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Schools page New Lebanon School

Lamine School

Dick's Mill School

New Lebanon School

Adapted from Discover Cooper County by Looking Back by Ann Betteridge


The first children to live in Cooper County were native Americans and lived in villages near the rivers. People are still discovering arrowheads, tools, pottery, and other artifacts near the village sites. Their way of life was passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation. The education of a native American child included gardening, hunting, preparing food and gathering nuts. They learned from the older people in the village how to hunt and make and use the tools they needed.


Prior to 1839 all schools in Cooper County were private. Before public schools were available, parents could send their children to a local private school or some type of boarding school. Often these early schools were for either girls or boys, but usually not for both. Often these schools had wonderful educational offerings, but some of the headmasters did not have good money management skills and some of the private schools were short lived. However, they did provide the need for “higher” education.


(1820)  Missouri’s First Constitution

Missouri’s first constitution provided that “one school or more shall be established in each township, as soon as practicable and necessary, where the poor shall be taught gratis”.  Even at that early day the framers of the constitution made provisions for at least a primary education for all children.

(1835) The Act of 1835  (Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)

The Act of 1835, approved by the Missouri General Assembly and signed by the governor, established a Board of Commissioners, the forerunner of the State Board of Education to provide at least six months of school in each term with the expenses paid from the county school fund. A county by a two-thirds majority could tax itself for school purposes.

All schools prior to the year 1839, when the public-school system was established were private. At this time there was a common school fund, and the county school fund.

(1875) Following the Civil War, the courts have weighed in on the decision of admission of Black students to receive an equal education as white students. An early case began in 1887 when a Grundy County teacher refused to admit an African-American student to a white school that had previously welcomed all races. While the issue was debated in court, the Missouri legislature passed a law ordering separate schools for children “of African descent.” Missouri schools were officially segregated from 1875 to 1954, when the US Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education. The Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling in 1889 stated that segregated schools were not in conflict with the U.S. Constitution.


African-American students outside of schools with teacher, 1916 circa, A. T. Peterson, photographer, (C3888) State Historical Society of Missouri.

(1889) Missouri's General Assembly passed legislation

ordering separate schools for children "of African descent."

(Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)

Following the Civil War, the courts have weighed in on the decision of admission of Black students to receive an equal education as white students. An early case began in 1887 when a Grundy County teacher refused to admit an African-American student to a white school that had previously welcomed all races. While the issue was debated in court, the Missouri legislature passed a law ordering separate schools for children “of African descent.” The Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling in 1889 stated that segregated schools were not in conflict with the U.S. Constitution. Sumner School was built for the black students in the community. That changed in 1959 when desegregation became law and all students went to the same school. 


Public schools mostly remained segregated until the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

(1955) In the beginning of the 1955 school year Missouri began to integrate their schools and admitted students on a non-discriminatory basis. When school boards were free to desegregate their schools, a number of districts immediately made plans for mixed schools, and numerous small and medium-sized towns in every section of the state desegregated part or all of their schools when the 1954-55 term began in September. Board of Education (1954), Missouri Attorney General announced that Missouri's school segregation laws were void.

Court-ordered desegregation began in Missouri, attempting to alleviate the racial isolation of black students. The court determined that the State of Missouri was required to pay half of the cost of school desegregation plans; numerous legal issues arose. Black schools were closed. Some were used for other purposes and some were left vacant.




  • Boonville Academy - located at northeast corner of Sixth and Vine, 1880-1895;

  • The Otterville Academy - 1891-1907; Pilot Grove Academy, 1907-?


  • Adelphai College, aka Female Collegiate Institute - located at Fourth and Vine, 1841-1864. Was a hospital during the Civil War

  • Kemper Male Collegiate Institute 1844 – 2002  (fix)

  • Cooper County Institute by Rev. Buckner, Baptist Minister  1891-1893                                      

  • Prairie Home Institute, 1865- 1869

  • Cully & Simpson’s Institute, 3 miles northeast of Bunceton, 1866-?

  • Hooper Institute, 1876 - 1909, at Clarksburg

  • Cooper Institute - located at Sixth and Locust, 1891-1896

  • Parrish Institute, Bunceton, first public school, D.R. Cully 1866-?-

  • The Pilot Grove Collegiate College, 1878-1915. Also known later as Eichelberger Academy   



  • New Lebanon Seminary

  • Boonville Female Seminary aka Pleasant Retreat 1840-1876, Rev. Bell, Presbyterian minister, founded the Seminary,

  • Megquire Seminary for Girls, located at Sixth and Locust, 1892-1905


After the Civil War, public schools started to became available, allowing many more children to acquire a good education.



