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Columbus C. Botner

Submitted by: Cindy Taylor-Matuse, 11/4/2007
  
The Clintonian, June 7, 1912

Pays Tribute to Late C.C. Botner - People in Clinton and vicinity who knew the family of the late C.C. Botner, of the Center neighborhood, or who know his family, will find the letter below, which is self explanatory, of much interest. The letter comes from a woman now prominent in Chicago, and reads:

Editor, Big Sandy News, Louisa, Kentucky

It is ever with a tinge of sadness, an awakening of slumbering memories, that, week after week as the News reaches me, I read in the death of many of the older residents of Lawrence county which was my home for so many years; especially those whom my father and mother were so closely associated with during their lifetime. But an account of the late Columbus C. Botner of Clinton, Indiana, and former resident of Lawrence county, in a recent issue of the News, recalled to my mind the early days of my childhood life in Kentucky more vividly, perhaps, than the passing away of any of the older residents for many years; for he was not only my father's friend and neighbor, but he was my first teacher, and what one of us has ever forgotten that memorable day our first day at school, and our first teacher? The day we cease to be a baby, and become the proud possessor of a book. Although scarcely more than five years of age, under the guardianship of three "big" brothers I was allowed to attend school. The little, log school house with its roughly hewn benches, the open fire places, a wooden pail of water standing in one corner of the room with a tin cup as a drinking receptacle, the dinner pails and red apples in the other, how vividly the scene comes back to me when I am so forcibly reminded, by the removal by death of the central figure which composed the picture of that, to me, memorable day? I remember the sensations of that morning "as clearly as though it had been but yesterday."

We were strangers in that part of the country, my father having been lured to the mountains from our Virginia home in search of health. The physician which had urged his removal there _____ much of the pine trees, the healing qualities of the smell of the pines, ect., and I remember of always looking for pines and how often I saw what the other children called "rock houses" or cliffs, for I had grown to be very much afraid of them, each one having securely attached to its own peculiar ghost story by the children of the neighborhood; but there was one, where the headless man dwelt and where he must pass several times each day, where a small cavity in the rock permitted his ghostlike for to emerge and stand solemnly before the passersby which perhaps held the greatest terror for me. Just why I should have been afraid of a headless man I do not know; I do know that I was not only afraid that morning but many other mornings; but the joy of going to school overshadowed even this grim terror.

One of the lessons learned from Mr. Botner, as a teacher, the first few days after my entrance there as a pupil, made such a lasting impression upon my youthful mind that it unconsciously became a part of myself. I had been told at home that "I must be a good little girl at school," and obey every word my teacher said, especially that I should not whisper during study hours. But the big girls had a habit of placing their books in front of their faces and talking to me and I, not knowing how to dissemble, looked up and talked back to them before I could think of rules. During the first week Mr. Botner motioned me to come to him. Calling me gently by name he said, "you must not whisper to Martha; and if the girls talk to you, you should tell me." I returned to my seat Martha's book was quickly elevated to hide her lip movements and the question, "What did the teacher say to you?" Forgetting again, I looked up and told her; at the same time catching my teacher's eye and I think partly comprehending my position. Calling to Martha who was perhaps sixteen or seventeen years of age, he summoned her to where he was sitting and questioned her. At first she denied having asked me the question, but finally admitted it and was told to remain standing in a corner of the room for a certain length of time as a punishment. She was very angry and insisted that I also whispered; and then my teacher made the following statement which has meant so much to me both in private and public life: "Yes, I know she talked but she did not know any better I am going to teach the better by making an example of you; for you did know better and were willfully trying to lead her in the same path," or words to that effect.

Now this is the point that so deeply impressed me; first, he placed me upon my honor and then, in the language of the present day, he punished the one "higher up." What the effect might have been had he humiliated me by a punishment at that time, I do not know, I do know that never again, either in public or private school, did I whisper, without the permission of my teacher; and my respect for all teachers was so great that I never once gave them cause to censure me. May digress her long enough to say that this was mainly due, the first few years, to the fact that on the following morning my mother removed the greater part of this temptation by sending my little chair to the school room where I sat very close to my teacher and as far away from temptation as possible.

Later, when I became a mother of children myself, during my entire three years of service as a teacher in the public schools of Lawrence county, I kept this method ever before me; compel obedience and good behaviour, if it must be done from the other pupils and the younger ones will require little discipline.

During the last two years as president of the Children's Day Association in Chicago (an organization which has for its sole aim the preservation of children being taken from the mother where not cause existed save that of poverty) one thousand six hundred and three families, mostly fatherless have been referred to me for aid assistance in one form or another, this one thousand six hundred three families representing more than four thousand children under fourteen years of age. That is seven per cent of the families hated by the society have "many can be attributed mainly to the _______ that we believed in their ability to suceed and that it was a pleasure for us to place them on their feet again.

And so, as I lay my tribute, love, and respect at the feet of the dead, Mr. Columbus C. Botner, my first teacher, whose wise _____ guidance in the beginning of my school life meant so much to me that, I add, to my last teacher, that the living teacher Prof. G. Milton Elain, whose many years of constant work among us made it possible for me to find the stepping stone that hitherto I had only dreamed. Long may you live to reap the harvest of your good works; and may all the joy, the happiness, the richness of the fullness of life made possible to the many men and women under your wise guidance, be reflected in you - A friendly greeting to all my former school-mates and friends where ever they may be. Melva Gartin Funk; 4116 Prairie Avenue; Chicago, Illinois