First School in Brazil Shared Building With Methodist Church
Brazil Daily Times 2 July 1935
The following article was written by Kenneth OSMAN:
“It’s a long call from the rude log school house that first dotted the hillsides of Indiana to the modern three-story building that now houses Brazil’s institution of higher learning. The story to those who helped make its history, is like some saga of the long ago.
The schools of Brazil had their origin among the early settlers who lived in the log cabins of stick chimneys. Heating was the important question in making them dwellings suitable for scholastic abode. It was in the huge fireplaces that wood fires were built to heat the entire school building.
Books were very scarce and difficult to purchase by the average pioneer settlers who sent their children to the earlier schools. The three R’s were almost the only studies used, and reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught many times by men whose mathematical attainments did not extend through common fractions. Writing was taught on a kind of desk affair arranged in front of a window where light was let in by cutting out a log and covering the aperture with greased paper. Glass was too expensive for the patrons who had to furnish the means for school purposes. Among the teachers of early days was John RIDDELL, the grandfather of the present members of the family. John FRUMP and George JAMES were pupils of Mr. RIDDELL in a school which was held in a one room cabin near Brazil. The school came into existence in about 1845.
In this one room cabin these pupils would get the rudiments of the course and especially did they excel in penmanship. Pike’s arithmetic and Webster’s speller were in use. It was by special and private study that Mr. FRUMP, of this old school, equipped himself for the office of county treasurer in Civil War days. In the earliest schools much stress was put upon the issue of morality. The pay for teachers of the embryo institutions was so small that few people of requirements necessarily engaged. Occasionally however families grew up without any book-education whatever. It was the south part of Clay County that had the advantage of the north, because the biggest ebb of traffic was in that region. The muddy trails made travel almost impassable in the wet seasons.
An impetus was given business in the section along the National road and as a result the town was laid off in divisions north and south of the National road.
In the extreme north and west section of Brazil at the corner of west Hendrix Street and north Water Works road, at what was then known as Dick Johnson Township the HAYES school was organized. Thomas HAYES owned the farm upon which the house that was used for a school was located, and his daughter was one of the earliest teachers, Miss HAYES died last year at the age of 96.
At the same time the HAYES school was operating, but beginning somewhat later, educational advantages were being given children of the vicinity of Donaldsonville at a schoolhouse located just north of the place where ZELLER School now is. This is where T. N. JAMES, to whom we are obligated for most of this article, was teaching. He made up the whole personnel of that school.
The first school to be built in what now comprises the busy section of Brazil was erected on the southeast part of the ground now occupied by the First M. E. Church. It faced the south and was a log affair, as were all those early institutions. Teaching was done spasmodically by interested settlers of the section. In the latter days of the log schoolhouse William TRAVIS, and a Mr. LOVELACE were teachers. Scott SHATTUCK, Tirzah TIFFEY and John ROBINSON of Brazil were pupils in the cabin school.”
“T. N. JAMES tells us an incident that shows how little attention schooling was or could be given. When he was in his latter teens he journeyed to Bowling Green to pay his father’s taxes and quite astonished the treasurer when he signed the necessary papers. It seemed unusual for a boy of that age to be able to write.
Two other earlier schools that got started somewhere around the year 1870 were the frame affair at the corner of east Jackson and Alabama streets across from where the Colored Baptist Church is now located, and another school practically of the same nature originated in a rented residence at the site just north of where the Catholic Church is now situated.
All of these schools were just rented rooms and none was long retained as the population was increasing so fast that all who wished to attend school could not be accommodated.
The first high school in Brazil was established after trying circumstances and located in the old Presbyterian Church on north Franklin Street in the room where suppers and other get-togethers are held today. People were not “high school conscious” and even after the school got under way only a few attended. Certainly, Mrs. Mollie HERT ZELLER occupies a niche of her own in scholastic achievements in Brazil. She was the only graduate of the class of 1885, which was the first high school class to be graduated in Brazil. In the fifty years since she received her genuine sheepskin so many hundreds of young men and women have passed thru the portals of our institutions of higher learning that sheep-skin diplomas are an economic rarity and now well-textured paper certificates are awarded.”