OHS Alumni Association formed in 1925
It adopted its constitution during an April 25 meeting. Ralph E. Warden, former owner and publisher of The Republican, was listed as the association’s president. AlmaPoppenhouse was the group’s president. Marjorie Murray was the secretary and Martha Barth served as treasurer. Promoting educational interests and fellowship for grads was their purpose. John Grohskopf served as a chairman of the constitutional Drafting Committee. Board included Warden, Chester Mellies and Alfred Berger. Membership requirements were stipulated that candidates must be graduates of the accredited High School dating from 1909. Each member was allowed one vote and was entitled to an invitation to the annual banquet and other social functions. Dues were $1 per year payable in advance.
The College specialized in training county’s teachers for 19 years......
In 1989, a private academy offering high school work was opened. Knows as The College, The Owensville Academy or even as the Owensville High School, the school was operated by Fred H. and Mrs. Isenberg and E.F. Isenberg, at the corner of Highway 28 and First Street. The gray, two-story, wood-framed school as located immediately eat of the Owensville First Baptist Church. Tuition was $6 for a 10-week term. A $2 fee was charged for fully furnished rooms, meals and for fuel and light. Music lessons cost 30 cents for one hour of instruction. The school was known as a preparatory school for teachers. According to an 1896 advertisement if the Owensville Republican, the academy was in its sixth year and the school’s teacher are “ Normal graduates, the Normal methods are exclusively used by the instructors. Training teachers is made a specialty.
Nearly nine-tenths of the teachers in Gasconade County have attended our school. No pupil has ever left our school because he was dissatisfied with its work or management.
The College was in operation for 19 years.
Although it was not a part of the state’s school system, credits were accepted by most every academy in Missouri, noted an Aug. 31, 1939 story in The Republican. Officials from the school advertised that their institution “has a steady and substantial growth, surpassing the expectation of its most enthusiast friends. We have worked hard without making much noise about it.”
Early crowding in a “school community”
Bell rings, students noisily celebrate 1923 bond approval Crowed educational environments were noted in a Dec. 22,1922 story published in The Republican which described class sizes. The total school enrollment was 317 in late 1922 with all students being taught in the Owensville Elementary building. More were enrolling each week, the story noted. Sixty-six students attended high school classes. One teacher mentioned , a Miss Wilcox had 36 third graders and 34 second graders-70 students for one teacher. Other teachers were taught 43, 50, 47 and 41 students with each instructor apparently teaching two grade levels.
“It can rapidly be seen that another teacher is badly needed to relieve the congestion of this room,” wrote The Republican. “ Especially is this true because of the constantly increasing enrollment. No teacher can do justice to her work when her enrollment is about 45, since individual attention then becomes impossible.” The writer continued by asking this question, “What are we going to do for room next year?” The answer was to build a new high school building on the site of present Administration Field at the corner of Highway 28 and 19. “ It is a self-evident fact that, at our present rate of increase in attendance, we shall be compelled to have more room for next year.” The story continued. “Without a doubt, every room of our present building can well be used for grade (elementary)work next year, for our grades must not be hampered for another year since to do so must result in a crippling of our school system. Neither should we be content to see our high school cramped and retarded in its growth. A new building for the High School work alone, is badly needed for next year if we are to continue school work. The maintenance of both a high school and a grade school in our present building another year is impossible.
Something must be done if our schools are to move forward with the general growth of the city.”
So it was in the early twenties that growing pains in Owensville’s school system were as evident then as they have been in the nineties. A special election was held March 1, 1923, to determine a $40,000 bond issue to build a new high school building. The Republican’s headline proclaimed “Owensville District to Build Modern High School Building.” The bond issue passed by a vote of 374 in favor and 113 opposed. It was also noted that the turnout was the largest ever for a school election.
“ When the ballots were counted and the results became know, the school bell was rung about 7 p.m. and for the next two hours the students in a body celebrated with a parade aided and abetted by plenty of noise.” Noting previous history of opposition to building such large buildings for schoolhouses, the writer acknowledged those who bitterly objected to building another school. But, the writer continued, “ We believe that, within a year or two they will see and reap the advantages of it and that Owensville will widely become known as a school town. In a good many years of observation, we have never known a community to regret voting money for better schools.”
