Sams Valley structure edges toward century mark

Its pristine facade reminiscent of a Spanish Mission–complete with belfry– belies the structure’s advanced years. Erected almost 100 years ago, amid homesteaded farms and orchards, Table Rock Bible Church enjoys a fascinating, somewhat surprising history.
    
"It started out as a one-room schoolhouse," Pastor David Price said of the Sams Valley chapel situated near 3 R Ranch. "In fact, some of our current members attended the school as children."


Anita Wheeler-who married into the family Wheeler Road was named
after-recalls her early education. "I went to school eight years here,"
she said. "…had school and church in this building at the same time."
   
Asked what happened following 8th-grade graduation, Wheeler recounted attending high school in Central Point.        
   
Parish
Superintendent Verne Gebhard verified  the accuracy of Ms. Wheeler’s
recollections. From historical literature of the area, he determined
that what began as a school in 1910, became a Community Building circa
1940. It hosted elementary instruction on weekdays, worship services on
Sundays, and Community events, including holiday celebrations, on other
days.
   
He also noted that in 1879, Table Rock District
started in local houses. Defined as  "subscription schools, " these
required payment on a per-student basis. Until early in the 20th
century, farm children took classroom instruction during winter months
only. For much of the growing season, they helped their families with
agricultural or ranching chores.
   
The records confirm voters approved constructing the $3,000 building in 1910.      
   
Multi-generations
of former students ranging from nonagenarians down to baby-boomers
still survive. Although ninety-one-year-old Ruth (Sage) Bishop has
since moved to Kansas City, her daughter, Candace (Bishop) Snider
returned to Jackson County. She says she grew up in the house next door
to the structure.  Snider  retained vivid memories of studies in that
schoolhouse as recently as Ike’s initial defeat of Adlai for the
Presidency. She further described the value of an education whereby
second-graders often sat by quietly and listened, while fourth-graders
received instruction. Each row of pupils represented another grade.
"From our section of the room, we followed along, and read the same
lesson material. That’s how we acquired scholastic skills well in
advance of our grade levels. I attended here up to 4th grade. Then they
started busing us to Central Point."
   
Of the community
meetings, she remembered  popcorn balls, pies, cake walks, and lines
she  recited in plays held on the tiny stage still intact.
   
She
recalled their final group of first graders included her sister, Linda
Bishop Howten, now sixty-two. Linda shared an amusing reminiscence
about the belfry rope .The boys giggled when a diminutive teacher
yanked the hefty chord to toll the school bell. The rope would hoist
her above the floor, revealing whatever ruffled trim edged her
petticoat. 
   
On May 17, 2009, guest speaker, Rev. Terry
Pruett, Director of  American Missionary Fellowship, arrived to deliver
a special Bible message. His wife Cynthia sang a touching tribute to
mothers.
   
In anticipation, at 11 a.m., Verne Gebhard tugged
a fraying hemp rope heralding the start of Table Rock Bible Church’s
morning service. Was it still the same bell that once summoned children
to school there almost a century ago?  "To my understanding," said
Gebhard, "this is the original bell."
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent

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