School Teaching in Rural Yuma County

Jennie Monk

After I got my 1st grade teacher's certificate in 1931 I started, with my dad's help, applying for a rural school to begin teaching that fall. There were two other certificates awarded (2nd and 3rd). This was the last year teachers could take the exam. After that two years of college was needed to teach in Colorado.

My first school was about 18 miles north of Laird, Colorado, and was called Thomas. I boarded with a nice family, the Vernon Sheldons. I paid $15 per month and had a nice bedroom next to the kitchen which had a Home Comfort range used for cooking with cobs and coal for fuel.

(Vernon J. Sheldon - Apr 15, 1888 - Jul 12, 1989, Ethel May (Jones). - Jul 12, 1890 -Jan 10, 1978)

The school had a barn and coal shed. Many pupils rode horses to school.

I like to remember the pantry cupboard which would have lots of food that I picked and packed my lunch pail to take to school.

Their daughter, Aleta, was in the 4th grade. They had a younger boy, LaVern, who was almost 3. I really helped spoil LaVern as he was real cute and liked me. He always sat at the table next to me. Aleta is still alive and takes care of her husband who has Altzheimers.

(Lois Aleta, married Alfred Gillum in 1943)

LaVern died about a year ago. (Feb 7, 1929 - Dec 5, 1998)
I stayed with the Sheldons many weekends after I went other places to teach. One time I told Mr. Sheldon about paying $15 monthly and he said "We should have paid you to stay with us".
In this school I had several families represented:

Lorimer - Dorothy, Violet, Lawrence, Forrest, Lorena. All are dead except Lorena who lives in California




Probably not California - Lorena was raised on the family farm in Yuma County. She was united in marriage to Howard W. Legg on Feb. 17, 1946. They lived in Wauneta for many years before moving to Grand Island in 1967. They then moved to Osceola in 1985 later returning to Grand Island)

(Forrest Lorimer 7 Dec 1923  SSN Issued: Colorado  Death: Mar 1983)

(Wilma Grace Lorimer of Denver, a banking office worker, died Dec. 31, 1999. She was born Sept. 11, 1934, in Wray. In 1950, she married Lawrence Lorimer. He preceded her in death.)

Marjorie May Williams passed away Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010,  in the Denver Hospice Unit.  She was born March 2, 1921 on the family homestead in the Valley Precinct of Yuma County, Colorado. She was the sixth child of nine born to Albert Edward Lorimer and Myrtle Grace Thomas.  Retired in Olathe, Colorado.

Preceding her in death were her parents, Albert and Myrtle Lorimer; four brothers, Wilbur, Maurice, Forrest and Lawrence Lorimer; and sisters, Hazel Connor, Dorothy Cox, Violet Crouse.

Violet LORIMER Crouse - 1919-2002, married Archie Crouse - 1913- 1987 - both buried at Grandview Cemetery, Wray.



Sheldon - Aleta
Long - Forest (3rd grade) lives in Holyoke. A real nice boy.  locksmith - died 2007 - buried Holyoke
Krautchen - Harvey.  Krautschum, Otto and Sophia
Ethridge - Gerald - a big kid. He boasted that he was going to miss enough spelling words to make me stay at school real late. Because he missed too many, I sent him home early one day. son of Glenn and Edna -1919-2006  Burial: Grand Junction
Dodson – Chester and Kenneth. I rode calves (we called it rodeoing) there one weekend wearing a pair of overalls that Mrs. Dodson loaned me and on Monday morning Mrs. Dodson told the boys not to tell the other pupils, because a schoolteacher should be more ladylike. Chester is dead and Kenneth lives in Denver. Kenneth couldn't pronounce some words and he could not say "squash". He couldn't tell his folks and when I went there he asked me to tell his mother the word he couldn't say. He really tried !

