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The following Family Story was provided by Elaine Rebori, 27 January 2000.  This was her Great-Aunt, Drusilla W. Coffin's autobiography written in 1971. 


Autobiography of Drusilla Coffin
By Drusilla Coffin

 

The following is an autobiography of Drusilla Coffin written June 7, 1971:

I was born April 28, 1879 at Carmel, Indiana, 15 miles north of Indianapolis, the daughter of William H. Coffin and Sybil S. Coffin.  I was named after my great-grandmother, Drusilla Wilson, but the name was shortened to Drusie, which I usually use, except in business transactions.

In the fall of 1882 my grandfather J. G. Small and wife A. W. Small decided to move to Springdale, Kansas, a settlement of Friends (Quakers).  My grandfather had bought a farm of 160 acres of Thos. Wilson 1-1/2 miles south of Springdale, the farm my brother Charles and wife Amy now lives and owns.  When we left Indiana, my grandfather and grandmother, my mother and I came west to St. Louis. There was a very high flood on the Mississippi River that fall, so high that two or more men sat on the cow-catcher for the engine to keep the driftwood and other debris away. From what my mother told me, I was the only happy person on the train.

We came to Kansas City and there we were transferred to an emigrant train (wooden benches the long way of the coach, two on each side) and were met at Lawrence, Kansas by my great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Jonathan and Drusilla Wilson, where we stayed several days.  My father came with the horses, machinery, and furniture, on a freight car to Moberly, Missouri.  He tried to buy hay for the horses, prairie hay, the first prairie hay he had ever seen.  He thought it looked more like wood shavings and even the horses would hardly eat it.

He came to Leavenworth, Kansas where some of the men at Springdale (Aaron Hendleston among them) helped him move out to Springdale.  Later on my great-grandfather's health failed, so he and great-grandmother moved back to Indiana and lived in Indianapolis.  My grandfather and mother took care of his farm (I believe there were about 50 or 60 acres mostly in fruit, apples, peaches, and grapes), and I went down there and stayed with them for some time and went to "No. 6 School", the [red] brick schoolhouse N.W. across the road, is still standing. (Note to reader: This is on the corner of 23rd and Iowa in Lawrence, Kansas.  The Jonathan and Drusilla Wilson home was on the S.E. corner of 23rd and Iowa in Lawrence, Kansas, where, as of this writing, there is a Furr's Cafeteria.)

I surely was too young to go to school, but the teacher, Miss Pike, hounded at my grandmother and insisted on me going to school.  It is hard to believe that those apt. houses are on my great-grandfather's place.  The dwelling house where my grandparents lived was torn down only a very few years ago.

My grandfather kept his cow in Rumsey's pasture across the road from my grandfather's home and I would go with him to the barn when he went to milk.  I believe that it was the same Rumsey family that were the undertakers a few years ago at Tonganoxie.  I cared very little for dolls. Santa Claus brought me a beautiful wax doll.  When it was cold, the wax would crack, and if a little warm, the wax would melt. My white "Tom" (cat) with one of my old dresses on, was a much better play-thing for me than any doll, and too he had life.  I had no playmates, so my father made a harness for my dog, a shaft for the wagon, and those were my playmates, also both cat and dog seemed to like the role they played.  Rover was bit by a "mad-dog" and of course died.  That was my first great grief.

I was a happy girl, full of life and fun and my father always had a horse for me to ride. I wore out two side-saddles, before the other kind came in style for a girl to ride.  I practically lived out of doors (didn't like housework) but loved the "out of doors" with the horses and my dog.

Most of my schooling was at dear old Centennial No. 76.  I liked the majority of my teachers.  I went one year to the Tonganoxie Academy at Tonganoxie [Kansas].  Clyde Grange, Jean Campbell, and Roos. Lee went the same year that I did.  Took the Teacher's Exam., passed and taught my first school at the "Bell" on "92" Highway, 1899-1900.  I still get letters from one of my pupils, that was his first year in school and my first year of teaching.

