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McDonald Tales | MT10 | William McDonald in school
The school coach covered rural roads
William’s early school years
William McDonald was able to attend the first year at the Patton School in Oak Springs in the fall of 1870. He was six years of age. Charlotte Crane, his neighbor from “across the road” (about three-quarters of a mile, perhaps), same age, same class, attended as well. They were picked up each day, near their farm homes, by the horse-drawn ‘school coach.’ This was one of two specially designed and built carriages from Levi Weston that made transportation to the central school possible for the rural students. As neighbors, their parents were close friends; William and Charlotte knew each other well already as they entered school for the first time. The ride to and from school just added one more layer of common experiences to their young lives.
In school, their teacher was Miss Nellie Truesdale. She was a younger sister of William’s mother, Jane, and frequent visitor at the McDonald farm. William and Charlotte were challenged to remember to refer to her as Miss Truesdale and not the more familiar ‘Nellie’ or ‘Aunt Nellie’ which they had normally called her at home. In their first six years of school there was only one other student their age, in their class, and that was Vic Campbell. He lived just west of town whereas William and Charlotte lived a few miles east of town. Although he lived in a farmhouse, his parents each worked in town. He rode to town in their carriage with them each day, and they dropped him off at the school. William, Charlotte and Vic were each good students, from supportive families, and each excelled in their schoolwork. It was what was expected, and so that was how it worked out.
In the fall of 1876, Kate King, a new girl in town, joined these three students in the 7th grade. Kate and her family lived on a farm about a mile further west of town than Vic’s family. They had all met, and became somewhat acquainted at the monthly Fourth Sunday social events in Oak Springs. All four families were regular participants. The Kings had arrived in late spring, so there had five such gatherings by the time the fall school term began. Kate might have felt like an outsider, but, because Charlotte was warm and inviting from their first meeting, the two girls became close friends. Kate had even already spent a weekend ‘sleep-over’ at Charlotte’s home before school began. It was during ‘girl-talk’ at this sleepover that Charlotte declared to Kate: “I am going to marry William McDonald one day.” With hardly a moment of hesitation Kate replied, “Well, then, I shall marry Vic Campbell one day, as well.” With that, they made their pact. From that day forward, they each carefully pursued their respective goals, whether the young men of their attention actually realized it or not.
They were old friends
The Formative Years moved along
William’s mother and father, Jane and Daniel, had become very active in supported the idea of getting a High School started in Oak Springs by the time William was ready for the 9th grade. Thomas Crane and his wife, Grace, were also totally involved. Not surprisingly, two other families actively involved were Ralph and Sally Campbell and Karl and Katherine King, parents of Vic and Kate, respectively. Jane, Thomas and Karl took leadership roles, while Ralph, by now about to become President of the local Bank, following his father, worked on the financing behind the scenes. Their work paid off, as their four children became four of the five members of the Freshman Class of the new Oak Springs High School when it opened in the fall of 1878 (John Carver had joined them in the eighth grade). Thomas Crane served as President of the School Board that also included Karl King, Jane McDonald, Charlotte Truesdale and Russell Nixon.
Jane and Daniel were proud of the accomplishments of their son, as well as his classmates. They also recognized that at 13 going on 14 things were going to be changing with the four, now five, classmates. The young ladies were already exhibiting the physical changes that always occured in their gender earlier than in their male counterparts. Jane and Daniel had regular chats with William about the changes that were coming, and also recognized the changes in relationships that were likely to come next. Their ‘advice’ was to go along with the attention that he could expect from his ‘best friend,’ Charlotte, but realize that it was his responsibility to say ‘No’ if anything inappropriate came into their lives. He thought he understood, but was wary of everything occurring around him, at school as well as on the carriage and in other activities. With a good relationship built with his parents, William took several occasions to talk to them about things he saw and heard that he did not understand. They were very understanding and helpful. They hoped this would continue, and be enough to carry him through these possibly treacherous years.
The other aspect of life that Jane and Daniel worked hard to help William to understand was the responsibilities he would have, as he grew older. As an only child of increasingly successful parents, on the farm, and in the community, he would one day inherit a substantial ‘life’ assuming he demonstrated the ability and the willingness to do so. They were confident he would.
They were a rural success story
William was diligent; would it be enough?
As their years in High School progressed, William and Charlotte, along with Vic and Kate, as well as John Carver, were very competitive academically, as they had always been. Each took a personal pride in doing their very best. Their teachers could hardly believe what they were seeing. Socially, the two couples grew slowly but surely into maturing young couples, beginning to realize what the future could hold for each of them if they made the right decisions. John Carver also realized that he had a strong future ahead, as well. He would be going off to college. This was an unusual and gratifying opportunity that he grew to appreciate. His uncle, Zane Carver, was a merchant in St. Louis, and had arranged for him to come live with his family and attend the business and economics program at Washington University. This was the same school where Vic Campbell would be attending the eighteen-month banking program before returning to work in the hometown bank of this father and grandfather.
William and Charlotte, as their senior year of high school got underway, were talking about how they would be spending the next two or three years preparing themselves to become the kind of community leaders that each of their parents were. And they knew, by doing it right, they would be successful at it, as well.
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Note from Author
With MT10 we return to considerations of young William McDonald now in school. Some details of this McDonald Tale (MT7) have been told in the short story collection, “American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)” but here we are seeing the activity through the eyes of Jane, Daniel, and William McDonald, along with new material and insights. Some details in this story were also introduced in the Levi Weston series (Lx) of the Weston Wagons West series of stories. See Related Stories in the sidebar. Here we learn new behind-the-scene insights about this family. These Tales are a part of “The Homeplace Saga” series of stories.
“The Homeplace Saga” family saga, historical fiction stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”
This is "The Homeplace Saga" series of family saga, historical fiction stories of the McDonald family
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The home blog for "The Homeplace Saga" series of family saga, historical fiction stories set in the southern Missouri Ozarks. All updates of the series are mentioned here, regardless of platform.