  • Hannah Cole’s Fort, John Savage taught 15 boys in 1813

  • Boonville Free White School, 1867

  • Sumner School for Black children. Located in Boonville at Jackson and Rural Streets, 1868-1956

  • 1878 a large public school, 1 black school, 2 male schools, 2 female schools


Today, there are only three of the original one-room schools still in existence. The New Lebanon School in New Lebanon, Dick’s Mill School in Cotton and the Lamine School on the border between Pettis County and Cooper County.

Schools page New Lebanon school

By Jeanette Heaton

Schools page New Lebanon School
Schools page Lamine school text page 1.j
Schools page Lamine school text page 2.j

By Linda McCollum


  • St. Joseph Catholic, Pilot Grove 1900 to present

  • Sts. Peter and Paul, Boonville 1910 to present

  • St. Martin’s Catholic School, closed 1967

  • St. John’s School, Clear Creek, closed 1969 

  • Zion Lutheran School, Lone Elm 1896 to present


The first school in Cooper County was taught by John Savage in the year 1813, about one mile east of Boonville on Lilly’s Branch. There were fifteen boys enrolled. The classes were mostly held outside, with the pupils sitting on logs. The school continued only one month. The fear of an Indian attack caused the settlers to keep their children under the protection of the fort. Some of the earliest schools in Cooper County were taught by: William Anderson, in 1817, near Concord church; Andrew Reavis, in 1818, about 1-3/4 miles east of Boonville; James Donaldson, in the southeastern part of the county; Judge L. C. Stephens at “Old Nebo” Church; Dr. William Moore in Palestine township; and Rollins, near Big Lick. Some early schools were held in churches.


Early Schoolhouses

These schools were held in log school houses. Some did not have any floor but the earth. Others had puncheon floors which were made with rough timber underneath and a flat cut side on top. The windows had no sashes and were made by cutting pieces out of the logs. These openings were closed with a plank at night to keep out the wild animals. Teachers were very strict. They used the principle that “to spare the rod was to spoil the child.” Just as neighbors worked together to build their homes, and churches, they worked together to build the schoolhouse. People would come on a certain day with their cutting axes. The trees were cut, the ends of each log were notched and put in place to form the four walls. Some of the roofs were made of clapboards, which were split logs dressed so one edge was thicker than the other edge. Light from the window came through oiled paper. The chimney was made of small pieces of wood held together with a mortar of sand, limestone, water and clay. This sometimes would dry out, become loose, and fall out of place, letting strong winds pass through, and causing smoke to come into the room.


In most cultures, parents want their children to learn basic skills for living, plus hopefully to learn more than their parents to enable them to be successful in life. Many of the early settlers were well educated and felt it important for their children to learn to read and write and to do simple math problem. Those families living in Cole’s Fort certainly though so, and classes were held to teach the children reading, writing and arithmetic. Whether Hannah Cole was a teacher, we have no idea.  But at least one person was in charge of educating young people. After the War of 1812 was over several well-educated men served as teachers


From 1813 through 1820, Judge Abiel Leonard, William H. Moore and Dr. Edward Lawton taught the boys and girls of early settlers who lived in Boonville. Missouri’s first constitution provided that “one school or more shall be established in each township, as soon as practiceable and necessary, where the poor shall be taught gratis.” Even at that early day the framers of the constitution made provisions for at least a primary education for all children.

Subscription Schools

Subscription schools were held until the organization of public schools. A teacher desiring a school to teach at would go to the families in the neighborhood and have the parents subscribe (which means enroll) so many pupils, for a certain term, at so much per month. Schools were then known as subscription schools.


All schools prior to the year 1839, when the public-school system was established, were private. At this time there was a common school fund, the County school fund, and the township school fund.


A subscription school was held in the Greenwood district, near Pisgah, in a small house built by Mrs. Guyer for the Methodist Church. It was used both as a school and a church. About 1887 there was an effort made to divide the district. The Pisgah people said that they did not want to send their children to Greenwood, because the children there carried ticks, and the Greenwood neighborhood came back at them with the argument that the Pisgah children had fleas. The disagreement between the two schools became so heated that in the last part of the year the district was divided.


