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. (Undated article)
Ransomville School, District 87, was located 2 miles north and 2 1/2 miles east of Williamsburg on the west side of the road.
The school was organized in 1879 and finally closed in the spring of 1942, with Marjory Meagher being the last teacher.
Others known to have taught there were Helen Tipton, Margaret Means, Olive Shields, Mabel Matlock, Bessie Seyler, Effie Triplet, Iris Triplet, Walter Mayden, and Evelyn Collins.
Four years after the school closed, Art Woods bought the building, at an auction conducted by Claude Myers, and moved it to 115 Maple in Ottawa, where it was remodeled into a home.
Evelyn Collins, 601 Burroughs, taught at Ransomville the year before it closed. She recalled recently that “The Ottawa to Gridley Santa Fe Railroad train ran east and west just north of the school, and US-50 highway was just north of the railroad tracks. Each day, a train ran to Gridley and back to Ottawa. When it came round the bend, it appeared as if it would come through the school yard.”
Hazel (Morris) Ledom, 727 N. Main, said her most vivid recollection of attending Ransomville School was when her brother portrayed Ichabod Crane in a school play.
The community and school were named for J.H. “Cap” Ransom. In 1880, after comparing the coal available in the area with Fort Scott and Carbondale coal, he leased 40 acres from E.M. Bartholow and put down a mine shaft.
Later he bought 320 acres and opened a store. A post office was built in 1882 and he was appointed postmaster. At one time the town consisted of 35 frame houses where miners lived. Many farmers worked in the mines in the winter.
The population of Ransomville in 1910 was 125. The mines closed in 1914, but farming was vital in the area, so the school survived for another 28 years. After the closing , District 87 merged with Williamsburg and students were bused there.
Anne Ransom, Ottawa RFD 3, widow of Bill, recalls that other mines in the area were “bank mines” entered from hillsides. The Ransomville shaft mine had a winch to raise and lower coal and men. It was powered by donkeys that walked in a circle.
She also recalled the “Bill Ransom and Eldon ‘Shorty’ Hoyt used to reminisce about rabbit hunting at Ransomville School. Shorty’s dog was a fox terrier and Bill’s dog was a Russian wolfhound. As soon as lunchtime arrived, they would leave the school yard and head out into the field to go rabbit hunting.
“The terrier would work through the tall grass and weeds and the wolfhound would stay on the high ground. The terrier would chase a rabbit to where the boys and wolfhound waited. The wolfhound waited. The wolfhound waited. The wolfhound would then catch the rabbit and deliver it to the boys.
“They were expected to clean the rabbits and hang them in the coal shed to freeze before resuming their afternoon classes.”
Anne Ransom said Bill and Shorty also tried to cook lunch for the student body one day.
Mrs. Ransom provided beans and a hambone for them to take to school. They put it on top of the heating stove to cook and the aroma filled the school all morning. By noon the beans were as hard as rocks and so the boys cooked them all afternoon. They were still hard as rocks as classes ended that day. That evening they were advised that they should never add cold water to hot beans.
And old map shows a “Road to Coal Bank” that ran east and west about 3/4 or a mile south of Ransomville School and ended a mile northeast of Williamsburg at the mines.
Also there were two Indian trails running north and south, one a half mile east of the school, the other a mile to the west.
Former students still living in Franklin County include
Eldon Hoyt, Helen (Hoyt) Herring, Francis Eggleston. Earle Blair, Rita (Plaschka) Hackett, Margaret (Hodges) Couch, Lucy (Blair) Fogle, Julia (Kissinger) Kochenower, Ralph Hartpence and Lenore (Hartpence) Scott.