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McDonald Tales - MT10 - William McDonald in school

Updated on November 16, 2017
Homeplace Series profile image

Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

The school coach covered rural roads

A country road in the fall of the year
A country road in the fall of the year | Source

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

A captioned pillow
A captioned pillow | Source

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

A rich grassy set of fields in the valley
A rich grassy set of fields in the valley | Source

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.

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.”

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    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      This whole series is dedicated, Sha, to demonstrating that there were serious thinking folks who were at the heart of developing this particular valley, these particular families. Many facets are drawn from my own family, who took that position very seriously, even as youth.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Yes, Dora, this series is attempting to examine life of these folks as young people. We so often think of our ancestors only as old people. They were each young, too, and had very distinctive experiences.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      Teenagers were so grown up in those days. Although I made getting good grades a priority when I was in school and had thoughts of what I wanted to do career-wise when I grew up, I didn't concentrate on the responsibilities of being a grown-up; they completely eluded me.

      Then again, people married very young in the 1800s, didn't they? They had to learn responsibility. I don't mean making sure your chores were done, I'm talking about the heavy responsibilities we bear once we become homeowners and parents.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      I like the happy focus on the children: going to school in a horse-drawn 'school coach'; the sleep-over conversation, watching them grow. Meanwhile we're learning about life back then. Very interesting!

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Larry, I've done a lot of research to try to make these stories reasonably accurate. I'm sure I've erred, in some ways, but not because I didn't try. Thanks for your comments and the visit!! ;-)

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Among the craftsmen in the community are Levi Wilson and Owen Olson. I enjoy writing about them, as well. The academic high achievers are few and far between... just happened to have five in one class. Very unusual, for sure. ;-)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      I'm a former teacher, so it is fascinating to learn about how schools functioned in this era.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Seriously determined children. I never was like that academically. I had things to accomplish, but not things connected to book learning. In the old days I probably would have been a craftsman. :)


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