Saturday, October 06, 2007

Mrs. Tulley and the Three Lick School

by David Parmer
Country Schools
Country schools in West Virginia flourished in the early and mid 20th century. Children attended the schools close to their home along with the children of their neighbors. Teachers of these small schools also frequently lived close by and were acquainted with the parents of the students. Today, many former students of one or two room country schools look fondly back on their educational experiences and wouldn’t wish to have had their schooling any other way. This is a story about one of those schools and its teacher.

standing- Mrs. Tulley, Joan Doyle, Jean Doyle, James Ables
kneeling- Mary Jane Ables, Iva Ables, Verna Ables, John Dolan.

Ernestine (Hyre) Tulley
Ernestine (Hyre) Tulley was born in 1904 in Burnsville to Jason and Grace (Dowell) Hyre. Ernestine, along with her sisters Augustine and Irene, and her brother Jason, attended the Burnsville schools, and graduated from Burnsville High School in 1922. After high school, Ernestine attended West Virginia Wesleyan College and embarked on a career in teaching. Her entire teaching career was devoted to small one or two room rural schools throughout Braxton and Lewis Counties. During World War II she taught at the Three Lick School, about three miles from Orlando. Ernestine taught at the Three Lick School for eight years until the closure of the school in 1952.

Based upon interviews with her former students, Ernestine Tulley was a well-liked teacher, perhaps revered, who strove to get the most from each child’s potential. The following testimonials of her former students indicate the respect they had for their one room country school teacher.

Jean Doyle
Jean (Doyle) Lantz, a former Three Lick School student under the tutelage of Ernestine Tulley for eight years, recalls that Mrs. Tulley urged her students to have perfect attendance and to read as many books as possible. Jean remembers that Mrs. Tulley would reward her students with silver dollars for perfect attendance and for reading books, and that she, to this day, has the silver dollars given her by Mrs. Tulley over fifty years ago.
Sue Dolan
Sue (Dolan) Henke, another of Mrs. Tulley’s students, remembers her as a “great teacher,” who rewarded her students for achievement. Sue remembers helping some of the younger students with their reading, while Mrs. Tulley worked with other students. Sue also remembers that the floors of the Three Lick School were regularly oiled. The expression of “oil and water don’t mix” came to life for Sue on one rainy day when she came running into the school house and slipped on the oily floor and slid into the old Burnside pot-bellied stove which was roaring hot at the time.
Ethel Doyle - Parent
Ethel Doyle, the mother of twins, Jean and Joan Doyle who attended Three Lick school for eight years, recalls Ernestine as a “nice looking woman and an excellent teacher.”
Iva Ables
“She was the best teacher I ever had,” remarked Iva (Ables) Curtis, speaking of Mrs. Tulley. She was “really nice, and gave us money when we were good and took us to her husband’s store on Tulley Ridge where we could spend the money on bubble gum, penny candy, and even Cracker Jacks.” Iva also recalled receiving four silver dollars from her teacher for having perfect attendance. Iva particularly remembers crying one day because she cut her foot badly and was not able to walk to school. In order for her to maintain her perfect attendance, Mrs. Tulley came to her home and drove her to school. Iva also remembers that Mrs. Tulley was a kind and gentle teacher and that she recalls only one incident of corporal punishment meted out by her teacher. This occasion involved Iva’s sister, Verna Mae. Mrs. Tulley caught Verna Mae in the act of throwing a spit wad and hitting John Dolan in the head. The punishment was one gentle whack across Verna Mae’s rear end which brought a smile, not tears, from Verna Mae.
Iva is above left, Verna Mae is above right and John Dolan is beneath her.

Patty Jean Riffle
Patty Jean (Riffle) Hartley fondly remembered Mrs. Tulley as a quiet, ”wonderful” teacher who never raised her voice. Patty also remembered that Charlie Tulley, the husband of Ernestine, in addition to being a stockman and rural mail carrier, operated a small general store at his home on Tulley Ridge, and that she and her cousin Shirley Davis used to walk to the store about a mile away to make small purchases. Patty also remembered that Mrs. Tulley would give rides to students, to and from school, which were much appreciated.

