Pella Chronicle

Days Gone By

September 24, 2010

Looking back at the one room school

Pella — One of my most frequently asked questions is “Just how many country schools were in Marion County?” When I reply “I have found records for 140,”  the questioner raises surprised eyebrows.  Actually there were more.  North Porterville, my home school, is considered one of the earliest schools in the county.  However, before the Porterville school came into existence there was a Nossaman and a Dennis school which served the neighborhood children. No official records exist for these two schools. If you look through the earliest issues of the county newspapers you will find similar references to other schools.

Many of these early schools were subscription schools where a school was held in the teacher’s home and the parents paid a small fee for each child to attend. In Pleasant Grove township,  Daniel Shea  taught the first school in 1847 in a cabin  a little southwest of Pleasantville. His 16 students paid $2 each for a 3 year term.  He is described as a warm-hearted visionary Irishman, once a flourishing merchant in Montreal, Canada; a fine scholar, a good mathematician & an honest man. (History of Marion County by Wright).

Later the land was divided into school districts of two mile square sections.  In the heyday of the country school, Marion County was divided into 14 townships which would average out about 10 schools to each township.  The townships, however, were not all of equal size. Knoxville was the largest with 23 country schools.  As large farm families moved away or coal mines closed down, a school might have too few students and merge with another nearby school.

Tracy was the first town to consolidate and bring in several of the nearby country schools.  Shortly after, Pleasantville voted to consolidate its remaining eight country schools in Pleasant Grove township.  In the 1915 vote on consolidation, the voters in the town of Pleasantville cast 165 votes for consolidation and 37 against. The country folk in the township voted 68 to 65 against sending the children to town school.  A newspaper account says the school was very proud of the fact that every teacher had a first class certificate.  Before a  teacher was certified, that person had to take certain tests and the grade point average determined whether the teacher was given a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd class certificate.

It took several months for the completion of the new Pleasantville building.  In the meantime, 2 additional rooms were added to the old building, the 4th grade was taught in a nearby home and the 5th grade in a business building.  Nine rural school wagons were purchased to transport the country school children to town. After the school year 1915, there are no more  records for Conn, Hawkeye,  Ladoga, Spalti, Stringtown, Thorntown, Weston, and Wheeling.  It appears that two other country schools, Pleasantville North and Pleasantville South whose records date to 1874, closed four years earlier.

As we had only one picture of the Pleasantville South school in the Marion County Historical Museum, I appealed to readers in the Pleasantville area for help.  Mr. Robert Bane sent me a photo of the Ladoga school where his grandmother Myrtle Brown was a teacher.  She graduated in the spring of 1892 and married his grandfather Bane in the fall of 1895 so the picture can be dated to the 1892, 93 or 94 school year.  She is the 4th “girl” in the back row. The Iddings family was among her students. Ladoga, according to Mr. Bane was named for a town in Indiana where early settlers came from.

Ladoga  (sec, 33) Known teachers were  C. A. Hanson 1891, Ollie Drake, Sara Conn 1895; Saide Cline, Emma Prentice 1898; Roxy De Witt 1899; Elsie Clark 1900; Grace Gillaspie, Nora Prewitt 1901; Paul Dale, Gertrude Almach 1902; Amanda Brown, Tomie De Witt  1903; Bertha H. Marsh, Maude Abernathey 1904; Maude Abernathey. Ada Proffit 1905; Birdie Reynolds 1908; Birdie Reynolds, Ida Sammons 1909; Georgia Jesse 1910. Mrs. Bertha Marsh 1911; Catherine Benge 1912; Joanna Reed 1913; Everett Walker 1914.

Dr. Banes’ father attended Pleasantville South (sec. 22) Teachers were  Miss Shadle 1874, Miss Ruth Cheetham 1876,  Miss M. J. Howard 1878, Mrs. Brady 1879, John Shadle 1884, Dora Painter 1885,  Anna Summy 1895, Ethel Hayes 1899, Ruth Hayes 1900, Iva Summy 1901, Georgia Jesse 1911

Please continue to contact me with any pictures or information you have about Marion county’s country schools. 641-628-4716 or

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