The Country Schools of Plymouth County
by Linda Mohning
For nearly 100 years the farm children of this county attended rural schools. As recorded in the history section in the back of the 1907 Plymouth County Atlas, “The first public school in the county began in December, 1859, at Melbourne, and was taught by Judge William Van O’Linda. The general interest shown by the people of Plymouth County in the cause of education is clearly evidenced by the large number of school houses in the towns and each township in the County. It may be truthfully said that the people of no county in northwestern Iowa have manifested greater interest in the education of their children than those of Plymouth County.”
The last of the rural schools of Plymouth County closed in the 1960’s.
Following is a summary of the histories of the early schools of each township from the same 1907 atlas. Most of the accounts were written in 1906.
If anyone has further information on the early schools, please share with us (including sources and documentation when possible). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
by N. Redmon
At the time of our coming here  America Township was eighteen miles square and included what is now Stanton, Union, Henry, Remsen, Marion, America, Elgin, Fredonia, Meadow and six sections of the east end of Washington township and in all this territory there was but one school house which was being built of logs about a mile southwest of where Le Mars is located…Soon after the railroad was completed  the country became more thickly settled. Churches and other societies were organized and the people of Le Mars petitioned the school board for a school house in the village of Le Mars, and a two-story frame house was built by the district township of America a block west of where the court house now stands.
After the school house was built in Le Mars the log school house was moved two miles south and a half mile west onto the southeast corner of Section 30 and was used as a school house until 1873, when a frame school house 18x36, was built just across the road, east on Section 29, and another house the same size was built four miles east the same year, both of which are in good repair. These were the only school houses south from Le Mars for several years and the children came from the south and east—some coming three and four miles.
Extracts taken from the Woodbury and Plymouth County History
The first school house was erected on Section 24. Deep interest was taken by the first few settlers in getting schools started as soon as possible. At first they were rude structures indeed. But they later reared the better framed houses. At present they have a very good school system. There are nine districts, including the independent districts of Struble and Seney.
By P.H. Mason
Among the pioneers four families of Higdays settled in the south and west and took an active part in Township affairs. All have now removed from the Township. A. Higday taught the first school in the Higday School House in 1868, it being the first school house erected in that Township.
In 1877 a school house was erected on the southwest corner of Section 24, the first in the eastern part of the Township. The first teacher was Miss Sarah Penny. She taught the winter term of five and one-half months in the winter of 1877-’78, receiving $30 per month. Faithful and capable, the school directors who soon perceived she had worth and in those early days teachers were at a premium. I imagine there was some strife among the directors who should get Miss Penny, as teacher. A gentleman, not a director of schools, perceived this one was not an ordinary penny, so the schools lost a valuable teacher, but Mr. O.B. McCord gained a worthy companion to share his joys and sorrows. He would always have a penny—better than many a man could say. Their home is on Section 14. Mr. McCord has been for many years a very efficient secretary of the Township schools…
Quorn was platted the 2d day of October in 1880 by the Close Bros., and soon became a thriving village...Quorn’s days were soon to be numbered. In 1883 the Northwestern Railroad, not satisfied with its inducements for making the town a railroad station, platted Kingsley one mile to the east. All the stores and most of the residences were soon removed to the new town site and Quorn is now no more—only in memory.
The school building, having been moved to the town from section 24, was again moved to its present place in the center of district No. 7.
Our citizens are progressive and take much interest in the schools and if our nation is progressive in a larger degree it must be because of the superior knowledge gained in our public schools. We have now nine school buildings in which schools are taught eight months in the year. In each school house is a school library. All our schools grounds are fenced and storm caves are provided for shelter from cyclones. There was paid out for teachers for the year ending September 1905, $2,178.20; other expenses, $541.00; total $2,719.71. Pupils taught, 200.
By M.F. Brodie
There are six school districts in the Township and three churches where regular services are held…
By G. A. Rembe
The first election was held at the Winchett School House, at which Moses K. DuBois was elected clerk and treasurer. Wm. McAuliff, C. B. Frerichs and Mr. Hoglan were elected Township Trustees.
The first term of school was taught by L.M. Black in 1873 to 1874 in Ed. Haymond’s house. A school house was erected in 1874, now known as No. 1, situated on section 11. The Township has nine school houses at present.
By G.W. Hoyt
The first religious services were held in a sod school house located on section 5, near the old ”Cherokee and Sioux City Trail.”…
The first frame school house was built in 1873 and located on section 5….The first picnic was held at the new school on Section 5….
