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More information surfaces on country schools

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By Linda Hanabarger

Several weeks ago, I wrote a column about the one-room country schools dotting the countryside of Fayette County. A question from Vandalia resident Jane Cox prompted the column; and since it was published, interest has grown.

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Bill Stolte of Vandalia telephoned to tell me that he had a school record book from Maple Grove School in Seminary Township that he had saved from destruction. He asked if I would like to look at it.

The hard-bound green binder, measuring 16 inches by 10 inches and approved for use in Fayette County schools by S.B. Vance, county superintendent, spanned the years 1934-1940. 

Included in the book, along with names of students and attendance data, was the schedule of daily classroom work, names of visitors, list of books used in the classroom, comments by the teacher to their successor and an inventory of the school property by the teacher, not always complimentary.

Melvin R. Barth was Maple Grove’s teacher for the 1934 school year, for which he was paid an annual salary of $520. The first day of school was Sept. 3, 1934, with the term ending on May 3, 1935. Directors of Maple Grove School, District 72, were W.C. Cripe, John Tedrick and Erveen Dothager in 1934.

The first class listed in the book is arranged by age, and includes children from fifth to seventh grades: Jack Williams, Nadine Dugan, Norman Cripe, Charles Goodin, Marjorie Eyman, Dile Kern, Kenneth Tedrick, Wilbert Dothager, Otis Dothager, Darrel Dothager, Dallas Hopkins, Myrtle Shipley, Frances Weger, Sylvia Stone, Junior Stone, Marcella Tedrick, Lucille Harben, Amynell Cook, Clem Hopkins, Lloyd Kern, Burnell Cripe, Faye Weger, Elaine Duckworth, Marion Duckworth and Lois Hopkins.

Harlie A. Hatfill filled the teacher’s position, beginning in 1936. He was followed by Mae Williams, Nola Tedrick and J.M. Wheatley.

Harold Davitt, Ron Williams and Diana Strobel of Ramsey all have offered copies of school photographs to add to my collection.  Strobel was a member of the last class taught at Peak School, and this was possibly one of the last country schools to close.

Charles Daily caught up with me at Evans Public Library, and not only let me copy photographs of Peak School, but also took the time to point out to me the location of these neighborhood centers of education and socialization.

I had passed the old Burnett Schoolhouse, directly across from the entrance to Vandalia Lake, for years, not knowing it was a former school. The "new" Peak School on Ill. Route 185, a photo of which accompanies this column, is the home of Hope Swetland.

Cousin Connie Torbeck called from Hatfield, Pa., to tell me that Ball Hill, Martinbox, New Union, Williams (Carter Camp), Edwards and Wolf schools were all converted to houses.

She then followed up with copies of photographs she had taken in 2001-2002 of some schools still standing at that time. Several had been converted into homes and others  were boarded up. 

A photo of Maple Grove School in LaClede Township interested me, in particular. Although the old schoolhouse was being used for hay storage and to house cattle, a mirror hung on the wall and the slate chalkboard was still in place.