Mountainous Eastern Columbia County, later renamed Asotin County, was the most populated area in southeastern Washington because of a thriving sawmill owned by Thomas and Sarah Bean. Thomas Bean felt his workers’ children needed an education and opened a school in 1879.
His granddaughter, Angie Bean, became the first teacher of 20 students in a log hut in Anatone, near where the state borders Idaho and Oregon. Other than a few weeks of training in faraway Spokane, Angie Bean was self-taught. She was well-read because of her grandfather’s vast library, which qualified her as a teacher.
Bean was the total caretaker of the school. She chopped wood and built the fire before students came, put the pot on to make lunch and hand printed materials for students’ use. A handmade blackboard was her main teaching tool. Chalk was a precious item, and paper and pencils were treasured items.
She taught from April through September. Students traveled to school by horse and on foot from as far as 20 miles away. With snow from 6 to 10 feet in winter months, the roads were impassable and unsafe.
Bean was determined to teach in an organized way that would stick in her stu-dents’ minds, but she also taught from the heart. Students respected their young teacher and thrived under her direction. Her salary was a mere $49.26 a year compared to the $70 paid male teachers.
On Nov. 14, 1883, Charlie Goodwin was appointed the first superintendent of the school district, but he declined, and Bean was appointed. She qualified and was elected to that office and served until 1893.
In 1887, the Anatone school became part of an organized district. With the growing population of the county, the district expanded to 12 schools with more than 1,000 students.
Bean’s natural leadership provided the organization and structure needed for future students’ education. After she stepped down from her superintendent position, she taught at the Silcott school just west of the present city of Clarkston. Her heart was always in educating the next generation.
— Sharon Hoseley, Clarkston
Hoseley is a freelance writer and retired kindergarten teacher. She writes occasional feature articles for Golden Times and other publications. She compiled this brief history for a booklet on influential women teachers in Washington for the Washington State School Retirement Association, using information from the Asotin County Museum. The booklet is being released this month. Hoseley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.