[Nothing was written about the early schools.]
History of Akron, Iowa
By Hon. E.A. Fields
The first school was conducted by Mrs. E.B. Donaldson at her home. In 1874 a two-story frame school-house was built, which still stands on Third St. in the rear of the Fields block and is used for an office building…In 1882 was built the present two-story brick school house at a cost of $10,000. This edifice contains 6 rooms and is a handsome substantial structure placed in the center of the block bounded by Fourth, Fifth, Dakota and Main streets. A beautiful grove of maples and box elders surrounds the school house, and in this grove are held Fourth of July and other patriotic exercises. The attendance having outgrown the building, a small frame structure used for a primary room, has been added to the grounds. The faculty of the school consists of a Principal and seven teachers. The enrollment is 300. A parochial school under the auspices of the Catholic Sisters is also in a flourishing condition with an enrollment of more than one hundred.
[Nothing was written about the early schools.]
The first voting done by the people of this township (when it was yet included in America) was at a special election in February, 1870. It was held at the log school house, known as the Redmon School House, located two miles south of Le Mars.
The first term of school was taught in a granary building belonging to Walt Freeman on section 8. It was in 1870. In 1872 the frame school buildings in districts one and two were erected.
The first religious services were also held in the granary of Mr. Freeman in the spring of 1876. It was conducted by the Methodist people. After the school houses were erected services were held in them. There is one church in the township at present, a Danish Lutheran.
By Mr. and Mrs. Andrew H. Millard
THE FIRST SCHOOLS
George Dailey, in the winter of 1871-’72, taught the first school in his home without cost to the township. In the summer of 1872, Mrs. A.W. Parsons taught a term of school in her own home and was the first teacher to receive pay from the township. Two school houses were built in 1873 on Section 5 and 29, respectively. Both were moved later. Miss Lizzie Howard was the first teacher employed, after the organization of the township had taken effect, and taught during the summer of 1873 in the school house of Section 5.
In the year 1872, the German Lutheran Church Society organized with a membership of eleven and bought forty acres of land in the southwest quarter, Section 21, for church, school and cemetery purposes. The following year a plot was surveyed for a cemetery and the remainder was broken up and rented to help pay for purchase of the same. During the years from 1872-’79 services were held in private homes and schoolhouses. In 1879, a small church was erected and used for religious and school purposes, a small parsonage, also being built the same year. In 1889, ten years later, a larger church building was erected to accommodate the growing congregation. The old church building is still being used as a school house. …The German Lutheran Church Society has under its supervision, a parochial school, which was organized in 1895. Fred Kusch has been teacher from the time of organization to the present. This school has an attendance of from sixty to seventy pupils.
The Methodist Society had for many years held meetings in what is known as the Eastman schoolhouse until 1898, when they erected a neat little church edifice on the northeast corner Section 5…
HISTORY OF PORTLAND TOWNSHIP
By Attorney W.T. Kidd
Next after the diphtheria, the tornado has probably made its presence and power most keenly realized in this part of the country….The first of these I will speak of occurred about midnight of June 7, 1874, and completely demolished two residences and moved the old frame school house about twenty feet east of its foundation. One of the residences was located where Professor Smith’s house now stands. It was owned by Mr. E.B. Donaldson, who, with his wife and servant girl, were in the house at the time, but none of them were severely injured except Mrs. Donaldson, who was badly bruised and had a couple of her ribs broken.
The first school in the township was taught by Mrs. Abbie E. Donaldson in the fall and winter of 1872 and 1873. It was conducted in the parlor of her own home, which stood where the residence of Professor Smith now stands. A new frame school house was built the next year on the block where the brick now stands and Mrs. Donaldson also taught the first term in it.
…The first school term was opened in 1868-’69. One school was kept near William Hunter’s place, on Section 32, and another near Mr. Mills, on Section 14. Mr. Hunter was teacher in his district for some time. The first election was held at the school house.
Schools—The first school was taught at the residence of R.E. McCourtland, on section 34, about 1880….
What is known now as Remsen and Marion Township was constituted the Township of Marion, but in 1882 Marion consented to a division and gave Remsen the Independent school district privileges. The first school board to be, consisted of John Hoffman, president, Martin Seba and H.W. Alline members, the latter also acting as secretary of the board. Miss Alline, now Mrs. J.H. Winchel, of Le Mars, was the first teacher.