Public Schools

Most public schools did not begin until sometime after the townships were organized in 1847. The organization of public schools took place in the county after the Civil War.

In 1853 school laws were revised to provide for dividing the school townships into districts, thus bringing the governing of the schools to the people in the districts. In 1855 a course of study for schools was started by the State Superintendent. Other laws through the years helped to determine the progress of Cooper County Schools.


It is interesting to look back on the one-room country schools. As the years passed, log school houses became dilapidated. Some were destroyed by fire. The log houses were replaced by frame buildings. The first one-room school buildings were very small. They were about 16 feet square, with only one window on each wall. Students wrote on slates and sat on wood benches. Books were expensive, so students shared them. The buildings eventually became larger and had three or four windows in opposite walls and one or two doors in one end. The windows had eight or twelve panes of glass. The blackboard was part of the wall, painted or made of slate and  placed about thirty inches from the floor and about four feet wide along the wall opposite the door. White or colored chalk was used for writing on the blackboard. The students used their wooden slates and slate pencil to work arithmetic problems, to spell words, or to draw pictures, especially of the teacher. Use of slates saved money because paper tablets were scarce and expensive. Damp cloths were used to erase work on the slates.


Inside the Schools

Inside the schools, chimneys were made of brick and built inside, at the end of the room. A stove that burned either wood or coal heated the room.


The desks used in the frame buildings were called double desks because of their width. Two or three students could be seated at one desk. They were usually placed in a row facing the front of the room. The front and back seats had straight backs and seats which were attached with hinges and could be raised for passing or lowered for sitting. The other seats had a shelf fastened to the back of them. Underneath the shelf was a metal box which formed an open compartment in which books, tablets, slates and pencils could be kept. The wooden shelf provided a place for holding books while studying or writing. In the middle or in the upper left-hand corner of the wooden shelf there was often a small round opening into which was placed a small glass container to hold ink, which was called an ink well.


In the first schools the teacher’s desk was often a table. Later the desks were like those found in offices today. Kerosene lamps were used for lighting in early schools. The lamps were later replaced with gas lamps which could be hung from the ceiling.


Teaching Aids

Teaching aids were usually a globe of the world and maps of the countries. There were not very many libraries in the early schools. Books were eventually purchased as the need arose. Missouri began to encourage supplementary reading about 1930 by awarding Reading Circle Certificates to students who read the designated number of prescribed books during the year. The state encouraged a study of famous artists and their works by assigning a special study each month. Many of the districts purchased these as an aid for teaching art. Some schools had sand boxes used to create scenes of different places in the sand box. When music was added to the curriculum, pianos and Victrola’s became a part of the equipment. Some of the schools had rhythm band instruments.


Other Important Items

Students living a distance from school often rode a horse to school. Two or three children in one family might ride in a one-seat buggy. Sometimes small barns were built by the parents or the school board to shelter the horses. Districts sometimes had small buildings located near the schoolhouse in which wood, coal, or kindling were kept.


Two important buildings were the “privies.” They were about four feet by six feet, located in the opposite far corners of the school yard.



School Entertainment

Before the coming of television or the automobile, the early rural schools had their own form of entertainment. The parents of the district came in buggies, wagons, on horseback and on foot to take part in the school’s activities. Books were pushed back inside desks while parents and students met with nearby districts for an exciting afternoon or evening to display their skills and compete with friends. Some of the special events were: box suppers, ciphering matches, spelling bees, and celebrating the holidays. Besides being a form of entertainment, the pie suppers were fund raisers. At the event, women and girls would bring boxed suppers to the school. They would display them on a table, and an auctioneer would sell them to the men and boys. Besides buying their supper, the buyers had the privilege of eating the meal with the lady who had cooked it. The money would go to the school. Some suppers sold for a good price because two or more bidders wanted to eat with the same cook.


School programs were well attended by parents and friends. The Christmas season was a highlight of the rural school. Before the program, the older boys with the help of one of the fathers, found and cut a cedar tree and stood it in one corner of the schoolroom. The wonderful smell of cedar filled the air. It was decorated with strands of popcorn and homemade ornaments. At the close of the much-rehearsed program, Santa made his appearance handing out gifts to the children. The teacher usually gave each child a sack of candy as a treat.


