SCHOOLING AT HARMONY MISSION
The schooling for the children began on November 27,1821. Amasa Jones (one of the missionary teachers from New York) started teaching classes to the missionary students in his home.
In January the school was opened to the native boys and girls. Rev. Montgomery and Mrs. Comstock were the teachers with fifteen native children ranging in ages from seven to eighteen. Sanc Nerfs (one of the Osage Chiefs) grandchildren were two of the students.
When the children first came to the mission they were bathed and given clothes like the missionary children wore. The clothes had been given to the missionaries as they traveled down the rivers to Harmony. The children stayed in different homes until the school was built. Each child was given an English name which was often taken from friends or relatives from the missionaries. The records kept showed that the youngest one that came to the mission was a girl three years old and given the name Catherine Strange. The first boy was named John B. Mitchell age ten.
The first school was built April 1822 and the enrollment got larger so a larger school had to be built to educate the students.
A two story school was built March 1823 measuring twenty four by thirty six feet. The boys classes were held on the second floor and the girls classes on the ground level floor. The peak year for enrollment in the school was in 1824 with fifty five students. They had an interpreter by the name of “Old Bill Williams” that helped with instructing the children.
It was difficult to keep the children in the mission, because they would run off or their parents would come and take they away. If they were wearing the English clothing they would cut them up and threw them away. Sometimes the parents would bring the child back but other times the child would say they didn’t want to go back and stay in the mission. The missionaries never got discouraged and kept trying to do what they were sent their to do.
According to the journaling of the missionaries in the book “The First Protestant Missions” by Wm. W. Graves, instructions that were given to the missionaries by the Foreign Missionary Society states the following: You will take into the mission family as many of the youth of both sexes as can be conveniently accommodated, feed them, cloth them and arrange them in classes according to their age and proficiency, so that those who are sufficiently instructed for the common business of life may retire and make room for others until the whole rising generation have received the instruction you have to communicate.
Next week you will have a continued story about the schooling. On Sept. 25 we will have the 30th annual picnic at Papinville celebrating the 200th year of the founding of the Harmony Mission. More information will be published as the time gets closer. If you have never been to Papinville you need to come and see the following: museum, walk of history, original school with original furnishings and the bridge across the Marais Des Cygnes River that is on the National Historical Register. For more information call 417-395-2594 or 417-395-4288. Courtesy Beverly Sullins and Phyllis Stewart