Mystery Solved! 1910 Liberty Township Boxwell Commencement

Sometimes it takes a while to solve a mystery. Sometimes it takes 9 years.

Such is the case concerning a Liberty Township photo sent to me 9 years ago.  

On 22 November 2013 I wrote a blog, A Chatt-Area Graduation? , about a photo of a group of young Liberty Township individuals. They were from all over Liberty Township, not just from the Chatt area. It appears the photo was taken at a graduation of some sort. The young adults were dressed in their Sunday best and all held rolled papers that look like certificates. The names of the young adults are written on the bottom of the photo and by calculating from their birth dates, the photo was taken about 1910.  

Chattanooga Graduation photo, c1910.

Those in the photo: Mina Baumgartner, Flossie Stoll, Carl Berron, Alvina Keck, James Gibbons, Rosa Betzel, Isa Martz, Dolan Loree, Rosa Turckes, Herald Roettger, Irma Wilson, Chester Kincaid, Eda Kable, Ed Bauer, and Hugo Fahncke.

Donna from Indiana sent me the photo nearly a decade ago. Her mother Mina Baumgartner is standing in the photo and Donna wondered if it was her mother’s eighth grade graduation picture, possibly taken at Wildcat School in 1910. Mina Baumgartner (1897-1983) married William Andress (1889-1972) in 1915. Both of their families lived in or near Chatt years ago. But the photo would not have been taken at Wildcat School because Wildcat was in Blackcreek Township and those in the photo were from all over Liberty Township.   

Nine years ago we did not know what the event was or when or where it occurred. The photo has remained a mystery until this past week.

As I was reading through old issues of the Celina Democrat, on-line at the Library of Congress website, I believe I have found the answer to the photo mystery.

The following article is from the 3 June 1910 issue of the Celina Democrat:

Liberty Township Commencement
The annual Liberty township Boxwell commencement will be held at the German Reform Church on Tuesday evening, June 7, beginning at 8 o’clock. Prof. Wilkin will deliver the address, and the Liberty Union band will furnish the music. Joseph Hinton is the teacher in charge. The public is cordially invited to attend.  

Liberty Township Boxwell Commencement, 3 Jun 1910, Celina Democrat.

Just what was the Boxwell commencement mentioned in the above article?

After further research I learned it was the graduation ceremony for those who passed the Boxwell Proficiency Exam. The Boxwell Proficiency Exam was a test for 8th grade students who were going on to high school, to indicate that a student was competent to enter high school. It was similar to today’s proficiency tests and a student had to pass the Boxwell Exams to get into high school. The Boxwell Exams were considered to be fairly difficult and I read that some who passed it were hired to teach at one-room schools.  

So this commencement was a big deal and an important event.

Prior to 1902 the county examiners prepared the questions used to examine 8th grade pupils from the rural and village schools, to make sure they were ready to enter high school. The act of 28 March 1902 required that the State Commissioner of Common Schools prepare the questions for the two examinations, send the questions to the clerk of each county board, who would then prepare the questions and send them to the examiners. The examiners used the questions to test the students in two sessions, held in April and May.   

I found a book on-line that contains the Boxwell Exam questions from 1902-1913. The questions covered the subjects of United States History & Civil Government, Arithmetic, Geography, Grammar, Physiology, Orthography, Writing, and Reading. All subjects were covered in both examinations, although it appears that students did not have to answer every question. They could choose to answer a certain number of questions from each major category. E.g. answer 5 or the 8 questions.

Some questions from the 16 April 1910 exam. See how well you would do.

U.S. History & Civil Government category:
1. Describe the early settlement of Ohio.
2. Who were the inhabitants of Ohio before the whites? Write about their manner of living.
3. Who is our Governor? What are his duties? What are the duties of any of our county officials?
4. Name the important wars in America before the Revolution. Give causes and results of one of them. What were the terms of the treaty that closed this war?  
5. What is the Declaration of Independence? What is the Constitution? When was each adopted? Where? By whom?
6. Give an event in the life of each of the following men: W. T. Sherman, James Russell Lowell, Rutherford B. Hayes, Capt. John Smith, Jacques Marquette, Robert Fulton, Marquis De Lafayette, and Admiral George Dewey.
7. Define history, rebellion, war, statesman, civil government, congress, treasurer.
8. Outline the administration of any president since the Civil war. What were the chief events of his term of office?

