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 Beautiful Belmont, Part 34 -- Martins Ferry High School.

by John Salisbury Cochran.

See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 33 -- The Abolitionist Movement.

My early struggles for an education were somewhat discouraging. After going as far as I could in the local country school, I attended the high school at Martins Ferry, about two miles from our home over the hills. The walks on some occasions were quite laborious.

As my services were needed on the farm, I was compelled to work there in the summer and fall. When I returned to school in the winter, I would start in with my old classes, and also have to catch up my studies from where I had left off at the close of the winter before. This gave me double duty, and with the long walks, was quite hard on me. With the kind assistance of my teacher, however, and my good classmates, whom I still remember and love tenderly, I ultimately pulled through.

I remember young ladies like Mary M. Newland, Jennie Millhouse, Eliza Park, Lizzie Alexander, Martha Griffith, Mary and Nannie Eagleson, Carrie Wood, Jennie Bone, Mary McCord, Nettie Rice, Sarah Wood, Emma Fisher, and Rachel Hoyle. Of my male classmates there were Eb. Woods, Charles Wood, John Park, David Wagner, Alfred Bell, Eugene Rice, and James Van Pelt. My dear friend John Park lost his life in my regiment at the battle of Stone River, fighting for his country and the rights of the oppressed during the Civil War. To school superintendents Sharpless, Kirk, Laird, Wheeler, and Shreve, the Martins Ferry schools can point with pride, but to the 29 years of unremitting toil and matchless work of Charles R. Shreve belongs the reward of boundless praise for bringing our schools to their highest degree of excellence. No man has so decidedly stamped his sterling integrity and intelligence on the present citizenship of Martins Ferry; we are not likely to see his equal. To Mrs. C.R. Shreve, Miss Mattie Dakin, and Miss Sarah Coffin, high school teachers, I am deeply indebted for their remarkable kindness and voluntary toil in aiding me to keep up with my classes under such adverse circumstances.

Literary Societies

At the time of the administrations of these schools under Mr. Wheeler and Miss Dakin, a literary society was formed and conducted in the high school which obtained a wide reputation. Much literary and educational talent from Wheeling, Martins Ferry, Bridgeport, and Mt. Pleasant belonged to the society and participated in its meetings, many of the members being ministers, lawyers, doctors, professors, teachers, and business men. The meetings were held every two weeks and a paper was read each evening by a lady and gentleman as editors, having been appointed at the preceding meeting.

Anyone could have the privilege of contributing, and on one occasion Miss Kate Martin, a granddaughter of the heroic and remarkable Elizabeth Zane, along with our own brother Robert, were the editors. Miss Martin had the picture of a thistle drawn on the outside of her paper with the motto, "The Thistle," in large letters in crescent shape around and over the thistle. On arising to read, she exposed these to the full view of the audience, saying, "The Thistle, and I presume the audience will immediately recognize our meaning by the appropriateness of our title." As the thistle is food only for donkeys, the joke was, of course, on the audience, which evidently enjoyed it quite as much as the Miss Martin, judging from the applause.

The Mountain View Literary Society at Blackford's schoolhouse, about one mile west of the tavern, organized in the early 1850s and, continuing for somewhat over eleven years, was a forum for much literary culture and educational debate for the whole vicinity. Other societies of like nature were organized and continued with similar success at Farmington, Steels, and other places. Some fine debaters and speakers were turned out from these societies. Of those at Farmington, Corwin and Charles Dungan, Dr. Isaac and Captain Alexis Cope, and Sylvester Brown were among the best. At Steels, L.J.C. Drennen, E.J.A. Drennen, M.C. Mitchell, Wesley Steel, and Nelson Theaker were the champions. At Blackford's, R.H. Cochran, John Brown, Joseph Swindler, Alexander McBridge, Oliver Griffith, Reuben K. Ashton, George Ashton, Chas. B. Chandler, John Smith, and James Van Pelt were the most formidable. As a result of the experience offered by such societies, Farmington and Steels produced two lawyers each and Blackford's four lawyers and two judges.

Some very hotly contested challenge debates took place at times between these societies, and friendly associations and attachments were formed thereby which lasted a lifetime, and are affectionately treasured by all to this day. Mrs. Sarah F. Pratt, wife of Doctor Daniel Pratt, was our first secretary at the Mountain View Literary Society, and much is due to this intelligent woman in its initiation and organization. Isaac Ashton, Joseph Chandler, and Robert Blackford were mainly its presidents, the former serving faithfully and efficiently for many years. Our sister Lucelia and Miss Narcissa Nelan were likewise secretaries, but Miss M.A. Pratt was the long and faithful servant in this capacity.

The old State Road, subsequently the plank road, and now the pike (state route 250), is an undulating way of pleasing and varying scenery from B1ackford's schoolhouse to the tavern. It is just such a road along which lovers would desire to saunter on a moonlight night; and many took advantage of the opportunity, especially on the nights of the literary meetings. My strolls with Minerva along this road to and from these meetings, were among the most pleasant of our lives. The doctrine of "Squatter Sovereignty" had become a burning question, and both North and South became fiercely aroused over the further extension of slavery in the territories.

See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 35 -- The Growing Storm Over Slavery.

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.

This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
CO-AUTHOR: Schultheiss, Tom. (Asst. Editor)

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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