In later years of the rural schools, P.T.A. meetings were well attended with students presenting a form of entertainment each month. There was a lot of cooperation and friendliness throughout the district as many of the older citizens took part and all shared in the refreshments at the end of the meeting.


The last-day-of-school program was an important event held by the pupils and their teacher. An outside picnic was usually held after the program.


School Activities

In the early schools of Cooper County, the subjects taught were reading, writing, arithmetic, geography and English grammar. They were listed in order of their importance. One time not mentioned was perhaps the favorite time for students--recess period. Most of the games played in the earlier years were those requiring no equipment. The students were resourceful by bringing some things from home such as a ball made of string, something that served as a bat, and bean bags. In the winter, skates and sleds were put to use. In later years, more playground equipment was provided such as swings, teeter-totters, basketballs and nets, volley balls, and bats and balls. Some of the playground games were: Hide-and-Seek, Anti-Over, Drop the Handkerchief, Kick the Wicket, Flying Dutchman, King of the Mountain, Calico, Keep Away, Circle Ball, Leapfrog, Follow the Leader, Dodge Ball, Run Sheep Run, Ten Steps, Wood Tag, Rope Jumping, Going to Jerusalem, Rotten Egg, Dare Base, Blackman, Crack the Whip, Three Deep, Stink Base, Red Rover, Sheep In My Pen and relay races.


Some of the school room games were: Simon Says, Upset the Fruit Basket, Whisper Cross Questions, Clap In and Clap Out, I Say Stoop, Hide the Thimble, Beanbag Toss, Spin the Platter, Tic Tac Toe, Teakettle, Blind Man’s Bluff and Charades.


Singing games were: Needle’s Eye, Looby Loo, Farmer in the Dell, Round and Round the Village, Mulberry Bush, Did You Ever See a Lassie? and Sally Saucer.



Rural Schools

Teaching in a one-room school was hard work. The teacher had to be in good health and physical shape. The teacher’s first job was to build a fire in the stove and sweep the schoolhouse and outhouses. If a student was sick or hurt, the teacher acted as the school nurse.


In a country school, the youngest children could be five or six years old and the oldest might be eighteen years old. In order to help everyone, teachers divided their time between groups. Sometimes the busy teacher would ask older children to help the younger students. In some schools, the teacher would teach the “three R’s” to small groups of students with equal ability, but teach other things, like nature study, to all ages.


During the late 1940’s and 50’s all of the rural schools were consolidated into larger districts. These rural schools are now past history. Memories still remain by those who were a part of them.



School Districts

The County now has six school districts. They are:

Blackwater R-2 Reorganized School District

Boonville R-1 Reorganized School District

Bunceton R-4 Reorganized School District

Otterville R-6 Reorganized School District

Pilot Grove C-4 Consolidated School District

Prairie Home R-5 Reorganized School District



The three parochial schools in the county are:

St. Joseph Catholic School in Pilot Grove

Saint Peter and Paul Catholic School in Boonville

Zion Lutheran School in Lone Elm



The first school, according to the John Racy diary, was in an upstairs room about midway down the east side of Main Street. There were 15 pupils and the teacher was Miss Mollie Plummer. The children were fascinated by the trains that passed by on the new shiny tracks. The teacher would allow the pupils to go to the windows and watch the trains as they passed by.


Later, a subscription school was started and taught by Mrs. Riley Holman. Parents provided room and board for the teacher with each family taking their turn.


A building was moved from the Franklin District, south of town, and it was used as a public school building. As school attendance increased, another building was built and the old building was used for the black pupils until the spring of 1937, when a new brick building was built for the black children.


Blackwater maintained a high school for nearly 30 years. In 1946 the high school was closed and pupils were transported to the school of their choice, in Pilot Grove, Boonville or Nelson.




In 1817 Hannah Cole’s Fort had a schoolhouse. Before the Civil War there were few public schools. Children received their education in private schools, institutes and academies. Approximately 20 of these began in Boonville. In 1867, a two-story building located on Sixth Street at the present site of Central School, was purchased. The first public school opened here in September 1867 and  Sumner School was opened for Black children.


A new high school building was completed in September 1915. It is now known as Laura Speed Elliott Middle School. When the new high school was completed, Central School became an elementary school, but the high school continued to play basketball in the gymnasium.


