After a short time there were so many claims taken around Beloit that the homesteaders began to think they must make some provision for the education of their children, so the men in the various districts began to agitate the schoolhouse question. Before many years went by every few miles of the settlers’ territory boasted some kind of a schoolhouse; sometimes it was a dugout; sometimes sod or stone; rarely was it a frame building. In most cases a lot of the work was donated and at first the wages of the more or less (often less), competent school teacher would be paid by the patrons of the school.
As times were hard and money very scarce we could only have in those days, three or four months school in the year but somehow we managed to pick up some knowledge in books and oh, we learned so many things by experience!
They tell us that “experience” is the best of teachers but the homesteaders were glad indeed when, after a few years had rolled around, the one-room house that had given shelter so long to him and his had given way to a comfortable frame building with room enough to allow some degree of comfort. With the coming of better residences came better out-buildings, more and better farm machinery and consequently better crops and increased acreage.
The rude schools were replaced by neat frame buildings, undressed stone with clean walls, modern seats (pioneer seats were made mostly of slabs with legs stuck in holes bored in the four corners) and suitable school equipment.
Those early days were indeed hard days but they were not altogether void of pleasure. There were times when we gave ourselves over to having a “good time,” when, for a season at least, we forgot the difficulties of the strenuous life and really DID enjoy ourselves. One of these times was our Fourth of July celebration. In 1872, I think it was, we had grown so numerous that it was decided we ought to celebrate the Glorious Fourth and celebrate we did! Local talent furnished the music and everybody joined in the good times. Many of us had not bought a new dress or hat since leaving the East, but that kept none away. The girls, many of them, trimmed over old hats, did up nicely an old dress, and hied away early in order to get in a whole day’s fun! The styles of dress at that celebration were as varied as the wearers; the women and many of the girls wore sun bonnets and I saw an old fashioned “shaker” or two doing duty that day.
How our band did play! The instruments of music were a fife and drum! How proudly our flags waved! The large one was a homemade one that some of the women had made for the occasion and many smaller ones had been resurrected and procured in various ways. How proud we were of our procession and how patriotic we felt! Especially we children. We thought the popping of our firecrackers quite as important as had been the firing on Fort Sumter! And the fireworks! Never had we seen such a brilliant display, never did rockets go so high, nor appear so bright! It all seemed very grand then and I doubt if any who attended that celebration ever experienced the keen enjoyment again that the pioneer did on that long-to-be-remembered day!