  Charles - died 1959,  and Ida 1880-1961 Dodson

Kenneth L. Dodson, 83 of Commerce City. Born February 1, 1922 in Yuma County, Died October 2005. Survived by wife, Dorene of 64 years

Groseclose - Guffy, Vada, and Ada. I attended Vada's 50th wedding anniversary and her funeral. Guffy died young. This family had a mother that could entertain. She could make good taffy from molasses. Ada is left from this family and lives in Wray (a widow). Her niece and nephew are so good to her now. She kept a scrapbook, and had two pages of keepsakes from her one year in first grade with me.

Hughes - Trudie and Nellie are both alive. Trudie lives in Kansas City and Nellie married a Harding boy (relative of Phoebe Josh's husband).

Fincher - Albert, Annie, and Paul. Albert lives in Arizona and is in a wheelchair. Annie is dead.  1930 census has Ira F.  41, Hattie, 32, Sylvia B. 11, Paul G., 9, Anne, 7 , and Albert I. 6

Bates - Arthur was in school the last year I was at Thomas.

Williams - Charlie, Bertha, Jessie, and Alden. Bertha is in a nursing home with Altzheimer's. The rest went east to Illinois and I lost track of them.

Ranum – Orval, Lorene, and Blanche.

I did a real dumb thing after spending one night at their home. In those days a teacher was often invited to spend a night with a family. After a good supper we visited a while. Mrs. Ranum had a big sore on her face next to her mouth. She kept a white salve on it, but I could hardly stand to look at her. I slept upstairs, going up there by a ladder, and in the night I felt snow on my quilt. I got up early and told them I was going to school. They warned me that no one would be at school, but I thought I just couldn't look at Mrs. Ranum much longer, so he said he'd send Bud (Orval, a 5th grader and real smart). We started walking against the northeast wind with little visibility with the snow and kept holding hands and we made it (probably 3/4 mile across the pasture) to the schoolhouse. I was so happy to see Mr. Sheldon and he said "get it (he had a new Chevy) and we'll take Bud home." It turned out to be a 3-day blizzard. I've re-lived that visit many times. Mrs. Ranum died a few years later. One of the older girls married a Wray boy and he was successful as a carpenter.

(Simon Ranum - 1867-1951 and Mabel HOUK Ranum 1885-1951, Oliver James Ranum, 1904-1975, Erma -OR IRMA M., Ula OR EULA L., Orville W., Blanche V, Lorene - OR LORINE M.)

Ralph Walchle wrote

The Thomas School was in Sec. 36 (as I'm sure you know, every Sec. 16 & 36 were set aside for "school purposes" by the US Govt before allowing homesteading).  As you can see from the school house symbol the school was located at the NW corner of the Section at the time of that map. It was there when the Groseclose Children attended and therefore would have been there at the time Jennie taught.  So, when she told the story about staying with the Ranums and walking in the blizzard back to the school, you can see from the map where she walked. Oliver Ranum was the last to live there. I remember him well.  He was one of those strange characters born a hundred years too late.  My folks felt that a lot of his problem stemmed from the fact that he accidentally shot and killed a brother during childhood.

 Later the school was moved to the southwest corner of the section - I believe it had to do with Ella Williams being elected to the school board and wanting the school closer to her home.  She and my Grandfather Arthur Groseclose served on the board at the same time - at least for some part of their tenure.  The school was located at that south east location during its last years and was there when my brother & I attended. It had a horse barn and two outdoor toilets as well as a flag pole, well with a pump (which we used for water), a slide, swings and merry go round.

My brother Ray, myself and the of Raymond Anderson's children were the last students to attend that School. Velma Schelly was the last Teacher. Your Mother also mentioned Cement School. I do have some of the records from that school. I recall student records as well as the receipts from the lumber company in Holyoke for the materials used to construct the school.   The Cement School was ( and may still be) located on a corner of Land owned by Bill & Edna Hayes. Edna was my Mother's first cousin.  My Uncle Edgar Groseclose told the story of why the school house was made of cement. Apparently there was antagonism about where the school should be located and given the history of how other local , wood frame schools were "moved in the night" by dissident school board members, Mr. Bradford, school board member,  said they would be sure that did not happen with their school.

 Also, the Hillsdale School is where we went to Church services for quite awhile when I was a kid.  