A Memorable Car Ride
And speaking of getting car rides from Mrs. Tulley, John Dolan remembers that he and his sister, Sue, were driven home by Mrs. Tulley, both before and after school. John recollects that Mrs. Tulley was not as skillful as a driver as she was a teacher. John remembers on one occasion when Mrs. Tulley lost control of her car, which was full of students, and ran into the ditch along the road. John also remembers that Mrs. Tulley “floorboarded” the accelerator and flew right out of the ditch. He was highly impressed. John’s sister, Sue, who was also a passenger in the Tulley car on that occasion, remembers a little more detail about the incident. Sue recalls that as Mrs. Tulley was driving down the hill from the school she discovered that her car door was not completely shut. As the car was moving down the road, Mrs. Tulley opened the car door to re-close it securely and as she did so, the car drifted and hit the ditch, and just as John remembered, she hit the gas pedal and flew right out of the ditch. Sue didn’t know whether she was scared or impressed by the maneuver. Sue also recalls that when Mrs. Tulley hit the ditch, she said “Oops!!” Afraid to express an emotion at the time of the incident, the kids waited until they had exited the vehicle to have a good laugh.
John Dolan is to the right.

Three Lick's Sunshine Workers 4H Club, 1950/51

Three Lick's Sunshine Workers 4H Club, 1950/51

top- Bob Pumphrey, Sue Dolan, Jean Doyle, Joan Doyle, Shirley Davis.
middle- Iva Ables, Patty Riffle, James Ables
front- Verna Ables, John Dolan
Shirley Davis
Another of Mrs. Tulley’s students, Shirley (Davis) Duckworth, remembers her teacher with great affection and admiration. Shirley recalls on one occasion that she had a little difficulty understanding a certain math concept and that during recess Mrs. Tulley took extra time and worked with her individually until Shirley had mastered the concept. She calls her a “great teacher.” Shirley loved to read. She fondly remembers that Mrs. Tulley made special trips to Weston to pick up library books for her to read. Shirley also recollects that her teacher opened the morning classes with Bible verses and that Mrs. Tulley often took the students outside to examine flowers and other things of nature. Shirley observed that almost all of the students who attended Three Lick School were from poor families. Mrs. Tulley would often give money to her students so that they might enjoy having a few pennies in their pockets.

Bob Pumphrey

Bob Pumphrey, now living in Magnolia, Texas, also remembers Ernestine Tulley with great affection. “She was a great teacher, but very strict.” Bob also recalls how devoted Mrs. Tulley was to teaching. During the blizzard of around 1951 snow accumulated over two feet deep. Since this was a time before snow plows kept rural roads open, no vehicles were venturing out on the snow drifted roads. However, when Bob went to the school near his home to start fires in the pot bellied stoves, he was surprised to observe Mrs. Tulley trudging down the road with snow over her knees to keep her morning school appointment. He was amazed that his teacher could have walked so far from her home in such inclement conditions.

Joan Doyle

Joan (Doyle) Stiltner, another of Mrs. Tulley’s Three Lick students, also remembers her teacher fondly. Joan recalls that part of the curriculum at the Three Lick School included cleanliness. Mrs. Tulley appointed “Captains” who would be in charge of a crew of two or three students. The captain would make sure that his or her crew’s hair was combed and hands and fingernails were clean. Mrs. Tulley would furnish the Captains combs and hair brushes to use. Joan also recalls that students would take turns bringing in drinking water and making fires in the pot-bellied stove. Mrs. Tulley paid the students for these chores in stamps which would be redeemed for savings bonds. (Bob Pumphrey recalls that when he handled these pre-school chores he was paid in cash.)

Joan recalls that Mrs. Tulley was a no-nonsense teacher and that there was little call for corporal punishment because her students had been taught respect for themselves and for their classmates. Joan also calls to mind that the bathroom facility at the school was a “WPA two-holer” which sat behind the school. Mrs. Tulley’s rule regarding the outhouse was its use was limited to recess and lunch times. Joan observed that even though Mrs. Tulley was a strict disciplinarian, she also was quite lenient in some respects, An emphasis on poetry and memorization in the Tulley class room is also relived by Joan, who believes, that, after nearly sixty years, she can still recite Longfellow’s The Village Blacksmith.

Raymond Posey

Raymond Posey, who still lives on Three Lick, was Mrs. Tulley’s student for one year at the Three Lick School. Raymond and his sister Lucy had attended school the previous year at Knawl’s Creek. Raymond’s primary recollection of Mrs. Tulley was that she was a “strict teacher, but a good teacher.” One of Raymond’s most memorable memories is that he rode a pony to school from his family’s home on Grass Run.