1. What is a fraction? A note? Interest? A decimal fraction? A circle?
2. Smith and Oaks load 37 cars with 1,056,600 lb. of soap; allowing 64 lbs. to the box, how many boxes did it take?
3. If 4/5 of a number is 20,256, what is the whole number?
4. Find the L. D. M. of 2, 6, 8, 12, 18, 40, 63, and 128.
5. How many square feet of zinc will be needed to line the five sides of an open cubical tank containing 1728 cubic feet?
6. Find the interest on a note of $675 given July 1, 1906, drawing 6% interest and due the day you are taking this examination.
7. Add 2358, 3165, 16395, 406, 2749, 428690, 3174, 4528, 53185, 4749 and divide the sum by 128.

1. What is a vowel? A syllable? Pronunciation?
2. Show the different sounds of C and G in words properly marked.
3. Define silent letter, consonant, accent, polysyllable, and primitive word.
4. Mark these words with the proper diacritical markings: Nasal, cartilage, Brazil, merciful, Tecumseh, watch, humid, Cuyahoga, valise, verify…

Write a stanza of poetry not to exceed four lines in length as a sample of your penmanship.

Examiners will conduct the examination on this subject orally. [1]

Enough of that. You get the idea and I don’t like thinking that hard anymore.

I really disliked math story problems. And is Arithmetic question no. 2 a trick question? Do they want just the number of boxes of soap? So the 37 cars were added to trick you? I was always on the lookout for trick questions. The answer is, a whole lot of boxes of soap. The Arithmetic questions would be so much easier today because we have calculators. I can’t imagine adding all those numbers by hand anymore. Although we used to.

The news article answers a couple other questions about the mystery photo. The Liberty Township Boxwell Commencement was held on 7 June 1910 at the German Reform Church. It was probably held at one of their two churches, which were located just a couple miles apart. Their North Church, a frame structure built in 1880, was about a half mile east of Chatt on Tama Road. I remember it as the Grange Hall or the Parish Hall. The old North Church was torn down several years ago. They also had a South Church, on the corner of Oregon and Wabash Roads, and they alternated services between the two churches. In 1928 the South Church became the main place of worship and the North Church became the Parish Hall. The South Church became St. Paul UCC and is now St. Paul Country Church. I guess the commencement could have been held at either church.

Another mystery solved!

I love it when the pieces all come together to solve a mystery, even if it takes nearly a decade. I was just lucky that I remembered the photo in question when I read the news article.

[1] Eighth Grade Examinations: Boxwell-Patterson Examinations, Columbus, Ohio, Published by The Ohio Teacher, 1922; The Ohio Collection, Ohio State University Library,


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    • Deb Bollenbacher Reichard on September 9, 2022 at 8:29 am
    • Reply

    Great job Karen! Interesting piece. For sure, I would not have been a participant in this graduation ceremony. Ha! And yes, my brain is like yours these days, I just don’t want to think that hard!

    1. Thanks, Deb!

    • Brian Brewster on September 9, 2022 at 7:06 pm
    • Reply

    Karen , Flossie Stoll Kanorr was my grandpa Blacks first cousin. I love that picture. Thanks Brian

    1. So interesting! Another local connection for you and a special photo indeed. Thanks for writing!

    • Frank McCollister on September 11, 2022 at 6:33 am
    • Reply

    Hi Karen,

    Thanks for solving the mystery. The fact that you remembered the photo nine years later and then made the connection is a testament to a system that used to teach one how to think, reason and make connections that are not always obvious or may not seem relevant at the moment. As this test points out the students were expected to have a depth of understanding of the subject matter and how to apply it in various situations not just rote memory of a fact. I work with a lot of college students or recent grads and they are not taught to think. Just know it long enough to pass a test and move on. If one needs to know more a computer will figure it out for you; google has all the answers. One does not need to know how to get the answer merely where to go to find it. Of course the fallacy is how does one know, test or prove that the answer provided is correct? I suspect there are lot of college graduates who could not pass this test today.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Very well said! Reasoning, thinking, and common sense seem to be going by the wayside as other things are being taught. I also wonder how students would do on this test today. Thanks for writing!

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