City’s economic base: Agrarian to industrial in 150 years
Agriculture was Owensville’s economic base for the first 50 years of its existence and continued to play a major role for several years. Although still significant, it now takes a back seat to a much more widely diversified industrial base. Agrarian based economies were not unique for the hundreds of small communities scattered across Missouri and the Midwest in the last half of the 19th century. Many of those smaller towns stagnated-or simply disappeared-when the industrial age went into high gear. Owensville was more fortunate. Small mining operations were pecking away at the area before the turn of the century. Those relatively meager quantities of clay were mined and hauled by some of the same men who previously hauled iron ore from St. James to Hermann. Arrival of the St. Louis, Kansas City & Colorado railroad in 1901 made wholesale clay mining feasible. It also opened new markets for the area’s agriculture products and enticed new businesses-and people-to locate in Owensville. Most of the clay mined before 1901 was fired into bricks for the building boom that took off as the railroad tracks inched their way toward Owensville. George H. Buschmann was one of the first businessmen to make use of locally made building bricks when he constructed a new store in 1882. “The bricks used in the store’s construction were made five miles north of Owensville,” the May 5 1905, Owensville Argus reported. “At the same time and in later years, thousands of bricks were burned there and a number of fine brick residences were erected in the vicinity.” Exactly where the brick yard was located or who owned and operated it was not mentioned. But it was the railroad that turned clay mining into big business. “This clay mining industry has steadily increased, giving good employment to large forces of men,” a newspaper account stated. “Almost every day, five and six carloads of fireclay are shipped from Owensville.” The clay mining industry produced 10,000 common bricks, 80,000 fire and pressed bricks, 805 train carloads of fire and potter’s clay, 8,600 pounds of stoneware, and 1,005 barrels of lime in 1905. Clay mining still contributes to the area economy, although not on as large a scale as it did before the Allied Chemical plant here, which processed and refined clay for use in such products as baking powder, shut down in the 1980s. Laclede Christy Co., which has been in Owensville 25 years, still uses large quantities of raw clay which it refines and fires into various sizes to “pots” used by the glass industry. The village’s business directory in 1905 also listed a canning factory and a company that made flue stops and pipe collars. The next industry to locate in the growing little village was the Union Pipe Factory which began operation in 1905. Making “ Missouri sweet corn cob pipes,” the factory at North Second Street and McFadden Avenue employed between 25 and 50 workers at various times. That year, according to statistics compiled by the State Labor Commission, 90,550 pounds of corn cob pipes, or 1,086,600 individual corn cob pipes, and 1,200 pounds of pipe stems (80,000) were shipped. In addition, 14 carloads of raw corn cobs were shipped to other pipe makers. In July 1909, the pipe factory was destroyed by a fire that spread next door to the Farmers & Mechanics Mill, which provided electrical power to the pipe factory. The mill was rebuilt on the same location and stood until it was razed two years ago.
An August 1909 newspaper account announced that the Union Pipe Co. planned to rebuild on the site of the Ettinger granary, “much larger and as nearly fireproof as possible.” The company was still in production here as late as 1935, but later moved to Washington. W.O. Boyd, manager of The Gasconade County Republican, reflected on the city’s progress and what it faced the coming year in Dec. 30 1910 editorial: “1911 now confronts Owensville. We have been growing and prospering for nine years and the greatest municipal question which we now have is how to keep on growing and prospering without the doubtful benefits of a boom.” “ We have our large fire clay interests which employ a number of men almost the year round; we have the Union Pipe Factory which employs from 20 to 40 people; and we have the most completely equipped creamery in this part of Missouri which gives promise of being a growing industry in our midst. “ Our town is resplendent at night with electric lights and we have the nucleus of an adequate system of the fire projection(this latter is one of the things that must be improved upon). Thousands of railroad ties are annually hauled here and loaded and we have the greatest stock market for miles around. “We are based with an abundance of business enterprises but if we are to grow, and we all stay we are to grow, we must have more than these. The question is, ‘what can we accomplish in 1911?” In the first place, we are lacking in civic loyalty if we don’t become a city of the fourth class. Ever other town of our size and prospects and enterprise in this part of Missouri has taken this important step. Shall we stand back and watch them grow and do things?”