On March 28, 1938, the Board of Education decided on a three-point program for building: phase one was to build a 16-room elementary school building; phase two was the building of a combination auditorium-gymnasium just south of the high school building, and to complete some remodeling of the present high school. Phase three was to build a new Sumner School. The new Central School building was completed for the opening of school in the fall of 1939. The new Sumner School was completed by December 20, 1939.


On December 21, 1954, the Board of Education decided to end segregation in the high school effective September 1, 1955. At a board meeting May 15, 1956, the decision was made to end segregation in the first grade beginning with the 1958-59 school year. The Board made the decision April 3, 1958, to fully integrate during the 1958-59 school year when David Barton School was completed.


At a special election on May 16, 1964, the Boonville School District and 16 other school districts (Wooldridge, Lone Elm, Clear Springs, Westwood, Hickory Grove, Billingsville, Mount Sinai, Stony Point, Concord, Bluffton, Hail Ridge, Crab Orchard, Fairview, Pleasant Valley, Woodland and Highland) voted to form a reorganized district to be known as Cooper County School District R-1.



The first school in Bunceton was known as Parrish Institute. It was named in honor of Thomas J. Parrish, who donated the land in 1871. This was a private school taught by D. R. Culley, O. F. Arnold and Mr. Boyer. Boys and girls attending wore a neat and becoming uniform.


From the private school came Bunceton Public School. The district was organized in 1885 and divided into two sections. All south of Main Street was known as Franklin and all north of Main Street was known as Dublin Spring. The Dublin school was one mile north of town. The two districts continued until 1903, when Parrish Institute was purchased by Bunceton and changed to a public school.

On May 12, 1903, a bond was approved to build a brick building for white students and make necessary improvements on the old building for black children.


By the fall of 1916, four years of high school were offered. Students from the rural areas made their own arrangements for transportation to and from school. Some had to move to Bunceton and stay during the winter, or make arrangements to board with someone.


In 1937, the brick building was destroyed by fire. School was carried on in different buildings and homes in town. In 1937, a new building was built east of town on Highway J and Fairview Street. The first class to graduate from this building was in 1939.



Before 1926, children attended school in several area one-room schools. These were elementary schools in grades one through eight, with one teacher per building. Children rode to school in a horse-and-buggy, a wagon or walked.


As these were only elementary schools, parents who could afford the tuition sent their children to high school at the Otterville College, built in 1885. Country students who attended the college were boarded with townspeople during the week due to the lack of transportation. Heads of family keeping boarders, were required to cooperate with the faculty in enforcing obedience to all requirements of the school and report behavior. Boys and girls were in separate classes within the two-story building. Each had their own classrooms, entrances and set of stairways. The college was closed in 1910; the building is now privately owned. The old building is located across the street from the Otterville Public School.


The first public school building was built in 1869 at a cost of $6,000. This building now houses the Masonic Lodge. The property to the north of the Baptist Church and the present American Legion, housed the elementary classes. In 1926, a two-story brick building was built and all the grades were moved to this building. The district was consolidated with rural districts: County Line, Brick, Mt. Etna and Cline. Free tuition in the district was given for the first time in 1931.



The Pilot Grove Collegiate College was first established as a private school by the Rev. George Eichelberger in 1878. In August 1879, Professor Charles Newton Johnson organized a company, and the school was bought by H. W. Harris. On July 18, 1881, Harris deeded the school to the company, then incorporated, and the name was changed to the Pilot Grove Collegiate Institute.

After the death of Newton Johnson, the management was taken over by his brother, William F. Johnson. During his management, on January 31, 1885, the building caught fire due to a defective flue and was completely burned. In 1888, Professor Charles Foster and D. L. Roe purchased the rebuilt brick school. These two men conducted it for several years. The school was finally sold back to Andrew Eichelberger, father of the founder, and rented to different men.  In 1900, the school closed at the beginning of the second term.


In March, 1902, Mr. C. L. Buckmaster bought the building with the help of the community. He named the school Pilot Grove Academy. The school closed sometime around 1915. It is interesting to learn of the discipline of the academy.


“Students must not, under any circumstances, enter saloons, billiard halls, nor engage in games of chance or practice the use of tobacco. Students are required to attend Sunday School and church every Sunday.”


After Pilot Grove became a town in 1873, the townspeople became interested in starting a school. There was no building, so Professor Tucker, of Boonville, opened a subscription school upstairs in a small room over a drug store.


