Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cleveland School and E C Cunningham

This weather makes one want to sit in a chair near the fire and read a good book. Have you read the Society’s book, Readin, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic, Early Schools in Lawrence County, Il? It is still only $42.50 and can be purchased on the website, at the museum or at the genealogical library.   With over 250 photographs, it tells the story of the early country schools.

Cleveland School #47 was located on the southwest corner of the intersection of Sand Barrens Lane 200N and Hopewell Road 20E.  One of the county’s earliest schools, Jordan and Mary Pickering sold the property where the first school stood for five dollars on Oct 19, 1849.  Thirty five years later in 1884, James and Permelia Corrie sold ½ acre for 30 dollars north of this old school closer to Ruark for a newer school to be built.   The school was probably named after President Cleveland who served 1885-1889 and 1903-1897. 

E Coen Cunningham taught 51 students during the 1909 term and 40 students during the 1920 term. In 1923 Raymond Couch was hired to teach the student body which then had dropped to 20 students. The doors were closed at the end of the 1947 term and the building itself moved and added to the White Hall school building to become Lukin Consolidated School District #2. 

In 2002 Bill Hudspeth wrote a letter describing the school in the ‘30’s. He said we would have trouble find photographs of the school at that time because film was expensive, costing a quarter a roll and with developing and printing adding another 25-30 cents,  people just didn’t have big money like that then.   

Bill:  “When the depression caused many of the businesses in Bridgeport to go broke, my father took the job of running the store at Ruark. Mot many will remember Ruark by that name.  It had the nickname of Petersburg and a lot of times was called Hopewell, after the church that was there. 

The children (in that area) attended Cleveland School, a half mile north of the store.  Most of the time there were about 20 students.  I was there just two years ’32 and ’33.  I took the sixth grade, and then because I would have been the only one in the seventh, I skipped on to the eighth grade. During that time E C Cunningham was the County Superintendent of Schools, and one of the most memorable in Lawrence County history.  He visited every school in the county (76 of them) it seemed to me at least twice a year.  He was, which was rather rare then, a fitness advocate, and he had a standing offer of a silver dollar which was two days pay for some jobs, for any boy who could walk across his schoolyard on his hands. Mr. Cunningham could do it. I watched.

He was also a master story teller.  I remember best his story about the young teacher who took a school which was haunted by the ghost of a girl who had died while a student there. Her ghost came back wanting her doll and her book.

Mr. Cunningham personally filled out the certificates for perfect attendance and spelling. I got some for spelling, but none for attendance. He used India ink, and beautiful shade writing. Those certificates were works of art.


Cleveland has been gone for several years now.  The last time I was there, the road had been widened, and the exact spot where the school had been was, I believe, under the road.”