One fall 4 or 5 young men from Missouri came out here to pick corn. They batched in a vacant house and one night they asked my sister Annie, who was teaching a school called Cement, and a young visitor from Kansas City to come to their house for supper. When we were finished eating a pretty good supper, they asked if we'd like to go snipe hunting. They made it sound interesting and we all agreed to go. I'd never heard of it and we went. They gave us a pillow case and flashlight and took us about a half mile away in a low place and told us to hold the flashlight down inside the sack and the snipe would fly to the light (they said). They drove off as noise might disturb the snipe and we started doing as they told us. After a while Annie said "Did you ever hear the saying 'left holding the bag'" and we reasoned that the moon was brighter by far than the flashlight so we started walking. The boys soon met us after they got over laughing about tricking us. That was quite an adventure for three green young women. That visitor-I can't recall her name - tried lots of things, like riding a horse, climbing sand hills, and was a lot of fun. I've told lots of people about this experience and was reminded about it from friends. There is a wading bird called a snipe.

Taken about 1980 in Wray -

Left is Ada Groseclose Walchle whose anniversary was being celebrated.

White and pink suit lady is Lorena Lorimer Legg is the second from the left, she never lived in California but she lived in Nebraska all of her married life.

Blue dress is Vada Groseclose Walchle (Vada and Ada married brothers).

Red and white striped blouse is Marjorie Lorimer Williams who resided in Dundy county Nebraska until 1956 and then moved to Montrose county, Colorado. 

White dress is Jennie Oman Monk.

On the far right is Nellie Hughes Harding.



After this school I applied for one nearer to Wray. It was on the highway near Wauneta and was called Sunnyside. It was a small school and I had the following families:

Merritt - Grace was in the 8th grade when I taught there. She became a nurse and died quite young.

Merrill - Dean and Sammy. Both live in Iowa and still keep in contact and visit me. Good boys ! and have nice wives.

Rotheberger - Eleanor, Johanna, Robert. They were nice kids but Johanna was jailed as an adult because she was a thief. Eleanor had red hair and I never kept track of her or the boy as they only attended one year and went to California.

Widgery - Annabelle , Ruby, Russell. Annabelle married several men. Ruby came to see me two times from Denver and I haven't heard from her for a long time. Russell lives in Haxtun and has a business.

Sheridan - Lee, Charlie, Jean. All dead now. I saw them quite often. Attended Charlie's 50th anniversary. I stayed lots of nights at their home. Mrs. Sheridan was a real good cook. The only pupil I every punished was Lee, as he wouldn't study and I warned him, so once I took him out on the porch and really shook him. I really hated it afterwards and I asked him at Charlie's anniversary if he remembered it and he said "no", but Charlie said "I sure do."

We had a jail escapee from Sterling sleep in the schoolhouse one night and when he was found he had my red sweater he'd worn. I kept the sweater to wear at recess.

Another time we put out a fire a cigarette smoker started across from the schoolhouse. The highway went by and the "Dad's" cookie trucker always honked when he went by.

Two Kramer girls went to Sunnyside about six months and then moved. The older was Betty and the younger was Darlene. Darlene is dead. Betty lives in Washington state. Shirley Starnes of Yuma is their sister.

When I signed a contract it was for four months, or longer if State money became available. On thing we did to save money was gathering cow chips to heat the school. An 8th grade girl, Grace Merritt, brought a wagon and team of horses and on Friday afternoons we all picked up cow chips in the pasture next to the schoolyard. On one afternoon we gathered enough to keep the schoolhouse warm, as I remember we gathered two wagon loads and put them in the coal shed, so they'd keep dry. Chips furnished heat three times - when you gathered them, when you burned them, and when you carried out the ashes.

One day after the bell rang, Ruby, 3rd grade, didn't come in and I sent another 3rd grader, Sammy Merrill, out to see what happened to her. She had tied her horse on a long rope so it could eat grass and went to put him in the barn and another horse had kicked her. She got to the steps, bleeding, as she had been kicked near her mouth and one tooth was hanging loose. I told Sammy to run home - about 1/4 mile - and have his mother call Ruby's parents. When he got home, out of breath, his mother asked him why he had run so fast. He replied "Miss Oman told me to run." A neighbor had come with Ike Widgery, Ruby's dad, and she said "Oh, she'll be okay." And the neighbor said "we'd better take her to a doctor" and they did. She lost a tooth and never left a scar, so I was so glad. I guess the horse that kicked her never saw her come in the barn with her horse.

