Photo courtesy Maxine Piepmeier
Hudson Township, Bates County, Missouri
Text taken from the National Register of Historic Places application
Hudson City School is a frame, one-room schoolhouse located in a rural area approximately one mile northwest of the junction of Missouri 52 and Highway W in Bates County, Missouri. Hudson City School stands on its original one-acre tract in what had been Block 18 of the Hudson City townsite.
The cross-gabled building was constructed in 1891, as a Methodist Episcopal church. In 1911, the church sold the property to School District No. 83 and it was reconfigured as a schoolhouse. A row of 10 closely spaced windows in the north elevation was part of the church-to-schoolhouse conversion, with new windows added adjacent to the church windows for improved lighting. The building measures 45-1/2 feet at its longest point from east to west and 38-1/2 feet from north to south. It has a metal roof and sits on a foundation of sandstone blocks. A lone brick chimney pierces the west gable end. The main entrance, with a transom, is in a small vestibule on the southeast where the two wings intersect. The east gabled end is blind but a small painted sign near the top reads HUDSON CITY SCHOOL DIST. NO. 83. Another small sign near the entrance reads HUDSON COMMUNITY CENTER.
A small open porch with a shed roof fills the space where the wings intersect in the southwest corner. Interior space consists of a classroom, kitchen, two small rooms and a small hallway. In the 1970s, ceilings were lowered and other modest alterations took place but the original plaster walls and ceilings are intact. Original doors and much original woodwork is present and visible. The blackboard is intact, and in fact the interior is essentially unaltered since the building was last used as a schoolhouse in 1952. A frame privy off the northwest corner dates from when the building was used as a schoolhouse. A well with its original working pump is located off the southwest comer.
Inside, well-crafted tongue and groove wainscoting lines the lower portion of interior walls. This wainscoting is topped with a chair rail molding similar to that used on exterior window heads. Some doorways are framed by ornate moldings with bullseye comer blocks. Floors are tongue-and-groove hardwood. The black slate chalkboard, consisting of three rectangular sections within a decorative molding with a bottom ledge for chalk and erasers, is on the south wall of the classroom. A historic coal/wood stove of black iron ("Bridge & Beach Mfg. Co., St. Louis") is connected to the chimney with a flue. Furniture includes old bench seats, tables and a piano but no individual desks.
The kitchen is relatively primitive. Along the south wall, a simple counter rests on a wainscoting-covered framework. There is a sink but no running water in the building. Water was carried into the schoolhouse from a well southwest of the kitchen. A braced shelf is above the counter. A doorway at the west end of the kitchen opens onto the back porch.
If Brown's Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church was ever a vernacular gable-end building (the 24 x 45-foot classroom portion), there is no evidence of it today. As a church, the building has been described as "little short of magnificent" in comparison to other country churches of the period. It consisted of "a small vestibule, a vestry, and a large sanctuary. It was well furnished with pews whose seats were on hinges which allowed them to be turned up against the backs. There was a pulpit along with three tall pulpit chairs upholstered in black leather. Two large chandeliers each with six coal oil lamps hung from the ceiling. Near the top of each window was a lamp with a reflector back of it. The vestry presumably was in the side wing.
Although some deterioration is evident, Hudson City School is otherwise a good local example of an intact oneroom schoolhouse in Bates County.
Hudson City was platted on April 10,1867, in anticipation of being on the route of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad. But when the railroad reached the area three years later, the track passed about three miles east of Hudson City. There, the new railroad town of Appleton City prospered and Hudson City, three miles distant, quickly declined. In 1871, 25 residences, two stores and half of a Presbyterian church building (the other half burned) were moved by mules and oxen from Hudson City to Appleton City. A few families remained in Hudson City, however, and in 1891 a new church building-Brown's Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church-was erected there by the local Methodists and Presbyterians. The church site was purchased for $100 on July 14, 1891. Because both Methodists and Presbyterians as well as other local denominations used the building for services, in practice the Hudson Methodist Church was essentially a "community church." The location, on the west side of Main Street, was directly opposite an earlier Hudson City schoolhouse located on the east side of Main Street. Prior to construction of the new church, religious services were held in the old schoolhouse which is no longer extant.6
The new church at Hudson City is said to have been built under the tutelage of the Appleton City Methodist Church's pastor, the Rev. Chris. It was named Brown's Chapel after John Brown, who "did most of the work in planning and erecting the building" and also donated $500 to the project.
Services were usually held on Sunday afternoons and were well attended. Appleton City Methodist pastors who also served Brown's Chapel included Rev. Thompson, Rev. Pierce and Rev. Gilbreath.
By the time the church was sold to School District No. 83 in 1911, two decades after the first services, the congregation had dwindled considerably. The church received $300 for the building. This money was donated to the Appleton City Methodist Episcopal Church.
Education at Hudson City School
The Jeffersonian concept of a free public education was not realized in most parts of America until the mid-19th century. In Missouri, as in much of the country, implementation of public education was slow in coming although the Constitution of 1820 declared that "the children of the poor shall be taught free." In 1839, the Geyer Act was a serious early attempt to incorporate Jefferson's ideas on state-supported education in Missouri. Geyer was largely ineffective, but in 1853 the General Assembly passed a new education law that, finally, created a workable framework for public education in Missouri. By 1860, despite a slow start in the battle against illiteracy, approximately one of every five Missourians was attending school. After the Civil War, public education was greatly expanded in Missouri as elsewhere. The concept of free schools, once resisted as a form of charity, was clearly gaining support.