There was a need for a new school in Pilot Grove. The directors for the new school purchased the Methodist Episcopal Church South. After the school burned in 1903, a brick two-story building was built on the site. Overcrowding was soon a problem. In 1919, the first and second grades had to be housed in a blacksmith shop. The school kept growing, so grounds were purchased from A. H. Eichelberger. This plot later became the site of the present school buildings. In 1921, a building was constructed on the present school site. The class of 1921 was the first to graduate from this building.



People in the Prairie Home area were concerned because there wasn’t a place in the community where the children could receive an education beyond the elementary school level. Because of this concern people in the community, headed by the Reverend A. H. Misseldine, combined their knowledge and hard work to form what was to become known as the Prairie Home Institute in 1865, north of the present city limits.


This Institute made it possible for its students to expand their minds and take subjects that otherwise would have been impossible. The students were taught algebra, science and literature. Later Latin, music and other subjects were added. The Institute was sold to the Public School District in 1869. The school was sold once more, in May 1871, to Professor A. Slaughter. Slaughter planned for it to be a boarding school for both boys and girls. The school grew and prospered for three years until it burned in 1874. The people in the community worked together to build a new school which was completed in April 1875. The new building had a housing capacity for 75 boarders. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, the Institute was closed.


Prairie Home High School was established in 1913 and was located in the Masonic Temple building. Two students graduated in 1914. From the time the school was established in 1922, students graduated from the two-year program, then had to attend the remaining two years of high school in either Boonville or California. In 1922, the school was accredited as a four-year institution.



Father Pius made arrangements with several Benedictine Sisters to establish a convent and school, with the approval of Bishop John J. Hogan. In 1900, funds were solicited in all three parishes, Clear Creek, Pilot Grove and Martinsville. The three-story brick building was completed in 1901 and blessed by Bishop J. J. Glennon. The total cost of the building was about $4,000. The transfer of the property and building was for parish school purposes. Thus, came into existence, the first parish school that same year. There were 60 pupils enrolled.


In 1915, Father Hildebrand Roessler, O. S. B., received an appointment to St. Joseph Parrish. At this time the school rooms were inadequate and the need to build a larger school became evident. Despite the high cost of war times, he succeeded in erecting a large four-room school building with modern equipment. Together with the willing help of the parishioners, in 1917 this task was accomplished at a cost of about $12,000, which included the cost of furnishings and equipment. The entire indebtedness was canceled in four years. The school was taught by the Benedictine Sisters of Fort Smith, Arkansas. At that time, it included grades one through eight plus two years of high school. Due to increasing demands for personnel and equipment, the high school closed in 1929.



The Saints Peter and Paul parish school was established in 1910, being taught by the Sisters of St. Francis of Milwaukee. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas assumed leadership of the school in 1925. At this time a new school was built on the site of the old Gantner home, on Seventh Street and an extension of Vine Street.


The high school opened in 1925; four years later six young people composed the first graduating class from Boonville Catholic High School. Students steadily increased in number and the school grew for 34 years until the high school closed in 1969.




The Christian Day School was considered an important factor in the religious training of the young people of the congregation. While the church was being built, the congregation bought land and started construction of the school. Work on the church was delayed and the school was completed first. Church was held in the school until the church was completed.


Lumber for building the school was hauled by wagon two miles from an abandoned Christian Church that the congregation tore down. There were 97 students who attended the first session of school in 1896.


Charles Dusenberg, a teacher from Sweet Springs, was the first teacher and church organist. Dusenberg taught for five years. Classes were taught in English half the day and in German the rest of the day. Not until World War I when anti-German sentiment swept the nation was German teaching discontinued.


Because of such a large enrollment with one teacher, older pupils were assigned to teach classes of younger children under the direction of the teacher. To make it easier for the teacher to keep law and order and to keep his charges a little fearful, one of the parents brought a short stick, with a piece of leather cut in three strips fastened to the end, to be used as a reminder to behave. As the story goes, his own son was the first to feel the strap, and to be persuaded that good conduct in class was important.

The children came to school on horseback and in carts and wagons. There were usually from 12 to 20 horses stabled there during the day. The riders had to bring feed for their horses and feed them during the noon hour, as well as bring their own lunch. The school continues to provide a good education to the children in the Lone Elm Community.