The first time I met Ruby Widgery was when she greeted me the first day of school with "G..G..Good Mo.. mor.. morning Mis mis Om Oman, is isn isn't s s sun be be beautiful?" I replied "It really is and what is your name?" She stuttered it out, but before Christmas she didn't stutter as I told her "Just don't try to talk fast." I felt good about helping her. She could read without any trouble. She also would stand at play and hold her hands out and thumb up and wiggle them and at the same time hold her mouth from side to side. One day I had her stay in with me and I stood and showed her how she looked and imitated her and she never did that any more.

One Friday afternoon I took all eight kids, not big ones, to Wray to rollerskate at Olive Lake, a little east of Wray. I liked to roller skate and spent lots of time there as did all my friends. The kids were having fun learning how to skate when one boy, Dean Merrill, broke his arm. We loaded up and went to Dr. Buchanan and he said he'd need permission from a parent before he could give him ether. We couldn't locate his dad, a trucker, and the doctor called Mrs. Merrill and she gave me permission to sign for her. Dean visited me Saturday, calling from Iowa, and I asked him if he remembered that. He replied "It was just as plain as if it was yesterday." Dean still keeps in touch with all his neighbors and friends - most are dead - today.

I moved one school district north to teach one year at Hillsdale. This had been a two-room school with high school taught in one room. They removed the partition and made one big room and bussed the high school kids to Wray.

It had a teacherage in the basement.

Burns - Ernest. The Burns lived six miles from school and they furnished some food and I kept their one boy, a beginner. One night he said "There's something cold in my bed" and it was a big bull snake who found an opening near a window. I told him to crawl in with me and the next night we went up to Brethowers to stay. The board members fixed the snake opening and we were never bothered. This boy, Ernest, was a real good student and became a close friend of my nephew Dean McGinnis, who was in trouble in Wray, so he came to go to school with me. He was good and liked school in the country. The first Spring after I was married in 1943 during the polio outbreak, Ernest died on the way to Denver to enter the hospital. He told his parents to stop on the way and he got out to roll in the ditch and died. I felt real bad as he was only 13 years old.

Rothenburger - or Rothenberger  - Mike, Leona, Babe. Mike was killed by lightning. Leona was a real good cake decorator and I don't know anything about Babe.

Carruthers - Wayne was an 8th grader and he hadn't missed a day of school until the Stock Show. His dad was on the school board, so they took me to the Stock Show and the rest got a vacation. They took us on an airplane ride over Denver from Stapleton airport near the city.

Probably the Lewis Carruthers family *the sixth photo on that page).

Day - LaVern. LaVern was a 6th grader and I'd go there often. He walked to school and is dead now. I kept in touch through his cousins here.

Brophy - Kenneth, Alfred, Arlene. Good kids and are all living.

O'Conner - Betty, Wayne. Their father was killed, got caught in a grain grinder and it was so hard to take for these kids. Wayne was fat and Betty was real cute. I think they moved to Holyoke.

 (Darrel Wayne O'Connor was born April 29, 1928 in Holyoke to Phillip and Goldie (Balderson) O'Connor. He died on December 11, 2010  in Loveland.. Darrel attended the country school in Yuma County through the eighth grace. On October 23, 1948 he married Clara Hagemann in Holyoke. Preceded in death by sister Betty who married Harry Stavropolous of Alliance, Nebraska.)

Lives Only Few Hours After Being Caught By Drive Shaft Of Engine

Funeral services were held Thursday afternoon at the home of the parents, Mr. and Mrs. A.J. O'Connor for their son, Philip, who died early Monday night from injuries suffered in a feed grinder accident. The funeral sermon was preached by Father Arthur Kerr of St. Patrick Catholic Church.