The first parochial school was started under the choir loft in 1887. In 1888 the present school building, 34x62x20, was erected at a cost of $4,000, in which three of the present Franciscan Sisters started a parochial school with about 60 pupils. Now there are besides one music teacher, two cooks, six school sisters with six school rooms and 250 pupils enrolled annually.
The Evangelical Lutheran Christ Church—The beginning of Christ Lutheran Congregation dates as far as 1886, when Rev. J. Hesse, of Amhearst Township, Cherokee County, came to conduct Lutheran services at Remsen public school. According to the minutes the organization occurred March 27, 1887.
Evangelical St. Paul’s Church—The first missionary workers…occasionally visited this vicinity and held services now and then in private homes. In the fall of 1884, on the 19th October, the congregation was organized by Rev. O.C. Miner, at that time stationed in Le Mars, Iowa.
He held services in the public school building at Remsen every other Sunday.
As the storm in the summer of 1885 destroyed this structure, they were again forced to withdraw and hold their services in private homes.
In the early part of 1887 the congregation held a church meeting and came to the conclusion to have their own house of worship.
Schools—Aside from the public school under a principal and assistant principal and four teachers, there is the large Catholic parochial school and the schools of each of the other churches named above.
By Mrs. R. B. Snowden
Schools and Churches
From the little school house in 1871 that did duty for so many years as a church, town hall, and school house, we now have six sub-districts, each provided with suitable school buildings and storm caves. S.B. Gilliland taught the first school in the new school house. Mrs. Joel Barrett taught the first school in the eastern part of what is now Lincoln Township, on Section 14, using a room in their own dwelling for a school room.
The first school was erected in 1883, on the northwest quarter of Section 8. It was termed “Hawkins” school house, and the first teacher was Miss Mary A. McCartney of Union Township.
The first school in the township was held at Westfield in 1878.
The first school was taught in a shanty built by the settlers in the fall of 1870.
The first township election was held in the fall of 1879, at the McAllister School House.
Schools—This township is fully up to the high standard of the Plymouth County public school system.
As previously stated the pioneer school was held in a shanty built by subscription in 1870. the teacher was S.W. Garner. A school building was erected in 1872 by Thomas Clary.
At the present time the township is divided into eight subdistricts each being provided with an ample school building.
By Thomas Adamson
Schools—The first school house was erected on section 7.
Much attention has been paid to the schools of this part of the County, and now in 1906 the Township is provided with five good frame public school buildings, each within a subdistrict. While this township is purely one of agriculture, yet is citizens see the necessity of good common school education for their children, hence the taxes paid in that direction are freely given.
Churches—The Township has but one church, that of the Roman Catholic at Oyens, with a parochial school in connection.
By H.N. Newell
School history—A careful review of the early records show that a call of the trustees was made and a meeting held at the clerk’s home on January 21, 1871, for the purpose of subdividing the township into sub-districts. The township at that date consisted of the territory now included in Stanton, Union and Henry townships.
The present township of Stanton was divided into two equal districts and all of townships 91-44 and 91-33 was made one district.
The first meeting of the directors was held on March 11th, 1871, and a levy of ten mills on all taxable property was ordered for a school house fund.
The years 1872 and 1873, followed with a levy of ten mills on the taxable property, which made ample funds for the carrying out of the original plans.
At the first sub-district elections, held March 1871, C.E. Treland, Geo. M. Smith and Mr. Sanford, of Union, were elected the first school board of the township.
The sub-directors-elect met on March 20, 1871, and elected C.E. Treland president and F. N. Little secretary and J.C. Guthrie treasurer.
The levied a tax of fifteen mills for teachers’ fund and five mills for contingent fund, in addition to the ten previously levied by the electors, making a total levy of thirty mills on the then taxable property of the township for that year for school purposes alone.
The treasurer-elect received from the county treasurer $1,016.70 from previous taxation while Stanton was yet attached to America township.
On April 2nd of that year, to the astonishment of the board, the treasurer resigned after on month’s service. Later W.W. Ireland was elected to the treasurer ship.
The first school house was built during the summer on the north center of the section 33, on land owned by Henry Schrooten.
The following year Mr. McFarland, from the west half of the township, was made president. The following persons in order named were the successive presidents: Emerson Bixby, Benjamin Dunbar and Geo. M. Smith.
In 1872 C.E.Ireland was made treasurer and served until 1875, when G.W. McLain was elected, who continued to serve until 1882. Henry Koenig and the Late Andrew Huebsch served few years each. Danial O’Brien was elected in 1894 and has served continuously up to the present time. Frank Little continued to serve as secretary for three years and was succeeded by the late Geo. Burt, who in turn, was succeeded by G.W. Irwin, now a resident of Merrill. After one year James Hughes served a couple of years, followed by John Croft, until he moved to Minnesota, when Geo. Burt was elected the second time a couple years, 1886 and 1887, since which date H. N. Newel has served to the present date.
