A to Z Challenge: Teacher’s Trials

A family with 9 children survives life on the Kansas prairie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The experiences they have illustrate the joys, sorrows, hardships and everyday life of the Midwest pioneers. This faith filled series of stories is true. The eldest child was my great grandmother Alzina Pomeroy Boone.

1899 – 1904

The next few years Alzina worked hard to secure teaching contracts in schools near her supportive family in order to stay close to her children. It wasn’t always possible. Her parents were her primary help, and the children’s memories are largely of being raised by their grandparents. In 1901 it became clear that she was not going to be able to keep the farm. Her parents also had to leave their “prairie home” and go to the city of Emporia, where grandfather Emerson Pomeroy went into the blacksmith business, in which he prospered.

Grandfather Pomeroy’s blacksmith shop in Emporia

Alzie’s children went with their grandparents to Emporia, which created a painful separation for Alzie, who stayed with her contracted school. She joined them there the next summer. She taught the next few years at various schools in the Emporia area. The children were all old enough by this time to be helping with work at home. The boys even worked on farms in the summers. The following story took place in 1904. Alzie was teaching at the Waterworks School and they were all loving being together in their own house… until this happened.

“The four children had the measles that winter while I taught at the Waterworks School and we were glad that I could be at home every night. With Emma and Mother so near through the days, I did not miss a day of school. But another teacher secured that school for the next year and before the annual school meetings were held I became ill with smallpox.

My illness and the quarantine that was imposed on us took so long that all the desirable schools were taken before I could visit any. The two boys had been vaccinated at school, so Mother and Father kept them while I was quarantined, that they might be free to get employment during the summer. Ethel too, had been vaccinated, so she and Esther devoted themselves to caring for me. They fumigated the house and our clothing and obeyed all rules of sanitation. They were so successful, that even Esther who had not been vaccinated was immune to the disease.

The rash covered my entire body and all membranes of my mouth and nose and gave me such internal misery the first two days. I was relieved from pain after prayer at family worship the second night, but then broke out profusely with pox within and without. However, I was completely delivered from every pock, though I counted 66 on my face in the mirror. The rest of my body was as profusely pocked as my face, but all got well without a scar. And this smallpox proved to be one of the “all things” that work together for good, for all those picks or boils had so purged my system that never since have I been so tired and worn out at the close of the school year as I had been the previous four years.

No one had taken the smallpox from me, for which we were all grateful. Stanley and John had earned a good reputation as gardeners and farmers, beside earning quite a bit of money. Johnny had so pleased a farmer north of Emporia that the farmer offered to adopt John, and John wanted to stay with him, but the farmer cared little about God or heaven, and I couldn’t consider leaving John with him.”

This year of teaching was summed up by Alzie in a way that teacher’s today can probably identify with. Alzina’s teacher checklist:

“That year at the Waterworks School was fairly pleasant and successful. Father secured a horse and buggy for me. When I got into the buggy after my boys got “Fanny” hitched up, about 8 o’clock each morning, there were some things I learned to check to save embarrassment: 1. My school door key. 2. My glasses (spectacles) 3. My false teeth. 4. My watch. 5. My lunch.”

Alzina and her students. What were they all looking at?