Early School Incidents

Paper Read at Sauk County Historical Society

by Charles Wing, July 30, 1908

May have looked similar to this Wilson Creek, Sauk County school

May have looked similar to this Wilson Creek, Sauk County school

I first went to school in Baraboo in 1855 in an old barn on Seventh avenue where the Wash. Burrington house is now.  It was a private school taught by Mrs. Girlo and was appointed to amuse her two-year old daughter, now residing on the east Sauk road, by playing with her on a buffalo robe spread on the middle of the floor.

Joy Caused Sorrow.  

I next went to Miss Nethaway in the old three room district school house on First street, where I first met Boyd Blachly, then a term in the next department, and then upstairs in the last room to William Joy as teacher.  He was not much of a “joy” to us boys.  He ought to have been named Sorrow instead of Joy.  He had a cross eye and we could not tell when he was looking at us.  He had a riding whip and kept it in his desk drawer, locked up.  One noon the boys broke open the desk and burned the whip.  Then Mr. Joy procured a small rawhide whip that he could curl up and carry in his coat tail pocket.  This whip had a handle about eight inches long and the rest was braided and would cut well. He would curl it up and throw it at an offending boy.  On account of his cross eye we did not know when it was coming.  When it did come we were made to bring it to him.  If there were two, one took hold of each end and he laid it on to us.  

One noon three boys, Hat Case, Henry Turney, and a third one whom I don’t remember rode down hill a little too long.  They were at the bottom of the Noyes hill when the bell rang and could not get to the school house in time, so were late.  Mr. Joy called them up and whipped them on the hands with that rawhide; but Hat he could not make cry which seemed to make Joy madder than ever. When the rawhide came down Hat would turn his hand so the whip would fly back and cut Joy’s fingers.  It cut them so he wound paper around his fingers. Mr. Joy flogged his pupils without any mercy.  Other teachers did the same in those days.  I felt that rawhide myself.  We deserved some kind of punishment.  After him came teachers who got along without such whipping and kept just as good a school.  

Our next teacher was Mr. Burnham, a very good teacher, one that could make the pupils learn.  The summer term of ’59 he gave three prizes for the most perfect lessons, which was an inducement for some to study and be there every day, for they had a credit mark for every perfect lesson and every day’s attendance counted.   

He was good to those who were truthful, and not too full of mischief, and would own up.  One boy had not done a thing, but was under suspicion and crossed himself and got whipped for lying.  He was severe when they were too naughty.  Two young men were taken over the head and shoulders with a hickory pointer four or five feet long and one blow took the cover from a leather bound book that one of the youngsters held up before him for a shield.  They sat in their seats when this was given them.   

Next was O.W. Fox.  He wanted us to read in the Bible.  He told us to bring our Bibles, had told us several times, too, but the most of us would forget.  One morning he sent us home after them, but we most all failed to comeback until after dinner.  Those who went right home were all right, but hose who stayed on the street were punished.  


D.W. Hitchcock came next.  The greatest event in his reign was his putting sawdust on the floor to avoid the noise.  In a short time the pupils were tired of it and one noon when Hitchcock was at dinner the pupils cleaned the sawdust all out.  It was done with some misgivings as to what the teacher would say when he came back. But it just suited him; he sent up town for a basket of apples and called for the ringleader in the enterprise.  Bell Case was pointed out to him and he had her come and sit beside him on the platform, peeled an apple, handed it to her and had a boy pass the rest around among the pupils.  Another time a chair had fallen to pieces and was waiting for repairs.  The scholars would set it up for the fun of seeing some one take hold of it when it would go to pieces.  Mr. Hitchcock had told them to let it alone but they did not.  One afternoon when all were quiet and sleepy a knock was heard at the door, and the teacher very smilingly asked in his company.  When they reached the platform he took hold of the innocent looking chair to offer it to his visitors.  It tumble to pieces, and he was angry.  But no one knew who set it up. 

The “Key”  

It was while he taught that I first knew that some teachers had a key to work out their example for them.  I did not think so much of their smartness after that.  Where he boarded I was a frequent visitor and saw the key there one evening.  He was gone, but the lady of the home, I suppose, told him, for the next morning as I was going to school he overtook me and requested me to keep shady about that key and said that all teachers had them.  

William Tell.  

We had an exhibition while some of these teachers taught, over Mill’s drug store.  It was William Tell and son, Albert.  Jasper Dibble was Tell and I was Albert.  We had dry goods boxes piled up for rocks and concealed by evergreen boughs, we came down the rocks in the thunder of a big piece of sheet iron, and lightning made by burning sulphur.  

I think it was in Mr. Burnham’s time that the boys and girls had a party every recess and noon time.  We played “The needle’s eye” ,“King William,” drop the hankerchief.” And did not leave out the kissing part.  The parents of some of the girls objected to this last and the teachers ordered us to stop it. We got consent to play games if we would leave out the kissing and we agreed to this, but the temption was too great for some of the boys and they broke their word often.  

The boys played marbles and ball, two old cat and base ball.  In the winter we skated and rode down hill same as boys do now, we rode down the Noyes hill on Ash street on the long hill over the river, across where the rail road track is now and down onto the bridge.  We had no over coats or over shoes, but wore boots greased well with tallow and ran to keep warm.  

Some of the boys at that time were Gus Stanley, Geo. Ryan, Jos. Uphdegraff, Judge John Jinkins, and brother George, the Crossman boys, Ike Andrews, Jos. Davis, Vol. Moore, Charley Turney, Tom Purdy, and others.  In winter the girls would pop corn in the big box stove that stood in the middle of the room.  Those that sat near the stove would roast and those on the side seats would freeze.  

We then went to Mr. Pillsbury in the Institute building.  He made us sit in our seats according to size, which did not please me as he put a boy with me I did not like.  

Next and last were Mr. Hobart and wife.  His way of governing was quite different from Mr. Joy’s.  He said he thought we were all young ladies and gentlemen, and would behave.  I think we did pretty well. I remember one case of mischief when Mrs. Hobart was hearing a class in the recitation room.  There was a box stove here and it was summer.  One of the young gentlemen who now is a whiskered farmer living a few miles south west of town, was bound to keep his feet in the stove.  Mrs. Hobart came out and spoke to the Prof.  He went in there, but the window being open the bird had flown.  Mr. Hobart came back smiling.  Whether the young gentleman was ever punished I don’t know.  When the war was partly over Ira Scott come back and drilled us in war tactics; we had wooden spears, turned out painted and varnished for guns.  We enjoyed the drill. 

Henry Childs called “Baby” was home from the war, wounded, and attended school some.  He was first brought into notice when he first enlisted and was wrestling in the court yard with the best men in the crowd that was standing around.  After he had thrown all who cared to try him, John Miller the champion wrestler of the town was called for he was fresh and Childs was tired but Childs threw him and was called “Baby” forever after.