202 Park Street

P.O. Box 48
Bishop Hill, IL 61419

Museum Times

Open 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily
from May 1st to October 31st



oneroomschoolTime was, all of rural Henry County was dotted with a uniquely American symbol of free public education for all:

The one-room school.

The simple frame and brick buildings were often placed every two miles across a township, so a student never had to walk more than a mile to get there, in spiteof all the "Ten miles uphill both ways" stories that were shared later on.

Before each day the teacher hauled in water, wood and coal, lit the heating stove, swept the floor, and straightened the desks.  There was no support staff.  The teacher also laid down the law.  Hickory switches were a popular choice for handing out punishment for misbehavior.  There were always more girls than boys, because after about the age of 10 boys were usually helping on the farm and those who went to school did so only during the winter months when things were slow at hime.

In Henry County there was once a Fair Play School, Mount Sunny School, Dingley School, Happy Corner School, Cromein School, and one of the best names ever - Swamp College in Weller Township northwest of Bishop Hill.

There are those who will tell you they learned more in a one-room country school than anyone ever did in a university.  They were how education was administered in rural Illinois from the 18040s through the early 1950s, when the current community unit school districts were formed and closed the country schools.

Yet, having one teacher - usually a young, single woman (they could not be married) - and all eight grades under one roof was how several generations learned to read, write, spell, and add as well as about life and each other.

Editor's note: Many thanks to Dave Clarke of the Kewanee Star Courier for facts and thoughts shared for this article.