Fremont County, Iowa

Rural Schools of Fremont County
by Esther H. Hardy
View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of November 17, 2016

This article was written by Esther Hainsworth Hardy, date unknown. Esther was born in Omaha April 5, 1885, and was raised in the city. Her family moved to Tabor when Esther was a teenager and she attended Tabor Academy (prep school for Tabor College) and was employed by the Tabor and Northern Railroad as an office clerk.

Esther married Charles Hardy and raised a family in Tabor, passing in 1948. Esther had a lifelong love of history and was active in both the Iowa and Nebraska historical societies. In 1937, she was hired by Fremont County in a statewide project to catalog official records for preservation and study. She was so successful in the effort she received requests from nearby counties to help in their research. The Tabor Historical Society maintains her research notes from the project.

Esther H. Hardy

With the passing of the rural school, the fanciful names with which the pioneers christened these humble halls of learning will be forgotten, and a beautiful bit of the county history gone forever. There are still more than three-score of these schools in Fremont County, scattered about in thinly settled districts, or those distant from improved roads. The names they bear lead to much conjecture as to why they were so called. Some schools seem to have been named for families in the vicinity, such as Treat, Ricketts, Pomeroy, Rice, John Payne, Harry Sowles, and McIntyre. Others bear the names of their location: Fisher Center, Monroe Center, each in the central part of the townships of those names; Locust Grove School in Locust Grove Twp., High Creek, Honey Creek, Nishna Valley in the beautiful Nishnabotna Valley; Possum Valley, near Possum Creek; Dutch Hollow, located in a neighborhood so named; and Mount Washington, on high land overlooking the Missouri River bottom, in Washington Township. Then there are the poetic names: Prairie Glen, Shady Dell, Ripple Valley, White Hily, Lone Willow, Mt. Hope, Morning Star, West Star, and Rising Sun.

Perhaps College Hill, Seminary Ridge, Harvard, and Alma Mater were named by early teachers in honor of higher schools of learning. Others are descriptive of the location of the school: Riverside, Summit, Sunnyside, Sunny Slope, Maple Grove, Walnut Grove, Grandview, Pleasant Grove, Brightside, Prospect Hill, Fairview, Hadley Farm, Highland and Prairie.

There are two schools called "Centennial", both in the eastern part of the county, which was settled in the late seventies, and the schools were probably named shortly after the Centennial year, 1876.

Two schools in the south part of the county are called "Liberty", though one is known as North Liberty. These, with Eagle School and Columbia nearby, might indicate patriotic sentiment on the part of the pioneers.

Militia Hollow School, named from its location in a deep depression south of the Waubonsie State Park, near Hamburg, would suggest that recruits drilled there before the Civil War. But, though no definite information seems to be forthcoming, the locality was probably so named from parties of vigilantes who patrolled this part of the country in the early days of the Kansas-Nebraska struggle, when bands of ruffians from Missouri made frequent raids across the State line into southern Fremont County.

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