Newspaper McDonald County Newspaper
Date April 12, 1995
Headline Around & About McDonald County - April 12, 1995

Roller School district
Memories of a One Room School House
Text East of the junction of KK and 90 Highway on Big Sugar Creek in SE McDonald County is the community known as "Roller", named after an old settler, John Roller.

According to Joe C. Schell in Big Sugar Creek Country, published in 1969, Roller and his wife, Nervie, were among the first settlers to that area coming in 1844. There was at one time a small store operated by a Knisley family. Other settlers to this area were the Halls, Laughlins, Woodards, Shipleys, Days and Schells.

"The Trents, the Normans and the Schraders were also among the first to settle here before the Civil War. Story has it that bushwhackers killed a man on a hill near the old Hall place and Mrs. Lucretia Hall, with the help of Mrs. Nervie Roller, took this man and buried him in the cemetery. He was one of the first to be buried in the Roller Cemetery."

Roller donated the land in 1871 for a cemetery, a Baptist and Methodist Church and a school house. The Roller school building is one of the few one room school buildings still in use today, not as a school, but for a community meeting place. The one-room school served the southeast McDonald County area from the 1870's until 1956.

One family who attended Roller school in the 1930's and 1940's was the Fletcher's. Bernice Fletcher Salsman, now of Neosho, loaned us the photograph accompanying this story. She remembers walking to school across a swinging bridge over the creek. The day the photo was taken, she was being baptized at the church next door to the school, thus she missed being in the photo.

From 1951 until 1956 the school was taught by Lucy Dalton, who now resides in Washburn. She had graduated from White Rock School where Lloyd Knisley (shown in the photo) was then teaching and coaching. Her first year at Roller there were 21 - 23 students in first through the eight grades.

Dalton stated that the school board, then under the direction of Superintendent Bill Carnell, insisted that she teach every grade separately. She wasn't allowed to combine grade levels even though she might have only one student in a grade level.

Even in the one-room building the school district provided a hot lunch program. "They moved the lockers and installed a small butane stove and a refrigerator in one corner of the room," Dalton said.

Since there was no plumbing in the building, the cook had to bring her own water. "We (the students and teachers) used spring water from the north end of the cemetery." Dalton would send a student with a bucket to fetch water.

They ate lunch on a long table with benches and were served family style in big bowls and platters for 15 cents each meal. The White Rock School supplied them with government commodities and Dalton stated, "The cook made things like fried chicken, biscuits and gravy and the best pies!"

The last four years of Dalton's experience at Roller, she had only 10-11 students. The state government had passed a cigarette tax that was supposed to benefit schools, but alas, the school board informed her that the district was out of money. So Roller was annexed to Southwest at Washburn, "because the busses were already running that direction."

Dalton is currently serving as secretary/treasurer of the Roller Cemetery committee. She stated that the trustees are planning to restore the outside of the old school building. The interior is still much the same as when she taught there, with the original slate blackboards and old wooden desks.

The building is used for wedding showers, community meetings, and cemetery meetings. Most of the school records have been lost, but the memories still echo between the Roller school building, the church and Big Sugar Creek.

The McDonald County Newspaper Article was found in my mother's (Nancy Rose Woodard) memory box.
Resource McDonald County Newspaper
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