Before the widespread consolidation of school districts, and before the busing of rural students to centralized schools in the larger towns became standard procedure in the 1950s and 1960s, one-room country schools were widely distributed across the American rural landscape. Thousands of such schools, each serving only a handful of students from the immediate vicinity, made sense in the years before paved roads and automobiles when most students had to walk or ride horseback to school. In Missouri, these relatively independent rural school districts were established wherever there was a need. State law required only that there be 20 students living in the district and that the school board meet annually to set the tax levy and school term for the following year.
As early as 1869, a teachers' institute was organized in Butler in Bates County. By 1870, most of Bates County had been organized into school districts and some 78 schoolhouses had been constructed. Most of these early schools were supported by public school funds; others were subscription schools, operated from three to six months each year. In 1902, a systematic course of study was adopted for strictly rural schools as well as small schools in villages. Among other things it stressed the use of literature which made school libraries a necessity. Seven years later, a system for approving rural schools was adopted by the State Department of Education. While some rural districts apparently either resisted or struggled to comply with the various requirements for approval, the Hudson City School took them in stride.
In its first year of operation in the former Brown's Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church, the Hudson City School was one of only five schools in Bates County (out of 133 total districts) to meet the new standards for approval. Approval as a rural school was important and not all that easy to gain. Twelve minimum requirements had to be met. They included such things as having a school term of at least eight months (the term had been only seven months long between 1889 and 1909), employing a teacher holding a certificate higher than third grade county, and compliance with a library law for the purchase of supplementary books using a funding formula based on the number of pupils. That the Hudson City School was on a relatively short list of schools meeting all twelve of the requirements in 1911-12, its first year of operation in the converted church, attests to the overall soundness of the district (Fewer than 300 rural schools statewide were approved for the school year ending June 30,1911, the last). The Hudson City School was one of only 19 Bates County schools listed as approved in 1918. In 1927-28, Hudson was one of only three approved rural facilities in Bates County. Clearly, Hudson City School exemplified an ideal level of achievement for a rural school district according to statewide standards.
The old Bates County Record used to publish a column devoted to county school news. The column was written by County School Superintendent P. M. Allison. On October 7,1911, shortly after the Hudson City Methodist Church became the Hudson City schoolhouse, Allison's column in the Record reported: "Hudson City has an enrollment of 39 and all were present and doing good work. These people have a new schoolhouse and one of the best in the county and I am sure no other is better. Miss Mary Pulliam is teacher and is doing fine work for them. She receives $45 per month."
On November 11,1911, the Record commented: "Hudson has a good attendance and everything is moving very nicely and the work is satisfactory in every way. They have a fine building and have sent me their picture for which I wish to thank them. I appreciate this and will ask Supt. Evans to place it in his report. Miss Mary A. Pulliam is teacher." On September 14,1912, the Record said: "Hudson has an enrollment of 35 and 33 were present. The teacher, Miss Mary Pulliam, is wishing for fewer tardy marks this year. Miss Pulliam takes quite an interest in their Improvement Club at this place. They have a good building and a heating plant. They pay their teacher $50 per month [a pay raise of $5 for Miss Pulliam]."
In 1952 when the Hudson City School closed, Hudson and 10 other one-room schools were consolidated into the new Hudson R-9 School District. They were: Haynes, Reynard, McDavett,Cumpton, Oak Grove, Pleasant Gap, Hazel Dell, Brush College, Rich Valley and Rabbit Ridge.
Esther Gilbreth, the last teacher at the Hudson City School, began teaching there in the 1930s (as Miss Esther Schapeler). Mrs. Gilbreth recalled that a teacher's life in a one-room school was often very challenging. She described her experience at Hudson as "busy from the time I stepped up on the rock steps and turned the key to open the door." To get a head start, much of the lesson for the upper grades-history, science, geography and language arts-was written on the blackboard the evening before. The school day typically started with some basic building maintenance, since the one-room school instructor usually had to be janitor as well as teacher: "Now fire up the furnace with a big bucket of coal to warm the building before the children arrived; hurry to refill the coal bucket again. Then get the water bucket, go out to pump and fill the five gallon water cooler with fresh water." A large sheet of tagboard with the daily schedule of subjects, grade and time hung in a prominent place. "While the lower grades studied spelling, worked arithmetic problems on the blackboard, read and studied phonic pronouncing words, the upper grades prepared for their time to recite the work that had been assigned on the blackboard. Spelling was oral or written; good writing was stressed," Mrs. Gilbreth recalled. After the students went home, she said, the teacher had more janitorial tasks to perform such as sweeping and cleaning the room, carrying out stove ashes, banking the fire for overnight, carrying in more coal, checking both toilets and cleaning the water cooler.
Sometimes teachers stayed with the families of their students, perhaps with a different family each year, but Mrs. Gilbreth stayed with her parents who lived a few miles away until her marriage during World War Two. Although her paychecks were not large, Mrs. Gilbreth found the work itself endlessly rewarding: "To me these were days of joy with the children, loving them as I taught them how to read and good discipline as I played with them." She said that "when snow fell, we brought our sleds." Recess and the lunch period were shortened, "and this gave a nice long play period to go sled-riding on Grandpa McElhaney's hill. This was a very special time."
Mrs. Gilbreth taught at Hudson for many years. She became a member of the four-teacher faculty when the new consolidated Hudson schoolhouse of Reorganized School District R-9 opened in 1952. On October 8,1952, School District R-9 sold the Hudson schoolhouse along with one square acre of land to the Hudson Country Culture Club, a community organization and remains in use today as a community center and 4-H Club meeting facility.