Although Owensville did become a fourth class city in 1911, the sport of growth that followed the railroad slowed considerably, replaced by a complacent acceptance of the status quo until after World War I. The shoe industry, which was to be a mainstay of the city’s economy for the next 70 years, began operations here in 1922. throughefforts of the Owensville Booster Club, the Household Factory of the Hamilton Brown Shoe Co. located there. A three-story factory building (now occupied by Laclede Christy) was started on the city’s north side that would eventually employ 300 workers. Having bought most of the land around its three-story factory, Hamilton Brown began subdividing much of it and selling lots in the Hambro Subdivision to its employees. But the company fell on hard times in the depression years. A company called Collins-Morris Show Co. entered the picture around 1935. That company manufactured shoes under several different names from a factory on West Highway 28 thatlater , in the 1970s and 1980s, houses Poytech Co., a plastic fabricating company that finally was forced to cease production after two disastrous fires.
In 1938, again through the efforts of the Owensville Booster Club, money was raised for Collins-Morris to start a second smaller factory in the Hamilton-Brown building. Earlier that same years, Hamilton-Brown succumbed to financial woes and ceased production in Owensville. The new Collins-Morris plant expected to produce 13,600 pairs of shoes a day, including a better quality children’s shoe, with both plants going. Its payroll for one two-week period in 1938 was $10,972, the largest since the company began operations in 1935. In July 1938m Collins-Morris and Hamilton-Brown were syndicated with the Morris brothers in control. In March 1947, Brown Shoe Co. bought the Hamilton-Brown plant, also acquiring in the process that Ermtry and Footkind Show Cos. Brown Shoe Co. build a new 58,000 square feet building on East Highway 28 in 1961. Before the Owensville plant became a victim of foreign show imports in 1992,it employed between 400 and 500 workers with an annual payroll of $5 million.
The Chamber of Commerce’s hoped to build an industrial park on the city’s northeast side became a reality in 1977 when Custom Printing Co. announced plans to build a $1 million, 90,000 square feet building.
In August 1977 voters approved $650,000 in city-backed industrial revenue bonds, to be paid off by the company, to help Custom expand. Construction began that October.
Federal grants helped extend water and sewer service and build streets in the 42-acre industrial park, and the Chamber bought 26 more acres adjacent to the original tract. More grants and voter-approved bonds went to completing development of the site.
In the last 25 years, several industries ,Jahabow Industries, Jefferson Stylemaster Apparel Co., Langenberf Hat Co., Mid-Missouri Graphics, Cultech Diagnostics, Hoffman Brothers, Grimco Signs Inc., Marsh Co., Lyn-Flex West Inc. and Pioneer Truss Co. to name a few opened plants here that employ anywhere from a handful to several hundred workers, making Owensville the county’s leader in manufacturing jobs.
Those companies and others provide Owensville with diversified industrial base that manufactures products ranging from printing to sign making; hats and caps to refrigeration parts; packaging materials to rook trusses; shoe components to greeting cards; choir robes to clay pots; and from display cases to medical diagnostic supplies. And agriculture, clay mining and timber products, the old standbys, continue to make a contribution to the community’s overall economy.
In 1874, when the town was named, there were two businesses: a general store and a blacksmith shop. Sixty years later, when the Village of Owensville Board of Trustees first approved an annual levy on merchants and manufacturers, the city clerk issued 49 licenses. This year, 150 years after the general store owner and the blacksmith got together to name the little crossroads hamlet, Owensville issued 201 merchants and manufacturers licenses with some still outstanding.
Owensville founder among early inspectors of Liberty School in 1844
Gasconade county records published in a 1888 book list the man credited with finding Owensville as a member of the governing boards of one of the county’s first school districts.
Edward Luster-the man credited with naming Owensville after winning a horseshoe pitching match with his friend and business partner Frank Owen-was appointed in 1844 as an “inspector” of a reorganized school district known as the Liberty School District. The appointment was made on Jan. 22. Francis Sullivan was listed as the district’s commissioner and Isaac Smith was appointed along with Luster as an inspector.
A review of the 1888 publication indicates inspectors were similar to present-day boards of education members or directors. Their jobs were to inspect school buildings, hire teachers and handle the finances of the area’s rural schools. The district Luster was appointed to inspect included the area surrounding Owensville located in Congressional Township 42, Range 5 West. This area was originally organized on Oct. 23, 1843 as School District No. 4 under the name of the Independence School District.
Thomas Hibler was the first commissioner of the original school district for the township surrounding the community later known as Owensville. Isaac Smith andThomas Smith were the inspectors. Inhabitants of the district were to meet on the fourth Monday in October of 1843 to help organize the district.
In 1844m former Commissioner Hibler was to host the district’s in habitants for a reorganization meeting on the second Monday in March.
