OLD SCHOOLHOUSES

Last week’s column on the old one-room schoolhouses brought back memories for many of our older readers, and they were firsthand memories. A number of people called or stopped me on the street to talk about that bygone era.

Virtually every person who was in contact recalled the days when they attended a one-room school. Typically it was one of the schools we mentioned in the column of last week but sometimes it was a different one.

As we mentioned a week ago those schools were closed down in the 1950s and some in the early 1960s. They were a victim of small enrollments, which made them a bit inefficient to operate, and of course the state law from about 1961 which required all elementary schools to be affiliated with a high school district.

Many of the schools were closed before that edict but that was a major factor in the closing decisions throughout our two counties, and the entire state for that matter. Years ago there were literally hundreds of one-room schools in both Dodge and Jefferson counties. Today many of the buildings remain but they are used for different purposes and some of them have been moved.

One of the areas where there was some confusion seemed to be the Richwood area, a small hamlet of a few homes and a couple businesses in the town of Shields. Different people placed the old school or schools in different locations. That was apparently because there were several one-room schoolhouses in the town of Shields and a couple of them were actually moved from their original locations.

Jeff Berres, who lives in the town of Shields and who is a member of the Dodge County Board of Supervisors, wrote to us this week with some information he had compiled about the one-room schoolhouses.

We’ll share that here:

“Having attended a presentation on one-room schoolhouses in Dodge County at the Watertown Senior Center a few months back put on by Lorraine Beal of Lowell, she is undergoing the enormous task of recording pictures and gathering information of these schools throughout Dodge County.

“She is doing this on a volunteer basis. There were over 400 schoolhouses at one time in Dodge County alone, some were in private residences.

“There were no records pertaining to schools in the town of Shields plus a few missing in Emmet.

“She recruited me to help her. Since then, we obtained class and school building pictures for the following schools: Seibel School, which was on the corner of County Q and Middle Road, no longer standing; Richwood School, west of Richwood, still standing, but altered from original building; North Star School, brick building still standing on County K.

“Then I got informed of a school building that no longer stands on the corner of Welsh and Clymet roads, with no record of name of school or building or class pictures. Also no class pictures of Hilltop School which still stands on the corner of Hill Road and County M, now a private residence.

“If anyone has class pictures or building pictures of the school on Welsh and Clymet, or Hilltop, copies would be appreciated. Either you can make copies or I can and your originals will be returned to you.

“When the age-old story told by grandparents about how far we walked, how deep the snow was and how cold it was, gets told, future generations can put a picture to it by recording these schools.

“Without the efforts of the following people no records would be had. A thank you goes out to the following individuals that aided in gathering pictures and information, Florence Bowman, Lorraine Kube, Lavern Lenius, Janet Sommerfeldt, Rachel Strauss, John and Hertha Sterwald, and last but not least, Lorraine Beal.”

We thought that summation helped to unravel some of the questions as to the location of those schools in the town of Shields.

Another of our regular readers dropped a note about the River Road School in the town of Watertown. She said it was located on County Highway Y south of Watertown. She said someone purchased it and did a lot of work, turning that sturdy brick building into a home.

She was a student at that school for first grade through eighth grade, graduating in 1941.

Another person remembered with great detail his experiences as a student at the Richwood school. He said the school was two stories but no one ever went to the second floor. He said that was presumably because the second floor wasn’t sturdy enough to handle the weight of too many people! That was probably the case.

Those old one-room schools are not from such a distant past that they are long forgotten. They are vivid memories of people who attended them, and of course, so many of them are still standing, now put to different uses and in many instances preserved better than they ever were back when they were used as schools.

This is a great topic and as we mentioned last week, if you’re interested in more information about these treasures and their locations, etc., there are two excellent publications. One is an e-book by Lorraine Beal called “One-Room School Houses of Dodge County.” It can be found at the genealogy website at http://dodgejeffgen.com. The second one is a print book titled “One-Room Schools of Jefferson County” which was researched and published by the Johnson Creek Historical Society. Both are excellent tools. And, if you have old photos and/or class listings for any years of these old schools, be sure to share them with these people.

Next week we’ll move to a new topic.

TLS

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