That’s How I Roll

 

Tuesday’s bike ride was a 50-miler(*) from Sidney to North Lewisburg, Ohio. It was my closest ever approach to Columbus from the west, by any means of transportation. Along the way, I took photos at four township halls.

I had hoped one of them might be a picturesque old schoolhouse. There are some like that in Ohio and other parts of the Old Northwest. But today’s were all pole barns, broadly defined. These are usually less interesting, but one of the sites did have some traces of the old connection between township government and schools, from the days before school districts became independent of local governments, for better or worse.

This was at the second of my four stops, which actually turned out to contain two sites. I first stopped at this site on the southwest edge of the village of Rosewood, in Champaign County.

First I checked the field behind it to see if anything was planted there. A lot of corn in the Great Lakes region didn’t get planted this year, due to the cool, very wet spring. It’s too late now, so there are a lot of bare fields. But close inspection revealed that this one was not bare; soybeans were coming up, although maybe well behind schedule. (I don’t know just how far off schedule it might be, though.)

After getting photos, I went up to look at whatever notices and minutes of meetings might be posted on the window. It’s always interesting to know what kind of business is occupying the attention of a township government. In this case, the main news was that this site was for sale! You can submit your bid for the building and lots over at the new township hall and garage on the opposite corner of town.

So I headed over there. I didn’t have much hope that a new site would be especially interesting, but it immediately became apparent that this was a former school site! There were schoolyard swings and an old ball diamond backstop that had once been overgrown but now cleaned up, even if no longer used for baseball. (There was grass where the old diamond had been, with no traces of bases or basepaths.) There were also a couple of picnic benches, so I stopped and ate lunch (a Cliff Bar) while contemplating the site.

A sidewalk leading to the road looked like it might have been left over from the days of the school, so I quickly finished lunch and headed over there with my camera. And there I saw not only a pair of brick entrance columns, but a little memorial monument with a sundial on top:

The plaque underneath says, “In memory of Asa B. Buroker, Superintendent of Adams Township Schools, 1907-1920. The guiding influence throughout his life was service. He gave the rarest of gifts – himself. Erected 1930 by alumni and friends.”

It’s sometimes hard to do research on the history of township schools and how their roles changed as the communities changed and progressive educational reforms were adopted. But I now had a name, which is a good place to start, so in our motel room did some internet research.

Asa Bevil Buroker lived from 1864 to 1924. He came from a large family in the area. He and his wife (who lived on for 30 some years after he died) raised ten children. (Maybe there are descendants in the area; I haven’t yet checked the online phonebooks and directories.) He was not superintendent of the school for 13 years, as suggested by the plaque, but was a teacher at this school and elsewhere in the area before becoming superintendent for four years, after having been instrumental in the consolidation of the township’s district schools into the one located here. He was not an outside progressive who came in to look down his nose at the locals; he was a longtime part of the community.

I often wonder what the progressive reformers were really thinking, and what the local people thought of them and their ideas. The changes were often controversial, but those controversies are not well documented. A search of a newspaper database has led me to articles about the dedication of the little sundial memorial, but not to information about how the consolidation was accomplished. That’s the way it usually goes.

But Asa Buroker wrote an article for the 1906 issue of the journal of the Ohio Education Association, in which he gave some of his viewpoints on consolidation and educational reform. He doesn’t come across as one of the arrogant progressives who have trouble concealing their disdain for the local deplorables, so I can see why people honored his memory. For example, he portrays the conflicts between fathers and sons as fathers who want more education for their sons, and sons uninterested in taking advantage of opportunities. It wasn’t always that way, as farm fathers often resented the educations their sons might get. But portraying it this way shows somebody very politic and very careful with the sensitivities of the fathers. He was not likely to cause offense with his way of approaching the issue. I’m glad Hillary Clinton didn’t have political skills like that, or she might now be our president.

