In the latter years of the 19th and the early years of the 20th century, Victoria and the surrounding crossroads counties were dotted with small rural schools. One such school was named the Sloan School, or the Levi-Sloan School. It was located about 6 miles north of Victoria’s city limits, near the present-day site of Vickers Elementary. The Sloan, or Levi-Sloan, School had the unusual nickname of Buzzard’s Roost. It was located near a mott of oak trees where a colony of turkey buzzards roosted, hence, the nickname.
As the accompanying photograph shows, class photographs in the early years were often a community event. Not only the children, but older adults, parents and relatives of the students, members of the school community, and teachers came to the school on the appointed day wearing their best clothing. Note, in the photograph, several women in the center wearing the large stylish hats favored in those days.
The Buzzard’s Roost School was in a prosperous district by the standards of the day, although the school building in the photograph’s background appears rustic. It likely had more than one room, and no doubt more than one teacher for the school.
Most rural school buildings scattered through the crossroads area were equally rustic, or more so, by today’s standards. However, by the standards of the day, they were no more rustic than many farmhouses. Air conditioning, of course, was unknown, and indoor plumbing unlikely. In many instances, there was only a hand-operated water pump beside the front entrance. Teachers and students were required to bring firewood during winter months, and, in many instances, teachers brought lunch pails for children of poorer families. More often than not, the schoolhouses consisted of a single room, and several grades were taught at the same time by only one teacher.
Students walked to school or rode horses or mules, and they did so in all sorts of weather. Roads, for the most part, were unpaved. In rainy weather, riding horseback swathed in oilcloth ‘ponchos’ was far more preferable than walking along the muddy roads.
Teachers’ salaries varied from around $35 per month to as much as $60, depending on the level of experience of the teacher and the number of students. They were paid for the eight and one half months of the school year instead of a full year and were sometimes offered a raise in salary after several years of service. Teachers were expected to collect small monthly amounts from students for school supplies and expenses, and if students were unable to pay, teachers were expected to acquire supplies from their own salaries.
Unmarried teachers, male or female, were often looked upon with suspicion as if they might have loose morals and therefore could possibly corrupt innocent children.
Many schools required that unmarried male or female teachers regularly attend a local church, and in some instances, volunteer to teach Sunday school, sing in the church choir, or both. Some school communities forbade unmarried female teachers to ride in a buggy or automobile with any man other than her father or brother.
Special thanks to Marie Adcock at the UHV/VC Regional History Center and Sidney Weisiger and his Vignettes of Old Victoria.