Larchwood's Schools

Public School
By Floyd Hohman

The first school house in Larchwood was built about 1873. It was a small one-room structure and was on the site on which the Pete Bontje Jr. home now stands.
The Independent School District of Larchwood then included what is now Larchwood, Sioux and part of Logan and Centennial townships.

There were four school houses built in the district in 1873. One in Larchwood; one near J.B. Dement's, one and one-half mile east; one five miles south near the E.W. Lewis farm; and one seven miles west on the Sioux River near Nels Peterson's.

In 1873 Phil J. Allbright, father of Glenn Allbright of Rock Rapids, taught school in Larchwood. He and his bride lived in the school house while their house was being built and this was the third dwelling built in the town. His salary was $35.00 per month. There were six pupils enrolled, namely: John, Fred and Fanny Geiser; Galena, William and Maggie Willard.

Mr. J.F. Geiser was president of the first school board and was employed by J.W. Fell. Mr. S.B. Willard built the first dwelling in town and was the first postmaster.

Population growth was quite rapid and there was need for more rural schools and enlarging of the town school.

The people were surely optimistic in those days. Material for the school houses had to be hauled by wagon either from Cherokee or Sioux City, hence the enormous cost of building each school was about $2,000.00.

People wanted school houses for two reasons. First, they wanted schools; First, they wanted schools; secondly, the public money was needed by the people. Six pupils were required to open a school, and sometimes they borrowed children from another district in order to show compliance with the requirements of the law. Our criticism should be sparingly offered and due credit given the ultimate goal. Often the husband or the wife taught.

A two-story two-room school house was built about 1891 on the lots where the brick school stood until 1971.
In two years there was a need for an addition to the school house. A contract was let to W.V. Amidon in 1893. Specifications called for a 28 by 28 foot addition. The old building was to be raised two feet and reroofed. The bid was $2358.00. The change made room for two more departments.

Increased population led to building a new school. On April 26, 1909 the school board let a contract for the erection of a new eight-room brick building for $13,265. The heating was for $1733. At a following meeting a contract was let to J.A. Murphy for $325 to move the old wood frame school south across the street to where the present gym now stands. The school board held their first board meeting in the new library in January of 1910. George Haggart was paid $3 for planting 12 trees around the new school.


Disciplinary action has always played an important part in the school system the school board . In 1904 made a motion to Hyde whip and "purchase a Raw take it to the Professor with orders to have it applied whenever necessary".

The school board disciplined the teachers also, a resolution passed in 1911 reads in part: "Realizing that the public dance has a direct tendency to lower the standard of morals of those who attend them and tends to lower the dignity of our schools and retards the moral uplift of their pupils which parents have right to expect and demand… That any teacher attending a dance shall be subject to termination of their contract.

All decisions pertaining to school affairs were made by the school board. This included the hiring and firing of teachers, salaries, courses of study and selection of text books. It was thru a gradual process that the Superintendent was taken into their confidence.

In 1920, there were many cases of small pox, including the Prof. Curry family. School was closed for ten days and the building thoroughly fumigated before school reopened.

In 1921 the board decided to remove the cupola, as it was a haven for pigeons and the old bell was cracked and no longer useful. A school house gong was purchased and used in place of the bell.

In the depression of the 30's teachers wages were cut about 30% and teachers were eliminated by combine classes. Tuition was lowered to encourage more rural students to enter high school; increased enrollment also gave the district more state money.

Several attempts were made to consolidate the rural districts but were defeated. It was at this time several W.P.A. projects were in action in the county. A plan to build a gym was studied but a suitable plan could not be negotiated.

The school was modernized with indoor toilets in 1941. In the late 40's reorganization was purposed throughout the state. In our own area we needed a gym.

With the cooperation of St. Mary's school the issue was settled. The gym was built in 1954.

In the late 50's reorganization tempo picked up in Iowa and West Lyon was proposed. It comprised the four towns of Alvord, Larchwood, Lester and Inwood. Also included were over 40 former rural school districts from Beloit to north of Lester and from Gitchie Manitou to southeast of Alvord. The new school was built in the center of this area.

Superintendents of Larchwood Public School

E.D. Mossman, M.C. Boyland, C.U. Moore, F.E. Fourlie, Mr. Mericle, Mr. Hetzler, James Ehret, H.E. Weech, Mr. Brown, Mr. Shirley, Mr. Laughlin, Mr. Studebaker, Mr. Swisher, Mr. Wisdon.
Also L.A. Dunham, O.V. Dunn, Mr. Price, M. DeGraff, Mr. Curry, P.R. Jost, William Parks, D.H. Rummel, G. Aspinwall, E.P. Wessel, L. Knox, M.R. Finley, Charles Berry, C.L. Reinhart.

Index   |   Home