in Harvey's Creek about one-half mile away in which the boys revelled, "ducking" each other and tying each other's clothes into indissoluble knots.
There were many sweethearts in school, especially among the boys and girls around ten and twelve years of age. Many love missiles flitted to and fro. In some instances the love flame was so intense as to call forth the utmost in superlatives to meet the requirements. Valentine Day, especially, was seized upon as a fitting occasion to justify such extravaganzas as '"The rose is red, the violet is blue; sugar is sweet and so are you"; "The ring is round, it has no end; so is my love for you. my friend": "My love to you will ever flow like 'lasses down a 'tater row". The climax was reached in the following: 'If you and your folks love me and my folks like me and my folks love you and your folks, never did folks love folks since folks were folks". It has never been recorded that any of the affections invested in these effusions returned any dividends in the matrimonial market, sad to relate, late.
Many rode horseback from one to four miles. Along our route was Lee Borden, son of "Uncle Johnnie" Borden. who was with Sam Houston at San Jacinto, and nephew of Gail Borden, who invented condensed milk; Fannie Coble (sister of Mrs. Tom York); Mike and Edna Stapleton, Owen and Irene Kimbrough., Mark Townsend, John Burford, John Garrett and Alvin and Tod Williams, sisters Pattie, Maude and I. The William's boys were "cracker-jack" mumble-peg players. Often they and I would gallop ahead of the others to where a large bed of nice, clean, white sand lay in a ditch beside the road, and would play mumble-peg. They never lost a game and drove that peg deep. And in every instance my nose and lips were "socked” into that sand to root up that peg. But my strong inborn Irish fighting spirit would not ever allow me to decline to play. Did I say nice, clean, white sand? Pooh!
The final examinations were conducted before the patrons of the school and any others who cared to attend. The exhibitions were staged in the Methodist Church, which was quite a large auditorium for those days. A stage was constructed across the entire end of the building. The lighting was accomplished by four beautiful prismed chandeliers containing four lights each and suspended over the aisles, supplemented by bracket lamps along the walls. A great crowd from far and near overflowed the building, many standing at the doors and outside at the windows. The program consisted of declamations, compositons[sic], dialogues, tableaus, burlesques, charades, plays and piano soles and duets. I was the smallest boy in size in school, and Major Carruth always called on me to open the program, to make the first speech, or, as he announced it, “to break the ice”. Dressed in a suit of black velvet with brass buttons which Mamma had made for me, I stepped forth, “scared to death and afraid to run”. Jesse Holman who arrived from Kentucky just at this time, told me that I made the first speech he ever heard in Texas.
A beautifully shaded spring situated about two hundred yards away supplied the water for this school and when the boys wanted to play “hockey” for a few minutes, they would ask during school hours to be allowed to bring a bucket of water, but if they overstayed, Major Carruth was not fooled and would meet them with a shingle. The writer and his companion were once met by the Major in this way.
A Bible each year was awarded to each of the older, middle and younger classes for good deportment during the term. I received one for the younger students the first year in school. I still have this Bible, but I “got tired of being good” and did not accumulate a great stack of these Bibles.
Incidentally, I will relate that Mrs. Dr. Sam D. McLeary, who came to Texas with her husband in 1856, taught at Osage in a log cabin with dirt floor. The late Drake Moore attended her school. Her husband it was who named Osage and was the first postmaster.
Weimar Mercury, March 18, 1938, page 2