[nggallery id=55]From “the hitching post…” column in the Ottawa Herald, a series of articles about early Franklin County schools researched by Bruce Fleming and written by Herald Editor and Publisher Jim Hitch. This article appeared 24 October, 1991.
Chapel Hill School, District 57-sometimes known as the “Monkey Den” –was organized in 1869.
The school was located about 2 ¾ miles south of Centropolis on the east side of the road.
The school was closed in 1956 and the schoolhouse was sold Sept. 23, 1957. It has been remodeled and today is owned by Dan and Annette Burnett and occupied by the Bob Wadkins family.
The last teacher was Carroll Wells, 835 Princeton Road. The last pupils to attend there were Howard Witham, Walter Smith, Phillip Whirley, James Honn, Timothy Honn and Clinton Rimple.
Other teachers at Chapel Hill included Anna (Parker) Bunyan, Betty Murray, Eula (Fleming) Milton, Elizabeth (Hoffman) Baker, Vera Collins and Mabel Nordyke.
Former pupils still living in Franklin County include Raymond Warner, Zeila-(Sink) Stine, Esda McGrath, Willie Woke, Christine Woke, Eula (Fleming) Milton, Merle Fleming, Howard Witham, Elizabeth (Hoffman) Baker, Lena (Wukowitch) Reed, Lilburn Witham, Frank Wulkowitch, Thelma (Woke) Mosher, Vera Collins and Mabel Nordyke.
Elizabeth Baker, 1545 S. Elm, was both a pupil and a teacher at Chapel Hill. “I started to school in 1915 and went almost eight years there. My father was on the school board for several years.”
She taught at the school from 1930 through part of 1932.
“I froze my hands one morning on my way to school, and the teacher put my hands in a pan of snow to thaw them out slowly. Then I sat by the stove in the middle of the school room for the rest of the day,” she recalled recently.
“In the early 1920s, spelling matches were held at night with four neighboring schools, Oakland, Davy, Silver Lake and Baxter.
The school that won the most matches received a large silver loving cup. There was only one trophy and it was passed from school to school.
Carroll Wells, the last teacher, recalls that “I began in the fall of 1956 with eight pupils, seven boys and one girl. We had lovely weather all fall and our recreation was softball.”
“We had two teams, with the largest boy being the pitcher for both teams. Each team had a first baseman and two fielders. I was the catcher for both teams, and also the umpire. We had lots of fun.”
But in November a family moved out of the district and “that scotched the ball games. The rest of the year there were only six pupils in three grades. For the first time in my teaching career, I had plenty of time to devote to each pupil. Small though we were, we had a real Christmas and end-of-school program for everyone.”
Several former students admitted they didn’t even know the actual name of the school, Chapel Hill, because it had been called “Monkey Den” for so long.