The Old Beaver Grade School - An Appreciation
By Bertha Trebein Flynn (c.1953)
The exact date of the erection of the Old Beaver School has grown dim with the passing of more than a half century (sic)since, long before its wrecking, it became a mute reminder of the past.
It stood not far from the Dayton Pike on a hill-slope just northwest of Beaver Church and, between 1850 and 1880 was a school of outstanding reputation in Greene County, attracting pupils from all parts of the County, including the county-seat.
It followed in imposing dignity two earlier structures, - the first, a log cabin much closer to "the pike," inadequately heated by a large fire-place at one end and provided in lieu of desks, with some crude boards, supported by heavy, sloping, wooden wall-pegs, before which pupils took turns in standing for written work. The second school building was a one-room brick structure, with a stove in the center, and with long, rough, backless benches facing rude boards fixed to the wall for holding slates, books and pencils.
Old Beaver's equipment, by comparison with its two predecessors, was comfortable and luxurious. It had individual seats at single or double desks with a space inside for books and possessions. Light fellin amply through the windows on bright days. Its original one-room was of necessity reserved after the first year or two for "the grades" and an "advanced room" was then added at the west with a front vestibule between, and an enclosed rear passage-way surmounted by a bell-tower with a bell of far-reaching resonance.
A remarkable curriculum was offered here for those aspiring to college: algebra, trigonometry, geometry, Greene's Analysis of the English Language, Latin, Greek, physics and - for the young men - the inevitable surveying. The head teacher was Mr. John W. Miller (father of the late Miss Louie Miller), who combined university training with a profound love of knowledge. So thorough was his work and that of his assistants that the students who completed the course at "Old Beaver" were able to enter the Sophomore Class at Miami University. Preparation for college grew in popularity.
For the grades there were the usual "practical" and mental arithmetic, geography, grammar, essays, spelling - now somewhat outmoded - "speeches," and the McGuffey Readers. Both Anna Snyder Perrin and Kate Snyder ("Miss Kate") gave real zest to their work, adding to it a generous use of nature's laboratory for the study of flowers and birds, - hours remembered with loving appreciation by some near-octogenarians today. (sic)
Two highly esteemed mentors of the "advanced" school's later years, who opened a new world to their pupils through their presentatin of poetry, biography, or history, were W. W. Donham and a Mr. Bonner whose initals elude memory and avalable records. One H. A. Nelson had distinguished himself and the school somewhat earlier through the staging of William Tell, for which suits of mail, sword, spears and other paraphernalia of ancient warfare were procured at what was for those times a considerable expense.
The school gave a good quota to the service in the Civil War. Five of the number achieved early captaincy: David Steele (father of the late J. D. Steele), William Glotfelter, Henry Herring, a Guthrie, and a Kirby.
"Old Beaver" closed its doors in 1882, when the march of sacrificial progress opened the local district schools of the Township.
Its years of activity remain an honored chapter in Greene County history.