Three Lick Students at the home of Ernestine and Charlie Tully

on Tully Ridge in 1951

The Three Lick School Closes

The Lewis County Board of Education had been considering for several years the closure of the Three Lick School. Local opposition to closure had managed to keep the school open for several years. Finally however, the end of the Three Lick School came after the 1951-1952 school year. The Lewis County Board of Education closed the school and sent all of the Three Lick students to the Walnut Grove School on Oil Creek. Thus came to an end another neighborhood, one room school in Lewis County and the beginning of school consolidations throughout the state..

Ernestine Tulley Goes to the Walnut Grove School

After the closure of the Three Lick School, Ernestine Tulley was transferred to the Walnut Grove School. Some of her students from the Three Lick School were bussed to Walnut Grove and continued having Mrs. Tulley as their teacher.

Mrs. Tulley ended her teaching career at the Walnut Grove School. Although critically ill for several months, Mrs. Tulley continued to teach the 3 R’s, as well as courtesy and manners to her students at Walnut Grove, until she died of cancer in 1959 at the age of 55. Joan (Doyle) Stiltner, touched by the passing of Mrs. Tulley, solemnly and respectfully attended the funeral services in Weston for her former teacher. The school bell, used by Mrs. Tulley during her teaching career at all of the one room schools she taught, was thus silenced. Mrs. Tulley was laid to rest at the Weston Masonic Cemetery.
comment 1 Jean (Doyle) Lantz, the eldest twin
What fond memories you have recaptured for me reading your story on our teacher Ernestine Tulley. I am proud and honored to have been her student and because of her teaching skills, I must say that the students you just interviewed have done quite well for themselves. I also was impressed that the students that has been separated by many miles still remembers which twin is which. They all identified us correctly.

Note to Jean- We're tickled that we did okay. We'd like to kepp alive the rememory of the Irish community on Three Lick. You family stories and any photos of your days on Three Lick, or of grandparents, etc would be a great help. Contact me at or David Parmer at . -donna

comment 2 Patty Jean (Riffle) Hartley When I attended Three Lick School in the late 1940s and early 1950s, few people had cameras. Mrs. Tulley frequently brought her camera to school and took photos of the students. As a reward for some achievement, such as perfect attendance, Mrs. Tulley would give the achieving student a photograph. Although by today’s standards, this may seem a trifle, such a gift at that time was precious. I saved the photographs given to me by Mrs. Tulley, which I would like to share.

-Many of the photos in this entry & the next one posted are from Patty Jean's collection. Thank you. -Donna.

comment 3 Tom Pumphrey Murphreesboro, Tennessee
When my family lived in the Three Lick-Goosepen area, I knew Charlie Tulley, who married Earnestine Hyre. Miss Hyre taught school at Three Lick and also earlier at Goosepen. Sometime before World War II, Charlie was courting Earnestine who lived in Burnsville. On a really bad winter day around 1939 or 1940, Charlie asked my brother Jim to drive him to Burnsville so he could visit with Earnestine and her family at her home. I went along for the ride. My brother drove Charlie's car which was a sixty horsepower 1939 or 1940 Ford. The day was bitter cold in the dead of winter. The roads were covered with frozen, icy snow.

When we got to Burnsville, Charlie told us to wait in the car while he visited with the Hyre family in their home on Church Street. He was gone over an hour. Meanwhile, my brother Jim and I sat in the car. The passenger side window was rolled down and the window hand crank was missing. We couldn’t roll the window up. My brother and I nearly froze to death waiting on Charlie. When he left the Hyre home and came to the car, he saw how cold we were. He said he forgot to tell us that the missing hand crank was in the glove box.

right- Earnestine Hyre in 1922

comment 4 Donna Gloff Pleasant Ridge, MI
Mentioning The Village Blacksmith reminded me of the one backsmith photo we have- B. I. Hefner and his shop outside of Burnsville, ca. 1905.

The Village Blacksmith
Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan:
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hear the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter's voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Onwards through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought!

1 comment:

  1. What fond memories you have recaptured for me readng your story on our teacher Ernestine Tulley. I am proud and honored to have been her student and because of her teaching skills, I must say that the students you just interviewed have done quite well for themselves. I also was impressed that the students that has been separated by many miles still remembers which twin is which. They all identified us correctly.

    Jean Doyle Lantz, the eldest twin