Pella Chronicle

March 11, 2011

Looking back at the one room school

By Helen Boertje
The Chronicle

Pella — Oradell was one of the early hamlets that developed along the Des Moines River during its steamboat days. Today you can find the former location of the school by turning north off G40 onto 75th Ave. until it curves west onto Fillmore St.  In recalling its early history, one writer describes Oradell as being located near the largest bend known along the Des Moines River. The town had a doctor, a blacksmith, a school, a church, a general store and Isaac Bodgerson’s  mill, which supplied settlers with lumber, flour, and corn meal. The general store had a huckster wagon that weekly covered a large area selling groceries in exchange for eggs or produce.   Early maps show the outline of this bend before the river changed course.  Sometime after the river flowed further north, a  writer says the town was situated on Wild Cat Creek 2 miles from where it empties into the Des Moines River.  Earlier, this writer says, it was called “Hell’s Half Acre” and later Pinchey.  The population in 1885 was 123,  clearly enough to support a school.

The Oradell  school is also sometimes called the Pinchey school. Popular legend has it that this name arose because the owner of the general store was so stingy that he would pinch a bean in two to make the exact weight.  Whatever the reason, 75th Ave. was called the Pinchey Road while a few miles upstream is an area called the Pinchey Bottoms.  Its mudflats are reputed to be the best shorebird viewing area in the state of Iowa. The official name Oradell is all but forgotten but Pinchey lingers on.

Teachers were  Miss Lena Graham 1885, Miss Litchfield  1889, Miss Emma Snyder 1890, Miss Carrie Watkins, Ira Miner 1891, Miss Emma Prentice 1894, Bertha Pickett, Florence Hamner, A. D. Worthington 1895, Jack Galain 1896, Nora Spalti, Flavia Williams 1898, Billie Henby, Flavia Williams 1899, Blanche Litchfield, Rae Coffrey 1900, Rae Coffrey, Carrie B. Watkins, Nora Spalti, Flavia Williams 1901, Rae Coffrey, Maude Spalti 1902,  Myrtle Stradley, Rae Coffrey 1903, Blanche Litllefield, Tracie Scott 1904, Ross De Viny, Mrytle Stradley 1905, Flossie Hollowell, Daisy M. Richards 1906, Bessa Welch 1907, Mary Caffrey 1908,  Edna Neal, Mayme Murphy 1909, Rae Caffrey, Olivia Hollister 1910, Sadie Bilolingsley 1911-13, Catherine Benge, M. J. O’Brien, Sadie Billingsley 1914, Mabel Nye 1915, Dean Butcher, Sara Thondale, Electra West 1916,  Electra West  1917, Zora Kamp  1918, Sadie Billingsley 1919, Bernice Core  1920-21, Ruth Summey  1922, Marie Hardin 1925-26, Mrs. Tomi Smith 1928, Dorothy Reed 1929-30, Malvina Neely 1932, Sadie Billingsley 1933-35, Bernice Patch 1936, Myrtle L. McArthur 1937, Wilma Anderson 1938.

Please contact me with pictures or stories of your country school at  641-628-4716 or