Teachers hard to find for one-room schoolhouse

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Ginny Hall | November 1, 2013

You can see the former Heart Prairie-South Side schoolhouse at the south end of Heart Prairie at the northwest corner of the intersection of County Highway O and Territorial Road. It was Joint District No. 3 with Sugar Creek. 

This district was organized May 30, 1843, at the home of D. S. Elting. Samuel Loomer was chosen moderator of the meeting. Officers elected included trustees Samuel Loomer, Robert K. Morris and D.S. Elting, who also was the district clerk, and district collector Edwin DeWolf.  

Classes were first held at the Elting home. In November 1843, the district voted to build an 18-by-18-foot school. Before it was completed they voted to increase the size by another 2 feet.

The first schoolhouse was built on the northeast corner of the intersection on land Elting leased to the district. The building was to be completed by June 1845. Caroline Knight was hired to be the first teacher at a salary of $16.25 for 13 weeks of classes.

Hiring teachers and keeping the building warm seemed to be the biggest problems for the school board. In 1850 it was decided to hold school for eight months. For three months the school would be taught by a male teacher. This was during the winter term when the older boys would attend. The other five months would be taught by a female teacher. 

On Sept. 2, 1850, the district report to the town superintendent of schools included the following description: A frame school without entry or closet. Extent of ground less than an acre no outdoor convenience for any sex without enclosure but furnished with black board and outline maps.

In 1854, the district voted to raise $300 to build a new school that would be 26-by-34-by-12 feet ... at or near the present site and “finished in a workman like manner.”

The old schoolhouse was auctioned off. At that same meeting they voted to buy wood from Richard Fairchild at 84 cents a cord specified to be 2 foot wood seasoned and fitted for the stove and piled up at the schoolhouse.

The finished school was described as being nearly 32-by-24-by-9 feet with a 6-by-8-inch chimney and 107 square feet of blackboards. In 1860 the district appointed a committee to look into the cost of an addition to the school. 

At the annual meeting in 1871, it was voted to hold parents responsible for damage done to the schoolhouse. On Sept. 29, 1873, the district voted to put a door in the south side of the school wing.

The length of the school term varied over the years from seven to nine months. It was divided into winter and summer terms.   On July 20, 1891, the district decided to have three terms — two months of fall term, four months of winter term and three months of spring term. 

Annie West Hackett was the teacher here during the 1892-'93 school year. During the 1909-'10 school year, Laura Packard taught 19 students. She had no prior teaching experience and received $30 a month as her salary. The school board members were C.H. Taylor, John Ryan and Edwin McDougel.

A former student from 1900, Ruth Hackett Bromley, had her first year of teaching experience here in 1912-'13. 

Most early annual district minutes indicated that the board would be responsible for getting water to the school. At a special meeting of the district on Dec. 13, 1943, it was voted to drill a well. Up until that time, water was carried from a nearby farm. 

A special district meeting was held Sept. 14, 1948, to decide if there should be free transportation for high school students; the matter lost 18 to 10.

During the 1959-'60 school year the building got new blackboards.

The last teacher at this school was Linda L. Lauderdale in the 1961-'62 school year. She had 23 pupils and was paid $4,230. 

The district dissolved on July 1, 1963. Robert Schoenbeck was the last school clerk. Part of the district attached to Elkhorn Joint District No. 1 and part joined Whitewater Joint Unified District No. 1.

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