Historic 1906 Lower Parker School was built for the rural community by the Ozark National Scenic Waterways

CJ Coombs

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Lower Parker School House, Dent County, Missouri in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.National Park Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

A historic school known as Lower Parker School is a one-room schoolhouse located near Salem, Missouri in Dent County by the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. This school was built around 1905 or 1906. It contains one story. On May 31, 1991, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Lower Parker School was in a rural area in Franklin Township. It was named after a family carrying the Parker name. The school was built on their farm.

The school is currently vacant and not in use. The school is just a few miles down from the Current River. This school had a sister school named Upper Parker that was higher up on the creek.

There are no other structures within sight of Lower Parker. There are three windows on each side of the schoolhouse. There used to be a pot-bellied stove that stood in the center of the room. The building was wired for electricity with four ceiling light sockets. Aside from the electrification and some routine maintenance, the school pretty much is as it was when contructed in 1906.

Interestingly, across the roadway, there are two privies (outdoor toilets). One was for the girls and the other for the boys. They are not in great shape. Having been built in the 1920s, before that time, the Lower Parker schoolhouse had no bathroom facilities.

The Lower Parker school is a good example of a rural Ozarks school. The people who migrated to the Missouri Ozarks came from Kentucky and Tennessee. The inhabitants per square mile in 1850 nearly doubled by 1860 and by 1870, there weren't many more people added.

More people eventually came with the building of railroads and increased lumber production. Through the 1920s, these industries were buying land and providing jobs. During this period, an education system was established.

By 1900, there were over ten thousand rural, primarily one-room schools in Missouri, and the number continued to rise. Lower Parker School was a product of this legislation and the reforms which swept through education around the turn of the century. (Source.)

The Lower Parker school was in use from around 1906 to 1955 with 20 to 30 students attending. The oldest accounts of students attending the school were from two cousins from the late 1910s and 1920s. The average age attending was 9 or 10 although it had eight grades.

Attendance to Lower Parker was up with the increase of the lumber industry and was down with the Depression and decline of the industry. Because of the rural setting and needing to cross the river, the school would sometimes not be in session due to excessive rainfall. Reading, writing, and arithmetic were the main studies. Their field trips would involve watching agriculture in action.

Imagine your lunch being a biscuit with homemade jam and recess being playtime by the riverbanks. Imagine a Christmas program being attended by families who had to get there by wagon.

The Ozarks one-room schools, like Lower Parker, served their tightknit communities until the 1950s. State and federal education officials promoted the consolidation of rural schools as early as the 1890s. Missouri passed its first school consolidation law in 1911, but the number of small locally controlled school districts continued to grow in the Ozarks. The consolidation policy conflicted with Ozark realities. (Source.)

Like so many rural schools, not just in the Ozarks, but all across the county, the Lower Parker School served as a place to start and end some education. It was also a place to gain some social skills and often was a religious place for the surrounding community. This was because it was the only building that existed for the community.

Thanks for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO
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