When I bought this photograph from a dealer in Arkansas, he and I both assumed the photo had originated in neighboring Texas, which is known as the Lone Star State. Well, it turns out there have been schools with the name “Lone Star” in several different states. The only additional information on the photo was a name written on the back. But what name was it, exactly? The note looked like “Wilmith Reiber, Zach’s mother”:
That interpretation made sense, but it wasn’t quite right. After two hours of searching, I realized the correct reading is “Wilmeth Reiber Zech’s mother.” Wilmeth Reiber Zech’s mother was Winifred Erline Hermon Reiber (1890-1954). (Note: although Herman and Harmon are common spellings in Missouri, her family name was Hermon.)
In the 1910 federal census, Winnie Hermon was living as a boarder near Post Oak in Johnson County, Missouri, and teaching at a “district school.” She was twenty years old. (She had also been listed as a boarder there in the 1900 census, when she was only ten. Her mother had died a year after Winnie’s birth.) In April 1912 Winnie married Perry Oliver Reiber (1887-1969) in Warrensburg, Missouri. Seventeen months later, in September 1913, they had their first child, Ernest Edgar Reiber (1913-1981). They then had a daughter in 1915 and a second daughter, Wilmeth, in 1919. It’s clear from these records that Winnie stopped teaching after her marriage, which means the photo was taken no later than 1912.
I reached out to the Johnson County Historical Society to see if they have a copy of the photo in their records. They don’t, but they have a different photo of the school with a date of 1911, so we can rule out that year. My photo could have been taken a year or two earlier, when Winnie was twenty or in her late teens.
Over the door of the school is a handmade sign with the letters F.W.T. in the lower right corner. Maybe those were the initials of the maker?
I wonder if Winnie enjoyed teaching school. It must have been hard work. She shouldered so much responsibility at such a young age. I bet she remembered these kids long after she married, moved away and started a family of her own.
(You can see a larger version of the image above in a separate tab here.)
I’d like to thank Bill Wayne, President of the Johnson County Historical Society, for his generous assistance.