Burial was made in the Holyoke cemetery.

The accident occurred Monday afternoon while he was grinding feed at the O'Connor home. He was oiling the machinery when his clothing was caught by the drive shaft, the clothing being finally wound so tightly around the shaft that the engine was stalled.

Mr. O'Connor lived for several hours, but did not actually regain consciousness. He was severely injured in many places, and it was not definitely determined which of the injuries caused his death. Several ribs were broken as well as his jaw, while he suffered deep cuts and severe bruises on various parts of his body and head.

Mr. O'Connor was 32 years old, and is survived by his widow, two small children, besides his parents and other relatives. The family had long been residents of the Holyoke community.

NOTE: Died 8 Jan 1934; married Goldie L. Balderson.

Holyoke Enterprise
January 11, 1934

Wages offered me a school and I went there to teach in 1939. I'd attended the World Fair in New York City during the summer.

The first of school there was so different. The schoolhouse was small, skunks got under it and some days it was almost too stinky. A new schoolhouse, much bigger, was built to start school in the fall.

The kids told me they'd had sit-down strikes the year before and wouldn't come in when the bell rang. I was glad they were good for me and one mother asked her son, "How come you didn't do that this year?" Dean replied "We liked Miss Oman." There were lots of families.

Ted and Grace O'Neal - Betty and Dale

I stayed there and the kids and I did lots of things at home. Dale sawed on my pedal jig-saw, Betty and I embroidered. Their parents went to bed before we did. Grace would rise early, make our school lunches, and we never knew what we'd have as she made lunches fun with surprises. They were so good to me. I slept with Betty and she felt bad when I go married and told me one time "It took me a long time to like Bert and finally found out I could like him also."" I told Ted he ought to take Dale to the sale barn as he got his work done so much faster and neater than the other three boys in his class. He became a contractor and built a lot of nice homes in Holyoke. He still lives there.

Ted and Grace were in an accident and Ted died from injuries and Grace was hurt but lived until she was 93. I saw her often and we called each other and wrote often. She had a nice home in Holyoke built by Dale. Betty is alive, but not well, and lives in Holyoke with her husband, Max Brown.

Otto Schmidt- Clifford and Charles. Good ball players. Both married Spellman girls (Bob's sisters) and live in Haxtun and Wray.

Arby's - Lee, Gladys, Lois

All moved up by Loveland and all died with cancer. Good kids and well-dressed. Lois could play the piano well.

Pope - Dora, Danny, Lois, Kenneth

Kenneth went one year, Dora and Danny two, and Lois one year before they moved north of Wray. I see Lois once in a while..

Dora died in a car accident in Omaha. I never kept track of Danny or Kenneth but Lois married Dick Wisdom of Wray and is an active widow with several kids and grandkids.

Stauffer - Vivian and Dale. Vivian was a tall redheaded girl and went to me her 8th grade. Dale was a good-looking kid and went to me two years until his parents moved.

 (Viola Porter of Eugene died Jan. 24, 2007  She was born Aug. 15, 1923, in Haxtun, Colo., to Daniel and Vera Culp Stauffer. She married Leo Porter on Aug. 16, 1944, in Reno, Nev. He died March 7, 1998. Survivors include five daughters, Diana Waxler of Tacoma, Linda Barnett of Hermiston, Sharon Monroe and Carolyn Porter, both of Eugene, and Marilyn Serdar of Silverton; a son, James of Westfir; a brother, Dale Stauffer of Eugene)

Brown- Jack, Pat, Tommy.

Jack took the 8th grade again the first year I taught Wages. He ended up taking his own life a few years ago.

Pat was in the 6th grade to graduate in my last year. He married a Holyoke girl and I don't know where he lives.

I do not know about Tommy. He started to me in my first year there and was a real nice boy. He had a sticker and asked me to take it out. I got it out and he saw a little blood and he fell in my lap as he'd fainted. I told an older pupil to get some water and as soon as he threw the water on Tommy he was all right.