The first reference about Gasconade County School districts in county court records indicate the April 16,1821, appointment of the five men to serve as “commissioners of the public lands allotted to Gasconade County for the benefit of public schools.”
The court approved the request and authorized the organization of The First School District of Gasconade County. Three men were appointed to form a board of trustees.
Masonic ceremony marked opening of 1923 high school
A Friday afternoon ceremony making the completion of Owensville’s first high school building was held Sept. 28, 1923, issue of The Republican. An account of the ceremony attended by all 315 of Owensville’s students appeared on the front page of the Friday, Oct. 5, 1923, issue of The Republican.
A story under the heading of “School Notes” noted the presence of the entire student population of the district “ was a pleasing sight and a source of inspiration to all present. It was strong evidence of the need of the new building and brought those present a realization of the duties and responsibilities of the community in giving these young people the best educational advantages possible. It will long be remembered as a Red Letter Day in the history of Owensville.”
A story title “ Corner Stone of New High School Laid” notes that a Masonic ceremony was held to lay the cornerstone. Corona H. Briggs of Springfield, the past grand master of the Missouri Grand Lodge of the Masonic organization, laid the cornerstone made of Carthage stone. C.F. Chaudet of Owensville Monument Works prepared the cornerstone.
A sealed, copper box installed inside the cornerstone. The box contained copies of The Republican, the Hermann Advertiser-Courier, theBland Courier and a copy of the Manson’s magazine, The New Age. Also enclosed were a history of the Owensville public school system written by 1924 OHS graduate Kenneth R. Burchard, a history of the bond issue relating to the new high school, a list of teacher, students and school board members, a roster of Owensville Masonic Lodge Elementary School students, a list of students in the county who were to finish eighth grade in 1924 and a list of Gasconade County school officers.
The Owensville Band led a 2 p.m. procession of students, teachers and Masons from the Masonic Lodge to the site of the new school located just east of the present R-2 Administration Building. Briggs also spoke to high school students on the topic of “Character Building’ which was greatly appreciated by the students,” according to The Republican’s story.
During a Sept. 26 chapel assembly, Rev. A. F. Alberswerth presented a talk on “Factors in Community Building” the high school and seventh and eighth-grade students. The talk was noted as “ one of the most practical talks ever given in Chapel here.”
A Masonic cornerstone was also set during an addition to the present day Owensville High School building. The store is dated July 23,1967. The building served as a junior high when the addition was made.
Herman Dietrich Hengstenberg, a local carpenter and owner of a lumber yard and hardware store, is credited with designing and building a numerous buildings in town. The most notable in the Owensville Elementary School building constructed in 1908. It is still in use today. A family history also notes he traveled to Ellinwood, Kansas, to secure plans that copied a new high school building there.
Ironically, a newspaper account of the history of the Owensville school published in 1938 recalled public perception by some residents that local school building projects since 1894 were too excessive.
The buildings constructed in 1894, 1908 and again in 1923 were too large, cited The Republican’s story from 1938. It is told that in 1894 when the first schoolhouse was built in Owensville that many felt that it was a waste of money to build such a large building since there was little hope that it would ever be entirely needed, “ noted writer. “ In 1908 again there was a feeling that the building was far larger than the need would ever be in Owensville. Then again in 1923 it was believed by some that the high school building, needed as it was, was too large. Today the people of Owensville are busily at work on plans for enlarging both schools to meet the absolute and immediate needs caused by an ever increasing enrollment in both schools.”
Few written records of early Owensville history to be found
Quickly apparent when researching Owensville’s history are huge gaps in authentic written narratives of the city’s past-especially during the last half of the 19th century.
The meager historical resources that are available sometimes contradict other each other, or lack the verifying chronicles and footnotes that lend prestige to historical tomes.
Nonetheless, a reasonably accurate history of the city’s first 60 years can be pieced together, if allowances are made that some accounts may be conjecture or products of local legends that , with repeated telling over the years, were slightly to moderately embellished.
Settlers from Tennessee and Kentucky were moving into this area in the 1830s when Gasconade County still covered territory that is now Osage, Maries, Phelps and Crawford counties. Among those early settlers were William Steen, Col. Fred Douglas, Col. Dudley Farris, Joseph Hawkins, James A. Matthews, James Brown, Isaac Smith, Edward Luster, Frank Owen and Samuel Burchard.
