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The School Marm

Patty Vaughn Miller
Clifton, Colo.

The ladies that taught in the one-room schools were to be admired. They taught in remote areas under hard circumstances. Esther Anderson was one of those teachers; she was born October 16, 1899 in Harmony, Minnesota. She graduated when she was seventeen years old and began teaching at a small rural school. She had fifteen kids in grades first through eighth with two boys that were only two years younger than her. She had to drive a horse and buggy ten miles to school.

Esther came to the Western Slope of Colorado in 1922 to teach in the one room school at Skull Creek It was about sixty miles west of Craig, Colorado and sixty miles east of Vernal, Utah .The people only went to town about once a year because the roads were so bad This country was so different from Minnesota where Esther grew up. It is a land of sagebrush, cedars and pinyons high red and sandstone rims and adobe down in the flats. Blue Mountain is to the north of Skull Creek, a good blue stem cattle country.

Esther had nine kids that first year in a new school that my grand father Will Biles had helped build. Esther was paid a hundred dollars a month, plus five dollars for janitor work, the only place she was ever paid for doing the janitor work. She was usually paid seventy-five dollars a month. There was no electricity; no running water just outhouses and a potbelly stove set in the middle of the room. She said they would move their desks close to the stove when it was cold or farther back when it got too warm. She had to carry wood in and carry ashes out to keep the potbelly stove burning. A fellow was hired to keep her supplied with chopped wood but he didn’t show up a lot of times so she and the kids would have to go out in the snow and dig around until they found some wood and then have to try to find the axe. Sometimes the older boys would put pepper on the stove or put .22 caliber bullets in it to cause some excitement.

The parents of the children were homesteaders or ranchers and they were scattered out all over the country. There were no school buses so the kids had to walk or ride horseback several miles My father Bud Biles and his twin sister Nadine and brothers Bill and Marvin lived northwest of the school about three miles. Marcella and Tazwell East lived close to the school where their parents had a store. Gladys and Wilson Stoner’s folks had a homestead in Skull Creek Basin. Lucille Campbell lived west of the school with her mother.

In 1924-25 my mother Lois Wells and her brothers and sisters went to the Skull Creek school. By this time my dad and his parents had moved away so my mother and father didn’t meet until later. My mother and her brothers and sisters lived a mile and a half south of the school. Sometimes my grandmother Letha Wells would wrap the kids feet and legs in newspaper and burlap sacks to keep them from getting cold. When the creek was frozen it was lots of fun to slide on the ice on the way to school. My uncle Vanoy Wells had a trap line he checked going to and from school.

Esther noticed a cowboy riding by the school quite often, then he started stopping in to visit her, they would get to talking and pretty soon he was doing the sweeping. She married Duward Campbell in 1923. He said “I’m going to marry that school marm and never work another day in my life” and he didn’t. They moved into a dugout with his mother and sister, they had a barrel just inside the door that they would put snow in for water. That must have been cozy, living with your mother-in-law in a one-room dugout. After she got married it was hard for the kids to remember to call her Mrs. Campbell instead of Miss Anderson so one of the southern families started calling her Miss Esther and that is what she was called from then on.

Miss Esther taught in quite a few schools in Moffat County at Lily Park in 1927 through 1929 where she had to cross the river on a swinging bridge. The first time she crossed it she was so scared she crawled part of the way. She taught the Barnes and Shanks children and her own son Don. At the Elk Springs school there were no school supplies, furnishings for the school were provided by the parents. Henry Weaver made a black board out of a big slab of ponderosa pine; their first lesson was given by Henry on telling the age of the tree and the changes of climate by examining the tree rings. He then painted it black and they wrote on it with borrowed chalk. Every scrap of paper was saved and used, even in later years Esther still used every little piece of paper. I have lots of letters she has written to me through the years and she would completely fill both sides of a paper, then turn it side ways and write in the margins she would write on little scraps of paper even the flaps of envelopes.

