Miss Catherine Feaster, principal of Palmyra’s Washington elementary school and eighth-grade teacher, is pictured along with her class in the 1926 yearbook. Miss Feaster is seated in the middle of the front row. Others are: Top row, Gerald Riegel, Sinclare Moore, William Christman, Harold Teel, Walter Rigney and Wayne Banks. Second row, Floyd Meyers, Jack Metcalf, Leo Muffley, Archie Weller, Jack Johnson and Jesse Smith. Third row, Ella Louise Schnitzer, Eleanor Catron, Florence Haydon, Maurine Dunn, Jean Dodds and Edna Ward. Bottom row, Oneta Gardhouse, Francis Hurley, Berniece Clusky, Miss Feaster, Dorothy Hobbs, Ruth Fisher and Harold Young. Yearbook photo accessed via Ancestry.com
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
When Minnie Catherine Feaster graduated from Palmyra High School in the spring of 1916, she already knew her destiny: To be a teacher.
The following August, she accepted a teaching job, working for the same school district that she graduated from. Following a two-day training course in 1917 - hosted by Miss Frankie Connell of Hannibal at the Palmyra courthouse - she was qualified to pursue her chosen profession – one which she would continue to practice until her retirement.
Rising in the ranks
Miss Feaster made it a practice to pursue college courses during the school’s summer breaks, and her hard work and teaching skills helped her to move up the ranks quickly.
In June 1921, James W. Primrose was named Washington school principal. When he didn’t renew his contract the following year, Miss Feaster was named principal, a position which she would continue hold through the 1927-28 school year. An interesting tidbit gained from her years as principal was that the school was closed for a week during November 1924, due to a diphtheria outbreak.
At the end of May 1925, a total of 20 students graduated from eighth grade at Washington School. At the beginning of the 1926 school year (and probably before), Miss Feaster was acting both as principal and eighth grade teacher at the Palmyra elementary school.
In June of 1928, she learned that her contract as Palmyra principal would not be renewed. The Hannibal Courier reported: “This year the Palmyra board decided to employ a man as principal.”
Instead of stepping back solely into a teaching role at Palmyra, she moved ahead, accepting a job as an elementary teacher in Hannibal. She continued her educational pursuits at Kirksville State Teachers College during the summer, and in the fall, she went to work in Hannibal. Her reputation was such that Hannibal considered itself lucky to have her on their staff.
After completing a year of teaching at Mark Twain Elementary school, Hannibal, in 1928-29, she was rehired for the coming year, and was appointed to a committee to arrange the Course of Study for the Hannibal schools. She headed back to school at Kirksville during the summer months, for continuing education courses.
Miss Feaster’s father, John T. Feaster, spent his entire life in Marion County, from 1858 until his death in 1936. His parents’ presence in the county dated back to 1837, and they had nine children. John Feaster was the last of his generation to pass; his remains are at Little Union Cemetery, as are the other members of his immediate family.
The cemetery is located eight miles west of Palmyra, on what is now known as Route 168. Little Union itself is an unincorporated area in the county, which took its name from the nearby Little Union Baptist Church. A post office was established at Little Union in 1876, which remained open for 10 years.
The route through Little Union was previously known as the Palmyra-Philadelphia rock road. John Feaster was an active promoter of this road during his lifetime, and was pivotal in establishing its status as among the first hard surface roads built in the western section of the county.
The Feasters were honored on the occasion of their 47th wedding anniversary in March 1933. The Palmyra Spectator noted that the surprise celebration took place following the business meeting of the Little Union PTA. The curtains to the stage were drawn, and on the stage was a large stack angel food cake, 10 inches tall, 37 inches in circumference at the base and 27 inches at the top, weighing 10 pounds. The cake was baked using 45 eggs.
The Feasters remained active in the Little Union School’s PTA long after their children were grown.
Those taking part in the anniversary program included some of Miss Feaster’s students from Hannibal.
Four years after her father’s death, Miss Feaster and two other teachers, Miss Pauline Triplett and Miss Lula Mae Kimberly (Rothweiler), took summer classes at the University of Colorado, working toward their master’s degrees. The following year, Miss Feaster taught at Hannibal’s Central school. Later city directories list her as a high school teacher.
Miss Feaster, living in Palmyra, attended the South Central Regional Conference for Alpha Delta Kappa Teachers sorority held in Hot Springs, Ark., during July 1972. She was a charter member of the Alpha Rho Chapter, Hannibal, and was serving as sergeant-at-arms on the state level. Another charter member attending from Hannibal was Darlene Brown.
Miss Feaster died in November 12, 1991, at the age of 95, and is buried alongside her parents at Little Union Cemetery.
The Little Union school house, which was west of Palmyra in Marion County, was pictured in the 1913 Marion County Atlas.