Early Schools of Mills County, Iowa
Elm Grove School - Lyon's Township

Elm Grove Schoolhouse
The Last of Its Kind

Nestled in the hills and trees, south of Glenwood, sits a building that looks more like an abandoned farmhouse than a country schoolhouse. For 88-year-old Franklin Johnson, the old Elm Grove School is a link to his childhood and a piece of Mills County history. "It's the only one like this left in Mills County, Johnson said. "It was closed in the 1950's but is still standing. I don't think a lot of people even know it's here."

Johnson still has vivid memories of the education he received during his eight years as a student, at the school, from the fall of 1919 to the spring of 1928. He can recite the names of the teachers he had at the school; Bertha Lee, George Mathew, Gladies Morford, Georgia Deitchler, Ruth Friend, Vivian Rager, Dorothy Jackson and Ruth Bannister. He also remembers the school's superintendents--George Masters, Mary Rathke and Amy Hammers.

"It was different back then," Johnson said. "Kids only used to go to school when they weren't working for their parents. Kids came to the school from a two-mile radius on horses and buggies. I had four brothers and one sister graduate from the school, and there was an average of 40-45 people every year who attended the school."

Johnson said the school's staff had some unusual, but effective methods of disciplining their students.

"(George) Masters used to go out and pull the elm sprouts out of the ground and he'd whip kids with them." he recalled. "They whipped people back in those days. They didn't have the kids running the schools like they do now."

The Elm Grove School is located about five miles south of Glenwood near the intersection of 230th and Norris Ave. on private property owned by the Morris Terry family. Johnson said he would like to see the schoolhouse restored to its original condition. The building was constructed in 1913 after the first Elm Grove School was destroyed during the famous Easter Sunday tornado in March of that year. "It sure would be a wonderful thing if they could rebuild that school," Johnson said. "It would take a little money, but it's worth saving. It's the only one like it around."

~ Source: Opinion Tribune, November 5, 2003, Courtesy of Joe Foreman (Editor)
~ Photo taken August 16, 2004 and transcription by Roseanna Zehner

Excerpt from News Article about School Days

"Elm Grove school is now one of the very best in the county," continued Lee. "But in those days there was a crowd of boys in that neighborhood who were a terror to all teachers. Finally the school board hired Joe Graves to take charge of the school. Now Joe as you will remember like all red-headed people has a will of his own. He was lithe and muscular and strong as an ox. The first day he took charge of the school he went to work and brought in a lot of big switches and put them next to him on the desk.

Then he made a few remarks, and told the boys that there was to be no misbehavior. Any boy who did not wish to obey the rules must either take a whipping or go home. Nearly all the big boys went out. They found their master then and there. Graves' quiet way scared them. Nearly all of them came back again, however. Graves used to have a kind way with him, joining with the boys in their sports until they all wanted to come back and take part in the fun."

"Spelling schools were all the fashion in those days. I remember there used to be a lot of people who would come to spelling school and make fun of those who could not spell very well. They never took part themselves for they knew they would be spelled down.

Graves grew tired of their interruptions and finally announced that every one who came to a spelling bee must either take part or get out. They could see by his eye that he meant what he said. A few went home, but most of them stayed, and the others had the laugh on them when they soon sat down. My wife and Joe Miller used to be the champion spellers of the neighborhood. My wife then used to stand up until the last, and Joe, well he used to hang on to about the next last. Finally when I came along and we got married Joe had it all to himself for a while."

~ Source: Rheba Kathryn Wederquist Raine Newspaper Collection - contributed by Eldon Clark
Publication and date unknown.

Elm Grove School Souvenir-1908
  • Elm Grove School Board-District 1
    • Superintendent - W. M. Moore
    • President - A. J. Harmer
    • Secretary - John Merritt
    • Treasure - W. F. Dean
    • Directors - Ed. Lambert
    • Directors - F. E. Dashner
    • ??? Mae Harmer
    • PUPILS - 1908
      • Minnie Johnson
      • James Merritt
      • Ella Johnson
      • Bart Harmer
      • Emma Clarke
      • Verne Merritt
      • Susie Shaw
      • Seth Dean
      • Ruby Shaw
      • Ralph Shaw
      • Elsie Marley
      • Emma Hubbell
      • Leo Wilson
      • Guy Johnson
      • Harold Hubbell
      • Oran Stanley
      • Ernest Clarke
      • Muriel Bailey
      • Glen Bailey
      • Jessie Vanderpool
      • Mary Hubbell
      • ??ron Dashner
      • Clarence Marley
      • Edith Richardson
      • ???e Hubbell
      • Goldia Stanley
      • ???y Wilson
      • Alta Hubbell
~ Source: Wendell Lambert found this list in 1930, in a desk,
willed to him by Amos Dean. ~ submitted by Alyson Grupp

Elm Grove Classmates - 1937

From the belongings of school teacher Selma Olson.
Back of Photo reads: To: Miss Olson, From: Lorraine Hines, 1937, Elmgrove
~ Source: Photo donated by Linda Doerfler

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Page updated on December 1, 2014 by Karyn Techau