Not that all of Buroker’s ideas made sense, but that’s more a judgment in retrospect. He wanted to get away from a classical education and teach things that would be interesting and useful for farm boys; holding an attitude not all that different from that of Robert E. Lee in his post-war career as a college president. Buroker addressed the issues of farm boys getting an education and then leaving the local farm community, and thought his reforms could help keep them at home. That was also the idea behind some of the land grant colleges that were getting started in the last half of the 19th century. But the migration from rural to urban America continued, regardless. Buroker thought the kind of education that could hold back the centralizing and consolidation of American economic life could be done by consolidating the schools into large enough units where special curricula could be offered. He didn’t say it in those words, of course, and it didn’t seem like nonsense at the time.

There is more, but those are some quick impressions I got from his article.

That’s how I roll. I go out for a bicycle ride and come back with things to learn about. I’ll be working on a repeat tomorrow.

(*) The link takes you to a KML file of the day’s route. Google now stores these on Google Drive, so you might get asked if you want to open it with Drive. If you opt to open it in your browser, instead, you should see a Google Map of the route.

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There are 18 comments.

  1. Judge Mental Member

    The Reticulator: Not that all of Buroker’s ideas made sense, but that’s more a judgment in retrospect. He wanted to get away from a classical education and teach things that would be interesting and useful for farm boys;

    It makes sense for some, just not for everyone. What he’s talking about is vocational training.

    • #1
    • June 26, 2019, at 12:05 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator Post author

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    The Reticulator: Not that all of Buroker’s ideas made sense, but that’s more a judgment in retrospect. He wanted to get away from a classical education and teach things that would be interesting and useful for farm boys;

    It makes sense for some, just not for everyone. What he’s talking about is vocational training.

    In his case it was pretty close to that, but it was of a piece of a continuum that is hardly ever called vocational training. Well, it depends. Would you call a pre-med curriculum “vocational training?” Some people would, and they often mean it in a sneering sense. 

    • #2
    • June 26, 2019, at 3:30 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator Post author

    Maybe the old song should have been, “How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm (after they’ve seen Biology and Trigonometry)?”

    • #3
    • June 26, 2019, at 4:29 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. Vectorman Thatcher

    The Reticulator: Buroker thought the kind of education that could hold back the centralizing and consolidation of American economic life could be done by consolidating the schools into large enough units where special curricula could be offered.

    Perhaps consolidation of township schools would’t have been practical without a slight infrastructure change. A township in the Midwest was generally 6 by 6 miles. Even if you put the school in the middle of township, it can take up to 6 miles to get there due to the grid system of roads. That distance would be very difficult for young (<12 years) to walk to/from school, but possible for older children, especially if they had access to a horse. With enough wealth, the benefits of consolidation were possible.

    It’s also good that the son doesn’t have to follow the father’s profession. My father was originally a salesman, for which I had no aptitude. My Grandfather had OK mechanical skills and understood radios, etc., which is what I followed. More national wealth occurs with better choices.

    • #4
    • June 26, 2019, at 4:59 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I don’t make bike rides (too hard!) but I love to go on them with you, @thereticulator! Thank you for taking me along!

    • #5
    • June 26, 2019, at 6:07 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator Post author

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    The Reticulator: Buroker thought the kind of education that could hold back the centralizing and consolidation of American economic life could be done by consolidating the schools into large enough units where special curricula could be offered.

    Perhaps consolidation of township schools would’t have been practical without a slight infrastructure change. A township in the Midwest was generally 6 by 6 miles. Even if you put the school in the middle of township, it can take up to 6 miles to get there due to the grid system of roads. That distance would be very difficult for young (<12 years) to walk to/from school, but possible for older children, especially if they had access to a horse. With enough wealth, the benefits of consolidation were possible.

    It’s also good that the son doesn’t have to follow the father’s profession. My father was originally a salesman, for which I had no aptitude. My Grandfather had OK mechanical skills and understood radios, etc., which is what I followed. More national wealth occurs with better choices.

    A lot of those changes were necessary and good, given the way our country was urbanizing and improving its transportation. However, along the way a few babies got mixed in with the old bathwater that was being thrown out.

