Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Homestead Teachers

The homestead boom brought thousands of immigrants and challenged teachers who had few resources in one-room schools. Charles Beardsley, at seventeen, had a college degree and a provisional certificate when he began teaching at Five-Mile School in eastern Montana. He boarded in a student’s home for thirty dollars a month. His board was the only money the family earned that entire year. Beardsley wrote: “Bedbugs infested the house. In my bedroom, which was nicely whitewashed, the bed stood in four pans of kerosene to prevent the bedbugs from finding me. I never got a single bite but at night when I was reading, the heat of the kerosene lamp focused on the ceiling and the bedbugs gathered up there for a merry circle dance.” The family had bitter ongoing feuds with local relatives. They also kept a pack of hound dogs that bayed all night. They wore shoes only on Sundays, carrying them to church and only putting them on once they were inside. These colorful folk spoke an odd New England dialect and read an archaic kind of music. But they left a permanent impression on the young teacher. Beardsley wrote that the children in this family were very fine, for all their odd behaviors, and they so loved to learn. This rich experience inspired Beardsley’s life as an educator, and he enjoyed a long career following his avocation.

Charles Beardsley likely taught in a school similar to Betts School in Cascade County.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, PAc 98-24.17

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