“ In those early days the country was wild and for the most part unsettled, abounding in game such as deer and turkey and even a few bears,” said L.A. Nowack, an editor of the Argus. “The settlers lived on game and what they could raise. They made manual trips to St. Louis, then a flourishing city, to obtain flour, leather, powder, sugar, tea, rice, coffee and tobacco.
The first settler on ground that is new part of Owensville was believed to be Uriah Shockley, who filed for a land patent in 1838. He soon abandoned his claim toBurchard, who is turn sold it to Douglas. The prairie that stretched west of the future city was named after Douglas.
Two years later, a general store, blacksmith shop and a few other buildings sprang up where the St. Louis-to-Springfield trail crossed the double road from MaramecIron Works near St. James to Hermann’s river port. Most accounts agree that the history horseshoe pitching match between Owen, who had opened the general store, and Luster, who started the blacksmiths shop, happened in 1847. Based on those chronicles, the city is celebrating the sesquicentennial of its naming this year.
There is an opposing historical account at this point, however. One source, which could not be verified, put the game of horseshoes two years earlier. Another had Owen and Luster in slightly different roles.
“ The place was named after a Mr. Owens (sic), the first settler here, who is partnership was E. Luster started the first store,” according to a history of Franklin and Gasconade counties published in 1888. “A.W. Moore was the first druggist; Louis Kuhne, the first grocery keeper, B. Leach was the first, and George H. Buschmann is the present (1888) postmaster. The present population of the town is about 100.”
A special May 5, 1905, supplement to The Owensville Argus ( see history of Owensville newspapers elsewhere) also misspelled the town’s namesakes as Owens instead of Owen, but verified the 1847 horseshoe pitching match to name the town. But that account said Owen was the winner, not Luster, hence it became Owensville instead of Lusterville. Not much happened in the next few years, but the first railroad survey through the area in 1853 caused considerable excitement and dreams for the little hamlet’s future among its inhabitants. Those dreams quickly later with definite plans to continue westward. In 1887 George H. Buschmann, who had earlier moved to Owensville from Bay and bought the store that Luster took over from Owen, also bought party of Luster’s farm.
Five or six years later, with news that the railroad was coming confirmed, Buschmann organized the Owensville Improvement Co. The company bought the rest of Luster’s farm, 280 acres, in the northeast quarter of Section 29 from Luster. The ground was south of the St. Louis, Kansas City & Colorado survey between First and Seventh Streets, and north of Jackson Avenue. For real estate purposes, it is still shown as the Original City of Owensville. Anticipating a boom with the arrival of the railroad, Owensville got its first newspaper of record in 1896 when The Owensville Republican began publishing on a weekly basis. Those early issues, however, provided scant local new coverage.
The front page of the Oct. 22, 1896, Republican , for example carried nothing but seven single columns of national and international datelines, with some state news thrown in “ Local Happenings” reported births, deaths, marriages and visitors. “ Owensville is alive with business. We infer from this that people believe the world will continue to roll on no matter how the election goes,” was the only reference to town’s condition two weeks before the 1896 presidential election.
Advertisements in those early issues let historians know who was in business then. Buschmann advertised his store as a “dealer of dry goods, boots and shoes, hats and caps, hardware, tin ware, saddlery, notions and stationary. School books a specialty. Always highest market prices for country produce.”
E. H. AufderHeide, then in Belle and Bland, advertised many of the same items Buschmann did, but added readymade clothing and farm implements. Mellies andTappmeyer also advertised as sellers of general merchandise.
Physicians practicing in the area then included Dr, F.F. Ferrell, Owensville; Dr. Edward Mellies, Woollam, Dr. H.G. Isenberg, Drake, and Dr. T.E. Ferrell, Tea.
In November 1900, Owensville was officially incorporated as a village board of trustees. The railroad arrived the following years, bringing with it the boom that local boosters had expected.
“ In 1894, Owensville was a mere hamlet small, insignificant and unpromising, just a store, post office, blacksmith shop, a private high school and a few houses,” a early newspaper editor said. “In 1901 the railroad came and Owensville became a thriving village, which has enjoyed a steady, substantial growth.”
The railroad though Owensville became the property of the Rock Island System two years later. By 1905, Owensville’s population has soared to more than 600. The railroad was doing a thriving business hauling agricultural products, clay and corn cob pipes to eastern markets.
