The replica schoolhouse at the Pioneer Village at Shingle Creek is typical of the style that Emma Viola Yowell may have taught in. Born in Illinois about 1862, she began her teaching career there in 1886. After moving to Florida in 1888, Emma taught at the Athens School in Polk County, followed by a transfer to Davenport in 1889. The move to Osceola County in 1890 was the beginning of Emma’s fifty years of service to our community.
An abandoned small log house in Bassville, with a leaky roof became Emma’s first schoolroom. Sixteen pupils sat on boxes and planks fastened to the walls due to the lack of desks and other furnishings. During the rainy season, Emma would gather the children under an umbrella in a corner of the room. Shake Rag School was her next school and she would walk the three miles from town, to and from school each day.
Emma moved around the county for several years, teaching at Bull Creek where she boarded with various patrons of the school. The school was an unfinished building with no windows or doors and only part of the floor completed. The winter of 1891 was a harsh one and since the school lacked a stove, Emma would build a fire behind a heavy clump of palmettos, holding school around the fire while the children sat on boxes and logs, wrapped in blankets to stay warm.
After a few years of teaching in Center Park, Emma moved to Kissimmee in 1896 to teach the Primary unit in the new four-room school. Overcrowded conditions forced the Primary unit to be moved first to the old opera house, then to various other buildings in Kissimmee and finally to the Methodist church building, located at that time, on Church Street near Main Street. Emma was promoted to principal and when the building was later dismantled, the new one was named the Emma Yowell School.
Emma V. Yowell served the community for three generations; her pupils became prominent citizens and businessmen in Osceola County and elsewhere. Their names go back to the founding of our county – Partin, Overstreet, Sears, Tress, Johnson, Bass and Lupfer to name only a few. Upon her retirement, a reception honoring Miss Emma, as she was fondly known, was held on May 23, 1940. In November of 1941, Miss Emma passed away and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery. She was honored again in 2011, at the Osceola County Historical Society's annual Dine with the Departed event.
Sources: “The Kissimmee Gazette” issues May 24, 1940 and November 28, 1941