The ladies that taught in the one-room schools were to be admired. They taught in remote areas under hard circumstances. Esther Anderson was one of those teachers; she was born October 16, 1899 in Harmony, Minnesota. She graduated when she was seventeen years old and began teaching at a small rural school. She had fifteen kids in grades first through eighth with two boys that were only two years younger than her. She had to drive a horse and buggy ten miles to school.

Esther came to the Western Slope of Colorado in 1922 to teach in the one room school at Skull Creek It was about sixty miles west of Craig, Colorado and sixty miles east of Vernal, Utah .The people only went to town about once a year because the roads were so bad This country was so different from Minnesota where Esther grew up. It is a land of sagebrush, cedars and pinyons high red and sandstone rims and adobe down in the flats. Blue Mountain is to the north of Skull Creek, a good blue stem cattle country.

Esther had nine kids that first year in a new school that my grand father Will Biles had helped build. Esther was paid a hundred dollars a month, plus five dollars for janitor work, the only place she was ever paid for doing the janitor work. She was usually paid seventy-five dollars a month. There was no electricity; no running water just outhouses and a potbelly stove set in the middle of the room. She said they would move their desks close to the stove when it was cold or farther back when it got too warm. She had to carry wood in and carry ashes out to keep the potbelly stove burning. A fellow was hired to keep her supplied with chopped wood but he didn’t show up a lot of times so she and the kids would have to go out in the snow and dig around until they found some wood and then have to try to find the axe. Sometimes the older boys would put pepper on the stove or put .22 caliber bullets in it to cause some excitement.

The parents of the children were homesteaders or ranchers and they were scattered out all over the country. There were no school buses so the kids had to walk or ride horseback several miles My father Bud Biles and his twin sister Nadine and brothers Bill and Marvin lived northwest of the school about three miles. Marcella and Tazwell East lived close to the school where their parents had a store. Gladys and Wilson Stoner’s folks had a homestead in Skull Creek Basin. Lucille Campbell lived west of the school with her mother.

In 1924-25 my mother Lois Wells and her brothers and sisters went to the Skull Creek school. By this time my dad and his parents had moved away so my mother and father didn’t meet until later. My mother and her brothers and sisters lived a mile and a half south of the school. Sometimes my grandmother Letha Wells would wrap the kids feet and legs in newspaper and burlap sacks to keep them from getting cold. When the creek was frozen it was lots of fun to slide on the ice on the way to school. My uncle Vanoy Wells had a trap line he checked going to and from school.

Esther noticed a cowboy riding by the school quite often, then he started stopping in to visit her, they would get to talking and pretty soon he was doing the sweeping. She married Duward Campbell in 1923. He said “I’m going to marry that school marm and never work another day in my life” and he didn’t. They moved into a dugout with his mother and sister, they had a barrel just inside the door that they would put snow in for water. That must have been cozy, living with your mother-in-law in a one-room dugout. After she got married it was hard for the kids to remember to call her Mrs. Campbell instead of Miss Anderson so one of the southern families started calling her Miss Esther and that is what she was called from then on.

Miss Esther taught in quite a few schools in Moffat County at Lily Park in 1927 through 1929 where she had to cross the river on a swinging bridge. The first time she crossed it she was so scared she crawled part of the way. She taught the Barnes and Shanks children and her own son Don. At the Elk Springs school there were no school supplies, furnishings for the school were provided by the parents. Henry Weaver made a black board out of a big slab of ponderosa pine; their first lesson was given by Henry on telling the age of the tree and the changes of climate by examining the tree rings. He then painted it black and they wrote on it with borrowed chalk. Every scrap of paper was saved and used, even in later years Esther still used every little piece of paper. I have lots of letters she has written to me through the years and she would completely fill both sides of a paper, then turn it side ways and write in the margins she would write on little scraps of paper even the flaps of envelopes.


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