    Township-level consolidation gave a lot of children a chance to attend a high school of some sort; otherwise parents would have had to pay tuition and perhaps board their children out if they wanted them to have a high school education. It’s hard to criticize that change from our current vantage point (though it was often controversial back then). The reasons given were sometimes bogus, as we can see now, but much of that change was itself not. My father was sent 200 miles from home so he could attend high school at a Lutheran seminary high school in St Paul, MN. There were no possibilities close to home; his older brothers never got a high school education. His younger sisters were later boarded out near a public high school that had opened closer to home. Things were changing. It took considerable family resources to get a high school education for those of the eight children who got one.

    There were a few quirks and kinks in the centralizing and consolidating process that may have set the stage for future problems. One of the reasons I find this stuff interesting is that I like to look for those little twists that later developed into wrong turns.

    • #6
    • June 26, 2019, at 6:26 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator Post author

    Vectorman (View Comment):
    Perhaps consolidation of township schools would’t have been practical without a slight infrastructure change. A township in the Midwest was generally 6 by 6 miles. Even if you put the school in the middle of township, it can take up to 6 miles to get there due to the grid system of roads. That distance would be very difficult for young (<12 years) to walk to/from school, but possible for older children, especially if they had access to a horse. With enough wealth, the benefits of consolidation were possible.

    One reason the township-level consolidation didn’t continue to work was that the distribution of people across the landscape was changing. At one time, when there were a lot of small farms, it was a roughly even distribution. But with urbanization it became more and more uneven, so that the township-level of organization made less and less sense. So now we have no township-level school government at all. (If there are any exceptions, I hope to learn about them.)

    • #7
    • June 26, 2019, at 6:30 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. EJHill Podcaster

    In my Ohio county the largest population and business district is run by a township government. If it were to incorporate it would have to take on the job of running the courts and sheriffs department. They don’t want it so they stay small. 

    • #8
    • June 26, 2019, at 7:08 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. WillowSpring Member

    I love (and envy) your ride descriptions. I used to do a lot of longish rides (25 miles and up) building up to one or more annual Century rides.

    These days, although we moved to the heart of my favorite area for cycling, I really don’t do much these days. What used to be quiet country roads are now quite busy, but still narrow, roads. I also don’t trust my balance very much, due to age.

    Be careful about your neck. I have disk problems now that are probably at least in part due to hours on a road bike with my head cantilevered out. Exercise helps some, but I probably should have started years ago.

    • #9
    • June 26, 2019, at 12:57 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Kephalithos Member

    You barely missed this actual schoolhouse:

    And you were within spitting distance of Mount Tabor, which has scenery to die for (by northwestern-Ohio standards, at least).

    • #10
    • June 26, 2019, at 2:38 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Kephalithos Member

    Fascinating article.

    One of these days, we’re bound to run into each other.

    • #11
    • June 26, 2019, at 2:42 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator Post author

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    I love (and envy) your ride descriptions. I used to do a lot of longish rides (25 miles and up) building up to one or more annual Century rides.

    These days, although we moved to the heart of my favorite area for cycling, I really don’t do much these days. What used to be quiet country roads are now quite busy, but still narrow, roads. I also don’t trust my balance very much, due to age.

    Be careful about your neck. I have disk problems now that are probably at least in part due to hours on a road bike with my head cantilevered out. Exercise helps some, but I probably should have started years ago.

    Yeah, some of my favorite roads near home are busier now, such that I’m more careful about the time of day and week when I go out. Now that I can ride virtual routes indoors, it’s easier to just skip those times on the road.

    It’s interesting that you have neck problems. If you had said lower back, I’d be interested in comparing notes. Part of what I’m doing now is seeing if my former routines of increased intensity of riding will make the problem go away. And it’s part of the reason why my mileages today and yesterday have been fairly modest compared to what I used to do. I’ve been doctoring and will be having an MRI in a few days. I had a really bad flare-up a few weeks ago that made it hard to walk without a cane, sleep in bed, get up, or do anything. After a few days it started getting better quickly, but it’s not as good as new now. I haven’t had any neck problems, though. It may have been weight-lifting that set it off — after too long a break without getting any exercise while we went to Europe. Maybe 6 weeks altogether including the busy times preparing for the trip and decompressing afterwards. A break in vigorous exercise of that duration can be deadly at my age, it seems. I don’t intend to let it happen again. But for a while I was scared that vigorous exercise was going to be out for a long time, and that I would be in a deadly downward spiral. I’m glad to be back at my riding, such as it is now.