By 1905, the little village has six general stores, one grocery store, two furniture stores, two millinery stores, two newspapers, two banks, a hardware store, four implement houses, two mills, two blacksmith shops, a wagon maker, a lumber yard, two butcher shops, two saloons, a tailor, four doctors, two attorneys, a dentist, one photographer, a jewelry store, an elevator, a granary, a cob pipe factory, a flue stop factory, a canning factory, two livery stables, a hotel, a show repair shop, four churches, a private high school and public grade school.
“ The town is also well supplies with carpenters, painters, mechanics, stock buyers and draymen,” according to the May 5, 1905, Argus. Harrison Gibson was chairman of the village board of trustees; J.W. Zykan served as vice chairman. Also on the board in 1905 were Fred Berger, Herman Hengstenberg and Fritz Lueke. E.P. Francis served as city treasurer; Simon Schmidt was marshal; William A. Helm held the post of street commissioner; and W.O. Boyd was appointed city clerk.
A year later, Peter Helling and his son Simon built the first electric light plant in Owensville. Simon Helling later sold the plant to Gasconade Power Co. which at one time provided electricity to Owensville and 13 nearby communities.
One of Thomas Edison’s inventions the telephone, arrived in 1896-97, a maze of privately owned and separate lines between, Drake, Bland, Red Bird, and Hermann. In 1902, F.T. Williams, a postal telegraph operator at Drake for 15 years, saw the advantage of connecting the tines and operating them under one system.
He rented all the exiting lines, combined them into a central office and called it the Drake Telephone System. He also installed exchanges in Owensville and Hermann. There were 25 telephones in Owensville in 1907, served by the Drake Telephone System.
Sixty years after the dusty little crossroads hamlet was named by the outcome of a horseshoe pitching match, its residents were beginning to enjoy prosperity and the availability of modern (1907) conveniences.
Rural schools prospered until late 1940s when declining
enrollments took their toll
By 1925, sixty-three grade schools were holding classes throughout the county. A map of the county’s school districts in operation at the time showed six areas of land that were apparently connected with school districts in either Osage (three), Crawford (two) or Franklin (one) counties. The small areas were located along the edges of the county.
Owensville was listed a No. 44 Districts immediately surrounding Owensville were Boettcher, NO. 45, Old Woollam, No. 38, Manda, No. 39, Wisemann, No. 40, Morgan, No. 43, Oak Grove, No. 51, Lone Ridge, No. 50 and Canaan, No.49.
Fourteen years later, a 1939 story in The Republican noted the opening of 60 rural schools in Gasconade County.
Although the number of rural schools in the county had decreased by three school in 1939, enrollments reported in a back-to-school issue that fall noted enrollments “are found to be higher on the average, than those of last year,” according to The Republican’s account.
Parochial schools in Rosebud-Immanuel Lutheran School-and Owensville-the Immaculate Conception Catholic Parish School opened with 30 and 47 students respectively that year. An increase in enrollment was also noted in the Bland schools.
The rural school district system continued until May of 1949 when county-wide elections formed two reorganized districts in the southern portion of the county-R-II and R-III. A ballot issue to form an R-I district in the northern part of the county failed. The R-I district was finally approved in the northern portion of the county in a 1958 vote.
The rural schools were no more--The county’s board of education had seen the writing on the wall-the days of the small, rural school districts were over. They had served their purpose but had become obsolete.
District’s such as No. 42-the Excelsior Hinton School-had gone from an enrollment of 54 students in 1881 to just seven girl in 1947. That was the year it was closed and was consolidated with Rosebud School District, No. 41.
The last rural school in operation in the county was the Neese School District, No. 28, west of Drake on Highway 50.
Student traces early growth of community’s schools
For a paper written by a high school senior, a 1923 history of the Owensville school system shows a remarkable insight into a school system and community that was growing then, and continues to grow now.
Owensville High School senior Kenneth R. Burchard dated his six page history of the Owensville schools Sept. 28,1923-the day it was enclosed in the cornerstone set in place for the community’s new and first high school building.
Burchard titled his essay “Growth and Development of the Owensville School.”
“ It is the earnest with of the writer that when this history is again brought to light,” wrote Burchard, “the period of time covered since the writing of this short history will be as fraught with growth and progress along all lines of the community development as have been chronicled by the years accounted for in this history; and, that those of future generations who may view this history will be as happy in recounting the progress of the Owensville School-since this date-as the writer has been in reviewing the progress of the school up to the present.”
The significance of the community’s educational offerings were apparently very important to the young people of the area as evident by Burchard’s writing.
