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Caldwell County
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Narrator: James I. Murrell, 76, of Hamilton, Missouri

The Murrell Farm
Locust Grove School
Easy Credit
The O'Neil Home
Country Schools

Mr. Murrell, now a retired farmer was born in Ripley County south east Missouri of southern parentage. His father was Benjamin Murrell and his mother Mary Everett Galpin, who with a daughter is buried in McCrary cemetery in Daviess County. The father was a southern soldier (as Mr. Murrell says "it was all the way we knew") and died in a Little Rock Hospital. The Mother had four children to support and they were lucky if they had corn bread to eat.

In 1874, James I. his Mother and the other children came to Caldwell County where he worked on two farms east of Hamilton - on one he worked for J.C. Penney Sr. (father of the Penney Store man) on the other for the Paxton Brothers, farmers of Mirabile township and liverymen of Hamilton. Then fifty two years ago he bought a farm without a cent in hand, eighty acres at $30 an acre from Judge McMillan and paid off the mortgage. Credit was easy then for every borrower paid his debts. To be sold out was a disgrace. Later he bought forty more acres at $87.50 which shows how land values increased.

Those days farmers did not need to use fertilizer, corn grew easily for the soil was almost virgin. At first in his farming he used a walking plow. It was in 1874 that he first shucked corn. Before that time in Ripley County, they had pulled corn and stalk off together.

His farm was near the Locust Grove School four miles north east of Hamilton. An early teacher there was Eva Glasener of Hamilton who got $20 a month, did her own janitor work and walked out each day from home, a good four miles. Another teacher was Jim Wilson of Kidder. They had big country schools then forty two to fifty. Nowadays the same school has seven to twelve. Families were large and the big boys and girls kept on going even after they had finished their books, sometimes till they were twenty, especially in the winter when there was little farm work. There were two terms; winter ordinarily four possibly five months; summer - three months. Pupils were ranked by the reader they used. The remark "He is in the third reader" really showed his class. Each country school was a law to itself. No rules existed to make it work like some other school. Consequently the country pupils were in hard luck when they came to town school.

Mr. and Mrs. Murrell gave up farming a few years ago and bought a home east of the Federated Church. This house originally smaller than now is one of Hamiltons old homes. They bought it of Mrs. H.B. O'Neil whose husband was in the Dry Goods firm of O'Neil and Wilson in the seventies, located at the Penney Store site. The O'Neils bought their home of Wm. Partin and wife who inherited it from Mrs. Partin's father, Rev. Eli Penney, who gave them the home for taking care of himself and wife in their old age.

Interviewed July 1934.

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