MOUNT VERNON -- Sue Lindsey of the Black Walnut Holler antique shop in Mount Vernon recently posted a photograph in the Knox Time group on Facebook.
The photograph, taken by a friend of Sue's, shows a souvenir item from the Sunny Side School in the 1899-1900 school year. They posted the picture to find out more about this long-forgotten school.
I was able to come up with a little by cross-referencing and making some inferences. The local history books I examined listed Sunny Side School as being in Monroe Township, but gave no further information. A map from the late 1800s is good about showing the locations of schools, but without naming each one.
Fortunately, this souvenir lists some names. The teacher was F.P. Kaiser, but teachers in those days often moved from school to school. It does not appear that Mr. Kaiser was in the area long, for no records survive of his time in Knox County. But under his name is a list of the school's directors.
The top director is F.E. Young. While Young is a common enough surname in Knox County, Youngs with first names starting with F and with middle names starting with E aren't so common. In fact, there's only one I could find in that time period, and his name was Frank E. Young. And, lo and behold, he lived in Monroe Township.
Frank Eugene Young was the son of Charles and Angeline Young. Frank and his father and another presumably related Young all had farms on what was then called North Gambier Road.
Today we call that Yauger Road. The Young farms are no longer devoted to agriculture, though. Today, what was once rural farmland is part of a growing Mount Vernon. The farm specifically is today the site of the various Knox Community Hospital buildings and offices, on both sides of Yauger Road, and surrounding housing developments.
Frank ended up inheriting and/or buying all his relatives' farm property, so by the 1915 Knox County directory, he was listed as owning 450 acres of property, with five horses and 17 cattle.
The 1896 plat map shows a fish pond and a portion of Frank's farm set aside as an evergreen tree farm. Frank's main residence appears to have been on the south side of Yauger Road, shortly before it curves down to its intersection with Coshocton Avenue.
This amount of property and activity suggests that Frank was a prominent person in the township, so it's no surprise he was one of the school's directors. The Young farms were in the southwest corner of Monroe Township, which was the township's School District No. 1.
Referring to the 1896 plat map (just a couple years before the souvenir in our photo) shows that the one-room school house for School District No. 1, labeled on the map as School No. 1, is central to the area, on the west side of Upper Gilchrist Road, just a little ways north of the intersection with Coshocton Avenue. This must be Sunny Side School.
Judging by the map, Sunny Side School was about 1/2-mile north of the intersection. Indeed, in those days, when most of the trees outside woods had been cut down, it would have been a sunny spot, indeed. Today, with the regrowth of trees in fence lines and roadsides, it is a shady area just outside of town.
Another director is L.S. Pealer, whom I was not able to find on the map, though there is a Martha Pealer who owns property just north of the school building. The third director, a Mrs. Myers, was unidentifiable. If the others were local property owners, Mrs. Myers may well have been a retired educator who could advise the school, but that's just a guess.
At any rate, the teacher, Mr. Kaiser, created a very elaborate souvenir. It is unknown who is in the picture at the top of the souvenir. Is this the teacher himself? Is it a student? We simply don't know. But if several of these were made for various students, there must have been a cost to it.
One can't help but wonder if the reason Mr. Kaiser didn't stay long at Sunny Side School is his use of budget for items like this!
Mr. Kaiser was Franklin P. Kaiser, born in Ohio in 1879. After his stint teaching in Knox County, he moved down to Burlington Township in Licking County to teach high school classes, most likely at the Homer School, a somewhat larger, multi-room facility, though judging by the historic postcard image I found, still quite small by today's standards.
Somewhere between Sunny Side School and Homer School, Frank Kaiser had met up with a young lady named Clio Day Phillips, who was the daughter of James Washington Phillips and Melisena Sarah Reed in Pike Township, where she was born and raised. They got married in Delaware, Ohio, on 30 June, 1909.
By 1920, Frank had gotten out of the teaching business for a while, and was working as a real estate agent. By 1930, they had taken their son Reed and their daughter Susie and relocated to the Park Ridge neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, where Franklin was once again a teacher until he retired.
He passed away in 1948, and Clio followed in 1954, though she was brought home to Knox County to be buried in Mount Vernon, according to the obituary that ran in the Chicago Tribune.
If anyone has any knowledge or pictures of these people or this school, feel free to contact me here at Knox Pages, and I'll follow up in future columns.