“ The growth of the school has kept pace with the rising community, and the educational advantages have adapted themselves to the needs of the community, “wrote Burchard.” A careful study of the history of the school is also a study of the life, interests and ideals of the community.”
Burchard noted that records of the early history of Owensville school system were sketchy at best. Aside from a list of early appointed school commissioners published in an 1888 history of the county, local records simply were not available when he compiled his history of the Owensville schools.
“ Due to the loss of early records,” wrote Burchard, “ much has been omitted in this history, the writer having to rely on tradition and the memory of a few of the older inhabitants for authority.”
He noted 1835 as the beginning of organized schools in the Owensville are but wrote that “no authentic record has been found before 1843.”
He noted the information of School District No. 4 on Oct. 23, 1843, as documented in the book. In early 1844, the district was reorganized as the Liberty School District ( see related story in this section). Although the exact year of the construction of the first local school house was not known, Burchard’s report notes the first school was located on the Mary Konow farm.
In 1923, the property was owned by a Mrs. Green Richardson. At the time of his report, an old well house was all the remained on the original schoolyard located north of the intersection of Highway 28 and Route Y.
Also missing were records indicating when the first site was abandoned and when a second “pioneer school” was constructed. It was located west of the residence of an Ernst Hempelmann, according o Burchard’s document.
An E.J. and Alma Hempelmann sold in 1942 that 140 acre track of land to brothers Amil and Edwin Depperman. Depperman family members were unable to confirm the actual location of the original log schoolhouse or what become of it. A photograph of students standing outside a log schoolhouse appearing in this section lists a notation that the building was located at the site of “Depperman Field” The airplane landing strip is located on the west end of Fairview Drive.
“ Each of these buildings were typical pioneer schools, constructed of logs, small in size and not well lighted,” he wrote.
Records from 1856 that Burchard researched showed that a Mr. Chapmann was one of the first school commissioners. Others holding the position that records identified were E.J. Sarrel,1858; Mr. Rabenan,1964; Dr. J.D. Howard,1866; Sammuel Baker,1868; Leander Baker,1870; Henry Read,1872; and George H. King,1874 and 1876.
The only records Burchard found from this period were kept by King. During King’s administration, he issued teaching certificates to the following people: J.M. Vaughn, age 30; M. Bell,34; H.F. Brinkmann,27; John T. Reed,23; Jacob Tappmeyer,21; and George H. Bucshmann,24.
“ As to the real history of these early schools,” wrote Burchard, “not much has been found, but the rapid improvement of the school began with the building of a new schoolhouse in 1894 in the city of Owensville.”
At the time of his report, that building was used as a creamery and was owned by a Gustave H. Opitz. The one-story, wood-frame schoolhouse was located at the west end of Avenue A-now called Washington Avenue. The schoolhouse was used until the construction of the original 1908 elementary building what is currently in use.
Historic account from residents of the time tells of disagreement over moving the old school to town. On the night before the locked school was to reopen, the building was considerably damaged by a fire of mysterious origin. The cause of the fire was never determined. The building was repaired and reopened a short time later, according to The Republican.
“ The necessity for the building of an addition to this schoolhouse in 1902, only eight years after its construction, shows the first impulse toward enlargement,” notedBurchard.
Only six years later, in 1908, a larger building was needed. At the cost of $9,000, the original portion of the Owensville Elementary School building-which is still in use today-opened in November 1908. Three teachers were “in charge,” according to Burchard.
He noted that “in addition to the grades, two years of high school work were offered at the time. Between 1908 and 1920, three additional teachers were employed.”
His reference to “grade” appears to mean the elementary grade levels.
By 1921, the “high school became a first school with four years of accredited work.”
Sings of the community’s growth, and the growth of the local school system, was evident as Burchard noted that between 1921 and 1923. In 1921, the upstairs hallway was converted into a classroom and two additional teachers were hired.
Between 1922 and 1923, two of the downstairs rooms were partitioned to make room for a faculty of nine teachers.
“ The building now being filled to capacity and totally inadequate for the needs of the various classes, the district voted bonds to the amount of $40,000 a March 1, 1923, for the erection of another building now under construction,” wrote Burchard. “This new building is to be the crowning event in the history of school. The years have brought about rapid changed-from a small log cabin schoolhouse has risen two large buildings, modern in every respect-no longer a little country school but a city school having a department for the grades and one for the high school, and having a competent corps of teacher at the head of each.”
