This hotel, which according to contemporary description rivaled Chicago's finest, had been built to attract the county seat to Secor. The first school in Secor itself was taught by William Hendron in 1857. The 1878 record showed about 956 pupils and seven school districts in Palestine Township.
Reverend Abner Peeler taught the first school in Kansas Township in 1850, located near the cabin of Zachariah Brown. The township had grown to three districts with 270 pupils by 1878. The first school in Kappa was conducted in Caleb Horn's home in 1854 by Mrs. Ann Dewey, a sister-in-law of Admiral George Dewey's grandfather. Teachers who followed her included Mrs. Jane Dixon, Henry Tracy and Mrs. Louise Tucker. Kappa's school district was organized in 1855, the schoolhouse being the typical log cabin type with seats made by driving sticks for legs into planks, with boards braced against the walls for desks for the older children. Matilda Hassom was Kappa District School's first teacher, and opened the 1856 term in the new log schoolhouse. In 1864 a new building was erected and the old one moved two miles west to the Boyd farm.
Jane Nesmith was the first teacher in the schoolhouse built in Panola village in 1857. It cost $600 and was paid for by subscriptions which were later refunded to the donors. Panola Township grew by leaps and bounds and boasted five schools in 1864, eight in 1865, and ten in 1878. These districts were laid out and the schoolhouses built as the population increases demanded. It was not unusual for families in the early days to have ten and twelve children. Mrs. Ida C. Blackmore says there were so many children (many of them Blackmores and Punkes) going to the old Pauley School that they had to sit three and four in the old double seats.
Many amusing stories are told about these early rural settlement schools, one being about the neighborhood demand for a change in location of the schoolhouse to a point nearer the center of population. When the settler for whom the school was named refused to consent to its removal from his land, it was mysteriously spirited away in the dark of the moon to a remote corner of his farm, but more easily accessible to his neighbor's children.
The districts were for the most part named for the early settler who gave the land for the school. The ten districts in Panola township in 1878 were as follows: Panola, Hilsabeck, Shaw, Pauley, De Vries, McOmber, Hodgson, Bassett, Roth and Punke. Nine of these still remained to be absorbed into the El Paso Unit School District in 1949. The report of 1878, showed 490 pupils in these ten districts. Mrs. Lloyd Taylor of Panola has in her possession the old school schedules, giving lists and ages of children and the names of teachers, dating from October 1, 1864. Mrs. Della Stretch is no doubt the earliest of these teachers still living. She began teaching in the Thorpe School in 1876 at the age of sixteen.
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