Male Collegiate Institute

kms-0001 (1).JPG

By Pat Holmes


The Kemper Military School, founded by Frederich T. Kemper, in June 1844 in Boonville flourished for many years. It was an important part of the local economy and was highly regarded for its rigorous training that it provided for young men. It was called the West Point of the West. Will Rogers was a student there. Many cadets went on to become leaders in diverse fields of endeavor as well as the military.


Professor Frederick Thomas Kemper, born in 1816, came to Missouri from Madison County, Virginia in 1836. He graduated from Marian College at Palmyra, Missouri in 1841, and continued there for three years as a tutor, prior to coming to Boonville and opening his own school, the Kemper Boarding School for boys and young men, opened in 1844. The school occupied several temporary sites until 1845 when it moved into its new two-story brick building on Third Street. This site became the permanent location of the school throughout its history. As the student body grew, the original building was greatly enlarged until it became a 50,544 square foot structure housing all the functions of a boarding and academic school.


The school served a real need in the area for providing a classic, disciplined education for young men, many of whom were the descendants of early settlers.


Kemper mentored a young man, Thomas A. Johnston, who came to the school from a farm south of Boonville. Johnston later became the assistant principal of the Kemper School. After Kemper's death in 1881, Johnston became its leader and was associated with Kemper School for 70 years. It was Johnston who restructured the school into the Kemper Military School. Johnston developed the campus, expanding the original building, adding the attractive “A” Barracks, the large Johnston Field House Gymnasium, the Swimming Pool Annex, the large “D” Barracks,” the Mathematics Building, among other ancillary buildings. His successors added Academic Hall, Science Hall, and the large, and last building, “K” Barracks. Johnston's daughter married A.M. Hitch who was the third president. His son, Harris Johnston, became the fourth president of Kemper Military Academy. 


The school flourished for many years. It was an important part of the local economy. It was highly regarded. It was called the West Point of the West. Will Rogers was a student there. Many cadets went on to become leaders in diverse fields of endeavor as well as the military.


Toward the later years of the Twentieth Century, difficulties arose. The school closed in 2002. Ownership was transferred to the City of Boonville.  Buildings, including the original Kemper School and its additions, the “K” Barracks, and the Mule Barn have been demolished. The Johnston Field House and Gymnasium have become a YMCA. The State Fair Junior College occupies one academic building, and the Boonslick Regional Library, Boonville Branch, is preparing to occupy another.


Today, youth of all ages participate in soccer games on the former Athletic Fields. Bicyclists camp there while participating in Katy Trail rides. A beautiful park honoring those who have died from cancer, now appears on the former Parade Grounds with marble benches and softly splashing fountains.         


Kemper alumni still meet annually and sign the school's Standard of Honor, keeping the spirit of the school alive. There is a Kemper Museum planned for a storefront on Main Street, and a display of Kemper memorabilia in the River, Rails and Trails Museum.                                          


Kemper Alumni Association


Hugh Charles Krampe, AKA Hugh O’Brian

Hugh Charles Krampe was born in Rochester, New York on April 19, 1925. His father was an executive with the Armstrong Cork Company and they moved around a lot. He was five when they moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania and it was there that he attended elementary school. Their next move was to Chicago, then to Winnetka, Illinois, where he started high school. From there, Krampe attended Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri, where he lettered in football, basketball, wrestling, and track.

He attempted to continue his education at the University of Cincinnati but dropped out after only for one semester because of World War II. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and became an expert with both rifles and pistols.

His military medals included the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

After the war, Krampe found himself in California. He had been accepted at Yale University in the fall of 1947 with plans to become a lawyer. However, he was attending his date’s rehearsals for the Somerset Maugham’s play Home and Beauty when the lead actor failed to show up. The director, Ida Lupino, asked him to read the lines and he got the role. The play received rave reviews and an agent signed him up.

It was at this time that Krampe changed his name. The playbill had misspelled his name as “Krape” so he took his mother’s family name and became Hugh “O’Brien.” Again, his name was misspelled. O’Brien was “O’Brian.” This time he just decided to keep it.

In 1955, adult westerns hit TV screens and, along with Gunsmoke and Cheyenne, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp starring Hugh O’Brian appeared in living rooms all over the US.

O’Brian went the extra mile to develop his character. He bought a copy of Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal by Stuart N. Lake and developed a relationship with Lake who was a consultant on the show for the first couple of years.