Burchard’s history of the Owensville school ends with its inclusion in a Masonic ceremony encapsulating the document inside the cornerstone of the district’s first four –year high school.
As the local school district-now known as the Gasconade County R-2 School District following the demise of the county’s rural school system and reorganization measures since the late 1940s-heads into the 21st century, Burchard’s view of the community growth was both insightful and accurate. Especially for a young man who was a high school senior.
“Having traced the growth of the school by successive states it is shown that the future of the community is determined largely by the school,” wrote Burchard. “ Asthe school advances so does the community and not before.”
Seventy-four years later, Burchard’s words still ring true. The growth he witnessed in the 1920s has continued into the 1990s.
Early superintendent chronicled major changes in Owensville’s
school history, ’23 building project
Charles Emmett Vaughn, superintendent of the Owensville schools from 1920 to 1941, recalled his early years when the local high school went for a two-year school up to a four-year program.
In “ A Half Century of Contentment”, a collection of his journals, Vaughn told of adding a third year of “state approved work” to the offering at the high school in Owensville during his first year as superintendent.
“ The next year we added the fourth year, thus making it a first class high school,” wrote Vaughn. “ My assistants were able teachers and our work was pleasant.
“ In our first Third year class at Owensville we had one boy and four girls. Two girls dropped out at Christmas time, but the others remained with us and comprised our first Senior Class and the following year-thus becoming the first graduates from the (four year) high school (program)- the class of 1922.”
Those graduates included Ruth Henneke, Victor Hengstenberg and Verna Angell. Angell, who later became Verna Jones through marriage, is the surviving member of that first class to graduate with four complete years of high school-level studies to their credit. She graduated at the top of the three-member class.
Hengstenberg was second in the class. In a interview this past week with Jones, she relates a humorous story about the class salutatorian. Today, ones resides at the Gasconade Manor Nursing Home.
A story about Jones appears in this section. “In the spring of 1923 we successfully voted a bond issue for the erection of a new high school plant. This building was completed in the summer of 1924, but was far from our liking. The contractor did not know his work and seemingly did not care, so our building had many defects. At this writing it is still in use, but a new building which is a joy to any school man’s heart, is now being completed.”
The new building under construction in 1959 is the original portion of what is now Owensville Middle School.
Vaughn left Owensville in the spring of 1941 to take a similar position in the Hermann schools system.
“The class of 1924 became that first to graduate from our then new building,” Vaught wrote. “In spite of its defects we were extremely proud of our advancement. We felt we had really made progress; and we had. Our older building had been built in 1907-8, having been opened for use in the Fall of 1908. It may be antique and outmoded but our educational fathers of that day built well. The building is as sturdy after hald a century as it was in the beginning and it will continue to be so long after people who know it in its infancy are among us no longer.”
Another interesting item noted in Vaughn’s papers regarded teaching in the rural, one-room schoolhouses surrounding Owensville.
“ The schoolhouse is so cold in winter,” wrote Vaughn, “ that our lunched were often frozen at noon, but we always laughed at our inconveniences.”
Vaughn retired in 1957 due to ill health, thus concluding 50 years and three months of consecutive teaching. He attended the rural Morgan School near Owensville and in 1907, at age 17, received his teaching certificate from The College in Owensville. He began his teaching career just after turning 18 and taught continuously for 39 years in Missouri before taking a college teaching position for 11 years at Kentucky’s Campbellsville College.
Along with 21 years in the Owensville system, his teaching years in Gasconade County included 10 at rural schools including five at Cleavsville, one at Oak Grove (Schimmel); one at Morgan and three at Wiseman. He taught a year at Ashley and in 1918 was the elementary principal in Hermann.
In the summer months spanning 23 years, he completed a Bachelor of Science and Education degree from Southeast Missouri State University State Teacher College, and a Master of Art degree from Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee. History, English and education were his major fields of study.
In 1990, an OHS Alumni Association Scholarship was presented in Vaughn’s honor to an “ average student.” It was to be awarded to a student with financial need. The student “must not have in excess of a ‘C’ average,” noted closing remarks of the publication.
The closing comments noted Vaughn considered the average student to be “the salt of the earth.” Following the death of his first wife, he retired to Neosho, MO, in 1957 with his second wife. Vaughn died in Jan 14, 1964, in Campbellsville at the age of 74 after suffering a stroke in Neosho.