Chapter 12 – More Teaching Experiences in Ritchie County

The next summer after I taught at Auburn, I taught at Berea. My school was small and did not pay me well, but I had a very nice time. They learned well and had good success getting certificates.

I will continue with my teaching work until I left Ritchie. The fall of 1910 there was an effort made, in an underhand way, to keep me from getting the school at Berea; but I got it and taught a fairly successful school in spite of all a few dirty meddlers could do. I decided when school was out that I would not try for it again, so I got the Sunny Point school on Turtle Run. Conza asked me before the Board met if I was asking for the Berea school, and I told her “No.” Then she said she would try for it. I told her to pitch in. Ell Douglas was on the Board, and he got them to delay hiring the Berea teachers until September in hopes the girls would get schools elsewhere or he could get someone else. Two of the Board members told Conza and Draxie, after the meeting was out, that they should have the school. The opposition made a great effort to get someone else to teach it, but failed.

One night John Meredith (one of my best friends) came up to see me. This was while Jennie was in Colorado, and I was alone. We talked for some time when all at once John said, “Pressie, can’t we get you to teach our school this winter?” My reply was, “No, John, you can’t.” We talked on a while, and again John spoke up, “Pressie, isn’t there some way we can coax you to teach our school?” My reply was “No, John, there isn’t.” After talking for some time longer, John spoke up for the third time, “Pressie, isn’t there some way we can force you to teach our school?” My reply again was “No, John, there isn’t.” He soon went home, and I was happy; I knew Douglas had sent him although he had gotten mad early in the spring when one of the patrons had asked him to give me the school. So it tickled me to say, “No.” Oh, it was fun!

An Incident at Berea: I will now tell a funny incident (some might not think it very funny) that happened the last winter I taught at Berea. Barnard Bee had been using bad talk at school, and Draxie had him wash his mouth with asafetida. This raised an awful fuss, and they had Zeke summoned before the Grand Jury. He came to the school house and told us about it. He said he didn’t want to go as he had no fuss to raise about what she did to the boy. We told him to go ahead; it was all right with us.

The next day we went out to town. We went into the clerk’s office, had ourselves summoned before the jury, sworn, and then waited to be called in. When they called me in, the foreman asked me if I knew what I was summoned for. My reply was, “Maybe I do and maybe I don’t.” He then asked me what I knew. My reply was, “A little of nothing and not much of anything.” He then asked me about the trouble in school. He was smart and thought he was very smart. The first question he asked after that was, “What is your business?” My reply was, “I take the place of the parents.” I saw several old teachers on the jury, and I knew we were okay.

When he said, “Don’t you know that no one but a practicing physician has a right to give medicine?” I shot right back at him, “Yea, if you go home tonight and one of your children has the bellyache, you wouldn’t dare to give him a dose of castor oil?” “That’s different,” he said. A half dozen said, “No, that’s the same.” I knew we had won. The foreman came out a little later, and we told him we had another witness. He said they didn’t need it; for us to just go on home and teach our schools. This was all done by a bunch of trouble makers and ended as such things usually do.

Draxie and Mike Jett: Draxie also had trouble with Mike Jett. He got mad because she kept Witt in at recess. When recess came, they sent for Witt to come home and then sent him back on the playground to play. Draxie saw him out there playing, so she went and got him. I went up to the house to get a drink. While I was gone, Mike went to the school house, cursed Draxie and took Witt away. I stopped in the lower room when I came back and heard John Bee, John Waggoner and Draxie talking about it. When they said he cursed Draxie, I said I would have him arrested and proceeded to call the squire at Harrisville. He said he would be out as soon as the weather was fit and get him.

As soon as Mike heard about it, he wanted to settle it, so they agreed to meet at our house Sabbath evening. Mike and Ivy and Conza and Draxie came. I told them it was all right with me any way they settled it, if it was satisfactory with the squire; for it was in his hands. Draxie agreed if he would come to school Monday morning and apologize for what he had done, it would settle it with her. Mike thought it was all settled, so he never came about.

A few days later the squire called up and said it could not be settled out of court, but that he would try the case himself. Mike came to Draxie again, when he heard the squire was coming. He told her he couldn’t talk in public. She told him he seemed to be able to talk when he came after Witt. The weather stayed too bad for the squire to come, so Mike was indicted by the same jury we were before. He paid a fine of $25, which was more than I would like to pay for the privilege of cursing a school teacher.

Trouble for Brady and Clee Wagoner: I taught the Sunny Point school two years and had a very nice time. Conza had a hard time with her school; the children were mean and the people meddled. The next winter they got a big man by the name of Alender, who worked for Tom Jackson for a while before school, so they had a chance to tell him how mean Brady and Clee Wagoner were. The boys complained to me that they didn’t get a fair show. I knew this was so, but I told them to wait and he would find out how it was.

There got to be too much courting in school, and we told the boys some of the girls would got jealous and then there would be trouble. Some of the kids in the neighborhood would come in and say, “We are having a good school this winter,” in a hateful tone. Of course, this made us mad, but we didn’t say a word.

