By Helen Boertje
As hidden as its history, the Oak Grove school building still stands on the outskirts of Pella. It comprises part of the home of Alan and Cindy Roorda at 689 218th Place. One can see the outline of the school on the right hand side of the picture of their house. The front door to the school house has been replaced by three windows. The inside of the school has become a living room and a bedroom.
I was first alerted to the existence of this school by Alan’s Uncle Robert Walter Roorda. He told me that he was born in the school house and that he and his father, Wigert Roorda were both taught by the same teacher, Dora Bootsma. Miss Bootsma, who graduated from Pella High School in 1894, was a teacher in the Pella school system for 47 years.
Although I have found no records of teachers for the little one room school, Cindy Roorda shared a souvenir booklet from the Oak Grove school district given by Dora Bootsma to her students. Usually these booklets are dated, this one is not. The pupils listed (spelled as they were in the booklet) are John Bauman, Willie Maasdam, Abram Rooda, Esther Maasdam, Dina van de Zyl, Wigert Roorda, Andrew Langerak, Laura Hiatt, John Blanke, Edith Hiatt, Sarah Maasdam, Anna Hiatt and Lorence Blanke.
The school closed after 1897 and the pupils in this district then attended one of the schools in the town of Pella. The school building is on land that has been owned by the Roorda family since 1869. The original farm owners were Anne and Doertje (Buwalda ) Roorda who sold eggs, dressed chickens, molasses and butter in town. After the school closed, they used the building as a barn. In 1912 it was moved closer to the road and converted into a home for newlyweds, son Wigert and Reino (Borgman) Roorda. In 1938 one of Wigert and Reino’s sons, Paul, and his bride, Eva Mae (De Kock) Roorda moved into the house. Later another son, Robert Walter, and Wilma (De Haan) Roorda lived in the house. Over the years there were many changes and additions to this house.
Then in 1973 one of Paul’s sons, Alan, and his wife Cindy (Butler) Roorda, purchased the home along with 3 acres. In 1977 they began a total renovation and addition to the house. One of their interesting discoveries was the original slate boards still attached to the school house wall. Cindy is hoping that a 4th generation of the Roorda family may some day want to occupy the school house turned family home.
If anyone knows the names of other teachers who taught at Oak Grove, please contact me at 641-628-4716 or firstname.lastname@example.org