by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
With a career that spanned four decades, and a school named in her honor, Essie M. Matthews is a name that won’t be forgotten. Anyone that has lived in Grain Valley, attended school in Grain Valley or has had a child go through the Grain Valley School system in the last 70 years must surely be familiar with her name.
Mrs. Matthews came to Grain Valley in the fall of 1951 as the only 7th grade teacher. It would be safe to say the school was much smaller in those days. She became the elementary principal in 1958, but continued teaching 7th grade. In 1963, she also added freshman Civics to her busy schedule. In 1967, during my college days I did some substitute teaching over Christmas break. It was Mrs. Matthews that hired me, and by that time she was a full-time principal, a position she held until her retirement in the early 1980s.
In 1978, a $562,000 bond issue was used to complete the first phase of Matthews Elementary School. Not many people have buildings named for them. Almost no one works in a building named for themselves. Essie Matthews was the exception.
Essie Mildred Boone grew up in rural Lafayette County and attended Central Missouri State Teachers College in Warrensburg (now UCM). She began her teaching career at Weaver School near Odessa, and taught in rural Lafayette Schools five years. Four years in Colorado followed and then she came to Grain Valley. She and her husband Calvin made their home in Odessa. So, while she never actually resided in our town, her contribution to the students and teachers of this community is still evident today.