It can be said that the records have always been kept in good and legible manner, more especially the work of James Hughes being a perfect model, with that of John Croft but little below the high standard of Mr. Hughes.
In rapid succession new school houses were built on sites as follows: On southwest corner of section 8, center of section 11, west center of section 29, south center of section 26 and near southeast corner of section 21, making six buildings of fair size and in good condition up to the fall of 1873.
The districts remained in that form until the general agitation for a system of nine sub-districts began in the year 1881-1882, which later became a reality, with nine new school houses being built between 1882 and 1898, and the six original ones being sold at public auction.
Union and Henry Townships were set apart from Stanton in 1873, the joint school board being unable to divide school funds, a motion to appoint N. Redmon of America township and the late George Burt of Stanton, together with G.R. Oakes to be a board of arbitration.
Their settlement was fully agreed by both school boards.
In the winter of 1870 and 1871 Wm Asbury taught the first school in the house of Carlos Little, this being some years before the township school organization. He also taught the first in the first school house erected in 1871, when the enrollment was fifteen, followed the next term by Mrs. Mary Everret. Mr. Asbury taught several winters. Maggie Delahunt being the first teacher to teach in the west half of the township followed by G. W. Irwin, who was a homesteader in that vicinity. A.T. Alred, Lena Burk and Martha Bixby being first teachers in what was for years called the Stockes School, and Miss Arrasmith the first teacher in the Campbell district, who taught school in Mr. Campbell’s residence.
Some time later school was taught in the residence of Benjamin Dunbar in what was called the Dunbar district.
The following well known farmers of that date taught one or more terms in the following township:
James Hughes, George Burt, F.N. Little, George M. Smith, Daniel O’Brien, J.D. Groves, Floyd Sibley, Charles Delahunt and Maggie Delahunt were boni fide residents of the township and early teachers.
At one time the school board furnished a teacher for the family of N.H. Wood in his residence, paying the teacher a regular salary.
In 1872 the McFarland School House was struck by lightening. As the company was slow in paying the claim the school board employed I.S. Struble of Le Mars, then a young struggling lawyer, to push the collection.
In 1878 a tornado blew down the Dunbar school house. The school board afterwards had a small building erected from the wreckage to continue the school in. Five years later the building was moved to the newly created district No. 2, where it did service for several years.
Robert Campbell and J. McFarland each donated school house sites for their respective districts.
During the latter seventies the school population was 321. From that date it has run below the three hundred mark, being 253 in September, 1905.
During the thirty-six years since school started in the township Stanton has furnished a large number of her bright young men and women who have each done much to continue the efficiency of the schools as started by the sturdy pioneers of early days, who received only $20 per month for summer wages.
The amount of cash required to run the nine schools during recent years averages about $2,750 per year, about $300 of that amount coming from the general apportionment, the balance by direct taxation.
The total expenditures to date aggregate $80,000.
Early Church History--… In the early seventies, Methodist ministers located in the Township and held services regularly at the Harker School House for a number of years. Services were also held with some regularity in the Campbell school house during the latter seventies.
During the nineties a union Sabbath school was conducted in the Center school house, with preaching services every week by the pastors of the M.E. church from Merrill alternating with the pastor from the Union Township Presbyterian church.
by T. A. Ross
[Nothing was written about the early schools.]
by R. J. Spies
The first term of school was taught at Melbourne before the Court House was erected at that place. School affairs have since been well and successfully conducted.
The township has six sub-districts and the Independent District of Merrill. The average enrollment of the pupils being nearly 200.
by Fred Lang
The educational matters of the township have ever kept pace with those of other townships around or in Plymouth county.
When the township was first organized there was but one school house. Mary Maloney being the first to teach a term of school. At the present time Meadow Township has nine will built school houses fitted with interior furnishings second to none in the county.
by R.W. Crouch
The census of 1870 showed 30 inhabitants in the township, and in 1880 had increased to 233. The first school in the township was taught on section 28 in 1871-2, with B.S. Gilliland as teacher, with an enrollment of eight pupils. At the present time there are six comfortable school houses in the township with an enrollment of over 100 pupils.
by John Schneider
….The first school was taught on Section 16 in war times. The first religious services were held at the house of Pioneer Sheetz.