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Eliza Moore: Pioneer Schoolteacher


Peggy Symington

Senior High Division


Miss Eliza Moore died December 13, 1971. However, she liveson in the memories of many persons. She is probably remembered the mostand the best for her many years as a schoolteacher in the Red River Valley.

Eliza Jane Moore was born January 1, 1882, in Clow Township,Kittson County, Minnesota. Her parents, William Moore and Sarah DonnellyMoore, were born in Ireland. Eliza had one older brother, William Jr. Severalyears later, Mary Elizabeth was born.

Eliza's Irish parents believed "to spare the rod willspoil the child," (1) consequently, she had quite a strict upbringing.The family lived on the ridge north of Orleans, Minnesota, where Eliza'sfather owned a lime kiln. There, he made lime for plastering houses andbuilding chimneys.

Mr. Moore died when Eliza was thirteen years old. Mrs.Moore then moved her family to John Sr.'s farm, which was about eight mileseast of St. Vincent on the Joe River. Mrs. Moore worked on the farm, andEliza and Mary went to school in the spring and fall. However, the two girlsworked on the farm whenever they weren't in school. During harvest time,Eliza even helped shock wheat, which was a hard job for a girl.

The next spring, Eliza finished the eighth grade, the highestgrade then taught at that school. School teachers were rather scarce inthe area, so she decided to take a teacher's examination and get a teachingcertificate. Actually, she was only fifteen years old and the law requireda person to be sixteen to teach. However, the law wasn't enforced too well;therefore, Eliza passed the examination. No one worried about her age. Shewas hired to teach in a school near Pelan, Minnesota.

Eliza taught two terms at Pelan. Each term consisted ofthree months in the spring and two months in the fall. Every Friday afterschool her brother, William, drove the horse and buggy thirty miles eachway to take her home for the weekends. During the week, she boarded withMr. and Mrs. Joe Pinchle and their two small girls.

Eliza had to walk some distance to the school, becauseshe was boarding in Roseau County and teaching school in Kittson County.

The school in which she taught was very small, and allof the furniture was homemade. The desks and seats were long board plankswhich were fastened up against the walls. Eliza did all of her own janitorwork. She started the fire in the old wood stove every morning, which meantthat she had to get there some time ahead of her pupils in order to havethe schoolhouse warm enough for them. Usually, the older boys kept a goodsupply of wood at the schoolhouse, so she didn't have to worry about that.

However, Eliza was carrying a big load on her shouldersfor a fifteen year old girl. She was the only teacher for grades one througheight. She had to divide her time and attention between fifty-five students.Sometimes it was hard to discipline a student who was only a bit youngerthat she was, but she did her best. She often kept her students after schoolif they didn't get their work done. One time, she kept a seven year oldboy after school. He wasn't very happy about it, and as he left, he calledher a bad name. He started running for home, and Eliza chased after him.She was a swift runner and easily overtook him. At first, he pretended hehadn't done anything, but then when he saw that he would never convinceher, he begged for mercy, saying that he would never do such a thing again.Eliza said, "I don't think you will do it again after I get throughwith you." Then she dragged him back the schoolhouse and paddled himwith a board. I'm quite sure that he never again called Eliza Moore names.

Eliza's actual teaching and what she had to work with certainlywas different from today's methods and teaching aids. The schools had veryfew textbooks; therefore, the children had to share what there was. Elizacopied arithmetic problems from her book onto the blackboards, and thenher pupils copied them onto their papers. She drilled the children at theblackboards quite a bit, especially in spelling and arithmetic. For subjects,such as, science and history, the schools provided charts and maps. A chartis something like a large book with large pictures and print. It sits ona stand, and the pages have to be turned over the top. They are still usedtoday in a few schools.

The first term she taught at Pelan, Eliza was paid thirtydollars per month for teaching, and she paid eight dollars per month forher board and meals. The second term, her board went up two dollars permonth, and she got a raise of five dollars per month.

After Eliza finished her two terms at Pelan, she taughtfor thirty-eight more years in Kittson County, and fourteen years elsewherein the Red River Valley. She even taught in a Canadian school for one term,but she didn't like it too well. Throughout her fifty-four year teachingcareer she never once had to have a substitute teacher fill in for her.

Some of the schools in which she taught were Robbin, Grampian,Joe River, and also rural schools near Lake Bronson, Detroit Lakes, Roseau,Karlstad, and Greenbush. She also taught in the Northcote and St. Vincentgrade schools.

Eliza tried just about every way of getting to the schoolswhere she taught. At Pelan, she walked. However, in later years, she eitherdrove a horse and buggy, rode a horse, or drove her car. During the GreatDepression, she even rode a bicycle because gas was so hard to get. Wherevershe taught, Eliza always preferred the higher grades. She said, "Theyare more on my own level. I can get across to them (the students) betterwhat I need to teach them." (2)

Eliza enjoyed the social life involved with teaching. Onceor twice a year she gave a program. Each child had to give either a dialogueor a recitation. All of the parents came, and sometimes there was food afterwards.

Box socials were another social activity. Each of the ladiesdecorated a box with flowers, ribbons, and streamers. Into the box wenta lunch which she fixed. At the schoolhouse, the boxes were auctioned off.To get a box, a bidder usually had to pay one or two dollars. However, ifa box was extremely popular (Hint: that made by a pretty young lady) pricessoared as the young men tried to outbid each other.

Between terms, Eliza went to summer school and took highschool review courses. After she finished high school, she got a collegeeducation and graduated from Moorhead Teacher's College. However, Elizadidn't think her extra schooling made her a much better teacher. She thoughtthat experience was the most important in the making of a good teacher.

Eliza Moore enjoyed her career as a school teacher. Shesaid that if she had her life to live over, she would again choose to bea school teacher.

April first, 1970, Eliza Moore was taken to the KittsonCounty Rest Home in Hallock, Minnesota. She was there for only nine anda half months. On December 13, 1971, her life and her courageous teachingcareer ended.

(1) An old proverb.

(2) Eliza Moore, St. Vincent, MN, Interview by Martha Roberts,November 10, 1968


Moore, Eliza, St. Vincent, MN, Interview by Martha Roberts,November 10, 1968

Reese, Howard, Humboldt, MN, Interview, January 27, 1975

"The Whip", 1957, pp. 2-3

Turner, John Jr., St. Vincent, MN, Interview, January 25,1975

IZE=+1>"The Whip", 1957, pp. 2-3

Turner, John Jr., St. Vincent, MN, Interview, January 25,1975