    I’ve updated the google map at the link at the top of the post to show today’s ride, too. My intention was to get in a 50, followed by a relatively restful 30, and then maybe I’d be good for 60 miles a day or more. (Not that I had more than one more day planned for this outing.) It’s the sort of sequence that has worked well in the past. This time I did a 50 followed by a 38.5 but am not sure I’m good for even 60 tomorrow. We’ll see. Getting old isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

    • #12
    • June 26, 2019, at 8:53 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator Post author

    Burwick Chiffswiddle (View Comment):

    You barely missed this actual schoolhouse:

    And you were within spitting distance of Mount Tabor, which has scenery to die for (by northwestern-Ohio standards, at least).

    It looks like I missed Mount Tabor again today, when I went through West Liberty. I checked my routes from the times in 2008 that I rode to West Liberty, and it looks like I didn’t go quite that far south then, either.

    Nice photos,by the way.

    There is a lot of good scenery in this part of Ohio.

    • #13
    • June 26, 2019, at 9:00 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator Post author

    Burwick Chiffswiddle (View Comment):

    You barely missed this actual schoolhouse:

    And you were within spitting distance of Mount Tabor, which has scenery to die for (by northwestern-Ohio standards, at least).

    Where is that schoolhouse, by the way? I know where there are some like it, but if you say that I barely missed it this must be one I’ve never encountered.

    • #14
    • June 26, 2019, at 9:02 PM PDT
    • Like
  15. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator Post author

    EJHill (View Comment):

    In my Ohio county the largest population and business district is run by a township government. If it were to incorporate it would have to take on the job of running the courts and sheriffs department. They don’t want it so they stay small.

    That’s interesting that a township could have the job of running the courts. In Michigan a lot of townships run their own police departments, but I’m not aware of one that runs its own courts. There are some townships a little further from my home that are de facto city governments; I should check to see if any of them have their own courts.

    In Michigan those townships that are near urban areas often elect to become charter townships; it’s a way to avoid annexation by a neighboring city. We voted to do that back in the 80s, when a new round of annexation was threatened. Charter townships are allowed to tax at a higher rate so they can provide city-like services. 

    But for townships to run their own courts? I know some stories from the 1830s and 1840s that involved townships running their own courts, but none in recent times. Thanks for provoking me into looking more closely into that function.

    • #15
    • June 26, 2019, at 9:13 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. WillowSpring Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    It’s interesting that you have neck problems. If you had said lower back, I’d be interested in comparing notes.

    Its funny that you mentioned lower back problems. I have had them since I was about 15 years old and fell about 30 feet and pretty much landed straight legged. I ended up with a 40% compression fracture of one of my lower vertebrae. That has bothered me for most of my life and was a good indicator of when my weight crept up. I found that cycling helped with my weight and even more, the stretched out position on a road bike helped with the pain in my lower back.

    I think a good bit of my neck problems stem from years working on a computer terminal without being conscious of keeping my head and neck vertical. As my therapist said, “You have a heavy head” (I don’t think she meant me specifically, just that heads were heavy and their support needed to be a concern. Anyway, I think my days on the road bike are over.

     

    • #16
    • June 27, 2019, at 6:43 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Kephalithos Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Burwick Chiffswiddle (View Comment):

    You barely missed this actual schoolhouse:

    And you were within spitting distance of Mount Tabor, which has scenery to die for (by northwestern-Ohio standards, at least).

    Where is that schoolhouse, by the way? I know where there are some like it, but if you say that I barely missed it this must be one I’ve never encountered.

    It’s at the intersection of State Route 507 and Ludlow Road (which parallels the old Ludlow Line), just southwest of Mount Tabor.

    • #17
    • June 28, 2019, at 9:07 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Cal Lawton Member

    Did you come south for the Horsey Hundred in May?

    • #18
    • June 28, 2019, at 10:53 AM PDT
    • Like