I burned a great deal of midnight oil to get my education and had some failures in my Examination, but finally got my Professional Certificate, which consisted of 17 subjects: Music, Bookkeeping, Gen. Hist., Physics, Algebra, and an Ave.  Grade of 90% or over.  I got 100% in Music and Physics had to draw the inside of a telephone.

I was Principal at Loring 3 years. Taught at Centennial [Springdale, Kansas] 9 years, 3 years in each term.  In 1906 I had 4 girls that graduated but they were young and it was difficult for them to go to the H. S. at Tonganoxie [Kansas], so I got permission from the school-board that I could teach them Algebra, Gen. History, and Book-keeping besides reviewing the common school subjects, Arithmetic, History, English, and Gov't.  One of the girls later was the Bookkeeping Teacher at Strickler's Business College in Topeka.  She told me that was all the Bookkeeping she ever had, was what I taught her at Centennial School.

I was at Linwood [Kansas] 15 years, Principal and before that had taught in two or three years in one-teacher schools.  Mrs. McPherson resigned at County Superintendent so on July, Sat. 22, 1939 the County Commission appointed me to take the place of Mrs. McPherson as County Superintendent.  When I began as Superintendent, there were: 64 Rural (1 teacher) Districts, 12 Grade (2 or more teachers), 6 Rural High Schools, 10 Parochial.  When I quit as Supt. there were: 17 Rural Schools, 15 Grade Schools, 6 Rural High Schools, and 6 Parochial.  These changes were mostly by change in school laws, except the parochial, few attending and also selling of the property.  Of course you know there had been radical changes in our school system lately.

When I was a 4th or 5th grader I would come home the last day of school with snow and icicles on the bushes and trees.  I used to wonder why there would be so much snow and icicles the last day of school.  When I looked through the old records at the Court House, the majority of the rural schools were 6-month schools.  No wonder the icicles and snow the last day of March!

Things did change, and we had rural school state supervisors that came several times a term, and would grade the various schools that improved the buildings and equipment.  Also the State High School Supervisor that came once a year.  I told him he always came about Feb 22, Washington's Birthday.

Every year we had teacher-schoolboard banquets, usually 150 to 250 people would come. We usually had good speakers: E. C. Buehler-Speech and Dramatic Dept. of K. U., Dr. Earl Hillbrand-Washburn, Phog Allen (the famous K. U. coach), Gov. Frank Carlson, Rabbi Mayerborg - K.C., Gen. Chiang Wego-Son of Chiang Chi Shek-China, were a few of those that we had.

Nov. 1953-H. Montie, Instructor at the U.S. Prison, came to see me about schools, and invited me to come to their supper and meet Warden Looney.  They had about fifty inmates at the prison for their teachers.  Several of them had college degrees. I told them that I would issue eighth grade diplomas if they would use the Stanford Achievement Tests that we used in the County.  The Prison furnished the diplomas, but I signed the diplomas.  They were like the ones we used in the County.

Every February when the State High School Inspector, Ralph Stinson, came to visit the County High School, we were invited to the Prison for supper, then to visit the teacher's class. Several months later, they asked the State to issue high school diplomas.  The Prison could have issued the diplomas, but with the name "Federal Prison" would give the recipient a bad name. The State furnished the high school diplomas, but signed the same as the various High School.

I received a nice "Thank You" letter from the U.S. Commissioner of Education thanking me for what I was doing for the prisoners, the only county superintendent in the state that was doing it, but he hoped that other superintendents would soon issue diplomas.

Mrs. Lambert (my secretary) and I were invited out to the Prison, had Commencement for the prisoners that had passed the Diploma Exam.  This was the first time that I had given out the diplomas to the students, 24 of them.  Then we were invited to supper.  I enjoyed being able to help out in a small way.  Dr. Murphy from St. Mary's College was an instructor also that went out to the prison.

Drusill1.jpg (21298 bytes)

Drusill2.jpg (28272 bytes) Drusilla.jpg (29463 bytes)

Miss Drusilla W. Coffin
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Miss Drucilla W. Coffin
with horse
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Miss Drusilla W. Coffin
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Gold Bar


Last update: Sunday, March 23, 2003 00:12:10


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