During the 1950s and 1960s, O’Brian made regular appearances on other shows such as Nat King Cole, Jackie Gleason, Ed Sullivan, and the Dinah Shore Chevy Show. He also was a guest attorney in a 1963 Perry Mason episode when Raymond Burr had emergency surgery. He appeared as a guest celebrity panelist for game shows Password and What’s My Line? O’Brian also appeared in many movies, including The Shootist (1976) with John Wayne.

But O’Brian’s life wasn’t limited to TV and the Big Screen. He started the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), a non-profit youth leadership development program for high school scholars, in 1958. HOBY sponsors 10,000 high school sophomores annually through its leadership programs in all 50 states and 20 countries.

Hugh O’Brian died at his home in Beverly Hills on September 5, 2016. He was yet another celebrity who once attended Kemper Military School and learned the importance of passing on something to the next generation.

Source: Elizabeth Davis "Historically Yours"

George Lindsey

1928-2012  George Smith Lindsey was born on December 17, 1928, in Fairfield, Alabama. Raised by grandparents in Jasper, Alabama, he graduated from Walker County High School in 1946. Lindsey attended Kemper Military School before receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from what is now the University of North Alabama in 1952 where he majored in physical education and biology. He was also quarterback on the football team and acted in college plays. Following college, he enlisted in the United States Air Force and was stationed at Ramey AFB in Puerto Rico. As a civilian, he taught high school in Hazel Green, Alabama, while waiting to be accepted by the American Theater Wing in New York City in 1956. After graduating from the Wing, he performed in two Broadway plays, “Wonderful Town” and “All American” before moving to Los Angeles in 1962. Over the next two years Lindsey appeared in a number of well-known TV series of the 1960s: Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, The Real McCoy’s, The Twilight Zone, Daniel Boone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and three episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Lindsey got his big break in 1964 when he was cast as Goober Beasley on The Andy Griffith Show. His character was renamed Goober Pyle to tie him to his cousin Gomer Pyle. During the series and afterwards Lindsey continued playing minor roles in other shows: The Walter Brennan series, The Tycoon, the 1964 film Ensign Pulver, Disney’s Snowball Express, M*A*S*H, and Hee Haw. Lindsey’s voice was also presented in three Disney animated features: The Aristocrats, Robin Hood, and The Rescuers.

While he was known as the slow-witted but kindly Goober, he was anything but in real life. Lindsey raised over $1,000,000 for Alabama Special Olympics through 17 years of the George Lindsey Celebrity Weekend and Golf Tournament in Montgomery, Alabama. He raised another $50,000 for the Alabama Association of Retarded Citizens and participated as Head Coach-Winter Games in the Minneapolis, Minnesota Special Olympics National Competition.

Lindsey established and perpetuated the George Lindsey Academic Scholarships at the University of North Alabama. He also established the George Lindsey/UNA Film Festival that takes place at the University of North Alabama annually in the spring.

Not everyone who attended Kemper became career military, but Kemper can be proud of being a part of teaching the concept of “giving back”.

George Smith Lindsey died in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 6, 2012.

Source: "Historically Yours" by Elizabeth Davis

From the Revolution to the West Point of the West

Thomas Alexander Johnston was born on November 13, 1848, on a farm south of Boonville. He was educated in local schools and then at Kemper School. Johnston joined the Confederate Army in October 1864.

After the War Between the States, Col. Johnston attended the State University at Columbia and graduated in 1872 with a Bachelor of Arts and then a Master of Arts. He returned to Boonville and joined the faculty at Kemper School as assistant principal. When Mr. Kemper died in 1881, Johnston was named the next superintendent.

Col. Johnston began a series of improvements that increased enrollment and added more buildings. He became known as the “Builder of Kemper.” In 1885, he added the military training program. The school’s name was changed to Kemper Military School in 1899 and it was advertised as the “West Point of the West.” Other changes followed: 1915, the Standard of Honor; 1916, a formal ROTC program; and 1923, a junior college.

Johnston retired in 1928, naming his son-in-law Colonel Arthur M. Hitch as his successor, but stayed on as President of Kemper until his death on February 5, 1934.

Source: Elizabeth Davis "Historically Yours"

William L. Nelson

Schools page Kemper founder.jpg

Kemper Cadets

Mr. Kemper

Kemper Barracks

Kemper picture from the 1919 yearbook featuring the grand old building that is no more..jpg

Early photo of Kemper

Kemper at Memorial Statues at Boonville

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