Pella Chronicle

Days Gone By

August 12, 2010

Looking back at the one room school

Pella — Now, a museum, the Des Moines Valley School stands high on a hill in Harvey. The two story brick structure was completed in 1902 at a cost of $5000. At the time, the little settlement of Harvey was enjoying rapid growth with several stores, a hotel, a bank, 2 churches, a brick yard, an excelsior plant, nearby coal mines and access to the Wabash rail line. In 1901 there were 44 students enrolled in the school. While the average home in Harvey was being built for around $600, the school board, anticipating continued growth, authorized the building of the grand brick school.The museum contains many pictures of students including the years when the 8th grade graduates could continue as high school students. Both the first, 1924, and the last graduating class,1946, had only 5 senior graduates.

The first mention I found of this school was from the Knoxville Journal July 6, 1876: “The School of Des Moines Valley, closed with a picnic in the grove near the school. This is Miss Alice Glenn’s first school It is due her to say that the duties and responsibilities of her place were discharged with credit to herself. Mr. Hammond’s Clay Center also participated to the number of 75 in all.”In 1893 the question for debate at Harvey was “Resolved that we can gain more knowledge by meditation than we can by traveling and observation.”

The Harvey Centennial booklet 1876-1976 notes that in 1928 the entire school was dismissed to walk in a drizzling rain to meet the 10:30 Wabash train in which Charles Curtis, the man who was to become his vice president, was campaigning to elect Herbert Hoover.Bonnie Geery is the curator of the museum. She came to the Des Moines Valley school as a teacher in the fall of 1948, having had one year of experience teaching in a country school after her graduation from high school. She boarded with Wesley and Jean Bloom. On Valentine’s day in 1949 Jean introduced her to Orbra Geery, a widower whose wife had died in childbirth. Orbra was 11 years her senior and the father of 5 children. It must have been love at first sight because they married before school was out and her students feted her with a shower. Later she and Orbra had four children together. When Governor Ray asked for sponsors for the Southeast Asians the Geerys sponsored a Laotian family. Because they could find no preschool to teach one of the Laotian children, Bonnie began her 20 year career as a preschool teacher.

I talked with former student Joyce Vander Werff about her experiences at Des Moines Valley. She found it a very comfortable school environment because all the kids had grown up together and knew each other. She felt the school board had done a great job in finding good teachers and there was also a closeness between students and teachers. She remains friends with Marilyn Padgett Vander Linden with whom she started kindergarten.I also talked with Karen Wardenburg who echoed her sister’s assessments of the quality of their teachers and the closeness of the community. “No one had better clothing than anyone else,” she said. She recalls that each school day was opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s prayer. Around 1957 the school got inside water and indoor bathrooms. Before that water was carried in and when the well was dry, students would bring fruit jars of water to be emptied into the dispenser where they drank from a common cup. One of the most memorable days was when her class watched the inauguration of President Eisenhower at her parents’ home. They were only the second family in Harvey to purchase a TV. She said she was thankful for those years in a small school in which children were taught responsibility.

A partial list of teachers includes: Lue Evans 1873; Miss Emily Wiegand 1875; Miss Alice Glenn 1876; Miss Glenn 1878; Miss Hattie Harrington 1880; Alice Durham 1882; Luella Woods, Lillie Workerman 1886; Ella Burke 1890 ;Lou McLaughlin 1891; Miss Maggie Watlkins, Mrs. Warren 1892; Alice Warren 1893; P. E. Adams. Bertha Moore 1895 Maggie Cooper, A. H. Crosby, Lottie McClymond 1898; Eva Wilson, Nora Spalti, Minnie Gaston 1900; Mrs. Mae Goldizen, Minnie Tysseling, Leta Bennifield, Mary Mathews 1905; Mrs. Mae Goldizen, Minnie Tysseling, Mary Mathews 1906; Nannie Hyatt, Delia Rietveld, Grace Larew, Martha Hines 1911; Beulah Stuff, Delia Rietveld, Grace Larew 1912; Beryl O’Dell, Gertrude McCullough 1913; Anna Rose Hamilton 1931; Helen Neyenisch 1932-33; Annie Cottrell, Harvey D. Bruere, Mary J. Bruere 1946; Mrs. Annie M. Cottrell, Mrs. Lucile Morgan, Mrs. Reefa Harvey 1947; Reefa Harvey, Lucille Morgan, Annie Cottrell, Mrs. Norma Reep , Mrs. Bertha Mayberry 1948; Reefa Harvey, Bonnie Cooper, Irene Van Gorp, Violet McDonald 1949; Nora Lash, Irene Van Gorp, Edith Swartz, Dorothy Anderson, Reefa Harvey 1950; Dorothy Anderson, Mrs. Mildred Lundy, Duane K. Williams, Arlys J. Beaver, Mrs. Jean Johnson 1951; Dorothy Anderson Mrs. Jean Johnson, Mrs. Mildred Lundy, Ernest Klinker 1952; Reefa Harvey, Dorothy Anderson, Mildred Lundy, Gertrude McCollough 1954; Reefa Harvey, Dorothy Anderson, Gertrude McCullogh 1955; Mrs. Maryellen Beaver, Mrs. Cleo Bennett, Mrs. Jean Johnson 1956; Avis Van Zomeren 1957; Ferol Chamberlain, Isobel Isley 1961.

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