Bond County Historical Society

Preserving the history of Bond County, Illinois and its communities

Bond County One-Room School Museum

Groups welcome. Open by Appointment or Special Event only. Admission by donation.

Another museum of interest is the One-Room School Museum. It is an actual one-room school house furnished with items that came from the more than 70 one-room school houses that once operated in Bond County making it an interesting visit.

wood siding building painted white with tall narrow windows and two shingled awning entrances

Hours

  • Open by Appointment Only. Or on special occasions.
  • Groups welcome.
  • Admission by donation.
  • Please call 618-664-9272 or 618-664-1644 with details to arrange special openings.
  • green line drawing of Painting Exhibit in Fine Art Gallery Icon

The One-Room School Museum is located at 601 E. Beaumont Ave. in Greenville, Illinois. The location is at the corner of Beaumont Avenue and Wyatt Street.


The museum operates under the Bond County Historical Society.

History of the One-Room School Museum

One Room School Museum, photographed in 2020

white wood siding building with small belfry and porch, two door entry

Bond County’s One-Room School Museum came under the control of Bond County Historical Society in 2020. The structure is primarily made up of the former Palmer School, originally located in Tamalco Township. Volunteers painstakingly relocated the building to the grounds of the 1915 Greenville High School, later the city’s junior high building. The furnishings and artifacts came from the more than 70 one room schools that once operated across Bond County before district consolidation in the 1950s. Additional materials, including the belfry and bell, were donated from Cherry Grove School house, Round Prairie School house, Hampton School house, Hopewell School house, and Chapel Hill School house.

The Palmer School building was donated by Don McKee in memory of Dwight and Eva Follett, his great aunt and uncle, and moved to this location in August 1981. The Bond County Retired Teachers Association, under the leadership of Oradelle Young, restored this living monument to the one-story schools throughout the nation that served to educate children and host community gatherings.

Inside the Museum, sit in a vintage school desk and practice your 3 Rs on a slate.

It was dedicated and opened to the public as a museum on October 17, 1982. Unit 2 School District owns and mows the grounds. In early 2020, the BCRTA disbanded and gifted the building and a maintenance account to Bond County Historical Society. “It is an honor to be entrusted with this treasure,” said BCHS President Kevin Kaegy at the time. “A complete museum ready to continue to teach.” Retired English teacher Mary Young, longtime curator and key-holder of the one room school, will continue to provide museum tours and presentations.

Reflections about life in one-room schoolhouses, from those who attended as students:

Gladys Schmollinger went to a one room school (Smith in Shoal Creek Township) all eight years. I lived about a mile away. We walked every day; weather wasn’t a factor. We had a big pot belly stove that kept us warm. I was the only one in my class except 7th and 8th grades. I guess you could say I was at the top of my class. I graduated grade school in 1952. All rural school students went to Greenville to get their diplomas. That year they shut all the small country schools down. I attended Pocahontas High School; that was the first year that the bus ran for students in the rural area.

A concrete foundation of a well protrudes from the prairie farmland today, but to some folks it signifies a landmark of fond memories, writes Deloris Lynch. Memories remain of singing, giving the Pledge of Allegiance, and reading Bible Scriptures each day. Pie socials were held during the year as well as a Christmas program. On the last day of school, a family picnic was held on the J. T. Anthony farm. For many years a hand pump in the well supplied youngsters and their teacher of the year with clear, cold water to drink from a dipper and was used, often reluctantly, to wash hands in a wash ‘pan’ in the one-room country school known as Hubbard (in Mulberry Grove Township). Names of teachers and school directors have been obtained dating back into the 1920 era, but the same are unknown before that time with [some] exceptions. School was in session every year from September to May until the doors were closed in 1945, when all our country one-room schools were consolidated into Mulberry Grove and Smithboro. Mrs Sylvia Dawes taught the last term.

As was true in so many of the early schools, Grigg (in Mulberry Grove Township) had 2 school terms, writes Nina Hatfill. The spring term was mainly attended by small or younger students. The winter term was especially for the older children, who had stayed away from school to help with the farm crops. Many times there were as many as 50 pupils.

What do students remember about Willow Branch (in Pleasant Mound Township), asks Lois Edwards? Blanche Dickson Reavis remembers that her older brother, Robert, and older sister, Amy, went to school in an older building and that she attended classes in a building which was built about 1905. Her sister, Grace Dickson Barth, said that she had ‘fun’ at Willow Branch. The big boys would cut wild grape vines and use them as long jumping ropes. Walter Elam remembers how his teacher, Elbert Vaughn, would carry the small boys around during the starting of school so they wouldn’t hurt their bare feet on the stubble in the school yard. Ira Edwards always remembered how his teachers, Charles Caylor and Henry Meyer, taught him phonics which helped him to become a good reader and have a love for poetry. The doors closed to pupils in 1948. Flora Caylor Dickson taught the last five years.

One Room School Museum, drawn by Robert Horsfall, commissioned by Bradford National Bank, 1986