|A Rural Survey of Morgan County, Missouri (1916)||<Previous|
(Edited and compiled by W. L. Nelson, Assistant Secretary Missouri State Board of Agriculture, Columbia, Mo., from information supplied by M. Wray Witten, superintendent public schools, Morgan county, Missouri, and the teachers and pupils of the public schools of Morgan county.)
Credit for this bulletin, which represents the first effort made in Missouri to secure a rural survey, such survey to be exclusively the work of the people of the county, those actually on the ground and best acquainted with local conditions, is due Prof. M. Wray Witten, superintendent of public schools, Morgan county, Missouri, and to the teachers and pupils of the county.
Too much cannot be said in praise of the work of all the faithful folk who have had a part in the preparation of the material entering into these pages. From the first, the spirit of co-operation was the finest, and the enthusiasm shown by county superintendent, teachers and pupils was commendable. As the object was not to secure material for a "booster" bulletin of the county, nor to show only one side of rural life, but to hold up, as it were, a mirror in which rural life as it is lived might be seen, this co-operation on the part of the educational interests of the county is most pleasing.
Superintendent Witten is a native of Morgan county, having been born in Versailles December 28, 1877. The opportunities that came to him in early life were not as good as those enjoyed by the average boy of the county. When he was eleven years old his father died, leaving a wife and six children. Yet young Witten, with characteristic pluck and determination, pursued his studies, first in the Versailles public schools and later in the University of Missouri. He began teaching when seventeen years of age. Three years later he was appointed a member of the board of examiners of Morgan county. After teaching for ten years, either as principal or city superintendent [p.7] of the Versailles schools, he resigned in order to enter upon the duties as county superintendent. This was in 1909. This position he still holds, and in this connection it is interesting to note that each time he has been elected without opposition.
It was while Mr. Witten was attending the summer school at the State University in 1914 that the idea of making a rural survey of the county was suggested to him by the Assistant Secretary of the Board of Agriculture. After talking the matter over with representatives of the State Board of Agriculture and of the College of Agriculture, Mr. Witten determined to undertake the work, provided it met with the approval of his home people, and especially with the teachers of the county. In the meantime, he had been assured that if he would secure material for a bulletin which would represent a rural survey of the county the State Board of Agriculture would be glad to tabulate the figures and data and publish the bulletin.
At the August, 1914, meeting Mr. Witten laid the plans for the proposed bulletin before the teachers of the county. In speaking of the presentation of the question to the teachers Mr. Witten says, "Each teacher entered into the task with much earnestness and gave me his hearty co-operation, as has always been done in any new plans of work such as I might suggest."
"The patrons of the county in most cases," continued Mr. Witten, "were very enthusiastic over the work and gave their hearty support, and a number of business men and the Commercial Club of Versailles did much to help the work by offering premiums along certain lines to stimulate interest in the survey. Without this aid, and it represents efforts which are greatly appreciated, we would not be able to furnish the material for this bulletin."
Missouri State Board of Agriculture Monthly Bulletin Vol. XIV, No. 2 (February, 1916): A Rural Survey of Morgan County Missouri. Digital version © 2001 Peter Binkley; permission to reproduce for non-commercial purposes is granted.