Independence (Missouri) School District Records
Dates: Date Span: 1888-1899.
The records of the Independence (Missouri) School District feature the contents of two ledger books containing information about the attendance and grades of pupils at the Noland School in Independence from 1888 to 1897. Included are the grades and attendance records of Harry S. Truman, who was a student in the first and second grades at the Noland School from 1892 to 1894. The records contain similar information about hundreds of other pupils, among them Harry’s younger brother, Vivian Truman. Also included are the contents of another ledger book containing information about the attendance and grades of students at Independence High School from 1894 to 1898, and records certifying that Harry Truman and Bess Wallace graduated from grammar school with the class of 1898.
Size: Less than one-half of one linear foot (about 600 pages).
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The Noland School was constructed in 1885 on Liberty Street near the intersection with Pacific Street in Independence, Missouri. It was originally called the Southside School, but was renamed in honor of Hinton Noland, a longtime member of the Independence School Board.
Harry S. Truman was eight years old when he entered the Noland School as a first-grader in 1892. He completed the first grade during the 1892-93 school year, and returned as a second-grader for the 1893-94 school year. Early in 1894, he became ill with diphtheria and was forced to drop out. When he was well enough to return to school later that year, he transferred to the new Columbian School, which was closer to his home.
The original building that housed the Noland School was apparently torn down in 1935, and a new school was constructed with the same name and at the same location. The Noland School was closed in 1981.
During the 1890s, classes at Independence High School were held upstairs in the Ott School on North Liberty Street. A separate building for the high school was completed at the corner of Maple Avenue and Pleasant Street in 1899. Harry Truman and his future wife, Bess Wallace, finished grammar school in 1898 and graduated from Independence High School with the class of 1901.
The records of the Independence (Missouri) School District include the contents of two ledger books containing information about the grades and attendance of hundreds of students who went to the Noland School in Independence from 1888 to 1897. One ledger book was apparently maintained for first-graders, and covers the period from 1888 to 1896. The other book appears to contain information about students in the second grade, and covers the period from 1889 to 1897. The photocopied pages from these ledger books are filed in separate folders, one for each book. For the convenience of researchers, the processing archivist has numbered the pages from each book consecutively. The numbers are written in pencil at the bottom of each page. The processing archivist has also created the folder titles in this collection.
In 1892, an eight-year-old boy with large eyeglasses and (by all accounts) a pleasant disposition entered the first grade at the Noland School. His name was Harry S. Truman, and his parents had moved to Independence from a nearby farm a couple of years earlier, mostly because his mother wanted her children to have the advantage of an education in town. The records indicate that Truman (whose name was initially misspelled in the ledger as “Truemann”) began attending classes on October 17, 1892, which means that he missed the first few weeks of the 1892-93 school year. However, for the remainder of the school year he was never recorded as absent or tardy. In fact, in a class of over one hundred children, he seems to have been the only student who compiled perfect attendance during that period. With the assistance of his first-grade teacher, Miss Mira Ewin, the future president did well in his studies. At the end of the third and final term of the school year, he received grades in spelling, reading, and “numbers” (presumably arithmetic) that were among the best in his class. Truman’s grade and attendance records for the first grade at the Noland School can be found on pages 56-57, 62-63, 68-69, and 76-77 of the first ledger book.
Truman returned to Noland School as a second-grader for the 1893-94 school year. His teacher was Miss Minnie Ward, and for the first few months he again compiled high marks and a good attendance record. Then, in January 1894, Truman became seriously ill with diphtheria. His convalescence dragged on for weeks, and he was forced to drop out of school. Upon his recovery, he began attending classes at the new Columbian School, which was closer to his home in Independence. Truman’s grade and attendance records for the second grade at the Noland School can be found on pages 104-105, 108-109, and 116-117 of the second ledger book.
Vivian Truman, Harry’s younger brother, attended the Noland School briefly as a first-grader in January 1894, but came down with diphtheria at the same time as his brother and also had to leave school.
In 2007, the contents of a third ledger book were added to the collection, consisting of grades and attendance records for students at Independence High School from 1894 to 1898. This ledger contains no information about Harry Truman, who started high school in 1898.
Also added to the collection in 2007 were the contents of another bound volume, which includes records certifying that about forty students completed grammar school in Independence in 1898-1899. Harry Truman and his future wife Bess Wallace are among the students listed; they each received their certificates on January 20, 1899, although the records note that they actually graduated with the class of 1898. The completed graduation certificates themselves are not included in the collection, but there are a number of blank certificates. Each bears the name and emblem of the state of Missouri, and certifies that the student in question “completed the prescribed Grammar School Course of Study and passed a satisfactory examination in the Public Schools of Independence.”
More information about the childhood and early education of Harry S. Truman can be found in the Truman Library's oral history interviews with Mize Peters (a classmate of Truman's at the Noland School), Henry Chiles, and Mary Ethel Noland. The Library's Miscellaneous Historical Documents Collection includes Truman's report card from the Columbian School in 1894, reflecting his completion of the second grade after he recovered from the illness that had forced him to leave the Noland School (MHDC No. 292). Copies of Truman’s English and history notebooks at Independence High School are filed in the Harry S. Truman Papers: Papers Pertaining to Family, Business and Personal Affairs.