Larsen- Gwen, Delores, Martin, Joan, Mary, Emma

The Larsens ran the Wages store and post office. The store was about 1/5 mile north of the schoolhouse.

Gwen was an 8th grade student my first year at Wages. A very good looking and smart girl. She could write beautifully and went to the state spelling contest in Denver. They took me and she missed the word "etude" as she had never heard it. She married young and divorced after two boys.

Delores went to me all four years. A real nice and studious gal. She is a ranch owner in Nebraska with a nice family.

Martin is retired from a government job and he was smart.

Joan lives in Arizona. All the Larsens were good students.

Mary was real cute and went three years to me. She lives in Nebraska.

Emma also lives in Nebraska - north of North Platte.

O'Neal - Nadine was an 8th grade student the first year I taught. She was Ted's half-sister as his mother died when he was young and his dad married Hannah Schmidt. After her husband died she worked for Mr. Salvador, who lived near the Wages store and owned the land on which the Wages church was built.

Nadine was a real talker and learned a recitation "Chewing Gum" and she made all kinds of gestures and won a ribbon at Track Meet (also called Achievement Day) for it.

McCormick- Dean went to me two years - a good student. Dean married a girl from Clarkville and lives in Denver. Last I knew of him he was grandfather to triplets.

Larry went three years to me - a real cute boy. Larry died young.

Lyle McCormick went one year and he really had an imagination. He told outlandish stories. He was a cousin to Dean and Larry.

(In 2014 he said " When I was on the playground I pushed a girl down. When I came in from recess Miss Oman slapped me across the face but never said a word to me. I never said anything to her either Because I knew exactly why it happened. I was a high Spirited boy! Still laughs about it at 83.")

Salvador - Harry, Bill, Frank

Harry was an 8th grader the first year I taught Wages. He was a big kid and a good kid. Married a nice girl who lived in Haxtun. They farmed near Clarkville and always spent the winter in Arizona. She died about a year ago with cancer. She could really play the piano. I see Harry when he visits Perk here at Parrish Assisted Living.

Bill was a perfect student - quiet, honest and so good looking. He and his wife both died of cancer.

Frank was musical. He'd rather listen to Lois Schmidt play the piano than play during recess. He was a beginner the last year I taught there and was a good student. He still plays and sings well for church. They spend the winters in Arizona as they own a home there. He lives on the old Salvador place north of Wages. There's nothing at Wages any more. The church is used by a group who have a church meeting every other Wednesday.



Contributed after Jennie's death. - written in 2004

Return to:  Yuma County Data


Sam K. Merrill

  • BORN: June 29, 1927
  • DIED: January 25, 2010
  • LOCATION: Kellerton, IA
Sam K. Merrill, youngest child of Forest R. & Lucile (McCreary) Merrill, was born June 29, 1927 at the home on a ranch north of Wray, Colorado. He departed this life on January 25, 2010 at the Mount Ayr Health Care Center in Mount Ayr at the age of 82 years.
He attended country school through the eighth grade and graduated from Wray High School in 1944. After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served the American and Asiatic Pacific during World War II. After returning from the service, he came to Kellerton, Iowa where his parents had moved. Here he would meet his lovely wife Beverly Jackson and they were married May 27, 1949 in Blanchard, Iowa. Together they made Kellerton their home through many happy years. Sam drove a fuel truck for Kellerton Oil Company for several years and in February 1965, he was appointed Postmaster of the Kellerton Post Office, serving there until his retirement in1990.
He was a member of the Kellerton United Methodist Church, served 25 years as a volunteer fireman, and was on the Kellerton American Legion Post #676 firing squad for 50 years. Sam & Bev were married 56 years before her passing.
Preceding him in death were his wife Bev in 2005; his parents, Forest in 1962 and Lucile in 1983; brother Maynard in 1987; brother-in-law Clifford Allen in 1987; and a sister, Phyllis, in infancy.
Those left to cherish his memory include his sister Esther Allen and a brother Dean Merrill & wife Rose, all of Kellerton; brother-in-law Park Jackson & wife Ina of Omaha, NE; numerous nieces, nephews, and many dear friends.

Sam K. Merrill