Friday, September 12, 2008
Community histories often include a section on the local school, but schools are rarely researched in and of themselves. One reason may be that school is so much a part of the infrastructure of our lives that it is overlooked in the grander scheme of things.
Many of us are quite sentimental for our school days; going to class reunions or meeting with former classmates over a cup of coffee to regale hilarious and sometimes embarrassing moments from the past.
In light of this curiosity, and to promote more interest in the history of schools, I've decided to regularly feature a school in my posts. One of the more substantial collections at the Lake County Discovery Museum's Archives is the School Collection. It includes histories for 52 one-room schools, photographs, and board of directors' ledger books for a number of schools.
To start, I've chosen the Swan School in Fremont Township for its somewhat central location.
The Swan School, once located at the southeast corner of Route 83 and Peterson Road, was named for Deacon Swan who donated the land for the school. The naming of schools was often handled in this way.
As families settled newly opened regions of the country, the first building constructed after a home was a neighborhood school. The first school lessons taught in Lake County were in the home of Laura Sprague in Half Day in 1836. (Laura Sprague School in Vernon Township is named in her memory). The following year, the first proper schoolhouse was built in Libertyville.
The original Swan School was erected in 1856. By 1861, there were 70 one-room schoolhouses throughout the County.
This photograph of Swan School is from around 1900. Shown is the female teacher (top right) and her scholars.
Schools were central to each community. They were often used for church services, since schools were built before churches. Meetings and social gatherings such as dances and spelling bees were also held at the schools.
Pictured in this 1926 class photograph is Miss Josephine Kische (later Ullrich) at the top center, standing with her scholars, as they were called, in front of their new brick schoolhouse.
As listed on the back of the photo from left to right: Top row -- "Orphan" from Chicago who lived with a local farmer, Miss Kische, Ethel Meyer. Second row -- Dorothy Radke, Vernon Willard, Mary Fincutter, Anna Fincutter, Edward Fincutter, Jack Zahnle, Margaret Fincutter, Cecelia Grosser, ?? Willard, ?? Willard, Marge Sorenson (later Obenauf). First row -- Helen Radke, Helen Sorenson, Fiester boy, Fiester boy, Willard boy, Willard boy, Billy Meyer, Virginia ??, Fiester girl, Titus girl, Louis Meyer, Virginia Wirtz, Titus girl, Titus girl.
This 1953 photograph of unidentified Swan School students retains much of the rural, farming atmosphere of earlier class photos, and a touch of mischief in their broad smiles.
In 1995, the Swan School was razed. Intersection improvements made it necessary for the school to be moved, and the County of Lake tried unsuccessfully to find a buyer. The cement nameplate over the school's doorway was donated to the Lake County Discovery Museum.
For a selection of the Museum’s one-room school histories online