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Narrator: Mrs. Mary Kautz, 87, of Hamilton, Missouri

Houghton Family

Horse Back Riding and Roads

School Teaching in the Sixties

Mrs. Mary Kautz is the daughter of Otis Houghton. In the spring after the close of the Civil War, her brother James came into Caldwell County as a visitor and was so well impressed that he went back and told his father that out in Missouri there was land which you could plow all day long without striking a stone. He came back and bought and the father came also in 1866. Both bought land from the railroad in what is now called New York settlement because so many New Yorkers settled there. The Otis Houghton farm is the present Ben Mackey farm. It is sometimes said that the Austin families were the first New Yorkers to settle there but really James Houghton came earlier but without a family. (See Katherine Houghton paper for further data.)

When the Houghtons came there were no roads between New York township and Hamilton. Often, she said, she would lose her way in the many horse paths across the prairie. Then she dropped the reins and left the matter to the horse, who would pick out the way, especially on returning home. She used to come to town with a long black riding skirt and a satchel for her shopping. In town she would find a horse block and get off; let down her riding skirt and go shopping.

Mrs. Kautz was one of the early teachers in that country. She had already taught in New York so she easily got a school here. Her first school was the Radical log school, the Pleasant Ridge, then Wolf Grove. She "boarded round" in part of her experience. She got $2.50 cash per week and her board from the patrons. At Pleasant Ridge she got a little bit more and she paid her board at the home of Jacob Kautz whose son George she afterwards married. Her description of school life of that time are very interesting. She said that sometimes there was no uniformity in readers, arithmatics etc.; that at the Radical school every pupil brought what ever text book they happened to have and had to be taught out of it. When she complained to a director he said "she had better put up with it, for there was prejudice in the district any way against stuck-up Yankees." The country down there was settled with Southerners before the New York people came. All three schools in which she taught had about the same type of seats and desks. At three sides of the room were writing desks made of planed logs and held up by supports, underneath was a second shelf for books. The seats faced the wall and also were made of planed logs - no backs. Some short ones had "milk stool" legs, some long ones had uprights at intervals. When the children recited, they had to turn around and face the teacher.

She recalled that she took her teachers examination under Floyd McAfee' grandfather, he being the county school commissioner. She said it was oral and took about half a day. A cousin of hers came out from New York who had been off to school. She had a New York certificate and they let her teach without any examination.

Aunt Mary Kautz today has a wide reputation as a fine cook. About thirty five years ago she baked bread and doughnuts and redeemed a large debt. Until very recently she baked the chicken pies for the annual Congregational Church Supper. Her 87 years' vigor makes her a character in Hamilton.

Interviewed on her 87th Birthday February 2, 1934.


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All photos are copyright KingsCross Farm, 1997 & 1998
All written material other than reference material copyright KingsCross Farm 1998