All at once word got around that Clee had used vile talk to John Prunty’s girl, and he had taken her out of school. Alender went to see about it, and John said it was not so. When Alender told the member of the board (Ell Douglas) that he found no basis for the charge, Douglas said it was so and he had to investigate it. The girl said it was so; Clee denied it; the girl’s seatmate said she did not hear it; and Brady, who was sitting right by, said Clee did not say it. Alender said she had not proved her case so she must apologize. She refused to do this, so he turned her out. This raised an awful stink and more charges against Clee. Alender failed to find any proof and told them so.

The next Friday noon the Board and 25 to 50 people came in. Alender took up school and went to hearing classes. Then one of the board got up and asked if he might say a word. Alender said, “Speak on.” He (the board member) said they had been sent for to come down there. Alender said he knew nothing about it, for he had received no notice. The member said he knew that was so, for they didn’t know what it was about.

After some talk it was found out that Alender was accused of being partial for not getting Clee for what they called immoral conduct. They said they intended to protect their girls (three of the accusers were the most immoral men in town) and get rid of the vipers like Clee. Alender offered if the crowd would leave that the board could inquire of the scholars and find out the truth. One of the crowd jumped up and said, “I am a taxpayer, and I came here to see that justice is done, and I am going to stay and see that it is.” The board said if that was the way they felt, there could be no trial till written charges were filed and Alender was notified of charges and date. So they fixed the date two weeks off and went home.

The crowd was mad, for they hoped to get Alender and Clee both put out of school. They were mad at Alender because he would not kick Clee and Brady out of school. If they had gotten Clee put out, they would have soon patched up some lie on Brady and kicked him out too. This crowd (not all of Berea by a good deal) was mad at Al Wagoner and me and wanted to ruin us. There was a lot of blowing done, and John Meredith told them there was nothing to it. They replied, “John, don’t you believe in protecting our girls?” John told them it was just a plot to ruin the boys and that there was nothing to it. This didn’t suit some of them very well, but John didn’t care a cent how they liked it.

When the board met, there was a big crowd there again anxious to get Clee and Alender. They had charged Alender with partiality on ten counts-nine for not investigating charges against Clee and one for expelling a girl. When the case came up, Alender proved that he had tried every case but one and had no proof and that they gave him no chance to try that one. The board ruled that the teacher was not guilty, but they reinstated the girl. If Clee was to be tried, they would have to bring charges against him and set another date. Clee told them he had to quit school and go to carrying the mail, so they dropped his case.

I may have cause to mention Clee again, but I will say right here that he graduated from Salem College with a fine name, took a course in agriculture, married a fine girl (her mother was a daughter of George Randolph). The last I knew, he was teaching in high school. In fact, he has done better than any of those that tried to ruin him back in Berea.

Some of the folks tried to get Minter Fox to whip Alender and went to see what Fred thought about their chance. Fred told them Alender would whip them both before any one could pull him off of them; so they didn’t try it. The Brakes, Jacksons, Collins and Douglases went to another school by consent of the board, which left the Berea school very small. Douglas kept his girl at home for a few days, which cost him about $12. This was the best lesson Berea ever had. Since then most anybody could teach the Berea school. So you see that good can still come out of evil.

The next spring Wagoners moved to Harrisville, which took away one of my best friends.

Experiences as Fire Insurance Agent

In the spring of 1911 I got a job of writing fire insurance for the Safe Insurance Company of Harrisville, which I followed for three summers. I was quite successful; I cleared an average of $2 a day, which at that time was good wages. I wrote in Gilmer, Tyler, Ritchie, Wood, Doddridge and Harrison counties. I enjoyed the work very much. But once in a while it looked as if some would get insurance and then cash in on it, if they got too much insurance. I tried to be careful and did not have many fires.

There was a man in Gilmer by the name of Wagoner who had a fine house. I tried hard to get him to write insurance, but he told me that he built the house himself and he knew there was no danger of its burning, so I gave him up. A few months later I passed through a village not far from his home. A friend came out and told me he had some insurance for me. He told me that Wagoner had had a fire, and he said he would write insurance with the first insurance agent who came along. I found it was in a room where ceiling paper had been used instead of lumber to seal overhead. A small boy found the fire. When the mother went up, she found the ceiling paper burned off and the paper burned about half way down all around the wall. The room was shut up tight, so there was no draft and it burned very slowly. They saved the house with very little damage. I wrote the insurance, which made me $2. No doubt a mouse or rat had carried a match to their nest, gnawed it and started the fire.

I saw a two-story house with matched oak ceiling with a hole made by fire which looked as if it had been made for a stove pipe. It was in the parlor, which had been shut up for a week. When a girl went in to sweep the room, she found ashes on the floor. She thought it had started upstairs, so she ran up there but found no way to get at the fire up there. So she came down and put the fire out down there. When they got the fire out, they found the burned remains of some stockings and old clothes which had been a nest. The house was shut up tight, so the fire had not blazed but kept live coals. These are just a few of my experiences while writing insurance.

Jennie Visited in Colorado, 1911

In the summer of 1911, Jennie went to Colorado with Watie [Sutton, her brother] to see Elzie [another brother], who could not come to West Virginia on account of his health. She had a very nice trip. She sure deserved it, for she had never been out of West Virginia except when we moved to New York. Watie and Arlie paid for her trip.

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